A Witch by Any Other Name
Photo by joana joana
A witch by any other name…would smell as sweet?
On this site, you’ll often see us use certain terms interchangeably –Witch, Wiccan, and Pagan, for example–based on staff members’ personal belief systems,
but in reality, these terms aren’t always synonymous.
Yes, a Wiccan may call herself both a Witch and a Pagan.
Pagan is a much bigger umbrella and encompasses belief systems other than Wicca. Shamans, Druids, Wiccans, Witches, and more–all are usually considered Pagan, though occasionally someone takes issue with that term, too, thinking that paganmeans they don’t believe in any God. Pagans are not atheists (no offense to our atheist friends).
Many Witches are not Wiccan and will adamantly tell you so. Some groups of Witches do not believe in Goddess worship, and others worship only a Goddess. Some follow karmic law instead of a Wiccan Rede. Some Witches believe in using magick in service to Deity while others believe in harnessing the power of Deity through ritual to meet their own destinies.
Some Wiccans don’t like the term Witch because of age-old connotations and other reasons. Others, like Finn in Flying By Night, don’t want to categorize themselves at all:
He’d grown up in a Baptist church with five hundred people in the congregation every Sunday. Since converting to Wicca, he’d found religion to be an intensely personal matter. So personal, in fact, that he refused to answer any paperwork that asked his religious preference. He could easily write in Wicca or Pagan or Neo-paganor Celtic or Earth Religion or something similar and all would be accurate for his spirituality, and yet, categorizing his relationship with Deity seemed…small and offensive.
Wait a minute! Isn’t this a bit confusing for someone not familiar with the Pagan community? Do all these factions fight or get along? Why all the different names and terminology?
- Both. Hence, you may have heard the term Witch wars. (see Celebrating the Tower Card)
- It would take a whole book to answer that one.
But okay, let’s put it in a different light. Let’s say you grew up in the First Baptist Church–as many current Pagans, including the author above, did–except you’re still a member of the First Baptist Church and adhere to that particular belief system. The Baptists fall under the Protestant and Christian umbrellas.
Someone asks you what religion you are and you answer, “Christian.” Or you might answer “Baptist,” especially if you live in a small town where you assume everyone else is a Christian and you’re talking to a known Methodist, who is also a Christian but believes in christening instead of baptizing, much to your chagrin as a Baptist.
You’ve been asked to attend a prayer service over at the Holiness Baptist Church, but you don’t feel comfortable there because they speak in tongues and sing without piano accompaniment–and you can’t carry a tune in a bucket.
You and a female friend have also been invited to attend a small Baptist church down the street, but they don’t allow women to wear short sleeve dresses or show their ankles–even though it’s 98 degrees outside and rising.
You could attend services at the Freewill Baptist Church across town, but gee, they believe in holding hands while they pray and you never know if a stranger washed his hands before leaving the bathroom.
[We’re not making this up or trying to be mean. Our webgoddess is still a member of a Southern Baptist church and has heard these worries many times.]
You see, each group has its own quirks, whether they call themselves by their specific church name, by the term Baptist, or more broadly identify themselves as Christians or Protestants. They may squabble occasionally over whose church has the better charity project, but in times of need, they usually come together.
The same with Pagans. The same with most religions where the members are active participants in their spirituality.
And whether it’s called Paganism or Witchcraft or Wicca, it’s no more a cult than that little band of Baptists who meet every Wednesday morning before work for a quick prayer service and a bagel.
We recommend Flying By Nightfor a look at different types of Pagans, including Witches, Druids, Eclectic Wiccans, Wiccan covens, followers of the Left-Hand Path, and Neo-pagans.
[Oh, and one more thing: a male Witch is called a Witch. A warlock is an “oath breaker” and you’ll likely insult a male Witch if you forget.]