Witchcraft, Wicca, and the Occult

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Wicca is the modern term for the practice of witchcraft. While often claiming to be a pre-Christian pagan religion, Wicca is generally thought to have originated in Britain in the mid-1900s through the writings of Gerald Gardner. The common elements in Wiccan practice include the use of a sacred circle for the practice of rituals, as well as the observance of festivals at the time of the full moon, the solstices, and the equinoxes. Wicca belief is animistic and pagan, with worship of a goddess and sometimes the “horned god.” None of those elements are found in the Harry Potter series.

The occult is a term that in popular usage covers a wide variety of practices that seek to engage the mystical and supernatural, such as extrasensory perception, astrology, spiritualism, and the interpretation of dreams. The subject of divination comes closest to some of these things in the Harry Potter series, and it is telling that in the series such practices are ridiculed and described as “a very imprecise branch of magic.” The effect is to distance the sort of magic found in these books from the practices of the occult.

Many fairy tales and a lot of fantasy literature use the language of magic with no intention of a connection to Wicca or the occult. Examples of such stories include Snow White and Hansel and Gretel, the Narnia chronicles, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the Harry Potter series.


About the Author

Sylvia C. Keesmaat teaches biblical studies at the Toronto School of Theology. She is a member of Lindsay (Ontario) Christian Reformed Church.
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