Witch VS Wiccan
Who are we here at Spirited Enterprise?
We are not Wiccan. Some people would define us as Traditional Witches, and although we tend to agree with this, we are a tad bit more. We practice very old school magick. Our spells cannot be found in books nor on websites. Our spells are literally works of art, passed down from generation to generation. Although we do utilize the moon phases, herbs, candles, etc, to boost the energy of our spells, we do not open or close circles nor do we feel it necessary to use the usual Wiccan tools. What we practice is a mixture of traditional witchcraft with a few new age (Wicca) beliefs that have been adapted over the generational teachings.
So what is the difference?
In a world where Witchcraft is growing in every which way, we are beginning to see terms such as Wicca, Witchcraft, and Paganism being used as universal & interchangeable terms. More and more authors and new practitioners of these traditions are coming to use the terms Witchcraft and Wicca as if they are to mean the same thing when, in fact, they are two very different practices. Before comparing and contrasting the differences let's get the basic definitions.
Paganism is an umbrella term that refers to the many wide varying traditions of non-Christian, Islamic, or Jewish religions practiced in the world today. The word originates from the Latin work "paganus" meaning "country dweller" and was often used to reference people that lived outside of the mainstream village society. The term later was used to refer to those that were not Christian during the conversions since they were often the last ones to be reached by missionaries and also often the last ones to willing give in to their attempts to get them to change spiritual beliefs.
Witchcraft is a spiritual practice with it's roots based in European practice and dating back to the beginning of man. Most people do not trace back their involvement with Witchcraft past the Middle Ages because of the lack of information that is available in solid form from beyond that time as well as the fact that much of the retrieved information was written by Priests from the Christian church as falsified documents or accounts of what they believed their practices to be. In fact, it was the Christians that gave the word "Witch" and "Witchcraft" to these people and their practices and was not a term that they themselves used. Witchcraft involves the use of magick, although it is not required, and the honoring of Gods, local or land spirits and Ancestors rather than worship.
Wicca is a fairly young Pagan religion that is often confused with the religion of Witchcraft. Gerald B. Gardner, a member of a British Witchcraft coven, brought Wicca to the public in 1954. As the religion began to spread through Europe and to America it took on many different forms, spawning off many similar traditions, and taking shape and form by practitioners who began to come out publicly writing books and speaking out about their beliefs. Wicca involves the use of magick and ritual as well as the worship of a God and Goddess. While it is often referred to as a Nature religion, is it very common among urban people that have little to no access to natural places of worship.
Differences in History
While some of Wicca can be said to have roots in Traditional Witchcraft, they are very different from one another. They are especially different in their histories and origins. Wicca is a religion that was formed out of the a combination of fact, fiction, history, philosophy, psychology, and world religions. When Gardner was working with the New Forest Coven in England, he wanted to share his experiences with others, but was unable to for several reasons. At this time, presumed to be about the 1930s, the anti-Witchcraft laws were still in effect in Britain, and there were certain elements of the coven practices that Gardner was not under liberty to divulge.
In 1951 the last of the anti-Witchcraft laws as repealed and Gardner dedicated himself to bringing out a revival of Witchcraft because he felt that it was dying out because of the history and laws against it. It was in 1954 that he would publish his non-fiction book "Witchcraft Today", making him one of the very few people this early on to write factual material about modern Witchcraft practices. Though he had other pieces published be, most notably "High Magic's Aid", these were works of mostly fiction, while he still tossed in some of his actual pieces of worked ritual and magick into the stories.
Gardner was very heavily influenced by other religions and other occultist practices in the creation of his magickal system for Wicca. Most obvious and recognizable is his connection to the OTO, Golden Dawn, Masons, and the practices and teachings of Crowley. Gardner was also fond of many Eastern philosophies and took many forms of meditation as well as his system of karma from their religions. Other notable pieces "borrowed" from other sources include the ritual tools (taken from Kabalistic magick), the directional correspondences and their importance (taken from the Greeks), and the development of many of the "laws" of Wicca (taken from the OTO and Crowley). While others also had a hand in helping develop much of Gardner's work into the tradition that it became, including Doreen Valiente, the eventual work that Gardner did helped others like Alex Sanders go on to create even yes more traditions of Wicca; in this case Alexandrian Wicca.
