The Wiccan (“Neo-Pagan Witchcraft”) movement includes the vast majority of the 100,000 to 250,000 people involved in Neo-Paganism in North America. About three-quarters of Our Fellowship are or have been followers of Wicca, and ADF is inclusive of their beliefs as well.
The two religions have far more in common than they have separating them. Wiccan covens can (and do) function as special interest groups within larger ADF groves, along with bardic, healing, ecological, divinatory, and other groups.
Because it’s important that everyone know where the author comes from, I’d like to take a moment and tell everyone who I am, where I got my information, and to affirm that I’m not an “expert” on Wicca at all, though my research has led me to a pretty good understanding.
I’m currently the Senior Druid for Three Cranes Grove, ADF, and I have never been Wiccan. I have been involved in Paganism for 8 years (as of this writing), all of them as a Druid. These last four years, I’ve been involved in ADF, and when I talk about Druidry (especially in this essay), I’m referring explicitly to ADF Druidry, which is vastly different than the various British Traditions (such as OBOD and the AOD), and is even different than the American Druid groups, like the Henge of Keltria. Expanding on those groups is another essay entirely.
Because I have never been Wiccan, I have enlisted some help for this essay. A close friend of mine, SilverPeace (a Dianic Wiccan), sat down with me and we hammered out the basics of this essay. We used Silver’s experience and Scott Cunningham’s The Truth About Witchcraft Today as our primary source. I also had Karen Dollinger, an Irish Wiccan, proof the essay and make suggestions before making this public.
Again, I’m no expert in Wicca, and there is no way I could possibly cover all the various schools or traditions of Wicca. I’m hoping that with the use of Cunningham and two Wiccans of vastly different experience, I can prevent factual errors, but they sometimes slip through. Constructive criticism is very welcome. I want this essay to be the best it can be.
Finally, there will be a bit of an “Us-Them” tone to this article that I can’t really avoid. When in doubt, go right back to the first two paragraphs of this essay. I don’t want to pretend that there’s some mythical, magical separation between the two religions, because there just isn’t.
That said, let’s dive into the differences (and similarities!) that Wiccans and Druids have!
According to Cunningham, all Wiccans hold the following beliefs:
- Reverence for a Goddess and God
- No Proselytization
- Belief in Magic
- Reverence for the Earth
I think we should modify some of these things, since the movement has grown to a huge extent since Cunningham published this book, and then compare them to ADF Druidism.
Wiccans have many different ideas on reincarnation. Sometimes it’s karmic, other times it’s about learning lessons, and sometimes this life has no effect at all on the next. Some believe that they will rest for a time in the Summerlands and then come back, while others take a more Neo-Platonic view of it, but there is always some form of recycling.
People in ADF have a broad range of afterlife theories. Some believe in reincarnation, some in an afterlife where they don’t come back at all, and some believe that nothing happens after death.
“Reverence for a Goddess and God” is also somewhat problematic. There are three big possibilities for what the nature of deity might be for Wiccans: all deities are one deity (usually a single Goddess); all deities can be seen as facets of a single Goddess and God pair; and a form of polytheism, where each deity is his/her own self, not part of a larger whole, but are perhaps aspects of a God/Goddess pair, or perhaps the Goddess and God are archetypes. Because of this, we’re going to go with “reverence for a Goddess and God archetype”.
ADF ritual sees each deity as an individual entity. The ritual assumes polytheism and deals with each deity in its own right, assuming that each one has her or his own personality. There is no single Goddess or God called in any ADF rite. Of course, most ADF rites have a section for praise offerings, and I have heard individual members call on the “Great Goddess”, and this is acceptable, as well. The main difference is that ADF’s liturgical structure is built around polytheism, where most Wiccan rituals are built around either a singular deity or a male-female pair.
When it comes to proselytization, belief in magic, and reverence for the earth, Druids and Wiccans generally agree. Individual politics might not make them agree all the time on the question of reverence for the earth, but a general reverence for nature is inherent in each religion.
Some other common ideas about the differences:
ADF has a Standard Liturgy that all Groves follow to some extent. Nothing like this exists for Wicca, though certain traditions may have either a basic outline, or rituals that are done exactly the same each time. Those rituals are not cross-traditional, though.
There is a very different view of source material, as well. ADF Groves all work in a strictly Indo-European focus, while Wiccan Covens often draw from various cultures and groups. Of course, just because one belongs to ADF does not mean that they can’t worship who they wish, but the Grove rites must work in an IE cultural focus.
Some Wiccans cast circles or spheres, or create cones of power at their rites; ADF rituals do not use these things. Circles, spheres, and cones of power are sometimes used to contain energy in order to focus and fire that energy at a specific target, and ADF ritual builds energy in other ways, from opening Gates to creating a sacred center to attunements designed to pull on the powers of Earth and Sky, and this energy isn’t contained in an impermeable barrier (people are free to come and go in rites quite often).
I’ve heard it described that Wiccans build a temple between the worlds, and that Druids do no such thing. A temple between the worlds is a place where the celebrant meets the deities “half-way”, outside time and on a separate plane. The ADF liturgy consecrates the space and forms a focus for worship, but keeps the celebrants firmly in this world. This is possibly the prime difference between the ritual structures.
ADF is a church, built on local Groves (congregations). Each of these Groves has a multitude of things in common, including an Indo-European focus and a devotion to public, accessible ritual at least 8 times a year. Wicca does not imply an organization, and Wiccan Covens belonging to organizations (such as Covenant of the Goddess) do not necessarily build on similar beliefs or cultures. Some Covens do hold public worship, but the vast majority do not.
ADF does not profess any manner of dogma, aside from the “Doctrine of Archdruidic Fallibility,” in which the Archdruid is allowed (if not expected) to make a few mistakes. ADF’s structure isn’t one of power hierarchies, but rather one of democratically elected leaders to help run the group and keep things running smoothly. It could be compared a bit to Coven structure, just “bigger.”
Really, it’s that simple. ADF and Wicca are not mutually exclusive groups, and we don’t want to be throwing our weight around. Membership in ADF does not mean that a Wiccan has “converted” to Druidism, just as membership in a Coven won’t mean an ADF member has “converted” to Wicca.