Thursday 29 September 2022

Wicca And Witchcraft Understanding The Dangers - Elizabeth Dodd - CTS Explanations

Wicca And Witchcraft: 
Understanding The Dangers
Martin Cyril D'Arcy SJ
John Haldane (Forward)
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860827136
CTS Booklet EX35

I have now read fifteen booklets in the CTS Explanations series from the Catholic Truth Society. The series spanned decades. And has had books come in and out of print. This one is a fitting partner to Witchcraft, Sorcery & Magic by J.B. Midgley. This one was published in 2011 and is currently out of print, but was well worth tracking down and reading. And to be honest 11 years on from first publication it is even more relevant today. I wish it was still in print or that there was an eBook edition available.  

The description of this volume is:

“Understanding such phenomena and hot to evangelize them.

To marginalized and spiritually hungry generations the growing spiritual phenomena of Wicca and witchcraft have proved attractive, with much to offer; power, supernatural abilities and socially acceptable agendas such as ecoactivism and feminism. This booklet examines their origins, history, beliefs and practices, and then explains Catholic teaching’s cogent assessment of them. Further it explores why young people are attracted to Wicca, and describes ways in which it is possible to bring witches and wiccans back to Christ and his Church.”

The chapters and sections in this volume are:

     The position of the Catholic Church 
     The difference between Wicca and Witchcraft 
A History of Wicca 
     I 900-I 950s: Wicca·s Roots in the Occult 
     I 960s-I 990s: Wicca Flourishes in America 
     1990s to the Present 
What Witches Believe 
     The Afterlife 
     Magic and Spells 
     The Five Elements 
     Sacred Spaces 
How Wiccans Practice 
     Wiccan Holy Day - The Wheel of the Year 
     Rites of Passage 
Wicca and the Church 
     The Church and Wiccan Thealogy 
     The Church and White Magic 
     The Church and Divination 
     The Church and Occultism 
Wicca and Young People 
How to Evangelise a Witch 
     The Dignity of Women 

I highlighted many passages my first time through this volume. Some of them are:

“Wicca is a strand of modern witchcraft; a new religious movement that grew out of the New Age and Occult movements and was influenced by political trends within feminism and ecology. It is one of a number of ‘neo-pagan’ spiritualties, a term used to describe contemporary pagan religions that revive or are inspired by indigenous and ethnic folklore, mythology and spirituality. In 2001 there were over 3 1,000 nee-pagans living in the UK, of which 7, 000 self-identified as Wiccans (Census, 2001. Office for National Statistics). Wiccans are predominantly women - 67 percent of the
Wiccans in the 200 I census were female - and often young.”

“The Church, however, is very clear in her condemnation of Wicca and other New Age or Neo-Pagan spiritualties. As a pagan, pantheistic movement Wicca involves. By definition, rejection of and opposition 10 1he revealed truth of Chris1ianity.”

“According to 1he Catechism the practice of magic - one of the key elements of Wicca - is inherently sinful, whether or no l 1he intentions behind the spell are malicious. It is for God alone, not man, to have dominion over spirits. Of particular concern to Catholics is the appeal that Wicca holds for the young and vulnerable: attracted by the promise of magical powers and authority over spirits, they can be exposed to grave psychological and spiritual dangers. More will be said about this below, in the chapter on the Church and Wicca, and at the end of the book.”

“Wiccans optimistically understand their religion as stretching from prehis1oric totemic and animist ethno-religion through the witch-trials and burnings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and find anthropological parallels in the contemporary indigenous religions of Africa and Asia.”

“Wicca, then, has little to do either with genuinely prehistoric religion, with the witch hunts of Tudor and Stewart England or with the indigenous religions of Africa and Asia. Witchcraft of that sort has nothing in common with the religion as practiced by Wiccans today. Modern Wiccans do refer to themselves as witches, but it is important to understand that they do so in a purely modern sense, with no historical or anthropological justification. There is no evidence that modern witchcraft originates any earlier than the nineteenth century.”

“Modern Wicca’s origins lie in Victorian occultism and the work of anthropologist Dr Margaret Murray. Occultism provided a spiritual and theological springboard for the neo-pagan and Wiccan movements. and many of the religion 's founding members were involved in occult societies such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn - a nineteenth-century occult group roughly structured around Freemasonry - and the Fellowship of the Rosicrucians.”

