This is a WIP, everybody, and will be edited as I continue to learn!
This was written in an attempt to clarify all of those who are misinformed or simply unable to find good resources on paganism, and to define all of the odd definitions one might encounter when searching on their spiritual path in life.
Many spiritual beliefs can be divided into one of two categories: orthodoxic and orthopraxic.
Orthodoxic religions are based on proper belief in a God or Goddess. Christianity falls under this; so long as one believes that Jesus exists and is there to save them, they will so be saved and brought to Heaven.
Orthopraxic religions are religions based on proper practice. That is to say, what deity one believes in is secondary; it is how they worship said deity, and if it is done properly. Wicca is an orthopraxic religion, as at the end of the day the name they worship the Lord and Lady under is really rather unimportant.
That paganism does not necessarily equal to be polytheism, as one may, for example, truly believe only in Freyja’s existence, to the exclusion of the other Nordic gods, and “Norse pagan” would still be an appropriate title for them, though “Norse polytheist” would not be. “Devotee of Freyja” is also acceptable, though perhaps longer to type, so as to avoid confusion when others don’t know that paganism does not equate to polytheism.
Please also note that this is an attempt to help seekers find an appropriate title to their beliefs, and not an attack on whatever deities you follow, spiritual beliefs you hold, or gnosis you’ve come across.
Seeker: Please, if you are stuck and are not sure what you truly believe and worship, use this term. It’s exactly what it says on the tin, and avoids a lot of dispute and keeps those who don’t know from looking unintelligent. Seekers are those who are seeking to know that which they worship and believe.
Pagan: Pagan comes from the Latin word paganus, which basically equates to ‘country dweller’, and sometimes has connotations of the word ‘redneck’. Perhaps seemingly logically, those who lived far away from the main cities were more likely to keep in tradition with the older ways. Depending on who you speak to, this may be seen as a rude thing to be called.
Devotee: Devotee signifies that one has a particular relationship with a particular god, perhaps, not necessarily, to the exclusion of other deities from the pantheon. Like earlier, I mentioned a “devotee of Freyja”. While this may seem too many words, it is a very particular title which cannot be confused for others.
Fluffy bunny: A common name among many pagan types, and something which you should definitely not wish to be called! Fluffy bunny is someone who feels that any guidance is a personal attack on their religious / spiritual beliefs, and one who is willfully ignorant. For example, many eclectic ‘Wiccans’, who, when told that their belief is not Wicca, may become enraged or upset, thinking that others are saying “Your beliefs are invalid”, which is usually hardly the case. The case is, however, that they are calling what they believe the wrong title.
P.S. Fluffy Bunny can also refer to non-pagans, of course!
Wiccan: Going to divide this into two kinds : eclectic ‘Wicca’ and Traditional Wicca.
Eclectic Wicca is what most people are familiar with; authors like Scott Cunningham and Silver Ravenwolf have made base level beliefs more accessible to the public, though this is not always a good thing. Eclectic Wiccans tend to pick and choose which deities they worship as the Lord and Lady, and which forms of divination they use, and often (not necessarily always) this is done with no respect towards the culture or the deities themselves. This is fine if one is a soft polytheist, but those who have a harder view of polytheism may cringe. For example, one may use Zeus (Greek) as their representation of the Lord, and the Morrigan (Irish) as their Lady. Sometimes, this kind of ‘Wiccan’ also completely cuts out the Lord, only worshipping the Feminine side of Deity. The use of the term ‘Wiccan’ for these types tends to lead to the Traditional Wiccans into anger, because…
Traditional Wicca is an oath-bound, ditheistic, fertility-based, opposite-gender-initiated, witchcult, which worships the Lord and Lady of the British Isles. Not Greek or Irish deities, very specifically British deities. The information is divided into Inner and Outer Court information; Outer Court information can be shared with non-Wiccans, and Inner Court is absolutely not to leave the coven. Outer court information includes much of what eclectic Wiccans know of Wicca, such as the Threefold Law, the Wiccan Rede, and the Wheel of the Year. It is oath-bound, meaning shame on you if you said things that weren’t supposed to leave the coven! It is ditheistic, meaning they worship two deities. It is fertility-based, which means kids aren’t allowed. No, not really, but mostly. Because it is fertility, that is to say, human fertility, there is much ‘adult talk’, and this is a problem when teenybopper children say that they are Wiccan. In most covens, if you are not 18, or even sometimes 21, they will simply not allow you to participate. Wicca is opposite-gender-initiated, which means exactly what it says on the tin. If you are female looking to join the Wicca, you are initiated by a man. If you are a male (which is, in fact allowed. FERTILITY, people, requires both a male and a female. At least when it comes to humans.) you are initiated by a female. It is a witchcult, meaning, of course, that there is witchcraft occuring, and it is not necessarily bad. Cult, of course, is also not a negative word all on it’s own.
