What is a Christian Witch?
This is really two questions. The first is what is a Christian. The second is what is a Witch.
Both of these questions are answered differently by different people. Christians have fought wars over these answers in the past during the 16th and 17th Centuries in the Wars of Religion. Witches may not fight wars about what a Witch is, but the rancor between those who disagree can also be very contentious and sharp at times.
That's why it is important to emphasize that any answers in this article are presented by the author not as absolute answers which all must assent to, but as the answers I have come to find helpful in my journey. I believe these answers are good answers and are descriptive of the larger communities, but I am not willing to enter into a protracted debate with those who disagree. If these answers don't help you, then use this model solely as a tool as you work out your own answers.
What is a Christian?
A Christian is a person whose religion is focused and centered in Jesus Christ. (If you haven't read the spirituality and religion article yet, this would be a very good time to do it!) What this means is that the person's understanding of their spiritual connection with the Divine is explained best in terms of Jesus of Nazareth.
This is a broad definition, for my purpose here is to include all the different folk who claim the name of Christianity. I also need, at this juncture, to point out that I am very indebted to Dr. Marcus Borg for this definition.
A couple of more things need to be said here. The first is that when we talk about Jesus of Nazareth we are talking about the Jesus who is presented in the Bible. This doesn't mean that Christians are only those folk who hold a view of the Bible as the inerrant and literal Word of God. It does mean, however, that the main source for knowledge about Jesus is, for the Christian, the witness in the New Testament.
The second thing is that Christians include in their understanding of Jesus that he died on the cross and in some way rose again and is "Sovereign". For Christians Jesus is alive now and is not just a Historical figure. Also somehow this life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is central to our ongoing connection with God.
Christians come from many diverse Traditions. Catholics emphasize sacraments. Protestants emphasize faith. Evangelicals emphasize a personal conversion. Liberals emphasize reason. Fundamentalists emphasize inerrancy. What makes all these different folk doing faith in different ways Christian is that Jesus is at the center of their understanding of their faith.
What is a Witch?
There is so much confusion about this that it might help to start by pointing out some things that people think Witches are but which they aren't.
A Witch is not a woman who has made a pact to serve the Devil and received in return evil magical powers. First of all men can be Witches too! Secondly, and more importantly, Witches do not serve the Devil or even have anything to do with the Devil. This is a slanderous attack on Witches that stems from the Middle Ages when it was common for people to accuse anyone they thought was strange to be in league with the Devil. Not only were Witches accused of this, but so were Jews and "Heretics". Today we no longer say such things about Jews and non-Orthodox Christians, but many still assert this lie about Witches.
This hysteria was fueled by the Black Plague of the late Middle Ages when the devastation was so severe across Europe that people seriously thought it was the final judgement falling on them. In troubled times like this it is easy to look for scapegoats to blame everything on. During this time many people were tortured until they would "confess" to the lies about the Devil of which they were accused.
Now if it were true that Witches were people who were consciously in league with the Devil, then it would be obvious that a Christian whose faith is focused in Jesus could not at the same time choose to be in league with the figure presented in the New Testament as the "adversary" of Jesus. Thus it makes some sense that many today will loudly assert that Christianity and Witchcraft are totally incompatible. But I must stress again, either these people who are so anti-Witch are speaking from ignorance, having been deluded by the slanderous lies against Witches, or they, for whatever perverse reasons, are engaging in the slanderous lies themselves.
Another misconception about Witches, this one created by Hollywood, is that Witches are a different race than regular Humans. In this idea Witches have supernatural powers because they are inherent in their racial makeup. The film "The Witches" portrays Witches as so different than Humans that they wear disguises to appear Human. "Bewitched" made Witches "immortals" who called Humans "mortals" and seemed little different than the other networks' ideas of genies or martians. "Sabrina" continues these ideas to a new generation enamored with the idea of cute, blonde, green-eyed Witches.
This is pure nonsense. Witches are simply Humans who are walking a certain spiritual path. They do not have Hollywood type powers at the twitch of a nose or a wave of the hand.
Another idea about Witches, this one closer to the truth, is that Witches are people who have studied arcane "magick" until they've mastered it, not to be confused with "magic" which is only the sleight of hand of the stage magician. This idea is found in the cute little Disney film called "Bedknobs and Broomsticks". Here being a Witch is nothing more than learning to manipulate arcane forces of nature. It is a science.
This is not quite right as to what a Witch is. We might refer to someone like this as a "Sorcerer" or a "Wizard". In the role playing game of Dungeons and Dragons people like this were at first called "Magic Users".