“Gardner was inspired by the work of Dr Murray, whose work. In particular the book Witch Cult in Western Europe (1921) - now largely discredited - sought to prove that witchcraft as a consistent religious movement had existed continually from the Neolithic period, only being exposed during the witch trials of the fifteenth century. Murray theorised that witchcraft had existed in opposition to Christianity and was part of a larger underground pagan resistance movement.”

“Gerald Gardner and his friend Aleister Crowley, the infamous occultist, endeavored to recreate the pre-Christian witch cult Murray claimed to identify, incorporating into it elements of the Victorian occultism both were familiar with: freemasonry. Crowley's own esoteric Ordo Templi Orientis and religio-philosophy Thelema.”

“Fuelled by the emerging New Age culture of the 60s, Wicca was exported with great success to the United States, where it began to emerge across the country in a series of home-grown traditions and covens. These included an Americanised version of Gardner's own tradition, exported by Raymond Buckland, an American friend of Gardner's and the self-appointed leader of America's Wiccan movement, and variations on the theme, such as Zsuzsanna Budapest's Dianic Wicca.”

“A raft of literature emerged in the 1980s and 90s to capitalise on Wicca' growing popularity. As the term became a recognisable signpost within popular culture it began to appear in popular television series: Joss Whedon's sci-horror series Buffy the Vampire Slayer featured a Wiccan main character studying the craft, while popular 90s horror film The Craft combined Wiccan thealogy with contemporary ‘Goth’ elements of the anti-establishment subculture. Coinciding with this, books explicitly marketed to young people - for example Silver Ravenwolf's Teen Witch - provided a way into Wicca for young people attracted by its portrayal in the media.”

“Wiccan thealogy and polytheism is opposed to Christian monotheism, which teaches One immutable, indivisible God in three Persons, with whom we are called to have a personal relationship, growing in the love and knowledge of our Creator. Wicca's duotheism is incompatible with this teaching.”

“Old Testament exegesis, then, suggests that witchcraft involving any of these practice - even if it is performed with the intention of helping another - is contrary to the Judaeo-Christian faith. The Church has never permitted the ends to justify the means: whatever the outcome of divination or necromancy, the performance of magic itself arrogantly attempt to raise man to the level of God. misleading him into believing that he has the right to understand the future or communicate with the dead.”

“While Wicca as espoused by feminist authors and New Age spiritualists may seem, superficially, harmless, it almost invariably leads the practitioner deeper into ceremonial magick and occultism - both of which depend on the practitioner's attempts to summon and work with spirits.”

“A witch performs divination to ensure that they are acting in accord with the Wiccan ethic ‘an it harm none’: the Church insists that divination is, itself, harmful. It harms one’s relations hip with God and it can inflict lasting psychological and spiritual damage on the Wiccan themselves.”

“It is no surprise that Wicca and witchcraft have become the spiritual phenomena that they have in the twenty-first century: that the writings of a group of Victorian occultists should have been appropriated to suit the needs of a spiritually hungry generation. Wicca, by its very nature, appeals to those who feel marginalized by mainstream religion: it promises power and supernatural ability, and it encompasses these promises within a wider, socially acceptable agenda of eco-activism and feminism.”

“A recognition that Wiccans are on a genuine spiritual quest can provide the starting point for a dialogue with witches that may lead to conversion.”

I hope those examples will show you some of the depth and thought that went into this volume. It is very well written, and easily accessible. It is a volume that I believe we could use back in print. Especially in what we face in the world today. It is another excellent volume in an important series from the Catholic Truth Society!     

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

For reviews of other books in the CTS Explanations series click here.

Books in the CTS Explanations Series:
Marriage Annulment in the Catholic Church
Jehovah’s Witnesses
Does the Church oppress Women?
Organ Transplant – and the definition of Death
Be Yourself An Explanation of Humility - William Lawson SJ
Gene Therapy – and Human Genetic Engineering
Prenatal tests
Gift of life and Love
Cloning and Stem Cell Research
Contraception and Chastity
Freemasonry and the Christian Faith
Intelligent Life in the Universe
Spirits, Mediums & The Afterlife

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