Four years ago, when I first started my Pagan Music Project, I got asked “What’s the difference between Witchcraft and Paganism?” That was difficult for me to answer. I struggled with it for a while, and then forgot about it. Now, I think I’ve got it.
Witchcraft is about energies and powers that be. Witchcraft spells and Witch magick are about working with the energetic machine that the world and universe are part of. It’s almost more of a job than it is a religion. Witches around the world are people that “do.” Whether good or bad, Witches “do” things.
Paganism is religion. Pagan spells are about sharing the power of a Deity, should that Deity choose to share with you. Pagan rituals, spells, and magick are about worshiping Deities, who, in return for long-term service and offerings to them, grant you boons, and may even visit with you on the material plane if They find you worthy of it. Whether a Deity is good or bad, you will find Pagans worshipping Them.
In Witchcraft, the central point of the ritual is the magick worked, and the power used is naturally occurring energy. In Paganism, the magick takes place through the Deity’s power and consent.
I used to think that Paganism and Witchcraft were not very far from each other, and I thought they were mostly the same thing with different names. I realize that that isn’t so. The reason that this has been so difficult for me -and I’ve asked this question before, and not been satisfied until now- is that their functional practice is intertwined. Witchcraft can be and is very often done in the presence of Deity, and Deities will teach and practice magick themselves.
Take Aradia/Herodias or Hekate, for example. Aradia/Herodias is the daughter of Diana, who lays the task upon her daughter to teach all who wish to learn sorcery and witchcraft. Hekate is the keeper of the knowledge of magick; the librarian of the dark powers of the universe. Hekate will let you in to the library; Aradia will teach you the spells.
This leads me to believe that the magick cogs in the universe are separate from Deity- both Humans and Deities are capable of accessing the Power, but to a degree based on experience, training, and of course, supernatural existence. I think Deities have both personal power and energy, as well as the ability to work with the natural power of the universe, and we call on them in Witchcraft and Wicca in order to teach us and guide our magick. In Paganism, we ask them to do magick and grant wishes on our behalf, and are expected in both cases to follow through with real-world actions post-ritual to prove our commitment.
In short, there is a clear separation between Witchcraft and Paganism, however, it is very hard to see it that way, especially when it is the Gods themselves that are teaching us. Deities use magick themselves, as well as raw power, and so do we, as practitioners. We work together with Deities to get the most out of Life, Death, Nature, and Power.