The reason these folk are not Witches is because their magick lacks a spiritual dimension. Their magick is a technological skill. For the Witch, though, magick is not a technological skill but a spiritual art.
As I've already mentioned, being a Witch has to do with walking a spiritual path. As I mentioned in the previous article on Spirituality and Religion, spirituality has to do with connection, connection to the Divine, to others, to our True Selves, and to all creation. I've also said that religion is the set of ideas and practices we use to explain and live out our spirituality.
When I was talking about what a Christian is, I said that being a Christian means that one's connection is explained best in Jesus. In other words what makes one a Christian is that the center of one's understanding of the spiritual is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. I want to point out now that other religions have other centers. Islam centers on the revelation to Mohammed recorded in the Quoran. Buddhism centers on the Middle Path that Buddha found in his Enlightenment. Judaism centers on the Torah as explained in the Talmud.
A religion is an overarching set of ideas about the spiritual and rituals to embrace the sacred with a defining focus that operates as the lynchpin connecting all the elements of the system together. Christianity is a religion.
Some want to say that Witchcraft is also a religion. I don't. I want to say it is religious, but not a religion. It has to do not with what religion one has, but how one does that religion. Think of it this way. One can be English or one could be French. Also one can be a Patriot. Being a Patriot has to do with nationality just like being English or French does, but English or French is what nationality while being a Patriot is how.
I might point out that in some ways a French Patriot may be more like an English Patriot than like a French traitor. Thus often Witches of different Religions may be more like each other in some ways than they are like people in their own religion who do that religion in a very different way.
To help further understand how I am using Witch as a religious category, let me list a few other religious categories like this that cut across religions and are about how one does that religion. One can be a mystic. One can be a Fundamentalist. One can be a rationalist. One can be an ascetic. One can be a pilgrim. In the same way one can be a Witch.
So what is this spiritual path, this way of being religious, that is Witchcraft? For me there are three aspects of the path of Witchcraft: Nature Mysticism, Feminist Spirituality, and Psychic Ritualization.
One of the ways of being religious that cuts across many different religions has to do with whether one understands the Divine, however else understands the Divine, to be either Transcendent or Immanent, or in some way both.
A Transcendent only view of the Divine sees God as completely outside Nature, as divorced from it. Often times God is said to be "above" Nature or "outside" Nature. Deists, the ultimate Transcendents, thought that God had created the Universe, wound it up, and let it go to run on its own. They described God as like a Swiss Watchmaker who designs and creates a fine watch which after it is made doesn't need the Watchmaker anymore to keep it running. To the Deist, God had nothing to do with the Universe except in establishing its Natural Laws at the beginning.
Many modern Christians basically hold a Deistic view of God with one change. They believe that God sometimes intervenes in the Universe in the form of miracles, with most of them having happened in Biblical days. This is often called the "Supernaturalist" view. This is a view of God that is completely Transcendent.
But there is another way of understanding the relationship of the Divine with Nature. In it the Divine is not outside or above Nature, but is within, behind, and around Nature. This is the Immanent view of God.
An extreme Immanent view that says God is not at all Transcendent but only Immanent would be Pantheism, identifying God with Nature. This view not only says that God is in all things but that God is all things.
It is possible, however, to understand God as being both Transcendent and Immanent. This understanding says that God is both beyond Nature and its Creator, but is also within Nature. A name for this view is Panentheism.
Those who understand God to be Immanent in Nature may also practice a Nature Mysticism wherein they understand that their connection with Nature is a vital aspect of their connection with God. Nature Mystics will be Pantheists or Panentheists, but they cannot truly be Supernaturalists who would think of Nature as something that can get in the way of understanding God.
For the Nature Mystic the reality that God is in Nature means that Nature acts as revelation or sacrament or icon of the Divine. The cycles of Nature and the forces of Nature are conduits for one's relationship with God.
Nature Mystics are especially centered on three Natural Cycles, the cycle of the day, of the month and of the year.
Nature Mystics' connection to the cycle of the day means that they have a profound sense of the rhythm of the day. Often times Nature Mystics will be aware of the actual time of day, rather than just knowing the standard times our clocks are set to. For instance I know that Solar Noon where I live happens at 1256 Pacific Standard Time or 156 Pacific Daylight Time. Also their connection to the cycle of the day means they have a profound sense of direction, since our directions of the compass are directly related to the rotation of the earth. Nature Mystics, almost intuitively, seek to orient themselves, wherever they are, by the cardinal directions and the turning of the earth.
