Spiritual, Religious, Magickal, Witch, Pagan, Wiccan…. What’s the Difference

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In recent days there has been a trend of people stating they are ‘spiritual and not religious’, wrongly assuming that ‘spirituality’ and ‘religion’ are necessarily opposite terms.

It is also observed that the words ‘magick’ and ‘witchcraft’ are being commonly used to refer to what people call ‘occult practices’ with the word occult meaning obscure or hidden, even though these are in reality spiritual practices and are no longer secretive in today’s world.

It is also quite often that I have heard people speak of Wicca and witchcraft interchangeably while the fact is that there is a difference between the two.

To add to the confusion, in the western world the word ‘paganism’ is often used by many people, especially witches, as their religion, while in truth paganism is a broad group of several spiritual traditions or religions and not any one specific religion.

This is a detailed article explaining my views on each of these things.

Let me begin with the word ‘spirituality’. This is a word we all use commonly but few know how to actually define.

Spirituality is the belief that subtle energy called ‘spirit’ is found in the world governing everything and everyone. If you are a ‘spiritual’ person, this means that you believe there is an unseen ‘force’ or energy that underlies all physical or material things and beings in the universe.

Atheists would be people who do not believe in spirituality or any spiritual power. Most atheists are materialists who believe only in the visible or physical world as a mechanical construct with no spirit or invisible energy in it. They regard themselves as ‘rationalists’ and according to them believing in spiritual energy is superstition or unscientific belief. According to them science is strictly limited to what is observable only through the limited five senses of human beings.

Religion on the other hand is groups of people believing in some sort of divine power or spiritual power (theism), some call it The God (monotheism), some believe in many gods and goddesses (polytheism) and therefore you can say that religion is a term used for many diverse spiritual beliefs. Any spiritual belief can be termed as religion if there are many people who share that belief.

Those people who are put-off by the word ‘religion’ after seeing examples of fundamentalism and religious politics, and therefore jump to the conclusion that spirituality is something ‘better’ than religion must remember one thing…. Religion is not a term that is exclusively used for conversion based faiths, for narrow minded beliefs, for rigid rites and rituals, or for divisive beliefs that ask you to belong to either one faith or the other but not both. There are many religions in the world that are open-minded, spiritually liberating and flexible, and you can believe and choose one or many religious faiths or beliefs accordingly. So when you use the word religion kindly do not restrict your imagination to just Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and other popular faiths. Just about any spiritual beliefs that gain popularity can become religion and these can be countless and variable. As masses awaken to the spiritual truth, even spirituality becomes more or less a religion.

Magick is a term that simply means spiritual power. To be spiritual is therefore to believe that there is magick in everything. While spirituality is the belief in magick, magick is the power which spirituality is based on. The letter ‘k’ distinguishes the word ‘magick’ from the word ‘magic’ which is sometimes used to refer to staged tricks or illusions. Magick is most often used to refer to the conscious application of magickal power such as spells. However magickal power is constantly flowing all around us, unknown or known to us.

And before you say – ‘I don’t believe in all these things’….let me remind you that almost everyone in the world, including anyone who is an ‘atheist’, not only believes in but also practices magick. And that too almost every single day! When we wish each other ‘good-morning’, ‘good-luck’ or ‘bless you’ for example….when you cut your birthday cake…or when you ‘‘touch wood’. Rings a bell?

If you make a wish, pray for something, believe that you can make something happen with the power of your mind or through a mysterious force… then you are indulging in an act of magick. All spiritual beliefs and religions are therefore based on magick, not just witchcraft, paganism or Wicca (described below).

Witchcraft is a practice based on applying spiritual energy or in other words magickal power with wisdom. The words ‘wit’ referring to mind-power and the word ‘wiz’ referring to wisdom are linked with the words witch and wizard respectively (practitioners of the ‘craft’). Therefore witchcraft means ‘crafting your life with wisdom’. You can also call this ‘spiritual healing’ as it is a positive application of spiritual power or magick. Today most witches or wizards use the word ‘spiritual healer’ instead, because the word witchcraft has been tarnished due to centuries of negative prejudice spread throughout the world. Remove the false stigma and you will find the true meaning of witchcraft. Today many healers are proud to say that they are witches.

Witchcraft is a multicultural or global practice. Wise men and women of pagan or native cultures all over the ancient world were witches, also called shamans, medicine men or women, or spiritual healers in various languages.

Paganism is a word for ancient spirituality and is used to refer to several ancient or native spiritual beliefs and practices such as natural folk-medicine or belief in divinity of nature, or the elements of nature in various cultures all over the world. These include ancient religions such as the Native Chinese, Native African, Native American, Aboriginal, ancient Hindu or Vedic faith, Celtic Druidry, Nordic Asatru or Heathenry, Egyptian Kemitism and so on.

These pagan belief systems developed naturally in each area of earth, and are NOT usually based on conversion, or on following any central organisation or personality or adherence to the words of any specific book.

There are some continuing pagan traditions such as the Vedic or Hindu faith of India which is deeply spiritual as well as religious and have been there for thousands of years from before the dawn of conversion based religions. Many of these ancient beliefs, especially in the western world, have been replaced by conversion based religions that came much later – religions such as Christianity or Islam for instance.

As an increasing number of people today are ‘reverting’ to the old or ancient spiritual beliefs, especially global paganism based on nature worship and pan-theism (belief in divinity in everything) today most of the pagan faiths are being reborn or reconstructed as neo-paganism.

Wicca is one such new spirituality that unites its believers under a common guideline called the Wiccan Rede that states, ‘An Ye Harm None Do As Ye Will’. In simple terms this means ‘exercising our will power as long as it harms none’. Wicca is not another name for general occult practices or a wide range of ritualistic or pagan ceremonies. It is an ethically conscious spiritual belief system that guides us to be kind to nature and ourselves.

The difference between Wicca and witchcraft is that while witchcraft is a practice, Wicca is a belief system centred on the Wiccan Rede. Many witches choose to believe in Wicca as a faith to integrate their practices into, yet not all witches call themselves Wiccan.

Just like other religions that have elaborate rituals and ceremonies such as wedding rites, funerals and worship, Wicca too has plenty of rituals. The difference is that Wiccans believe that the deity or higher power being invoked is not an outer God that rules over nature, but nature or the universe itself in its many forms and can be referred to by any name of any god or goddess of the globe. Wicca therefore appeals to the modern spiritualist who prefers to be open-minded and nature loving in their practices.

There is no central governing body or authority figure in Wicca as it is modelled around paganism. Similarly there is no conversion to become Wiccan – you can simply choose your faith through inner belief. Some Wiccans also study and get initiated to be professional witches or healers by learning through a specific Wiccan tradition or teacher. Initiation as a witch or priest/ess in Wicca is not mandatory or a pre-requisite of being Wiccan, but is all about learning spiritual skills and gaining mastery. It is often done ceremonially, just like being initiated into the spiritual healing system or priesthood of any other pagan or native belief.

Wicca is primarily scientific as well as spiritual in its worship as Wiccans believe in celebrating our earth’s seasonal changes and cycles through rituals. Wiccans believe in an inner natural guidance or intuition taking nature as the teacher, instead of following any one personality or pre-set beliefs. In short Wicca is a spirituality that believes in being harmless, loving earth and celebrating the divine in all of nature while keeping an open mind. It unites us all as children of nature…. beings of one earth.

For more detailed information read The Global Wicca Revolution available internationally in paperback as well as kindle edition through amazon.

Swati Prakash

www.swatiprakash.com

@witchyswati on Twitter and facebook.com/witchyswati

 

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