Since I have written about witchcraft and neopaganism — both books and posts on this blog — I often get requests, especially from Christians, who are seeking advice about their interest in magic.
When I answer such requests, I try to be kind, thoughtful, and to avoid the knee-jerk reaction that too many Christians have (“you can’t explore witchcraft, it would be wrong!”). At the same time, since I am someone who explored neopaganism for several years but ultimately returned to Christianity, naturally my response will tend to include encouraging Christian readers to be discerning and careful before embracing a spirituality that, can be, in some real ways, truly at odds with Christian views and values.
In other words, I try to approach questions like this the same way I approach any other request for spiritual “advice” — with a measure of both compassion and contemplation, while seeking to be honest and true to my own values.
Here is the most recent example of this kind of exchange. I know that in posting this, some readers will disagree with my conclusions or with how I responded to my reader. But I hope that even if you disagree with me, you will appreciate that I am trying to be faithful to my own values and beliefs, while seeking to be non-hostile to those who may disagree with me.
Others might question me for trying to discourage my reader from exploring witchcraft. But please keep in mind that this is a Christian, writing to another Christian, asking for advice. I am suggesting that the answer this person is seeking might better be found within their home tradition — Christianity — rather than by “dabbling” in another spiritual tradition.
Here’s the message I received (edited slightly for the sake of brevity/clarity and to protect the reader’s anonymity). I’m posting it (and my response) here with the reader’s permission.
I read your article: “How Should A Christian Respond When a Friend Becomes Interested in Witchcraft and Magic.” I’m a devoted Christian, interested in certain types of witchcraft… I feel like there might be some lost spiritual “remedies/abilities” that can potentially be utilized without going against God or the Bible. I’m mainly interested in deepening my understanding of the “spiritual realm” and how it works, potentially tapping into any benefits or knowledge it might offer. I struggle with demonic attachment, so I was thinking a better understanding and utilization of the spiritual world and my own spirit might help me combat “my demons.” They’re wreaking havoc, nothing has worked at all to stop them so far, and they’re destroying me. So, maybe I could use certain types of witchcraft to strengthen myself spiritually and fight back… I thought I would contact you and see what you think about my situation. Can I explore witchcraft and the spiritual world without unintentionally going against God?
Here, edited slightly to protect the reader’s anonymity, is my response.
Hi, and thanks for your email. Yours is a rich question and I think ultimately only the Holy Spirit will be able to truly answer you. But I can give you a few thoughts from my experience and maybe that will help you with your discernment.
Your question about remedies and abilities brought to mind one of my favorite texts in the new testament: “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). I guess if I felt the same desire or longing that you are feeling, my first question would be this: What, truly, am I looking for?
In other words: What kind of remedies, what kind of abilities? What would they allow me to do? Would they help me to be a better person — a more kind, compassionate, friendly, gentle, forgiving, merciful person? Do these remedies or abilities help a person to cultivate the fruits and gifts of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, moderation, wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel, fortitude, piety, and awe?
What difference does it make?
You see, I am less worried about whether a practice is “Christian” or “Buddhist” or “Wiccan” or whatever, and more interested in what difference the practice would make in my life. Is it something that would be a big ego-trip? Or would it lessen my attachment to my narcissism and self-obsession? God is Love, so does it help me to be a more truly loving person? If so, then how does it help me get closer to God? These are the questions I’d be asking.
Exploring the spiritual realm is part of the joy of any mystical practice, Christian or otherwise. But I think it’s important to remember that spirit and matter are not enemies. So, for example, true spirituality does not contradict science. As a friend of mine who is a Wiccan priestess likes to say, “I have a great spell for boiling water. Take a cup of water, pour it in the kettle, put the kettle on the stove and turn on the stove. Wait five minutes and you’ve got it!” She’s playfully reminding her students that spirituality is not some sort of irrational or unscientific pursuit.
So often I think people turn to magic and witchcraft because they are looking for a kind of spiritual shortcut in life (I don’t know if that’s your situation or not, but I’ve seen this a lot in others). They want a spell for falling in love, or losing weight, or making lots of money. When, in fact, they already have everything inside themselves, right now, that they need to achieve their goals. But it will take good old fashioned commitment, perseverance, work, trust, setting boundaries, being nice to others, etc. to “work the spell.”
Now, you mention demonic attachment, which can mean many things. First of all, you’re not alone, pretty much everyone has a shadow side they struggle with. But you use very strong language in describing your situation (“They’re wreaking havoc, nothing has worked at all to stop them so far, and they’re destroying me.”) To be honest, I’m not sure that witchcraft is going to give you what you want, especially since you already have a strong commitment to love and serve God.
Christians believe that Christ promises us victory over sin and evil, but that victory comes through him (through Love), not through any efforts on our part.
This, then, is the biggest problem I have with magic and witchcraft. Even though magical work may involve summoning angels, or gods/goddesses, spirit animals, etc. to help us achieve our goals, the unstated assumption in all magical work is this: that the results are, ultimately, all up to me (“As I do will, so mote it be”).
