Faith, for me, is a thing that’s just always been there. From my first Pagan stirrings as a kid to my deepest, most fervent period of study and worship, it’s just been there. Sometimes I count myself an Ostara/Yule Pagan, only really giving the minimum of effort, maybe a nod to the sabbats as they pass. And sometimes I mark every sabbat with a specialized feast, dedicating each to a specific deity, making sure my altar is updated with seasonal colors, etc., etc. Sometimes I come back to my faith through a perennial fascination with some aspect, such as Tarot or incense-making, or even writing. It ebbs and flows, but it’s always there.
Someone asked recently on Facebook what the difference is between Paganism, Wicca, and witchcraft. I didn’t write anything there as tons of people had answered with their own version of the differences. Here’s my answer:
Wicca is the religion set down by Gerald Gardner, and is very formulaic. A circle is usually cast, quarters are called, sabbats and esbats are always observed, etc. To me, Wicca can be a spirituality (personal) or a religion (social), but there are rules and traditions for how things are ‘done’.
Paganism is a much wider term. Most Wiccans are Pagan, but not all Pagans are Wiccan. Paganism can draw from reconstruction of ancient Pagan religious practices, including Norse, Celtic, Hindu, Greek, African, etc. Depending on what you follow, it can be filled with rules and traditions like Wicca, or it can be very numinous, guided by deity. It can also fall into the realm of the religious (social) or spiritual (personal).
Witchcraft is not a religion, but the practice of doing spells and rituals. You can practice witchcraft in the context of being a Pagan or Wiccan, but a Christian could just as easily do a candle-burning ritual. Witchcraft is not the belief, but the practice.
So how would I categorize myself? I am an intuitive, solitary, eclectic, Pagan hedgewitch. What the fuck does all that mean? Let me break it down for you.
Intuitive: I don’t read spells from books. I make them up according to what feels right and true to me at the time. I can do two prosperity spells a week apart, and they will be totally different depending on what calls to me.
Solitary: Sometimes I celebrate the sabbats with a group of friends, but for the most part, my spiritual practice is deeply personal and my ritual and spellwork is done alone. This is just what feels natural to me. Sometimes I long to practice with a group, but when I do, that intuitive aspect I mentioned above has to be stifled to work with others, and she doesn’t like that.
Eclectic: I’m like a spiritual magpie, collecting shiny things where I see them. I have Matron and Patron deities from Hindu, Greek, Sumerian, Celtic, and African traditions. Mostly I just look for what really speaks to me and what rings true, and because I’m a free-wheeling solitary Pagan, nobody can tell me I’m wrong. I do try to be respectful of those traditions, however, not attempting to appropriate a culture that isn’t mine, but when Yemaya speaks to you, you’d do well to answer.
Pagan: I’ve celebrated with Wiccans on various occasions, and I always got something out of their rituals. But when I practice, I don’t do things like cast a circle or draw quarters. That intuitive part of me doesn’t like being told how things are supposed to be done, and I’ve never found that doing those things empower my ritual or spell work any more than just creating sacred space through intention. I also don’t see The God and The Goddess in quite the same way, enjoying instead the variety of all the Gods and all the Goddesses that I can draw from in different traditions. There are more energies to play with than just the duality of the divine feminine or masculine. I also don’t use the specified Wiccan altar tools, or even the traditional altar configuration at all.
Hedgewitch: A lot of my actual practice of ritual or spell work revolves around elements of nature. I work with herbs, resins, stones, trees, etc. I like to work with what I can find outside, and love nothing more than crafting mojo bags to work my magick for me.
So I’m curious. If there are any Pagans or Wiccans who read this, how would you categorize yourself? I love hearing how other people practice, and would like to hear about yours. Please leave comments and tell me if you agree or disagree with my descriptions above.