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Is There Witchcraft in Christian Churches? A Talk with Father Kyle | Witchtok Community Voices

The debate rages on, but many of the debaters don't have all the pieces to argue with.

Christian Witch, Witchcraft, Mysticism, Magic, Crystals, Bible, Incense, Folklore, Sara Raztresen, God, Spirituality, Tarot, Occult, Evangelical, Demons, Sin, Danger, Possession, Idolatry, Discernment, Church, Episcopalian, Faith Crisis, Deconstruction

"Church is basically just ceremonial magic!"


Of course people would say this nowadays: that there's witchcraft in Christian churches. Anyone can walk into a Catholic or Orthodox or Episcopal church and see it: the bells, the holy waters and oils and salts, the candles, the incense, the gold and the prayer beads (called rosaries). To anyone who engages in what we call witchcraft today, there's no difference between frankincense burned in a church before a service and frankincense burned at home before a ritual. Or candles prayed over in church and candles lit to commune with a pagan deity. Or a novena prayer to appeal to a Saint and an elaborate incantation to appeal to a deity. Or holy oil to anoint and bless a person and protection oils enchanted to do the exact same thing.


It's witchcraft in these churches, plain and simple—witchcraft in the modern sense of the word. The "old school spirituality" sense of the word.


But how many times have Christians come across this phrase, be it online or elsewhere, and felt a little... shocked? Appalled? Maybe even offended? How many times have they come across people claiming that Christians have always done magic, and that Jesus Himself was a witch, and stared in wide-eyed shock, their jaws hitting the floor at the idea that anyone would even think such a thing, let alone say it?


I don't know; I've never asked them. But what I can tell you is that I've seen my fair share of them outraged at these ideas, not realizing the kernels of truth in each statement. For instance, every other Saturday, I host a Tiktok LIVE sermon for my fellow Christian witches (which gets reuploaded to YouTube): a virtual church service that aims to unite my fellow witches of God and let His power come down to settle among us like thick mist, and that invites Him into the conversation directly, getting His input on each verse pulled, each bit of the homily that I relate. Yes, this is church, structured just like any other tradition that follows a liturgical format—and yes, this is ceremonial magic.


And the one who taught me how to conduct this magic is, in fact, an Episcopalian priest—one with quite the magical background, who's walked with God, walked away, and then walked back in one big spiritual circle. Father Kyle has been an incredible mentor to me the more I step away from solitary magical practice and into communal magical workings and teachings, and he's shared with me some valuable wisdom and support as I navigate a completely different side of faith and spirituality that I didn't find myself in.


Moreover, he's one who has discovered the link between the practices mainstream Christianity calls "occult" and "demonic" and "dangerous" and the practices employed every single day in the church—as well as the value of mysticism in the Christian religion, and the burdens such a path asks one to bear in the name of faith.


The Entrance To and Exit From the Faith in Southern USA


Growing up in the south, in a small town in Georgia, Kyle was no stranger to religion. Like most folks, he grew up with it, regularly attending a Southern Baptist church with his family. His mother was a spiritual type, enjoying music and candles and other such tools to connect with God, while his father was more of the scholarly religious type, reading books and studying the faith to further understand its nuances. Combine that with a church who had a good pastor, a mild and gentle man that put the congregation first and painted 1 Corinthians 15:51 on the nursery wall:


Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed.


The focus of sermons was on God's love—on forgiveness, on community and goodwill and kindness. Back in 1989, the political overtone we now associate with mainstream Christianity hadn't completely infested every corner of the many Protestant denominations, and they wouldn't for another decade, giving Kyle time to grow up in a religious environment that wasn't so outrageous. The Evangelical ills were still somewhat contained to their own circles, pastors, and churches, even as they pushed to broaden their scope past their pulpits and out onto the broader stage of American life. In Kyle's church, their pastor had carte blanche to structure the sermon as he liked; there was none of what some might call the "stuffiness," the rigidity, of Catholic liturgical sermons, where the structure was the same each time with only a few bits changed here and there to keep up with the times and relevant messages. It was, for all intents and purposes, a good introduction to the faith for young Kyle, a reasonable set of expectations to be good people.


Until the pastor retired from preaching due to cancer, and a new, younger pastor was brought in.


"It was a big tonal shift," Kyle says. "Forget about God's love and mercy; this new pastor was actively threatening that if we weren't good enough, if we got something wrong, we'd lose that grace. All hellfire, all fear and pain."


