Witchcraft and Wicca Can Be the Same Thing

Periodically a well meaning person will stumble across this little blog and proceed to tell me how stupid I am because I don’t know the difference between Wicca and Witchcraft. Arguments vary on just why I’m stupid. Sometimes it’s “Wicca is a religion and Witchcraft is a practice” and there are times when only certain groups that identify as Witches seem allowed to wear the mantle of Witch and Witchcraft.

Witchcraft is a word with a whole host of definitions. I’d never argue that Wicca is the only type of Witchcraft (if you say you are a Witch, you probably are a Witch!), but it most certainly is a type of Witchcraft. Heck, Merriam Webster’s dictionary lists the third definition of witchcraft as Wicca. So from a dictionary standpoint Wiccans have every right to use the words witch and witchcraft to describe themselves.

"A Visit to the Witch" by Edward Frederick Brewtnall.  From WikiMedia.
“A Visit to the Witch” by Edward Frederick Brewtnall. From WikiMedia.

Most importantly to me though is that the practice that many of us today call Wicca, was first called Witchcraft. Gerald Gardner (the first person in the 20th Century to happily walk around and say “Hey, I’m a Witch!”) in his books Witchcraft Today (1954) and The Meaning of Witchcraft (1959) is obviously calling what he does Witchcraft, it’s right there in the titles! But it’s more than that, he talks about the “Witch-Cult” and people who practice Witchcraft, what he doesn’t use once in either book is the word Wicca.

He does write about “The Wica” but he’s using it to identify a group of people who practice Witchcraft (or often simply “The Craft”). To Gardner “The Wica” are members of the Witch-Cult, they are people who practice Witchcraft. In his two books he uses the phrase “Witch cult” 69 times and the word Witchcraft 277. By way of comparison he uses the word “Wica” 19 times, and with one exception it’s always preceded by the words “the” or “these.”

I’m a Gardnerian Witch, I guess you could say I’m a Wiccan since that’s become a popular word, but I mostly define myself as a Witch who practices a certain type of Witchcraft. Is what we might think of as Wiccan-Witchcraft the only type of Witchcraft out there in the world today? ABSOLUTELY NOT, and I would never claim otherwise, but it gets old hearing from certain segments of the Witching World that I’m not allowed to use the word Witch to describe my practice or that I’m somehow using it improperly. I’m using it as it was originally used by the first modern public Witch, so I think my my use of it is quite correct thank you very much. (And again, this is not the only use of the word, just one of many!)

I own a stang, it’s not regulation, but I use it during ritual and it’s a much loved ritual tool. Robert Cochrane used a knife in a way that’s very similar to how I use my athame. Everyone I know who uses the word Witch shares a lot of shit with other people who use the word Witch, we really all do have a lot of stuff in common. We don’t all do exactly the same things, and that’s great! We can a learn a lot from our differences, and we should be having informative conversations about them. But in between those conversations can everyone agree to stop policing the word “Witch?” It belongs to everyone who is proud to use it!

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