Is there a difference between Wicca and Witchcraft?


*This was originally written on 8-22-10 as a blog entry. I’ve updated it since and decided to make it a page of its own.

Witch – Etymology: Middle English wicche, from Old English wicca, masculine, wizard & wicce, feminine, witch; akin to Middle High German wicken to bewitch, Old English wigle divination, and perhaps to Old High German wîh holy. (Meriam Webster Dictionary)

My short answer to this is: No, there is no difference. Wicca IS Witchcraft. It is not a separate practice that doesn’t use magic. If you aren’t doing magic, or are rejecting magic solely for the religious views and beliefs, then you aren’t practicing Wicca. You are instead practicing Paganism. Wicca is not the only form of Witchcraft, but it is incorrect to say that Wicca is not Witchcraft or that it is not the same thing as Witchcraft. It is. For more detail to this, please keep reading. 

When discussing the differences or similarity between concepts the first thing one must do is clarify their definition. I use the terms ‘Witch’ and ‘Wicca’ interchangeably. Not everyone does that and there is some confusion over the difference, or in the case of my opinion, the lack of a difference between them.

The definitions I use place Witch and Wicca as the same word, the only difference is in modern pronunciation. I don’t use Wicca to define a particular traditional initiatory-only mystery religion that formed in the New Forest region of England. When speaking about that particular use of the word Wicca, I add “British Traditional” to it.

I do not think that it is the word Wicca which should be limited in definition to only defining the British Traditional practices. Wicca describes both British Traditional Wica/Witchcraft and the non-initiatory rites that are described by the Wiccan Rede and the Thirteen Principles of Wiccan Belief. I think Witchcraft should be limited in definition to defining the practices of Wicca and other north-western European forms of magic since the two are literally the same word and that sorcerer, magician, magus, and other terms should be used to describe people who practice magic in accordance to other belief systems.

As I see it, Wicca and Witchcraft each have two definitions floating around in use. One of the definitions of Wicca is the same as one of the definitions of Witchcraft, one definition of each is different and this is what causes the confusion.

Wicca definition 1: Lineaged, oathbound, mystery tradition popularized by Gerald Gardner. His specific form and the lines descended from him, British Traditional Wicca from the New Forest region of England, have specific deities: a God and a Goddess, whose names are known only to members of that group. It incorporates elements of European folk magic and shamanism, Free Masonry, and some teachings of ceremonial magic as that was what was understood/popular at the beginning of the 20th century. He added these elements to a system that was already in place to ‘flesh it out.’ He did not create a new system/religion and give it a new name.

Gardner and the others who practiced this called it Witchcraft. Wicca means “Witch” in the Anglo-Saxon language and was originally pronounced as ‘Wich-ah”. It is OUR modern version of the word to pronounce the ‘ cc’ as a ‘k’. Wiccacraeft (Anglo-Saxon) is Witchcraft — there is no difference.

Wicca definition 2: Since Gardner’s publications and his putting Wicca ‘out there’ in public there have been other offshoots who take what they understand to be Wicca, based on the public information (outer court BTW practices) and have developed various other branches of Wicca. This is how solitary and the eclectic forms of Wicca came about. What ties them all together though is the religious belief in divinity as both feminine and masculine — either as a God and Goddess or multiple gods/goddesses. The importance is that both genders are present, there’s less focus on HOW both are present. Those believing they don’t necessarily practice Witchcraft see it as something separate, putting Wicca as a religious belief and Witchcraft as a practice fit into this definition. (I do not agree with separating one into practice and one into belief when speaking in terms of religion — this will be explained further along in this blog post)

Witchcraft definition 1: The same as Wicca’s first definition. “Witch” is a word in the English language. English is Germanic (Saxon roots) and Latin (Roman influence) When Gardner was initiated, the words used were something like, “Scire, now you are Wicca.” (paraphrasing) Gardner heard that and began spelling what he thought he heard as Wica. The single ‘c’ is what gave the word a ‘k’ sound. Gardner did not invent the word as a term for magical practitioner and he wasn’t the first one to use it in this sense. Ten years before Gardner published anything, J.R.R. Tolkien used the word wicca to describe one of his wandering wizards. Tolkien is known for his scholarship on Anglo-Saxon language so this is a valid hint as to the word’s use pre-Gardner.

Witchcraft definition 2: As English speakers, we’re using an English word to describe what it means to people rooted in the English culture. Witchcraft has been used to describe works of magic, folk medicine, shamanic practices, spirit communication, etc. because that is what the ancient people of Europe and specifically the Anglo-Saxon areas (northern/western/British Isles) used. It’s the way “witch-doctor” was used by English explorers as a label for African tribal shamans.

