One of the most frequently asked question is “What’s the difference between Paganism, Wicca, and witchcraft?”.
Let me start by saying they are all different terms with different meanings. You can be one, two, or all three of them. All Wiccans are Pagans, but most Pagans aren’t Wiccans. Some Pagans are witches, some aren’t. Most Wiccans are witches, some aren’t. Most witches are Pagan or Wiccan, some aren’t. A bit confusing, but let me go into more detail::
Paganism is a spiritual way of life that’s rooted in nature, the changing of the seasons, and astrological markers. It is often referred to as “The Olde Religion” since it predates Christianity. Paganism is an umbrella term for all religions that are not of Abrahamic origins. Therefore, anyone who is not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim, is considered a Pagan. There are many religions that can be considered as Pagan, such as Hinduism, Druidism, Buddhism, and many, many more. Neo-Paganism, or contemporary Paganism, is a group of modern religions based off of the ancient and historical Paganism. Many people categorize themselves as Pagans because they are polytheists, or they believe in more than one God. So in general, it’s safe to say that Paganism is defined by it’s earth-based, and often polytheistic religious structure.
Wicca is one of the Pagan religions and is very modern. Wicca was founded by Gerald Gardner in the 1950’s and incorporates modern occultism with European folk tradition. Wiccans have set rules they follow called the Wiccan Rede, but the main rule all Wiccans follow is “Do no harm”. Wiccans are generally dualistic in their beliefs of a God and Goddess, which are usually represented by the typical Pagan Gods and Goddesses. In the beginning of the religion, you wouldn’t be considered Wiccan unless you were initiated into a coven. Self – initiation was taboo up until recently, when the religion gained popularity a few decades ago. Wicca does not acknowledge the concepts of Heaven, Hell, Sin, evil, or inferiority. There is no set race, gender, age, or sexual orientation that can make you any less of a Wiccan. Wiccans believe the Divine has polarity, both male and female. Wicca is about equality for all people and things. Wicca is about contribution. Not money, but knowledge, as Wicca is a never ending path for knowledge. People often think all Wiccans are witches is because the name Wicca came from “wica”, a word meaning witch. But these are not interchangeable.
Witchcraft is a non-religious practice of magick (spelled with a ‘k’ to distinguish stage magic/illusion). Witchcraft is not a religion, and that’s why it’s referred to as a craft. Just like any other type of arts and crafts, you can practice while being under any religion. Unlike Wicca, witchcraft does not have a set of rules that all witches must follow. Witches with religion will usually just follow their religious tenets, while some others will follow the Witches’ Creed (generally credited to Doreen Valiente). There are some witches, who do not follow any rules but their own morals. Historically speaking, witchcraft was denoted to be a very harmful or evil practice. This came about because before science could explain illness, drought, and other issues, the people had turned to demons, Satan, and witches. But for the most part, witches do not work with demons or Satan as they are Christian concepts, and there are very few Christian witches (since witchcraft is seen as an abomination to Christians). A lot of witches believe in and follow karma and the harm none rule, so most witches will not practice any of the dark arts (hexes, curses, etc). Out of the witches who do use hexes and curses, usually only do so as a last resort and when it is absolutely necessary. Almost all witches won’t practice when experiencing strong emotions (of any sort), since it can affect the outcome of the magick. Therefore, witches should not be feared.
Paganism, Neo-Paganism, Wicca, and witchcraft are difficult to define because they are built around the individual, not a group. If you asked all of them about their path and what it means to them, you will not get the same answer from any of them. None of them have one book or text to outline their beliefs, and since Paganism is so diverse and wide ranging, it would be just about impossible to narrow it down into such.
Keep in mind, all of these are based on my opinions I found from my research. You may disagree or have something to add. Please do so kindly in the comments.
Blessed be, brothers and sisters.