-----Original Message----- |
From: Kathi Sharpe [mailto:Kathi]
Sent: Thursday, November 02, 2000 12:35 PM
Subject: testimony for midwest Christian outreach …
Hey Rich … if you have time, can you give me some serious input on this? I contacted Don, and he invited me to write my testimony. I'm going to get to meet him next weekend, too … there's a conference on cults and apologetics in Charlotte, and he's going to be there. Cool, huh?
This is actually what I've been working on for a while now … something that explains what witchcraft really is, and why I left it. I'm not a writer, and I feel like my words are woefully inadequate. Any suggestions, editorial input, henscratches or whatever are most welcome, if you've got time to. :)
Talk to you soon!
If you're like most people, when you hear the word "Witchcraft", you think of the images that Hollywood and the church have perpetuated: women dancing naked with the devil, animal (or human) sacrifice, brooms and witch hats and magic wands, spells and curses and frogs.
None of those images are accurate.
"Real" Witchcraft [i], which is also known as "Wicca" or simply "The Craft", has nothing to do with devils, sacrifices, and curses. Followers of this religion are often gentle, spiritual people who are concerned with the environment, human rights, and happiness. They usually worship one or more ancient goddesses and gods. Religious ceremonies, called "rituals", range from solemn, with candles lit and incense burning; to ecstatic, with dancing, chanting, and singing.
Witches do cast spells, although most say they only do so for positive purposes. They do not hex or curse, nor do they generally interfere with the will of another. Magick is often called "The Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity to Will" [ii]. In fact, many Wiccans will tell you that magick and Christian-style prayer are really the same thing. Magick has props (candles, incense, crystals, etc.) and the request goes to whichever god or goddess the Witch worships … but the overall method is similar. Witches also use divination, such as tarot cards and astrology, to get in touch with their "inner selves" and to determine likely outcomes of decisions.
There is no Witch's "Bible" [iii]. Wisdom comes from within, not from a book or even from "On High". Witches tend to feel that Jesus was a great teacher (and so were Buddha and Mohammed), and if they believe in the existence of the devil at all, they'll tell you that he's simply a Christian deity. While they invoke (call) a number of deities and also entities such as elementals, they'll tell you that there are no "demons" anywhere: this is also a Christian concept, and they're not Christians.
Most witches do not have any concept of a literal heaven or hell. Some espouse the concept of karma and reincarnation. They insist that living once is a ridiculous concept and point to the "evidence" of past lives. Others believe that everyone (good, bad, and otherwise) will go to the Land of Apples after their live(s) are over. Many do not have a clear concept of what will happen after death. There is also no concept of sin and forgiveness in Pagan traditions. The main tenet of witchcraft is called the "Wiccan Rede". It states "An it harm none, do as ye will" [iv]. Basically, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone, anything goes.
Leaders among Witches (and indeed, other neo-Pagan groups such as Druids, Kemetics, and Asatru) tend to be strong, powerful, self-assured people. They tend NOT to be power-seeking, overly charismatic, "follow me" types. In fact, because covens are autonomous and led by everyone equally, rules are flexible, and there is seldom money exchanged, Witches can argue very effectively that they are certainly not a "cult". [v]
Witches are both men and women (there are no "warlocks"). They generally live in "normal" homes in "normal" neighborhoods, drive "normal" cars and have "normal" jobs. They come from all kinds of religious and ethnic backgrounds. The neo-pagan movement embraces diversity of gender, sexual orientation, skin color, and style.
I was one of them. I worshipped the goddesses and gods of ancient Egypt. I was a skilled tarot reader and was learning astrology. I used spells routinely. Interestingly, I spent countless hours studying the Bible. Many people are surprised that I knew it better than people who have been Christians all their lives. I was never in the "broom closet," plenty of people knew that I was a Witch. In fact, I was a leader in the large Pagan community on America Online for over four years. While Witches generally do not proselytize, I am responsible for bringing countless people "in" to that religion. For that, I am eternally sorry.
The word "wicca," which is the root word of "Witch", means "to bend." That is exactly what the practice of this religion does: bends and twists you. How did I get caught up in it?
I was always been a very spiritual person. I knew from an early age that there are forces beyond the power of humans at work in our world. I was an extremely intelligent, well-read child. I read the entire Bible before I was twelve and questioned everything I read. I was asked to leave Sunday school for asking too many hard questions, and I got thrown out of church a time or two for interrupting sermons. No one had answers to my questions. After a while, I determined that God was not in church.
As a young adult I visited many churches, both Christian and non-Christian, but I never found God. In the process, I learned that many "Christians" are really hypocrites. They show up for church on Sunday morning and then spend the rest of the week living in sin. I spent a few years looking for "god" in the world via abusive relationships, alcohol, and drugs, but that didn't work either.