The cycle of the month is extremely important to Nature Mystics. The phases of the moon as she waxes and wanes are a constant reminder to them of the circle of birth, life and death. As the light that shines in darkness, the moon is very symbolic of the light of the Divine that enters into our darkness and illuminates our lives. The cycle of the moon is also reflected in the cycle of fertility in the very bodies of women, so the moon seems to be a icon of all that is Feminine for the Nature Mystic.
Finally the cycle of the year as the sun appears to move in a circuit against the fixed stars and the seasons change is also vital to the Nature Mystic. This yearly turning of nature in Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall speaks to the Nature Mystic of the great mystery of life. For this reason a Nature Mystic is attuned to the days of the solstice and equinox. Nature Mystics will often understand the meaning of a particular date in terms of how far away it is from the nearest solstice or equinox. For example January 11 is the same number of days from the Winter Solstice as November 30. This leads many Nature Mystics to value the days that are midpoints between a solstice and an equinox, when it seems the season turns from centering on one solstice or equinox to the next.
Many have recovered the ancient Celtic names for these midpoint days and have adjusted them to fit our fixed calendar so they fall on the first day of the appropriate month. This is similar to celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday on the first Monday following his actual birthday. Three of these four ancient holidays have survived into modern secular thinking as Ground Hog's Day, May Day, and Halloween. The ancient names for these days and the modern dates of celebrating them, with the evening before as part of the holiday, are:
* Imbolc is on January 31/February 1
* Beltane is on April 30/May 1
* Lammas is on July 31/August 1
* Samhain is on October 31/November 1
Now, not all Nature Mystics may think through the importance of the three natural cycles in a formal way. But whether they have formalized their understanding of their Nature Mysticism or not, they will still feel a deep importance in their being as to these cycles and the force of life in nature.
Mystic often seek to enhance their connection to the Divine through techniques of meditation. For the Nature Mystic this meditation is not something done in isolation from Nature. While a mystic who is not a Nature Mystic might seek to withdraw into a dark room and be shut off from all "distractions", a Nature Mystic is apt to conceive of meditation as surrendering to the "distractions" of Nature. Listening to a bird sing, strolling in the woods, letting the rain wash one's face, or dipping one's hand in a brook may all be preferred methods of meditation for a Nature Mystic.
Nature Mystics do not seek to escape the world of senses in their pursuit of spirituality, but rather they seek to delight in the senses. Nature Mystics tend to understand things like eating, drinking, sleeping, and making love as spiritual activities.
The Nature Mystics sense of the importance of connecting with Nature for their spiritual connection with the Divine not only means that Nature Mystics seek to understand the cycles of Nature, it also often means that Nature Mystics seek to understand and appropriate the wisdom of Nature. For centuries it was only Nature Mystics who practiced the wisdom of the ways of Nature, seeking understanding in herb and root, in patterns of weather, in the cycles of the day, month, and year, and in the activities of wildlife. For ages the only scientists were the Nature Mystics.
Today Nature Mystics tend to still see immense value in the folk wisdom of Nature. There is a sense for the Nature Mystic that "natural" herbology is quite often a healthier way than the technology that modern pharmacology has become. For instance, St. John's Wort may be a healthier and more effective anti-depressant than the latest prescription drug.
Nature Mysticism has a long and powerful History within Christianity and is enjoying a great revival today among Christians who seek to reconnect with the earth as part of the creation. A common name for Christian Nature Mysticism today is Creation Spirituality. Some of the great Christians of the past who practiced Creation Spirituality were Hildegaard of Bingen, Meister John Eckhart, and probably the greatest Christian Nature Mystic after Christ himself, Francis of Assisi.
Two very important 20th Century figures are Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Matthew Fox. Teilhard was a French Roman Catholic Priest who was a missionary to China in the first half of the Century. Fox is a former Dominican Monk who is now an Episcopalian Priest. Fox is the primary proponent of Creation Spirituality today and his books on the subject are wonderful introductions to it. If you wish to read Fox, the book to start with is "Original Blessing".
Another way of being religious that cuts across many different kinds of religion has to do with spirituality and gender. Often coupled with an idea of the Divine as Transcendent is the idea of the Divine as exclusively masculine. This way of thinking tends to devalue the feminine and define being spiritual in masculine ways.
However, it is also possible to understand the Divine in feminine ways. Some, perhaps in reaction to an exclusively masculine image of the Divine, embrace an exclusively feminine understanding of the Divine. Most, however, who relate to the Divine as being feminine will relate to the Divine as including both genders.
