This subject confuses many people, including some Wiccans. Wicca is a religion whose adherents are alternatively called Wiccans and witches. By contrast, traditional witchcraft is not a religion, but a universal magical practice that transcends any religious belief or lack thereof.
While Wiccans generally acknowledge and revere a pantheon of gods and goddesses, traditional witches may belong to any religion or none, they may believe in a God or gods or they may be atheists.
Where Does the Term “Wicca” Come From?
Wicca is an Old Anglo-Saxon term for “witch” and refers to either a man or a woman. The usage of this word was revived in the 1950s by an Englishman named Gerald Gardner who is credited with founding modern Wicca. This branch of Wicca is commonly referred to as Gardnerian.
In the United States Wicca is, typically, more independently practiced. And, throughout the 1960s and into the present time, it has undergone some changes. It remains a polytheistic, earth-centered nature religion. Adherents are extremely conscious of their one “law” called the Wiccan Rede (“Rede” is Old Anglo-Saxon for “counsel”) which advised them to “Harm none.”
Wiccans observe the seasons and the traditional peasant holidays called Sabbats through celebrations of drumming, dancing and feasting.
In numerous court rulings, Wicca has been upheld as a religion whenever it has come under challenge.
About Traditional Witchcraft
Traditional witchcraft is a practice of magic that encompasses many different types of activities including astrology, divination, spell casting, spirit communication and demonology. It includes the practices of many nations, cultures and religions as well as many books and writings from ancient times.
Traditional witches may admire King Solomon or St. Cyprian for their work with demonic forces. They may be adherents to the tradition of The Golden Dawn, which gave birth to the entire New Age movement and grew out of the work of the Rosicrucians. Sometimes they choose even more arcane forms of magical practices.
They may be inclined toward Satanic witchcraft as it was practiced by Anton LaVey of The Church of Satan. Or, they may be Luciferians or Gnostics.
They may be practice Santeria, Hoodoo or any number of traditional magical practices from countries and cultures around the world.
Some witches are capable healers who have knowledge of herbs, minerals and an alternative science that allows them to heal people at a distance.
They are as different as the individual; and they are as good or as bad as the individual. Most traditional witches are independent thinkers who try to do the right thing, but they are not encumbered by any pre-defined moral or ethical code. (There are no Commandment and no Rede.)
Interestingly, in the English language, there is only one word for witch. And, witches may heal or harm other people. This differs in other languages, for example, in Spanish where there are healers called “curanderos” and harming witches called “brujos.”
In popular American culture, such as the television show “Bewitched” or the movie “The Wizard of Oz,” witches are frequently both good and bad.
Black Magic Vs. White Magic
Another common difference between traditional witchcraft and Wicca is the use of what is considered to be black magic.
Wiccans sometimes deny the existence of black magic and some are opposed to spell casting of any kind. Wicca is a religion and a world view, which restricts adherents with the Wiccan Rede, which admonishes them to do no harm. Spell casting within Wiccca is always benign, they will not harm even someone who wants to harm them. Like Christians, they turn the other cheek and leave revenge to karma. Typically, they believe it is morally wrong to interfere with the free will of another.
Furthermore, many Wiccans believe the the power of magic is absolute and natural and, therefore, neither black nor white. This idea was propagated by the popular movie, “The Craft.” Unfortunately, this and some other Hollywood productions were many people’s first introduction to Wicca.
An Attempt to Define Black Magic
The concepts of black magic and white magic have been around for a very long time. According to the work of Alice Bailey “Treatise on White Magic,” first published in 1934, white magic can only be performed by someone who is healthy and pure of heart. Generally speaking, white magic serves others, whereas black magic serves the magician. But, black magic has its place, even in the practices of good witches. Traditional witches acknowledge and use black magic unapologetically.
The definition of black magic can be very broad or narrow. The broadest definition of black magic is any practice that the individual practitioner regards as wrong or immoral. By some definitions, black magic may involve spells for love and revenge. Black magic is not necessary bad or malevolent. It all depends on the spirit with which the magic is performed.
For more on Black Magic, please visit: Psychic Powers and Magic Spells
The Problem of Intolerance
Despite the ambiguous imagery of witches in popular culture, both Wiccans and traditional witches of all kinds are faced with intolerance, especially in certain parts of the U.S.
One of the most recent incidents involved the firing of a TSA worker in Albany, New York who says she was harassed for being Wiccan and accused of putting a hex on someone’s car. As she points, out Wiccans don’t do that. See the article, “Whistle-blowing Witch Grounded by TSA.”
In another disgusting display, a political candidate from Delaware made outrageous claims about her involvement in witchcraft and then derided and insulted practitioners everywhere, calling them “questionable people,” in an effort to extricate herself from her obvious lies. This culminated in a silly campaign video in which she declared, “I’m not a witch. I’m you.”
Most harassment of witches and Wiccans involves people trying to stop them from practicing their religion or sabotaging their businesses or their employment. Despite court ruling after court ruling, Wiccans are continually denied the right to practice their religion.
For traditional witches, it is even worse. Often they receive intolerance from both the Wiccans and the dominating religious forces. Many Wiccans are completely oblivious to the existence of traditional witchcraft because they do not believe in the existence of good and evil. And, they frequently imagine that all witches are like themselves.
In heavily Christian dominated areas of the U.S. many witches must pretend to be Christians in order not to endure harassment from co-workers.
One couple I know who are Wiccan expressed their concerns to me that they were not receiving mail since their delivery person discovered what religion they practiced. Although I’m not Wiccan, I used to receive witchcraft-related literature in the past associated with my business and I’ve had on-going difficulties with the mail. Finally, I had to open up a mailbox in another town in order to receive mail.
These things are small, but insidious and harmful. Denying someone their mail can be extremely harmful. Furthermore, there is no way to prove this is actually happening. It is only a suspicion.
One very good thing about Wicca is that, despite the intolerance, it is a more socially acceptable form of witchcraft than the traditional. And, they have made some headway in establishing more tolerance for witches and occultists of all kinds.