Is Wicca a Fraud?

Dear Cecil,

DON’T PANIC! I’m not a Witch out to flame you. Your description of modern Wicca is essentially correct, but it misses a point: The distinguishing feature of Wicca and other Classical-Era-revival denominations is their Pantheism, the belief that all of Nature is alive with Divine Energy. Something like “The Force” of the Star Wars films, this idea is often personified as Gaia, the Green Man, or any number of other figures from European pantheons. Wicca’s inspiration may be based in antiquity, but most of the actual liturgy has been composed within the last 100 years. A religion need not be historical to be valid. Spirituality is not dependent upon historicity – a lesson that the “revealed” monotheistic religions would do well to remember.

Thank you,

I guess that the OP refers to this column. Wasn’t easy to find, though.

Nothing I write about any person or group should be applied to a larger group.

  • Boris Badenov

Here’s the link:

Cecil’s newspaper column this week is also on this subject. I think the link on this site appears about a week after the papers go out (hey, Cecil has to make a living, too.)

Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine


I read you column in this week's PACIFIC SUN in Marin County,

Calif. I have been active in the Covenant of the Goddess, the oldest and
largest organization of Witches in the U.S., since 1981, and have served as
National First Officer, as well as in other capacities. I’m also
co-creator, with Starhawk, of THE PAGAN BOOK OF LIVING AND DYING
(HarperSanFrancisco, 1997). I mention this information to offer some
credibility to my comments. I know you’ll probably get tons of response to
your recent column.

First, who can judge another's spirituality? By whose criteria is someone else's spirituality "fraudulent"?

FWIW, I found it essentially accurate, if cynical. Craft is

primarily experiential so it can’t be well described in a narrative medium
– or any medium, for that matter. I offer below a definition of
Witchcraft that I wrote for the forthcoming ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FEMINIST THEORY
(Routledge, London). I was, unfortunately, limited to 400 words and book
titles and authors counted in the total word count.

And yes, I have a perfectly good mundane name. NightMare refers to Macha's legendary shapeshifting ability, in my case, the mare who rides through your dreams.

M. Macha NightMare	©1998
	[417 words]


	Witchcraft is a nature-based religion whose practitioners worship
goddess, the immanent life force within and connecting all, manifest in
both female and male images of the divine, most especially Goddess, and who
is monist, henotheist, polytheist and/or panentheistic in concept. To
Witches, the Earth is alive and all life is sacred and interconnected.
	Witchcraft is the largest of many contemporary religions which fit
under the broader term Pagan in the sense of being Earth-based and
distinct from predominant Judeo-Christian thought. Certain 'traditions'
(similar to a denomination) of Witchcraft have existed in Europe, North
America and Australia, since the early twentieth century, and some claim
lineage of hundreds of years and more.
	A revival of interest in 'the Craft' occurred in the late 1960s and
early 1970s, with the weaving of many threads: interest in Western
ceremonial magic; exploration of intuitive, non-linear modes of perception;
seeking meaning and spirit in a materially oriented culture; awakened
respect for folk tradition; honor for our direct experience of Nature and
of our bodies; concern for the survival of Earth and the quality of life on
the planet; women's sense of oppression, anger, and the profound need to
honor their life experiences with ritual.
	Witchcraft respects both rational, scientific pursuit of knowledge
and emotional, intuitive, experiential perceptions. It is practiced by
women and men in small, intimate, groups commonly called covens, and in
larger gatherings, sometimes open to the public. Rituals celebrate the
seasons on the solar solstices and equinoxes and agricultural/deity-related
cross quarters and lunations. They may honor life passages or be done for
healing of an individual or the Earth herself. Important religious symbols
are spirals, pentacles, circles, sun and moon, natural objects, and
seasonal vegetation.
	Use of the term 'Witch' reclaims individual 'power from within',
affirms collective power to effect change in the world, and identifies with
people of independent spirit, personal power, and special skills who were
persecuted and martyred as witches during the fourteenth through sixteenth
	Historical roots are perceived in the image of the sacred female in
the art and culture of ancient Europe and the Middle East, and in the
writings of archeologist Marija Gimbutas, anthropologist Margaret Murray,
and the teachings of Gerald B. Gardner,
	Early thealogians include Morgan McFarland, Robin Morgan, and most
significantly, Starhawk (Miriam Simos).