A "Feminist" Spirituality is one that relates to the Divine, however else one understands the Divine, as including feminine qualities. Thus, in this sense, those who affirm both masculine and feminine qualities in the Divine are as much Spiritual Feminists as those who only affirm feminine qualities.
Another important thing to understand about Spiritual Feminists is that men can be Spiritual Feminists just as much as women. This makes sense when you realize that the opposite of Feminist Spirituality is embraced by many women who understand the Divine in only masculine terms and devalue their own femininity in their pursuit of being spiritual.
We live in a culture that devalues feminine spirituality and instead focuses on supposed universal aspects of spirituality that often are simply masculine aspects. Many Feminists refer to this phenomenon as "The Patriarchy". Its two most blatant aspects are the masculinization of the Divine as "HE" and the masculinization of Humanity into the metaphysical singularity of "MAN".
But there are other ramifications of Patriarchy. By elevating maleness over femaleness it creates a paradigm of hierarchy that extends far beyond the gender dichotomy. This hierarchy of the Patriarchy values authority, control, domination, and division. It not only places male over female, it also places old over young, white over colored, rich over poor, and Human over non-human.
This paradigm is extended into the spiritual realm also so that God is thought of and related to in terms of hierarchy. God is seen as King, Lord, Father, and Master. Often a hierarchy is imposed upon all creation with God at the apex, then Angels, then Humans, then animals, and finally the inorganic world. What makes God to be God is power and authority. God is best understood as Lawgiver and Judge.
Now, all of these ways of thinking about God are all expressed in masculine terms. Of course most advocates of Patriarchal Spirituality will assert that God is not really masculine but transcends all concepts of gender. But this is irrelevant, for their concept of transcending gender is an idealistic Patriarchal understanding of men when they are not in relation with women, and thus are not sexual beings. In this view, sexuality is something that women have and that women create in men. The surprising but in some way logical corollary to this idea is that men are not responsible for their sexual activity with women, for it is the fault of women for being sexual beings.
So a Feminist Spirituality is a lot more than just using the word "She" when talking about the Divine. A Feminist Spirituality values egalitarianism instead of hierarchy, it values mutuality instead of authority, and it values compassion instead of power. A Feminist Spirituality is not so interested in defining what is masculine and what is feminine, as it is interested in affirming both genders as valuable and interdependent upon each other. It doesn't see a need to set mind against body, to set spirituality against sexuality, or to set reason against intuition. In a Feminist Spirituality these distinctions are seen as mistakes and what the Patriarchy says are different things, Feminism says are aspects of the same thing, aspects of being Human.
In a Christian Feminist Spirituality the Divine is seen more in categories of Friend, Lover, Healer, and Companion. What makes God to be God is not power and authority but Love and Grace. A Feminist Spirituality understands God as Law Giver and Judge in terms of God's compassion for the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized. God acts as one who speaks Law and who Judges our actions not because of an interest in a moralistic holiness, but to call us to do justice, to work for peace, and to make whole the wounded.
Many Feminist find that masculine language for the Divine interferes with this vision of God. In fact many Feminist find that the word "God" is itself an exclusively masculine term and can interfere with a Feminist Spirituality. Thus it is that many of us will not only use "She" when speaking of the Divine, we will boldly speak of "Our Mother" and of "the Goddess".
A lot of Christians have trouble with this adoption of Feminine imagery for the Divine. They assert that the Biblical view of the Divine is of "God", of "Our Father", and of "He". They believe that Feminist Spirituality is a contradiction of Biblical faith. Many Feminists also agree and thus jettison Christian categories entirely in their spirituality. However, I believe this is a mistaken understanding of Christian spirituality. In fact many Christians have been Spiritual Feminist down through the ages. One of the great mystics of the Middle Ages, Julian of Norwich, was a shining example of this.
Martin Luther, the originator of the Protestant movement, was not ashamed to think of the Holy Spirit in feminine terms. We often miss this in Luther studies because his feminine terminology is translated into English masculine terms, but if his German is translated without such a gender bias, his sense of the Holy Spirit being feminine shines out like a beacon.
Then of course there is the veneration of Mary and other female saints in Catholicism. Now, of course, Mary is not understood to be Divine, but she is understood to be so connected to the Divine that she often functions as if she was Divine herself. For some Christian Witches today, their Feminist Spirituality is a deep and abiding veneration of Mary the Mother of God.
But I want to go further and affirm, as many Christian Feminist do today, that an outright Feminist understanding of the Divine is very congruent with a Biblical faith. So at this point I would like to share an essay I wrote in another context about this subject. (For a more in-depth study of this issue I recommend the book "She Who Is" written by Elizabeth Johnson.)
