What's the Difference Between Wicca and Paganism?

Updated on May 14, 2018
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Kitty has been following an alternative spiritual path for seventeen years. She encourages others to follow their souls' calling.

There is a difference between Wicca and Paganism that isn't always clear to new followers.
There is a difference between Wicca and Paganism that isn't always clear to new followers.

Modern-Day Alternative Religions

Many people today are seeking alternative spiritual paths and religions. They want a path free of judgment, hypocrisy, and restraints. They are looking for something other than what the major world religions offer, and many of them will find it on the Pagan path. Sometimes it is confusing when you first come to Paganism. Searching for answers online can be daunting, and Wicca and Paganism can seem to be the same thing or completely different. Don't let semantics confuse you or complicate your journey to enlightenment.

So is there a difference between Wicca and Paganism? Yes, there are differences but they are also related, which we will discuss in detail in this article. Whether you are looking into your religious options, are a new Pagan, or someone who is seeking to understand what Wicca and Paganism are, you will find your answers here.

What Is Paganism?

We have to correctly define Wicca and Paganism first in order to identify the differences. Paganism is an umbrella term for religions that fall outside of the three Abrahamic religions, which are: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. As you might guess, there are literally hundreds of religions that don't fit into the Abrahamic religion box. When most people hear the term Pagan, they think of a person without religion. They might even think satanist is synonymous with Pagan. Both of these assumptions are false.

In modern times, the term Pagan and Neo-Pagan (which means new Pagan) is used by people who want to define their spiritual path which typically includes some form of earth worship mixed with a revival of some ancient religion or tradition. The term pagan is extremely diverse and can literally be applied to nearly any alternative spiritual path. There are Pagans who worship gods and goddesses, the universe, and Mother Earth. There are Pagans who worship no gods at all, but might follow a path that honors their ancestors instead. There are Pagans who believe the universe is god. Hinduism and Buddhism are even under the Pagan umbrella as they are not part of the Abrahamic religion triad. While Buddhists and Hindus might not call themselves pagan, they are Pagan by definition. You can see how broad the term Pagan can really be.

There are different kinds of Pagans, and this is where the major difference lies between Wicca and Paganism. Wicca is a type of Paganism, so if someone says they are Wiccan they are also Pagan. Conversely, if someone says they are pagan doesn't mean they are Wiccan too. Some of the different branches of Paganism include: Wicca, Hinduism, Buddhism, Asatru, Druidism, Heathenry, Goddess-worship, Universalism, Pantheism, Indigenous religions, Thelema, Eco-Paganism, Hellenic reconstructionism, and so many more!

Most pagans worship or honor the earth in some regard, while Wiccans make it a central part of their belief system.
Most pagans worship or honor the earth in some regard, while Wiccans make it a central part of their belief system.

The Major Differences Between Wicca and Paganism

Wicca
Paganism
Organized Religion
Umbrella Term for Many Religions
Set of Rules
Rules Depend on the Path
Belief in God and Goddess
Belief in Deity Varies

What Is Wicca?

Wicca is a type of Paganism, but doesn't define Paganism as a whole. Wicca is a religion founded in the twentieth century by a man named Gerald Gardner. It is a modern day form of witchcraft but is considered a religion because it has its own set of morals, rituals, and spiritual beliefs. Gerald Gardner maintained that Wicca was based on an old Pagan religion that had somehow survived from ancient times that was carried on in the form of secret covens in England. When Gerald Gardner went public with his new witchcraft religion, the world was in an uproar. Some people found it appalling, some people found it ridiculous, and there were others who found it welcoming. Wicca has grown worldwide and continues to grow each year. In the United States, New York Times claims that Wicca had eight thousand followers in nineteen-ninety, and in two-thousand-one that number had increased to nearly one-hundred-fifty-thousand followers. You can imagine how much higher that number is today.

Wicca's basic beliefs include the honoring of a god and goddess. Often Wiccans will choose a specific name for their god and goddess, but overall they mostly believe that god is both male and female and has different names depending on the culture or region. Wiccans believe in honoring the earth and make the four elements a central part of their practice (earth, air, fire, and water). Wiccans also believe in celebrating the Wheel of the Year, which is a representation of the sun's ascent and descent in the sky and the passing by of the seasons. The solstices and equinoxes are some of their holy days and are known as the sabbats. Some Wiccans practice in a coven, which is their form of religious congregation, and some Wiccans practice solitary. Their main rules include the three-fold law which states anything you do comes back to you times three. And the law of and it harm none, do what you will.

To Sum It Up

Wicca is under the umbrella term of Paganism but it is its own branch of religion with its own set of beliefs and rules. That is the "difference" between Wicca and Paganism, which isn't truly a difference in the end. Not to further confuse you, but there are also different forms of Wicca as Wicca has almost become an umbrella term in this day and age. Some different kinds of Wicca are: Dianic Wicca, Gardnerian Wicca, Alexandrian Wicca, Faery Wicca, Eclectic Wicca, and more. If you are Wiccan, you can also say you are Pagan. Some Wiccans choose to say they are Pagan instead of Wiccan to avoid judgment and persecution surrounding the term Wiccan.

If you are Pagan, this doesn't necessarily mean you are also Wiccan. You can be one of hundreds of kinds of Pagan. Or you can be a mix of a couple different kinds. Or you can literally make up your own spiritual path and refer to it as Pagan. Paganism allows the practitioner or believer nearly any belief system and any path to enlightenment they choose. There are even some people who mix Christianity with Paganism, but we will save that for a different article.

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    © 2018 Nicole Canfield

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    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 5 days ago from Chicago Area

      Great explanation of the difference! I also think that the word "pagan" has such a negative connotation from Abrahamic traditions that people are afraid to be associated with the term. Thanks for the clarification!

    • kittythedreamer profile image
      Author

      Nicole Canfield 2 weeks ago from Summerland

      Hi Doris - There are just as many types of Wicca as Christianity these days it seems. I too consider myself pagan but am accepting of all paths and all religions as long as they harm none.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James-MizBejabbers 2 weeks ago

      Enlightening article, Nicole. I didn't realize that there were so many kinds of Wiccans. I'm not sure where my belief system falls, but it's definitely Pagan. I'm anxious to see your article combining Christians with Pagans. Mine may fall close to there because I do believe in the Sananda/Jesus concept.

    • kittythedreamer profile image
      Author

      Nicole Canfield 2 weeks ago from Summerland

      Niina - I agree. I wrote this mainly for people who are confused between the two, which I get questions about nearly every week. Thanks for chiming in, Lady!

    • fairychamber profile image

      Niina Niskanen 2 weeks ago from Wrexham

      Thank you Kitty. So many still confuse Wicca and paganism but I feel that this has changed a lot within past years. People are more aware of other pagan traditions outside Wicca. Which I think is great. It is quite similar when you say that Catholics are all Christian but not all Christians are Catholics.

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