Topics covered in this page are:
Some people (particularly individuals involved in occultic activities) look
upon the occult as fascinating, mysterious, spiritual and a source of
knowledge and healing power. Others (particularly conservative Christians)
see it as being profoundly evil, criminal, destructive, life threatening,
and Satanic; it is a word that generates horror and revulsion in them.
Although it is common for people to differ in their religious views, it is
rare to have a disparity as extreme as this.
The word occult is derived from the Latin word occultus which
means "hidden". Occult blood is a medical term which refers to
blood which cannot be seen, except perhaps under a microscope. The
Occult has been defined (1) as any activity which
- is esoteric (employs knowledge that is not known to the general public,
but which is only revealed gradually to a selected few), and
- depends upon those talents which lie beyond the five senses, and
- engages with the supernatural.
Unfortunately, such a definition has serious flaws:
- Consider a person who joins an adult religion class at their local
church and is taught how to pray. This activity would meet all of the three
criteria for the occult: it has to be taught; it can be a silent prayer - a
means of communicating without spoken words; it is directed at God.
- Consider a Ceremonial Magician performing a healing spell. She/he might
believe that the spell taps into perfectly natural forces - parts of
the universe that science has not yet been able to explain. They might feel
that they are not part of the Occult, since they are not dealing with the
- During mass, a Roman Catholic priest will perform a ritual which
involves certain words and actions. The end result is that the wafer and
wine is believed to literally become the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
This act of magic would meet these three criteria, and thus be occultic.
- Most lists of occultic activity includes Wicca
(often referred to by the public as "White" Witchcraft), and various methods
of foretelling the future (e.g. astrology, tarot cards, I Ching, etc). But
literally hundreds of books have been published on these topics. Anyone
can learn as much as they wish by simply buying or borrowing books. Since
knowledge is not hidden, these beliefs and activities do not meet the first
- Some Wiccans practice their faith (derived from the religion of the
ancient Celts) without engaging in divination or healing spells. This
practice would be no different (in principle) from a Hindu or a Jehovah's
Witness pursuing their faith and worshipping their deity or deities. Unless
one is willing to define all religions and faith groups as occultic,
then this form of Wicca/Witchcraft could not be considered part of the
We would offer the following rather simple definition:
A set of mostly unrelated divination and/or spiritual
practices or activities which are not part of a person's
faith or of any large world religion.
Note that this definition is relative to one's personal religion. Thus,
Tarot card readings might be:
This is how the term is used in practice; people in different faith
groups have very different meanings for "the Occult". No consensus on its
- a dangerous example of the occult as seen by an Evangelical or
- an integral non-occultic component of their religion, as seen by a Wiccan
- a harmless occultic hobby or pastime as seen by a Unitarian.
Many Evangelicals and Fundamentalist Christians include within the Occult
an enormous range of practices:
- Religions & Spiritual Movements
- Ceremonial Magick (the use of rituals, spells, chants to change the
- Gothic Satanism (non-existant, anti-Christian faith whose members
engage in cannibalism, human sacrifice, etc)
- Gothic Witchcraft (non-existant faith created during the
Renaissance to justify the Witch burnings
- Hinduism (one of the world's great
- Hindu sects of various types
- Macumba (a Brazilian religion which combines
Roman Catholicism and African native beliefs)
- New Age (a system of thought including belief in monism, pantheism,
reincarnation, personal transformation, spirit guides, etc. Includes
practices such as channeling, use of crystals, meditation, etc)
- Rosicrucianism (an ancient syncretistic religion dating back to the 17th
- Santeria (a Caribbean religion which combines Roman Catholicism and
African native beliefs)
- Satanism (modern religion based on a pre-Christian concept of Satan,
who is recognized either as a principle or as a supernatural being)
- Spiritualism (communication via a medium with the spirit world)
- Thesophy (a religious group based on the writings of Helena Blavatsky)
- UFO cults (groups who believe that extra-terrestrial beings are