Traditional Witchcraft has a much older place of origin in history, but unfortunately it is one that we know far less about. What we do know for certain about Traditional Witchcraft has been brought to us through the work or anthropologists, scientists and historians and their discoveries over the years. One of these things that we know through their work is that what we practice as Traditional Witchcraft today is without certain European in origin. Statues of Goddesses, such as the Willendorf Goddess, point to the very early veneration of female deities. Unlike many other forms of Witchcraft traditions, Traditional Witches also put an emphasis on local and regional deities and spirits, as the connection to their land and its Ancestors are a center point of their religion.
Another thing that we have come to learn about Traditional Witches of Europe through historical work, is that they honored and believed in spirits and Gods of the elements, Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, as well as Gods of the Sun and Moon. They celebrated their festivals based on the changing of seasons and the migrations and hibernations of animals because they were a hunting and agricultural people. It would only make sense that if you have to live off the land that your spiritual life would meld with that as well. Many of these people felt that by honoring, thanking and appeasing the Gods of the Earth, for example, they would get a more plentiful harvest or a better hunt.
Traditional Witchcraft, unlike Wicca, has no founder. No one lays claim to have created or invented Traditional Witchcraft and no one takes responsibility for bringing it to the public because it was always there. It was something that people always believed and practiced and never had to give it a name because until the time of the Christian invaders, they never had to define themselves from any other religion.
During the time of the original Traditional Witches, the majorities of people were illiterate and were not able to write down what they believed or practiced or how they did anything that they did magickly. This caused the tradition to be an oral one, which would be passed down from generation to generation through stories, and personal one on one teaching. Most of what is claimed to be original writings of these people are either false documents or writings by Christians that were trying to document what they believed was being practiced by these native people.
Differences in Beliefs
Above all else, before moving further, it is important to note that neither Wicca nor Traditional Witchcraft as it is practiced today is the same or "traditional" in the sense of being what our Ancestors would have practiced. The plain fact of the matter is that we really do not know what they practiced or truly what they believed. We have very little solid evidence of their beliefs and magickal practices and have assumed or created the rest. To some people, this is considered to be almost a crime, while others know that like anything else, in order to live and survive, things must evolve; including spiritually and magickal practice. Though some may call themselves Traditional Witches, they are more than likely people that are trying to draw as closely to the noted historical beliefs that we have discovered and are trying to eliminate the many "new age" elements out of their beliefs and practices.
One of the biggest differences between Wicca and Traditional Witchcraft are the beliefs. The difference in the view and belief of Deities is one of the most notable. In Wicca, a Deity is somehow viewed as being superior than we are. In Traditional Witchcraft, this is not the case. Traditional Witches look at Deities and spirits of the land as having ego and human characters and being no higher than themselves. Also, Traditional Witches do not worship a God and Goddess in the same way that Wiccans do. Traditional Witches rather honor the Gods in the sense that they are aspects of Nature and not higher spiritual beings of Deities in the same way that Wiccans see them. To Wiccans, the God and Goddess are seen as being higher spiritual powers that need to be worshiped through ritual, devotion, and libation. Traditional Witches see the Gods as part of the Universe, hence being part of Nature itself, and call on them in ritual to act more as a focal point rather than an entity to be worshiped. When a Traditional Witches calls on spirits in ritual for the point of aid in work, they will generally call on the help of local or land spirits, since they're more connected to the land than the spirit world. In essence, Traditional Witchcraft is polytheistic and view all spirits, Gods, and animal spirits as being part of one larger whole that is both different and separate from them, but not inferior or superior and therefore not in need of worshipping.
In Traditional Witchcraft, there is a belief in the Spirit World, or Other World. This is where the entities, spirits, and deities called upon in ritual reside. This world is not seen as being separate from our world, but rather a different level of it. Those called in ritual are not being beckoned or summoned from another place really, they rather need to be invoked in order to work with and communicate with them. They are already there, they just need to be awoken.
The Triple Goddess
Another of the differences in beliefs is the idea of a Triple Goddess. This is something that is not found in Traditional Witchcraft. The Goddess is not seen in the forms of Maiden Mother and Crone, but rather as having three functions. Each of these three functions will have something to do with a specific path that one would follow, so the Witch will only follow and honor one of the Goddess's three functions. At other times in their lives, they may find a need to draw from one of the other two functions of their chosen Goddess, but there is always one of the three that is more pronounced and important to them.
