Under the Spell of Mother Earth - Chapter 4
Witchcraft and Ecology
"The model of the Goddess ... fosters respect for the sacredness of all living things. Witchcraft can be seen as a religion of ecology. Its goal is harmony with nature, so that life - may not just survive, but thrive." (Starhawk, first president of the Covenant of the Goddess)1
"The human woman gives birth just as the earth gives birth to the plants ... so woman magic and earth magic are the same." (Joseph Campbell)2
"He turned rivers into a desert, flowing springs into thirsty ground, and fruitful land into a salt waste, because of the wickedness of those who lived there." Psalm 107.33-34
TIM, AN EIGHTH-GRADER at a Christian middle school, walked into the home of a close friend and sensed that something had changed. It felt spooky. What was wrong?
"My sister has become a witch," explained his friend.
That wasn't all. Her boyfriend was the leader of a growing coven of witches.
Tim was ready for the challenge. He told his friend about spiritual warfare, and then prayed for his protection and for freedom for his sister. Tim was learning to trust God daily for his own safety from the hostility of coven members who gathered near his home.
"They cast spells on kids they don’t like," he told me a week later. "One boy fell and broke his arm."
Tim’s experience is being duplicated across the nation. For teenagers, witchcraft may be the fastest growing form of occult empowerment. Most groups emphasize the "light" side of the Craft: love for nature, feelings of oneness with all forms of life, and power to do "good" magic. But some groups show a darker side. A friend of my son described some strange happenings at his high school:
"Some kids in my school are environmentalists and are totally for taking care of the earth and saving the animals. They believe in world peace and make the peace sign with their fingers. 'We should combine everybody and make one world,' they say.
"Today they got into a circle around a cross they formed with little white chips. They read from a black book and held each other's pinkies. Then they closed their eyes, leaned their heads way back, and talked in a weird language. Afterwards I asked them, 'What were you guys doing in there?'
"'We're practicing our witchcraft,' they answered.
"In the world religions class, they study Buddhism. Sometimes the teacher puts on eerie music. They all lie down on the floor and chant to themselves. They have rituals and weird stuff like inner body feelings.
"One guy told me the meditations are great. 'I get into trance and its really weird. I can’t even describe it.
I told him that he could get demon-possessed. That really freaked him out. He said, 'Why didn’t you tell me earlier?'"
Chants, trance, ritual, and power.... Add nature, and you have a spiritual medley that is captivating adults as well as teenagers throughout the Western World. Like the New Age movement, witchcraft is influencing our culture far beyond the borders of its countless covens (independent local groups).
Starhawk, priestess of the Old Religion of the Goddess, is one of the Craft's leading ambassadors. An instructor at Matthew Fox's Institute for Culture and Creation, she and others who share her pagan persuasions have been teaching wiccan rituals and the "positive" side of witchcraft in church groups and seminaries3 across the country, sometimes leaving a storm of protest in their wake.
'Witchcraft is ... perhaps the oldest religion existent in the West," writes Starhawk in The Spiral Dance, a manual on witchcraft which is also used in Women’s Studies in colleges, universities and even in some seminaries. She continues,
"The Old Religion, as we call it, is closer in spirit to Native American traditions or to the shamanism of the Arctic. Witchcraft takes its teachings from nature, and reads inspiration in the movements of the sun, moon, and stars, the flight of birds, the slow growth of trees, and the cycles of the seasons."4
Zealous protectors of the environment, witches view the earth as the physical manifestation of the Goddess. To them, the earth is the sacred body of the goddess, whose lifeforce flows through everything. Like deep ecologists, they seek a spiritual transformation of our culture.
"Many of us who are trying to reconnect with the land are realizing that what is needed is a regeneration of culture," wrote Judith Plant in Healing the Wounds. "What we are seeking is a religion that connects us to the land. Many of us ... try to emulate the native people."5
Not only do neopagans - a broad umbrella term for those who pursue or blend Wicca, Native American religions, New Age and other contemporary forms of other earth-centered religions. In a televised dialogue on "Hard Copy", two coven members shared their views of witchcraft, its practices, and their love for the earth. In the background, a circle of witches chanted, "We call on you to enter in..."
