The term Wiccaphobia stands for the fear of witches or fear of witchcraft and is derived from the combination of the Old English word wicca meaning male witch (wicce is female witch) and the Greek word phobos which means deep aversion or fear. Wiccaphobia is a relatively common phobia that has a great deal of historical significance. In this article, we will study the different causes, symptoms and treatment options for this phobia.
Causes of Wiccaphobia
Wiccaphobia, as stated above, has a great deal of historical significance. Its roots can be traced back to the era between the 14th and 17th centuries (known as The Burning Times) when witches were burnt mainly in English colonies of North East America. Popular places where witches were burnt then were Salem, Virginia etc. The Burning Times may actually be viewed as mass hysteria. Plagues, droughts and other natural disasters during these times were often attributed to witchcraft which further fuelled the fear of witches. Witchcraft came to be viewed upon as an unpardonable offence which resulted in capital punishment. Many an innocent woman was also condemned due to it. Today, people may be much more accepting of witches and wizards thanks to pop culture fiction like Harry Potter. However, many schools and libraries continue to ban such literature claiming that it promotes the interest in witchcraft.
All this has actually led to a proliferation in the cults of people claiming to be worshipers or followers of the Wicca; groups that worship certain Gods and Goddesses but not the Satan. If statistics are to be believed, there are nearly 700,000 self proclaimed witches and wizards today in the world! These consist of pagans who believe in earth based spirituality and participate in rituals and traditions, often making use of herbs and other symbolic relics. In reality, pagans are no more dangerous than a bunch of people. Still, the fear of witches exists today thanks to cinemas and literature. Here are some quotes on witches and witchcraft made by famous people and popular writers:
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- “Tis now the very witching time of night when churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out contagion to this world’- Shakespeare in Macbeth.
- “When I was a child, there were many witches and they bewitched cattle and men, especially children”- Martin Luther.
Much like xenophobia (fear of foreigners), Wiccaphobia has its roots in the fear of the unknown. What the mind cannot perceive or what it deems as unusual, it fears. The root cause of fear of witches may also be prejudice and stereotypes. The mind unknowingly conjures images of dark, ugly women having sharp, dirty fingernails and warts on her crooked nose. Historically, witches are believed to ‘stop cows from giving milk’ or ‘prevent women from getting pregnant’ or ‘making handsome men fall head over heels in love with the witch’. Witchcraft thus has negative connotations like black magic or dark arts over which ‘normal’ people have no powers. In short: witches represent everything that is threatening. Religious beliefs and legends fuel this fear further. Many popular childhood stories have often reinforced beliefs that witches are bad. Today, there are many Churches that continue to teach its members that witches are evil. Childhood traumatic experience associated with witches could also be responsible for the fear of witches.
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Symptoms of fear of witches phobia
The fear of witches is more dangerous to the witches and wizards than the wiccaphobe him/herself. Here are some symptoms of wiccaphobia:
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- Shortness of breath, increased heart rate, sweaty palms at the thought of witches.
- Fear of death or dying.
- Irrational thoughts of being a witch oneself.
- Avoiding places supposed to be haunts of witches.
Treatment for Wiccaphobia
- Talk therapy is the best treatment for Wiccaphobia. Your therapist might ask you many questions about your religious beliefs. If spirituality or religion is the root cause of your phobia, your therapist may recommend speaking to a spiritual leader or pastor.
- Another treatment option for wiccaphobia is cognitive behavior therapy. This is a scientific process that helps in overcoming anxiety disorders and is based on emphasizing behavior. The principle behind CBT is that people can change their behavior by gradually facing something they have been avoiding. Such exposure therapy has shown great results and has helped many a wiccaphobe tackle the problem.
- Medication is another option to treat wiccaphobia but it should be viewed as the last resort. Tranquilizers and anti-anxiety drugs quickly lead to addiction and their beneficial effects often wear off after a few doses.
- Alternative remedies for fear of witches including acupressure, homeopathy and Ayurveda have helped people owing to their placebo effect. However, there is no research evidence to prove them and most of these natural remedies are unregulated in the United States.
- Psychotherapy is the traditional treatment for Wiccaphobia and is based on the principle that, like all other phobias, this fear is also a product of an underlying childhood conflict. However, a good psychotherapist should not overlook the biological underpinnings along with social factors that may be behind the fear of witches’ phobia.
- Self help is another top approach that may help eradicate Wiccaphobia once and for all. You can join support-groups set up for people with panic attacks, OCD or anxiety. Talking in a group often helps and sharing stories is a great way of connecting with others dealing with similar fears. Many online and offline support groups offer a wide variety of services in the form of literature, audio tapes and DVDs. They can also help you connect with therapists over the phone or email.
As a sufferer of wiccaphobia, your first port of call should be to your physician who can connect you with a psychiatrist. Whichever option you choose for treating the fear of witches’ phobia; do try it for at least 3 months in order to see results.