Am I a Witch, Wiccan, Pagan, or Something Else?
Do you feel drawn towards . . . something? A life that you can’t quite define, yet you know that there is this other level of being? Often, you’ll watch a movie or read an article and catch the thread of it—magic. And you want it. You really want to live a magical life. But you’re not a Witch. Are you? You’ve heard of Wicca, but it sounds a little complicated . . . and what exactly is a Pagan? And, not to mention the really weird dreams you’ve had lately. It’s like an itch that can’t be soothed.
I’m going to try to help you sort this out. To enable you to define who and what you want to be. To guide you towards the life that has been quietly beckoning you. It’s time to pay attention to that whisper, it's time to learn more—time to know the real you.
But first, let’s get the age thing out of the way. And some history—t’s important to understand where your yearnings for a magical life are rooted.
Am I Too Young to Be a Witch, Wiccan or Pagan?
I get asked this all the time. Every. Single. Day. My answer is always the same: if you haven’t reached, what I like to call, the age of common sense—yes. If you are living with your parents—yes. If you are still in school, you are too young. Witches, Wiccans and Pagans, by their very nature, are wise people with a lot of life experience. There is nothing preventing you reading and learning about living a magical life, but I really recommend you don’t mess around with spells and stuff until you know what you are doing and what the consequences might be.
And, no, I can’t tell you an exact age to begin practicing. It depends on your circumstances, your maturity and whether your parents/guardian are happy for you to do so.
Having said all that, and handing out warnings and telling you to wait, there are some things you can do at any age. I have included a list of them at the bottom of the page, but do read the rest of the article first, there is a lot to learn.
The Wider Picture: Paganism
In Roman times, in Europe, a ‘Pagan’ was literally a ‘country dweller’. As opposed to those sophisticated city types, Pagans typically earned their living from the land or doing manual labor. Later 'Pagan' was redefined as anyone who was non-Christian.
Christianity spread through Roman occupied cities far faster than the outlying lands where ancient religious practices endured. These practices varied from country to country, but in Britain, for example, there were traditional places of worship dedicated to different deities—it all depended where you lived, as adjacent villages may have had different objects of worship. The idea was to placate the gods and curry favor in order to get a good crop or to heal a sick cow. So each hamlet and village had a special place, maybe a shrine, perhaps a site high on a hill, even a stone bridge where the faery folk hung out. It was all a bit mixed up.
Eventually though the proponents of the new Christian faith got the idea that if they built churches on these old sacred spots, the Pagans (their potential flock) would continue to turn up there. And should they appropriate some of the old Pagan celebratory dates it would also help their cause. So they did. And they were correct. But that didn’t stop all the old rites, traditions, superstitions and other practices which continued happily alongside Christianity. Pagans were nothing, if not adaptable. They didn’t care if they worshiped their old gods in a church built for the new God on the block. They still carried out their good luck rituals or consulted the wise woman at the end of the lane, while tipping their hat at the clergy in public.
The term now covers all earth-based faiths and paths. Sometimes it’s called ‘neo-Paganism’. Modern Paganism, in all its forms, attempts to combine ancient practices with modern life and covers a wide variety of spiritual paths and practices. For example, Druidism, Shamanism, etc. In fact, both witchcraft and Wicca are included. So all Witches are Pagan, yet not all Pagans are Witches.
Witches were a bit like cats. They didn't much like one another's company but they did like to know where all the other Witches were, just in case they needed them. And what you might need them for was to tell you, as a friend, that you were beginning to cackle.— Terry Pratchett, good chap, writer, and all-round genius.
Narrowing Down to Witchcraft
Witchcraft is also a wide, all-encompassing term. It is differentiated from other aspects of Paganism because not all of those are focused on spell casting and energy manipulation. However, Witchcraft also includes Wicca, which I’ll get to later.
At various times throughout history, Witchcraft had to go underground. From villagers merrily incorporating their Pagan practices with Christianity, it eventually became life-threatening to do so. Those wise women and men were driven into the shadows where they lived in fear of identification, torture, imprisonment and death. They had to deal with accusations and lies of consorting with the Devil, of being in league with demons, and of causing harm to ‘good Christians’. That doesn’t mean that Witches were always good—far from it. Some were downright nasty, evil characters, but then, so were some Christians. Human nature will always prevail.