The Feminine God
Then God said, "Let us make Humanity in our image, after our likeness; and let them have stewardship over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." So God created Humanity in God's own image, in the image of God, God created Humanity; male and female God created them. And God blessed them and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and have stewardship over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. And God saw everything that God had made, and behold, it was very good." Genesis 1:26-31
One of the first thing that is striking in this passage to me is that women, as well as men, are created in the image and likeness of God. This means that we begin with a Feminine as well as Masculine understanding of the Divine. It is just as appropriate to think of God as "MOTHER" as it is "FATHER", or to call God "HER" as it is to call God "HIM".
Of course if a community of faith were to practice this, both gender aspects would be associated with God and sometimes we would need to connect with the masculine side of God and sometimes we would need to connect with the feminine side. However, within the Christian tradition we have acted as if the masculine conception of God is the only valid one, insisting that we pray to "HIM" all the time. Some have gone even farther and have taught that since God is masculine therefore only men may represent "HIM" as "HIS" priests or ministers.
The clear teaching of this passage is that there is a feminine image and likeness of God. It is time for us to recover this connection to the Divine. If some are going to insist that we always address God in masculine ways, then women need to say, "No, you may pray to God as the Father as much as you like. I will pray to the same God but call her Mother."
But what about the language of the Trinity which says that God is "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost"? Some Christians say, "Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit." Although this usage does get us away from an exclusive masculine term, I find it wanting for a number of reasons. It sacrifices the idea of God being our loving and caring parent. It also removes God further from us and detaches the image and likeness of God from us Human Beings.
When the authors of the Scriptures referred to God as Father their intent wasn't to limit our understanding of God as masculine, that was an already pre-existing concept of the culture, their intent in addressing God as Father was to expand on the idea of Human Beings as being made in the image and likeness of God and therefore not just creations of God, but children of God. The early church actually called God, Abba, which is best translated not as the formal "Father" but as "Dada" or "Papa". In moving beyond "Father" language we do want to let go of exclusive masculine language, but we don't want to jettison this radical insight of Jesus about how God relates to us.
Another problem I have with the "Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit" usage is that in the "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" usage the idea of God being Father and Son wasn't primarily about how God relates to us, but how God relates to God. God the Father is the parent of the Son, but not, according to the Ecumenical Creeds, the Creator of the Son. Begotten not made is the actual phrase from Nicea describing the second person of the Trinity's relationship to the first person. Also the term of Creator is not appropriate for only the first person since creation was an activity of not just the first person but of the entire Trinity.
So I would prefer either "Parent, Child, and Holy Spirit" or alternating between "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" and "Mother, Daughter, and Holy Spirit". Now of course, I've opened up another whole issue. How can I refer to the second person of the Trinity as "The Daughter of God" when we all know that Jesus was male? This fact of Jesus' masculinity has been a stumbling block for many feminist women who have given up on Christianity as hopelessly tied to the Patriarchy. It might be possible to reimage God from Father to Mother, but it is impossible to reimage Jesus from the Son of God to the Daughter of God. Ah, but it isn't, in fact it is very much a part of the Scriptural heritage to understand the pre-existing Christ in feminine terms.
First we need to remember that in Theological language the term "the Son of God" may have to do with the Divine nature of Christ, but in early Biblical usage the term actually referred to an office that Jesus held as a Human Being. This office is summed up in the term "Messiah" which didn't mean a divine being but the Human Being appointed by God to lead God's people into the Kingdom of God. The term "the Son of God" was first associated with King David who became the archetype for a latter King who would achieve what David had but on an eternal and universal scale. It was David that Psalm 2:7 referred to when it said, "You are my son, today I have begotten you."
When at his baptism the voice from heaven referred to Jesus as the beloved son of God it was understood by all in this context. When Caiaphas asked him at his trial if he was the son of God he wasn't wondering if Jesus claimed to be the divine incarnation of the second person of the Trinity but if Jesus was claiming to be the long awaited Human Messiah of God.
Now we are dealing with a very different understanding of the term "the Son of God" if we understand it to be descriptive of the pre-existing Divine Person who became incarnate as the Human male Jesus then if we understand it to be initially descriptive of his Humanity. When we think that it refers to his Divine Nature we will automatically conclude that Jesus' Human maleness was a necessary outworking of his Divine masculinity. But when we see that this is not the case we can understand that it may be possible that Jesus' Human maleness was only an accidental result of the incarnation and not a requirement for it. It could just be possible that the Divine second person of the Trinity could have been incarnate as a woman instead of a man and it was only the accidents of History that made him male. In other words the second person of the Trinity was not simply masculine, but was also feminine, but in taking up a Human nature this Divine person took on a specific Human nature which had to be one or the other.
