Witchcraft Vs Paganism: Where does Religion end? And where does Wicca begin?

There is a crossover in the witchcraft community, as to where does witchcraft begin and paganism end? Can there be a crossover, and can you be both? Well its both a yes and a no answer, because of the open-ended definition of paganism, and how its cultural impact has influenced the witchcraft community, and how witchcraft has branched away from the religious definition it perhaps once had.

Maybe its because people see paganism and witchcraft as both revolving around the seasons, lunar cycles, and nature, where in practise this is true, the fact still remains that paganism is a religion, whereas witchcraft is not. And many pagans accept magic as part of their spiritual growth, whether that be in prayer or rituals, its acknowledged that magical practises are a skill, but this is not a focus or key trait of paganism.

And where they both revolve around the seasons; it doesn’t mean all witches practise in tune with the seasons. Witchcraft has different levels of teaching, so you can be a witch of the ocean, astrology, kitchen, music witch, as long as it resonates within the feelings, and it doesn’t mean that you have to align your practises with the cycles of the moon.

 Its not considered a religion, but instead is considered a practise, or a craft that includes using the invocation of spells and spirits to achieve their goals. So you can be a witch of gardening and not be a witch of kitchen for example. Witchcraft is about the personal path, so there isn’t any rules and chose how to practise. This means that if personally you want to give the universe bad energy, or manipulate the natural elements in a negative way, you are free to practise this.

A term coined by witches to show they aren’t part of paganism is ‘eclectic witch,’ to understand why they are separate entities. A witch can be atheist, as their traditions revolve around practise. Some argue that to become a witch, you must be initiated into a coven, as the saying ‘only a witch can make a witch’ however, there are solitary witches who use the online community to study witchcraft.

But you may think witches have supernatural powers that would make you control lives and bend the metaphysical, but witches abilities are simply ordinary, witches use their personal energies to protect, heal and enhance their lives, their loved ones and the earth we live in.

Witches are said to use different methods to achieve their accuracies, including tarot cards, crystal balls, spells, herbalism and potions to achieve their desired goals. Historically the term was used to describe those who associated with demons, but now is thought to use magick, meaning the use of natural energy with conscious intent.

Spells are words to carry out magical actions, including words, formula, verses, actions, or a combination of these. These can include magical herbs, amulets, crystals, and potions, and by binding and protecting during the process.

A pagan is someone who follows nature religion, they follow a set of religious guidelines in accordance with natural occurrences, such as harvests, seasons and special astrological events. It usually follows the sun and moon cycles and believes in both a God and Goddess’ and that the world falls into balance like nature itself.

 Paganism is a religion often associated with those who worked the land and are culturally based. Pagans were thought to have deviated from Christianity which was often seen as disassociated from Christian societies. But in modern day, its an umbrella term to group multiple aboriginal religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, as they believe in spirituality and deities that fall under paganism. It also thought to refer to non Abrahamic religions.

Paganism tends to be either ditheistic, so they worship two deities, or polytheistic, worshipping multiple deities.

An overlap between paganism and witchcraft, is the term Wicca, coined by Gerald Gardner, which was formally acknowledged in the 1950’s, but has had early influences in the 1930’s. Many have used wicca to interchange witchcraft, but they have distinct differences, as wiccans believe in deities, and therefore it falls under the open definition of paganism. Wicca has strong influences to the metaphysical that incorporates European witchcraft and occultism. It’s more of a modern practise then traditional paganism, but does share similar ideas of spirituality, with other religions, such as the idea of reincarnation. The aim of being reborn is to enjoy experiencing earth over and over again, until everything that can be learned has been absorbed.

The term Wicca derives from the Anglo-Saxon word wicce, meaning to bend or shape nature, which is why most wiccans believe in the mother goddess, and her companion the horned god, as both of these deities harness their powers from nature. Most wiccans practise witchcraft too, in forms of spells to communicate with the different worlds.

According to Ella Harrison, a popular YouTube creator for witchcraft and wicca, she states that “Wicca is a neopagan beliefs that follows the threefold law, that whatever you put out into the universe you receive back three times over. Whereas Witchcraft doesn’t have any rules, there are different paths and normally you abide by different paths to achieve your goals.”

Wiccan’s also do not hex, or treat the universe with bad intentions, as seen in some practises of witchcraft. For example, some witches use dark magik, including communicating with deceased spirits and creating bad intentions directed at people. However, this isn’t the case for all levels of witchcraft, as everyone has different practise mediums to understand.

So if you are simply confused at this point and need a shortened run-down version:

  • Paganism: umbrella term for religions that use deities and natural earth cycles in their practises.
  • Wicca: a religion under paganism that uses deities and sometimes incorporates witchcraft into the daily practises.
  • Witchcraft: A non-religious practise/craft that comes in many different forms, that doesn’t necessarily worship a metaphysical god, but rather uses natural resources to achieve their goals.

And what do all of these have in common? People find these practises when apart of them feels empty, but when they start learning about them, its almost like a sense of coming home. It may sound silly to a unbelieving world, but to those practising, it’s their very real lives, and that’s what makes the world of witchcraft, wicca and paganism that bit more special.

Published by Heather Dalgleish

21-year-old journalism student. Author and illustrator for In Full Bloom Magazine

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