What’s in a Name?
Not all Pagans are Wiccan, not all Wiccans are Witches and not all Witches are Pagan… Are you confused yet? There are many people who consider the words interchangeable while others are offended by being called one or the other. So, what is the difference?
The term Pagan is derived from the Latin word paganus which translates to “country dweller” or “rustic”. This was later used to define a group of people who do not follow the religion of Abraham or in other words Christianity. With the rise in popularity of Christianity, often it was the country people and farmers who were the last people to be converted. They had solid faith in their own rituals because they were so connected to nature.
Wicca is a religion founded by Gerald Gardner, he brought a revival of interest in pagan traditions and formed a modern religion from historical practices. The main difference in Wicca compared to other Pagan religions is that it honours the God and Goddess equally, whereas Pagan/Witches often worship the Goddess first and foremost and see the God as just a tool, the Consort.
Witch is a term used for a person who practices witchcraft. Witchcraft is an act of creating magick. Witchcraft does not have specific religious affiliations; it is a set of practices that create something or an outcome. There are pagan and Christian witches, even Kabbalism can be considered a form of witchcraft.
There are varied perspectives in the Pagan community about these terms. I spoke with several Pagans who all agreed that “Pagan” is an umbrella term for religions that believe in polytheistic and/ or nature based religions. Rachel Stromborn, an American Pagan who considers herself spiritual, believes that “”Pagan” … encompasses all religions which do not fall under the Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Some “philosophies” such as Buddhism may or may not be included under this term based on individual preference or point of view”. Rachel also talked about the term witch and her understanding of the term, “Witchcraft in and of itself, at least as far as those in the United States is concerned, is it’s own thing and one does not have to have a belief in a religion to avail themselves of it. Atheists can be witches and practice witchcraft”. According to Marilia Vezzaro, “[A] Wiccan is a person who believes that there is a duality of deities that made everything. The Goddess (moon) who is the mother of all things and the God (sun) who is her consort. They both watch out and take care of all nature and living beings and the wiccans praise them with the Esbaths and Sabbaths. Wiccans also follow the Wicca Rede.”
There are many paths on the Pagan road, and Wicca is just one of the many. It can be difficult to navigate through the many terms and personal perspectives. If you are ever unsure….just ask.
And remember, not all Pagans are Wiccan, not all Wiccans are Witches and not all Witches are Pagan.
** A special thank you to Dejsha Chantelle, Marilia Vezzaro and Rachel Stromborn for your adding in your personal perspectives!