As you study and learn more about magical living and modern Paganism, you’re going to see the words witch, Wiccan, and Pagan pretty regularly, but they’re not all the same. As if that wasn’t confusing enough, we often discuss Paganism and Wicca, as if they’re two different things. So what’s the deal? Is there a difference between the three? Quite simply, yes, but it’s not as cut and dried as you might imagine.
Wicca is a tradition of Witchcraft that was brought to the public by Gerald Gardner in the 1950s. There is a great deal of debate among the Pagan community about whether or not Wicca is truly the same form of Witchcraft that the ancients practiced. Regardless, many people use the terms Wicca and Witchcraft interchangeably. Paganism is an umbrella term used to apply to a number of different earth-based faiths. Wicca falls under that heading, although not all Pagans are Wiccan.
So, in a nutshell, here’s what’s going on. All Wiccans are witches, but not all witches are Wiccans. All Wiccans are Pagans, but not all Pagans are Wiccans. Finally, some witches are Pagans, but some are not – and some Pagans practice witchcraft, while others choose not to.
Paganism is an Umbrella Term
Please bear in mind that there are dozens of different traditions that fall under the umbrella title of “Paganism.” While one group may have a certain practice, not everyone will follow the same criteria. Statements made on this blog referring to Wiccans and Pagans generally refer to MOST Wiccans and Pagans, with the acknowledgment that not all practices are identical.
Not All Pagans are Wiccans
There are many Witches who are not Wiccans. Some are Pagans, but some consider themselves something else entirely.
Just to make sure everyone’s on the same page, let’s clear up one thing right off the bat: not all Pagans are Wiccans. The term “Pagan” (derived from the Latin paganus, which translates roughly to “hick from the sticks”) was originally used to describe people who lived in rural areas. As time progressed and Christianity spread, those same country folk were often the last holdouts clinging to their old religions. Thus, “Pagan” came to mean people who didn’t worship the god of Abraham.
In Other Words…
Therefore, “Pagan” is an umbrella term that includes many different spiritual belief systems – Wicca is just one of many.
Christian > Lutheran or Methodist or Jehovah’s Witness
What About Magic?
There are a number of people who consider themselves Witches, but who are not necessarily Wiccan or even Pagan. Typically, these are people who use the term “eclectic Witch” or to apply to themselves. In many cases, Witchcraft is seen as a skill set in addition to or instead of a religious system. A witch may practice magic in a manner completely separate from their spirituality; in other words, one does not have to interact with the Divine to be a witch.
For others, Witchcraft is considered a religion, in addition to a select group of practices and beliefs. It’s the use of magic and ritual within a spiritual context, a practice that brings us closer to the gods of whatever traditions we may happen to follow. If you want to consider your practice of witchcraft as a religion, you can certainly do so – or if you see your practice of witchcraft as simply a skill set and not a religion, then that’s acceptable too.