the Spirit Watch

The Ancient Root Of Pagan Error - Part 2 of 3

By A Former Wiccan and Rafael Martinez, Director, Spiritwatch Ministries

"For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped the and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever, Amen." (Romans 1:25)

In part one, it was shown how paganism as a religion has its origin in the original lie of the great deceiver, that we all can be gods. This second article is part two, and  will examine the historical claims of Wicca, and the inaccuracies therein.

No one will doubt that witchcraft is an old tradition. Paganism, idol worship, and sorcery are very old practices that are well documented in the Old Testament, as well as secular historical texts. As we saw in part one, the historical basis for paganism (and many other false religions) began in heaven with Satan's rebellion against God.

"How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of the assembly in the recesses of the north. I will make myself like the Most High'." (Isaiah 14: 12-14)

One thing is certain: the contemporary claims of the practitioners of the resurgent paganism in Western society that they follow an ancient religion are indeed valid. Wiccans, Santeros, shamans and other neopagans are all pursuing a spiritual path that has roots extending across time to an unimaginable degree. However, for the most part, many of them don't realize just how primal  their religion actually is. It has been an evolving faith that appeared shortly after Adam and Eve fell to the temptation of Satan, and believed his original lie at the dawn of time. You see, it has been since then that fallen mankind has been subject to his capacity for rebellious worship  of any and everything that seemed divine. This ancient religious impulse is well described by Scott Cunningham, a well known pagan writer and author of the bestselling Wicca: A Guide For The Solitary Practitioner, in his smaller book The Truth About Witchcraft:

Tens of thousands of years ago, nature was a mysterious force. Points  of  light swung far overhead in the sky. Invisible forces ruffled matted hair and kicked up dust storms. Water fell from above. Powerful forces, inconceivable to humans, sent flashes of light from the skies, blasting trees into raging infernos. Women miraculously bore  young. All that moved eventually died. Blood was sacred. Food was sacred. Water, the Earth, plants, animals, the wind and all that existed was infused with power. Magic - as well as religion and science - sprang from the actions of the first humans who tried to understand, contact and gain some control over such forces. Ritual developed as a means of uniting with the source of this universal energy. Gestures, rhythm, symbols, music, dance and the spoken word were used in ritual to shift awareness to these higher powers. (1)

The primal impulse of ancient man, as Cunningham points out, was to seek the "higher powers" believed to be resident in creation, believing that the natural processes were manifestations of divinity itself. In time, this universal religious perception among ancient mankind became loosely institutionalized into a system of actual religious practice (however  uniquely interpreted by various cultures in various times) that provided the fundamental principles for today's paganism.

Many forms of the pagan revival find their inspiration and cultural embodiment along purely ethnic lines (such as the tribal magic of Native American and African Yoruban spirituality, both of which find their expression almost exclusively among a vast and diverse gathering of people groups from throughout the Western Hemisphere, from  literally pole to pole.) In these articles, we are  focusing primarily upon the impact of pagan groups  like Wicca and other goddess traditions often  popularily called "witchcraft."

 religion. Pagans claim that we all are born pagan. If paganism is understood in the Christian context as based upon as the "original sin" (believing the Satanic lie we can become like god) then this pagan assertion can be viewed in a critical light as essentially true. We are all born stained with the taint of spiritual blindness that the consequences of that original sin seduces all by, and until we are "born again" by faith in the light and life of Jesus Christ, we all are spiritually dead and are pagans after a fashion. This biblical examination, however, is not what pagans intend, for they do not believe in original sin, nor sin of any kind, and they certainly do not claim to believe in Satan.

No, when pagans assert that theirs is the oldest and only natural religion, they are speaking from a perspective that teaches that god exists in male and female form (god and goddess), and that god exists in all things, and is indeed all things. The god in pagan tradition is over the air (heavens) and the goddess is over the earth. The gods and goddesses may be identified by many different names (Ra, Yemaya, Odin or Diana to name just a few). They view any religion that asserts that God is a supernatural being who created all things from nothing, and created man to worship Him as "unnatural" and needlessly dogmatic. Pagans will tell you that their god/desses demand no such allegiance, and have no such grand power. The power lies within--we are all divine. This is what most modern day pagan traditions teach. This is the tradition of what is called "neo-paganism." Neo-paganism is seeing a tremendous growth in this country and around the world. It is what could be called an "a la carte" religion. Take a bit of this, and a dash of that, order an appetizer from one menu and a main entree from another. Neo-paganism exists in many forms, one could say, there are as many forms of neo-paganism as there are followers of this religion. For each person adds to the general beliefs their own personal ideas and beliefs, and all are accepted under the umbrella of neo-paganism.