Moderator: Felicity and Ruth seem ordinary enough, they have families, jobs, nice homes - if you had just met them on the street you probably wouldn’t even realize that they are practicing witches. Felicity rules the wind. Ruth plans to bring about the downfall of male dominance ...
Ruth: There are attorneys that are witches, insurance salespeople, all kinds of scientists, and medical doctors.
Moderator: They don’t burn witches any more - but they are still under fire. But they are coming out of the broom closet by the coven to let the world know that there is a good side to witchcraft and that they are anything but Satan worshipers ...
Felicity: The religion of witchcraft is a religion about life, the preservation of life, the worship of life, the reverence and respect for life ...
Moderator: They call themselves healers and practice the same witchcraft that was alive long before Christianity ... only their best friends know their secret: that they are feminist witches, heavy into ecology. That they want to save the earth and make it safe for women and children.
Ruth: As witches, we ally ourselves with the forces of nature, and when we invoke the elements, we can, in conjunction with them, create what we want - and that’s what casting spells is. Its calling on all the forces of nature and our own power to direct our will in a particular way - to get what we want.6
As enthusiastic witches like Ruth and Felicity spread the word, multitudes listen. Many are captivated by the alluring blend of environmental consciousness, spiritual power, and erotic thrills. In 1990, witches in the San Francisco Bay Area allegedly numbered 15,000 to 20,000. Nationwide, the count was 150,000 to 175,000 and growing fast, according to the Bay Area Pagan Assemblies (BAPA), an umbrella organization for witches, druids, shamans, and followers of Goddess spirituality, "formed to fight Christian resistance to New Age practices.7
Although witchcraft opposes the Church, many Christians are embracing it. A graduate student at the School of Theology at Claremont completed a class titled "Religious Education Curriculum Design” by planning a curriculum for women who had become disillusioned with "the traditional patriarchal church."8 She based her curriculum on contemporary witchcraft - specifically rituals from Starhawk’s book The Spiral Dance. When she presented her plan to the class, her professor and fellow trainees for Christian ministry responded not with shock but with appreciation for "a wonderful idea."9
Promotion of witchcraft in public schools, colleges, television, and movies has stirred curiosity and fascination. Who wouldn't want to manipulate the force when it is offered in the name of self-empowerment of preservation of the earth? Nobody warns the seeker that witchcraft is abhorrent to God, destructive to our land, and potentially deadly to the naïve experimenter.
Celtic witchcraft, the “Lady of the Light,” and the force of “the Dark” battle for dominance in a children’s book called The Dark is Rising – required reading for sixth-graders in a public school in Los Altos, California. To maximize student interest and involvement, the teacher encouraged her class to experiment with the mind-control practices shown in the book: “Just do it for a giggle.”
Sarah, a Christian, recognized the occult messages and refused to participate. “I don’t want anyone to read my mind,” she told her mother. Her mother talked with the teacher who agreed to excuse Sarah from the reading assignment. She later chose a new reader for the whole class.
Did Sarah have reason to fear? Many people – both in and outside the Church – downplay the danger of dabbling in the occult. But neopagans know the power of an exciting story, a creative imagination, and the lure of magic. The Winter 1989 issue of Sage Woman, "A Quarterly Women’s Spirituality," featured "Reading Selections for the Young Pagan." To encourage youngsters in the "craft," book editor Lunaea promoted The Dark Is Rising and its four companion books by Susan Cooper:
"This pentology goes back to the deep pagan roots of the Arthurian epic, as modem-day children aid in the struggle between good and evil. I particularly liked Greenwitch, the third book in the series, when the female protagonist, Jane, is invited to a special women-only ritual involving the sea. This story is full of mystery, beauty, and deep magic."11
I borrowed The Dark is Rising from our local children’s library. This Newbery Honor Book tells about a midwinter solstice battle between the occult powers of the good Light and the evil Dark, which forces young Will Stanton to learn the ancient magical ways from the Old Ones. Point by point, the story’s symbols, techniques, and rituals match those in Starhawk’s witchcraft manual, The Spiral Dance.
The chart below compares the occult practices shown in The Dark is Rising with those in Starhawk’s manual. Notice that the two columns match in concept but differ in content: The Spiral Dance presents the teaching and The Dark Is Rising shows how it works.
