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Pop culture has created a variety of “witches.” There’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch, (rebooted in 2018); the Wizard of Oz included a classic green-faced crone; and Hermione Granger and her peers are “witches” in the Harry Potter universe. Movies like Hocus Pocus, The Craft, and The Blair Witch Project present us with alternatively goofy, angsty, or creepy examples of fictional witchcraft. As different as those many ideas are, they all have two important traits in common:
What most people think of when they hear the term “witch” is nothing like what the Bible describes. Performing supernatural feats through occult powers, like a comic book superhero or villain, is generally based on pagan myth—not a Christian claim. Scripture does not explicitly tell people “thou shalt not turn invisible, shoot fireballs, fly on brooms, levitate objects, or turn into animals.” That’s because such things cannot happen.
Yes, it would be bad to pick up a skyscraper and throw it at someone, but there’s no good reason for God to tell people not to do that exact thing—because they couldn't do it anyway.
In the Bible, the idea of “witchcraft” is similar to “divination.” It’s an attempt to communicate with evil spirits so they’ll provide information or insight. In some cases, it can mean attempting to use a ritual or chant (e.g. spell) in an effort to convince a spirit to do something.
The Bible’s view is essentially saying, “Yes, you can, in fact, interact with demons—but DON'T.” And that’s what it means when it forbids “witchcraft.” The Bible tells us not to try and cast spells or talk to the dead—not because we really can, but because it opens us up to dangerous forces.
The Bible condemns all forms of witchcraft—whether it’s information-based or spell-based, effective or pointless, minor or major. Casting an occult spell is not a harmless thing, even if there’s no chance of it really working, because doing so means following the lead of a demonic spirit. This is why God told the people of Israel not to get involved, at all, in such things when they came into the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 18:9-12).
Just because witchcraft can’t allow someone to throw fireballs or turn others into frogs doesn’t mean God takes the subject lightly. Under Old Testament law, the penalty for witchcraft was death (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 20:27). Real people attempting to commune with spirits have engaged in human sacrifice, child sacrifice, drug use, and other sinful behaviors in their efforts to contact a spiritual entity. And the only beings listening to that kind of “talk” are demons who are nobody’s friends (1 Samuel 15:23; Isaiah 8:19).
A really important point to keep in mind is that while spells, hexes, fortunes, and such are not “real” in the sense that they can’t actually do what they claim, they should still be considered dangerous because they involve contact with demons. Demonic beings have ZERO interest, whatsoever, in making deals, bargains, or promises. And they’re not interested in helping humanity attain spirituality, knowledge, or power. Quite the opposite.
Ultimately, a person participating in witchcraft is just wasting their time. Satan has a great deal of power (1 Thessalonians 2:18; Job 1:12-18; 1 Corinthians 5:5), but he’s not going to jump when a wannabe-witch snaps his or her fingers. However, he’d be more than happy to tempt, warp, twist, deceive, and abuse anyone who opens themselves up to the influence of his demons by attempting “real” witchcraft.
Does this mean Christians need to run screaming from everything touched by the term “witchcraft?” The answer is a very carefully qualified NO.
The problem is not the word, it’s what the word might mean. What most people call “witchcraft” is foreign to the Bible. Harry Potter’s version of magic, for instance, is more like the Force from Star Wars or the “bending” abilities from Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s explicitly NOT something involving demons or Satan. These kinds of “witches” are totally different from what the Bible means when it refers to sorcery, magic, and divination.
Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean all of those stories are A-OK for all people at all times. It’s fair to say that if a person’s not careful about such things, they can get confused about what’s real and what’s not. If someone had that issue, these kinds of stories could potentially affect their faith. But it is a matter of conviction more than anything else. (Also see: Are movies like Harry Potter OK for Christians?)
In contrast, things like Ouija boards and seances are the biblical definition of “witchcraft” and can’t honestly be defended under any circumstances. Most “occult” concepts are deliberately tied to Satanic demons or spirits—and that’s extremely dangerous territory. When in doubt, it’s wise for believers to keep their distance from anything called "witchcraft" in real life until they know more about what’s really involved.
The Bible doesn’t warn about broomsticks, wands, and cauldrons because that’s not what “real” witchcraft is. When Scripture speaks of "witchcraft," it refers to an attempt to talk to demons or the dead, usually for the purpose of attaining spirituality, knowledge, or power. Even if it doesn’t really work, attempting those things is still dangerous because it means coming in contact with spirits who want nothing more than to hurt you (Isaiah 8:19). Science fiction and fantasy style magic like Harry Potter will never be real—but occult concepts like Ouija boards are exactly what the Bible tells us to avoid.
Jeff is a staff writer with Got Questions Ministries and used to be a mechanical engineer. When he's not accidentally setting things on fire in his workshop, or petting strange dogs, he loves helping people better understand God’s Word and how it applies to our lives. Jeff's calling is to untangle the "big picture" of Christian faith, making it easier to understand.