Is there any Scriptural basis for this idea? Yes! First we have Galatians 3 There is neither Jew nor Greek there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Paul here seems to be telling us that our Human dimensions are meaningless in Christ, yet we know that Christ was himself a free male Jew and not an enslaved Greek female. But the risen Christ has transcended the specifics of his Human nature to identify with all Humans. So this passage teaches us that Jesus' maleness was one of the accidents of his Humanity in the same way that his Jewishness was. If the fact that Jesus was male was more than an accident of his Humanity, but instead was a result of a supposed masculine Divinity, then this transcendence of Christ over his maleness would make no sense.
Of course to say that Jesus' Divine nature did not require him to be male does not lead to the conclusion that his Divine nature was also feminine as well as masculine. But there are hints that this is the case. The most telling Scriptural passage in this area is John 1 where the Divine Person is identified as the Word of God who takes on flesh as the specific Human Being Jesus of Nazareth who is the Son of God. Although John seems to have already moved on to the later idea of the term Son of God having divine connotations it seems to me that what John really means by the term Son of God is not the pre-existing Divine Person but rather the Incarnation of this Divine Person who, since he happens to be male, is properly called the Son of God. When referring to the pre-Incarnate Divine Person John uses the term Logos, which we translate as "The Word". Here's where things get very interesting. We usually think of the background for this usage as the philosophy of the Alexandrine Jew, Philo, and there is a lot of truth to that. Philo did do a lot of development of the idea of the Logos as the Divine Reason of God that permeates the world and creates it.
However, there is a more Biblical background to John's language. In the canonical book of Proverbs and the apocryphal books of Sirach, Wisdom, and Baruch we have a development of the idea of "The Wisdom of God". In these passages we are told that Wisdom was with God from the beginning, that Wisdom was God's mediator in creating all things, that Wisdom is the effluence of the glory of God, that Wisdom is the light of God that lives in every Human's soul, that Wisdom gives life to all creatures, and that Wisdom dwells among Humanity. These are all things that John says about the Logos. It would seem that John has combined the Biblical insights about Wisdom with the philosophical understanding of the Logos. He uses Logos terminology but his concepts are based on what the canonical and apocryphal Scriptures teach about Wisdom. John has also transcended both by his Christian insight that this Wisdom/Logos was Divine and took on flesh as the specific Human being Jesus of Nazareth.
If this is the background to John 1, then we have a very interesting situation, for Wisdom is always understood as being feminine. It would seem that the clearest Biblical image of the pre-existing Divine Christ is as the feminine Wisdom of God. In the New Testament the Greek word for Wisdom is Sophia. So it is very Biblical to have a feminine image of Christ as Sophia. If it is Biblical, and it is, to use images for Christ that aren't even Human like the Lamb and the Lion, then it is also Biblical to image Christ as Sophia, the Wise Woman of God.
So even when talking to and about Christ we need not be limited to only masculine terminology. Although it would seem appropriate to continue to use masculine pronouns when talking about what Jesus said and did between his birth and death for Historically he was male, it is not necessary for us to think of the pre-existent Christ or the Risen Christ in solely masculine terms.
As we begin to explore the Feminine side of Goddess we will, like the Housekeeper Jesus tells us about, bring out of the storehouse of our faith many beautiful and wonderful treasures that had been hidden before by the limitations of thinking of God as only masculine. This will only enrich our understanding of our loving Creator/Parent Goddess and what the Good News is that our Savior Jesus, the Sophia of Goddess, brought to us.
Another way of being religious that seems to be connected to being a Nature Mystic has to do with the way one understands the connection between one's inner psychic world and the rest of the universe. Those whose religious pathway is one that embraces Psychic Ritualization emphasize a continuity between the inner world and the outer world.
Hildegaard of Bingen, a German Christian mystic of the High Middle Ages, who was both a Nature Mystic and a Spiritual Feminist, taught that the inner world of the soul and the outer world of the vast universe were in some deep mystical sense one and the same thing. In other words, one could understand the Universe by seeking to fully understand one's own soul, or in Greek the "psyche".
This is a corollary to the Nature Mystic idea of connecting with the Universe to facilitate a psychic inner connection with the Divine. If by walking in the woods or letting a stream run over my hand I can better understand myself as a creature of a loving Creator, then I can also embrace the verdant life of the forest and the effervescence of the stream by exploring the forests and streams within my soul.
