So you're a witch, you must be Wiccan
If I were to ask several different witches what witchcraft is I'd get several different answers, because witchcraft is as personal to each witch as the individual witch. This is why its virtually impossible to give one definitive answer. Witchcraft has become an umbrella term for many practices today. For the purpose of this particular blog post I'd like to talk a little bit about Wicca vs Traditional Witchcraft.
First and foremost I'd like to tell you that many Wiccans identify as witches, however not all witches identify as Wiccan's. Very briefly Wicca also known as Pagan Witchcraft, is a nature based religion founded by Gerald Gardner around the 1950's in England. Along with High Priestess Doreen Valiente, Gardner created many published books, along with oral and secret written texts which were passed down to initiates. Over time the religion grew and evolved into a number of sects and denominations (or traditions) each with its own structure. Due to the variants of the denominations there is some disagreement as to what actually constitutes Wicca.
That said the foundations of Wicca are working and worshiping a God or Goddess. Along with the Triple Goddess and The Horned God. Some Wiccans refer to their goddess as the "Lady" and their god as the "Lord". Ancient Gods and Goddesses play a role in wicca as well. Theistic Wiccans beliefs can range from polytheism to pantheism or monism or even Goddess monotheism. Theological Wiccans views can encompass theists, atheists and agnostics.
Wiccans work with the Moon cycles, the Esbats and all of the Sabbats. The Wiccan Rede "an it harm none, do what ye will" is typically followed and used as a moral compass however it is not always followed by all Wiccans. Another common aspect of Wicca is the practice of the "three fold law", which means any action of ill towards another will return to you three fold not unlike karma. There is often ritual practices of magic but not always, many Wiccans believe in magic or the manipulation of force exercised through the practice of witchcraft. It is a common belief among Wiccans that magic is a law of nature that is misunderstood by science. Making use of all five senses to achieve desired results. Most rituals are performed within a scared circle, where a spell is cast which is said to bring change in the physical world. Such as protection, banishments and even healing. There is also the belief in the five classical elements. These elements include earth, air, fire,water and spirit. All of which are represented at each point of the pentagram. These elements are often used during rituals and circle casting.
Gardner did view the Witch as a positive antitype, however most wiccans dismiss various elements tradionally associated with witchcraft. These are the typical steriotypes which can include Satanism, cannibalism, orgies and infanticide all of which are fictional claims invented by Early Modern witch hunters and most of there steriotypes still exist today and causes women today who practice any form of witchcraft to remain in the broom closet. Today there are millions of people practicing Wicca as it has become more mainstream and can be seen in many movies and TV shows today.
Now I'd like to talk about tradional witchcraft which is seperate from Wicca. In my opinion Wicca is more of a religion vs all the variations of traditional witchcraft which is a practice or a craft. Traditional witchcraft is a term used to refer to a variety of contemporary forms of witchcraft. Typically it is inspired by folk magic and mysticism. The goal of traditional witchcraft is to protect the sanctity of our craft and to carry on the traditions passed down from all the witches before us. We recognize that a lot of knowledge has been lost over the centuries and it is our job to preserve those traditions.
Each practice is different and will vary due to the region that the witch is from, some of the diffrences will be local herbs, local folklore, different seasons and plant in that specific area, verses traditional witches from across the world. The religion of traditional witches can also vary from paganism to christianity to atheism. As traditional witches we look at the duality of nature, the beauty and the cruelty, nothing is either dark or light, good or bad but we see things in the grey so that we can have a full understanding of the universe.
Most traditional witches are solitary and do not belong to a coven. Within our practice we implement occultism from divination, spell casting, spirit contacting and in some cases even demonology. There is a wide variety of things and it is dependant on the witch, as is the spectrum of morality in traditional witchcraft. Because there is no wiccan rede in traditional witchcraft it is left up to the individual witch to determine their own morality. Some will hex and curse and some will not, as I said before this is an individual practice and these are things you will feel guided towrds or not. However as traditional witches we must also be aware that cursing or hexing was part of the history of the traditional witch, so when choosing this path you need to acknowledge that.
Traditional witchcraft can be the foundation on which our practices are built, however as our practices grow we add other aspects of different practices that call to us. Some of us do work with the moon cycles and the Esbats and all the Sabbats and some wont. Theres so many varieties of witches today that its nearly impossible to list all the ways each is different.
There is no right or wrong way to practice witchcraft and one way isnt better than the other. Its a life long journey of self exploration with many highs and lows and will have you second guessing everything you have been taught. In the end the journey to the witch you were meant to become will be worth it. I hope that this helps explain some of the differences between Wicca and Tradional Witchcraft
Many Blessings J