Home Discussion Forum What is the difference between Shaman and Witch?

What is the difference between Shaman and Witch?

Definition varies widely. Your take?
Refer to my last question Witch DOES NOT equal wicca.


  1. although they would both be considered “pagans” by christians, their origins, and role differ.
    witches (or wiccans if you prefer) commune, in and take beliefs of nature and are wrongly accused of being evil creatures that hex people. this is just ignorance on their part as they do not know the real tranquility many wiccans feel.
    shamans are used more as sorcerers/doctors.
    they are found in many cultures some dealing stricly in medicine, others are known to dabble in the supernatural arts, especially dealing with spirits

  2. Shamen, in my opinion, take much more from the older pantheistic or animist schools of religion/philosophy. They are more about being in tune with nature, and effecting external change or increasing external understanding.
    Witches are more about symbolism and psychology, internal change and understanding.

  3. There are many similarities, both practise using natural ways. Shamans are usually chosen because of a mark, a dream, or a vision while ill that states the only way they will get well is to become a Shaman. The Shaman is supported by the village and doesn’t work.
    Witches can be hereditary or choose to join. They usually have some other means of support. Many can’t accept payment for their services.
    Both Shaman and Witch can be good or evil, man or woman.

  4. I would consider a shaman to typically be the primary religious practitioner for a tribe. A witch wouldn’t quite have this kind of role in their society.
    In terms of practices, shamans would primarily operate by entering the spirit world and communing with spirits of ancestors or nature. Witches seemed to tend to use a wider range of methods. They probably both used herb-craft however..
    I’m sure there are probably other differences too, and some variations in differences depending on which shamans you are comparing with which witches. However, these would be my primary impressions of the differences.

  5. Shamans-
    Shamanism refers to a range of traditional beliefs and practices concerned with communication with the spirit world. There are many variations in shamanism throughout the world, though there are some beliefs that are shared by all forms of shamanism:
    The spirits can play important roles in human lives.
    The shaman can control and/or cooperate with the spirits for the community’s benefit.
    The spirits can be either good or bad.
    Shamans engage various processes and techniques to incite trance; such as: singing, dancing, taking entheogens, meditating and drumming.
    Animals play an important role, acting as omens and message-bearers, as well as representations of animal spirit guides.
    The shaman’s spirit leaves the body and enters into the supernatural world during certain tasks.
    The shamans can treat illnesses or sickness.
    Shamans are healers, gurus and magicians.
    Practices and beliefs that have been termed “witchcraft” do not constitute a single identifiable religion, since they are found in a wide variety of cultures, both present and historical; however these beliefs do generally involve religious elements dealing with spirits or deities, the afterlife, magic and ritual. Witchcraft is generally characterised by its use of magic.
    Sometimes witchcraft is used to refer, broadly, to the practice of indigenous magic, and has a connotation similar to shamanism. Depending on the values of the community, witchcraft in this sense may be regarded with varying degrees of respect or suspicion, or with ambivalence, being neither intrinsically good nor evil. Members of some religions have applied the term witchcraft in a pejorative sense to refer to all magical or ritual practices other than those sanctioned by their own doctrines – although this has become less common, at least in the Western world. According to some religious doctrines, all forms of magic are labelled witchcraft, and are either proscribed or treated as superstitious. Such religions consider their own ritual practices to be not at all magical, but rather simply variations of prayer.

  6. It’s unfortunate there’s never been a Dr. Johnson to write a dictionary of pagan/metaphysical terms.
    Then there’d be an answer to your question.
    Shamans have a varied lot of job descriptions, depending on the culture. They might [and usually are] healers. They might be sages. They might be ‘energy workers’ in some of the same senses ‘witches’ [whatever they are] are also energy manipulators.
    But I’d agree the definition of witch also varies so much within the users of the language as to render the word meaningless.
    Most Native American tribes make a clear distinction between a ‘witch’, however, and a ‘shaman’. In that context, ‘witch’ is generally negative and not to be trusted, mostly to be avoided. Whereas ‘shaman’ it the opposite and recieves considerable respect.
    Hope this somehow helps.

  7. For starters, they have different origins, shaman is primarily Native American and Witch is Russian/German/European. I’m actually surprised people consider the two similar. I’ve never considered those paths as crossing. They practice very different forms of nature worship and Shamen do not practice magik. They may use some spiritual rituals for healing purposes, though. By the way, in our home, Wicca is witchcraft, and Wiccans are those who practice and consider themselves witches. We’ve never heard Wicaa and witch used separately.

  8. I view a Shaman more as a Healer, a Prophet… Not necessarily one that casts spells (in the “traditional” sense)… but a Spiritual advisor. The word “shaman” means “Walker between the Worlds”
    A Witch I view as one who uses all forms of magic(k) for different types of results. Witches normally rely on physical things for their focus, such as herbs, candles, crystals/gemstones, etc… to bring about a desired result. Whereas a Shaman doesn’t need to rely on those things with the exception of herbs for Healing, but not in spellwork.
    Just my opinion….

  9. I have always thought that the main difference is, you can take the title witch for yourself, but shaman should be bestowed on you by others

  10. When it comes to magic, think of it in levels of depth. A shaman is the base level with very little if any ceremonialism or ritual in his/her craft. They utilize plants and animals and the spirits of these to conduct their work. No doubt early in human history, there was very little difference between witches, shamen, and sorcerers.
    However, as time progressed and man evolved and became more educated and enlightened (and wealthy), some found a place for ceremonialism, habit, and ritual.
    This culminates with “high magic”, or ceremonial magic which utilize extremely in-depth rituals which can last up to a week. It involves the use of sigils, and elaborate rituals summoning demons or angels or other spirits.
    The easiest way to think of it is a shaman uses very basic things for magic. Witches have more elaborate rituals and can draw from many sources. Then ceremonial magicians have extremly elaborate rituals (like the O.D.O.).

  11. Generally the main difference is that Shamans use altered states of consciousness to go on journeys for power, knowledge or assistance from the spirit world. These alteres states are induced by either physical trials (sleep deprivation, starvation, dehydration or the use of halucinogenic substances). Witches practice what most of us in the West recognize asw witchcraft, the use of spells and incantations performed either individually or with a group and participate is rites and ceremonies. Shamans on the other hand tend to be solitary practitioners, usually only working with a single apprentice if anyone at all.
    Also, shaman’s tend to be part of tribal cultures, and often times that culture does not even HAVE a word for shaman. Many times what we refer to as a Shaman is referred to by the particular culture as a witch or soceror or some other practitioner of magic.

  12. I don’t know the exact definitions off-hand….. But to me a Shaman is someone who is practicing a specific belief that has been passed down from a culture. Whereas a witch is just a person who practices magick.

  13. To me, a shaman is more concerned with communication with the spirit realm and travelling in astral form to that spirit realm in order to deal with the entities that dwell there.
    A witch deals with sympathetic magical correspondences in order to bring about change in the material and spiritual realms, but will not generally be engaged in negotiations with the entities that dwell there in the same way that a shaman would be.

  14. A witch may not just wiccan -there are animist traditional witches. Shamans are traditional animist witches ‘that is all”. 🙂


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