The idea of the Triple Goddess, or any Deities seen in three forms or phases, has been traced back to Anatolia (now called Turkey), where in around 7,000 BC a Goddess being worshiped in the triple form of virgin, mother, and hag was found. However, sine this is the only place that this practice was seen, and this was in the Near East and not in Europe, it's not something that is part of Traditional Witchcraft.
In Wicca, there is a strong belief reincarnation. This is not a belief that is held in all traditions of Traditional Witchcraft. Like many other beliefs in Wicca, the idea of reincarnation was pulled from other sources, in this case sources like Hindu and Buddhist thought. In Traditional Witchcraft, is it believed that when someone dies, they either return to the land and nature and become one of the spirits of the land, or they travel through the Spirit World before joining with the land spirits.
Differences in Ritual Practices
This is a good place to discuss some of the differences between ritual practices of the Traditional Witch and the Wiccan. While some elements of Traditional Witchcraft and Wicca remain the same, such as when sacred days are observed, there are many part of ritual that are purely Wiccan and not resident in all forms of Witchcraft, especially Traditional Witchcraft. Let's look at these elements individually to get the best comparison of each.
In Wicca, honoring the Sabbats and Esbats is considered to be essential or almost required in order to follow the religion. The Sabbats in Wicca also are related to a continual mythology that runs through the year and joins each holiday with the one previous. This is not the case with Traditional Witchcraft. Because Traditional Witchcraft is a path that is more in touch with the earth, the holidays are not related to any mythology and are based on the actual changes of the earth. Which deity was mythically slain on a specific day is not important to the Traditional Witch, but the fact that the earth itself is going into a state of cold slumber is, because this will make growing or harvesting of herbs, vegetable, and the like impossible. This is what is honored rather than a story. In Wicca, because of the division most practitioners have with nature because of today's modern society, relating the seasonal shifts to mythology becomes important in order to relate better to the changes taking place. Esbats, however, remain the same throughout both Traditional Witchcraft and Wicca.
The Magick Circle
The casting of the sacred Circle, or magick Circle, is a Wiccan creation taken from ceremonial magick. Traditional Witchcraft, again, because of it's closeness to nature and the surroundings, sees the earth as already being sacred, much like Druid tradition, and do not feel the need to ritually cast a place of sacred boundary for work or ritual. Traditional Witches will often go to a specific place that they feel most connected to in order to do their rituals or work and not feel the need to have to raise energy to consecrate the space. To the Traditional Witch all space and all earth is sacred and all life is ceremony. This makes their ritual structure quite different from Wiccans.
Calling the Watchtowers or calling the quarters is another element of Wiccan ritual that is not found in Traditional Witchcraft. The Watchtowers are another piece of Wiccan ritual that is pulled from the Kabalistic magick, though Gardner likely took this right from the OTO. Rather than calling in elementals in this fashion, the Traditional Witch calls in Guardians, spirits of the land that they have some sort of relationship with. This is important, as they are not just random entities called upon for the sake of calling on them, as is often the case in Wiccan ritual.
Guardians can be spirits of the land or Ancestors that the Witch has communicated with or worked with in the past, and whom they know wish to assist and participate in their work. Others will call on spirit guides to act as Guardians. Not all Traditional Witches use Guardians, but those that do choose who they will call on very carefully.
Many people that work in systems other than Wicca who do not have things such as the Watchtowers, view the calling of the Watchtowers to be on par with holding the entities hostage for the ritual because of the way that they are often summoned of "commanded" to be part of the circle and not asked or communicated with previously. In ritual work with the Traditional Witch, there is often no set boundary for the work area, so the spirits and Guardians that are called on for ritual are allowed to roam freely around the person rather than reside in one specific spot.
Traditional Witches do not have set correspondences as Wiccans do, and often the element that is resident in a directional spot in ritual will change based on where the Witch is holding their ritual. Traditional Witches take this practice from that of their Ancestors. Early Europeans believed that the Gods and spirits inhabited the land itself rather than being part of a separate world. When people in older times traveled they would take the spirits of their Gods and Ancestors with them. When they would do any sort of magickal work or pray to their Gods they would align themselves according the relation of where they were to their Homeland or Homeland of their Gods since this is where they felt that they truly resided. In order to do this, the Witch would look upon the North Star, the traveler's star, and use that as their point of reference. If the Witch happens to be in the Homeland, then the correspondences are no longer needed. This is still done today, where as in Wicca the directions are often predetermined based on the Wiccan tradition one is practicing with.
