Being a witch and a Wiccan are NOT the same thing. For example, I am a witch not a Wiccan.
A witch simply means someone who practices the craft (does spells). They do not necessarally have to be Wiccan, they can be from many walks of life and hold many different beliefs.
A Wiccan is someone who practices the religion Wicca. This means someone follows that spiritual path in life, however they may have made the personal choice to refrain from casting spells.
Although a Wiccan who does not cast spells may choose to claim that they are a witch because they still share the beliefs of other Wiccans who do cast spells or because they do have the ability to cast spells but have chosen not to.
There are also witches from many different belief systems and religions. Here are just a few of the different types:
~Kitchen Witch: It practices by home and hearth, mainly dealing with practical sides of the religion, magick, the elements and the earth.
~Ceremonial Witchcraft: Mainly use ceremonial magick (obviously) in their practices. They commonly use Qabbalistic magick or Egyptian magick in their rituals.
~Celtic Wicca: Goes by the elements, the Ancient Ones and nature. They are usually healers or respect them highly. They work with plants, stones, flowers, trees, the elemental people, the gnomes and the fairies.
~Eclectic Witch: Doesn't follow a particular religion or tradition. They study and learn from many different systems and use what works best for them.
~British Traditional Witch: A mix of Celtic and Gardenarian beliefs. They train through a degree process and the covens are usually co-ed.
~Alexandrian Tradition: They are said to be modified Gardenarian.
~Gardenarian Tradition: Follow a structured root in ceremony and practice. They aren't as much vocal as others and have a fairly foundational set of customs.
~Dianic Tradition: Includes a lot of different traditions in one. Their prime focus now-a-days is the Goddess. It is the more feminist side of 'The Craft'.
~Pictish Witchcraft: It's originally from Scotland and is a solitary form of The Craft. It is more magickal in nature than it is in religion.
~Hereditary Witch: Someone who has been taught the 'Old Religion' through the generations of their family.
~Caledonii Tradition: Also known as the Hecatine Tradition, it's the denomination of The Craft with a Scottish origin.
~Pow-Wow: Comes from South Central Pennsylvania and is a system based on a 400 year old Elite German magick. They concentrate on simple faith healing.
~Solitary Witch: This is one who practices alone, without a cover etc.. following any tradition.
~Strega Witches: Originally coming from Italy are the known to be the smallest group in the US. It is said their craft is wise and beautiful.
What Is Wicca?
Contrary to what those who choose to persecute or lie about us wish to believe, Wicca is a very peaceful, harmonious and balanced way of thinking and life which promotes oneness with the divine and all which exists.
Wicca is a deep appreciation and awe in watching the sunrise or sunset, the forest in the light of a glowing moon, a meadow enchanted by the first light of day. It is the morning dew on the petals of a beautiful flower, the gentle caress of a warm summer breeze upon your skin, or the warmth of the summer sun on your face. Wicca is the fall of colorful autumn leaves, and the softness of winter snow. It is light, and shadow and all that lies in between. It is the song of the birds and other creatures of the wild. It is being in the presence of Mother Earths nature and being humbled in reverence. When we are in the temple of the Lord and Lady, we are not prone to the arrogance of human technology as they touch our souls. To be a Witch is to be a healer, a teacher, a seeker, a giver, and a protector of all things. If this path is yours, may you walk it with honor, light and integrity.
Wicca is a belief system and way of life based upon the reconstruction of pre-Christian traditions originating in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. While much of the information of how our ancestors lived, worshiped and believed has been lost due to the efforts of the medieval church to wipe our existence from history, we try to reconstruct those beliefs to the best of our ability with the information that is available.
Thanks to archaeological discoveries, we now have basis to believe that the origins of our belief system can be traced even further back to the Paleolithic peoples who worshipped a Hunter God and a Fertility Goddess. With the discovery of these cave paintings, estimated to be around 30,000 years old, depicting a man with the head of a stag, and a pregnant woman standing in a circle with eleven other people, it can reasonably be assumed that Witchcraft is one of the oldest belief systems known in the world toady. These archetypes are clearly recognized by Wiccan as our view of the Goddess and God aspect of the supreme creative force and predate Christianity by roughly 28,000 years making it a mere toddler in the spectrum of time as we know it.
Witchcraft in ancient history was known as "The Craft of the Wise" because most who followed the path were in tune with the forces of nature, had a knowledge of Herbs and medicines, gave council and were valuable parts of the village and community as Shamanic healers and leaders. They understood that mankind is not superior to nature, the earth and its creatures but instead we are simply one of the many parts, both seen and unseen that combine to make the whole. As Chief Seattle said; "We do not own the earth, we are part of it." These wise people understood that what we take or use, we must return in kind to maintain balance and equilibrium. Clearly, modern man with all his applied learning and technology has forgotten this Subsequently, we currently face ecological disaster and eventual extinction because of our hunger for power and a few pieces of gold.
For the past several hundred years, the image of the Witch has been mistakenly associated with evil, heathenism, and unrighteousness. In my humble opinion, these misconceptions have their origin in a couple of different places.
To begin, the medieval church of the 15th through 18th centuries created these myths to convert the followers of the old nature based religions to the churches way of thinking. By making the Witch into a diabolical character and turning the old religious deities into devils and demons, the missionaries were able to attach fear to these beliefs which aided in the conversion process. Secondly, as medical science began to surface, the men who were engaged in these initial studies had a very poor understanding of female physiology, especially in the area of a women's monthly cycles. The unknowns in this area played very well with the early churches agenda lending credence to the Witch Hunters claims and authority. The fledgling medical professions also stood to benefit greatly from this because it took the power of the women healers away giving it to the male physicians transferring the respect and power to them.
Unfortunately these misinformed fears and superstitions have carried forward through the centuries and remain to this day. This is why many who follow these nature oriented beliefs have adopted the name of Wicca over its true name of Witchcraft to escape the persecution, harassment and misinformation associated with the name of Witchcraft and Witch not to mention the bad publicity the press and Hollywood has given us simply to generate a profit.
What is Witchcraft?
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. No ifs, ands or buts and no whining... 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 an 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. Wiccans believe that the spirit of the One, Goddess and God exist in all things. In the trees, rain, flowers, the sea, in each other and all of natures creatures. This means that we must treat "all things" of the Earth as aspects of the divine. We attempt to honor and respect life in all its many manifestations both seen and unseen. Wiccan learn from and revere the gift of nature from divine creation by celebrating the cycles of the sun, moon and seasons. We search within ourselves for the cycles that correspond to those of the natural world and try to live in harmony with the movement of this universal energy. Our teachers are the trees, rivers, lakes, meadows, mountains and animals as well as others who have walked this path before us. This belief creates a reverence and respect for the environment, and all life upon the Earth. We also revere the spirits of the elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water which combine to manifest all creation.