The Spiral Dance
The Dark is Rising
|Working magic through mind control"||
Of all the disciplines of magic, the art of moving energy is the ... most natural... Picture the power in motion, and it moves. Feel it flowing and it flows....
Will thought hard, in furious concentration, of the image of the blazing log fire.... He felt the warmth.... "God out, fire," he said to it in his mind.... "Go out." And the fire went out.
|Symbols: channels of power:||
The quartered circle is basic to Witchcraft.... the physical objects we use in Witchcraft, are the tangible representatives of unseen forces.
Power, the subtle force that shapes reality, is raised through chanting or dancing and may be directed through a symbol or visualization.
He felt from the Signs [quartered circles] a fierce sensation.... a strong, arrogant reassurance of power.
Will filled his whole mind with the picture of the great circle of candle-flames.... he struck forward in his mind with the column of light.
To cast a spell is to project energy through a symbol.... Spells... require the combined faculties of relaxation, visualization, concentration, and projection.
Under that spell I have your sister bound by totem magic... A birth sign and a hair of the head are excellent totems.
|Altered consciousness: the door to occult empowerment||
Expanded awareness begins with dreams... "the Door of Dreams."
The doors are our great gateway into the Time, you will know more about the uses of them before long.
|The great goddess: source of wisdom and power||
The Goddess continually offers us challenges, but knowing that she is within us as well as around us, we find the strength to meet them.
This silent music that entered Will's mind and took hold of his sprit came... from the old Lady. Without speech, she was speaking to him.
|A male god (horned devil) ranks below the goddess||
The Horned God... wears horns -- but they are the waxing and waning crescents of the Goddess moon and the symbol of animal vitality.
The [Hunter's head] was horned with the antlers of a stag.... Will saw the cruelty now as the fierce inevitability of nature.
Like Israel during the time of the Judges, our nation seems to be rapidly turning from God to flagrant paganism. When my oldest son attended Sarah’s elementary school a few years earlier, he learned academics in an environment guarded from occult influences by the presence of the Holy Spirit in a Christian principal and two Christian teachers. After they retired, earthy spirituality swept into the classrooms.
"We have all this power we don’t even know we have," exclaimed the current fifth-grade teacher to her class. Wide-eyed, her students listened as she described the events of a Mind-Control Workshop she had enjoyed with the new principal and another teacher. After a series of mental exercises, the three educators had joined hundreds of other participants in walking barefoot across red-hot coals to prove their newfound power. The ancient ritual (practiced as early as 500 B.C. in China, Japan, Tibet, and India) seemed simple enough: raise hands, clench fists, chant about cool moss, and visualize its soothing softness underfoot.
“Doing magic” through imaging, chanting, ritual celebrations, and altered consciousness can produce captivating results: dramatic mind-over-body feats, an intoxicating sense of empowerment, heightened self-esteem, and an illusion of interconnectedness with “Mother Earth and her spirits.” But at what cost? Like Pinnochio’s donkey-eared playmates on Treasure Island, gullible seekers pay for Satan’s enticing favors with their freedom and their lives.
Witches may or may not believe in nature spirits. They usually don’t believe that their magic could be empowered by an evil force. Though many view the Goddess force as neither good nor evil, they might tell you that white magic is neutral or good, while black magic is evil. In other words, the intent determines the value.
The Bible shows that the source of supernatural power determines its value. Does it flow from God or Satan? No matter how beneficial the power may seem, if it springs from the latter, it opposes Gold’s purpose and accomplishes evil. Remember Deuteronomy 18:9-11, "Let no one be found among you who ... practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells."
Their name, Wicca, stems from the old Anglo-Saxon word wicce, which means "bend or shape," and, indeed, witches try to bend reality and shape the unseen according to their will. However, many contemporary witches claim that wicce means "'wise," which also fits. Demonstrating the folly of serving created things rather than the Creator," they illustrate the truth of Romans 1: "Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.... Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity" (vv. 22-25).