Starhawk (1979, 1989, 1999) The Spiral Dance, San Francisco: Harper Collins
Adler, Margot (1979, 1986), Drawing Down the Moon, Boston: Beacon Press

	Thank you for your attention.

M. Macha NightMare
Covenant of the Goddess  [](
Northern California Local Council
Reclaiming   [](

Wow, long post.

I think I’ve found the new motto for the coffee cups!

The Wicca column that appeared last week in some newspapers was pre-empted in others and on this site for the HUD-Creole article. It should appear here soon, at which time we will provide a link.

Was this just a technical snafu of some kind? Or did some papers ditch the column for subject matter? (The latter seems unlikely, considering some of the topics Cecil has covered in the past, but one never knows…)

[[Was this just a technical snafu of some kind? Or did some papers ditch
the column for subject matter? (The latter seems unlikely, considering
some of the topics Cecil has covered in the past, but one never

No, the HUD Creole column was something of a “scoop,” so it got rushed into print. It even got excerpted in the Wall Street Journal. Some syndicated papers didn’t get it in time, though, so some ran the Wicca story and others ran the HUD story (as did the website).

Cecil’s new column on Wicca is now on-line at:

Glad to help.

Boy, is he gonna get some response! But Cecil can handle it.

Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to relive it. Georges Santayana

I’ll probably get in trouble for this one, but … (apologies in advance to devotees of any religion)

IMHO, wicca is no more or less a fraud than any other religion or belief system. It just has the distinction of being provably not the “word of God,” “the True Gospel,” or some such nonsense.

Religion is a sociological phenomenon, and one of the consequences of humans having imagination. We wonder what and why we are, where we came from, where we’re going. Primitive peoples invented spirits and deities that they used to answersome of these questions. We can’t wrap our minds around the idea of a true end of life and consciousness, so we come up with an afterlife, reincarnation, or whatever. We see things happen that we can’t readily explain, so we invent miracles.

Most importantly, we’re tribal animals who have a desire to belong somewhere, so we organize into religions. We’re also aggressive animals trying to get to the top of the food chain and make our genes dominant in our species, so we try and kill people who practice other religions.

In a positive light, religion gives hope to the hopeless, a basis for how we’d like to be treated by others when we interact socially, and a sense of cultural identity. In the negative, religion deludes us when a provable answer is obvious, makes us smug when dealing with those of other beliefs, and makes cultures go to war over whose god is the real one.

Anybody who claims “My religion has never harmed anybody,” or “the people who do those things aren’t really (insert group here),” can kiss my entire ass. I’m a Jew, possibly one of the most persecuted religions ever, and we do the same cold shit to people. I appreciate my culture, but that culture’s brushes with hypocrisy stem from religion. I know this thread was originally about wicca and other pseudo-witchy/druidic/shamanistic practices, so I’ll give an example. Is it really encouraging to instruct your members in rites such as binding, which is the most passive-aggressive crap I’ve ever heard of?

I am aware that I’m in the middle of a rant. This rant was touched off by the “Toy Story 2 might cause homosexuality” thread, in which we see that, despite our claimed intelligence, most of us can’t tell the difference between parody and seriousness. Go read 's email archive if you need proof.

In closing, no religion is a fraud if it teaches us to treat our fellows with a modicum of respect, or to put the world into an understandable context. Any religion is a fraud if it claims to be the truth, or requires the Good Word to be spread to the infidel through persistence or force. I’ve probably touched off a huge argument with this post, but maybe the venting will do us all some good.

–Da Cap’n
"Playin’ solitaire 'til dawn
With a deck of fifty-one.

I read those Landover letters. Talk about clueless! Woo!

Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to relive it. Georges Santayana

Dear Cap’n:

Word, Brother.


Regarding the Landover website — pretty funny stuff. Looking through the guestbook (I didn’t see any e-mail archives) does give one the impression that many people are clueless, but it also seems that the cluelessness is independent of religious beliefs.
Regarding Cap’n Crude’s comment that any religion is a fraud if it claims to be the truth — um, isn’t that the whole point of a religion? You may say that all religions are frauds, that’s certainly your right, but others may disagree. You seem to have absolute knowledge of the origins of all religions and the lack of anything past this world, but I lack your inside information.


