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"If you take the Christian bible and put it out in the wind and the rain, soon the paper on which the words are printed will disintegrate and the words will be gone. Our bible IS the wind and the rain."


- Herbalist Carol McGrath as told to her by a Native-American woman






Defining Wicca and Witchcraft


Good luck finding a definition neatly sewn up in a few words to define what Wicca and Witchcraft are- You certainly won't get it from me!!! What I will offer however, is my own personal thoughts and conclusions on the subject, it's up to you to make your own definitions.










Wiccan or Witch?

So am I a Witch or a Wiccan? I guess the most accurate answer is Witch (with a little "this and that" from other spiritual areas thrown into the mix). The definitions can be pretty confusing, many use the terms interchangeably. My belief and understanding is that many who practice witchcraft call themselves Wicca, and this is often used as a modern term for Witch, but it is in itself  a religion. Wicca draws from the Old Traditions of Witchcraft.  One can be a Witch, without being a Wiccan, just as a person can be a Christian, without being a Baptist. This is because Witchcraft in essence is a way of living, of revering and caring for the natural world, and using knowledge and understanding of that world (including the universe), to heal, protect, nurture, and attain enlightenment. Wicca is a recognized religion, while Witchcraft itself is not considered a religion. Even in the Pagan community there is a lot of confusion over exactly what a Witch, and what a Wiccan is. Some say only certain traditions are truly Witchcraft, some say you MUST have knowledge of traditional witchcraft tools (eg. Tarot, Astrology, herbs etc.), to truly be a witch. I say, it depends what type of witch you want to be. Knowledge is the ultimate gift you can give to yourself, find out what works for you, so that you can work harmoniously with yourself and the forces of nature. Witchcraft for me therefore, is as unique to me as I am!


Wicca might best be described as a modern religion, based on ancient Witchcraft traditions. Many prefer to use the modern term as it is more socially acceptable, and doesn’t carry the same stigma the word “Witch” does. Others are happy to embrace all aspects of Witchcraft, and proudly wear the title “Witch”. For many it is a more purist thing, believing the word “Wicca” to be more whimsical in nature, and that “Witch” is the traditional, more grounded term for what is in essence the oldest religion. I prefer the term “Wiccan” for myself, as to me it is a softer sounding word, eluding to a gentle way of life, but I also proudly call myself “Witch”. That doesn't mean I consider myself religious, or belonging to the Wiccan faith, it's just how I sort thing in my own head. To you it may seem I'm a bit confused, but to me it makes perfect sense! Although technically different, you will find the two terms interchangeable for me throughout anything I write.


All Witches/Wiccans come under the broader banner of Pagan. There is a great variety of beliefs and practices within the Pagan world, and it seems to be the small number of branches that have harmful practices that give witches a bad name. There are also many branches of Wiccan traditions too. Witchcraft is a spiritual system that fosters the free thought and will of the individual, encourages learning and an understanding of the earth and nature thereby affirming the divinity in all living things.  Most importantly however, it teaches responsibility. We accept responsibility for our actions and deeds as clearly a result of the choices we make.  We do not blame an exterior entity or being for our shortcomings, weaknesses or mistakes.  If we mess up or do something that brings harm to another, we have no one but ourselves to blame and we must face the consequences resulting from those actions. Witches believe in doing the right thing, because it is the right thing to do; not because it effects where you end up in the afterlife. Witches don’t believe in Hell or Satan. If you do something evil, it is through your choices, the same as if you do good. It’s called taking responsibility for yourself! There is no “Devil made me do it” scenario that is popular in most religions, any more that doing good is “god’s work”. It is my firm belief that if people took more responsibility for their own actions, instead of blaming others, we would have far less evil acts forced on the world, than those committed “In the name of…….”.

We acknowledge the cycles of nature, the lunar phases and the seasons to celebrate our spirituality and to worship the divine.  It is a belief system that allows the Witch to work with, not in supplication to deities, with the intent of living in harmony and achieving balance with all things.

The spells that we do involve healing, love, harmony, wisdom and creativity.  The potions that we stir might be a headache remedy, a cold tonic, or a herbal flea bath for our pets.  We strive to gain knowledge of and use the natural remedies placed on this earth by the divine for our benefit instead of using synthetic drugs unless absolutely necessary.


Some Witches believe in a resting place between lives called the “Summerlands”. I believe that when you die your energy is transferred, (It’s basic physics really, energy doesn’t just stop, it is always transferred or converted); but I have made no conclusion as to where it is transferred to.


Calling oneself “Witch” does not make you a witch. A Witch is a person who practices the gentle arts of healing, and caring for life - all life. Witches work WITH nature, and follow the most fundamental rule “And it harm none, do what you will”. Many call themselves witches, but do things that are totally opposite the Witches rede. These people are not witches, no matter what they call themselves. Contrary to popular unenlightened beliefs, Witches to not worship the devil, in fact, Witches don’t even believe in one all powerful evil entity. (Makes it pretty hard to worship something you don’t believe in!).  To be a Witch is to be a healer, a teacher, a seeker, a giver, and a protector of all things. This is my path, I walk it with honour, light and integrity. I am an individual, I make our own relationship with Deity, and grow and love in my own way.


I believe any religion is essentially a spiritual search for enlightenment, and what ever path you are on to that end goal is the right one for you. I do not look at my path as the only way to achieve spirituality, but as one path among many to the same end. It really bugs me when other religions insist their way is the only way, and that they have so little respect for you as a thinking person, to deny you the right to make informed decisions about your own life!


What Witches believe about death.

Witches don't believe in life after death so much as life after birth. The emphasis of the Craft is on working to make this life good for as many people as possible, oneself included. 
We do not believe in a hell, sin, or redemption, but in the balance of all things. (Evil is imbalance). We have no concept of original sin for which we must be redeemed - indeed, that concept has been the source of oppression and even killing of women for centuries, since medieval Christian philosophy had it that woman was the source of all sin and evil. Witches are reclaiming Eve (And many just as strongly claiming Lilith - as the original feminist), as the one who gave us self-knowledge through her courage and curiosity. Nor, for that matter, do we believe in a heavenly reward for good behavior. Spiritual bribery is not the way of the Witch; the results of good or evil acts are felt in this lifetime. No celestial carrot or infernal stick. 

On the other hand, Witches have quite a few opinions about what does happen after death. Most believe in reincarnation of some sort or other. Some have it that between death and rebirth the soul undergoes some sort of transformation (for which there are a number of metaphors) to prepare it for rebirth. Others believe that the dead join the Blessed Ancestors, who watch over, protect and advise their descendants. Still others have it that the souls of those who chose pain or evil when they were alive may be trapped after death in a state of suffering because that is all they can understand. Most Witches are honest enough to say, "We don't really know, and there isn't any way to know.

It may be a difficult concept to grasp, but, in reality, there is no such thing as communication with the "dead". We tend to see life in physical terms, but LIFE is a SPIRITUAL reality which, for us, is presently housed in a physical form. That doesn't mean there is no communication with other spiritual beings not currently housed physically, certainly not! It's just the way Witches see, feel, connect to, and experience reality in general.




I leave you with this final thought:

"To believe in God or in a guiding force because someone tells you to is the height of stupidity. We are given senses to receive our information within. With our own eyes we see, and with our own skin we feel. With our intelligence, it is intended that we understand. But each person must puzzle it out for himself or herself". - Sophy Burnham






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