This is why people say that the word ‘witchcraft’ can be applied to any practice that follows these without the involvement of “Wiccan or Euro-Pagan beliefs/religion”. This is where groups or people fit if they claim they practice a different brand of Witchcraft that isn’t Gardnerian/BTW. The “I’m a Witch, not Wiccan” fits into this area because they believe the word Wicca is only for those of a Gardnerian mindset/lineage/heritage.

‘Wicca’ means Witch — there is no getting around that. Personally, I don’t see how someone can claim to be Wicca without also accepting Witchcraft. ‘Craft’ means a skill being used: “he crafted a boat out of pipecleaners.” It’s DOING something. If ‘crafting’ is the ‘doing’ then by saying you aren’t doing WitchCRAFT, aren’t you also saying you aren’t actually practicing anything?

Witch is an interesting word. Given its root, weik, it means one who is wise, who can bend and shape energy and manipulate it.

A Witch is someone with the knowledge of the earth, plants and herbs, stones, sacred places, and spirits. Wicca also shares the same root as ‘wicker’, meaning something created from twisting or bending straw. A Witch is someone who understands these natural forces and energies and works in communion with them, twisting or bending them. Traditionally, this might have been done for the good of the people in the community in which the Witch lived. Witches were similar to and sometimes could serve as shamans, midwives, counselors, cunningmen, folk-healers, seers, and diviners.

Z. Budapest has one of the best explanations for Witch I have ever come across. She said:

“A Witch relates to the Earth as a living, conscious being and all of the stuff on her is equally living and conscious.”

It’s important to understand that the use of magic alone does not make someone a Witch. If you use magic, but don’t follow the religious beliefs associated with the old origins of Witchcraft, you are a magician, not a Witch.

This goes for the use of the name Witch added to beliefs like Christianity or Satanism. You can be a Christian magician/sorcerer/sorceress (though other Christians would object) or a Satanic magician/sorcerer/sorceress, but you cannot be a Christian Witch or Satanic Witch.

Gardner’s Input and Influences

Gerald Gardner is credited with forming the basic ritual and setup for modern Wiccan practices. The idea of the directions for the four elements, of circle casting, of rites of initiation, of the specific use of tools, and everything else that’s commonly found in a Wicca-101-type book, is seen as his work, influenced by the orders and societies he belonged to as well as texts he studied as an amateur anthropologist and British Civil Servant.

True to Dorothy Clutterbuck’s (his initiating priestess) training and wishes, Gardner’s form of Witchcraft was secretive and initiatory only. He borrowed rites and practices from the Freemasons (he was a member) and was in contact with another popular occultist, Aleister Crowley, whose magical philosophy and practices helped to form a foundation for Wicca’s magical work. He studied books such as Margaret Murray’s The Witch Cult in Western Europe, The White Goddess by Robert Graves, and James Frazer’s The Golden Bough for historical references. These books claimed the ancient roots of Paganism and Goddess worship in Europe. Further studies by more current historians have since then debunked a portion of Murray’s work, and the others, but when the books were written, it was believed to be the most exact studies to date. This is why it is important to study history – both old and new.

Gardner’s High Priestess, Doreen Valiente, is credited with many of the liturgical Wiccan writings and teachings, including the popular “Charge of the Goddess.” These, along with Gardner’s own practices, were melded together into the tradition of Wicca practiced as a more modern religion.

From a Traditionalist viewpoint Wicca is considered a structured belief system/religion with specific deity forms, rites, rituals, etc. The founder or founders of this specific system are open to a bit of debate but at the root, it’s accepted that Wicca, as it is now understood, began somewhere in the British Isles. For the sake of this explanation I’m going to use Gerald Gardner as the founder and his spiritual descendants and the offshoots of Gardnerian Wicca to explain the belief that only members of these lineaged traditions are Wiccans.

Among traditions centered in the British Isles that aren’t linked to Gardner, there is still the ‘lineaged-oathbound-mystery’ basis to the religion so they all seem to fit in here.

Wicca as Gardner practiced, then later organized and taught it, is a lineaged and oathbound mystery tradition. This means that in order to become a Wiccan, one must be brought into a coven, sworn to secrecy, and initiated and taught by a person with the power and authority to confer initiation. Without this initiation into the religion, one is not considered Wiccan. I believe this occurred in great part because prior to Gardner publicizing Wicca/Witchcraft with  his books, the only way anyone could learn anything about Witchcraft or practice it was through joining and training within an oathbound coven. The only exception to this was if one had a personal family history of the Craft. But if you had that, you didn’t have to seek training outside of your family anyway.

This is similar to Catholic belief in that one cannot be a ‘self-dedicated’ Catholic. If you were to study books about Catholicism and then say, “This is right for me! This is what I believe! I’m going to become a Catholic!” You could not dedicate yourself and claim that you are Catholic without going through the traditional rites. You would have to study catechism, take communion, and be brought into the Catholic faith through certain rituals. Catholics would not consider a ‘self-dedicated Catholic’ to be authentic, no matter how fervently the individual shares the religion’s beliefs.

