A Quick and Easy Guide to Pagan, Wiccan, and Witch Traditions

Below is a basic-of-basic guide to our community, just to give you an educated perspective.  I encourage you to read as much as possible about all of these traditions. I do not cover every Pagan branch out there (mainly because there is too many), but I tried to cover the more widespread and vocal traditions.  Also, you notice I do not go into voodoo, hoodoo, or shamanism.  I do not feel educated enough in any of these practices to give you a full description.  I encourage you to do research if any of those three speak to you.  So here you go!

  • Wiccan: Religious worship directed towards the Lord and Lady and uses the Wheel of the Year. This is the commonly known tradition that uses a ritual with the following elements: casting a circle, inviting the elements and deities, spellwork, raising energy, releasing energy, cakes and ale, and the sending forth.  When you are thinking the basic of basic stereotypes, you are usually thinking Wiccan.
  • Pagan: Any religious tradition that is not Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or Sikhism (This might be an over simplistic definition (and feel free to disagree)). This includes the below traditions.  I have to add that East Asian religions such as Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism fall more in the category of philosophies rather than what most of the Western world considers to be a religion (I might be a little off in this, but that’s how my World Religions professor explained it).
  • Heathen: A term usually used in the Asatru community (see below).
  • Gardnerarian Wicca: The mother tradition of all modern Wicca. Some buzzwords you should relate to Gardnerianism should be coven, mystery tradition, Gerald Gardner, 3 Degrees of Initiation, secrecy, Wheel of the Year,and High Priest and Priestess.
  • Alexandrian Wicca: I have never really been able to tell the difference between Gardnerianism and Alexandrianism other than their founders.  Anyone in the Alexandrian tradition who comes across this post, please enlighten me.
  • Reconstructionalism: These practitioners are not necessarily setting out to recreate old school Greek, Roman, Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Celtic, etc. religions (although some do).  However they base their practices off these ancient ways.  One thing to keep in mind that ReCons do not necessarily follow the Celtic Wheel of the Year, but rather other calendars and festivals.
  • Asatru: Derived from Scandinavian and Icelandic practices and pantheons.  Sort of like ReCons, but way more specific.
  • Reclaiming Tradition: A coven tradition with a strong focus on community and eco-political activism.  Think the books by Starhawk.
  • Dianic Wicca: Focuses nearly entirely on female spirituality.  One big myth I am going to dispel right now that Dianic always means lesbian.  Absolutely not.  It is a tradition for women and our mysteries, but in most cases has little to do with a specific sexual orientation.
  • Hedgewitch: I would argue that all witches have a little hearthwitch in them as we set about clearing space and protecting our home and loved ones.  This tradition focuses on the home and deities associated with domesticity.  This isn’t 1950’s witchcraft, it just focuses magic and spirituality around mundane and day-to-day activities as well as sabats.
  • Eclecticism: Taking a little bit of every tradition and making it your own.  I’ve written about this topic before.
  • Christian Witchcraft: NOT a Pagan or Wiccan tradition.  It’s Christianity with the use of magical practices.  If you want a perspective on this tradition, watch this video and some of her other videos.
  • Agnostic/Humanist/Atheist Wicca:  My friend Mary describes herself as a “jaded witch who still wants to celebrate the holidays.”  There is usually a lack of a specific deity and a healthy amount of religious skepticism.
  • Focused Worship: These are Pagans who are completely dedicated to a specific deity but do not ID with a specific tradition.  In this category I am putting Lokians (non-Asatru followers of Loki) and Satanism (there is a lot of debate on whether this is a Pagan or branched off Christian tradition of sorts.  I am putting it here because all of the friends I know who are Satanists self-identify as Pagan).

If anyone in any of these traditions wants to talk a little more about that path, leave info in the comments!  These paths may not be mine, but they are healthy, vibrant traditions in the Pagan, Wiccan, and Witch community.