Another concept that Hildegaard of Bingen taught was that if we are made in the image of the Divine and the Divine is the Creator, then we are made to be creators ourselves. Hildegaard said we are co-creators with God and that in our creativity we are connecting with our Creator. This creativity is a reality that runs not just through Humans, but is the heartbeat of all creation. She called it the "verdant energy" of life.
For Hildegaard one of the places our creativity works is in our inner psychic work as we seek to explore the outer universe by exploring the inner one. In a deep and abiding sense, then, we create our reality.
Hildegaard is a Christian example of this way of being religious that cuts across many different religions. One of the main proponents of this way of understanding the value of the Human psyche in the 20th Century was not even formally religious! I am speaking of Carl Jung, the great Swiss Psychologist who was a student of Freud, but went on to develop his own school of Psychology that is still today very influential not only among Psychologists but in many fields.
What Jung taught is ancient knowledge among the spiritual. It is the idea that within our inner world are stories and symbols that makes sense of the entire world and that we best appropriate the truth in these symbols when we work them out in ritual. These very ideas are strong in another modern Christian movement called "Story Theology".
The ritualization of our psychic life is actually something that Human seems to find valuable. This is why we salute the flag or stand up and toast the bride and groom at a wedding. These rituals not only express our inner psychic truths, our sense of loyalty to our nation or our love for our friends and desires for a good life for their new marriage, but in some sense we experience that the ritual creates the reality.
Of course we are now, (finally!), talking about "magick". We all understand that thinking can change our world. Our inner beliefs and attitudes will affect the world around us. Studies were done in which a group of college men were tested on their ability in basketball to make goals from the foul line. Half of the men were then given exercises for a month in which they would practice shooting baskets. The other half were not to actually practice but they were to spend the same amount of time each day imagining they were doing the same practicing. At the end of the month both cohorts were tested to see how much they had improved. They both improved in their ability to make goals at the same rate! The men who had only practiced in their psychic world had changed the outer world as much as those who had acted in the outer world.
However, magick is not just mind over matter. It is Psychic Ritualization in which the symbolic inner world of the psyche is acted out in rituals in the outer world with the intent of changing the inner world so that the outer world will be recreated. Magick just doesn't go from inner work to outer change of reality, like in the Basketball experiment. Magick is a circle in which the practitioner takes symbols from the inner world and consciously makes them into concrete rituals in the outer world, which then return to the inner world so that the old symbols become deeper, richer, fuller and more powerful.
Prayer that is nothing more than an inner dialog with the Divine, is like the basketball experiment. It starts in the inner world as a focus on the outer world and if it is successful it changes the outer world. However, if when one prays one lights a candle, or anoints with oil, or lifts one's hand to the heavens then one has added ritualization to the prayer of the soul and it has become "magick".
Remember when I said that for the "Magic User" magick is just a learned skill, but for the Witch it is a spiritual art? For Psychic Ritualization to be a spiritual art it has to be part of one's connection to the Divine. It flows right out of an understanding that our spiritual connections are all interconnected. My connection to the Divine, my connection to my True Self, my connection to other Humans, my connection to Nature, all these connections are connected to each other.
If I engage in Psychic Ritualization as part of my spirituality, especially if I am a Nature Mystic and a Spiritual Feminist, my goal is not power or a desire to "work wonders", my goal is simply to increase my connection.
Psychic Ritualization is very common in most religions. I have already pointed out the use of candles, oil and hand gestures in Christianity. There is also the great ritual in Christian faith, the celebration of the Lord's Supper in which bread and wine are eaten. Such powerful ritualization of the symbolic is central to the religious experience.
However, those who consciously embrace Psychic Ritualization as part of their spiritual path do not limit themselves to the great rituals of their faith system. They believe along with Hildegaard and Jung that our souls are creative and that deep within them we find avenues to connect to the entire universe. So they embrace many rituals, both communal public ones and private personal ones. They "invent" their own symbology and ritualize it on their own.
Jung, as he studied the way the Human soul worked, discovered that their were certain symbols and stories that seemed to be so deep in the psyche that there seemed to be an underlying universal shared consciousness of which we don't seem to be aware. He called it the "collective unconscious". One of the symbols he found to be universal was a symbol for the Divine as a circle. Another one was the symbol of the Divine as four.
Quite often a person will hear another person's stories or experience their symbols in some ritualization and find that these stories and symbols resonate in their own soul. This resonance may be the working out of the collective unconscious. Thus it is that those who practice Psychic Ritualization find themselves sharing many symbols and rituals with others who also practice this.