However, here’s where I differ with this point:

Wicca is the old Anglo-Saxon word meaning “Witch”. In Anglo-Saxon it is even pronounced ‘witcha’. Gardner changed the spelling to ‘Wica’ , essentially changing it to what it is now popularly called: ‘wickah’. In the Anglo-Saxon language Wicca was the word for a male Witch, Wicce for a female, and Wiccan for plural. One would have said, “Edmund is a Wicca. Eliza is a Wicce. They are two Wiccan.”  (It’s not unheard of to use a different ending for the plural of a word in our modern language. An example of this is child does not become childs, it becomes children.)

Along with this, wiccacraeft is the old Anglo-Saxon word for Witchcraft. Gardner and other traditionalists often called their religion and practice “The Craft” or “The Old Religion”, freely using the words Witch and Wicca to describe the same thing.  But Gardner and his traditional descendants don’t ‘own’ the word Wicca. Mike Nichols, a well-respected elder of Wicca and Paganism has this to say:

Witchcraft continued to be known in its earlier form, “wicca”, even before Gardner came onto the scene. One quick and obvious proof of this is that J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, used the word “wicca” when drafting his earliest manuscript of The Two Towers. We know this because Tolkien’s son Christopher has meticulously documented his father’s creative process throughout twelve volumes of analysis. In volume seven, “The Treason of Isengard”, Ch. XX, “The Riders of Rohan”, Christopher mentions, in a passing footnote, that Tolkien uses the word “wicca” apparently to identify the characters Gandalf and Saruman, who were otherwise called “wizards” throughout the trilogy. The word “wicca” is written in the margin next to the scene discussing the identity of a mysterious old bearded man wondering Rohan. Tolkien was writing this draft in 1942, ten years before Gardner published his first treatise on Wica. So it is impossible for Gardner to have influenced Tolkien’s use of the term. Nor did Tolkien influence Gardner, since this marginalia was unpublished. These were totally independent uses of the same word by different authors working in different fields, with Tolkien giving the more common spelling a full decade before Gardner.

Tolkien is well-known for his scholarship of the Anglo-Saxon language. If he used the word Wicca to describe a character a full ten years before Gardner first came forth and the two had no influence upon one another, then Gardner and his descendants do not have sole claim to the word. He did not invent Wicca, as detractors try to claim. He added to it and publicized it. Someone was doing magic and witchcraft in England when Gardner came into it. He worked with them, building it up and creating what we now know as Wicca. We as modern Witches owe him a great deal for doing so.

The popular definitions of Witch, Wicca, Pagan, and Craft have changed and expanded as words do given enough time and diversity. Nothing is immune from evolution, least of all language. Nowadays there is more open acceptance than there used to be of ‘self-dedicated’ (non-lineaged/non-traditional) Wiccans as valid, but most hard-core traditionalists would prefer a name other than Wicca to be used, believing that these self-dedicated people are better labeled as ‘Pagan’ or ‘Witch’ and claiming that Wicca should only be applied to those of this certain tradition and lineage or its authenticated branches.

I mean no disrespect to members of British Traditional Wicca (BTW) groups, but if they want to distinguish themselves from the myriad of newer traditions or beliefs that have sprung up, either in groups or among those seeking to study the Craft as a solitary practitioner, they should continue to refer to themselves as British Traditional Wiccans, The Wica, or by some other name that adds to the label ‘Wicca’ rather than seek to claim a monopoly they don’t have sole claim to. At one time, it was reasonable to be considered the only legitimate Wiccans in the world, since closed covens were the only source of knowledge for Wicca. Even today, seekers will not learn the rites and mysteries or have that particular instruction, training, or experience outside of BTW and such should never be lusted after outside of those traditions. They have worked hard to have and hold them. However, now with multiple books and information on the history of European Paganism and Witchcraft, it is quite possible for someone to learn about and come to the Craft on their own, guided and taught by the gods. Every effort should be made on the seeker’s part to do this as honorably and with as much knowledge as possible.

Continued in Part 2

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17 thoughts on “Is there a difference between Wicca and Witchcraft?

  1. I disagree with you.
    There are other forms of non-Wiccan witchcraft. Forms that concentrate on other aspects and don’t even acknowledge the Wiccan Rede and the Threefold Law.
    Wicca has become to denote a religion with certain tenets and not all witches follow the religion of Wicca.
    You should check traditional english witchcraft (non-Wiccan). There is a lot of information on these path(s), it may bring you to a different point of view.

    articles:

    http://www.the-cauldron.org.uk/witchcraftbeforewicca.html

    http://witchofforestgrove.com/2009/09/11/traditional-witchcraft/

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  2. Thank you for your comment, Maria.

    You’ve given me more to think about and consider. I’ll be exploring the links you provided (and the links those links provided) for a while.

