Saturday, March 9, 2013

What Is The Difference Between Witchcraft and Wicca?

Delving Into The Heated Debate Of Wicca vs. Witchcraft

Wicca is a common and much older name for witchcraft. While the origins of the word "witch" and "Wicca" are hotly debated by linguists (some say it derived from a Anglo-Saxon word and others say it derives from Sanskrit and the originating proto Indo-European language from which all languages in that region branched) and the meaning of the word is also in question, there is an established point of reference. The first usage of the word wicche (Middle English) meaning "witch" appears in a Anglo-Saxon dictionary in the mid 1300s. This word is derived from a Old English word, wicce, which linguists think traces back to the Indo-European root "weg". "Weg" means "to bend" and has some context associations with truth and soothsayers. The Middle English concept of "witch" was highly unlikely to include our modern definition of the word. This is how the word origin is listed in an unabridged dictionary.
The other side of the argument still does not end up with Wicca being an older name for witchcraft. This article by Doreen Valiente explains the other probable origin: The Derivation Of The Word "Witch"
An etymological study of the word demonstrates that when you get back into the original Anglo-Saxon meaning, it drifts further away from any connection with witchcraft at all, particularly when used to refer to men: Online Etymology Dictionary "witch"
"In the past it has most often referred to the human harnessing of supernatural powers for the malevolent purpose of practicing black magic".
According to the etymological definitions in context of the original language from which the words were adapted, this is way off base. Its original meanings were tied into the concepts of female magicians or sorceresses. It's only later, with the emergence of the church as a political and social influence, that the definition changes. Earlier references also associate the word with soothsayers, men particularly skilled with horses, and midwives. Whether or not the person practicing was evil depended upon what magic was being used and they had different word combinations to indicate such. For this reason, witchcraft, sorcery, and magic are nearly synonymous.
By this point, the article is drifting far, far from the origins of Wicca. Nearly everyone knows that Wicca was created by Gerald Gardner from bits of local lore with additions from his own interests in Eastern cultures and Freemasonry and that Wicca is just over fifty years old. For me some differentiations do exist:
Wicca is a specific religion.
Witchcraft is, literally, a craft which uses folklore, herbal knowledge, and divination in an attempt to exert one's will on the surroundings and circumstances.
Sorcery I associate more with ceremonial magic with a heavy emphasis on the right tools and the right ingredients for spellwork. Sorcery seems to me to be a more "techno" version of witchcraft, often attempting to achieve artificially what witchcraft attempts with natural sources.
Magic is simply the force of will and intent utilized to power the spell, working, or construct.
I applaud, however, the author's approach to explaining how pagans view Satan. He or she covered all bases without getting into the whole "Satanism is bad, we're not Satanists, go pick on them" argument.
They also do not believe in demons. I don't necessarily agree with this. The belief in demons among pagans is almost as encompassing as the belief in Satan. Some disavow all existence of demons. Others --- a thing they have in common with some of the Pentecostal branches of Christianity --- believe that demons are a manifestation of the mind's inner ills. Some believe in their literal existence and explain them as a balancing factor against chaos and purity. A few believe that they're astral entities from another plane. Some are probably constructs gone wrong or improperly released by inexperienced magicians. I've been to a few places which just seem to radiate ill or negative energies in an almost sentient manner. I think that it's possible, over time, for such energies to acquire a thought pattern of their own and become demons or entities feeding off of troubles. Their deities are considered to be "imminent", or within each of us, meaning that everyone is actually deity.
This, to me, is a rather literal interpretation of "Thou art God/dess". For me, that simply means that because They created me I carry within myself a mark of my creators and that I, when I create, can pass that spark on to some extent. The Gods and Goddesses for me are distinct entities with their own personalities, quirks, wants, likes and dislikes. I don't believe in archetypes. A few groups do, however, worship Satan.
It's interesting to note, as I've been researching this for some time out of curiosity, that this is a gross understatement. Some researchers estimate that the concept of a devil like Satan has been around for at least a quarter million years. It seems to be one of those universal concepts which every civilization develops over time.
All references I could locate mention repressed sexuality and an increased negative attitude toward women as the source of the increased interest in witchcraft and Satanism. The people, particularly the merchant class, wanted some measure of relief from the repression and needed an "out" if they chanced to be caught. Claiming to be under the influence of Satan, particularly in connection with a woman, wasn't unusual. Accusations of Satan worship were also used to gain political power and property as the church and the state could seize the property of someone found to be doing so.
Ironically, it seems to be the church itself who first began using Satanism as a perversion of Christian practices: The History of Satanism
I would presume that the author of the article is talking about Sir Francis Dashwood and the Hellfire club but those activities do not date to the Middle Ages. According to the previous article, there's no evidence of Satanic activity until the late 18th century and Dashwood's activities revolved more around the erotic than the satanic. This would tend to give support to the previous claims that Satanism may have been a knee-jerk reaction against oppression of sexuality and increased social taboos against it. There may have been political motivations associated with his behaviors as well.