To neopagans, the physical is as much part of the Goddess force as is the psychic or spiritual. So why not abandon oneself to all kinds of physical pleasure? As Starhawk has said, "Union with the Goddess comes through embracing the material world. In witchcraft, we do not fight self-interest; we follow it, but with an awareness that transmutes it into something sacred."15
Sacred self-interest? This contradiction is seducing a public that is panting for excuses to engage in mystical, sensual thrills that will enlighten and empower the self. And when this lie is joined to the hope of healing the earth, it snares multitudes. In an article written for the Christian Research Journal, Craig Hawkins explains this twisted view of good and evil:
is viewed as an outdated concept that is 'only a tool used to shackle the minds and
actions of people.' The only 'sin' or evil is that of being unbalanced and out of
harmony or estranged from oneself, others, the varied life forms, and Mother Earth. As
there is no sin or divine retribution to be saved from, 'salvation' has only to do with
attaining and maintaining harmony with the above."16
God has shown us that witchcraft, sorcery, magic, and sexual promiscuity breed addiction to those behaviors, separation from God, and spiritual death. Terrible bondage occurs, not because God inflicts it, but because the victims - having rejected God's protective love -bring it on themselves. In spite of popular illusions about nature's goodness, human nature tends to be self-centered rather than self-giving. Under the guidance and power of demonic spirits, it eventually becomes capricious, hateful, cruel, and deadly.
Craig Hawkins describes this misguided belief system and the source of the force: "Despite what witches claim, witchcraft originates from Satan - the 'father of lies' and the 'god of this world,' and from man’s corrupt nature. Thus, though witches do not acknowledge the Devil’s existence, they are nonetheless (all the more so) trapped in the talons of his tyrannical grip."17
What Can Families Do?
Continue to affirm the truth outlined in the Armor.
Know and discuss ...
The Scriptures that deal with witchcraft.
The underlying reason for earth’s problems.
Choose a family project from pages 170-175.
1. THE SCRIPTURES THAT DEAL WITH WITCHCRAFT:
Know why you need to avoid witchcraft: Deuteronomy 18:9-11; 1 Samuel 15:23; Galatians 5:19-25.
Know why Old Testament warnings and promises apply to us today: Matthew 5:17-20 and 1 Corinthians 10:1-13.
As Galatians 5:16-20 points out, witchcraft fits right into the basic desires of our human nature. Study the rest of Galatians 5, and discuss the differences between "sinful nature" (the flesh) and God’s Spirit.
In order to resist witchcraft, you need to know how to recognize it. Review Chart 4. Notice Starhawk’s basic formula for spell casting: a combination of relaxation, visualization, concentration (or focus), and mental projection. Starhawk’s use of the first three is a counterfeit of God's good gifts. The last - a willful manipulation of psychic forces - has no Christian counterpart. Remember, God leads us, we don’t manipulate Him (Acts 17.24-26). But human nature has always sought ways to rebel against God and manipulate the forces of nature.
looking at the chart, turn your mind to God. Sing
a praise song or read a psalm. Then thank
Him for keeping you safe.
2. THE UNDERLYING REASON FOR EARTHS PROBLEMS. Back in the sixties, my husband and I visited Petra, the "pink city" dramatized in the movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The trip to Edom’s ancient capital began in Amman, Jordan, with a four-hour drive south through the desert. Only an occasional camel train or bedouin tent interrupted the sandy, stony bareness. Finally, at the mountainous entrance to Petra, the passage once blocked to Moses and his followers, we mounted horses and rode through a narrow gorge.
Near the end of the stony corridor the view grew spectacular. The vertical rock walls at our sides framed a sliver of the "pink palace,” permitting a teasing glimpse of the rose-colored columns and sculptured ornaments of a palatial wall. What an oasis!
But when we reached the once-flourishing city, the stark sunlight exposed the faded facades of a lifeless ghost town. Behind the broken ruins of a lost civilization hid empty caves - the stripped tombs of a people who long ago separated themselves from God.
Why be surprised? God had told us what to expect. “Edom’s streams will be turned into pitch, her dust into burning sulphur," He prophesied long before it happened.
"From generation to generation it will lie desolate ... God will stretch out over Edom the measuring line of chaos and the plumb line of desolation ... All her princes will vanish away. Thorns will overrun her citadels, nettles and brambles her strongholds. She will become a haunt for jackals, a home for owls" (Isaiah 34:10-13).
