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Is Wicca a Dangerous Cult? Facts About the Wiccan Religion

A Wiccan of 25 years, Sage likes to put her background as a writer and teacher to use by helping people learn about this NeoPagan path.

Is Wicca Dangerous?

There are many websites that call Wicca a 'cult'. A lot of people visit religious message boards to ask about the nature of Wicca—often, either they or a family member are interested in trying it, but they have heard terrible things about it from others. Unfortunately, much of this content is misinformed and does not adequately represent this religion. Long story short, Wicca is a religion that welcomes and accepts any and all practitioners; it is a path that incorporates flexibility, inclusion, and acceptance in how it is practiced. In this piece, I will break down the definition of a cult and compare Wicca and its practices to those of an actual cult.

Definition of a 'Cult'

When we’re talking about labels, I like to turn to the dictionary first for clarification. So, I looked up the listing on

cult [kuhlt] Noun

  1. a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies.
  2. an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers.
  3. the object of such devotion.
  4. a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.
  5. Sociology. a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.

'Cult' is actually the sociological term synonymous with 'religion.' It has no negative or positive denotations. It’s a neutral term.

Therefore, yes—in a sociological sense, Wicca is a cult. All pagan religions are cults. Judaism is a cult. All denominations of Christianity (including non-denominational Christianity) are cults. Hinduism, Buddhism, and Scientology—they are all cults in a sociological sense.

The word cult is more often used, however, when people are referring to the destructive cults. There is no doubt that there are, and have been, cults in which members are in danger or are a direct threat to the public. Some famous ones that made headlines include the Manson Family, the Branch Davidians, and Heaven’s Gate.

The question then becomes: Does the Wiccan religion qualify as one of these destructive cults?

Let’s have a look at expert evaluations of the characteristics of a dangerous cult as defined by the International Cultic Studies Association and compare them to Wicca.

Follow the Leader

Cult CharacteristicsCharacteristics of Wicca

Excessive zealotry/unquestioning commitment to leader and his teachings (whether leader is alive or dead)

While Wicca's founder, Gerald Gardner, is respected as 'a' leader, he is not considered 'the' leader. Wicca has no messiah, no prophets, no figure of ultimate authority. Wicca has changed considerably since Gardner.

Leadership dictates how members should think, act, feel, and how they should live their lives.

There are no universal laws/rules in Wicca about how to live or how to think. In fact, a common criticism in Wicca is that we can't all agree on our own religion's beliefs.

No accountability of leadership (leader is ultimate authority at all times in organization; no other board or religious authorities can question or override).

Wiccan groups and individuals practice autonomously, without any overhead church or organization directing beliefs and practices. Most Wiccans don't even belong to a group. Some groups may create their own organizational structure and/or heirarchy, which has no power outside that group.

Goals or Missions

Cult CharacteristicsCharacteristics of Wicca

Recruiting new members, even using deception, is a primary goal.

Wicca does not seek converts. In fact, we more often discourage hasty conversions, no matter how excited a person is about Wicca, urging people to read, learn and think through their own beliefs first. Wiccan covens and groups turn away people for membership if they feel people would not be a good fit for the already established group.

Making money is a primary goal.

Wicca has no overhead organization that demands money. Groups may chip in for their own supplies that they all use. Larger, open groups may ask for donations to cover expenses of events, such as renting a space or paying for permits. But most Wiccans are solitaries and never required to join a group, attend an event or make a donation.

Group promotes the idea that the ends justify whatever means it deems necessary to carry out a ‘mission’.

There is no overall mission to our religion other than for members to find spiritual fulfillment in it if they can. Wicca is not a religion of moral absolutes. We promote ethical behavior in the form of people acting responsibly, being accountable and using their heads in any given situation.

Wiccans choose the tools and practices that work best for them as an individual.

Wiccans choose the tools and practices that work best for them as an individual.


Cult CharacteristicsCharacteristics of Wicca

Members are controlled through doubt, guilt, shame, peer pressure.

Since most members are solitaries who practice autonomously, this isn't even possible for most Wiccans. Covens and groups generally make decisions democratically or by consensus.

Mind-altering practices are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts.

There are no Wiccan practices required in excess at all. We use chanting and meditation for various reasons—relaxation, celebration, spiritual exploration—but considering we're allowed to find and make up our own, there is no agenda of suppression involved.

Questions, doubt and dissent are discouraged and/or punished.

Wicca actually encourages questions and encourages people to explore doubts, even if it brings them to the conclusion that Wicca is not for them.