    Since writing this (over a year ago in its original form), I’ve had some different thoughts come to mind, different ideas and possibly different ways of seeing things. As of yet, I haven’t managed to nail them down and give solid definitions or explanations of the way I’m thinking.

    I had decided that until I can do that — find a way to clearly state what it is I’m thinking and talking about where parts might be a bit off from what I’ve got stated here — that I’ll just leave this up, unchanged.

    My main concern really with what I see as people forcing a huge gap between the terms Wicca and Witchcraft is what I experience in my own life and what I see. Wicca used to only define British Traditional Witchcraft descended directly from Gardner. Now it’s more populated than that and it’s the more populated term that people have fought to get recognized for equal protection of their rights as United States citizens. Not everyone who uses the label ‘Wicca’ is initiated BTW. Not everyone who identifies themselves as a ‘Witch’ practices the prescribed tenets of the recognized ‘religion’. But legally, it is Wicca that is seen as a valid religion and Witchcraft that is legally recognized as one form of it. I’m concerned that if people, Witches and Wiccans especially, continue to outwardly state that these practices aren’t the same thing…

    What happens to the young boy who is harrassed in school? The woman who is fired from her job? The couple who are evicted from their home when they state that they are Wiccan (maybe not by BTW standards) or Witches (maybe not by traditional standards) and their opposition has documentation from respected, recognized authorities on these beliefs and practices that says “Wicca and Witchcraft aren’t the same thing and what they’re practicing isn’t Wicca because ____ .”?

    I see what you’re saying about the difference in defition between Wicca (BTW) and other forms of Traditional Witchcraft. I just haven’t yet figured out how they fit my understanding of things yet.

    Working on that though 🙂

    Thanks again.

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  3. “Thank you for your comment, Maria.”

    i came across this post……after such a long time. im glad you found my comment helpful.
    if i come across rude, im just being direct, ok?
    you’re welcome, by the way

    “You’ve given me more to think about and consider. I’ll be exploring the links you provided (and the links those links provided) for a while.”

    i highly recommend the following, seriously. i think this book will be helpful as to the history between the distinction, and why it makes sense
    children of cain – michael howard…

    “My main concern really with what I see as people forcing a huge gap between the terms Wicca and Witchcraft is what I experience in my own life and what I see. Wicca used to only define British Traditional Witchcraft descended directly from Gardner.”

    trad craft clans in england were called robed covens, and they existed before wicca. the wiccans in the uk knew this. at times, all of them called themselves witches. in the usa, many of them were just witches.
    gardner called his religion, the wica, and presented it as witchcraft. when gardner started this, there were plenty of unhappy trad witches….not just in england but in the usa. let’s remember that there is trad craft in america, feri tradition is a great example. trad witches have always preferred discretion, you see. it seems, americans lagged behind because in england, trad craft was known, but, american neopagans were more ignorant about trad craft in the usa and in the uk, and assumed that wicca, when it arrived in the usa, was ‘the witchcraft’
    in the uk, wicca is not referred as british traditional witchcraft. for an english person, this terminology doesnt make sense, even traditional wicca doesnt make sense. trad witchcraft always had its distinction from wicca.

    “Now it’s more populated than that and it’s the more populated term that people have fought to get recognized for equal protection of their rights as United States citizens. Not everyone who uses the label ‘Wicca’ is initiated BTW. Not everyone who identifies themselves as a ‘Witch’ practices the prescribed tenets of the recognized ‘religion’. But legally, it is Wicca that is seen as a valid religion and Witchcraft that is legally recognized as one form of it. I’m concerned that if people, Witches and Wiccans especially, continue to outwardly state that these practices aren’t the same thing…”

    wicca is recognized as a religion. witchcraft isn’t. the court case, wasnt even about wicca or religious discrimination, but that dettmer requested certain items, including a knife (not allowed in prison, of course). the department of corrections refused this on the grounds that wicca was not a religion instead of prison safety…and here, the religious issue ensued and wicca got recognized as religion by default because whether wicca was a religion or not was irrelevant for the court. the main issue was…is he entitled to these items under the prison conditions? if he isnt…would it be discrimination? what some people dont understand is that things work differently in prison. he didnt get the knife anyway among other items.

    the usa gov. recognized wicca, and other forms of wicca, including differences between wiccan practitioners. so, what is the problem? wiccans are protected, this includes wiccans, pop-wiccans, wiccans who practice magic, and wiccans that dont.

    trad witches are not overly concerned about parental government or society approval. and, there are plenty of other minority religions not recognized in the usa….do you seriously think that this is overly dangerous for them? what about nones (non-religious folks, one of the biggest groups in the usa)…..they are still protected under the law in spite of the fact there isnt a religion of non-religion recognized in the usa. the establishment clause and the free exercise clause will protect folks. idiots, of course, will always discriminate.
    and as to the free exercise clause, the court can’t and isnt going to waste money and time (most cases settle anyway) questioning whether the religion is false or true but, whether the party can assert a sincere belief…so for all we care, john doe can start worshiping a toilet and if it’s sincere, the court will not interfere with this.

    gods, this is the country that even allows ritual animal sacrifice for religions reasons and last year, mjølnir was approved for veteran headstones…..!