What is missing here? The will of God.God is Love, God is Light, God is the fountain of all compassion and mercy and joy and forgiveness and health. Whatever “demons” we struggle with just scurry away like so many roaches when faced with the true light of healing love.
So if you’re seeking victory over evil, begin by trusting in what is truly good. Trust in Love. Trust in the gifts and fruits of the Spirit. Trust in prayer, meditation, and contemplation as a process of slowly allowing your heart and mind to be transformed into the image and likeness of God. That trust is going to do much more to help you to deal with your demons than any spell or incantation ever could.
Now, there’s still a practical question: are you dealing with unloving or self-destructive behaviors that you can’t seem to control or stop? Obsessive or negative thoughts? Anxiety or depression? Alcohol abuse or other kinds of addictions? So often when we are caught in the grip of the shadow, that’s what “wreaking havoc” looks like. And now we’re back to the boiling water analogy. Sometimes what we need is not a magical spell, but a caring and insightful counselor/therapist. Or perhaps we need to find a twelve-step group, or some other support group to help us overcome our negative or hurtful thoughts and behaviors.
Here’s the thing: Christ assures us the victory, but old habits die hard. It’s like having a house that’s covered with ivy. Christ — Love-with-a-capital-L — is like the machete that you use to kill the ivy at the roots. But then you still have to go back and do the hard work of yanking all the dead vines down, strip by strip, that have already crawled up the house. It’s hard work, not a lot of glory in it, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel and once you do the work, the house is restored.
Spirituality works the same way. Christ cuts off our sins at their roots. (Notice that I have pivoted from talking about demons to talking about sin. I think it’s important to take responsibility for our own lives. When we talk about demons, sometimes we are trying to evade responsibility: “the devil made me do it.” But when we remember that Christ — Love — is victorious over all evil, then we can choose to be empowered to take responsibility for our own well-being. Christ is very liberating. But like the ivy, we still have to do the hard work to clean up after ourselves).
There’s good news: you don’t have to be subject to the “havoc” that you feel is being wreaked in your life. It really is possible to connect with that love, joy and peace that the Spirit offers you. Demons are puny and weak compared to the love of God! Our bodies and minds are engineered for health and wellness. We can overcome negative thought patterns, destructive behaviors and habits, and repair relationships that have been hurt by our negative actions. And when relationships have been hurt beyond repair, it’s possible to build new relationships that are based on love and trust rather than on deception or abuse. It takes time, and perseverance, but it’s worth the effort.
So Can Christians Explore Witchcraft?
Now, to your last question: “Can I explore witchcraft and the spiritual world without unintentionally going against God?” I think you need to ask God that question directly. The Holy Spirit will guide you. But remember, God is Love. So one other step you might have to take is what is called “healing our image of God.”
Many people learn, especially in childhood, very toxic or unhelpful ways of seeing or thinking about God. They see God as extremely angry, judgmental, cold/distant, only interested in tallying up our sins to see if we “deserve” heaven or hell. But those are not Christ-centered ways of thinking about God?
Those are man-made images, and can be very destructive of our efforts to truly grow in a mystical and spiritual way.
God is Love: pure, unconditional love. God cares about everyone, including you. God wants you to be healthy and happy. God wants you to be a good person and to treat other people with respect and kindness. God wants you to take good care of yourself, so if you are in relationships that are abusive, God wants you to find a way out of the abuse. And if you are an abusive person, God wants you to stop, because your behavior hurts yourself as much as it hurts the other person.
So it’s really important to get to know God as God truly is, rather than the caricature of “God” that floats around our world — even in many churches!
God is a Spirit, so of course God wants you to explore the spiritual world! But as you already know, not every spirit is your friend. Just as there are certain neighborhoods in any major city that are dangerous, there are “neighborhoods” in the spirit realm that are best left alone. Some spirits promise us shortcuts to happiness, or quick power, or revenge, or feelings of self-importance, or pleasure without responsibility. These spirits do not have our best interests at heart!
I’m not saying we need to be paranoid about the spiritual realm, but there is a place for being careful and prudent. We know enough to lock our house at night and our car doors. We need to take similar spiritual precautions.
Prayer is a good spiritual precaution. So is meditation. So is taking time to do good things for other people, like volunteering at a homeless shelter, or helping out with the special olympics, or cleaning up litter in your neighborhood. These things are like spiritual “security systems” that repel negative entities and help us remain more connected to angelic and divine spirits.
Will God be angry at you if you explore witchcraft? Only God can answer that question, so take it to God in prayer. But I would suggest that before you get too immersed in witchcraft, try to explore the mystical and spiritual side of Christianity first. I’d be willing to bet that everything you’re looking for is already available, and more so, within the Christian world.
I hope this is helpful. Let me know if any of this doesn’t make sense or if you have other questions.