How Really Old Is The "Old Religion?"

The vast majority of books and informative websites on the history of witchcraft will claim that as a religion witchcraft has been in existence from the beginning of time. When they refer to witchcraft, most often they are referring to the religion of Wicca. These works claim that Wicca is the "old religion" of the wise women, and men of ancient times. They claim that it has been in existence without end, and handed down across time by family oral traditions. This claim is based primarily on the "scholarship" of British anthropologist (and some say witch) Margaret Murray. Many pagan authors recognize that Murray's research is suspect. Many pagan authors will claim that there is no support for the belief that ancient societies were matriarchal, and were ruled by the wise women witches. There is after all no historical evidence to back up Murray's hypothesis. Still, this is something that is not widely discussed outside of pagan circles, and most pagans are content with history's rewriting, rationalizing that history is written by the victors, and as such, revisionism is a necessary tool. This is, of  course, the modus operandi of contemporary postmodernism, which derides anyone as intellectually arrogant who take the politically incorrect position of assuming that objective logic and reason have anything to do the establishment of truth claims, opting for the purely subjective anarchy of "metanarrative". 

Assuming, though, that reason still works in today's increasingly relativistic world, the question still must be posed:  is there any support whatsoever for the claims made by Murray and many pagan authors, that ancient cultures were matriarchal and that witchcraft was not only a practice of ancient wise women, but was the "prevailing religion" of antiquity? We can categorically state that there is not a shred of evidence supporting these claims. All the evidence available to us simply reaffirms an utter lack of historicity concerning these Wiccan assertions and points to Wicca's vastly more modern and less glamorous origins: 

In the past few years two well-respected scholars have independently advanced essentially the same theory about Wicca's founding. In 1998 Philip G. Davis, a professor of religion at the University of Prince Edward Island, published Goddess Unmasked: The Rise of Neopagan Feminist Spirituality, which argued that Wicca was the creation of an English civil servant and amateur anthropologist named Gerald B. Gardner (1884-1964). Davis wrote that the origins of the Goddess movement lay in an interest among the German and French Romantics -- mostly men -- in natural forces, especially those linked with women. Gardner admired the Romantics and belonged to a Rosicrucian society called the Fellowship of Crotona -- a group that was influenced by several late-nineteenth-century occultist groups, which in turn were influenced by Freemasonry. In the 1950's Gardner introduced a religion he called (and spelled) Wica. Although Gardner claimed to have learned Wiccan lore from a centuries-old coven of witches who also belonged to the Fellowship of Crotona, Davis wrote that no one had been able to locate the coven and that Gardner had invented the rites he trumpeted, borrowing from rituals created early in the twentieth century by the notorious British occultist Aleister Crowley, among others. Wiccans today, by their own admission, have freely adapted and embellished Gardner's rites. 

In 1999 Ronald Hutton, a well-known historian of pagan British religion who teaches at the University of Bristol, published The Triumph of the Moon. Hutton had conducted detailed research into the known pagan practices of prehistory, had read Gardner's unpublished manuscripts, and had interviewed many of Gardner's surviving contemporaries. Hutton, like Davis, could find no conclusive evidence of the
coven from which Gardner said he had learned the Craft, and argued that the "ancient" religion Gardner claimed to have discovered was a mélange of material from relatively modern sources. Gardner seems to have drawn on the work of two people: Charles Godfrey Leland, a nineteenth-century amateur
American folklorist who professed to have found a surviving cult of the goddess Diana in Tuscany, and Margaret Alice Murray, a British Egyptologist who herself drew on Leland's ideas and, beginning in the 1920s, created a detailed framework of ritual and belief. From his own experience Gardner included such Masonic staples as blindfolding, initiation, secrecy, and "degrees" of priesthood. He incorporated various Tarot-like paraphernalia, including wands, chalices, and the five-pointed star, which, enclosed in a circle, is the Wiccan equivalent of the cross.

While goddess worship did exist in ancient times, and there were priestesses, shamans and witches who cultivated this piety, the societies they existed among were not patterned in a matriarchal (and hence goddess-worship derived) system as claimed by pagan writers. Even if the claims made by the pagan historical revisionists were true, STILL we must look at today's pagan movements and see if there are any resemblance at all to these ancient practices. And as the scholars above have pointed out, the fact is that every Wiccan tradition today itself is a new religion. There are no historical texts handing down rituals and practices from ancient times. Major Wiccan writers such as Margot Adler readily admit this: " .. modern Wicca has very little to do with the witchcraft of the Middle Ages." (3) If these rites ever existed at all they have been lost to us. What we have today is a reimagining of what the ancient pagan religions (most notably witchcraft) must have looked like, and a recreating of rituals and practices based on many sources including novels and others works of fiction. 