Most Wiccans do not accept the belief that there is good or evil. They argue that there are only forces that must be balanced. Evil is just a necessary part of good and the negative can be transmuted into the positive.
The Traditional Wiccans at least don't use "good" or "evil" to describe consequences at all and view things as positive and negative consequences of actions powered by intent. Different mixes of energies are necessary for balance, which is rarely achievable. In my ecletic "brand" of Wicca, at least, I do not go around transmuting negative to positive. In some cases (cancer healing, for instance) that would have the opposite desired effect and could prove disastrous. It's mostly about taking responsibility for one's actions and weighing consequences.
Most support neo-tolerance. On paper anyway. I've found pagans to be one of the most intolerant groups of people and it seems to be getting worse. I've recently gotten reamed (not debated with but outright condemned) for such things as taking my prescribed medications, getting a flu shot, being vaccinated in the first place, going to the doctor when I'm ill, and having a pet. They don't just disagree, they condemn others for their lifestyle choices simply because those choices aren't the ones they made. Tolerant individuals exist, of course, but pagans as a group? They're worse sometimes than identified hate groups. Just watch what happens when someone says they've successfully combined paganism with their Christian beliefs or if an atheist talks about using witchcraft.
They also are strong supporters of women's rights and matriarchy, sexual "freedom"(including homosexuality, polyamory, non-monogamy, sexual activity by teens), abortion, and the abolition of Christianity from public life, especially in schools and governmental functions.
This is all stereotyping. If you spend any time at all in the pagan communities you'll find that their opinions on these subjects are as diverse as their beliefs. I belonged at one time to two lists which had homosexuality, polyamory, and abortion as banned topics because people could not rationally discuss them without attacking one another. The overwhelming number of posts, according to the moderator, were more along the lines of what you'd expect to find in a fundamentalist Christian group.
Personally, I don't support matriarchy. I think it's just as imbalanced as patriarchy. My ideal society would let each person find his or her niche according to his or her needs, abilities, and skills.
As for women's rights...well, most feminists only support them superficially. The women's rights movement for me was always about the right to choose and be treated equally for those choices. Men and women alike treat women like garbage if the woman's choice involves staying home and taking care of the household, as some of my sisters did. It's worse if you have no children at home. Some men will see the woman as sponging off her hard working husband and some women will attack for regressing and holding women back from their rightful places in society.
Abortion? I regard it as a necessary evil; I respect the woman's right to do whatever she wants with her body because it's hers but I find the use of it for birth control rather extreme when there are so many other alternatives available.
I don't advocate the removal of ANY religion from public life. I work instead for the ability of ALL religions (or lack thereof) being able to express themselves freely. We live in a Christian society here in the United States. That can't be changed, any more than skin color. The best any minority group can hope for is inclusion within that society and equal rights. Seeking to get rid of the dominant group entirely is impractical and doomed to failure. I'll settle for the right to be treated fairly, like anyone else.
Years ago, I remember visiting a high school with a population that was predominantly Caucasian and conservative Christian. They had signs saying "In God We Trust" in every room of the school. And yet...there were markers on every room indicating east so that their Muslim students could say their prayers. A book about Wicca was displayed side by side with books on Islam, Christianity, and other religions in the library. They had a Bible study group AND a group for alternative religious discussions. They even had a skeptics' club. The Ten Commandments were posted in a display with the Rede and the Code of Hammurabi, some text from the Koran, and an excerpt from the Torah. If this can be done in a rural conservative town in Tennessee, it can be done elsewhere as well. They didn't give up their Christianity and no one else had to give up their beliefs either.
Modern day Wiccans tend to distance themselves from Christianity I wouldn't consider it distancing myself. It's like anything else: I tried it, it didn't suit my needs, I looked around until I found something that did. I recognize it as a distinct separate religion with its own pantheon and dogma; it just doesn't happen to be my religion. Many of my dearest friends and family are Christian. We can get along and even discuss religion peaceably. If I distanced myself from Christianity completely, it would be a lonely little world that has historically ignored the role of women in the church and society.
Actually, this is a rather recent development in church history which took place around the Middle Ages. One of the articles I mentioned earlier mentions that until that point in history women had been allowed to cure, to minister to the infirm, and to serve in the church. Hildegard Von Bingen is perhaps one of the best possible examples. She was a talented artist, hymn writer, and an incredibly astute herbalist. The Roman Catholic church has recently revised some of its doctrines to reflect this earlier arrangement. Girls are also allowed to serve as altar servers and in several of the churches I've attended the layperson who addresses the congregation first is now female. Several of the Protestant branches long ago recognized women as equal and have female pastors. The Episcopal church has a female bishop and a gay male bishop. While slow to change, I would say that they seem to be reassessing their roots and going back to them.
Tolerance and acceptance are two different things. We'll probably never see acceptance from Christian society but I do think mutual tolerance is possible.

Wicca versus Witchcraft