attempting to communicate with us and lead humans to a higher plane of
- Vodun (a Caribbean religion which combines
Roman Catholicism and African native beliefs)
- Voodoo (non-existant religion from the Caribbean invented by
Hollywood horror movies)
- Wicca (White Witchcraft, a Neo-Pagan earth
based religion similar to Native American spirituality)
- Divination Techniques
- Casting of Runes
- Palm Reading
- Tarot Card Reading
- Tea Cup Reading
- Adult games (e.g. Ouiji Boards)
- Children's TV programs and cartoons (e.g. She-ra)
- Children's toys (e.g. Smurfs)
- Fantasy role-playing games (e.g. Dungeons
- Other Activities
- Fire walking (walking on a bed of glowing coals without shoes)
- Heavy metal rock music
- Holistic Health Practices (healing by acupuncture, flower remedies, etc)
- Membership in the Masonic Lodge (or similar men's fraternal
- Modern educational methods
- Novels by specific authors (e.g. Carlos Casteneda)
Many books have been written by Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christian
authors in opposition to the Occult. See references 2 to 9. Most are filled
with misinformation and are quite unreliable. It is probable that an
accurate book written on the Occult and sold through Christian book stores
would be an economic failure; it could not compete with the fear and lurid
descriptions of its inaccurate competitors. One partial exception (10)
appears to be a "transition book" - one that offers some accurate data but
which still contains a great deal of misleading information. The book is
"When the Devil Dares your Kids, Protecting Your Children from Satanism,
Witchcraft and the Occult" by Bob and Gretchen Passantino.
We have a critical review of the book available.
The Passantinos are considerably more accurate than other Evangelical Christian
authors, which usually project a totally false view of the Occult.
Many of the latter state or imply that:
- all occultic activities are controlled by demonic forces and inspired
- engaging in any occultic practice will lead to personal demon possession
- all occultic activities are controlled by an invisible international
organization that is seeking total political power
- all elements of the occult hate Christianity and are plotting to
- once you start in the occult you are never permitted to leave
- all occultic practices are recruiting programs for Satanism
- "occult crime" is a separate class of criminal activity inspired by
- the occult is responsible for tens of thousands of human sacrifices
- all elements of the occult recruit extensively, and concentrate heavily
- Witchcraft and Satanism are essentially identical
None of the above beliefs about the occult are believed to have any merit.
In promoting these untruths, the authors do sell a lot of books. However,
- Disobeying the many Biblical injunctions against giving false witnesses
- Damaging the credibility of their own and other conservative Christian
- Contributing to the public's association of conservative Christianity
with fraud, hatred, intolerance and misinformation
- Making more difficult the task of converting people in the Occult to
Pat Robertson, his Christian Coalition and 700 Club discuss
the occult frequently. In his book, The New World Order, he describes
a world-wide conspiracy whose goal is to establish "an occult-inspired
world socialist dictatorship"....[a] new world order based on the overthrow
of civil governments, the church and private property.". He identifies
the leader of the conspiracy is "international Freemasonry." which he
believes is dominated by "satanists and occultists." By this century,
he writes that a Freemasonic coalition of "humanists" and
"occultists" had seized control of governments, schools, banks, the media
and "apostate" churches.
There are a number of instances in the Bible where respected leaders were
involved with magic and the occult, apparently without any condemnations
- In Genesis 44:5, Joseph's household manager refers to a silver
drinking cup "...in which my lord drinketh and whereby indeed he
devineth". Later, Joseph accuses his brothers of stealing the cup,
saying "that such a man as I can certainly divine [the identity of the
thieves]". These passages show that Joseph engaged in scrying.
This is an ancient occultic method of divination in which a cup or other
vessel is filled with water and gazed into. This technique of foretelling the
future was used by Nostradamus and is still used today.
- the Urim and Thummim were two objects mentioned in Numbers
27:21 and 1 Samuel 28:6 of the Hebrew Scriptures. They were apparently
devices (perhaps in the form of flat stones) that the high priest
consulted to determine the will of God. They might have worked something
like a pair of dice.
