May 23, 2014

Christian Witches

El Curandero, by Antonio Coche Mendoza
The term "witchcraft" can be a slippery one. At the risk of being burned at the stake, I admit that I personally have studied witchcraft fairly extensively, and so have a level of expertise on the subject that most members of the public do not. I've known witches personally as well, and so I am here to tell you that there is such a thing as Christian witches, or people who practice witchcraft yet still believe in the Bible and view Jesus as their savior.

I know I just lost a bunch of people right there simply because the Bible itself condemns the practice of witchcraft. At least, that's how some people see it. I'm not here to argue theology, but rather am just explaining how there could be such a thing as a Christian witch. The fact is that not everyone reads the Bible the same way (or the Buddhist Scriptures, or the Koran, or many other old religious texts, for that matter). There are those who believe that passages such as Deuteronomy 18:9-14 or Galatians 5:19-21 are clear-cut condemnations from God himself of anything that could be construed as witchcraft. These people are referred to by academics as "literalists." There are others who are Christian who do not think that everything in the Bible is to be taken literally, which gives some wiggle room for things like witchcraft. I'm sure some of you disagree with this, but again I'm not advocating anything here but instead am merely explaining a position held by some people.

Part of the problem people face when trying to process the existence of Christian witches is that they still believe that there is something inherently satanic about all forms of witchcraft. The fact is that the practice of witchcraft is incredibly diverse, especially when you take into account that different traditions can be found in all corners of the world. While it might be true that some are practitioners of the dark arts, not all witches pledge themselves to the Devil or some other malevolent force, nor do they engage in brutal human sacrifices or other malicious activities. Not all witches believe in pagan gods and goddesses, although many do. Some of the kindest, most caring people I've ever met have been witches, even if they did not use the title "witch."

That brings up another interesting point about witchcraft: it can be known by many different names. Have you ever known a "healer" or someone who just seems to be really good at curing ailments using herbs or other natural remedies? Back in the day the Cunning Folk were the predominant administrators of health remedies for the people. Cunning Folk have been known by many names, including Kitchen Witches. In my home state of New Mexico there is a strand known as Curanderos (one of the main characters in my first book is a Curandero). Throughout the centuries, people have treated Kitchen Witches with both reverence and suspicion, mostly because they have had to rely on their skills to save loved ones, yet they are afraid of  power that they do not comprehend.

I once met a woman who was a Kitchen Witch. I would mention her name (she's dead now) but some people have tried to leverage her good name and reputation so that they can charge attorney-like hourly fees and sell books about healing, all in an attempt to line their pockets. This woman was very unassuming and charged a very nominal amount for her services. I was skeptical that she was real, because people like those who are now trying to ride off of her reputation yet do not possess any real talent are abundant and readily vie to take advantage of the desperate. This woman was amazing. She could look at a person and within minutes know everything that was wrong with their body, plus come up with prescriptions of how to correct those problems. She wasn't anti-science, and in fact sometimes recommended that people seek out modern medical procedures for some problems. I invited her to even read my thoughts, which she did so with incredible and scary accuracy. I don't expect anyone to believe a word of this, because I did not until I met her. I also know for a fact that she was a faithful church-goer and saw no conflict between her Christianity and her ability to help others heal, but in fact saw the two activities as extremely complimentary.

It's likely you've known or currently know some witches without even realizing it. For good historic reasons, many are practiced at blending in and hiding their abilities. Still, many also feel the compelling urge to "walk a mile" in others shoes and to be the Good Samaritan, following the example of one who never hesitated to heal the sick and afflicted. That's something I admire greatly.


Dianne K. Salerni said...

I absolutely believe there can be Christian witches. Why not?

I had an encounter with a healer in Mexico. After tramping over the ruins of Teotihuacan and up and down the Sun Pyramid, I could barely walk without pain. My husband scheduled me for a massage.

I walked into the spa and was directed onto the table by a receptionist. The masseuse never saw me walk in, limp, anything. But when she came in, she told me she was a healer. She pinpointed my knees as the problem area, and particularly the left one, without me telling her. She did something I couldn't see to both my legs ... something with candles and suction.

I didn't have any pain in either knee from that moment and continuing for about 3-4 months.

I really need to go back! :D

mshatch said...

I totally believe in Christian Witches! Magic comes in all colors.

Holli Moncrieff said...

Interesting post, as always. I once saw a medical intuitive when I was at my wit's end with traditional medicine, and she not only knew what was wrong with me--she knew how I could heal myself and prevent the issue from happening again.

I'm not sure if she'd be considered a witch, but it sounds like she had some of the same abilities as the woman you saw. Unfortunately, she doesn't diagnose people anymore and no one else I've visited has had the same ability.

VR Barkowski said...

A subject near and dear to my heart, Steven, as I live in a town where witches make-up between 5-10% of the population (depending with whom you speak). There are most definitely Christian witches along with those who are duo- and polytheistic.

One can make the argument that witch is a misogynistic mistranslation of Biblical texts, and the original verse translates more closely to wizard. Maybe this does have something to do with the negative view of witches, but the fact is, prejudice against witches runs far beyond the Judeo-Christian world.

I believe part of the issue is that certain abilities (whether natural or cultivated) are suspect and are labeled as "powers," and we humans mistrust anyone who has a "power" we don't share. And for some reason, we'd prefer to think someone acquired his/her special abilities by pledging themselves to darkness rather than being blessed by God. Go figure.

I'm presently at work on novel with a neo-Wiccan protagonist. She is an amalgam of a green witch and a kitchen witch and primarily interested in herbs and healing. I work with a specific definition of witch. A witch is anyone who practices witchcraft—witchcraft being the practice of magic(k): projecting natural energies such as will and emotion to effect change. The process is natural, not supernatural.

VR Barkowski