idea of roaming spirits of the dead, witchcraft is perhaps the most
common theme of Halloween. However, our image of witchcraft is
changing from that of something evil to something spiritually
positive. Unfortunately, witchcraft is no laughing matter.
former witch Doreen Irvine reports how the proselytizing activity of
modern witches is designed to recast their tarnished image
historically: "It was important to give witchcraft a new look, and
these guidelines were laid down: ‘never frighten anyone. Offer new
realms of mystery and excitement. Make witchcraft less sinister. Make
it look like a natural, innocent adventure... cover up evil with
children can be deceived about witches is through their attempt to
recast themselves in a benign light. Those having this agenda use
Halloween to teach children that witchcraft is good and witches are
genuinely spiritual people, healers, and protectors of the
environment. Of course, most witches today claim to be "good" witches,
which causes much confusion. The truth is that in the tradition of
witchcraft, so-called white witches can sometimes be just as evil as
black witches. Regardless, from a biblical perspective all witchcraft
is evil. Nevertheless, revisionist history continues to recast the
witch and neo-pagan communities as those who would help both mankind
and planet Earth itself.
Anatomy of Witchcraft, Peter Haining describes leading witch
Raymond Buckland as "certainly the most important Gardnerian witch in
America and perhaps the cult’s most level-headed and convincing
In 1994, co-author John Weldon had a radio debate with Buckland, who,
in the early 1960s, was probably the one most responsible for
reintroducing modern-day witchcraft to the United States. In that
debate, Buckland claimed the following of witchcraft: "It’s just
another religion... it’s not anti-Christian—it’s nothing like that.
The main message is positive.... We hold pretty much the same ideas of
doing good [as Christians]…. I’ve spoken at Roman Catholic colleges on
Long Island, New York, I’ve spoken for Methodists, for Baptists, for
Episcopalians—many, many different groups. Generally, I would say that
there’s been a very good reaction: ‘Now this is interesting. Tell us
more.’ That’s the sort of reaction that I’ve gotten rather than
view of witchcraft as something that is not anti-Christian but
something good and positive is contradicted by the facts, not to
mention God’s own view of witchcraft. In Scripture we are told very
clearly that anyone who "engages in witchcraft... is detestable to the
Lord" (Deut. 18:10,12).
Not too long
ago Time magazine estimated that there were about 160,000
witches in America and possibly half as many in Britain. Obviously,
painting witchcraft in a good, positive, "white" light is part of the
reason for the success of witchcraft—along with the general breakdown
of Western culture.
even some Christians don’t seem too convinced about the dangers of
witchcraft. One evangelical scholar claims, "The majority of
witchcraft and ritual magic appear to be relatively innocuous," even
going so far as to assert that ritual magic may be "essentially
Again, such attitudes are contradicted by the history of witchcraft
and ritual magic and the testimony of current and former
And certainly Halloween has a part to play in all this: "In the
opinion of Dr. David Enoch, former senior consultant psychiatrist at
the Royal Liverpool Hospital and the University of Liverpool,
Halloween practices open the door to the occult and can introduce
forces into people’s lives that they do not understand and often
cannot combat.... For too many children, this annual preoccupation...
leads to a deepening fascination with the supernatural, witches and
the possibility of exercising power over others."6
example, consider the following information given in Harper’s
magazine. In "Toward a more P.C. [politically correct] Halloween" we
find excerpts from the teacher’s manual of the Anti-Bias
Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children produced by the
Anti-Bias Curriculum Task Force of Early Childhood Educators in
California and published by the National Association for the Education
of Young Children in Washington, D.C. In this manual we are told that
the Halloween image of the witch as old, wicked, ugly and dressed in
black "reflects stereotypes of gender, race, and age: ‘Powerful women
are evil; old women are ugly and scary; the color black is evil.’" The
myth of the evil witch "reflects a history of witch-hunting and
witch-burning… directed against mid-wives and other independent
women." We are told that this stereotype of witches as evil should be
challenged by teachers today "because it is so offensive, especially
to many women."
