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Are Wicca and Paganism the Same Thing?

Virgo Tree writes:

Can someone please explain to me the diffrence between Paganism and Wicca?
Basically, paganism is a large category that includes a number of different religions that share the common characteristics of being polytheistic (worshipping lots of gods) and/or nature-revering.

Wicca is one specific type of paganism, which draws on both pagan folk traditions and the more elaborate ceremonial magic that was being practiced around the turn of the century. But there are many other kinds of paganism, such as Celtic reconstructionism (what this list is about), Asatru (Norse reconstructionism), and so on. Hinduism and Native spirituality might also be considered forms of paganism under the definition I'm using here, but not everyone within those religions would necessarily agree with that.

There are a number of things that distinguish Wicca in particular from the various other pagan religions. Among them are:

  • A belief that all the various gods and goddesses of the world's mythologies are -- at least to some extent -- facets of one god and one goddess, who are in turn the masculine and feminine aspects of one unknowable divinity. Most other types of pagans don't see the gods this way.

  • A strong emphasis on the practice of magic. Some other kinds of pagans practice magic, but not all do, and those that do don't necessarily see it as an important part of who they are.

  • A belief in karma, or at least the general principle that the interconnectedness of things means that the consequences of your actions always affect you too. Again, some other kinds of pagans may believe in this, but many others don't.

  • The Wiccan Rede: "An it harm none, do as ye will." This is specific to Wicca; no other pagan tradition uses this saying unless they've been heavily influenced by Wicca, and many have a strong warrior orientation that causes them to disagree with what they see as Wicca's pacifist stance. Now, in fact, Wiccans vary a lot in how they interpret the Rede, and not all are pacifists, but they still tend to lean more in that direction than most Celtic or Norse pagans.

  • An emphasis on duality, or polarity -- seeing things in terms of balanced opposites that come together to create something new. This is different from most monotheistic religions, like Christianity, which, if they see things in twos, tend to see one side as good and the other as bad. In Wicca, pairs of opposites -- life and death, light and dark, creation and destruction, joy and sorrow -- are usually seen as being both necessary for balance. This is part of what is symbolized by the god and goddess. Other pagan religions, on the other hand, don't necessarily see things in twos at all, or at least not to the extent that Wiccans so. In Celtic mythology, for example, you will find symbolism based on twos, threes, fours, fives, nines and various other numbers -- three is the most common.

There are other differences I could mention, but these are some of the main ones. Things often get complicated because of the fact that Wicca is one of the most common and best known forms of paganism, so people who haven't had a lot of contact with the other forms often assume that "Wicca" and "paganism" are the same thing. And also, because all of these religions tend to be pretty individualistic, people will often find their own paths that involve elements of more than one kind of paganism.

For example, there are some people on the IMBAS list, like me, Kathryn, and a few others, whose paths involve elements of both Wicca and Celtic reconstructionism. There is a special sublist, called IDIR (short for Idir Eatarhu, Irish Gaelic for "betwixt and between") for people on this list who are interested in talking about Wicca. If you'd like to be on it, send an e-mail to Dani and ask her to put you on IDIR. There aren't usually a lot of messages on it, but it's good place to ask questions about Wicca without annoying the people who aren't interested in it.

I hope that helps answer your question.

Déithe duit,

Liath Cadhóit
(a.k.a Lynna Landstreet)


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