Difference Between Witch & Wiccan

Many sites will tell you that there is a lot of debate about the use of these two terms. A Wiccan is the follower of the religion Wicca. A witch is a practitioner of witchcraft. With such simple definitions, where does the confusion come in?

It probably comes from the fact that the Wiccan religion incorporates a lot of witchcraft practices, hence why the common tradition, Gardnerian, is also referred to as British Traditional Witchcraft.  The confusion also may result from respected teachers, such as Raymond Buckland, referring to Wiccans as witches. Were they wrong? No, but they didn't explain how they were using the terms.

A Wiccan can be a witch, but doesn't have to be. A person can practice the Wiccan religion by praying to the God and Goddess, celebrating the Sabbaths, and respecting nature. None of those things requires the use or knowledge of witchcraft. Likewise, a witch doesn't have to be a Wiccan. A witch can practice a myriad of religions, including Jewish Mysticism's the Kabbalah, Voodoo, and Catholicism's Papal Magic. Many American witches are first introduced to witchcraft through Wicca, and so are both.

Key differences between a Witch and Wiccan are as follows:
  • Wiccans believe in dieties, usually a God and Goddess. Witches may or may not believe in any deity. (Witches can be atheists)
  • Wiccans usually trace their roots to Gerald Gardner, who formed his own version of witchcraft and made it popular in America. Witches trace their roots through cultures, such as Sybil Leek traces her practice of Celtic witchcraft through her family.
  • Wiccans usually follow the (end of the) Wiccan Rede, "An harm none, do as ye will". Witches see the world as a balance between light and dark, and may work with a variety of magick. (Cross a witch and they'll have no problem hexing you.)
  • Wicca is a new religion. (Dr. Margaret Murray 1920s, Gerald Gardner 1950s.) Witchcraft has been around since there's been mankind. (Witchcraft is specifically mentioned in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible.)
  • Wicca focuses on light magic. Witchcraft is a balance between light and baleful (dark) magic.
  • Wicca didn't exist during the Salem witch trials, and Wiccans were never hunted. Witches were hung, crushed, and burned during the Salem witch trials and previous witch hunts stretching back centuries. Witches continue to be tortured and killed today. (Many Wiccans were affected by Anti Witch Laws in America and England that weren't repealed until 1951-1952.)
  • Wicca founder Gerald Gardner did have ties to Satanism, by associating with Aleister Crowley and Anton LaVey. Witchcraft's only ties to Satanism are what the Church has created. (Wiccans are not Satanists, but it's well known that Gardner, LaVey and Aleister Crowley were contemperaries and discussed their philosophies together. "An it harm none, do as ye will" was taken from Crowely's "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law".)

1 comment:

  1. Good article! You're right about witchcraft being as old as man. I am pretty sure there is a cave somewhere with a drawing of a man getting hexed by his wife for forgetting to wipe his feet before entering the cave! (And leaving the toilet rock up!)