Wiccan Non-Witches

[Please observe right away that this conversation is specifically about (all kinds of) Wiccans.  Please don’t write irritated comments designed to inform me that there are other kinds of witchcraft.  I am aware.  That is a different subject, and not the one at hand.]

It’s popularly asserted in Pagan and witch spaces that one can be Wiccan without being a witch.

This comment makes me a little crazy in its weird semantics.

My gut reaction is, “Uh, no it’s not.”

And then I have to check myself.

Keeping in mind that I’m coming from a BTW perspective, where “witch” and “Wiccan” are often used interchangeably, the idea that Wicca—which is the practice of a specific kind of witchcraft—can exist independently of witchcraft is nonsensical.  In an orthopraxic tradition (I feel a little dirty as a religious studies scholar making these kinds of distinctions, but bear with me for a minute) where that praxis is witchcraft, what exactly is one doing as a Wiccan if not witchcraft?

The answer, I guess, is believing.  The argument that gets flung around is that Wicca (enter the eclectic perspective) is fundamentally about belief in a divine couple and the development of a connection to natural cycles.  So one’s Wicca-ness can be entirely devoted to praying and nature walks, theoretically.

Nevermind my Gardnerian snobbery for a second, but even if we take this to be true, does that mean that these kinds of Wiccans aren’t engaging in ritual?  And if they are what do those rituals look like?  Are they not casting circles or summoning assorted spirit-y things (both of which are certainly acts of magic and therefore, potentially, witchcraft)?

This is a real question, guys.  What are those of you who identify as Wiccan non-witches doing?

And all of this falls apart the second that we realize that “witchcraft” isn’t a cohesive, universal thing with a meaning we can all agree upon.  Honestly, I’m finishing a freaking graduate degree in this stuff and I can barely provide you with a concise definition that I actually feel comfortable flinging around in public.

So that checking of my gut reaction comes upon the realization that, most of the time for me, witchcraft has something to do with the practice of a particular kind of practical, need-based magic.  What sometimes gets termed “low magic” as opposed to the high magick of Hermetic traditions (where Wicca has a good many of its roots).

I realize that’s kind of a terrible, incomplete definition, but that’s usually my operational position, even if I can scholasticize (totally a word now) my way out of it.  And given that, I must realize that this doesn’t necessarily fit the Wicca that is so near and dear to my heart, further affirming that assertion in question.  I know traditional Wiccans who I wouldn’t trust to magic their way out of a paper bag, either because they don’t practice, don’t care, or have never had the need.  They’re still performing the rites and necessary woo that is entailed in being Wiccan (which might be witchcraft, but not strictly according to the above definition), but they’re not witches in the day-to-day sense (spells, potions, working with particular kinds of spirits, travel into spirit realms, etc.).  So in this sense, yes, they are Wiccan without being witches.

(Which sounds super boring to me, but what have you.)

It’s fundamentally kind of a silly conversation, just because we don’t have agreed upon definitions for any of these terms (Wiccan, witch, witchcraft, magic), but maybe there are still grounds for a conversation.

So what’s your perspective?  If you identify as Wiccan but not as a witch, what’s your reasoning?

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3 thoughts on “Wiccan Non-Witches

  1. bennybargas

    I’ve always found myself both confused and irritated by the idea that “Wiccans are not necessarily witches”. Though it’s one that I come across often on the internet, I can never seem to open up to it. Aside from the issues/questions you raise above, the word literally means “witch” and it is the direct antecedent of the word “witch”.

    Reply
  2. Katra

    I’m an eclectic of all sorts – I started in Wicca & have traveled my way through all kinds of paths (mostly settling in the Yogi/Vedic philosophies for Westerners) & mostly remaining on yogi combined with nature hugging spiritual paths. I used to call myself a Witch & I’ll still accept the title if needed, but I don’t use a title at all now because I don’t think I need one. I can totally see the cry for non-Witch Wiccans. What constitutes a Witch? Spells, potions, divination… magick work for or on others? Sure – seems reasonable. How about a self help candle spell (light a candle & basically say a prayer) … witchcraft? Then that would imply that everyone who’s ever lit a candle & said a prayer over it would be called a witch.

    I think the key to this discussion is in the definition of the Witch – not the definition of a Wiccan. Since the BTW, cunning folk & various other decisively self-defined Witches are more prominent & sharing more openly about their craft/religious/spiritual practices, they are formulating the modern-day definition of a Witch. Today’s majority definition (from my non-scientific analysis of blog reading) seems to be quite different now than the definition I was introduced to over a decade ago when I began my studies down the witchy path. Not too many people are following a medieval view of Witches as devil worshippers these days, so I think the modern definition is still in flux.

    I think the best answer is… ask the person you’re interested in if they consider themselves a Witch or not. I stopped calling myself a Witch (publicly) because I won’t participate in what’s considered “cunning-craft” – it’s a personal choice that I feel doesn’t serve my higher self (some would call that fluffy-bunny syndrome). I don’t consider myself a fluffy bunny, I’m just on a different path with a different viewpoint of how to get to my personal goal.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: All Wiccans are witches, but some of us are bad at it. | Thorn the Witch

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