As we have seen, an excellent example of the pagan propensity towards creating the mythos of an "old religion" is in the spiritual synthesizing work of Gerald Gardner. Perhaps the greatest source of information on witchcraft came from this British civil servant, who in the 1930s wrote a work of fiction which, after the "witch laws" in Britain had been repealed, were claimed by him to be fact. It is true, however, that Gardner's Witchcraft Today helped to pave the road for the coming pagan revival in the 20th century. He also claimed to have been "adopted" into an ancient family tradition, and taught the ways of the wise, as handed down for thousands of years. Gardner presented his Book of Shadows as a pagan book of traditions, rituals and beliefs, as being from times past. Gardner also claimed that Wicca (what he called this religion) was ancient and that the Charge of the Goddess he presented was handed down from the goddess herself to her followers.

The research cited above has shown that Gardner's claims are nothing more than fiction. In fact, his Book of Shadows is simply a reworking of rituals, spells, traditions, written by the flamboyant ceremonial magician and occultist (and many say Satanist), Aleister Crowley. This is completely evident when one looks at the Wiccan Rede which states, "An it harm none; do as ye will," and then looks at Crowley's` edict, "Do as ye will shall be the whole of the law." Gardner's claims face further scrutiny, when one looks at what fellow pagans who actually knew, and worked with Gardner said. Pagan author and Wiccan Doreen Valiente claims in her books to have helped Gardner with his Book of Shadows and admits that it was based heavily on the writings of Aleistar Crowley. In addition, Valiente admits to having co-authored with Gardner the Wiccan Charge of the Goddess! Valiente readily admits that it was not an ancient work handed down from times past, but is indeed a Twentieth Century work, created by she and Gardner based on what they felt ancient traditions taught and practiced.

Given this fact, it makes one wonder how anyone could believe the ancient historical claims of Gerald Gardner, but as we witness everyday, there is no end to what people will believe if they want to believe something bad enough. The fact is that Wicca has a real attraction for people who want to connect to something ancient and true, something immortal, something that claims to be an inborn part of our nature, coming from our very DNA. The sad thing is, that Satan has so fooled these people into believing that Wicca is what they are looking for, when this couldn't be farther from the truth, by appealing to their fascination with the alluring emptiness of an allegedly ancient "empowerment." 

Wiccans are convinced that Christianity is the new religion, and the false religion. Wiccans are convinced that Christianity and the One true God is the enemy, and they are the victims. They energetically proclaim that are not the pitiful subjects of Satan's deceptive schemes that they are, but rather of Puritanical and over-zealous intellectual midgets who want to extinguish them. In her book Drawing Down The Moon, Adler quotes another well known pagan writer Isaac Bonewits who castigates "monotheism" as "far from being the crown of human  thought and religion  as its supporters  have  claimed for several bloody millenia," asserting  it to be a "monstrous step backwards - a step that has been responsible for more human misery than any other idea in known history." (4).    

The "Burning Times" And Christian Martyrdom: Who Were The Victims?

This leads to another lie that is a classic example of Wiccan reinterpretation of history made as a counterstroke against Christian harassment and for the advancement of its own agenda, namely survival and freedom to believe as it wishes. Wiccans teach that there was a time in the Dark Ages called the "Burning Times," where 9 million witches were burned, tortured or otherwise put to death by the intolerantly murderous orthodoxy of "The Church."  The man on the street does not immediately recognize, however, that this savage period of horrific slaughter, taking place in the various Inquisitions started by the Roman Catholic Church was aimed squarely against those who were labelled "heretics" by it. Pagan scholars readily admit that the 9 million figure is probably a bit high, but still they put that number out there in every piece of literature on this time (which was between the 12th and 17th centuries). Wiccans claim that the "Burning Times" were a time when the church waged war on witches and pagans, and went on a rampage to destroy any evidence of their religion. They also make great efforts to draw parallels between any contemporary objections to Wicca to the slaughter of the Inquisitions and the so-called "witch hunts" that took place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692.

