WICCA, WICCE, WICCAN
Almost without exception, Pagans are intelligent, thinking
people. Paganism is a way of life that makes these demands. And
yet, because of severe Christian suppression, so many of the Old
Ways have been perverted. We must look in many directions to
unearth the roots all Pagans consider their legacy.
One of the most interesting methods of researching our roots is
Etymology. For, indeed, an understanding of our literary
heritage is vital. It is unfortunate that so often this type of
research is woefully neglected.
How sad that one of the most important words in modern Pagan
parlance, Wicca, is so often misused. For every time the word is
misused there is a probability that someone who has just been
introduced to Paganism will pick it up and, in turn, use it
incorrectly, simply because they heard it used that way and did
not bother to do their own fact finding. This is sad, for if we
can not be grammatically correct we leave the impression that we
don't know what we are talking about. If we are erroneous about
something so elementary why should a non-Pagan (who just might
know the correct grammatical use of our terms) put any credence
in anything we have to say. And, if they don't know the correct
terminology, we should not expose them to incorrect terminology
as their introduction to Paganism.
WIC - An Old English word which means - to bend, to manipulate
WICCA - An Old English word which means - a male who bends or
WICCE - An Old English word which means - a female who bends
WICCAN - An Old English word which means - both males or females
who bend or manipulate, the plural of Wicca or Wicce.
These are Old English terms, terms that the Christian populace
used to label the practioners of the Old Ways. These were not
terms the Pagans of Old gave themselves. They began referring to
themselves as Pagans only after Christianity emerged and gained a
strong hold on urban centers, and in order to distinguish between
their "old country ways" and the ways of the new wave of
PAGAN - Derived from the Latin Paganus (peasants, country folk,
rural people). A Pagan is one who practices "country ways". Specifically, Pagan refers to old country practices originating
before the Christian era (Pre-Christian.)
Wicca, Wicce, Wiccan, as used by the Christians to label the
non-Christians, or Pagans, were not meant, originally, as
compliments. They were used sarcastically and in a derogatory
manner. After being labeled thusly for a period of time, most
Pagans realized that, indeed, they did bend and manipulate
energy. They understood the Law of Cause & Effect and did
practice magick, although their religion encompassed far more
than performing magick. With the coming of Christianity and the
resulting Dark Ages, the non-Pagans has lost the old knowledge
and could no longed effectively practice magick. Therefore, the
Pagans joyfully adopted the labels that had been given them.
With the Persecutions they could not use these terms publicly for
themselves without severe repercussions, but use them they did.
When Old English was in use there was very little problem with
correct grammar concerning Wicca, Wicce and Wiccan. These words
These Old English words evolved into the modern English terms
Witch and Witches, Witch being applied to either male or female
and Witches, of course, being plural.
When people attempt to use Old English terms without
understanding them they have a tendency to misuse them,
particularly Wicca and Wiccan. They tend to use Wicca the same
way you would use Witch, applying it to either male or female,
when Wicca only applies to males; or, they will attempt to use
the one masculine word to refer to all Witches, males and
females, when they should be using Wiccan, which does apply to
both. Often, they even forget, or ignore, the existence of the
feminine Wicce totally. And, frequently, they attempt to make
the already plural Wiccan even more so by saying Wiccans, which
is rather like saying Witcheses!
He is a Wicca. She is a Wicce. They are Wiccan. In the time
that these words were coined and came into accepted use, it was
understood that there was no religious connotation necessarily
intended, but that they referred to and/or were an admission of
the fact that certain people did practice magick.
With the public revival of the Old Pagan religions, it became
necessary to re-examine the labels which distinguished the Pagan
from the Christian. It was obvious that the Pagans of Old were
more than just practioners of magick, although they had,
themselves, accepted the terms Wicce, Wicca, Wiccan and, finally,
Witch. In an attempt to explain themselves to the non-Pagan,
Witches now began to incorporate religious meaning into these
The general public had no trouble accepting the fact that a Witch
practiced magick but found it hard to comprehend that the term
Witch had anything to do with a religion. As a result, Witches became more emphatic. As they were 'Witches', they labeled their
way of life 'Witchcraft'. This included not only the magickal
(Law of Cause & Effect), the moral (Law of Retribution) but also
their belief in specific deities. In other words, their Craft
was the art of living as practiced by a Witch. The Witches' art
of living is their religion.
And, so, there evolved a modern term, Witchcraft, meaning 'a
Because of the Christian suppression over the years, the terms
Witch and Witchcraft invited ridicule and persecutions. Wishing
to avoid the negative connotations they were sure to encounter
before they could explain what they were all about, the modern
Witches began to adopt a term made popular by Gerald Gardner,
Wicca, rather than use the better known (and non-respected)
Adopting this term without bothering to research it led to
blatant inaccuracies (such as, referring to the religion itself
as Wicca, referring to female Witches as Wicca, and so forth).
There have even been churches, groups and organizations legally
incorporated using the term Wicca in their Official name. There
are times when this could be correct usage, for example, if a
male established a church, with his own rules and regulations,
and called himself the sole leader, and chose to call it "The
Temple of the Wicca' this could be considered correct, for it
would be his temple, a temple of a male Witch. If a temple were
established for male practitioners only, it would be a 'Wicca
Temple'. If, however, the temple were attended by both males
and females, it would not only be incorrect to call it a 'Wicca
Temple', but sexist and prejudiced to do so. Females who
understand the correct usage of these terms, generally, resent
having someone ask them is they are 'Wicca'. Considering that
the ancient traditions of this religion are Matriarchical and
that the Goddess is supreme, it makes no sense that some refer
to the entire Witchcraft community by a masculine term.
While it is true that not all Neo-Pagans (those who practice
Pagan ways with a very modern slant and usually without benefit of
training in the Old Traditions) observe the Old Traditions, they
should, at least, strive to use correct linguistics.
It is understood that the problems inherent in changing an
incorporated name are traumatic and, technically, if you own
something you can call it whatever you choose and be correct for
yourself, however, it is very confusing if you call your banana
an apple when everyone else calls their banana a banana.
This has opened the entire Pagan community to a new ridicule.
Will it be long before the old terms are as undesirable as the
modern terms? If so, it will be our own fault this time!
We respectfully ask that you join us in our struggle to correct
the general usage of these words. Only when we, ourselves, understand our heritage can we, again, become a viable force in
WICCA = WICK-CHA (AH not A)
WICCE = WICK-CHE (EH not E)
WICCAN = WICK-CHAN
The Anglo-Saxons spoke a very guttural language basically. If
these pronunciations give you trouble, you may try:
WICCA = WITCH-AH
WICCE = WITCH-EH
WICCAN = WITCH-AHN
EARTH-RITE/ Mission San Jose, CA/ 415-651-9496
Copyright (c) 1980 by The Witching Well Education and Research
Center. Used by permission.