Some may say that these two terms are of the same cord, but others say that they are different in their own right and have two different meanings. I myself am on the side after exploring this wonderful world of paganism and witchcraft these terms are definitely different, and yet when I was new they to me were one in the same and caused much confusion. I know that this can be a big debate in the magic world, but I am not one to shy away from a challenge to say the least. I hope that this will help guide new comers to less confusion, less stress, and inspire more to come.
Let’s dive right in to it shall we? I can recall a time when I was called to this path and had no clue where to start so I picked up some basic Scott Cunningham books and dove right in. Not the best way most would say, but hey we all got to start somewhere if we have no real outlet to ask questions right? I read them and wrote down all the questions I had, which ended up being a lot! Then I went to work on researching those questions and man was that information overload…oh boy. Okay so this is how I understood it then paganism was an earth based religion that believed in taking care of one another, yourself, and the earth along with a slew of deities, other paths, and witchcraft. Wait what witchcraft? How does that fall into paganism I was totally lost to say the least! Okay keep reading I would say you will find the answer…I did about a year later or so when I found a community on Facebook this group really opened my eyes to what witchcraft and paganism really was and how they actually differ. So fast forward and here is what I know Paganism is an umbrella term for a multi deity path or religion how you may phrase it and witchcraft is the study of magick…buy now I can differentiate the two, but I had no idea then I was so totally and utterly lost I thought I was pagan and that witchcraft was something I did if I needed assistance from a god or goddess. Man was I wrong! I have come to discover that Paganism in its own right describes a multitude of paths from Druidism, shamanism, and many more even Hinduism can be considered pagan it’s any belief that has multiple deities in its belief. For example if you google paganism definition this is what you get: Pagan is derived from the Late Latin paganus, which was used at the end of the Roman Empire to name those who practiced a religion other than Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. Early Christians often used the term to refer to non-Christians who worshiped multiple deities. In Latin, paganus originally meant “country dweller” or “civilian;” it is believed that the word’s religious meanings developed either from the enduring non-Christian religious practices of those who lived far from the Roman cities where Christianity was more quickly adopted, or from the fact that early Christians referred to themselves as “soldiers of Christ,” making non believers “civilians.”( https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pagan#other-words) it also lists:
Definition of pagan
1: heathen sense 1 especially: a follower of a polytheistic religion (as in ancient Rome)
2: one who has little or no religion and who delights in sensual pleasures and material goods: an irreligious or hedonistic person
3: neo-pagan witches, druids, goddess worshippers, and other pagans in America today— Alice Dowd
This makes no sense to most people or outrages them either way that is what most new comers see unless they are from a family that passes their practices down from one generation to another. Pagans have been mislabeled for many years as Devil worshippers etc. by main stream pre modern era Christians times over because of common misconception and lack of understanding. So let me drop some knowledge on you I asked some questions to a couple of friends of mine that follow their own paths what paganism was to them, and here is what they said(for privacy purposes were using fictional name no real names one we will call ascent and the other The Green Man of Salem. ) My questions was Paganism is an umbrella term, but what does it mean to you? Answer from Ascent, “any culture or religion from throughout history to modern times that does not worship the Abrahamic God is considered to be part of Paganism.” The Green Man’s Answer, “is an umbrella term to be Pagan or classified as Pagan is to follow more than one god the traditional definition is to follow a non-Abrahamic belief system to believe in more than one creator or more than one god.” These are great answers so Abrahamic belief is what Christianity falls under were they believe in “All Mighty” or one creator of life were pagans believe that there were many creators of life itself. The Green Man of Salem goes onto give examples of what paths can be considered Pagan like , “ Native Americans, Myans, Greeks, romans were pagans even Wicca and Witchcraft can be considered pagan it all has more than one god or goddess.” So that blew my mind witchcraft is Pagan so really to look at the big picture Pagan is a term to define any belief that has more than one god or goddess in the belief system, simple enough right? Not for a lot of new comers like myself that was totally confusing. I did ask a question that most would be like huh? What is the difference in traditional or new age? Because some may question what paths fall under what category the conversation to that was very interesting let me show you. The Green Man of Salem’s answer to the questions was, “What do I think New Age is? New Age stuff happens every year, throughout time. The difference would be resources and methods. Magic/ witchcraft/paganism is always evolving, growing just like nature changing and growing with time.” My response to the questions was that it is used to describe what most know as metaphysical it seems to make paganism more main stream it’s being renamed in some instances I myself have seen as “New Age” which is true looking through communities and online being a go to now days you see the term coined a lot when referring to magic or witchcraft even paganism. I like the response Green Man, “It’s all the same just different/ new ways of looking at it or doing it. “ Very great information and wonderful insight to how others view this subject but we all respect the paths were on and what we follow. That to me makes great teachers and leaders to look up to.