The truth of the matter is that the Inquisitions started as a political effort to rid the Roman Church of heretics which were seen as enemies of Catholic (and obviously by default, "Christian") society. When the first Inquisition began in 1231, the church had seen numerous sectarian "heresies" propagated for 200 years (keep in mind anyone who dared question the authority of the Catholic Church were considered heretics - this included primarily any Christians who did not give allegiance to Rome's claims of spiritual supremacy, and later included Protestants, and Christians who dared to print the Bible in languages other than Latin). This started off as an inquisition (court) looking into heresies of people who were squarely within the social and temporal circles of the Roman Church's control. One group that was most frequently selected for condemnation were the Jewish people, who were cruelly and brutally persecuted for many years. The Nazi Holocaust during World War II was the hideous culmination of a fanatical anti-semitism birthed during the Inquisition that predated any of the so-called "witch hunts." 

It was only later after 1231 that the Roman Church began the specific "witch hunts" that pagans assert were the systematic attempts it made to destroy their beliefs. However, the character of the "witchcraft" that the accused were hunted down for by the Inquisitors was nothing like modern neopaganism in the least. Jeffrey Burton Russell, professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in his book The Prince Of  Darkness made these rather illuminating observations:

"Witchcraft" has three quite different meanings. It sometimes means simple sorcery, the charms or spells used in many societies worldwide to accomplish such practical ends as healing a child,  assuring the fertility of crops, or  warding off an enemy. Recently, it has referred to modern neopaganism, a  late twentieth-century religion limited to small groups mainly in the Anglo-Saxon countries. The third meaning is .. the allegedly Satanic witchcraft of the period of about 1400-1700. Whether or  not the accused witches ever believed or practiced the Satanism attributed to them or whether it was projected upon them by their enemies, the conviction that Satanic witchcraft  was real pervaded Western society for three centuries. (5)

What did Russell mean by "Satanic witchcraft"? He went on to point out that the Inquisitors' chief and overriding accusation against the "witches" they examined was that they were all in league with Satan to blaspheme against the Church by engaging in pacts with him. A fifteenth-century French manuscript contained an illustration of the Satanic "sabbat" where these foul deeds were said to be done. The typical profiling done by Inquisitors was that this blasphemy involved the intentional desecration of Christian symbols and ritual and a literal worship of Satan involving sexual orgies, the consumption of children and other hideous acts. However, there appear to be no apparent mention made by the Inquisitors of their discovery of Instead, the "witches" of the Dark Ages (the victims of the so-called "Burning Times" - were viewed as those who worshipped Satan - not Lilith, Demeter, Cybele or the "god within"!  Since the "old religion" rejects belief in Satan as a Christian invention that Wicca and other goddess traditions have no connection with, the uniform detailing by the Inquisitors of Luciferian pacts and the blasphemy of Christianity are crimes entirely inconsistent with the practice of any kind of goddess tradition known today.  Beyond the accusations made against those who derived practices of the occult (like spell casting and divination) from local folklore, there really does not seem to be any historical continuity between them and contemporary neopaganism. 

While the hysterical rhetoric of Inquisitorial literature such as the Malleus Maleficarum can scarcely be viewed as an objective source of information on what "witchcraft" is, it is precisely these sources that pagan historians frequently cite as "proof" that  widespread persecution of witches aimed  at their systematic annihilation actually occurred.  But historical research doesn't support this Wiccan myth concerning "the burning times." Whatever form any widely spread Dark Age paganism did take, it was definitely not "pagan" as the term is understood today, but appeared to be more the product of, as Russell puts it, "an invention of the elite,  gradually spreading down through pulpit and classroom to the people, who greedily accepted it as an explanation for their own personal troubles." (6)

But history does clearly state that the Inquisitorial "witch hunts" were largely politically motivated, and were aided by people who had personal vendettas to settle and could marshal corrupt Roman Catholic clergy to aid their cause. The political, social and economic turbulence of the pre and post Reformation Europe of the Middle Ages further stimulated this. Most of the people accused of witchcraft in these trials were not witches at all (as was the case in Salem), but rather Roman Catholics who ran afoul of local authorities, Protestants, or those who had no interest in Christianity at all:  Russell cogently adds that  "heretics, persons persistently denying accepted Christian doctrine, were deemed to be in Satan's service and subject to accusations of orgy, infanticide and other obscene outrages against God and the church" (7).  

