Defining Witchcraft poses many of the same problems inherent in defining religion itself. There exists almost as many descriptions as there are practitioners, and all of them run the risk of doing so in a way that validates one point of view over another, or in terms that are vague and misleading . Reviled for centuries in the Christian Church, Witchcraft has additionally suffered false definitions stemming from persecution that often charged it with scurrilous attributes generally described as anti-religious. Today, however, most people regard Witchcraft, or Wicca, as a religion, for it does address many of the concerns of traditions classified as such. It also contains rituals and beliefs that correspond to the human tendency toward “religious instinct ,” and its growing popularity attests to the spiritual needs shared by many people.
Critical to understanding the nature of a religion is that which pertains to the particulars of its practice and transcendent beliefs, or, as some would call it, the “Whats and Whys.” The first category deals with the belief in either deity or spiritual beings, as well as the traditions, the rituals the history, and so forth. The second describes a group’s ascription to the consciousness of higher social values in a shared effort to lead a rewarding life . A more general view of comparative religion examines the common experiences of a group (witnessed either directly or through tradition), and the subsequent collaboration by all to give meaning to it,. In an even larger sense, religion serves to connect the individual to others within a culture, and to the power of the cosmos as well, since it too seems conscious, intelligent or purposeful.
For the above reasons, present-day Witches usually regard the Craft as a religion. Yet, it differs from many other faiths in that its self-identity contains within it a belief in individuality and diversity that makes it difficult to say whether or not it is a religion in all cases . There are some practitioners who regard it more in terms of a Craft existing independently of religion. Overall, Witches do not seem to focus on a precise meaning of what it is, though a virtual consensus would agree on many things it is not. In this regard, it does not seem all that different than different denominations within Christianity, or sects within Hinduism. Wiccans do note, however, there are a core set of elements applicable to all who call themselves Witches.