We all know about the most popular religion in the Pagan movement: Wicca. Even movies like The Craft and series like Charmed take off from basic elements of Wicca. When someone strolls into the New Age section of their local Barnes & Nobles, at least seventy percent of the books are Llewellyn books on Wicca. All in all, Wicca is the most known Pagan faith out there.
For some reason, though, people believe that Wicca is what most know as the Old Religion: general Paganism, Witchcraft, the Old Ways, etc. People believe that Wicca is Witchcraft and Witchcraft is Wicca. Not only do many individuals believe this, but many Wiccan authors advertise this belief. People commonly hear the "Witches are not evil! They can't perform curses for it's against the Wiccan Rede! Harm none, everyone - harm none!" statements and other things that authors, individuals, and some of the media propagate. No one can call their selves a Witch or Pagan without someone automatically assuming that they're a Wiccan.
Unfortunately, people who believe that Wicca is "the Old Religion" are utterly confused. While Wicca may have a few elements of the Old Religion and perhaps is even based off the Old Religion, it is not the Old Religion. Those who know about the Old Religion and a little bit of Ancient History and Theology might understand why Wicca is not the Old Religion. There are a several reasons why Wicca is not the Old Religion, both chronological as well as fundamental.
The most noticable reason why Wicca is not the Old Religion is the dates of the two religions. See, the Old Religion pre-dates many of the religions out there - Wicca is relatively new. In fact, the Old Religion has Wicca beat by thousands and thousands of years; Wicca is barely fifty to sixty years old. Much of this misconception likely sprang up when Squire Gerald Gardner claimed that his information was given to him by an ancient witch cult, but much research suggests that the religion was founded by him. Wicca does not pre-date Gerald Gardner, it was founded in 1954 when Witchcraft Today was released (maybe a few years earlier if Gardner's previous works are included).
Anyone who knows a bit about the Golden Dawn and Kabbalah should be aware of the Ceremonial Magick in Wicca. Wicca has DNA from the Golden Dawn, despite how much Gardner denied it. When Gardner wrote books on Witchcraft, he had to keep some information low in profile so that he did not breach the secrets of his coven. One of the ways he masqueraded the secrets of his coven was by combining Witchcraft and Ceremonial Magick. The concepts that he borrowed from Ceremonial Magick eventually became some of the elements of the Wicca religion.
Many Wiccans believe in angels and sometimes even demons...especially those who take from Silver Ravenwolf's books. While there are Pagan faiths that may have similar creatures, the terms "devil" and "angel" originate from the Christian faith. The Old Religion did not have these creatures, nor did it necessarily have a doctrine to follow like most religions out there. This is not to say that Pagans cannot believe in demons and angels, or creatures of similar concepts, but they are not creatures from the Old Religion.
The belief of Karma or the Three-Fold Law does not exist in the Old Religion. Yes, many Pagan faiths place belief in Karma or something similar, but there are also many faiths that don't. For example, the Celtic Pagans were a war-ridden society and believed in honor of their tribes - there was no Three-Fold Law or Karma in their society (this fact also counters the belief that Wicca is a Celtic Religion). Not all Pagans have the same beliefs as Wiccans, nor is there any proof that the Old Religion did.
Fundamental Wicca requires the belief in Reincarnation. Reincarnation, or at least a similar form of after life exists in many Pagan faiths, but there is no proof that Reincarnation was believed by the Old Religion. Not all Pagans believe in the same afterlife; in fact, Zoroastrians believed that the soul was rewarded or punished in the afterlife, depending on the weight of its wicked deeds. As stressed many times, doctrine as well as beliefs depended on the tradition or faith.
There are many more reasons to why Wicca is not the Old Religion, but the points made here should be enough to bring the point across. Wicca, in a way, is a blend of the Old Religion and other traditions - both old and new alike...just like most religions out there. It has elements from general Paganism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Kabbalah, and even some from Christianity! Wicca is a branch of Paganism, but it is not the Old Religion.
On a note: This article was not made to claw at Wicca or any form of eclecticism out there. I'm extremely eclectic myself. I just fear that with all of the misconceptions out there on Witchcraft, we'll soon lose any bit of knowledge on the truth about the older ways.