I would agree with the characterization of Cecil’s column as “cynical but accurate”. The majority of thinking Wiccans, I think, are aware that Wicca is not an ancient religion. To what extent it is based on or derived from ancient Pagan religions is debatable. Of course, since Wicca has no dogma, the extent to which it’s based on ancient religion is different for each Wiccan. My guess is that the general thought-form/philosophy is of quite modern origin.

Cap’n: I performed a binding spell on my parents the other week to prevent them from hindering or harming me as I move out. In what way is this passive-agressive? I’d think of it as self-defense.

Also, it is true that I think of my religion as true. If I didn’t I’d belong to some other religion. I even think that certain other religions, mentioning no names, are destructive and silly. The difference is that I respect the rights of other people to believe differently, acknowledge that there are many paths to Deity, etc. Also, there is no dogma in Wicca claiming that it is true; its truth is merely something I believe in.

Everybody has a right to their own way. They don’t have a right to put it in my face. Now, one could argue that my expressing my opinion in this forum is forcing my way on others, or doing the same thing as the Jehovah’s Witlesses who come to the door on Sunday to tell me I’ve got it all wrong. However, this is a forum for discussion. I’d never corner Father MacKenzie on the street and spout this crap at him. similarly, I don’t want him doing so to me.

I never claimed this, but your doctor must be impressed with your outstanding knee-jerk reflex. Perhaps I should have emphasized: Religion is a fraud when it claims to to THE Truth. I’m bothered by the dogmatists who will smile and sneer in my face and tell me I’m wrong, when their religion makes unprovable and unsubstantiated claims about how the world really works, and how my soul is in jeopardy because I don’t do it their way. Try and argue the point, and they use the “mind over matter” approach – they don’t mind, because your counter-argument doesn’t matter.

The binding is an emotional mechanism to give you power you don’t have over people who may or may not mean you harm. You can smile at your parents’ faces, and burn candles and poke them with pins in your mind, and you feel like you’ve taken control of the situation. If you were to take actual, real-world steps to prevent them hindering or harming you, that would be self-defense. Playing pretend that the Goddess or the Horned God will bar their evil intent is, to me, ludicrous. you may as well hold your fingers up between them and your eyeball and make pinching motions, shouting “I’m crushing your heads!” for all the good it will do you. Try telling your parents about that binding spell, see what happens.

Mind you, I’m not questioning your right to perform bindings, love charms, or anything else. If you feel they help you cope with your life, that’s great. Just don’t try and tell me that some incense ritual will work better than asserting yourself. Making the evil eye behind a person’s back has no effect if they don’t see it. If they do see it, the effect will be the opposite of what you want, and your pimply face beaten in as well.

This is all I’m trying to say. I respect those rights as well, including there being no path to Deity, or indeed no Deity to follow a path to. Having a truth you believe in absent of dogma is great. Enjoy.

–Da Cap’n
"Playin’ solitaire 'til dawn
With a deck of fifty-one.

That’s kind of the point. Part of the reason for doing a spell is to give oneself the strength of purpose to follow through with the physical-world part of the intent of the spell.

As for the rest of the spell - the part which you characterize as ludicrous - I presume that is something about which we can agree to disagree.

Incidentally, my face is not pimply.

It’s a deal, Matt. :slight_smile:

<< FWIW, I found it essentially accurate, if cynical. >>

Hey, that’s not just Cecil on Wicca-ism, that’s Cecil on about everything: accurate and cynical… I’d add, with acerbic wit. That’s why we love him.

I wrote:

to which Cap’n Crude replied:

Now, now, Cap’n. Perhaps you neglected to read your own post.
You wrote:

A lot of people can understand what an end to life means, but don’t necessarily believe it. A lot of people can understand what an end of life and consciousness implies, but just don’t know if that is in fact the truth. I certainly don’t know, and anyone who does has inside information that I lack. You claim to know.

The good Cap’n later writes:

Well, since most religions claim to know the truth, you say these religions are frauds. And how do you know that? I may not believe in a certain religion, but in many cases for me to say that it is for sure wrong would require knowledge that I don’t possess. Knowledge that you apparently possess. Now I certainly believe some things, but to say that everybody who believed differently was wrong or part of a fraud would be out of line.