Fosters us-versus-them mentality. 'Us' is the group; 'them' is everyone else in society.

Wiccans do not see our religions as the only way, or the only right way, or that there is any problem with not being Wiccan.

Many Wiccans Practice Solo


Cult CharacteristicsCharacteristics of Wicca

Membership requirements in terms of time, efforts and money to be dedicated to the group are exhaustive and excessive.

Wicca doesn't require membership at all. Joining a group is entirely voluntary. Groups generally meet once per week to once per month; hardly excessive.

Members are encouraged or required to live with the group, or only socialize with group members.

It's extremely rare to find a group of Wiccans who live together. There is no overhead authority directing a Wiccan's socialization.

Group attempts to isolate members, encouraging cutting ties with family, friends, changing activities or even jobs.

Most Wiccans are solitary in their practice. Groups don't live together. There is no isolation. Most Wiccans will even go to family and friends for their religious holidays or rites of passage, even if it's a different religions.

Most loyal members are unable to imagine life outside of group and fear leaving.

There is no fear of leaving Wicca. Wiccans are encouraged to leave Wicca if they don't feel it's fulfilling. Many Wiccans maintain friendships with ex-Wiccans.

Why Do Some People Claim the Wiccan Religion Is a Dangerous Cult?

  1. Ignorance. There are some people who are very misinformed on what Wicca is and what it's about. They don't bother to do the research, or they've done research in very poor, biased sources.
  2. Because their own religious authorities told them it is. Many people have learned from leaders in their own religion that Wicca is a cult. Many Christian websites in particular will target Wicca and call it a cult. Ironically, they discourage honest research and critical thinking about Wicca and pressure their own followers into simply accepting their authority on the matter (which are actually characteristics of a cult).
  3. Because Wicca is different from their own religion. There are sadly some people who assume that any religion with teachings different from their own must make it a dangerous cult. Ironically, that very 'us vs. them' mentality is also one of the characteristics of a cult.

It's horrible when people spread misinformation and propaganda, but it happens. This is why I'm so glad that Wicca is a religion that does encourage us to read and explore and think for ourselves. The beauty of it is, you don't just have to take my word for it. Do a little research on your own, read some books about Wicca, go attend a Wiccan gathering, talk to some Wiccans, and you'll find that our religion doesn't qualify as an oppressive, thought-controlling institution. Disagree with us all you will, it's your right; but at least disagree with what our religion actually is.

Wiccan Chants: Prayers of Religious Celebration

The Pentagram: What Does It Really Mean?

The pentagram is the primary Wiccan symbol, which probably helps contribute to some misunderstanding. This symbol is probably not what you think it is—you may be surprised to find out where it comes from and how it's been used through the ages.

For clarification, read Wicca for Beginners: What is a Pentagram or Pentacle?.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2014 Mackenzie Sage Wright


Silas777 on November 16, 2019:

Sometimes Wicca isn’t even a religion. There are two types of Wiccans: the ones that practice it as a religion and those who practice it as an occult lifestyle.

Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on October 15, 2014:

Thanks Mel; I do think there are people out there who will believe what is on their agenda to believe, no matter what anyone says. But then there are other people who just want to be informed, whether they agree or not. So hopefully this will clear up any misconceptions set out by those with an agenda. Thanks for commenting.

Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on October 15, 2014:

Thanks for your comment katherine!

Mel92114 on October 06, 2014:

Terrific hub. I so enjoy your well-researched writings. I'm not currently Wiccan but I do share many similar beliefs and find it quite irksome when the uninformed or misinformed make unsubstantiated claims about it. It's great information like this article that helps, I do hope, people realize that things may not always be what they seem.

Well done :)

katherine on September 26, 2014:

very informative

Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on September 18, 2014:

Hi SFIA! thanks for your kind words. I find it takes all kinds-- I have met intolerant Wiccans who are prejudice against mainstream religions like Christianity or other alternative religions like Satanism; and I have many dear Christian friends who fully accept me for who I am and respect my religion. I think in every religion people make choices of whether they are going to be intolerant and remain ignorant, or whether they are going to be tolerant and educate themselves. Hopefully, more people will learn we can co-exist. Thanks for stopping by!

