Wicca and Witchcraft – What’s the Difference?

Compiled by Jenwytch in 2004 from: http://www.spiralnature.com/spirituality/wicca/witchcraft-versus-wicca.html and other sources which I forgot to cite when I put this together for my personal “hard copy” BOS.)

Witchcraft is one of the many belief systems which fit under the umbrella of Paganism. It is the craft of the witch, and is sometimes called ‘The Craft’. Witchcraft usually refers to the casting of spells and the practice of magick, especially magick utilizing personal power in conjunction with the energies within stones, herbs, colors, and other natural objects. (The spelling of ‘magick’ is often used to distinguish between ‘real’ magic and the type where a stage magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat or changes flowers into doves etc. It is sometimes also spelled ‘majik.’) While this may have spiritual overtones, witchcraft, by this definition is not a religion. However, some followers of Wicca incorrectly use this word to denote their religion. Practicing witchcraft requires no belief in specific gods or goddesses and is a learned skill, not a spiritual path.

A witch was anciently, a European practitioner of the remnants of pre-Christian folk magick, particularly that relating to herbs, healing, wells, rivers and stones (i.e.: One who practices witchcraft). Later, this term’s meaning was deliberately altered to denote demented, dangerous, supernatural beings who practiced destructive magick and who threatened Christianity. This change was a political, monetary and sexist move on the part of organized religion, not a change in the practice of witches. This later, erroneous meaning is still accepted by many non-witches today.

Some members of Wicca to describe themselves also use this word to describe what they are. However, witchcraft can be practiced by people of any faith. One can be a Wiccan witch, a Jewish witch, a Christian witch, a Muslim witch, etc.

Wicca is a recently created Neo-Pagan tradition or religion and was founded by Gerald Gardner in the UK during the late 1940’s. It is comprised of Western European folk traditions, Eastern philosophy, and Cabbalistic mysticism but is based largely on the symbols, seasonal days of celebration, beliefs and deities of ancient Celtic society. Added to this material were Masonic and ceremonial magickal components from recent centuries. It also has spiritual roots in Shamanism and the earliest expressions of reverence of nature. Among Wicca’s major motifs are: reverence of the Goddess and the God; reincarnation; magick; ritual observance of the Full Moon; astronomical and agricultural phenomena; spheroid temples, created with personal power, in which rituals occur. Wicca has several branches, which emphasize polarity, or working with both masculine and feminine forces. Although initially Wicca was based more in magickal pursuits, it has since developed into a more spiritual religion. Because Wicca is truly a religion, magick takes on a secondary role in its rituals. Today, Wicca can be seen as an eclectic system of beliefs with an underlying static ritual and ethics base. Although some traditions in Wicca may cater to a specific culture, the rituals and ethics will still have this commonality which identifies it as being Wiccan.

Though sometimes used interchangeably, “Wicca” and “Witchcraft” are not necessarily the same thing. The confusion comes, understandably, because both practitioners of Wicca and practitioners of Witchcraft are called witches. In addition, many, but not all, Wiccans practice witchcraft and vice versa. The distinction between the two is not clear cut. There is crossover between the Pagan/Neo-pagan religions and Witchcraft (for example: the mention of Goddesses in spells and the performance of spells during Sabbat rituals). However, the differences mentioned above are the general distinctions made between the two terms.

Not all witches are Wiccan, and not all Wiccans are witches, as witchcraft by itself is not a religion, and not all Wiccans practice magic.