:Witch, Wiccan or Pagan:
Is there a difference? What's the difference?
I wrote this section in response to the overwhelming amount of emails I get asking if there is a difference between a Wiccan and a Pagan. So, instead of replying with the standard, and the often-confusing phrase "Wiccans are Pagan, but not all Pagans are Wiccan." I thought I would elaborate.
What is a "Pagan"?
Some will say "any non-Christian religion" but that would include Judaism and Islam. Some would say "any non-Christian, Judaic, or Islamic religion" but again, that would include Hinduism and Buddhism. Then they might go "any polytheistic religion" which would include Hinduism. You could go on and on, and I doubt we would come to an agreement. This is how I vaguely define Paganism: "A collection of Earth- and nature-based religions, from any culture, that focus on the cycles of the year, life, and the Earth." In Donald M. Ayers' book 'English Words from Latin and Greek Elements', the word pagan :
"owes its modern meaning to its use as a bit of military slang by the soldiers of Rome. Originally the word meant "peasant" (from the Latin pagus, "village"), but the legionaries applied it in a somewhat contemptuous fashion to anyone who was not a soldier, and so it became the equivalent of "civilian." Later, the Christians, who felt a strong similarity between the sacrament of baptism and a Roman soldier's solemn oath of allegiance to his commander, and who thus regarded themselves as "soldiers of Christ," adopted the word pagan to refer to non-Christians." p.237
The word stems back to those of the country who based their religious beliefs on Earth-based cycles such as the harvest, the life cycle from birth to death (and consequently, rebirth), moon cycles, and the length of days through the seasons.
Wicca is only one Pagan religion, but there are many others such as Santeria, Asatru, Shaminism, etc. Many people do not necessarily identify with a specific religion, and just use the broad term "Pagan" to define their spiritual path. Pagan religions are distinct and separate from each other, and it should not be assumed that they are just different names for the same faith.
Wicca is a religion and someone who follows that religion is called a Wiccan. It can be difficult to accurately define Wicca, and not all Wiccans will define themselves the same way. There are some pretty basic standards for Wiccans such as observing the 8 Sabbats, honoring the Gods and/or Goddesses, celebrating the moon and her cycles just to name a few. Many traditional Wiccans also feel that belonging to a coven is also a requirement and that those who practice their religion as a solitary should not refer to themselves as Wiccan. Most Wiccans also practice magick, and therefore are also witches, but not all of them.
In previous decades, the terms Wicca and Witchcraft were used interchangeably. That, however, is no longer the case, although some still consider Wicca to be a subset of witchcraft. The practice of witchcraft is not associated with any religion, therefore you can be a witch and yet also be a member of any number of religions, or none. Too many people use the term "natural witch". Sorry, you cannot be a "natural Witch" any more than you could be a "natural Christian". Some people may have a natural affinity towards withcraft, but the use of magick takes practice, experience and learning.
The term 'warlock' isn't actually used by anyone, at least not anyone who is actually familiar with Wicca or witchcraft. The stereotypical meaning is 'male witch', but in fact all witches are just witches whether they are male or female. Rumour has it that the word really means 'oath-breaker' and was used to describe anyone who betrayed their coven. But many people with more historical knowledge than I have claimed that is not true either. Regardless of the true origins and meaning of the word, it is not commonly used today to describe people who practice witchcraft.