Another important distinction which you need to make from the beginning is that although the terms ’Witchcraft’ and ’Wicca’ have long been used interchangeably, they don’t mean exactly the same thing. Witchcraft is used to describe a number of different practices from all around the world and although it’s popular use amongst modern Pagans may seem to indicate that all Witches are also Pagan, this is not entirely true.
“A Hebrew Witch, a Pagan Witch, a Lapland Witch, an Indian Witch, a Protestant Witch, and a Popish Witch, are different from one another; some in Honour, and some in Disgrace.”
Practitioners of Witchcraft in a global sense may follow any number of spiritual paths and some even claim to be atheists. Long before the Christian Church villainised those who practiced the Old Religions, the term was being used to describe those who used the magickal arts for negative and malignant ends. Witches were despised even by the Priesthoods of the pre-Christian Pagan Gods – in Greece, Rome, Egypt and all over the ancient world. But for one reason or another it is the term that became used by people like Margaret Murray and subsequently Gerald Gardner, for both many of the practices now associated with the modern Pagan movement, as well as for the spiritual beliefs related with it.
The term has taken on a modern meaning, which although historically imprecise, has meaning to those using it today. Due to the confusion the term may cause and to distinguish themselves from those with other spiritual practices, many Witches who have Pagan spiritual beliefs, but who may not share in the same beliefs or practices as Wiccans, use the term ’Pagan Witch’ to describe themselves, whilst others prefer to simply use the term ’Witch’. This is ultimately a personal choice. If you practice Witchcraft, you are a Witch after all!
Although Wicca contains aspects of what may be considered Witchcraft, it also contains a number of other elements – such as for example the celebration of the seasonal Sabbats, a Goddess and a God and healing. Wicca also draws from classical Paganism (in particular that of Rome and Greece) and the Western Mystery Tradition (including from Ceremonial Magick, Qabalah and Hermetic sources).
Towards the Wiccan Circle: A self-study beginners course in modern pagan witchcraft / Wicca