And it didn't get any better. Around this time, as the years progressed, the more toxic denominations of Christianity got ahold of the Christian publishing companies that made the material pastors were to follow in weekly services. These materials were ones that focused more on those well known aspects of fear, control, and domination that so many folks shudder to remember growing up with, and the coming Clinton era certainly didn't make this political trajectory of the church any softer. Then came 9/11, and all of the wicked rhetoric that WASP-y pastors stung their congregations with, and Kyle, then a boy of around thirteen, found himself growing more and more disenchanted with the faith.


"I deconstructed before it was cool," he says with a chuckle. "But back then, we just called it a faith crisis."

A couple years later, as a high school student, Kyle couldn't stomach his youth pastor's vitriolic teachings about hellfire and suffering. He challenged the youth pastor about the Rapture, and all the wild claims about it, and what he got in response was a familiar, jeering line: read your Bible.


Translation: I don't know, and how dare you question me about it.


"They tell you this as a dismissal," Kyle notes. "It's a thought-terminating cliché meant to make you stop questioning them; it's an appeal to authority that doesn't exist outside the context of the Bible. But I decided I'd take that youth pastor up on his dare and read the entire Bible, cover to cover."


And so he did. He spent all summer reading it like a monk, dedicated to getting through the massive collection of ancient stories, and between that—the things he discovered in it that he'd never been told, that the pastors clearly didn't know themselves—and the rampant Islamophobia, the constant hellfire preaching, the sheer lack of ability to provide any useful answers about life in the first place, Kyle decided he was done with Christianity. He got into the University of Georgia and began to explore the spiritual world on his own.


"I deconstructed before it was cool," he says with a chuckle. "But back then, we just called it a faith crisis."


Discovering the World of Occult Philosophy and God (Again)


From then on, Kyle was on his own with religion—navigating spirituality, or the lack thereof, in a still largely Christian environment. However, this environment had some hidden gems—like a college girlfriend who was Episcopalian and showed Kyle to his first liturgical service, and a peer he tutored for their classes whose mother was a Christian interested in Wicca and had things like tarot cards and books she was willing to let Kyle have to explore further. The exposure to Episcopalian liturgy reminded him that not all Christian churches were the way his childhood church had become, and the Christian woman with a little Wiccan flare showed him avenues of spirituality outside what was considered "normal."


"She was the first 'Christian witch' I ever met," Kyle says. "And then I started learning how to read tarot cards, and as an RA of my dorm, I had people lining up for readings soon enough. 'The Wizard of Payne Hall'—that was me."


Naturally, when he went home for break one time and his mother found tarot cards in his search history, she wasn't thrilled—and plenty of the Christian students coming to him for readings were conflicted and confused, wondering whether or not they really should've been consulting with someone reading cards about issues that were bothering them. But Kyle looked at them a different way. He explained to them that the cards were just that: cards. All he was doing was shuffling them. It was God that was deciding which card to pull, or, in more Christian terms, which lot to cast. That seemed to help. He also learned more about ceremonial magic as a philosophy, and when he realized how much of it had to do with finding and understanding the mind of God, he realized tarot was just another tool in which a magician might do that, might get the big picture—and he felt, after realizing that, that he didn't really need tarot anymore.


"...As an RA of my dorm, I had people lining up for readings soon enough. 'The Wizard of Payne Hall'—that was me."

But then Kyle himself had a moment all of us tarot readers know well: a bona fide Tower moment. Classes giving him a hard time, family life all out of sorts, the work of being a college RA, it all came crashing down at once, and the pressure was immeasurable. And then one night, at two in the morning, one student knocked on his door, shoved a cell phone into his hand, and waited. Kyle blinked at him through bleary eyes, confused, and then pressed that phone to his ear.


"Hello?"


"Hi, I'm the university psychologist," the voice on the other line said. I have a favor to ask: can you watch over this young man until the paramedics arrive? Take care of him?"


"Take care of him how?" All the while, the student in question leaned against the door frame like it was the only thing holding him up—but there were no injuries anywhere that Kyle can see. "What do you mean?"


"Just talk to him. Make sure he doesn't hurt himself."


Then Kyle understood. The student shuffled around there, unsure, but Kyle agreed and hung up, handed the phone back, and invited the kid inside. Then they sat around Kyle's dorm, talking about anything and everything—mostly about how life sucked, relating stories back and forth—for an hour and a half until the paramedics arrived. And all that time, Kyle could only think of one thing: how little he actually had to offer in terms of helpful things to say. He'd wanted to be a psychologist, but that there was the moment he realized he could never be one.


"My soul felt hollow," he says. "There was just something empty, and there I was carrying around all this rage, and poison—and it wasn't helping me or anyone else."


