Help! Recently I went into a new age store looking for some supplies for my Wiccan altar, and a woman at the store told me Wicca was dangerous and I should stop practicing it right away. I’m new to Wicca, and this woman really freaked me out and got me worried that I could harm myself or my family. Is Wicca really dangerous?

Wicca is a life-affirming, celebratory path. Its focus is on understanding our place in the natural world and living better lives by being more in harmony with nature. In my opinion, it’s a path that can help seekers with self-empowerment and self-improvement. Most of the negative ideas about Wicca are born out of fear and lack of understanding, rather than knowledge.

For example, I have heard non-Wiccans say that Wicca is dangerous because it has no moral code. I find this particularly frustrating for two reasons. First, it implies that humans can’t be ethical without a god or a book to tell them how to be good people, which is ridiculous and insulting. Second, we DO have a code, the Wiccan Rede.

The Rede states, “An it harm none, do as you will.” It doesn’t mean “Do whatever you want as long as you don’t hurt anybody,” although that too, would be an ethical or moral guideline. Instead it tells us to work our will without harming ourselves or others. In Wicca, the will is not the want; to work your will means to do those things that bring you more in alignment with your own spiritual destiny. If you’re following the Rede, you’re constantly thinking about whether what you’re doing is in alignment with your spirituality and consider the repercussions of what you’re doing, instead of someone else doing the thinking for you. It’s both challenging and empowering. Following a Wiccan path means facing, analyzing, and engaging with your personal ethics on a daily basis.

The second big argument I hear against Wicca from non-Wiccans is that Wicca is “against the bible.” Wicca is not “against” the bible in the sense of being opposed to it, but it is not derived from biblical teachings, and it doesn’t honor the Christian god (or the Jewish or Muslim one for that matter). Christians believe that the only path to salvation is to accept Jesus as one’s personal lord and savior and that their god doesn’t want his people to worship gods other than him. Though they may respect Jesus and his teachings, Wiccans don’t accept Jesus as savior, and they worship gods other than the Christian god. Wicca is not Christianity, which makes Wicca—along with Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism—appear threatening or dangerous to some Christians.

The third common argument I see against Wicca—and one that I’ve had leveled at me by many a new age practitioner, so it might be the same reasoning as the woman you met in the store had for what she said to you—is that Wicca is “dark,” whatever that means. But Wicca is not sinister. Wicca acknowledges that darkness and light are both part of life on earth. Many of the new age practitioners I’ve met focus solely on light, sometimes to the point of denying the dark. We all need more light in our lives, so this isn’t all bad, but I think some of them are wary of Wicca because although Wiccans don’t seek the dark, they don’t deny it, either. It might help if they knew that “darkness” in Wicca is not the devil or evil, as it might be in a Christian context. Darkness to a Wiccan might mean things we face that challenge or transform us, the shadow parts of ourselves—such as our subconscious or baser instincts—or unpleasant things that happen in the world, such as death, war, and disease. Wicca strives to understand how we can understand, defeat, or integrate the dark to become more well-rounded people.

So no, Wicca is not dangerous, immoral, anti-Christian, or dark. But I am not going to tell you that Wicca is or is not the right thing for you, because Wiccans don't evangelize, and it would be wrong of me to try to nudge you one way or the other. I can say that I have never known anyone to be harmed by being Wiccan, and through more than two decades of Wiccan practice and my writing, I have known literally hundreds of Wiccans. Best of luck on your path, wherever it takes you.