I don't know where this divide between the two paths originated from or why it even began in the first place but I have noticed across the years I have been practicing and studying witchcraft, that there is a clear divide between the two branches of the craft. It is like there has become this unwritten, unspoken rule that certain paths are not as 'real' as others and that certain traditions are better or more legitimate.
While this isn't necessarily a bad thing as lots of other religions etc out there all have 'set' ways of doing things and that all works fine for them and the people practicing, this divide does tend to cause friction within the magickal community. Sadly there are always people who use division as a way to make others feel inferior or make them question their own knowledge and practices. Something which in my opinion is just damn wrong on so many levels! Witchcraft, Wicca, Paganism, or any other name you want to give it, is NOT a path to prescribe how people should live their lives. Far from it actually, they encourage introspection so people can learn for themselves the path they are best suited to walk.
The only prescriptives associated with witchcraft come from the religion of Wicca. The Wiccan Rede is a long poem/piece of text that pretty much explains the basics of Wiccan magick and what is used to practice it. It also explains that there is one kind of 'rule' that Wiccans follow which is: 'An you Harm Non Do As You Will'. There are many different versions of this 8 word, shorter version, and there is also the Long version (well worth a read as it is actually a really nice piece of text). I am not specifically Wiccan, yet I have both versions in my witchy folders where I store all my information and the Wiccan Rede is a principle that I do genuinely believe in. (But only to a certain degree, as I am not adverse to some hexing/binding/banishing magick etc if somebody hurts me or my loved ones.) The general guidance that I have always taken from the Rede is that as long as my magick doesn't physically harm another or go against another's free will, then all is good!
Wiccans also follow the 'Rule of Three' which is the belief that anything put out into the universe will come back to them multiplied by three. So the thinking goes that if they put negative energies or castings out there it will come back on them but three times as bad. I get what they mean by this as a negative aspect, but in regards to positivity I don't really see how this would necessarily work, as I personally have put more positive and good deeds out into the Universe yet I have had more than my fair share of bad experiences in life so far, so I don't necessarily agree with Wiccans on this one.
Here is a bit of info I found about the difference between the two more well known paths, Wicca and Witchcraft.
The main difference between Witches and Wiccans is that Wicca is a religion and Witchcraft is a practice. This raises the question of what is a religion and what is a practice. A religion is a spiritual belief system, such as Christianity, Islam or Wicca. It is a sense of beliefs, based around observance to or worship of Deities and/or spirits. A practice is something that is done, such as prayer, meditation or magick. Simply put, magick is a practice and Paganism is a religion. Wicca is a subset of Paganism and Magick/Spell casting is the main goal of Witchcraft. It is of course possible to practice magick without being a Witch. There are other forms such as Ceremonial magick and magick can also be part of a religion as some argue that prayer is a version of magick and that the Wiccan Circle is enacted prayer. The difference between Wicca and Witchcraft comes with the differences in intent. The purpose of Wicca is to honour the Lord and the Lady, observe the turning of the Wheel of the Year and to pay attention to ones spirituality. Wicca is intimately tied to ones relationship with the divine, by whatever faces they choose to show to us. Witchcraft on the other hand, does not have to involve Deities, instead it uses Spells and Herbs to achieve a desired end - Healing, Love and protection etc.
Because Witchcraft is a practice and not a religion, it is possible to be a member of just about any other religion and also be a witch. The openness of Wiccans and other pagans towards magick and the unexplained makes it all the more likely that they could be drawn to witchcraft. But be aware that not all Wiccans are Witches. Many do not cast spells of any type, instead, they focus solely on their relationships with the divine and on their quest for spirituality. There are some Witches who will say that Witchcraft is also their religion. But it is possible to cast a spell without calling upon a Deity. (instead one focuses the power within themselves or within Nature) There are also Wiccans who claim, that all Wiccan are Witches. It is easy to become confused about the differences between Wicca and Witchcraft , many books aimed at beginners tend to use the terms Wiccan and Witchcraft interchangeably and focus just as much on religious holidays (such as Sabbats) as they do on magick and spells. Remember, Wicca is a religion and Witchcraft is a practice. Not all Witches are Wiccans, nor are all Wiccans Witches. The focus of Wicca is on the Lord and Lady, The Wheel of the Year and spirituality, the focus on Witchcraft is on the casting of spells and magick.