- Elisha was on his way to Bethel. Some small boys came out of the city
and made fun of him because of his lack of hair; they called him "baldy".
In a violent display of black magic, Elisha cursed the children in the name
of God. Two bears, apparently prompted by God, came out of the forest and
tore 42 of the boys to shreds, apparently killing them. See 2 Kings 23-24.
- Daniel, the prophet, was employed for many years in Babylon as the
chief occultist to the king. He was supervisor "of the magicians,
astrologers, Chaldeans and soothsayers". See Daniel 5:11.
There are many Biblical passages that described some prohibited types of
occultic activity by the ancient Israelites. These include Exodus 22:18,
Leviticus 19:26-26; 19:31; 20:6; Deuteronomy 18:10-11; Isaiah 8:19 and
Malachai 3:5. Deuteronomy 18 is perhaps the most important. They forbade the
Israelites from engaging in human sacrifice and in eight specific practices
which some have been regarded as occultic. The King James translation is:
"There shall not be found among you anyone that maketh his
son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth
divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter or a witch,
or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard,
or a necromancer.
Various other translations of the Bible use the following terms or phrases
augur, black magic, calls up the dead, charm, consults with spirits,
fortune teller, interpret omens, look for omens, magician, medium, sorcerer,
soothsayer, spiritist, weaves or casts spells, witchcraft, and
Clearly, translators have had a great deal of difficulty selecting unique
English words or short phrases to match the 8 original Hebrew words:
- yid'oni Making contact with spirits (not of God)
- sho'el 'ov Making contact with the dead
- qosem q'samim Foretelling the future by using lots or a similar
- m'onen Predicting the future by interpreting signs in nature
- m'nachesh Enchanting (perhaps related to nachash, a snake)
- chover chavar Casting spells by magical knot tying
- m'khaseph sorcery; using spoken spells to harm other people
- doresh 'el hametim "One who asks the dead", probably via another
method than sho'el 'ov
The reference to passing children through the fire has historically been
interpreted as the ritual killing of the first born child in
each family. Tribes surrounding the Israelites were believed to engage in
this practice. In reality, it probably refers to a coming-of-age challenge
that children had to endure. They would pass through the fire and
(hopefully) emerge without much injury. In other traditions, they would
run between two fires. This phrase has caused many people to believe that
Pagans in ancient times engaged in child sacrifice. This might cause some
Christians to assume that modern day Pagans do the same thing. They don't.
This phrase (and many similar ones throughout the Bible) has probably
contributed greatly to the public's widely held fear of
Ritual Abuse and
Satanic Ritual Abuse.
Deuteronomy 18 clearly prohibits modern day practices of:
Other currently used methods of foretelling the future, such as tea cup
reading, astrology, palm reading, tarot cards, runes etc are not mentioned.
It is thus not obvious whether they are not permitted (as in snake charming)
or whether they are acceptable to God (as in scrying). A Membership in the
Masonic Order (or similar fraternal/spiritual organization) is not banned.
Wicca (Witchcraft) which does not allow its followers to engage in black
magic or manipulative spells is not prohibited here. Black magic rituals,
as occasionally performed by Satanists as revenge to injury done to them
by others would be condemned.
- yid'oni The New Age practice of channeling in which a person
attempts to contact a spirit in order to gain knowledge
- sho'el 'ov Spiritualism, in which a medium contacts the dead
- qosem q'samim Casting stones or sticks and predicting the
future by their position (e.g. I Ching, and perhaps runes, or Tarot cards)
- m'onen Foretelling the future by looking for signs in nature
(e.g. predicting the harshness of a winter by looking at moss on trees,
or fur thickness on animals in the wild, or whether the groundhog sees his
- m'nachesh Snake charming
- chover chavar Casting (presumably evil) spells while tying knots.
