The Contemporary New England Witch

The Contemporary New England Witch
Ms Faith

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Which witch is which? Explaining the differences between pagans and witches and Wiccans oh my!

Good evening my friend,

Tonight I want to answer a question I'm asked on a regular basis. What is the difference between all the different labels one can wear, when one doesn't follow a mainstream Western religious tradition, such as the Jewish faith or a Christian belief system. The following is my understanding of the following terms:

Pagan - from the Latin Paganus meaning country dweller.  Way back when, the good ol' days when Rome ruled the world, it was as cosmopolitan and modern a city as our Los Angeles or New York City today, and the term, Pagan,  was used to refer to those who chose to live in the countryside. Those who continued living and worshiping the old ways, the old gods. A derogatory term inferring those who lived in the country were old fashioned and out of touch with modern ways and beliefs. Much as we might feel about those who live without indoor plumbing!

I mean come on, some modern invention and concepts are just all around good! I  appreciate the old ways, in many ways, hey I burn a Yule log every year!, but I'm all about microwave ovens, dishwashers and, yes I'll admit it, indoor plumbing. 

So, let us consider the poor pagans. Just simple folk who chose, most likely by life's choice rather than theirs, to reside in the country, many generations along,  living the lives of farmers, laborers and common men. Worshiping as their ancestors had worshiped for a thousand years. Wow, talk about a family tree! They cared not about new shows being held at the Coliseum, and they most likely had never seen a gladiator, and worked hard every day simply so the family would survive. They worshiped the old gods,and goddesses,  praying to the god of the harvest for a bountiful harvest, that more than enough grains would be harvested so that no one died of starvation during the upcoming winter. They made an offering to the goddess of the hearth and home for a safe delivery of a new baby.  For a thousand years, these ways worked and gave comfort, tradition and would not be given up lightly. The pagans were those who refused to 'go modern' and they stuck with tradition.

Witch-a very old word with questionable origins, but many scholars agree it is most likely from the old English word wicce (masculine), the feminine wicca. Meaning, to the best of my understanding, wise-man for wicce and wise-woman for wicca. A wise man or woman was one who knew of the herbal remedies, also known as a cunning-man or woman. One who knows the magicks and mysteries of the natural world.  Somewhere in time the word was changed, I believe most likely because of pronunciation evolution which changed the sound of wicce to sound like witch.

A witch today is in my opinion, a person who strives to work closely with nature and to understand the magickal world around us, and then to use it to benefit ourselves and if we can, others. A witch can be male or female. In ancient texts he-witch and men-witches were common terms. We never call male witches the term warlock. This is an erroneous term used by early Christians to designate a male witch but it is a word from old Scotland meaning one who betrays and brings death.

Wiccan - from the word Wicca:  Wicca is a modern day, religion founded in the early 1950's by Gerald Gardner, an amateur anthropologist, archaeologist, writer, weapons expert and explorer  who studied the magical religious practice of the indigenous tribes in the southern and south eastern Asia then returned home to England and found that there were still witches covens gathering and following the old ways. He braved condemnation, accusation of devil worship and even negative feedback from others of the craft for bringing their ways to the world by his books and the publicity he sought for Wicca.  He felt only by publicity could he attract others to this path and therefore prevent the old religion from dying out. He was successful.

A Wiccan today is someone who practices the neo-pagan religion of Wicca.  Wicca has no central authority and hopefully we will never have one. Each Wiccan group can declare themselves such just by saying the words.  This is an attempt at avoiding the issues and challenges any organized religion has. Each group does as it feels, but having said that,  there are some commonalities amongst the groups. In general many groups celebrate by recognizing the full and new moons, celebrating and recognizing the Sabbats, our eight agricultural feast days, and many practice magick of some sort.

A witch is not necessarily a Wiccan.  A Wiccan is by definition a witch, because Wicca is the religion of the Witches as stated by Gerald Gardner when he founded Wicca. Some Wiccans do not use the word witch, probably because of centuries of bad press.  Furthermore a witch can be a Christian.   Hmmmmm, you don't say?

 I myself have been 'advised by friends and people who care about me to not use the word witch. Mostly because of the stuff attached. I am proud of the ancient word, the image of the ancient wise woman, and I use it proudly.

I've often used the example that in many parts of the world, the same horrible, untrue rumors that are aimed at us, i.e. devil worshipers, evil, harmful etc. are said in reference to Americans. I've been told in some parts of the world, to admit you're an American can be dangerous. 

I've also been advised by those most wise and close to me to be authentic, to 'never deny who you are' and I think that's the best advice I can give you. The advice I follow myself. Be proud of who you are, if you are new to this path, learn, learn, and learn some more. When you think you've got it all, and you're all that and a flashy new wand! get over yourself and learn some more. Educating yourself about this path is the best thing you can do, then speak with knowledge and authority to others, in a sense continuing the work started by Gerald Gardner.

I would like to take a moment, if I may, to comment about how we communicate as magickal people in a non magickal world.  Speak with authority, knowledge and patience, but speak in a credible way.

Please for the Goddess's sake, please think about how you come across to others in your day to day world and in your community. I pretty much exist in a world filled with witches and the magickal. A wonderful world of my creation, Enchantments. Yet I talk and interact with people in the store and the real world all the time, in a normal, conversational way. Outside of my store, many don't even know I'm a witch, or maybe they do. The point is, it doesn't matter to me.

I personally have met too many people in our magickal world who can't talk to anyone it seems, without filing every sentence with magickal, terminology which can be confusing  to the regular person, and with reason.  Using words and terminology that they don't understand throws a person off his normal conversation and they are left in a place you chose, where they are not very comfortable. This can be fear inducing and its also  arrogant, in my humble witch's opinion.

It's like we're the stereotypical 70's hippie, stoned out talking about the colors and the flowers, man!  Test yourself,    if in the first few moments of meeting someone new at a CVS or Walmart you tell them you need to communicate with their inner willow tree, please just stop.    k?     You are not helping our cause. Take a deep breath, understand that no-one wants a religious or spiritual belief fostered upon them, NOT even yours my young Wiccan friend, and turn yourself to learning more, not teaching others. There's time for that later.  

Also know that people not accustomed to our ways can be victims of 'new-age overload' if you pepper the first few conversations with words like 'energies', auras, chakras, and crystals!   People will stop looking at us like freaks, when we stop acting so freaky (to them)!! I know its not freaky to us, be authentic,be unique,  but be considerate of others. I find that I can be magickal, and fabulous,  and feel the witch 100% of every moment of every day and not cause others to look at me askance. Well  .   .   .  unless I really want them to!

Have a wonderful Friday!!! A day of love, mmmm, maybe a day to try out that nifty little love spell you were saving up?

© 2010 Enchantments, LLC Portions of this blog posting may include materials from my book “Enchantments School for the Magickal Arts First Year Magickal Studies.” For more information, see

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