If you're interested in Traditional Witchcraft, as I am, you've heard all about those silly Wiccans. You know, the ones who worship only a Goddess, who think you have to always be spreading nothing but "love and light" and who can become Witches after merely reading a book or two by a big-name author. Of course, there's nothing historical about their practices; Gardner made them all up in the 50's, probably as a result of some kind of sex thing. Nowadays, all Wiccan are fluffy, empty-headed teens. After all, the religion is "anything you want it to be" and has no rules or regulations. Not at all like Traditional Witchcraft, which we all know is the "real thing" and completely unrelated. Better to just ignore those sad, wanna-be's over in the Wiccan world, who don't even use magic anymore. Right?
The above no more describes real Wicca than "Satanists who ride broomsticks and turn people into toads" describes Trad Craft. Wicca, the religion, is an orthopraxic mystery tradition that can only be followed after initiation into a lineaged group. They worship both a Goddess AND a God, do not shy away from the very real dark side of life (in Nature, things are born AND die, and the Horned God is often seen as the Lord of Death as well as the king of the forest) and accept that people can be wicked and destructive. Far from being "anything goes," there are in fact established ritual practices that, for the most part, are not and cannot be deviated from (before we go any farther, I want to say: I am NOT an initiate at this time, and cannot, nor would ever, give away any oath-bound secrets. The information I refer to is readily available in published form via the Farrars and others.) It's not something you can learn from books, nor is "Wiccan priest/ess" a title you can claim for yourself, no matter how many books you read. Real Wiccans have no more use for the fluffy, "love and light" anything goes crowd than the Trad Witches do. Likewise, most Wiccan practices (the circle, the use of knives, wands, cords, and pentacles, etc) are very ancient indeed, Gardner having drawn on the various Grimoires, folk magic, ancient Eastern practices and the like to form his system. This information is readily available with even the most cursory research, and yet time and time again I see various "traditional" sites bashing Wicca as "unbalanced" (supposedly ignoring the darker sides of nature) and just generally "fake." But why?
Two reason, I suspect. One is the old (but sadly still used) "To show you how good MY tradition is, I'm going to spend my time tearing down this other one" angle. Inevitably on "trad craft vs Wicca" sites, you'll find them referring to some ludicrous, straw-man version of Wicca which they'll present solely to show how terrible it is compared to whatever it is they're doing. Ranging from gross generalizations ("Wicca only worships female energy") to outright lies ("You can be a 3rd Degree Wiccan in 2 months just by reading a book") they'll hold these ideas up to derision, while at the same time presenting their own practices in a extremely favourable light ("Unlike Wicca, MY practices are based on ancient Cornish legend and are traditional.") Perhaps ironically, many of the practices they present, whether coincidentally or now, actually do quite resemble the Wiccan practices they're trying to degrade. The fact is, historical information on Witchcraft in general is quite murky, there are many examples of "fakelore" and it seems quite likely that all of the modern traditions have borrowed from the same sources, so the difference between Wicca and what followers label as "Traditional Witchcraft" is often much less than they would have you believe.
The other reason I feel is behind this phenomenon is the "me, too" effect. People read these diatribes, latch into the "Traditional Witchcraft" concept, and then parrot whatever it is they read on various websites without thinking it through or doing real research into the matter. Trad Witch A says "I have little use for Wicca; it's fake compared to my ancient Celtic Greek Roman practices." "Me, too" says Internet Follower. "I hate Wicca, it's so fluffy and full of teenagers, I only use REAL magic and ancient spells." "Me, too" says Internet follower. Nobody wants to be seen as the newbie, or considered a fluffy bunny, so they'll blindly go along with whatever the prevailing attitude regardless of the truth, or lack thereof, behind it.
Fortunately, those really in the know don't resort to this kind of sloppy nonsense. I've seen some wonderful writers, like Sarah Lawless over at "The Witch of Forest Grove" defend Wicca, and point out the poor logic of the critiques against it. People with a real grasp of Witchcraft history aren't likely to be fooled by some of the silly statements out there. It's unfortunate, though, that too often there's so much resentment and anger over who's got the right to what title, and who's doing the "real" thing. I think that BOTH sides have the right to the title of "Witch" and that both have valid, workable magical systems. Indeed, I don't see why one couldn't practice both Wicca AND Traditional Witchcraft. Instead of constantly being on the war-path, perhaps time would be better spent educating people, so that these kinds of stereotypes and misunderstandings are less likely to happen in the future.