Talk about climate change! This calamity wasn’t caused by chlorofluorocarbons, a hole in the ozone layer, or overpopulation, but because the Edomites dared disobey the King of Kings. Smug and secure in their mountain hideout, they despised Israel and ignored God’s covenant. Their arrogant rejection of God’s ways and purposes brought destruction to their land and themselves:
"This is what the Sovereign LORD says about Edom... 'The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, 'Who can bring me down to the ground?' Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down'” (Obadiah 1, 34).
Edom literally dried, wilted, and died. Such desertification continues to devastate many parts of the world, causing untold suffering from famine and hopelessness. True, humans contribute to desertification by careless farming practices and deforestation. However, Edom’s streams and vineyards turned to dust because its people opposed their Maker, and they could do nothing to save their land:
"Edom may say, 'Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.' But this is what the LORD Almighty says: 'They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the LORD. You will see it with your own eyes and say, 'Great is the Lord - even beyond the borders of Israel' (Malachi 1.-4-5).
Do you wonder how, in today’s enlightened, technological world, we can be so naive as to believe that defying God leads to desertification?
Actually, when we prayerfully study Scripture to know God's mind, not to affirm our own views, we discover that the Bible offers sound, unchanging principles that reach far beyond biblical times and the borders of Israel. In 1 Corinthians 10:11, God warns that Old Testament consequences occurred "as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come." Now as then, God will bless the land when we obey Him, but He will withhold its resources and bring judgment on the land if we disobey Him.
The Book of Judges shows how decadence can replace faithfulness in less than a generation. When people reject truth as a standard and flirt with seductive spiritual alternatives, the culture crumbles. Hear the grief in God's voice as He watches His people wander away in our pursuit of false gods: “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water" (Jeremiah 2:13).
The broken cisterns were paganism with its seductive gods and goddesses, earthy spirits, and reverence for creation rather than for God. Today they can be Native American shamanism, Balinese trancespiritism, or plain old witchcraft. It doesn't matter whether they look like pantheism, monism, or polytheism - they all fit together: Pantheism declares that an impersonal god (force, goddess) fills all things, therefore all is one (monism) and everything is sacred. Next, humans merely choose their favorite gods (polytheism).
So what does all this have to do with ecology?
In spite of the environmental call for earth-based spirituality, paganism is not good for the earth. The goddess of witchcraft brings devastation, not harmony. The power of healing lies in God’s hands alone, so let us heed His warning and do what He says. "If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured .... You will be ashamed because of the sacred oaks in which you have delighted.... You will be like an oak with fading leaves...... (Isaiah 1:19-20,29-30).
While God hates witchcraft, He loves people and longs to communicate His kindness to the victims of deception. He wants us to be ready with biblical answers and encouragement. For help in counseling someone coming out of occultism, study "How to Live Free from Demonic Oppression" on pages 187-190.
Endnotes:1. Starhawk, Spiral Dance (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979), 25.
2. Joseph Campbell The Power of Myth (New York. Doubleday, 1988), 167.
Ari L. Goldman, "Religion Notes," The New York Times, 1 January 1991.
4. Starhawk 16-17.
5. Judith Plant, Healing the Wounds (Santa Cruz: New Society Publishers, 1989), 216.
6. "Hard Copy," Fox (television), 20 July 1990.
7. Brochure for Bay Area Pagan Assemblies.
8. Kathleen B. Paquette, "Doorways into Women's Ritual: A Curriculum," 19 November 1987.
9. As told by another member of the class.
10. Phyllis Evelyn Johnson, "Which Step Are You On?" Changes (May-June 1990): 32.
11. Jeanie Geis Oliver, "Reading Selections for the Young Pagan," Sage Woman (Fall-Winter 9989 ): 47.
12. Starhawk, 34, 91, 117, 208, 41, 186-87, 44, 42, 179, 199.
13. Susan Cooper, 7he Dark Is Rising (New York. Atheneum, 1982), 142, 122, I26, 75, 124, 161, 13, 108.
14. Starhawk, 123.
15. Ibid., 124.
16. Craig S. Hawkins, "The Modern World of Witchcraft," Part Two, Christian Research Journal (Summer 1990): 25. Hawkins quotes Starhawk, 11-12, 14.
17. Ibid, 24.
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