Halloween always brings questions of what is insensitive. It is a time to open forums on what is considered offensive and to learn about cultures and histories other than our own. I’d like to take a moment to give an alternate image of witches to the traditional green ones: Wiccans. Wiccans are modern witches, believers in Wicca.
There are some who are afraid of Wiccan casting materials and people who recoil with wide eyes when folks describe themselves as witches. Yes, Wiccans use a pentagram. No, it’s not the same as Satanism. There’s no need to be afraid of Wiccans though, just as with any other religion. The fear of Wicca comes from ignorance. Wicca comes down to three basic things:
Firstly, Wiccans believe in balance and respect above all else. Wiccan faith varies from person to person — just as the image of God does for Christians. All Wiccans share the belief that there is a greater power that keeps balance in the universe. Wiccans seek to find their own balance between the good and bad in their actions, to give as much as they take. This is exemplified by the dual-god or God-Goddess pairing of a Mother-Father figure, who is the main deity of Wiccans.
Secondly, Wicca is derived from old-world Paganism and shares the belief that the powers of the universe can be harnessed with enough work. Wiccans observe holidays that follow the cycle of nature (the Equinoxes and Solstices) and often worship or do spellwork during times when nature is at a high or low — full or new moons, low or high tide, the changing of the seasons and so on. Spellcasting can entail the use of herbs and plants, crystals and light energy, Tarot cards and other methods of reading the future or a combination of all. You may even see a pentagram, the ancient symbol for the five elements (earth, water, fire, air and mind/spirit), used in a Wiccan spell for good luck, good health or guidance.
Thirdly, Wiccans don’t have a scripture or a central authority: No Torah or Pope. There is only the Wiccan Rede, a set of guidelines and basic rules, which ends with the essence of all Wiccan practices: “An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will.” Wiccans believe that we have free will and we determine our own fates, but that we should seek to be good and not upset the balance of life or nature.
One, balance. Two, Neopaganism. Three, Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will. Being a witch doesn’t sound so scary now, does it?
It’s okay to not understand a different culture or religion; ignorance alone is not indicative of disrespect. Even those who “understand” the religion often mistreat it — I’ve noticed that Wicca is now a trend. In Newbury Comics, a display full of witchcraft books detailed minor “spells” and how to start a coven (a group of witches) but didn’t even touch on the Rede, the idea of the God and Goddess or the religion’s roots. The same “spell” for good luck was described a different way in each book, and most of them were closer to self-actualization habits than rituals. One book was even titled “Bitch Witch,” or something along those lines — anything like that with a different religion would not have been sold at any chain. But should I even worry about it? Is one sign in a dorm, #JustWitchyThings, really so damaging? Is one trope of green witches in hats so bad? Are a hundred movies with witches as horrible hexers truly so awful? Are a few books fraught with misinformation, written to be tabloid versions of a deep and meaningful faith, really so horrible?
I don’t know. In the eyes of the modern person, probably not. Many would argue that Wicca is simply a hippy movement, since it was popularized in America in the 1970s and 80s, and that Wiccans are just being too uppity about labels. Even The New York Times, with all its resources, could only find 134,000 Wiccans who would admit to their practices in 2001 — but many Wiccans agree that the hesitation to come forward stems from the fear of judgement.
Wiccans find themselves caught between those who do not understand the faith and choose to fear it, and those who wish to brush Wiccans off as another series of try-hard hipsters who want everyone to go vegan and act like the treehugger movement is back. Wicca is, however, seen as a real religion in the eyes of American law, since 1986. Wicca also undeniably draws its heritage directly back to the oldest and longest surviving religion in the world:, Paganism. Wiccan tenants aren’t evil; on the contrary, Wiccans align with most monotheistic religions’ scriptures, with the main mantra ringing true: “Don’t Be A Bad Person.”
Tessa DesMarais can be contacted at