    “What happens to the young boy who is harrassed in school? The woman who is fired from her job? The couple who are evicted from their home when they state that they are Wiccan (maybe not by BTW standards) or Witches (maybe not by traditional standards) and their opposition has documentation from respected, recognized authorities on these beliefs and practices that says “Wicca and Witchcraft aren’t the same thing and what they’re practicing isn’t Wicca because ____ .”?”

    i dont understand what you’re stating here, this sounds so much like arguing by angsty victimization.
    im a minority within a minority within a minority, discrimination is a regular event for me….yet, i continue my stride. confident.
    and if you had muslim or atheists friends…..their stories are just…..terrifying as to discrimination.
    i reiterate, the court recognizes wicca and its derivatives. and even if you’re not part of the clique, you can still claim legal protection under both the free exercise clause.

    i think that this is one of the main differences between trad witches and wiccans….
    this desire to be approved by the mainstream is crazy, with this need to cling to discrimination and persecution when discussing these matters, because unfortunately, wicca got hyped with victimisation and a persecution complex. aka. the burning times. so…this attitude never left.

    do you see santeros and others that follow afro religions, many of them blacks and latinos….whining like this? and often times, these folks face not only religious and racial discrimination from the mainstream community but also from neopagan themselves (oh no! we don’t sacrifice animals like those….3rd world dark people)

    do you read about the number of unarmed black american men who are gunned to death by police weekly? now this, truly scares me.

    posts like this one seem to imply ‘let’s not stir things up because we (wiccans) have the stamp of approval’ along with ‘let’s look nice and throw everybody else under the bus so we look nice and continue having our stamp of approval’…. meanwhile, the philosophy is lacking with rehashed wicca 101 books….and other neopagans are set aside because their voices are small in number

    that “wiccans fought” for approval? great for wiccans and good for them. but, this does not concern trad witches because trad witches never cared for this type of recognition. this approval might not concern recons because….they have their own identities too. i mean, it is disturbing….and, im thinking back at someone who left wicca because the community was becoming too dogmatic and imposing, her words. and, im observing this more often. what is wrong with respecting other people’s identities and individualism or are we supposed to band together like sheep and follow the ‘wiccan lead’?

    one thing about approval….it’s irritating that some imply that ‘it was the wiccans who fought for this’ as if wiccans are the ones who have been around for the longest time and fought the hardest….
    just to let you know, there were other neopagan religions that organised themselves way before wicca. romuva and neodruidry. as to romuva, they had to keep it quiet because of the ussr.
    wiccans got lucky because they popped up at the right place and right time. they learned from the founders, gardner, sanders, etc. who were obsessed with having the attention and knew how to exploit the media and public relations to their advantage. whilst other groups had to hide, or simply, didnt care about having a public face.

    as to wicca versus traditional wicca…not my business. to me, all of it is wicca.

    there are many wiccans who cant stand the term witch either and also separate themselves from witchcraft, so, it’s not just trad witches who distinguish both practices. some scholars actually make the distinction too.

    now, are you telling me then that trad witches should stay put and not differentiate ourselves from wiccans because…..?

    please, do yourself a favor. switch wiccans for mainstream gays and lesbians and non-wiccan witches for transsexuals.
    do you see what you’re doing?

    that’s the reason i dont think this issue has to do with legal protection.

    nope, this has to do with the more recognisable group wanting to take center stage at the expense of the rest. it is your interest taking prevalence over the humanity of others.

    the real fear is the loss of your own interests, wiccan interests. it is a form of opportunism and egocentrism. the more visible wiccan minority prefers to be seen as the public victim because this stance will always keep their privilege, vision and interests on 1st place. it is a matter of you wanting to have the control. meanwhile, the others are marginalised and told to hush. this is akin to tyranny by the majority.

    no wonder less people are identifying as wiccan and more pagans are refusing the pagan label and choosing polytheist…

    wiccans dont get to define the rest of us, and, it doesnt always have to be about you.

    take care.

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    1. Hi Maria,

      I think that you maybe haven’t read what I’ve actually said about where I’m coming from with the whole “Wicca is not separate from Witchcraft” point that I stress.

      You’re explaining the viewpoint of Non-Wiccan Traditional Witchcraft. I get that.

      But that’s not what I’m talking about.

      My point is that I don’t think people should continue to try and push for Wicca to be something different from Witchcraft because Wicca is Witchcraft. It’s a type of religious Witchcraft, but it is Witchcraft.

      One doesn’t get to say, “I’m Wiccan” and not also be identified as a Witch.

