May 5, 2010

Which Witch is Which?

For those new to seeking a path in the earth-based realm of spirituality, and even for those who have been practicing for years, it's easy to become confused.  There is an overload of conflicting information, new groups appearing nearly every day with their own ideas and alterations, and a plethora of pantheons to choose from.

Many sources use the terms "Witch" and "Wiccan" interchangeably, but there are notable differences.  Wicca is considered a religion with a strong, personal relationship between practitioners and their deities.  A Wiccan may or may not practice magic - meaning she may or may not be a Witch. Wiccans place great emphasis on ritual and ceremony, believe in the threefold-law and reincarnation, use specific tools (if they practice magic), and cast a 9-foot diameter circle of protection for their work.

Alternatively, Witchcraft is not a religion, it is the practice of magic - the "Craft of the Wise".  To make things more confusing, a Witch may also choose to commune with deities in a religious fashion, but this does not make her a Wiccan.  Witches utilize the tools they have on hand at the time for their magic, do not necessarily believe in reincarnation, believe the whole of the earth is their circle of protection, do not focus on ritual and reciting particular verses at particular times, and, rather than subscribe to the threefold-law, believe every action has a ripple effect or opposite reaction.  See Witchcraft Origins.

In itself, the origin of Wicca is riddled with controversy.  It is generally accepted that Gerald Gardner introduced the concept around 1950, but whether his version is based on fact, or fiction, is anyone's guess.  At any rate, it's here to stay, and for thousands of individuals Wicca provides them with the deepest levels of inner peace, communion with the Divine, and unity with the natural world.

Digging deeper into the Wiccan paths things become more confusing.  We have those practicing the Gardnerian Tradition, the Alexandrian Tradition, Norse, Celtic, and even incorporating Native American beliefs.  Many are Eclectic, meaning they are able to take aspects from any number of earth-based paths, and mix and match ideas (and deities) from differing eras and pantheons to develop their own unique traditions.

Today, more than ever, self-proclaimed Witches and Wiccans are cropping up faster than we can say "Poof!".  Simply reading a couple of books, browsing free spells online, or learning to text "Merry Meet" does not make one a Wiccan or Witch.  There is a discipline that must be achieved, and a way of living that must be developed.  It is an ongoing journey.  One in which none of us ever has all of the answers.

We already see once heavily guarded secrets, and spells, appearing in thousands of groups, message boards, and blogs all over the Internet.  There is such an overload of information that it's difficult to determine what is accurate anymore.  For example, anyone can concoct a so-called "spell" and claim it is valid...such as "Become more psychically aware by placing three coffee beans under your pillow for three consecutive nights"...and it will be copied and pasted from here to there until the letters "C" and "V" are no longer visible on user's keyboards.  It's a bit like witnessing a "copy/paste fest".

Some fear that this mass movement - without the discipline and experience required to develop and wield it - could have disastrous results.  Advanced Witches and Wiccans may once again need to seek refuge, and to practice in secret, in order to avoid being aligned with some of the less-than-desirable actions of inexperienced, or "wanna be", Wiccans and Witches.

First and foremost, Wiccans and Witches are Pagans.  In fact, we're ALL Pagan by Design.  Even though people tend to want to define themselves with titles, there is an inherent danger in creating divisions and differences among ourselves.  Argument will ensue at some point, and folks will be asking "which Witch is really a Witch?".  Do we know the answer to this question today?  Does it matter?

Look at the religious history of our world - the death, the wars, and the hatred - for a quick reminder into what can happen when we end up with 13,000 "versions" of Christianity, four types of Catholics, etc, and begin "comparing notes".

When someone asks your spiritual orientation, it should be sufficient to say, "I am a Witch", or "I am a Wiccan who practices magic", period.  To differentiate ourselves from others by building as many "divisions" as possible goes against our number one priority:  Unity.

In closing, I urge all of my friends to use caution and care, to help those interested in becoming Witches or Wiccans learn patience and restraint, and to set positive examples; especially in the often chaotic world of the Internet.  My friend, Author of The Balanced Witch, touches upon this topic as well, reminding us that as we continue to learn and "evolve", so too does our spirituality.
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Inspired by her Native American roots and Bradbury lineage, Polly Taskey is a writer and grandmother in the northern USA.  She shares her wisdom and pagan interests through Pagan by Design and The Moonlit Grove.

7 Comments:

The Kitchen Witch said...

nicely put!

Thecatsman said...

I would think that as with many things in this modern 'information age" there is such a thing as to much information being put out in places where it should not be put.I and my lady have an interest in learning more of the aspects of several things I see discussed here and from what
I am so far seeing this seems to be a good place to learn properly.As with any matter of faith or belief it becones at some point a personal matter and discression becomes a virtue....My opinion of course...I thank you for an informitive site..

Steven said...

Personally, I think part of the problem is too much reading and not enough practicing. A person can read a lot of things, and many of them may seem neat or strange or even just plain weird until you actually experience the truth of them in your own life. I'm partial to an experimental approach to religion and spirituality. A person can find a lot about him or herself given a reasonable ground work and a set of guidelines to experiment within.

Then you have theoretical truths versus the truths you know in your bones. Whenever something is read (or taught) it takes quite some time before it is fully accepted as truth throughout the whole of your being. A theoretical truth can be easily discounted or disproven. Witness the fly-by-night pagans on their way to other spiritual paths that feel "more right" to them. Anyone -- regardless of faith -- once they have the truths settle in to their bones are a lot harder to shake, and the consequences of shaking such a truth in a person are a lot more intense.

Personally, I believe that written text greatly hampered human spiritual development. As such, I place little to no emphasis on it. Part of this is the fact that there is so much information out there that I could spend years reading it, when it is better to spend the time actually practicing *something*. Part of it is just that I think a lot of people over complicate things.

I believe in the power of focused emotion and focused intent. I believe in speaking truthfully, lest you be overheard and a desire you expressed as sarcasm is treated as truth and summarily granted. I believe it is possible to cast spells without even realizing it.

Folks should know something about magick. If only so they don't do something foolish. (Or perhaps so that when they do do something foolish they can recognize what they did and avoid it in the future.)

My experience is that the external actions involved in a spell are really the smallest part of it. The largest part of the spell comes from the minds, spirits, souls, (whatever) of the people engaged in the ritual. This would be why a good grounding is so important for any sort of consistent results. But this also means that the ingredients of a spell that have special meaning to one caster -- and thus make the spell work better for that person -- may have little to no meaning for a different caster -- and thus make the spell work less successfully than another option.

As an example, take the use of incense in ritual. A lot of folks want to stimulate as many senses as possible in a ritual. This means it isn't uncommon to just hear about a ritual requiring "incense" in general, but a specific type in particular. However, folks have allergies -- either to a particular scent or to smoke in general. If the incense causes additional worry or concern (whether real or imaginary) it only creates distraction. Additional distractions are to be avoided when possible as they help no one.

Personally, most of my private rituals take the form of prayers. I've never needed to research any of them, and I've had some experiences that have forever changed my life. Like I said, though, I think people over-complicate things and spend too much time reading instead of practicing.

Angie M. said...

A very nice post on the subject. Thanks for linking back to my post!

And you have a beautiful blog. My fav color of green lol

Polly Taskey said...

Thank you for your kind words! Your site is very well done and pleasing to the eye as well. The green in my theme is also one of my favorite shades, however, it does seem a bit overpowering at times and if I knew how to write CSS I would likely eliminate some of it from the background at least. Bright Blessings.

Mama L said...

That was a great post thank you for that, blessings !!!

Polly said...

Thank you Mama L and Bright Blessings to you as well!

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