Self-Initiation vs. Dedication
In Traditional Witchcraft there is no such thing as a Self-Initiation. Wiccans, if practicing solitary, will Initiate themselves onto the Wiccan path. For Traditional Witches, Initiation is granted as a rite of passage and is when the lineage of the Witch is passed on and when secrets of the Craft are given. This is not something that a person studies for over the course of a set frame of time like the year and a day in Wicca. This is something that some Traditional Witches may work towards for many many years and some may never reach that level at all. Certain tasks will need to be completed and certain knowledge will need to be retained, and only then, when the person is actually ready, will they be initiated.
Initiation in Traditional Witchcraft is a formal ritual for the purpose of passing on the lineage. The lineage is the essence of the Witch and therefore this is a ritual that is required to be performed by a Witch that has previously been initiated. In Wicca, Initiation is looked at more as a marking of time spent studying, not always the acknowledgement of what has been learned. Many people that join Wiccan groups or covens will expect to be Initiated after they have studied with the group or teacher for a year and a day, and then every year and a day after that if the group is working with Degree Initiations, another thing that is only used in Wicca. In Traditional Witchcraft there is no hierarchy so there is no need for Degrees of clergy levels. For Traditional Witches, there are only practitioners or coveners and the Priest or Priestess. The Priest or Priestess only receives this title because they are the leaders of a coven, not because they are of a higher position in the Craft than anyone else. It is also important to note that the term High Priest/ess is not used in Traditional Witchcraft as again, this is only used in Wiccan traditions and is most likely another pull from the OTO and ceremonial magick where there were often Kings or Queens appointed to groups.
Dedication is a different type of ritual and is one that the Witch does alone and when they are ready to do so. This is when the Witch will decide to give themselves over to the service of the Gods. Because the relationship between a Witch and their Gods is considered to be highly personal in Traditional Witchcraft, this needs to be a self-dedication, done with only the Witch and the Gods. The ritual is written by the Witch themselves and performed in a place that they feel brings them closest to their Gods and Ancestors. This is different to Wicca where Dedication is considered to be the point where one dedicates themselves to learning about the path of Wicca and not the service to the Gods. This is seen more as a part of a Wiccan Initiation.
In Wicca, it is not uncommon for some groups to work naked, or skyclad. In Traditional Witchcraft this is considered to be extremely rude. For Traditional Witches it is required that the body have some type of covering even if it is pigment or sigils marked on the body. While most Traditional Witches work in the same style of dress that non-skyclad Wiccans work in; robes, street clothes, etc, some will do specific rituals in no physical clothing but will cover themselves completely in body paint, sigils, and wear ritual jewelry. To go before your Gods without any adornment at all is seen as a great insult.
Differences in Ethics and Magick
When looking into Traditional Witchcraft, the differences in the views of ethics and magick are an aspect that a lot of Wiccans have a great amount of disagreement with. In Traditional Witchcraft there is a stress on the responsibility of the Witch, just as there is in Wicca, but that responsibility is looked at more in the way of a responsibility to protect yourself and those close to you in any way you can, even if that means using adverse magick in a way that Wiccan never would. For some of today's modern day Traditional Witches, the way Wiccans will "turn the other cheek" or not get involved in a magickal sense in some situations, is seen as being somewhat of a weakness.
There are a lot of different components that can be looked at in a compare and contrast way between Traditional Witchcraft and Wicca. But before looking at those, let's first take a brief glance at what ethics are to the Traditional Witch. Traditional Witches have no code or laws of ethics to live by. The most important factor in using magick is the idea that you will be responsible for your actions. Because in Traditional Witchcraft there is no Wiccan Rede or other moral code, the use of "black magick", hexes, curses, and the like, are not ruled out on principle. In fact, to the Traditional Witch, it is looked at as honorable to do whatever is necessary to protect oneself and ones family in a time when they are facing potential danger on any level. With responsibility being the main focus, the idea in Traditional Witchcraft that there is no good or evil, only your intent, this gives even more of a weight on the shoulders of a Witch considering adverse magick.
