(Photo: Alex McFarland)
The parent's e-mail to me had an urgent tone. "When our daughter and some of her Wiccan friends first began meeting in our living room, there were more giggles and gossip than talk about casting spells and gaining power. But what they are talking about now has us very disturbed…"
In working with teens for over 15 years, this was certainly not the first time I had heard from a parent upset about their child's fascination with the occult. Increasingly, teens themselves will voice concern over peers who are getting involved in Wicca and pagan activities. When the aspiring sorcerers were overheard talking about making a Halloween sacrifice, "…What about some small animal? No - how about maybe a hamster?" this troubled mother's tolerance ran out. "Alex, they are taking this stuff way too seriously. Please respond ASAP, or at least recommend a good resource."
People long for spiritual experiences-scholars call this transcendence-and have a natural interest in things supernatural. But one must use caution and exercise discernment when seeking spiritual reality, meaning, and truth. Studies indicate that interest in the paranormal is increasing, especially so among young people. Parents should know that their teens have almost certainly been exposed to the occult, at least at some level.
Witchcraft and other occult activities promise power, spiritual fulfillment, and frankly, a place to "fit in." The growing mainstream acceptance of, for example, Wicca (an Anglo-Saxon word meaning, "to bend, or shape") is referenced by the presence of countless websites, increased visibility in the media, and rising book sales. Along with the quest for personal enrichment, Wiccans and neo-pagans seek to dispel negative images associated with witchcraft, which they say are products of fear and misunderstanding.
There is no central theology behind Wicca, and specific beliefs vary from group to group. The basic Wiccan view of the world includes belief in an "Earth Spirit," (usually female, sometimes called "Gaia") which is the source of all life. Wicca has many pantheistic tendencies, viewing the earth as an eternal and living being, rather than as the product of a Divine Creator.
Local covens (of which many teens are a part) and individuals carry out rituals, chants, and observe festivals in order to advance in "the craft." Wiccan pursuits include the acquisition of secret knowledge, personal power, and control over people and circumstances. Many people assume that witches worship (or at least acknowledge) Satan, but this is not necessarily the case. Most Wiccans do not believe in the reality of evil, and fervently deny the Christian concepts of Satan, sin, or hell. Like many modern relativists, the Wiccan sees nothing as absolutely right or wrong, evil, or sinful.
Wiccans do not recognize any single deity to whom they offer worship, nor a Divine judge before whom they will ultimately give an accounting.
The Bible clearly speaks out against occultist practices and all forms of witchcraft. As a minister and Christian author, I am keenly aware that many today dismiss the Bible as being outdated and marginally relevant at best. But the Bible contains clear and emphatic prohibitions against occult involvement in both Old and New Testaments (e.g. Leviticus 19:26, 31; Deuteronomy 18:10-12, Galatians 5:19-21, Revelation 22:15). Why might this be so? A complete study of Scripture reveals that God's intense interest in correct belief and right behavior is motivated out of love.
Scriptural condemnation of the occult comes with warnings about evil spiritual entities whose desires are to deceive and destroy. Could it actually be that there is tangible danger in opening oneself up to certain types of spiritual experiences? According to the Bible, yes.
Though not the only holiday (or Sabbat) observed by Wiccans, Halloween is certainly the most prominent. Many of the common activities and themes associated with Halloween provide opportunities for harmless fun and togetherness. At this time of year churches often capitalize on the spiritual openness of people, on children's capacity for imagination, and the enthusiasm that Halloween generates. But parents need to know that beneath the costumes and make believe are spiritual realities that should be taken seriously.
In America, Halloween has gradually become an almost month-long annual experience. The approach of October 31 brings with it many spiritual overtones. And, for me at least, an annual increase in correspondence from parents concerned about their kid's exposure to witchcraft and the occult. A child's or teen's interest in spiritual things is normal, but the seeking of answers in the wrong places can lead down dark and destructive paths.
My advice to the parent mentioned above (and to all seekers who inquire about the observance once called "All Saint's Day") is to point them to the God who offers a unique type of spiritual power – a relationship with Himself.
Cabot, Laurie, and Jean Mills. The Witch In Every Woman. New York, New York, Bantam / Doubleday, 1997.
NPR (National Public Radio), May 13, 2004. All Things Considered, "Profile - Teen-age Wiccans."
Wicca and the Search For Power, by Steve Russo, © 2001, Brio magazine
Sanders, Catherine. Breaking The Spell: The Hidden Traps of Wicca. Colorado Springs, CO: Focus On The Family, 2001.
So You Want To Be A Teenage Witch?, Mulrine, Anna, U.S. News & World Report, 00415537, 03/01/99, Vol. 126, Issue 8.