• Wicca uses a “four elements” cosmology deriving from medieval alchemy, which in turn, came from Greek philosophy. Wicca categorizes these four elements according to the cardinal directions, with a long list of associations for each.
• Celtic cosmology is based on threes. *A primary example of this is the “three realms” of Land, Sea, and Sky.
•**In Wicca, the deities are mainly thought of as archetypes: “all gods are one god, all goddesses are one goddess”. So they are mix and matched, the belief being that they all come from the same source, so it makes no difference. The deities are categorized as to their usefulness for spells. It is common to hear among Wiccans that they “use” this or that deity for a certain spell or ritual.
• Celtic Paganism is polytheistic, holding the belief that the gods are individuals. Celtic ritual emphasizes offering to, worshiping, the Celtic deities, Ancestors, and Spirits of Nature. Many Celtic gods and goddesses are triune in nature, however, none of the Celtic goddesses are referred to as “maiden, mother and crone”. That is a thoroughly modern archetypal concept found in Wicca. In Celtic cosmology, the deities are sometimes also our ancestors. Veneration of ancestors is also very important in Celtic Paganism.
• The Wiccan ethic is the individualistic “An it harm none, do what thou wilt.”
• Celtic Pagan ethic is heroic in nature, with an emphasis on loyalty to family and tribe.
• Wiccans “cast a circle” to create sacred space.
• In the Celtic viewpoint, all space is sacred space. Some places are simply more suitable for ritual than others.
• Wicca is an initiatory and exclusionary tradition and is usually somewhat secretive. Groups are usually kept small and “closed”.
• Celtic Paganism is inclusive with no degree systems nor initiations.
• The symbol of Wicca is the pentacle; a five pointed star (one point up) within a circle.
• The most commonly used symbol used in Celtic Paganism is the triskele or triskelion; a symbol depicting three interlocked spirals that meet in the middle.
• Wicca originated with Gerald Gardner circa 1951. Early Wiccan authors and leaders claimed that Wicca’s origins were an unbroken line reaching back to the Neolithic age. This doesn’t quite pan out with modern scholarship on the subject. Therefore, many Wiccans admit that the Wiccan tradition is only 60 years old. For a more information on the “Wiccan Myth”, read Why Bad History Matters.
• Celtic Paganism is re-creation of ancient Celtic pre-Christian religious and cultural practices. Archaeological research, modern scholarship, and historical accuracy is very much emphasized. It is a modern reconstruction and there was never a pretense of an ancient origin or unbroken line of descent.
For a more in depth exploration of the subject, read Why Wicca Is Not Celtic.
*For more information on the Three Realms, see:
The Three Realms: An Introduction for Children
The Three Realms vs. The Four Elements
**Update: the form of Wicca described in this article is the kind most represented in published books on the subject, so there may be some variation on details between traditions (such as polytheism vs. duotheism, etc.).