There are reconstructionists of many old pagan practices, meaning that they will try to do as those living many, many years ago did to honor the Gods. These are usually included, but hardly limited to:
Hellenic Reconstructionists: Hellenic reconstructionists attempt to revive the practices of the ancient Greeks and their gods, such as Zeus and Hera, they offer spondes (libations), and will often recite hymns of prayer in their worship, either self-written, or commonly taken from Homeric or Orphic Hymns.
Kemetic Reconstructionists: Kemetic reconstructionists attempt to revive the practices of worship for the Ancient Egyptians, and their gods, like Isis and Osiris. I am not terribly well versed in the Kemetic gods outside of briefly worshipping Bast for a period in my life, and I was not attempting to reconstruct their beliefs, so that’s about all I will say. I don’t know what makes appropriate offerings to them outside of water (what with living in the desert!)
Norse Reconstructionists: If you haven’t figured it out, there’s a pattern to x reconstructionists. The Norse reconstructionists attempt the same as listed above with the Norse gods, such as Odinn, Frigga and Loki. As with the Kemetic gods, I’m not terribly aware of their reconstructionist pathways, so that’s about all I’ll say on that.
Then, there are off-shoots of these branches of paganism, such as :
Dodekatheists, who believe in the 12 main gods of Greek paganism, though they are not necessarily attempting to reconstruct anything, they may just be out to honor the theoi (Greek deities).
Asatru, who’s practictioners are known as the Asatruar, and worship the Aesir, one group of the Norse gods.
Vanatru: who worship the Vanir, another group of the Norse gods.
I have also heard Heathenist, Lokian and Odinnist used for particular branches of Norse paganism. These ones I am not terribly familiar with, so I’ll remain quiet on these until I can give a proper definition about these. Because I will not claim to know information I don’t have.
Witch: Not all pagans are witches, and not all witches are pagans. Nor, in fact, is Witchcraft a religion, despite what Raymund Buckland told you. Witchcraft is just that, a craft, kind carpentry or writing, just in a different way. A witch may even be Christian, for that matter! ( The reasoning behind this is the topic for another post.) Witches work with energies that are part of the natural world to affect some thing. This may be a spell to get a job, or for love (spell ethics are your own to decide at the end of the day), or any number of things. Witches may include deities, or they may work all on their own. For fact, however, Wiccans are witches. That’s why their group is referred to as a witchcult. Witchcraft has been around for ages, and there’s no reason it’s inherintly bad or good, for that is up to the witch her or himself.
Warlock: Because I’m sure after hearing a witch referred to as a him, there’s a question raised here. I should hope, dear reader, you never get called a warlock, or refer to yourself as one. Warlock is a Scottish word, and it means “oath-breaker”. I hope one can see why this is a bad title to call yourself. And if a coven knows you are an oath-breaker, I wish you the best of luck in earning their trust to have a group to practice with again. Wiccans hold this offense very seriously, and with good reason!