Question: Can I Be A Christian Wiccan?
A reader writes in, "I was raised as a Christian, and although I believe in God, I feel as though Wicca is in my heart. I believe Jesus' mother, Mary, could have been a goddess. And even though the Bible says "thou shall not suffer a witch to live" I've heard that this is wrong and it's supposed to be "poisoner", not "witch". I want to know if it's okay for me to be a Christian Wiccan?"
Oh boy. This is one of those questions that has to get broken down into a bunch of really small bits, because there's no simple answer, and no matter how it gets answered, somebody is going to shout about how that's the wrong response. Also, bear in mind that I am answering this as someone who has been Pagan for over two and a half decades, and who has never been Christian at all. Obviously your mileage may vary on some of this, and I certainly don't intend for this to turn into a debate on Christian theology.
That having been said, let's clarify one thing right off the bat. Wicca and witchcraft are not synonymous. One can be a witch without being Wiccan. Wicca itself is a specific religion. Those who follow it -- Wiccans -- honor the deities of their particular tradition of Wicca. They don't honor the Christian god, at least not in the way that Christianity mandates that he be honored. In addition, Christianity has some pretty strict rules about what gods you get to worship -- pretty much none other than theirs. You know, there's that "thou shall have no other gods before me" bit. By the rules of Christianity, it's a monotheistic religion, while Wicca is polytheistic. These make them two very distinct and very different religions.
So, by the very definition of the words, one could not be a Christian Wiccan any more than one could be a Hindu Muslim or a Jewish Mormon. There are Christians who practice witchcraft within a Christian framework, but this is not Wicca. Do keep in mind that there are some people who declare themselves to be Christian Wiccans, honoring Jesus and Mary as god and goddess together. I'm certainly not going to argue with how people self-identify, but if you go by actual semantics, it seems that one would rule out the other.
Let's move on. Let's assume that you're interested in becoming a witch, but you plan on remaining Christian. In general, the witch community isn't going to care -- after all, what you do is your business. However, your local pastor might have quite a bit to say about it. After all, the Bible does say "thou shall not suffer a witch to live." There's been a great deal of discussion in the Pagan community about that line, with many people arguing that it's a mistranslation, and that originally it had nothing to do with witchcraft or sorcery, but that the original text was "thou shall not suffer a poisoner to live."
Back around 2002, I had the privilege of discussing this, among many other topics, with a Jewish scholar who had decided (purely because it intrigued him) to participate on a Pagan message board. This gentleman was in his 80s, a Holocaust survivor, and a Modern Orthodox rabbi who had degrees in Near Eastern history and Semitic languages. In his youth, he had been part of a team that worked on deciphering parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls, so he certainly knew that of which he spoke.
Anyway, he indicated that this theory of mistranslation of the word "poisoner" as "witch" is simply false, and based upon ancient Greek texts. From the original Hebrew, he told me, the text is very clear. He told me, "The Targum Onkelos is a very ancient translation of the Torah into Aramaic, (which was the vernacular language of the Jews at the time of Jesus by the way). The Targum translates the verse in question as, "Charasha la tachei," -- "A 'charasha' you shall not let live." So what is a "charasha"? Again, it means "witch." Charasha (fem.) or charash (masc.) come from the Aramaic "charshei" which means magic, witchcraft, or sorcery. The root of charshei means literally "to build," though it can also mean "to entangle." If the Torah had meant "poisoner" it could have simply said so. "Hir'il" is "to poison" in Hebrew, and it bears no etymological relationship to "kishuf," -- witchcraft."
So, while I'm hardly a Biblical scholar, and don't intend to turn this into a discussion on Biblical theory, this learned gentleman's assertion that the passage in question does in fact refer to witchcraft seems fairly sensible. Keeping that in mind, if you choose to practice witchcraft under the umbrella of Christianity, don't be surprised if you run into some opposition from other Christians.
So to answer your questions: Can you be a Christian Wiccan? Technically, I don't think so, because they're two separate religions, one of which forbids you from honoring the gods of the other - and as I mentioned, there will be people who say you absolutely can do so. Can you be a Christian witch? Well, maybe, but that's a matter for you to decide for yourself. Again, the witches probably don't care what you do, but your pastor may be less than thrilled.
I would suggest that you may want to look into some of the writings of Christian mystics, or perhaps the Gnostics, for some ideas on how to incorporate magical systems into the Christian framework. Finally, there's a good essay on Christian Witchery that I would highly recommend for anyone who's considering this unusual and blended spiritual path.