WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WITCHCRAFT AND WICCA?
Spirituality and occultism can often be so broad and so diverse that it can even be tricky for those of us who may be practicing to keep track! When someone refers to themselves as a witch, are they partaking in traditional witchcraft, or are they a follower of Wicca? What are the main differences between such practitioners? This is all without getting deeper into the various different types of witch that exist – this is all dependent upon your area of spiritual focus – and that side of the discussion is perhaps best saved for another blog and another day!
For now, let’s focus on this conundrum at hand – you can certainly be forgiven for thinking that all Wiccans are witches, and all witches are Wiccans – however, the differences between these spiritualists couldn’t be more obvious! Let’s take a look at each of the schools of spirituality to try and define what sets either one apart.
Witchcraft, as it is still practiced today in its traditional sense, encompasses a wide range of different spiritual practices and activities. Traditional witches are inclined to be inspired by ancient works and rites, those from far-flung countries or those detailed in tomes dating back centuries. Your traditional witch, generally, may be interested in healing their peers through use of herbs, astrology studies or through deeper spell casting – a traditional witch is one, essentially, which physically practices to the extent you expect a modern witch would.
Unlike some spiritual endeavours, witchcraft in its traditional form has no boundaries in terms of ethical code – though you can do both good and bad through practice and spell casting, the vast majority of practicing witches will make decisions through their activities that they believe to be for the greater good. Much of witchcraft in a modern sense is focused on healing and the seeking of self-enlightenment – with the study of astrology and divination largely aiding a witch with their ability to read a given situation or to even communicate with spirits.
Witchcraft is an ancient practice which may even be too ancient to trace back to a significant origin – it has roots in Europe, though practicing witches will variously sample rites, spells and activities from various cultures and tomes that can be found all over the world. It is, according to various sources and those who practice to this day, the lack of a formal code at all that separates the practice of witchcraft from any kind of organised spirituality. However, as discussed, it is largely down to the ethics and beliefs of any given witch as to whether or not their activities are to be considered morally justifiable.
The main difference between Wicca and witchcraft that generally stands out right away is the fact that Wicca is an organised religion – whereas witchcraft is a general practice. Modern Wicca has been around since the early 20th century in its current form, though it has deeper roots in general Paganism – the popularisation of Wicca as a religious pursuit is largely credited to a British practitioner, Gerald B Gardner (and a strand of Wicca can also be referred to as Gardnerian with respect to its founding father). History dictates that Gardner established Wicca as an amalgamation of various factual and fictitious influences, only publicly doing so once all laws prohibiting the practice of witchcraft were abolished in the UK in the early 1950s. Therefore, Wicca can perhaps be considered an organised interpretation of witchcraft, brought to the masses at a time when the freedom to practice had been opened anew. It was Gardner’s wish to bring his learnings to the public – and Wicca was his platform.
Wicca, unlike witchcraft, does have strict moral and ethical codes and practices, meaning that followers and practicing Wiccans have text and lore to adhere by. Wicca is often referred to as a religion of nature, and they also worship a superior deity – Gods and Goddesses which are to be appeased by ritual, sacrifice and worship. Traditional witchcraft differs wildly in this aspect – while belief in certain deities does still run through the heart of witchcraft, this sense of being inferior to such Gods is absent. Instead, traditional witches call upon deities and spirits for help or guidance in different types of ritual.
Wicca, as an organised celebration of nature, plays host to a number of annual celebrations and feast days, and, as such, it remains a recognised religion in the west. Unlike traditional witchcraft, Wicca has a definite point of creation and can be traced back to a finite point in time and finite influences – witchcraft’s exact origins have always been very hazy and this can often be all the more alluring to those practicing and reading up on the history!
Wicca or Witchcraft?
The path you choose in either your search for enlightenment or purpose should always be one you choose alone – the structural texts, celebrations and worship practiced by Wiccans may appeal to you greatly – or, alternatively, you may be interested in finding your own way through witchcraft and to sample some of the various cultural and historic touches that the practice has picked up along the way. Both believe that deities exist – though the main difference between them lies in how they approach such Gods. Beyond this, both schools are aware of the importance of the spirits – and how they can assist us in our daily lives.