The Difference Between Paganism, Wicca, and Witchcraft
If you’re new to the world of witchcraft, you may have seen the terms paganism, witchcraft, and wicca used almost interchangeably. You may even think they’re basically the same thing. They’re not – and you’ll need to be able to keep them straight while learning more about the world of witchcraft.
This article is not a comprehensive explanation of each term. I’ve simplified each as much as possible so that you can refer to this article when you need a quick refresher.
A quick disclaimer: Many people interpret these terms differently and every individual is entitled to their personal opinion. These descriptions are based off my own knowledge that I’ve compiled over years of research and experience.
Paganism is a very broad term used to describe many different spiritual paths, but it’s usually used to describe an earth-based, non-Christian spirituality or religion. In fact, “pagan” was originally used to refer to those who didn’t convert to Christianity while the religion overtook Europe.
While many Pagans do worship deities and have set traditions, Paganism is not a specific religion at all. You don’t have to connect with deities or practice rituals or magic to be pagan. Paganism is all about finding peace within nature and the earth and seeing the divine power within yourself and the universe.
Wicca is a subset of Paganism that was created by Gerald Gardner in the 1950’s. It’s a religion that worships its own deities and practices rituals and witchcraft. Traditional wiccans are initiated into covens and learn specific, ceremonial magic.
Gardnerian and Alexandrian Wicca are two of the main subsets of Wicca. Both have their own ceremonial magic and traditional initiations, along with exclusive covens and churches. Most modern witchcraft is derived from wiccan traditions and beliefs.
Witchcraft is a vague term that everyone interprets differently. Some see it as a set of skills or a secular practice that doesn’t involve religion or spirituality. In other words, you can be an atheist and practice witchcraft, as it’s focused on intent and rituals - not deities. Others see it as a part of their spirituality or religion. They connect with deities through the practice of witchcraft and use magic as a tool for worship and expression.
The beauty of witchcraft is its inclusivity. Witchcraft is a tool and a practice used by pagans, witches, wiccans, and literally whoever wants to use it. Wiccans can use it to connect with their deities, as a form of worship and as a traditional practice. Pagans may use it to grow spiritually, as part of their religion, or as a completely secular tradition.
Witchcraft is a fluid term used to describe spells, rituals, intention and the use of power we hold in ourselves. The way you interpret, and practice, witchcraft is completely personal and unique, and that’s okay. The important thing to remember is that we all have the right to practice magic in a way that is safe and tolerant of other witches.
What to Keep in Mind
If that seemed like a lot of information, and you’re not sure you can keep it straight, I don’t blame you. I still get confused sometimes. Basically, Pagans and Wiccans have a lot in common, and a lot of them practice witchcraft, but they are different in a few key ways. Wicca is a specific religion with traditions, rules, and deities. Paganism is a term used to describe someone who follows an earth-based, spiritual path. And witchcraft can be someone’s whole religion, part of their spiritual path, or a secular tool of expression.
I use this phrase to keep it all straight: All wiccans are pagans, but not all pagans are wiccans.