What is Witchcraft/Wicca?
Wicca was the first (or at least one of the first) of the neopagan religions. As a result, it is the best known, and tends to overshadow its younger, smaller siblings. This does not mean that Wicca is more valid than other neopagan religions — just larger and louder.
Wicca, however, is only one of the things called Witchcraft (or sometimes, the Craft, a term also applied to Masonry). There are a whole range of styles of folk-magic around the world which are called witchcraft in English. If the word Witch is capitalized, it indicates that it is being used to refer to a member of a pagan religion, not just to a practitioner of folk-magic. There are also Witches who practice religions called Witchcraft which are not Wicca. These religions tend to be more folk-pagan than Wicca, drawing on the heritage of a specific culture or region.
Wicca itself is a new religion, drawing strongly on the practices of Ceremonial Magic. While there are claims that Wicca goes back into the mists of pre-history, honest examination of the practices and history of the Wicca will make it clear that Wicca is new. (Actually, the word “Wicca” itself is recently coined, at least in its present usage. The OE “wicca” was pronounced “witch-ah” and meant male magician. The new word “Wicca” is pronounced “wick-uh”, capitalized as a religion, and means a religion, not a person.) However, Wicca has developed in many directions and should not be seen as a unified whole, even though it is fairly new.
Rituals and beliefs vary widely among Witches. Unlike most of the neopagan religions, Wicca is an initiatory religion, that is, people who choose to practice Wicca believe that the commitment to this path set changes in motion in their lives. Many Traditions (sects) of Wicca formalize this with a ritual (or series of rituals) of initiation.
Others, especially Solitary Witches, trust that the Gods will do the initiating of the Witch.
Why do you use the word Witch? / Wiccan?
Witch is a very old word meaning “magic-maker”, from a root which meant “bending” and “shaping”. For many of us, the word Witch is a powerful reclaiming of that inherent human power to make changes around us. For others, including some of the people within Wicca, that word is not their word. Some people within Wicca take the adjective “Wiccan” and use it as a noun.
(Some people question the authenticity of the etymology that says “witch” means “to bend or shape.” They believe that the word is simply from the Old English for “wise one” and has no relation to the root mentioned above – which gives us the modern word “wicker,” for instance. However, this definition is a good way to think of how a modern Witch might see
Authors Details: Witchcraft / Wicca – Alt.Pagan FAQ Questions