Can I Be A Christian Wiccan or Witch?

CandlesInCathedral_1500.jpg
A reader wants to know if she can practice as a witch and still be a Christian. Image by Sami Sarkis/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Many people in the Pagan community were raised in a religion that wasn't Paganism, and sometimes, it can be a challenge to set aside the beliefs with which you were raised. Occasionally, however, you'll encounter people who didn't set their beliefs aside at all, but have found a way to blend their Christian upbringing with Wicca or some other Pagan path that they've discovered later in life. So, that begs the question, what about that whole "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" thing that appears in the Bible? There's an argument in some circles that the word witch was a mistranslation, and that it's actually supposed to be poisoner. If this is the case, does that mean it's possible to be a Christian Wiccan?

Christian Wicca

Unfortunately, this is one of those questions that has to get broken down into a bunch of really small bits, because there's no simple answer, and no matter how it gets answered, somebody is going to be upset with the response. Let's try to break this down a bit, without turning it into a debate on Christian theology.

First, let's clarify one thing right off the bat. Wicca and witchcraft are not synonymous. One can be a witch without being Wiccan. Wicca itself is a specific religion. Those who follow it–Wiccans–honor the deities of their particular tradition of Wicca. They don't honor the Christian god, at least not in the way that Christianity mandates that he be honored. In addition, Christianity has some pretty strict rules about what gods you get to worship–pretty much none other than theirs. You know, there's that "thou shall have no other gods before me" bit. By the rules of Christianity, it's a monotheistic religion, while Wicca is polytheistic. These make them two very distinct and very different religions.

So, if you go strictly by the very definition of the words, one could not be a Christian Wiccan any more than one could be a Hindu Muslim or a Jewish Mormon. There are Christians who practice witchcraft within a Christian framework, but this is not Wicca. Do keep in mind that there are people who declare themselves to be Christian Wiccans, or even ChristoPagans, honoring Jesus and Mary as god and goddess together. It's generally rude to argue with how people self-identify, but if you go by actual semantics, it seems that one would rule out the other.

Witch, or Poisoner?

Let's move on. Let's assume that you're interested in becoming a witch, but you plan on remaining Christian. In general, the witch community isn't going to care–after all, what you do is your business, not ours. However, your local pastor might have quite a bit to say about it. After all, the Bible does say "thou shall not suffer a witch to live." There's been a great deal of discussion in the Pagan community about that line, with many people arguing that it's a mistranslation, and that originally it had nothing to do with witchcraft or sorcery, but that the original text was "thou shall not suffer a poisoner to live."

In general, the notion of the line in the Book of Exodus applying to poisoners and not witches, is one that is popular in Pagan circles but has been repeatedly dismissed by Jewish scholars. This theory of mistranslation of the word "poisoner" as "witch" is acknowledged as being patently false, and based upon ancient Greek texts.

In the original Hebrew, the text is very clear. In the Targum Onkelos, which is an ancient translation of the Torah into Aramaic, the verse in question reads M'khashephah lo tichayyah, which loosely translates into "A M'khashephah you shall not let live." For the early Jews, a M'khashephah was a witch who used herbal magic as a form of sorcery. While herbalism could have involved herbal poisons, if the Torah had meant to say poisoner, it would have used a different word, rather than one that meant, specifically, witch.

While this doesn't need to turn into a discussion on Biblical theory, many Jewish scholars have asserted that the passage in question does in fact refer to witchcraft, which seems fairly sensible, since they're the ones who speak the language best. Keeping that in mind, if you choose to practice witchcraft under the umbrella of Christianity, don't be surprised if you run into some opposition from other Christians.

The Bottom Line

So can you be a Christian Wiccan? In theory, no, because they're two separate religions, one of which forbids you from honoring the gods of the other. Can you be a Christian witch? Well, maybe, but that's a matter for you to decide for yourself. Again, the witches probably don't care what you do, but your pastor may be less than thrilled.

If you're interested in practicing witchcraft and magic within a Christian framework, you may want to look into some of the writings of Christian mystics, or perhaps the Gnostic Gospels, for further ideas.