A few of these are creating ritual circles, calling the four directions, burning candles, lamps or torches, anointing with oil, pouring out water, burning incense, drinking wine, eating bread, arranging flowers, using flour and salt and other herbs, raising hands to the heavens, dancing, turning in circles, taking off garments, displaying weapons, creating altars, and drawing blood. All of these symbolic ritualizations seem universal from one culture to another and from one religion to another. For instance they are found in the Christian Bible and they are found in pre-Christian European Paganism!
Many Christians have serious questions about whether "magick" is consistent with the Christian ethic of relying on God alone. That will be discussed in a further article. At this point let us just note that many Christians do not see a conflict and they consciously extend the ritualization of their psychic life in as many creative ways they can.
Putting It Together
When a person consciously embraces their spiritual path to include Nature Mysticism, Spiritual Feminism, and Psychic Ritualization they may understand all of this in terms of Witchcraft. Rather than explain that their spiritual life includes a connection with a Feminine Divine through Nature that is played out in a dance of ritualizing their psychic life, they may just say "I'm a Witch" or "I practice Witchcraft". This doesn't mean that everyone who embraces Nature Mysticism, Feminist Spirituality and Psychic Ritualization may self identify as a Witch. Just as it is possible to practice Psychic Ritualization and never call it "magick", so one might, for whatever reasons, not own being a Witch. However, those who live such a spiritual path may find their path resonating with those who do own that term and thus in the end find themselves owning it for themselves.
Our term "Witch" comes from an Anglo-Saxon term that was found in various forms because of dialectic differences and the fact that Anglo-Saxon words had different Gender forms. The word was Wisse, Wissa, Wicce, or Wicca. The word either meant "Wise One" or "One who Twists." I think it is pretty clear how our modern English word "Wise" is related to Wisse.
The Wisse/Wissa were the wise of the community who through their connection to nature were able to twist reality. In other words they were the Nature Mystics of the community who were able to change reality around them through what I have defined as "magick" and through their herbalism and other "folk science". These people were originally the same faith as everyone else, the pre-Christian Paganism of the land.
However, it would appear that as Christianity spread and the people of a community became predominately Christian that the Wisse/Wissa did not just disappear, but rather as they converted from one religion to another they did not cease being Wisse/Wissa but retained their Nature Mysticism, their Feminist Spirituality and their Psychic Ritualization in their new faith system. As the language changed they came to be called "Witches".
Up until the Witch Hysteria of the Late Middle Ages the local Witch was considered a benefit to the community. Often the midwives of a village were the female Witches. I would suppose that quite often the local "secular" village priest was one of the male Witches who saw no problem with being a Witch and a priest at the same time.
However, once the hysteria of the late Middle Ages spread the peasants in the local community developed a love/hate relationship with their Witches. At times they would turn to them for aid, wisdom, healing, and everything beneficial their ancestors had looked to Witches for. At other times they would be swept up believing the lies that Witches were evil tools of the Devil and they would join in hunting and killing Witches or supposed Witches.
By the times of the greatest terrors of the "burning times" in the 17th Century the term Witch had become almost universally a negative term. However, Witches still remained, serving their community with their folk wisdom but not owning the term "Witch", but many did in private among their families.
In the 20th Century as tolerance became the norm in the English speaking world, those who practiced Witchcraft, both in Pagan faith systems and in Christianity, reclaimed the term and sought to return it to its original honored place. With the gains of Feminism in the 1960s and the development of Spiritual Feminism in the 1970s, many women found that owning themselves as Witches was an important step in healing their wounded feminine psyches. For many this was at first only a political statement, but in time this added to the growing numbers of Nature Mystics/Spiritual Feminists/Psychic Ritualizers who called themselves Witches.
Most Witches today most likely are not Christians. Some of them may think of their religion as being Witchcraft. They usually are a kind of Neo-Pagan who understand the Divine to be basically a God and a Goddess with the Goddess being identified with the earth and the moon and the God being identified with the Sun and with the life cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth. The name of this faith is "Wicca", one of the old Anglo-Saxon words for "Witch", and members are called "Wiccan". But not all Pagan Witches are Wiccan either. We will discuss this issue more in further articles.
So that is what a Christian Witch is, a person whose connection with the Divine is centered and focused in Jesus of Nazareth and his life, death and resurrection, but walks that path as a Nature Mystic, a Spiritual Feminist and consciously embracing Psychic Ritualization, all of which are valid ways of living out the Christian faith. Despite this, many still wonder how a Christian can be a Witch, and that is why there are numerous more articles on this subject.