One of the greatest misunderstandings of the Wiccan mindset is in our concept of power.

Many Christians, informed by people who dabbled in magic out of a sense of powerlessness or desperation, think that what the quest for power is at the heart of our faith.

There are those- usually young people who feel rejected by their peers- who attempt to use magic as an attempt to gain material wealth or even harm others.  These are not the ones who usually get serious about the Craft, but the ones who burn out quickly when they realize just how much harm they’re doing to themselves.

The down side is, they’re also the ones who will denounce us most loudly because they believe we’re after the same things they were.

Even among secular media, the vocabulary of “power” comes in.  A National Geographic documentary had this reeker of a quote: “In return for their faith, the spirits grant them the power of magic.”

In short, even secular media can draw a very crass parallel to the Christian notion of witches: those who pledge devotion to the devil in exchange for power.

When discussing our faith with non-pagans, that’s the kind of misunderstanding we have to contend with, and we have to be very careful to discuss what magic actually means to us.

Some points to consider when discussing the topic of magic:

1. Magic is not a “special power” granted to a privileged class. We believe that everyone has some capacity to perform magic because we believe that magic is nothing more or less than a force of nature common to all beings.  We believe in honing the abilities we already have, not in acquiring new “powers.”

2. Magic is not taken lightly by serious witches. The Rede- the closest thing we have to a holy text that most of us believe in- is very specific about it.  We believe not only in active works of magic, but in passive ones; thus “An though it harm none, do as ye will” means (if I may borrow Buddhist terminology) right thought as well as right action.

3. Magic, like all actions, has consequences. We share common ground with Christianity inasmuch as we believe in reaping what we sow.  More specifically, the Threefold Law tells us we’ll get worse than what we dish out.

4. Many people perform magic and never realize it. This was something I learned from my studies in anthropology.  All those good luck rituals people do are more than just a simple mannerism, they’re a bid to invoke invisible forces for positive change.  For example, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always ordered ginger ale when flying on an airliner.  Long before I had converted, I developed this habit, and it always seemed better this way.  I was using the ginger ale as a charm or talisman to ward off danger, even if I’d have never admitted that back in those days.  And what about the sometimes elaborate rituals performed by baseball players?  Some of the rituals are very shamanic at their heart, and most players (especially pitchers) swear by them.