The Season of the Witch
“When did everybody become a witch?”
No, this wasn’t asked at a Halloween party in regard to a proliferation of witch costumes. It was raised by the New York Times in an article charting the explosion of witches (or those dabbling in witchcraft) in our day:
“Witches are your millennial coworkers doing tarot card readings on their lunch breaks, and professional colleagues encouraging you to join them for a New Moon ceremony aimed at ‘career success’…. Witches are influencers who use the hashtag #witchesofinstagram to share horoscopes, spells and witchy memes, and they are anti-Trump resistance activists carrying signs that say ‘Hex the Patriarchy’ (also the title of a new book of spells) and ‘We are the granddaughters of the witches you weren’t able to burn.’ Witches are panelists, they are podcasters, they are members of The Wing (which calls itself a ‘coven’), they are in-house residents at swanky Manhattan hotels and some might say that one is even a presidential candidate, Marianne Williamson. (Alyssa Milano, of Charmed fame, recently fund-raised for Williamson. Coincidence?)”
Because of the vast number of new witch books coming out this fall, Publishers Weekly has declared it “season of the witch.”
As the New York Times notes, there is no perfect way of tracking witches in America, but we do know that Wicca “is more popular than ever.” And the Times rightly notes that “not all witches are Wiccan (some are pagan), and not all Wiccans or pagans practice witchcraft.” But there can be little debate that Wicca has effectively repackaged witchcraft for modern consumption. And as I quoted in an earlier blog, “There may now be more Americans who identify as practicing witches… than there are members of mainline Presbyterianism.”
It doesn’t help that the spiritual soil is perfectly situated for a warm embrace and cultural mainstreaming of all things witchcraft. Most Americans “mix traditional faith with beliefs in psychics, reincarnation and spiritual energy that they say can be found in physical objects such as mountains, trees and crystals.” A staggering 41% of Americans believe in psychics. A stunning 42% believe spiritual energy can be located in physical objects.
I did a series at Mecklenburg Community Church simply called “Paranormal.” You can get the installments in .pdf or .mp3 format HERE. I could tell it was one of the more eye-opening series I had ever done. Why? Because people genuinely didn’t know the difference between authentic spirituality and the world of the occult.
Suffice it to say, the Bible talks about witchcraft in all of its forms, whether it’s “black magic” or Wicca. Because no matter its form, the dynamics are the same. And the Bible speaks to those dynamics. It speaks to those who engage in sorcery, those who try to use magical formulas or incantations, and those who try to exercise control over the world or themselves through some type of paranormal power.
This is very dangerous because there is no “power” floating around out there. There’s God or Satan, there’s heaven or hell, there’s good or evil. And all forms of witchcraft are strictly forbidden in the Bible as being tied to the occult and the work and world of the evil one.
For example, in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, the Bible says: “Let no one be found among you who... practices... sorcery... engages in witchcraft or casts spells... Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord” (18:10-12, NIV).
And in the New Testament, the apostle Paul writes these words in his letter to the Galatians: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality... idolatry and witchcraft... I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21, NIV).
But simply condemning the world of the occult is not enough. As I wrote in Meet Generation Z,
“We live in a day that is more open to spiritual things than ever. Not defined religion, mind you, but spirituality. And specifically, the supernatural. There is a keenly felt emptiness resulting from a secularized, materialistic world that has led to a hunger for something more, but many are unable to go further than the search for an experience. As a result, an extraterrestrial will serve as well as an angel; a spiritualist as well as a minister. Borrowing from the late historian Christopher Dawson, we have a new form of secularism that offers ‘religious emotion divorced from religious belief.’”
Which means that the season of the witch is due to a season for anything that appeals to the desire for the transcendent.
James Emery White
Jessica Bennett, “When Did Everybody Become a Witch?” The New York Times, October 24, 2019, read online.
Brandon Showalter, “Witches Outnumber Presbyterians in the US; Wicca, Paganism Growing ‘Astronomically,’” The Christian Post, October 10, 2018, read online.
“How many Wiccans are there? Estimates for the U.S., Canada, etc.,” Religious Tolerance, read online.
Yonat Shimron, “New poll finds even religious Americans feel the good vibrations,” Religion News Service, August 29, 2018, read online.
James Emery White, Meet Generation Z.
Christopher Dawson, Dynamics of World History, ed. by John J. Mulloy.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Christianity for People Who Aren’t Christians: Uncommon Answers to Common Questions, is available for preorder on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.