- m'khaseph Reciting evil spells to injure others
- doresh 'el hametim Any other method of contacting the dead
The Biblical passages appear to apply to persons who are directly engaged in
the various practices (e.g. mediums, channelers, astrologers, etc); they do
not seem to refer to people who simply observe the activity.
The Greek word pharmakos which appears in Galatians 5:20 refers to
poisoners, but has been mis-translated as witchcraft in the King
James Version. Since no occultic activity engages in killing people by
poison, the verse does not refer in any way to the Occult.
"The Occult" is simply a list of mostly unrelated practices and activities.
It does not exist as an organization. Occult Crime does not exist,
any more than Christian or Jewish Crime exists.
The exact makeup of the Occult depends upon your own religious beliefs.
There is no general consensus. Some lists divide the Occult into three
To these lists, conservative Christians often add many unrelated activities
that they do not approve of: playing games, listening to rock music, etc.
- Various harmless methods of foretelling the future:
- Astrology: The concept that one's future is dependent upon the precise
location of the sun, moon and planets at the time of birth.
- I Ching: an ancient Chinese oracle book which can be used to
foretell the future, answer questions, etc. The practitioner generates a
number from 1 to 64 by selecting sticks, or casting dice or coins.
The oracle book assigns different meanings to each of the numbers.
- Numerology: the practice of assigning a digit to each letter in
a person's name, and deriving a series of numbers which have special
significance to the person.
- Palm reading: foretelling a person's future by the creases in their palm
and shape of their fingers.
- Runes: a group of from 16 to 31 (typically 26) letters of an ancient
Northern European alphabet. The letters are inscribed on small rocks or pieces
of paper or (shudder) plastic. A group is cast, and the future foretold from
the runes that land inverted and not inverted, as well as from their
- Scrying: a technique of producing visions of the future by gazing into a
crystal ball, black mirror, bowl of water, hot coals from a fire, etc.
- Tarot cards: fortune telling through the use of a pack of 78 Tarot cards
which can be divided into four suites (wands, cups, pentacles and swords).
Each suite has number cards (ace to 10), a king, queen, knight and knave.
In addition, there are 22 additional cards which form the greater arcana;
they include the Chariot, High Priestess, Juggler, Lovers, Moon, Sun,
Strength, Death, Devil, etc. The cards are shuffled; a few are dealt and
laid in a specific formation (circle, cross, square, etc). The cards are
interpreted according to their inherent meaning, as modified by the
significance of their location.
- Teacup reading: foretelling the future by the shapes formed by tea leaves
after a cup of tea has been consumed
- Other methods: Future events have been predicted through the use of
dice, dominos, dream interpretation, pendulum movements, playing cards, etc.
- Religious and Spiritual Pursuits
These are normally a group of unrelated minority religions which are very
different from that of the person making up the list (Eastern religions,
Santeria, Satanism, Vodun, Wicca, etc)
This is a list of many schools of practice involving rituals and spells
which are used to change the environment, in order to reach the magician's
Return to the OCRT home page.
The following Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christian anti-Occult references
were consulted. None are particularly reliable, but may be useful to read
for amusement or to gain an understanding of the mind set of people who
fear the occult.
- D.W. Hoover, How to Respond to the Occult, Concordia, St. Louis
(1977) P. 8
- J. McDowell & D. Stewart, The Occult, Here's Life, San Bernadino
- N. Price, New Age, the Occult and Lion Country Power Books,
New Tappan NJ (1989)
- Texe Marrs, New Age Cults & Religions, Living Truth, Austin (1990)
- W.Viser, The Darkness Among Us, Broadman & Holman, Nashville
- E. Winker, The New Age is Lying to You, Concordia, St. Louis
- D. Hunt, America: The Sorcerer's New Apprentice, Harvest House,
- T. Schwarz & D. Empey, Is Your Family Safe? Satanism, Zondervan,
Grand Rapids (1988)
- J. Michaelsen, Like Lambs to the Slaughter, Harvest House,
- B & G Passantino, When The Devil Dares Your Kids, Servant,
Ann Arbor (1991)