Here is where more get confused as I did is Witchcraft Pagan? Do they differ? I have come to find yes they differ but not in ways you think. Witchcraft by definition: Definition of witchcraft
1a: the use of sorcery or magic
B: communication with the devil or with a familiar (are you Kidding me!)
2: an irresistible influence or fascination
Okay again here is a good example of not the right information yes there is Satanism which communicate with “The Devil” that is a chosen path not witchcraft in itself please people get your facts right ugh…That is where I get frustrated witchcraft is another path that believes in using magic to help situation or calling a deity to your aid not conjuring’s of a malevolent entity that most would qualify it as. I asked this question as well Witchcraft what does this mean to you. And do you differ between that and paganism or are they one in the same? I asked Ascent this question here was the answer I received, “Witchcraft is more an attunement to the Earth and cosmos. From the knowledge of the Herbal kingdom to the reading of astronomical events. It can function within or without any religious connections.” Mind blown and that is so right Witchcraft in its own right is a path that can function outside or inside the foundation of paganism or any other multideity religion. I myself practice witchcraft and am pagan I believe that there are multiple gods and goddess, energy, and that Earth itself is its own entity living and breathing every day. I recall and conversation I had once with someone about this topic when I was criticized for being who I was saying what I did was evil, and it hurt to say the least, but when you look at it objectively there is more to it. Take a spell for example in the Abrahamic religion it’s really just a prayer asking for guidance, or help with a situation the only difference is and this is because I was raided in Christianity they ask their God to move on it for them or do it for them where when I cast a spell I ask for the energy, guidance, or direction to achieve the goal of the spell and to do it myself but help shed light were I am a little lost. In the end it is all inter woven like the roots of a tree feeding our love for what we do, and growing with more finding their way making for many new leaves on the tree, and extending the branches ever farther.
So to help all the newcomers here is some sound advice be you in the most truest form, be authentic, fierce, and respectable don’t fall into a mold that doesn’t fit because most times a lot of us are free-flowing like water every changing the landscape over time. My closing questions to Ascent were what advice do you give to someone just delving into how to decipher this (meaning the topic) if there is confusion? Ascent’s answer, “Read, read some more, then research deeper into anything that interests you. Don’t rely on just one source, if you are drawn to a particular culture and its ways of practicing its faith, then a Pagan Path is what you seek. If working with the Earth and its creations appeals to you more than a singular culture or religious path, then perhaps the practice of Witchcraft is for you.” What are some tips you’ve learned along the way? Answer, “Don’t rush it. Verify as much as you can. Read and experience as much as you can, then do it again. Remind yourself often, everyone is at a different stage of spiritual development, your path will lead you to where you actually need to be. Develop your physic awareness in as many ways as possible.” I love these answers because they reverberate with truth and honor to all I to have come to these similar revelations. I also have learned be patient everything will come in time, and don’t be in such a hurry things take time. All thing happen for a reason nothing is coincidence, and have fun enjoy our lifetime of discovery even it’s new. My last question to The Green Man of Salem was what are some words of advice for anyone new starting this journey? Answer, “To Thine Self be True.” That is very important thing anyone starting their spiritual journey can remember because if you are not your truest self then your only lying to it, and people who can accept this fact will respect you even more when you are your truest self in all ways. I believe that has been what’s helped me the most on my journey.
I hope this inspires, teaches, and gives insight to anyone starting out, somewhere in the middle or well on their way. With love and light thank you for reading.