Eventually, I ran into a book about witchcraft at a friend's house. This innocent-looking book with an innocent-sounding title [vi], written by a feminist author, appealed to my sense of womanhood. I was immediately drawn to the image of a peaceful, loving goddess figure. Instead of the stern, angry Father I'd heard about in church, we could worship a bountiful, giving Mother. Christianity, with all its patriarchal imagery, was misguided and the cause of most of the evil in today's society.
I was fascinated with these concepts. They seemed at once foreign and familiar to me. I began to study everything I could get my hands on. I quickly determined that there are many contradictions in the pagan world-view. This gets explained away very easily. A common quote in the community is "All paths lead to the center." In other words, it's perfectly ok to determine your own spiritual path and belief system. There is no absolute, transcendent truth. In fact, several respected authors advocate creating your own religious tradition, even to the point of imagining your own personal deity.
I was equally fascinated with magick … the art of changing consciousness at will, the ability to bend and shape reality in accordance with what I wanted. What a powerful feeling! For the first time in my life, I felt that I had real, direct control over the forces that I could sense. By combining the appropriate herbs, crystals, and incantations with the correct intent, I could effect change in my world. Through the use of tarot cards and astrology, I could get a glimpse into what made me and others "tick." It was surprisingly effective.
As I learned and grew, I became very drawn to the ancient Egyptian tradition (called "Tameran" or "Kemetic" by followers). The Egyptians had a deity for everything, most of whom had very human traits of love, hate, anger, deceit. It didn't bother me that the image of the loving, bountiful mother fell by the wayside in this process. By this time I felt that these gods were more real and valid than some fluffy image of a goddess. I could communicate with them. Frequently, I would have a strong impression that I should do something, or the tarot cards would show me. I took these signs as being from my gods, and I would act on them. While I never did anything overtly or inherently evil, I have invoked powers that I know little or nothing about into the world. I raised my children in this tradition. I have participated in rituals designed to open the door of the world to these deities.
As a leader in the online Pagan community, I spent hours and hours patiently explaining the faith to outsiders, teaching "newbies", defending witchcraft against attack by "fundies" and the media, and promoting it in a positive light at every opportunity. I frequently received email or instant messages from fundamentalist or evangelical Christians who were trying to convince me that I was a sinner and needed Christianity. After a three-week argument with me, one such person converted to Paganism because I was so convincing.
At the same time, I wasn't happy. I went through several unhealthy relationships before finally marrying a wonderful man (who happens to be a Christian). Our relationship, while satisfying, was always lacking something. My children had no real sense of right and wrong (because all things were acceptable on this spiritual path). While I had my "dream job", I wasn't satisfied with it. I had serious health issues, including progressive hearing loss. By the spring of 2000, I was 70% deaf and required two powerful hearing aids. I was cynical, bitter, and very, very tired, and I didn't see any way to change that … or even any reason to.
One night in late summer of 2000, I had a dream in which Jesus Christ appeared to me with his hands outstretched. I told him to go away. The dream ended. I was a bit shook up, and I attributed the whole incident to being stressed about work.
Two nights later, He appeared to me again. He spoke to me in sign language, which I was just beginning to learn (out of necessity). He signed many things, but the part that stands out in memory is "Come follow me."
I didn't want to. I spent hours crying, trying to convince myself and my family that I was happy just the way I was. Along comes Jesus, making a mess of my life.
My husband went to church with his daughter that week. He dragged me along too, quite literally. I don't recall much of the service … I couldn't hear most of it, even with the hearing aids. I do remember being very impressed that these people seemed to genuinely believe, genuinely worship their god. But there was a powerful force at work in me to deny what I was hearing and seeing.
I spent a lot of time that weekend trying to find a way out of this. One generally doesn't ignore a god showing up in their dreams, even if it's not a god that one would want to acknowledge. His message and the sense of love that I felt during that dream could not be denied. I finally decided to put God to the test. After a good deal of debate, I determined to request divine intervention in something mundane and tangible: a software problem at work. I had written an email to a peer group of software users the month before and gotten zero response. My job depended on me figuring out a solution. So a caring, loving God that wanted me to believe would fix it for me. So I prayed a simple prayer: "God, if you're real, and you want me to believe in you, prove it! Fix this problem."
At about 2pm the next day, I received an email with the answer. But God wasn't content with providing just the answer … He wanted to be sure that I knew the source. It came from an (at) Christianity.net email address. There was no way that I could deny that my prayer had been directly answered. I had discovered the meaning of the word "grace."
I spent the entire next day talking via instant message to the man who'd supplied my answer. He had no idea, of course, that God had used him. He'd just found my old email in his "to do someday" folder, and decided that he should answer it. He was able to answer my questions and point me in the right direction.