SFIAOgirl021 on September 17, 2014:

thnx i hope i do figure it all out i've been reading some of ur work wiccansage and i am enjoying learning u keep it simple and easy to understand and it's to the point i like that because in the things i've read about wiccans that were written by wiccans (not bashing or things Christians have put out there) i've found ur the only religion that doesn't feel the need to denounce others and that u r fine if someone studies the religion and finds it's not for them that u can still be friends with them i think that's very honorable of wiccans to be that way when they r shot down by those who don't give them a second thought because of misconceptions Christians claim to accept others and claim to be loving accepting ppl even if they r different and they don't do it and the ironic thing is they say Wiccans r evil and horrible when u do the very things that they claim to do but the difference is u actually do it u accept those for who they r and will associate with those who r different from u if they r kind to u i find it ironic that u r the kind of ppl that Christians claim to be

Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on September 16, 2014:

Hi SFIA, thanks for your insights. I agree, being able to think for ourselves is very important in any religion-- and if a religion contains truth then there should be no fear of people thinking and learning.

I don't think we need to bash other religions to prove our own-- I don't agree with Christianity in many ways, but I'm not going to say it is a cult, or accuse Christians of things that are not true about them, and I would simply appreciate the same courtesy in return.

You sound like you are on a good spiritual track-- you think for yourself and you are seeking answers rather than blindly following. You will surely find your true path and I wish you well on it.

SFIAOgirl021 on September 16, 2014:

i like how u made this ur not bashing or purposely talking bad about Christians u state facts and show them side by side and the best thing is ur respectful about it when Christians compare other religions even different denominations r different they bash and lie and other such things and then they explain why their specific branch of religion can be the only possible right way to live my grandma is Church of God and my mother is Catholic and my grandmother will constantly help her church bash Catholics and yes i have heard the bashing for myself i don't assume it i've heard it personally and they bash them saying the worship Mary and i hate when ppl misuse the word worship there is a difference between worshiping and honoring the Catholics honor Mary because she was the mother of jesus Catholics DO worship God/Jesus and the difference between honoring and worshipping is when u worship something/one u r devoting urselves TO them/it and deciding their teachings r truth and u believe what they say to be true and u want to live by their teachings and their honoring someone is different it means u think they r important and a very good person who deserves respect and admiration it doesn't mean u want to live by their teachings no it means u show them respect for who they r for example we honor the memories of fallen soldiers right? but we don't worship them and put them up on pedestals as gods? so there is a difference and i really can't stand almost to the hate word when ppl spout ignorance instead of opening their mind and learning about it themselves because what's sad is ppl who rn't Christians and don't believe in the bible or Jesus or the teachings of that they read the bible more then most Christians do i think it's sad that non Christians read the Christian bible more then ppl who actually say they r Christians if these Christians want to "bring us back home" as they call it no offense but maybe they should read their own book so they can read what the nonbelievers have already studied in great depth and rejected if u want to know why they left the religion read ur own book it's the book Christians claim to be the foundation of their whole mindset so why don't they read it? r they afraid that if they study it closely like the nonbelievers have that they'll lose their faith? i may not know what religion i want to associate with because i'm open mindingly studying to see what it is i believe but i do know that i don't want any part of ANY religion that frowns upon me thinking for myself and not studying the very foundation of the religion or want me to bash others that rn't like them i don't want part in a hateful close minded religion if there's a denomination of Christianity that isn't completely close minded and is actually willing to listen to others ideas and beliefs without shoving them down then sure tell me all about it....*doubts anyone will find anything* lol sry sarcasm there but i am serious i want to find what's for me and not what isn't i want to always have an open mind to all things because even if i end up an atheist who doesn't believe in any type of deity which i was an atheist at one point in my lifelong ago when i made bad choices for myself and even then my motto has always been "who am i to judge what i do not understand" i think if u don't understand what u r judging and bashing and condeming then u don't have a right to do any of that in the first place "don't judge what u don't know" if u don't know anything about it then how do u know it's so bad? there's the question of the universe for the close minds out there lol

Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on February 19, 2014:

Thanks Grand Old Lady, thanks for stopping by I appreciate your comment!

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on February 18, 2014:

Interesting to know that many Wiccans practice alone and don't have to join a coven or group.

Mackenzie Sage Wright (author) on February 18, 2014:

Thanks so much Phyllis, I appreciate the comment. Wicca is not as unknown as when I first converted but there is always misinformation being thrown around the internet haphazardly.

Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on February 17, 2014:

Sage, this is a really great, well-written, and informational article. I am so glad you have written it and glad I found it. So many misconceptions and erroneous connotations have been applied to the Wicca Faith and the Pentagram over the years. It is good to see an article like this that clears up the truth of the faith. I have many Wiccan friends and they all have respect for others who have different faith systems. Thanks for writing and sharing this.