Even though both Wiccans and Witches essentially have very similar practices and beliefs etc.there is always a divide between them. There are Traditional Witches who criticise Wiccan witches for their structured beliefs and practises and Wiccan Witches who criticise Trad witches for being too focused on the past instead of moving forward with new ways of working as a witch in the modern age. I personally don't see why the magickal community gets so hung up on definitions. I mean part of the Wiccan Rede is all about doing as you will as long as it harms non...so why is it such a bad thing for somebody to want to be a Wiccan Witch? If witchcraft is a practise and not a faith then surely a person of any religion could also legitimately practise as a witch?
To me the main appeal about Witchcraft/ Paganism/Occult/Spirituality (whatever label you want to give it) is that you get to do things your way, and in a way that fits with who you are as a person and how you live your life. So, if it is in fact part of the Wiccan belief that you can't be a witch on any other path, alongside being a Wiccan, then for me personally, it would render the Wiccan Rede as obsolete. As the whole point of the Rede is about actualising yourself as an individual and following a path that fees true to you while all the time ensuring others are not harmed by your choices. I can't see why this doesn't apply to beliefs equally to how it does the casting of magick,.
This weird divide between paths makes it really hard for people who are practicing or just starting out as it can be confusing as hell and more than a little daunting. Especially in the online world, as people can be extremely judgemental. I have had it happen to myself, where I have been told I am "playing" at witchcraft, because I am too young to be a true witch (I turned 30 this year and have been practicing since I was about 10/11yrs old). I have also been told that 'real witches' practise as part of a coven and criticised for mixing parts from traditions together to make a path that works for me.
Where did this whole "Wicca v Witchcraft" feud even begin? And why? I came across the typical description of how Wicca and Witchcraft are different all together, and how one is classed as a religion and one a belief system (although to me my witchcraft is not just a belief system...its a way of life and to me it IS my religion.), and about how Wicca was founded back in the 1950's....but nothing on WHY. Why this strange divide exists and where it comes from. Or why people are so insistent that it is adhered to.
I personally don't subscribe to these divisions. To me people can believe/ practice whatever they wish. I have friends from all different kinds of religions and there have never been any issues between us, probably because we all accept that even though we may not necessarily follow the same religions, we all still have the right to live our lives the way we want.
Witchcraft was not always something that was so accepted, mainly due to the stigma attached to it from the past. People who practiced Witchcraft were said to worship the Devil (which is not even a concept in witchcraft) and any time any illness or negative incident befell anybody in the village/town, it was always blamed on the witches. So Witchcraft has always had a bit of hazy reputation and has only recently become more accepted and understood. It is a shame that just as society starts to understand and accept witches the magickal community starts to embrace these divides and divisions that stigmatise different types of witches all over again.
I class myself as a Wiccan as well as a Witch as I follow lots of different traditions/paths that I kind of scoop up and mix all together to make my own path (and I love it! It works perfectly for me and my life)....I also find it fascinating at the same time as it raises lots of other questions, and really gets me thinking about it all.
Being a Witch is not something to hide anymore and being a Wiccan witch shouldn't be either. Other witches don't discredit Egyptian Witches or Celtic Witches, or Gardnerian Witches....or any other tradition/path that is out there...so I seriously don't get why anybody that chooses to use the title Wiccan...should get shunned for it. For me that goes against what being a Witch or Wiccan or Pagan is all about! Acceptance of others....fully....no matter who they are or what they practice/believe.
Lots of Love & Bright Blessings!