is given of a teacher named Kay who did the following activities two
weeks before Halloween. She first asks the children what they think
about witches. She receives the standard responses of "bad, ugly,
old." The teacher then says, "Many people do think that. What I know
is that the real women we call witches aren’t bad. They really helped
people.... They healed people who were sick or hurt." This gets the
children talking about doctors and the teacher replies, "Yes, the
[witch] healers were like doctors."
days, Kay brings in various herbs showing how they were used by
witches in healing and she also sets up a "witch-healer" table "where
the children can make their own potions." At the end of the two-week
course, children have a new consensus—that witches fall into two
categories: "Some were bad, some good. So although the activities
don’t completely change the children’s minds, they do stretch thinking
by creating a category of ‘some good witches.’"7
With tens of
thousands of witches in America and an undetermined number of them
teachers of young children, who would think that a time such as
Halloween would not be used by them to their own advantage? Of course,
witches also have a lot of help from many religious liberals, radical
feminists, those in the goddess movement and among adherents of the
neo-pagan revival. All of them work together to support witchcraft as
a benign and spiritually divine activity—but at what cost?
forgotten today is that witchcraft is increasingly appealing to a
large number of people because of the manner in which it is presented
and the community and power that it offers. For example, one former
witch discusses why witchcraft was so appealing to her and has become
so appealing to many others: "It all seemed so harmless and so
beautiful. It was a beautiful experience.... Wicca builds community.
It builds community because there are so many people out there seeking
this oneness with the earth, this oneness with the universe, this
oneness with the ultimate god and goddess aspect. Everybody wants
love, everybody wants to get along, everybody wants peace, and in
Wicca, when you are involved in a group, it starts off that way."8
Guadalupe Rosalez found another reality than the one she initially
encountered. First, in contrast to the claims of Raymond Buckland
cited earlier that witchcraft is not anti-Christian, Rosalez found
just the opposite. Having a Christian background, she wanted to use
Christ in her rituals but the witchcraft council would not allow her
to use the name of Christ—not even as one god among many. "They just
said: ‘No, you are forbidden to use Christ.’"9
She was taken before the council several times
for discussion or discipline.
(Incidentally, the modern perception that Christians were involved in
the burning of witches at the Salem witch trials and elsewhere is
highly distorted. For example, at the 1692 Salem trials "one of the
greatest ironies of history is that Christians were accused,
Christians died, Christians tried to stop the trials, and still
Christianity gets the blame. Devout lay Christians ... as well as
devout ministers [were accused].... Marion L. Starkey proves [in
The Devil in Massachusetts: A Modern Inquiry into the Salem Witch
Trials] ‘Far more ministers were making a stand against
prosecution than were lending themselves to it.’... [and Chadwick
Hansen in Witchcraft at Salem writes], ‘In fact the clergy
were, from beginning to end, the chief opponents to the events of
True, the majority who were executed were innocent but there were some
who were genuinely guilty of witchcraft (although this did not justify
their execution). In fact, Wallace Notestein observes that "good"
witches would even accuse each other in order to destroy a rival
Rosalez also eventually found that there was a great deal of envy and
animosity among her coven members. And in the end:
I saw it all for what it
really was when I was trying to leave and separate myself from them.
They made it hard for me. I had nightmares and visions that nobody
else had and sicknesses that were not accounted for physically.... I
was being pressured into going into the art of necromancy, which is
raising of the dead in witchcraft.... It is just too dangerous in
both a spiritual sense and a mental sense. If you are not strong
enough spiritually, it will drive you crazy…. I had to make a
choice. It was either witchcraft or God.... To this day almost two
years later, I am still being followed. I am still being attacked on
and off. I think the worst came a couple of weeks ago. I ran into
this person that appeared to be demonized, on the street, and she
threatened my children. She said that if I did not go back [into
witchcraft] my children were going to die by the 12th of this
month.... It is now after that date. I was hit pretty bad. I was
sick and there was a point of stagnation where I just could not seem
to move. I had no will of my own but I had much prayer through the
churches and I prayed myself.... Praise God my children are now
tells her former witch friends that should they, too, cross the line,
"You will come to the conclusion that the people you thought loved you
the most, that took you into the craft, your best friends, have become
your worst enemies."13
witchcraft is no harmless pastime and the use of Halloween to
encourage witchcraft is terribly misguided. The former witch cited
above recalls, "[A]s a witch you always seem to seek the counsel of a
Raymond Buckland, quoted earlier, says that the focus
of witchcraft is "a belief in deities, and a worship of these deities,
thanking them for what we have, asking them for what we need."15
Witchcraft, poltergeists and other forms of spiritism tend to go hand
in hand. Biblically, this means that witchcraft is involved with the
powers of darkness. If these spirits and ghosts are really demons, no
other conclusion is possible.