As we know, no less than Joan of Arc was one of the so-called witches executed during these times, a "witch" who was a devout, if not fanatical, Roman Catholic later canonized by the same institution who claimed, as a result of her militant activism spawned by alleged visions from God, that she was a witch! Historical figures point to the likelihood that during these five centuries of trials, that probably somewhere near 200,000 pagans perished. As tragic as such a murderous campaign has been, which certainly is an unjustifiable, evil and hideous slaughter.  that's still a far cry from the 9 million figure given by Wiccan sources. And while the hysteria over the alleged incidences of witchcraft practice in 17th century colonial America certainly was a horrific aberration, it hardly resulted in a mass pogram against any so-called "witches". 

The number of Christians put to death by the Roman Catholic Church has always been far larger than the number of pagans put to death. For example, in just two days in August, 1572, over 20,000 French Huguenots (Protestants) were murdered in cold blood during the horrific St. Bartholomew's Day Massacres by Roman Catholic governmental forces and paramilitary thugs (8).  Let's face it, it makes sense. Influential Protestant Christian noblemen, Jewish merchants and agnostic artisans who opposed Papal authority were far more a threat than lowly peasants praying to any gods and goddesses of the seasons and elements for good crops and hunting!  This is a stark reality never heard mentioned by neopagan apologists and activists. 

It is always amazing that these same Wiccans who get all worked up over the "burning times" have little or no sympathy for the Christian martyrs of the 1st through 3rd centuries under pagan Roman rule or for the Christian martyrs of today. In ten different persecutions instigated by Roman emperors (whom were considered gods, by the way) untold hundreds if not thousands of ordinary Christian people whose only crime was that they refused to offer libations that honored their ruler as divine were harassed, tortured, and executed in the most barbaric of manner. Their property was destroyed or looted, their freedoms taken away, their lives punctuated by threats and mockery while languishing in squalid jails. Children saw parents slaughtered before them, laity saw their clergy crucified over slow fires, and women were ravaged, mutilated and attacked by wild dogs and bulls. We note that this demonstrated just how "tolerant" and "inclusive" paganism's true spirit actually was when it has the power of the institutionalized state authority behind it, and how all life - except that of Christians - was to be revered as sacred.  

In a dialogue with a Wiccan high priestess one time it was asked why she believed that Christians were evil because they killed pagans, but why pagans were not evil for killing Christians? It was asked how she could rationalize the wholesale massacre by the Roman Empire against the Christians prior to Rome itself becoming a Christianized secular power. Her answer was astonishing. First, she said that if it were indeed true that these persecutions--i.e. Christians being thrown to the lions, beheaded, crucified, burned alive, etc.--were true, the fact was that they were "disobeying the law of the land by refusing to bow to Caesar as god, and as such were subject to the punishments issued by the government." 

When informed that the Inquisitions were initiated by the Roman Church (and governments) to weed out those who were not obeying the law of the land as well, she stammered and stuttered and said that it was different, because the Christians were actively trying to overthrow Rome, and that the pagans were peaceful and not a threat to the government of the Roman Church. This was admittedly a quite startling example of pagan moral relativism at its most telling, as well as another example of how quickly the pagan revival seeks to rewrite history to serve its own ends, such as  being confronted with the logical and contradictory end of its arguments.

This engraving from an 1833 edition of Fox's Book of Martyrs (8) depicts the moment in which a Christian Lycaonian noblewoman named Julitta was about to behold the dashing out of her son Cyricus's brains by Alexander, Roman governor of Tarsus, as she is tortured for her faith. What was Julitta's crime?  It was her refusal to offer libations to the local idols, and the child's own lisping imitation of her confession: "I am a Christian."  She was beheaded  finally in 305 AD. 

How, we ask our Wiccan friends, did the confession of faith of a woman and a child threaten the Roman Empire? How is this horrible chronicle of ancient and unspeakable butchery on the behalf of entirely pagan gods any less evil than the discrimination against pagans today? Finally, we might ask: Is the logic of this Wiccan high priestess just a little bit twisted? Perhaps, but this is what one faces when one tries to dialogue with a Wiccan who will  not fairly face the facts. Why? Well, because of the fact that while Wiccans claim to be tolerant of all religions, and claim that all religions are valid, the fact is that they mean that all religions are valid except Christianity. Jesus is the offense (as He told us He would be). 

In part 3, we will look at the lie of tolerance and acceptance of other beliefs by Wiccans, and will examine how we can we be faithful witnesses to the followers of the cult of witchcraft.


(1) The Truth About  Witchcraft, p. 2


(3) Drawing Down The Moon, p. 47

(4) ibid, p. 35

(5) The Prince of  Darkness, p. 162.

(6) ibid. p. 166

(7) ibid. p.  164

(8) Christianity Throughout The Centuries, p. 316.

(9) Book Of Martyrs (1833 edition), p. 48

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