Eventually common sense returned and it was no longer illegal to practice Witchcraft. Took a long time; although the Witchcraft Act was repealed in 1736, it was still illegal to claim you could work spells. It was finally deemed legal to practice Witchcraft and claim to work magic in Britain in 1951.
There are hundreds of varieties of Witchcraft. Too many to mention here. I have listed 60 in this article, “What Kind of Witch Are You?” There are traditions based on old customs or, rather, reinterpretation of old customs. There are religious paths based on all kinds of pantheons (group of gods, such as Greek, Roman or Norse) that come under the umbrella of Witchcraft. But not all Witchcraft is religious. Many, probably most, Witches are secular (not religious), even if they do call upon ‘the old ones’ for a bit of help now and then.
The Niche of Wicca
Wicca is a fairly modern movement. It is classed as a faith, therefore has religious status in most of the Western world. It stems from the Witchcraft revival in the early 20th century, popularized by the work of the writer, Margaret Murray and the former Civil Servant, Gerald Brosseau Gardner. In fact, they referred to it as ‘the craft’, it was only later that the term ‘Wicca’ was applied to this particular movement.
Wicca is also split into many traditions. Often based upon the location of the various groups and sects. They develop their own practices as they evolve. There are some common elements, however, such as working with the Wheel of the Year (the seasons, solstices and equinoxes), the moon cycles and such. Some groups are very formal, and neophytes (newbies) are required to progress through a series of tests and exams or initiation rites. There are also many thousands of ‘solitaries’ who work alone and generally practice their own brand of Wicca.
However, Wicca, does tend to have a structure and guidance, if not actual rules. It can be downright dogmatic at times. The really good thing about Wicca is that it is helpful to people new to the craft. The learning process is structured and there are a ton of online resources available.
Which Witch Are You?
So now you have an idea of what the three things are, perhaps you also know which one appeals to you the most? Let me quickly summarize:
- Paganism is for anyone who is keen on developing an earth-based practice who doesn’t necessarily want to be a Witch or a Wiccan. It’s ideal for those who are just finding their feet in this great big pot of possibilities.
- Witchcraft is for people who definitely want to practice magic and explore all the various paths of the craft. Witchcraft is often where Pagans progress to, and Wiccans retreat to when they’ve decided that they want a less structured practice.
- Wicca is a religion. The various paths are based on gods and goddesses, or indeed The God and Goddess. Wicca incorporates ritual and spell work. Often the rituals are elaborate and based around the various celebratory dates throughout the year. There is a structured learning route through most Wiccan traditions.
Witchcraft ... is a spiritual path. You walk it for nourishment of the soul, to commune with the life force of the universe, and to thereby better know your own life.— Christopher Penczak, writer, witch.
But I Just Want to Do Magic…
I understand, I really do, because I’ve been there too. Yet you will find, as you go along, that while spell casting is a fun and important part of living a magical life, there are other aspects which will also attract and absorb you.
What I suggest for you is to spend some time, a lot of time actually, exploring what you like about the idea of magic and Witchcraft and all those things. So the first step is to discover as much about yourself as you can. I highly recommend you start a journal. Your own private witchy space. If you don’t like writing, then just keep lists. Lists are great because you know exactly what they are so you might start with a list of all the things that make you happy. Then all the things that make you sad. Then the stuff that makes you mad. Include activities, places, people, animals, topics, anything at all.
You could then progress to a list of all the things you want out of life, your secret desires, what you want to do and achieve. And, remember that these lists or journal entries are never, ever set in concrete. They will evolve and change just as you will. Your journal is like your own private magic room. Record your thoughts, ideas and emotions. Keep records of any small rituals that you do.
Meanwhile, you can begin to explore the different kinds of Witchcraft, Paganism and Wiccan paths that are open to you. Get a good book. I nearly always recommend Lisa Chamberlain’s books, even though most are Wiccan (and I am not). She writes in a down-to-earth, easy to follow style. Start with the most general one, “,” and then progress onto her other books—in any order. Or, if you want a less Wiccan-based one, try reading Mélusine Draco’s, “ Modern Witchcraft and Magic for Beginners,” and again progress to her other books. The Dictionary of Magic and Mystery
I Think I Was Born a Witch
Yes, lots of people do. It’s true that you may well have been born into a tradition if your parents and grandparents practice magic. However, if you just ‘think’ you are a Witch, then you aren’t. Not yet.
