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          
         or manipulates

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 
Christian beliefs.

PAGAN - Derived from the Latin Paganus (peasants,  country  folk, 
rural  people).   A  Pagan is one who practices  "country  ways". ŠSpecifically, 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 
were understood.  

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 Šbecame 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 
Witche's religion'.

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, Šunderstand our heritage can we,  again,  become a viable force in 

Blessed Be!



The  Anglo-Saxons spoke a very guttural language basically.   If 
these pronunciations give you trouble, you may try:


EARTH-RITE/ Mission San Jose, CA/ 415-651-9496
Copyright  (c) 1980 by The Witching Well Education  and  Research 
Center.  Used by permission.