Summers’ Geography of Witchcraft and History of Witchcraft,
as well as many standard encyclopedias and compendiums on
witchcraft, show the close connections between witchcraft and
poltergeists. Consider the following discussion by leading occult
authority Colin Wilson in his book Poltergeist!: A Study in
Destructive Haunting. He discusses the historical connection
between witchcraft, poltergeists, necromancy and spiritism and points
out that writing the text of an illustrated book about witchcraft
"proved to be an excellent preparation for writing a book about
And all witchcraft
has been based on the idea of magic: that the witch or magician can
make use of spirit entities to carry out her will... the chief
business of a witch in those days (about 1,000 B.C.) was raising
the dead. And later tales of witches—in Horace, Apuleius and
Lucan—make it clear that this was still true 1,000 years later on.
After the beginning of the Christian era, the witch also became the
invoker of demons.... In his notorious History of Witchcraft,
the Reverend Montague Summers denounces modern Spiritualism as a
revival of witchcraft. He may simply have meant to be
uncomplimentary about Spiritualism, but, as it happens, he was
historically correct. The kind of spiritualism initiated by the Fox
sisters was the nearest approach to what Lucan’s Erichtho, or Dame
Alice Kyteler, would have understood by witchcraft. It begins and
ends with the idea that we are surrounded by invisible spirits,
including those of the dead, and that these can be used for magical
purposes.... Witchcraft is about "spirits"—the kind of spirits we
have been discussing in this book. 17
conclusion, Halloween and witchcraft are closely connected. This means
that however innocent Halloween may be at one level, at another level
its innocence is lost altogether. Further, because of the modern
revival of witchcraft and other forms of neopaganism, an article on
the subject in Christianity Today correctly reported that
"profound changes are underway in the religious climate of the West.
They suggest that new religious forces are nibbling at the foundations
of a society and a culture built largely upon a Christian world view."18
Indeed, they are. This is why the Christian community should be more
committed to prayer, sanctification and evangelism. If we do our part,
God may indeed reverse the tide.
1 Doreen Irvine, Freed
from Witchcraft (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1973), pp. 101-02.
2 Peter Haining, The
Anatomy of Witchcraft (New York: Taplinger, 1972), p. 93.
3 "Getting Serious About
Witchcraft in America," interview with John Weldon and Raymond
Buckland, Rutherford Magazine, Aug. 1994, pp. 16-18.
4 I. Hexham, p. v.
"Satanism and Witchcraft" in Walter A. Elwell ed., Evangelical
Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984),
5 We have documented some
of these in our The Coming Darkness (Harvest House
6 Russ Parker,
Battling the Occult (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press,
1990), p. 35.
7 "Toward a More P.C.
Halloween," excerpts from the Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tools for
Empowering Young Children by Louis Derman-Sparks and the
Anti-Bias Curriculum Task Force as given in Harper’s Magazine,
October 1991, pp. 19, 21.
8 Aida Besancon Spencer,
et al., The Goddess Revival (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House,
1995), pp. 198-99.
9 Ibid., p. 200.
10 Ibid., pp. 276-77.
11 A History of
Witchcraft in England from 1558 to 1718, pp. 22-23 in Ibid., p.
12 Ibid., p. 200-01.
13 Ibid., p. 203. In
The Coming Darkness, we spent over 300 pages documenting the
dangers of occult practices.
15 "Getting Serious"
interview, p. 17.
16 Colin Wilson,
Poltergeist!: A Study in Destructive Haunting (New York:
Wideview/Perigee, 1981), p. 319.
17 Ibid., pp. 320-21.
18 Dave Bass, "Drawing
Down the Moon," Christianity Today, April 29, 1991, p. 14.