      I think what you’re saying is, “I’m a Traditional Witch, but not a Wiccan.” — I don’t disagree with that statement, so I’m not sure where the push to explain your viewpoint to the degree that you have is coming from.

      Traditional Non-Wiccan Witches don’t get to define the rest of us, and it doesn’t always have to be about you.

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      1. after my first reply, you went on a tangent as to legal protection….so your first reply did mean something different from what you have replied now…

        you seem to be backtracking. you say you recognize a difference but initially..you had no issue with using wicca and witchcraft interchangeably and this is erroneous….plain and simple. indirectly, it is a way to erasure witches who dont conform to wicca and wiccan ethics.

        as to wicca not being witchcraft. of course wicca incorporates witchcraft, but the fact that some people disagree has nothing to do with traditional witches or non-wiccan witches, so your comment about traditional witches defining you….etc. is irrelevant. and you’re absolutely right it is not about us, after all, we’re not the ones with a problem akin to ‘wiccanate privilege’. we tend to be reserved about our practices in public and have little desire for parental approval….

        you actually need to take it upon neowiccans, who for some reason started identifying themselves as “wiccans but not witches” and spouting “im a wiccan but i dont do magic” (???)
        popwiccans and popwiccan books started the ‘not all wiccans are witches’ and making magic and witchcraft optional and irrelevant….which is perfectly fine…after all, “wicca is whatever you want it to be” right? being sarcastic here.
        so, it was never ever traditional witches or non-wiccan witches that started this mess…..ever! and, if you find non-wiccan witches being derisive and condescending about wicca….the criticism is not against wicca but against ignorance that is often recycled in neowicca, which is the face of wicca nowadays.

        by the way, i find neowicca as valid as wicca, but i have to give a certain respect to wiccans (initiated, i mean)….because of obvious reasons, at least, a gardnerian/alexandrian wiccan always knows he/she is a witch.

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  4. Also, Maria:

    “gardner called his religion, the wica, and presented it as witchcraft.”

    Gardner didn’t refer to the religion/practice as Wica. It was called Witchcraft, The Craft, or The Old Religion. The members were called ‘The Wica’, not the belief. Using the term ‘Wicca’ to apply to the system and not the people didn’t happen until later. Gardnerians simply called themselves Witches.

    “wicca is recognized as a religion. witchcraft isn’t.”

    As it stands currently, in documents such as The Military Chaplain’s Handbook and other such things that are most often used to cite legitimacy for religious beliefs (because if it manages to make it in there, it’s deemed pretty okay by most other standards) identify Wicca and Witchcraft as interchangeable terms. This means that under the label of Wicca, one could practice Witchcraft and rely on it being protected as a religious belief.

    The Dettmer v. Landon thing isn’t news to me. I appreciate that you shared it for the sake of others who may read the comment thread who aren’t aware of the details to it, but it doesn’t really apply to what I’m saying other than since that happened Wicca has had enough legal clout to at least push for other rights to be respected.

    The problem is that 1) If Wicca is pushed into being separately defined only as the lineaged tradition passed by valid initiation in a coven from one member to another, which is the argument that many people who practice forms of British Traditional Wicca/BTW — identified as Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Central Valley Wicca, Algard, and other recognized descendants of the New Forest– that those who are self-identified as Wiccan, or who join and practice with eclectic groups (those that are not lineaged from the New Forest)– will not have the protection of the law because some lawyer out there working for the defendant in a discrimination lawsuit is going to find where “The only legitimate Wiccans are those of ___ type and since the defendant is a solitary, self-taught practitioner, they are not truly Wiccan.” It has nothing to do with whether a person is practicing something intentionally non-Wiccan. Of course if a person is not Wiccan, they shouldn’t claim they are Wiccan. I’m saying that those who do claim to be Wiccan should be allowed the use of that word even if they aren’t initiated into New Forest traditions/descended from Gardner.

    and 2) If Wicca is separated from being legally interchangeable with Witchcraft, then I guarantee that if someone tries to claim that their religion is Witchcraft and there’s no established precedent for such, they will be at a very unfair disadvantage. It’s difficult enough to argue for religious rights when someone is part of a minority belief that is more widely known than the Pagan faiths.

    I’ve been evicted from an apartment because of being a Witch, despite years of living there ‘under the radar’ with good residential history and no problems.

    I’ve volunteered for prison ministry and faced all sorts of red-tape and problems trying to get people to understand what this is all really about.

    “nope, this has to do with the more recognisable group wanting to take center stage at the expense of the rest. it is your interest taking prevalence over the humanity of others.

    the real fear is the loss of your own interests, wiccan interests. it is a form of opportunism and egocentrism. the more visible wiccan minority prefers to be seen as the public victim because this stance will always keep their privilege, vision and interests on 1st place. it is a matter of you wanting to have the control. meanwhile, the others are marginalised and told to hush. this is akin to tyranny by the majority.”

