Is Witchcraft a religion?


7022713-word-or-tag-cloud-of-ethics-morals-and-values-wordsI have a cell phone that is a few years old. It does what I need it to do: text, access the internet for Google Maps, emails, Facebook & Messenger, and make or receive the occasional phone call. I also use apps for online ordering through Chewy and Amazon, and have things on there to keep up with my other personal accounts and such. Sometimes I play solitaire or Candy Crush. I listen to podcasts and watch YouTube through my phone.

I don’t have Snapchat.

I barely Instagram, having only set that up for my writing groups and only use that probably twice a month.

I also have a Twitter, but I don’t tweet. I just use it to follow favorite people and things.

I don’t have TikTok.

So, I’m not especially savvy when it comes to the bulk of social media. But, I do try to pay attention to the social rises and falls of specific patterns and trends relevant to things that I take a personal interest in, or things that affect my own life.

There has been an explosion of Witchy stuff online. This has positives and negatives because anyone can create anything and there are very few means of vetting the credibility and experience and wisdom of those who are now “Online Influencers.”

No one gets to speak for everyone.

witchtok

Social media has been instrumental in seeking to separate the concept of Witchcraft as a religious practice or religion into something entirely secular. There are so many voices who claim to speak for all Witches who state this, and while I accept that for them, and maybe a large number of others that agree with them, it is not a purely accurate or true statement for all of us.

I came into Witchcraft years before many of those who claim this belief were even born. In my practice, Witchcraft definitely defines and explains my religious beliefs.

Winter Solstice Altar

I do not seek to claim that defining Witchcraft as a religion is the only acceptable way to view it. Just as I would like to stress that claiming Witchcraft is not a religion is entirely correct.

It is both.

Witchcraft is BOTH a religion/religious practice AND a secular craft. It might be both of these things for you, or it might be one or the other for you. Perhaps you practice a different religion and apply the craft of Witchcraft to those religious beliefs. So you see Witchcraft as strictly a practice and not necessarily your religious viewpoint or understanding.

I have several Buddhist and Jewish friends who do this.

This concept brushes up against the popular “Wicca and Witchcraft aren’t the same thing,” statement that has become more common over the last decade or so as well. This statement doesn’t mean that ALL witches, then or now, identify as Wiccan. It just means that ALL Wiccans can identify as Witches.

If you’re Wiccan, then they’re the same thing.

Click on the tab above labeled “Is there a difference between Wicca and Witchcraft?” for more detail on this.

Wicca is Witchcraft. There is no separation. Wicca literally means Witch. It became the name for the religion of Witchcraft because in the middle of the 20th century, Witchcraft was still too heavily-connected with being anti-Christian. It was still on the law books of England as something forbidden and illegal, so, a different word — one that wasn’t as commonly known through folklore and history — became the more publicly-accepted label for this. After 40-50 years of using Wicca, and smoothing out the understanding and providing a more gradual acceptance of the word witchcraft in public, the words both began to be used in the non-pagan spheres more interchangeably. Keep in mind, this is because among practitioners, this interchange of calling oneself a Witch or a Wiccan was essentially the de facto practice. It was only among outsiders who weren’t yet accustomed to understanding that a Wiccan is a Witch that any sort of separateness existed between the two terms. Witch was dark and scary. Wicca was softer. In the west, predominately now in the United States and most British Commonwealth nations, this is no longer the case. Witchcraft and Wicca are much more accepted and protected now than they have ever been in the past.

Gardnerian High Priestess Thorn Mooney made a statement (I’m paraphrasing) that I think speaks very well to this point. […] In the west, particularly Western Europe and the US, we tend to think that ‘religion’ is something that looks like Christianity. As institutional religion — with buildings, ministries, sanctioned leaders, rites and ceremonies, gods… Certain facets of things we recognize as religion.

So, if these things don’t exist as this in your practice, then you may not consider your particular flavor of Witchcraft to be your religion. But, if your practice does have some of these things, that means you can (and probably do) consider your Witchcraft to be your religion.

As I do.

I identify myself as a person who practices Pagan Religious Witchcraft. I also use the word Wicca to define my religious beliefs, because what I practice is aligned to those practices as well. I describe myself as both a Witch and Wiccan.

arms-up

Hearing or reading the statements: “Witchcraft isn’t a religion.”, “Witchcraft is a practice, not a religion.”, “Wicca is the religion and Witchcraft is the practice of magic.” Or any variation of these are only correct for those who agree with it or see the world through this particular lens. It is not a sweeping, all-encompassing, accurate statement for a great number of us. I think that many of those who came into the Craft prior to 2000 are likely to consider themselves as holding Witchcraft as their religious practice.

Wicca/Witchcraft is an orthopraxic religion. Religions such as Christianity are orthodoxic. I go into more specific explanation on these terms in my post here: “O” is for Orthopraxy vs. Orthodoxy. Understanding the definition and use of these two terms will help with explaining how and why Witchcraft can be defined as a religion.

A religion is more than just a ritual practice or set of beliefs. A religion is a core part of an individual’s identity and it colors and shapes their entire world view and personal understanding of the universe, their ethics, their morals, and their philosophy. It defines how they see and interact with the Divine. If you do not connect these things for yourself with the practice of Witchcraft, then it is perfectly valid that for you, Witchcraft is not the label you give your religion. Or maybe you don’t really feel that you have a religion — you might be agnostic or prefer to say that you’re “spiritual, not religious.”

But you don’t get to speak for me.

You don’t get to make this statement as a broad, brush stroke across all of Pagandom and claim that “This is how it is.”

Because it’s not.

It is both, and Witchcraft is my religion.


2 thoughts on “Is Witchcraft a religion?

  1. You’ve expressed my sentiments so wonderfully! I get “het up” every time someone deigns to tell me that my Witchcraft is not a religion, at which point I usually tell them that I was practicing before they were born, and they don’t get to tell me what my religion is, or is not.
    Thank you for putting the technicalities and terminology out there.

    Like

    1. Hello Wolf!

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

      As many of my blog posts tend to be, this one came about because something got me “het up” too!

      Witchcraft has always been fluid, and that’s one of the amazing things about it. But, the same people who will declare, “My Witchcraft is my own! You can’t tell me what is or isn’t Witchcraft!” will also come up with arbitrary rules and definitions that define what it is and those are to be accepted without question or exception.

      I understand where folks are coming from, and how the definitions and understandings have changed and adapted for different intentions and purposes. But two things are absolutely true in all contexts:

      1. Word ORIGINS do not change. Definitions can adapt. Impressions, cultures, ideology, practices — those can adapt and change over time. Origins cannot.
      2. One way of witchery is not the entire practice of it. Individuals cannot stomp their feet and loudly decry that Witchcraft is individualized, even among different traditions — those members of those groups may hold different beliefs or practices from another group — and then claim to have THE RIGHT ANSWER. 🙂

      People should be able to justify and explain where their position stands and support why they believe it. You and I can do that with seeing Witchcraft as a religion.

      Radicalized, know-it-all 20-somethings who don’t know Craft history and didn’t see where this shift happened and came from don’t get to tell me what is or isn’t my religion. 😀

      Like

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