Even still, I wasn't sure that I could give up everything. My whole identity was wrapped up in being a Witch. People turned to me for spiritual answers. I was considered an expert on the subject. Even people at work knew and interacted with me on that basis. And how on earth could I start believing in the Bible? I'd spent years studying it, and believing that it was worthless.
After thinking, talking to my new friend Rich quite a bit, and even praying, I became convinced that if I was to accept my dream of Jesus as having been valid, and if I was to accept that I'd gotten a direct answer to a prayer, then I was going to have to accept the Bible as being God's word. I didn't have to like what it said, but I DID have to accept it. There was no halfway … it was all or nothing.
The next day, my family left for a planned camping vacation at the beach. I convinced my husband that we should take a break from vacation and go to church. The service was nothing like I'd ever experienced. The people seemed to genuinely care for this strangely emotional family that descended into their midst. The pastor was absolutely on fire for the Lord. I wasn't able to "hear" what he was saying, but he spoke in such a way that I could read his lips almost word for word. This was so unusual that I had to go and compliment him on it after the service. After I told him that I was nearly deaf, he asked me if he could pray for my hearing to be restored.
This was WAY outside the realm of anything I had ever experienced. This guy really believed that God could (and would!) heal me. I only hesitated a moment … but my consent came more from not wanting to hurt his feelings, and a sense of curiosity, than from any belief that I could be cured. He anointed my forehead with oil, laid his hands on my ears and began to pray. For an instant, I felt this incredible power flow through me. Then it was gone. I was still deaf. I was kind of disappointed in that, but I was very impressed that here was a man who really believed in this … and cared enough to talk to God about me.
Later that afternoon, I began to feel poorly and went to bed very early. I slept fitfully, and by morning I was delirious and quite ill. I was seeing and hearing some really crazy things. Somehow it got into my head that something needed to leave me. I called on my old gods, one by one, and told them that they had to leave me now and stay gone. I was going to do as Jesus said and follow Him.
At about 2 in the afternoon, I suddenly started to feel better. Weak, but otherwise great. I'd taken my hearing aids out when I went to sleep the night before, and never put them back in. Imagine my surprise when I came back to our tent, and my husband asked if I was ok … and I could HEAR him. Neither one of us could believe it. I carried those hearing aids around for a week before it really sunk in that I could hear everything that was said to me, everything around me. I've since had an audiogram done … my hearing is normal. The audiologist couldn't believe it.
I've spent the time since then praising the Lord and learning everything I can about Him. All those years of studying the Bible have paid off in ways I'd never anticipated then. I can take all the arguments I used to make against God and His word, and take the rug out from underneath every one of them. I've gotten baptized and joined a wonderful church. My husband and I have rediscovered each other. Our children have also turned to the Lord. In fact, my son, who resisted for a long time, has now decided that when he grows up, he wants to be a missionary to China!
I gathered up my books and ritual tools. Many of them went into the trash, but I wanted to destroy the ones that had the most influence on me. If I'd had any doubt of whether Witchcraft is wrong, it was resolved then. Paper normally burns yellow or orange. This paper burned in all sorts of weird colors, including green, blue, and purple … and made noises while burning. When I took a rock and smashed my athame (witch's knife), sparks flew from it. There's no denying that there was power there, and that power is not benevolent as I had believed.
Life as a Christian isn't entirely rosy … in fact, it's seemed like a war's been raging these past few months. Many people have told me that all of Heaven rejoices and Satan rages when a sinner gets saved. It seems like Satan's doing a lot of raging. I've been laid off from my job, and the company that my husband works for may go bankrupt. A number of extended family members have been dangerously ill, the children have had serious problems in school, and sometimes it seems like the world is going to fall apart at any moment. But through all of this, we are trusting God and praising Him, because not one thing that has happened has caused us harm.
I'e heard it said that God can use anyone, and turn any situation to His glory. I pray daily that God can use my past and the blessings that He's given me as a way to talk to Witches about Him. Witches are not evil. They are well meaning, spiritually minded people who simply do not realize how they have been deceived.
[i] For an in-depth look at what Witches and other pagans believe, refer to www.witchvox.com.
[ii] Aleister Crowley
[iii] There is a book titled "The Witch's Bible" by Gavin and Yvonne Frost. Most Witches do not consider these people to be reputable.
[iv] Generally credited to Doreen Valiente
[v] Isaac Bonewits, The Advanced Bonewits' Cult Danger Evaluation Frame 2.0.1. Available online at http://188.8.131.52/ABCDEF. HTML.
[vi] Spiral Dance, by Starhawk
| || |
| || || |
The Sharpe Logs: email and chat transcripts with Kathi Sharpe, ex-Wiccan
© 2001 by Richard A. Tatum
Check out my blog!