    Please don’t come at me like Wiccans are pitiful whiners about being oppressed.

    Some are.

    Most aren’t.

    I’m not.

    “now, are you telling me then that trad witches should stay put and not differentiate ourselves from wiccans because…..?”

    I have said nothing of the sort. Please read the blog post and tell me where I’ve made such a claim.

    As to all the mentioning you did about how what I’m saying doesn’t affect “trad witches” — then what is your point? I’m not discussing Trad-Witches. My blog and comments have no meaning to you because it’s not about your practices.

    Your entire comment here went into a rant that sounds like you’ve got some frustration aimed at anyone who claims Wicca because they’re all whining ninnies who just want attention, or who calls themselves a Witch without being your type of Witch, because well — they just aren’t. I hope that you will read the blog again. Not much has changed really since the original posting that your first comment was in response to a few years ago. I haven’t touched it to edit it in detail or content, I just went in a year ago and tried to edit some things for the sake of clarity.

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    1. as to the military chaplain’s handbook
      witchcraft can be used as an interchangeable term for wicca, yes, but under this text, wicca is also interchangeably with shamanism, druidism, norse, etc. it was a time where all neopagan faiths were thrown under the same wiccan bus….so, relying on this text is very vague and not effective, imo…especially when it is obvious that with time, groups are getting their own identities recognized….and, things work different in the military….compared to civil cases outside of the military system

      “The problem is that 1) If Wicca is pushed into being separately defined only as the lineaged tradition passed by valid initiation in a coven from one member to another, which is the argument that many people who practice forms of British Traditional Wicca/BTW — identified as Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Central Valley Wicca, Algard, and other recognized descendants of the New Forest– that those who are self-identified as Wiccan, or who join and practice with eclectic groups (those that are not lineaged from the New Forest)– will not have the protection of the law because some lawyer out there working for the defendant in a discrimination lawsuit is going to find where “The only legitimate Wiccans are those of ___ type and since the defendant is a solitary, self-taught practitioner, they are not truly Wiccan.” It has nothing to do with whether a person is practicing something intentionally non-Wiccan. Of course if a person is not Wiccan, they shouldn’t claim they are Wiccan. I’m saying that those who do claim to be Wiccan should be allowed the use of that word even if they aren’t initiated into New Forest traditions/descended from Gardner.”

      and what if the lawyer states that? does it mean his or her argument is valid? that the court will deem it reasonable? no…..i swear, i think you’re creating mountains out of molehills….i mean, for the court, this would be such a waste of time and money
      and, this would be be ludicrous…especially when caselaw already accepts the variety of practices and differences under wicca.
      i recommend you read about the intricacies of the free exercise clause and familiarize yourself more with caselaw as to other religious minorities involving circumstances outside of the military and prison system (where things work differently!)….
      you will find that one case doesnt fit all….you can have three cases dealing with the same circumstances and the result will be different for all three of them…

      “and 2) then I guarantee that if someone tries to claim that their religion is Witchcraft and there’s no established precedent for such, they will be at a very unfair disadvantage. It’s difficult enough to argue for religious rights when someone is part of a minority belief that is more widely known than the Pagan faiths.”

      hmmm….that is that party’s prerogative, don’t you think? both terms are separate, he wants to claim witchcraft and not wicca as a religion? then let him. then, there’s no guarantee that that person will be at an unfair disadvantage…maybe it’s just a new beginning
      also, the court will apply the test of sincere belief….and, one can always set a new precedent….what if witchcraft is recognized separately? what would be the problem with that?

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  5. As far as my practice is concerned, I do use the terms Wicca and Witchcraft interchangeably. That is because if I am to choose a specific label that identifies my practice, it would be “Pagan Religious Witchcraft” — “Pagan” because I identify as a polytheist/pantheist/panentheist closely reverent of the natural and enchanted world. “Religious” because the focus of my practice is to achieve communion and connection with the gods that I work with, and “Witchcraft” because I practice the Witch’s crafts to do this: spiritism, herbalism, magic, etc.

    Wicca is a religious practice of Witchcraft and I happen to have been trained by Gardnerians early on in my experience, so I understand where Traditional Wicca comes from and what it’s rooted in.

    Because both apply to my practice, I think you’re incorrect in telling me that it’s erroneous to use them interchangeably.

    Person 1: “Serpent, what do you describe yourself as?”
    Me: “Wiccan.”
    Person 2: “Serpent, what do you describe yourself as?”
    Me: “Witch.”

    Either/both apply to myself and my practices/beliefs. I choose which to use based on what the social climate is like when it’s being asked. I may also identify as Druid — because I studied with an ADF Druid grove and still incorporate a lot of that into my work.

