What Are The Differences Between Wicca And Shamanism?

by Cosette Paneque

Wicca is a religion. Shamanism is a practice.

Wicca is a new religious movement born in England out of European Romanticism, Western esotericism (e.g. theosophy, Freemasonry, Hermeticism), folklore, folk magic, and ideas about the medieval witch hunts.

It was popularized in the 1950s by a retired British civil servant named Gerald Gardner as a duotheistic (i.e. having a god and a goddess) religious form of witchcraft containing a system of training and initiation. The Craft was largely practiced in covens which met at the full moons and at seasonal festivals.

Today, Wicca contains both conservative and traditional branches that have been performing the same rituals for many years, other groups that are more eclectic and write new liturgy and rituals, and there is plenty in between.

There are covens and those that prefer to practice alone. Despite eclecticism, there is a persistent basic structure to Wicca:

  1. Duotheism of a divine couple. Rituals usually involve a god and goddess. Feminist groups may reduce to this to just a goddess and GLBT groups may have two gods or two goddesses.
  2. Sacred circle with cardinal points. Rituals are usually in a circle where four directions (east, south, west, and north) have been distinguished.
  3. Esbats and Sabbats. Most Wiccans observe and perform rituals during the full moons (Esbats) and seasonal festivals (Sabbats).
  4. Blessing and sharing of food and drink. Most Wiccans include a rite of sharing bread and wine.
  5. Training and initiation. Some of the more traditional branches of Wicca have a training and initiation system with various degrees, but even most solitaries acknowledge the importance of learning and may even perform self-dedications or ask their communities to witness or perform a similar rite.

Shamanism is a practice that involves reaching altered states of consciousness to interact with the spirit world.

Shamanism is a practice found in many religions particularly indigenous ones such as the native Japanese religion of Shinto, Eskimo groups, Native Americans, etc.

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