The Three Fold Law, Karma, and Return of Energy
In Wicca, there is the belief in the Three Fold Law and the Wiccan Rede. Everything that you do will come back to you three times over, both good and bad. While this is an interesting concept, to the Traditional Witch it is an unnecessary one. In Traditional Witchcraft there is the belief of Return of Energy, which is similar to and based around Newton's Law, saying that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. When energy is sent out into the Universe for the purpose of a magickal goal and intent, many things will happen along the way to shape and form that energy. In this time, anything can happen and the energy can change. This may cause the reaction to be greater or lesser than the energy of the intent. Energy is not constant and cannot be measured or anticipated, so the Traditional Witch does not expect a specific type of reaction form his or her magick.
Karma, which is very tied to many of the Wiccan ethics and principles, is something of an Eastern philosophy, and therefore not part of Traditional Witchcraft. In Wicca karma and the Three Fold Law get mixed together and are later considered to be part of what will determine one's rebirth or reincarnation, again, something that is looked at in a very different way to Traditional Witches and in a very Eastern way by Wiccans. In Traditional Witchcraft there is the belief in fate. Everyone has a fate or reason for being and that is what they are working towards and striving for in their lives and everything they do will affect that. Some will reach their fate and others won't, and the reaction to their magickal works affects that. Some people will know what their fate is and will be able to work to reach that goal more effectively through magick, and others will never know what their fate is, thus not knowing how their magick and it's reactions are working with their fate.
The practice of magick in Traditional Witchcraft is central to the religion. Unlike in Wicca where magick is something that a person may or may not participate in, magick is part of every day life for the Traditional Witch. The magick itself is also quite different. Where in Wicca magick is more ritualistic and requires much pageantry, for the Traditional Witch, magick consists of simple items or none at all. Making a meal is a form of magick, for example, where simple everyday items would be utilized with intent and direction.
Magick for Traditional Witches is very practical and does not have much of the dogma that Wiccan magick has. Where in Wicca is an element to a spell is missing, such as a specific herb or candle color, for example, the Wiccan practitioner might decide not to work the magick until they have all the needed components. However, for the Traditional Witch, these things are not as important, and he or she will continue on without the missing piece or make a substitution of their own means. Most Traditional Witches will rarely use such things though, as they are viewed to be more Wiccan and more on par with ceremonial magick. Traditional Witches will employ the two most powerful tools they have in their magick, their mind and will power. These are the only tools they feel are needed for magick.
Witchcraft is first and foremost a religion. Magick is just a part of that religious system and is not seen as something that needs to be given such attention to in Traditional Witchcraft. The main purpose is to connect with the Gods and the magick, while important, is not the reason for being on the path.
Grimoires and the Book of Shadows
In Wicca, a Book of Shadows, a name used to refer to the time of secrecy in the Craft with regards to magickal material, in used to keep information, spells, rituals, and general musings. In Traditional Witchcraft a Grimoire is used to keep information and learning material and rituals. Where in Wicca the Book of Shadows is used to keep everything in, acting almost as a diary, the Grimoire of Traditional Witchcraft is used solely for keeping learning material and rituals and anything related to those rituals. Information on magick and spells, including the spells themselves, are kept in a separate book.
Grimoires are composed by the person using the book and have historically be written in runes or other magickal alphabets so that outsiders would not be able to understand that material contained in the book. Some people will go so far as to write in pictures or their own created form of symbolism and language so that only they will be able to read the rituals within the book. Unlike in Wicca where a Book of Shadows is shared in a coven or passed down in a family, Grimoires are often not shared and it is not expected that they will be handed down from person to person in a family or coven.
Witch or Wiccan
When looking at the real differences between Wicca and Witchcraft, it's hard to believe that people can think that they are one in the same. It's easy to see how Traditional Witches can become often irritated with Wiccan followers constantly calling themselves Witches. While using the term Witch to describe oneself, many Wiccans are trying to get away from the new age stereotype that has come along with the terms Wicca and Wiccan. However, a Witch is something else entirely. As the path of Witchcraft becomes more or more popular among people searching the Pagan religions, the terms of Wicca and Witchcraft to describe ones religious position will hopefully become more clear in time.
(Adapted from the workings of witchway)