There are many of you who have weird dreams that come true. Lots have déja vu (the feeling you have been in the exact same situation before). Some can feel the emotions and energy of other people. Others are contacted by spirits. Some people know what’s going to happen before it does (premonition) or know things that they couldn’t or shouldn’t know because they’ve never been told or given the information (claircognizance).
However, none of that means you are a Witch. This is where the ‘something else’ in the title comes in. It means that you have one or more psychic gifts. Therefore, you are psychic; your sixth sense is strong. Witchcraft is a craft. And like all crafts it has to be learned. Unless you do Witchcraft, you aren’t a Witch. You may well have traits and characteristics that will help you to be a Witch . . . but you ‘gotta walk the walk’. So go back to “I Just Want to Do Magic” and follow the suggestions given. You can develop your psychic gifts and use them in the craft. You might turn out to be an extraordinary tarot reader, palmist, or even an astrologer with a special gift for interpreting natal charts.
Which path attracts you?
But I Want to Start Right Now
Okay, you can. There’s nothing you need do or learn before you begin incorporating a little magic into your daily life. And it really doesn’t matter how old you are, you can do these things with no harm to anyone, including yourself. The more you do them, the more magical your life will become. The are the perfect basis on which to build further study and exploration. Here goes:
- Keep a journal, as detailed above. You can call it a Book of Shadows, if you like, but really it’s your exploration of you and how you fit into the world.
- When the light hits your eyes in the morning, stretch and say a silent ‘thank you’ to the universe, the Goddess, the earth—whatever you prefer to represent the energy that is present in all things. Sending out a ‘thank you’ before you begin your day sends out the most positive message that will bring positive things right back to you. Try to send random ‘thank you’s throughout the day, if you remember.
- Magically influence an enemy with a compliment. This is a really important tool in any Witch’s armory. Let’s say there is someone whom you don’t like. Someone who doesn’t like you and who loves to taunt, bully, or otherwise undermine you. When they speak to you, whatever words (insults) they use, reply, “Okay. By the way, I meant to tell you before, I really like your *hair/jacket/necklace/bag/shoes/whatever*. Then see how they react. You’ve just done a little magic. They will be totally disarmed. Reactions will vary, but will range from them thanking you (best result) to them looking at you suspiciously and walking away (also a good result). You can also use other things like, “Okay. By the way, well done on your math result/that goal you scored at soccer practice/getting your driving license, etc.” You get the idea. Try to smile, and in your mind, imagine them walking away, slightly confused as to why they don’t see you as a target anymore. It’s magic and you just cast a charm on them.
- Drink magic water. Get a glass or bottle of drinking water. Place your hands around the glass or bottle. Close your eyes and imagine channeling energy from the earth up through your feet and body and into your hands. Visualize this positive energy seeping into the water. It only takes a minute with a little practice. Your water is now magically charged - it will give you energy, help to lift your mood, and fill you with the love (energy) you brought forth from the earth. You can also do it the other way round, and bring it from above, down through your crown chakra (top of your head), down through your body, into your hands and into the water.
- Become aware. This is a basic Witch skill and not everyone can do it. At some point during the day, when you are alone, stop what you are doing. Take your ear buds out and turn your phone off. Close your eyes. Now listen. Become aware of every sound. Pay attention to each in turn. You might hear traffic, birds chirping, the breeze in a nearby tree, wires humming, or people shouting in the distance. If you are indoors. You might still hear some of those things plus the furnace switching on and off, someone moving in another room, the rain on the roof or windows, your dog or cat breathing, the house creaking and even your own body gurgles. Do this regularly. Also do the same thing with your other senses; vision, smell, touch, and taste. The more you align with your senses, the stronger your witchy 6th sense becomes. Go journal.
I have a whole lot, fifty suggestions in fact, that you can pick from: 50 Ways to be Witchy Every Day. Don’t try to do them all, that would be crazy; just take a few that appeal to you and see how you get on with them.
Have I covered everything? No way. There is so much more to know. So much exploration to do and if you decide to become a Witch, Wiccan or Pagan, you’ll be learning forever. It’s a wondrous, magical journey. Have fun, create joy, and, most importantly, be yourself.
Access many more Witchcraft articles here: How to be a Witch: Resources to get You Started.
Parliament UK: Witchcraft
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
© 2020 Bev G