So what did Kyle do? What anyone might in this situation: he got comfortable in a seat and unloaded years of frustration, anger, disappointment, and hurt onto God. Rattled off every grievance he had with God as if he could nail them on a church door and be done with them. Shouted and cursed and said everything he'd ever wanted to say, for the entire rest of the night. Told God that He was a monster who didn't love humanity, that apparently didn't give a damn about a single thing that happened to us. Kyle went on like this until the sun started to break through the darkness, and when the light hit his face, his voice hoarse and his lungs aching, he finally paused long enough to hear a little voice whisper to him:


The answer to your question of suffering is that I never left. You turned your back on Me. I have always been here.


"Hard to be an atheist when you experience something like that. But one thing led to another," like quitting his job as RA and needing a place to live, only to find himself unknowingly taking up residency in the interns' house for the Presbyterian ministry and becoming an intern of the church to get lower rent, "and I ended up realizing, once and for all, that yes, I was Christian."


After many nights of debating theology with another intern, and meeting the Episcopalian priest that headed the service he went to with his then ex-girlfriend, who remembered him and greeted him with the most casual "welcome back" ever, Kyle realized this. And he had a dream he was in a church procession in the priest's spot, which brought back something he'd long since buried: the memory of him sitting on the empty pews of his first church, completely alone, and feeling someone poke him in the very heart of him and whisper, Get baptized; I have plans.


And wouldn't you know? This June marks five years since Kyle's become a priest—five years since he began a path that gradually filled up that emptiness he'd felt in his dorm room with that one student.


Happy anniversary, Kyle.


How We Might Spot Witchcraft in Christian Churches

Christian Witch, Witchcraft, Mysticism, Magic, Crystals, Bible, Incense, Folklore, Sara Raztresen, God, Spirituality, Tarot, Occult, Evangelical, Demons, Sin, Danger, Possession, Idolatry, Discernment, Church, Episcopalian, Faith Crisis, Deconstruction

"Every time I think I have it all figured out, I learn something new," Kyle admits.


That just comes with the territory of being dedicated to God, in my experience. But it is true. There's always something more out there, and Kyle certainly had a fair share of oddball ways of learning about the world—including his mentor's insistence that he learn about God by reading a biology textbook by two Chilean communists titled The Tree of Knowledge. That's a mouthful. But it was things like this that expanded Kyle's understanding, that helped him apply the many spiritual concepts to everyday life and make it relatable to his congregation, and helped him build a healthy community as priest of his Episcopalian church. And with his background in occult philosophy, it also helped him understand the many connections between liturgy and ceremonial magic—which he continues to apply both in the church during sermons and outside the church in other contexts, such as house blessings.


"I mean. the Book of Occasional Services had a house blessing that was basically an exorcism," says Kyle, "and when I performed it, let me tell you, something happened."


The story goes like this: Kyle went to bless a new home, a modest thing, but one where the couple wanted to make sure nothing spooky was skulking around in it. So of course, Kyle goes in to bless the house, saying the words from the book, splashing holy water around the walls and floors, and inviting the Holy Spirit in. It wasn't a windy day to begin with, and the house's windows were closed—yet as Kyle read the book, asking the Holy Spirit to come through, a wind so strong it visibly blew the robes of his sleeves back rushed around the room. He looked at the homeowners, who looked at him, and they all sat there for a minute before Kyle shrugged.


"Well, if there was something in here before, it's gone now," he told them. And they laughed.


And that's what happens in a church setting, too. The point of church is to help the congregation connect to that energy of the Holy Spirit—to feel God's presence, really feel it, and remind them that they are loved by the Divine and worthy of that presence. The understanding of how energy is conducted in a ritual setting during occult practices translates exactly to how a priest conducts energy in a sermon, how they raise it with people and channel it in a way that it opens that door between Man and God. This process invites the Lord back into His own house to dwell like morning dew on His own children; it softens people's hearts so they might accept the peace and healing and remembrance that comes with such Divine power.


That's magic, baby.


Sometimes, of course, the church can get a little unruly, with disagreements on certain church decisions spooling into bigger problems between the parishoners—but any Christian witch knows that the Bible is a fantastic spellbook. So does Kyle's wife, Mary Rose, who once read Psalm 133 as if she were reading a spell from an ancient grimoire during a time where an argument was brewing among the people in church:


How good and pleasant it is

when God’s people live together in unity!


It is like precious oil poured on the head,

running down on the beard,

running down on Aaron’s beard,

down on the collar of his robe.

It is as if the dew of Hermon

were falling on Mount Zion.

For there the Lord bestows his blessing,

even life forevermore.


