Many people have vague ideas of what real witches are, usually formed by children's stories or by the faith that they learned whilst growing up. To compound the problem, many people will simply parrot the information they've heard or assumed as fact - so when you are exploring the concept of witchcraft, you will come across many of these myths and misleading "facts". Here are a few of the most popular myths about witches, debunked.
Witchcraft and Wicca are two entirely separate things. Saying that they are the same is akin to saying that artists and christians are the same. Witchcraft is a craft or skill, just as cooking is a craft or skill. It can be learned and practiced by anyone who can follow instructions and focus on what they're doing. Wicca is a religion, constructed in the 1950's by a man named Gerald Gardner. Some Wiccans are witches, but not all witches are Wiccans.
Witches do not believe in Satan. Satan himself is a construct of the Christian faith, as a counterpart to the religion's God. Therefore, to put it quite simply, to believe in Satan you first have to believe in God, which requires you to be a Christian.
Also, pagan comes from the Latin word "paganus", meaning villager, or someone who lived out of the city as a rural peasant. As the Christian faith spread, the outlying towns were often holdovers of polytheistic faiths, and as such those far-flung villagers were at first rightly called pagans (villagers, out of the city). However, the term morphed from that rightful meaning into a meaning of "not believing in God", as the unconverted did not. Today it has come to mean a person who does not believe in a monotheistic (one god) religion.
The pentagram can be found dating back as far as 3,000 BC in Mesopotamian writings, having an astrological meaning; it represented the five planets Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, Saturn, and Venus. Since then it has appeared in many different cultures and represented many groups, including having a sacred meaning for Christians.
Both men and women can practice witchcraft, and both may refer to themselves as "witches". Some modern-day men refer to themselves as "wizards" in an attempt to denote masculinity, and authors frequently use the term "wizard" to denote a male witch. In Old English, "wicca" (wik-ka) meant "male wizard or sorcerer" and "wicce" (witch-ee) meant "female witch or sorceress".
Unfortunately this isn't true. While we no longer have public hangings, crushings, burnings, or quarterings of witches here in the United States, that does not mean that they are not persecuted. Some witches still find that if they reveal their beliefs, some people will shun them and their families. Many find that once their beliefs are found out, their employer will fire them. Outspoken witch authors both offline and online receive very nasty "hate" mail, comments on their websites, and slandering of their names and reputations. There are many different types of persecution, not just killings.
However even today people are still being tried, convicted, and sentenced to death as witches. In many countries, witchcraft is considered a criminal offense, and those accused of it can suffer jailtime and hefty legal fees. In July of 2010 Unicef published a paper titled "Children Accused of Witchcraft" detailing the rising tragedy of children being accused of witchcraft and being cast out of their homes, tortured, abused, and even killed all across Africa. It's not just children being persecuted in Africa, however; accusations of witchcraft made against adults is extremely common and even resulted in the burnings of 11 people in Kenya in 2008.
In November of 2009, a Lebanese TV anchor was charged with witchcraft and sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia. In October of 2009, five widows in India were filmed being forced to strip naked, be beaten as they were paraded through the streets, and even being forced to eat human excrement - all because a local cleric accused them of being witches. According to the BBC, widows are often targeted in an attempt to seize their land and possessions.
Remember when doing your research to explore as many resources as possible, and when you run across something that seems a little far-fetched, it's very likely it's a myth. Look up credible sources of information and weigh out all of the differing viewpoints carefully. Blessed Be!
© Raven LeFay
Published: September 4, 2010
About the Author
Raven is a real witch practicing solitary witchcraft - well, except for the cats! For more information on witchcraft, especially spellcrafting for beginners, visit her blog at Real Witches or join the Real Witches group on Facebook.