Terminology Surrounding "Magic"

Could anybody help define the following terms:

  1. Magic.

  2. Miracle.

  3. Occult, Occult Practices.

  4. Pagan, Paganism.

  5. Wicca.

  6. Witchcraft.

  7. Sorcery.

I could do with knowing the definitions used by the Catholic Church so that I can explain to non-Catholics what the Church teaches on these.

Thank you.

God Bless,

The reason I say there are no specific definitions for those terms is that they simply aren’t taught about specifically and by name. The Catholic Church doesn’t teach by making a list of everything there is to be taught about; generally you could take what is said about one sort of action (i.e. sorcery and magic) about which there is a teaching, and apply that to this or that other action (i.e. specific practices of such, as in neo-Paganism and Wicca).


I don’t think there are going to be official Catholic definitions for all of these words. The only one that shows up in the Glossary for the Catechism is “miracle”:

MIRACLE: A sign or wonder, such as a healing or the control of nature, which can only be attributed to divine power. The miracles of Jesus were messianic signs of the presence of God’s kingdom (547).

Here are some other relevant portions of the Catechism:

**Divination and magic **

2115 God can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints. Still, a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it. Improvidence, however, can constitute a lack of responsibility.

2116 All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future. [48] Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.

2117 All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another’s credulity.

[48] Cf. Deut 18:10; Jer 29:8.


So what would be good definitions for all the words, even if the Church hasn’t specifically spoken on them? Would exorcists have definitions?

I’m pretty sure “pagan” does have an official Catholic definition – “a religious practitioner who is not a Jew, Christian, or Muslim.”

Wicca is a specific, modern pagan religion, so you’d want to go to them for a definition/explanation.


Here’s one for exorcist:


And Paganism:





When I was at catholic HS these are the definitions they gave us.

  1. A supernatural power other than that of god.

  2. A supernatural occurrence directed by god.

  3. The use of magic, demonology, and other spiritual entitys outside of god.

  4. By word definition anyone who is not Jewish, Christian, or Muslim is Pagan. In modern terms this usualy refers to Neo-Pagans

  5. Wicca as a religion has serious theological disagreements with Catholicism. In short it is a duo-theistic/pantheistic nature religion roughly based on several different forms of paganism and ceremonial magic.

  6. The use of magic, divination, and other occult practices.

  7. essentially a synonym for Witchcraft.

The document Jesus Christ, the Bearer of Water - A Christian Reflection on the “New Age” has a glossary which defines some of these terms including occultism and wicca. It is a provisional report that is up on the Vatican website.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.