    Yes, you are right in that 20 or 30 years ago or so, EVERYTHING got lumped together under the label of Wicca. Norse Heathens were ‘Wiccan’. Druids were ‘Wiccan’ and so on. Totally get that (I remember it happening). 🙂

    But, while I understand that each has its own identifying markers, when they all legitimately apply to me, not just because I think they’re ‘cool’ or ‘popular’, I don’t see why I can’t use them all equally to define my practices.

    As for the ‘mountains out of molehills’ — you have no idea what you’re talking about there. I’ve been through it. It’s real and it happens, even when it’s not supposed to because the law says otherwise. Maybe eventually it won’t be that way, and that’s what I work for when possible, but please don’t blow me off when I’ve stated that I’ve experienced it personally.

    If you think that just because our rights are ‘protected’ by law, so there’s nothing to worry about, please follow this link.

    http://wildhunt.org/2014/10/california-ppd-event-draws-protest-and-police-inaction.html

    This isn’t me — but it just happened in California a few days ago. Please note that local law enforcement refused to stand up for the rights of the Pagan group that were legally present with a park permit and everything. The police could have gone over there and at least made their presence known and said something like, “Come on, now. Leave them alone. They rented the park and they aren’t doing anything illegal by holding their ceremony here.” Just to let the protesters know they were acting inappropriately.

    My personal experiences I mentioned of discrimination with my eviction were almost 20 years ago — so there have been some improvements, but you’re fooling yourself if you think that Pagans are just whining about their rights being trampled because it’s against the law to discriminate.

    Also — this entire blog entry of mine is two pages in length. I’ve already addressed the issues that you make mention of in your response. I see where you’re coming from and in some cases, I agree with you and I’ve stated where — but I think if you actually read through the blog and see what I’ve been talking about, we could cut down on a lot of the back and forth with things that a) don’t really apply and b) have already been addressed. 🙂

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    1. “As for the ‘mountains out of molehills’ — you have no idea what you’re talking about there. I’ve been through it. It’s real and it happens, even when it’s not supposed to because the law says otherwise. Maybe eventually it won’t be that way, and that’s what I work for when possible, but please don’t blow me off when I’ve stated that I’ve experienced it personally.

      If you think that just because our rights are ‘protected’ by law, so there’s nothing to worry about, please follow this link.

      http://wildhunt.org/2014/10/california-ppd-event-draws-protest-and-police-inaction.html

      nope, i never said there are no worries, any dimwit must see that minorities in general face a harsh time, of course..but…you’re conflating things here…and jumping into conclusions as to legal protections because of what bigots do and your own experiences…im not saying your experiences are irrelevant.

      as i said, stupid people will always discriminate and break the law…but this is not a representation of the way religious discrimination matters will turn out in the legal system…
      yes, there were bigots at the event, just like it happens with those crazy ones from fred phelp’s church, but, this doesnt mean that a person who wants to claim witchcraft as a religion will be at an unfair advantage or that an attorney is going to argue that this wiccan cant be afforded the legal protection as a wiccan because she/he isnt the type of “true wiccan”. any attorney who dares do this is a bad and stupid attorney, btw.
      the law and the way these matters are dealt in court…have their own intricacies…..different from what happens in everyday life….

      after arguing this often, i think that more pagans need to become attorneys or at least, familiarize themselves with the legal system and religion in the legal system. the book pagans and the law is good but simplistic and outdated.

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  6. And —

    “it was never ever traditional witches or non-wiccan witches that started this mess…..ever! and, if you find non-wiccan witches being derisive and condescending about wicca….the criticism is not against wicca but against ignorance that is often recycled in neowicca, which is the face of wicca nowadays.”

    I agree.

    I never said that Non-Wiccan Traditional Witches were even involved other than when I briefly mentioned that if someone wants to claim Witch without being Wiccan, and does it out of deference to BTW or being something non-Wiccan, like a fam-trad or such, that’s fine. But if they’re saying that because they feel like Wicca is just too ‘fluffy’ they need to go back and learn what actual Wicca really is. Or if they do it because they want to sound spooky and intimidating, they need to grow up.

    Other than that, I don’t think anything I’ve said in this entire blog was directed at any sort of issue with, caused by, conceived of, or involving Traditional Non-Wiccan Witchcraft. 🙂

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  7. Considering that I have experience to back up what I’m saying in regard to how stuff is handled legally — both in personal experience of enduring eviction and with what I go through as a volunteer chaplain for Pagan prison ministry and doing public speaking and education work for the public about Pagan religions and beliefs, and you have only hopeful conjecture based on what ‘should happen’ IF things like this ever go to court, I think we’re at an impasse.

    You’ve pointed out where you think I’m wrong. But I am not convinced either that I am wrong or that you are correct and to be honest, I don’t see that changing.

    I appreciate the stuff you have brought to this conversation in regard to the point of view of Traditional Non-Wiccan Witchcraft, the links you provided, and things along those lines. But I think it’s time to end the discussion now about the legal positioning.

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