Wicca VS Witchcraft – The Real Difference

What is the difference between Wicca VS Witchcraft?

Before answering this question, it is important to understand what these two are by themselves, where they come from and what they are not.

What is Wicca

Wicca is a Neo-Pagan religion which first started to be publicised and grow around the 1940-50s. It was officially ‘founded’ by Gerald Gardner, who is often attributed the role of “the Father of Wicca” as he was the one who really set forth the Wiccan movement.

Traditional Wicca is based on European Paganism (paganism has its roots in animism, the earliest known form of worship), though it now often is practised in combination with other personal practices and cultural beliefs, depending on the individual and their surroundings.

Wicca is a polytheistic religion, which includes a Goddess and a God, with the inclusion of other deities depending on one’s path and practices. It is common to conduct rituals and ceremonies in Wicca, and in traditional Wicca, there can be a hierarchical system with a High Priestess and High Priest, however, this only applies to Wiccans who are part of a coven, or group of Wiccans.

Wiccan altar

Wicca also traditionally requires a formal initiation by a coven, yet as time went by, many if not most Wiccans today have not had a coven-initiation, and instead conducted a ritual of dedication, or self-dedication, especially as a lot of Wiccans now-a-days are ‘solitary’, meaning they practice in solitude rather than in a coven.

In Wicca, there is no such thing as a bible or holy scripture, as with many other organised religions. Instead in Wicca, there is the Wiccan Rede, originally a poem, which many Wiccans live and practice by. This poem includes the concept of what is known as the Threefold Law, which is similar in concept to Karma, in that everything that is sent out will return by threefold.

The threefold law is essentially a code of moral conduct, and could be considered a guide to any Wiccan. This theme has also bleed into many other paths and a lot of non-Wiccan practitioners also believe in similar karmic concepts. The most important part of the Wiccan Rede is the law of “Harm None”. This means that Wiccans try to be very conscious about their actions and impact on themselves, and their surroundings.

Wiccans therefore also do not (usually*) hex or curse and refrain from doing spell-work which involves outsiders that have not granted their consent. One way to figure out if a spell or ritual aligns with this rule is to try and consider all possible outcomes, and to reflect on if you yourself would like to have any of these outcomes send your way.

Wicca follows the cycle of the earth and the sun, and there are 8 Sabbats, or celebrations. 4 greater Sabbats, celebrating the circle of life of the God and Goddess, and 4 lesser Sabbats which are the seasonal equinoxes. The moon is also highly valued in Wicca, and many Wiccans also celebrate Esbats, or the Full Moons and sometimes New Moons.

The Sabbats are key times during the year based on ancient European folk festivals and celebrations, such as All Hallows Eve, known as Samhain, or Litha which is the midsummer festival, which is to this day celebrated by certain countries in Europe, just to name 2 of the 8 Sabbats.

*On the topic of baneful magick, many people believe that Wiccans would never do ‘harmful’ spells, but what a lot of people don’t know is that in the original teachings by Gerald Gardner, Valiente and Buckland it is mention that in extreme cases when it is truly necessary, even a Wiccan will use baneful magick, curses or hexes. It should simply not be done without consideration or dire need. Most often than not, it does more damage to yourself than it does good, and should be used with caution.

For a more in-depth read on Wicca, see this article.

What is Witchcraft

Witchcraft is a more standalone practice, which has no one source as it has existed globally since the first records of humans and still exists in most of the world in one way or another. Witchcraft has its roots in animism, just like Wicca, and makes use of magick. However, Witchcraft is not a religion. It is a practice and a lifestyle, rather than a belief system, and much older in many ways than Wicca.

It has many different forms, depending on cultural practices and traditions, and is often very personal to each witch. Witchcraft is often used in different belief systems, such as Wicca, yet not exclusive to Wicca.

Witchcraft does not have any set rules or guidelines, it is very much up to the individual’s ethical views and personal practices, and it is important to keep in mind that the principles that apply to Wicca (such as the rule to Harm None, and the threefold law) do not necessarily apply to Witchcraft. Therefore, it is important not to put Witches and Wiccans in the same group, as many do not associate themselves with Wicca.

Witchcraft sage

Witchcraft has many facets and most witches will give you a different explanation on what witchcraft and magick means to them. Someone who practices Witchcraft is a Witch (though different people may use different terms due to personal preference).

Furthermore, anyone can practice Witchcraft, and it does not require a ceremonial initiation, as traditional Wicca would, though this does not apply to closed practices and religions that include forms of Witchcraft. Witch is also a gender-neutral term, which is often a topic of confusion, though it is up to the practitioner to call themselves a witch, or any other preferred term.

Very common practices or belief systems which include witchcraft are Folk Witchcraft and European Paganism, Voodoo and Hoodoo, Santeria, Russian Orthodox Witchcraft, and various forms of occultism, Thelema, and yes, Satanism. Therefore, whilst it is very popular to say “witches don’t actually believe in the devil” it is not always the case. In general, don’t generalise (pun intended).

For a more in-depth read on Witchcraft, see this article.

Similarities between Wicca and Witchcraft

There are many similarities in Wicca and Witchcraft, the most obvious being the belief and use of magick. Wicca uses common techniques used in magick, that are used in Witchcraft as well, and a lot if not most of them include the use of nature and spirit or energy forms, and a lot of Witches follow the moon cycles as well as seasonal cycles just like Wiccans do.

Both Wiccans and Witches often use tools such as candles, ritual knives and cups, talismans and different divination tools, such as tarot or oracle cards, crystal balls and crystals in general, yet the usage of these tools are not obligatory to either Wicca or Witchcraft. Non-Wiccan Witches and Wiccan Witches both make use of spells and rituals to manifest a desired outcome, though the “how” will often differ.

The founding figures of Wicca, such as Valiente, Buckland, Cunningham and Gerald Gardner have been known to practice Witchcraft and have several publications regarding Witchcraft in itself, without direct relation to Wicca.

Conclusion

All Wiccans are witches, but not all witches are Wiccans. This means, someone who is a Wiccan and who ultimately believes in magick and manifestation; practices witchcraft.

Yet, someone who practices Witchcraft does not have to necessarily believe in the Wiccan God and Goddess, or its principles such as the Threefold Law or the rule of Harm None. One can belong to almost any religion and practice witchcraft, or not belong to any religion at all, and follow their path and practice witchcraft.