It's a difficult thing to grasp, but this is where the "witchcraft" is in churches. Not just in the incense or the candles or the blessed salts, oils, and water that most people think of when they think of New Age spiritual fun, these things that are so commonly found in churches, but in the Bible itself, in the congregation that opens their souls to their God, in the Eucharist that the priest transmutes to the Body of Christ, and most importantly, in the power that comes down from the Holy Spirit. I've said it once and I'll say it again: as Christians, we have that spark in us specifically to connect with God's power, and that's what helps us "call down the fire"; that's what gives us the power that separates Simon the Magos from Peter the Apostle.


And the aim of it isn't riches, or fame, or adoration. No, working this kind of magic is painful, because in it are revelations that tear layers of the ego off as if flaying one's skin clean off the muscle. It's full of harsh truths that fix the funhouse mirrors we surround ourselves with in the waking world, helping us see the truth of our situation, our being, and the power God gave us. It's a rocky path, a thankless path, and one that a good few prophets in the Bible themselves didn't make it to the end of alive, with how people hated them for saying things they didn't want to hear.


Kyle says, "I do tell people: if they can avoid this mystic life, avoid it. Because it's not easy."


Nor does it get easier. In fact, there's a very Ecclesiastes 1:18 flavor to it all: the more knowledge, the more grief. The more you realize how screwed up the world is, and the more you face how little people know or want to know about it. The more you discover that people in power have abused this lack of understanding to stay in power, and the more you know what you risk happening to you when you speak out against it.


Not easy at all. Not fun, either, sometimes.


But in my own journey to becoming more of a spiritual leader for the Christian witch community, I've been blessed with two fantastic resources: the chaplaincy program with the Order of St. Hildegarde (which is currently accepting applications for its autumn cohort), which has taught me how to view this religion from different perspectives while gaining the social skills necessary to help people spiritually, mentally, and emotionally, and Father Kyle, who taught me the format, flow, and art of organizing energy in a church setting. What I wanted was to create a safe space where Christian witches could be preached to by someone who understood them, and the power they want to learn how to use, and you can see the results of this effort in my ever-growing Church of Sveta Lisica playlist on YouTube (or join me live every other week on Tiktok to catch them as they happen).


It's funny, looking back. I never thought I'd make friends with any priests. I was sure all of them would recoil at the work I did, that they wouldn't get it. I even messaged Kyle on Tiktok when I noticed we'd become mutuals, asking if he maybe made a mistake and didn't realize he'd followed a witch rather than a regular Christian. But to my absolute shock, he did know who he'd followed—and he knew a good deal about magic and mysticism, too! Just as Kyle and I both say: everytime you think you know it all, something happens that shows you how much you don't know.


And I did not know there were magically knowledgeable and adept priests. I really didn't.


As a Christian witch, I feel good knowing it now, though. It's good to know that there are people out there who get it, and who are doing what they can to change things for the better with the tools and opportunities that they have. Father Kyle's been an incredible advocate, mentor, and ally to the Christian witch community, and one who does some incredible work both outside and within the Church. One step at a time, change happens, and it really is happening in full—with leaders of congregations and with the congregations themselves. Good change, needed change, hopeful and mold-breaking change.


If there's anything we know, it's that.

 
Where the Gods Left Off, Pagan, Christian, Witchcraft, Spirituality, Religion, Medium, Psychic

Man, I make plans that are impossible and then wonder why they never happen the way I want.


Basically, my plan to get the interviews revised was to go full Hermit Mode and just smash out as many as possible in a month. This led to some severe burnout halfway through and only about half the interviews actually revised. With half of July eaten up for vacation, too, that leaves us with a serious time crunch to get the first proofs done by August.


Will I get it done? Yes. Because nothing makes me more quite like a rapidly approaching deadline. But let this be a lesson (that I still haven't learned) to space my work out better than this in the future. Because working like this sucks.


Definitely check out my shop to grab a SIGNED COPY as soon as it releases. First books ship on September 20th—which is coming up pretty quickly! Once this is off my plate, of course, it's back to absolutely tunneling on Discovering Christian Witchcraft, and the resources I'm reading lately are going to make it even juicier for when I'm ready to get back at it.


 

Christian Witch, Witchcraft, Mysticism, Magic, Crystals, Bible, Incense, Folklore, Sara Raztresen, God, Spirituality, Tarot, Occult, Evangelical, Demons, Sin, Danger, Possession, Idolatry

Sara Raztresen is a Slovene-American writer, screenwriter, and Christian witch. Her fantasy works draw heavily on the wisdom she gathers from her own personal and spiritual experience, and her s


piritual practice borrows much of the whimsy and wonder that modern society has relegated to fairy-and-folktale. Her goal is to help people regain their spiritual footing and discover


God through a new (yet old) lens of mysticism.



Follow Sara on Tiktok, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube, and explore her fiction writing here.


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