What are the differences between Paganism, Wicca and Witchcraft?
This is an important question to help you discover which path is best suited to you.
Paganism is a nature-based religion and applies to several different earth-based faiths such as Wicca, Druidry, Asatru and Eclectic witchcraft.
The term ‘Pagan’ was originally used to describe people who lived in rural areas but, as Christianity spread, they held on to their beliefs and the term evolved to mean those who didn’t follow the Christian religion.
In the 1950s, Gerald Gardner founded Wicca, a faith based on old traditions, and many modern Pagans adopted the practice. Others were happy to continue following their own spiritual path and therefore ‘Pagan’ became a general term that includes many different beliefs – Wicca being one of them.
Pagans strongly believe that the earth is sacred and all of their practises follow the seasons, the moon and phases of the sun.
Wicca is a pagan-based religion that follows pagan beliefs and practises witchcraft. Wiccans honour the God and Goddess and strive to live a peaceful life, promoting freedom, tolerance and balance. Their practice encourages an understanding of the earth and nature.
A Wiccan uses the power and energy of the natural world and the universe in their magick and follow eight Sabbats (festivals) and twelve Esbats (full moons). Their spell and ritual work is complimented by the moon, sun and stars.
Wiccans avoid evil at all costs, their motto being “to harm none”. Spells are usually used to stop someone from doing evil or harming themselves and incantations are often derived from their personal Book of Shadows, a collection of wisdom and witchcraft similar to the act of prayer in other religions.
A witch is a term used to describe someone who practices magick. To be clear, I am not referring to the kind of magic you see illusionists perform at children's parties - pulling colourful cloths out of nowhere or sawing people in half. Nor am I referring to the overly dramatic on-screen witches, transporting themselves around by blinking or turning people into frogs with a zap of their wand.
A witch knows how to connect her personal energy with that of the universe and can use this connection to manifest her intentions into reality.
Witches who do not identify as Wiccan or Pagan often follow their own path and do not adhere to a pre-determined set of rules, instead using their instinct to do what feels right to them. There are, however, particular types of witches who practice similar magickal workings and follow corresponding paths. These categories generally describe their practices and beliefs. Green Witches, for example, connect with the earth and use herbs in their spell work; Kitchen Witches incorporate magick into their day-to-day chores and Faery Witches work with the Fae. Eclectic Witches are a common collective group, embracing all types of magick and magickal work.
Unlike Wicca, living the life of a witch does not require a religious belief, Some witches honour their chosen deities, some embrace the Christian god as well as a Wiccan goddess (known as the Christian Witch movement), but there are many atheist witches who practice magic and do not follow a god.
Witchcraft is a working practise, not a religion or faith. Wiccans, Pagans and Witches practise witchcraft. Anybody who performs magickal workings such as spells, rituals, alchemy, divination, natural healing, and other spiritual practises can be considered as practising witchcraft - you do not have to be a Wiccan or Pagan to practise witchcraft.
Wicca, Paganism, Witches and Witchcraft
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re interested in learning more about the magickal life. You might be a complete beginner, someone who hasn’t connected to their current chosen path or a parent curious about your child’s interests.
There’s an endless list of websites, books and resources available on the internet, some of which I highly recommend for further reading, but to get started with the basics, it’s important to understand the differences between Wicca, Paganism, Witches and Witchcraft.