By Saladin and Kaz
*Spoiler Alert* Please note that the following contains spoilers up to and including Season 7.
Since it is important to understand what we're discussing, let us begin with defining both Wicca and Witch. Both definitions are taken from The Celtic Connection, an online Wiccan resource.
Wicca: A modern Pagan religion with spiritual roots in the earliest expressions of reverence for nature. Some major identifying motifs are: reverence for both the Goddess and God; acceptance of reincarnation and magick; ritual observance of astronomical and agricultural phenomena; and the use of magickal circles for ritual purposes.
Witch: A practitioner of folk magick, particularly that kind relating to herbs, stones, colors, wells, rivers, etc. It is used by some Wiccans to describe themselves.
By using these definitions, it seems inappropriate, given her portrayal on the show, to call Willow a practicing Wiccan. The occasional invocation of "the goddess" as a mild curse hardly supports the assertion that she is Wiccan, and in essence, that is the only evidence provided. What Willow in fact appears to be is a solitary practitioner of magic; someone more interested in the conjuring of spirits and the working of spells, rather than a devotee of the goddess. Solitary practitioners can also be Wiccans as well as, or instead of, witches. However, it is the devotional aspect to the goddess that provides a distinction between the labels. This is not to say that some real-life witches are not devoted to the goddess. There are many who are and act accordingly through holiday sabbats and esbats. However, Willow has shown no indication she performs these rituals which are at the very core of the Wiccan belief system.
Furthermore, a significant part of the Wiccan Rede states "an' it harm none". Willow certainly ignored that rule when she attempted to cast her vengeance spell after Oz left her. One might argue that she couldn't to bring herself to actually perform the spell on Oz, however, that was due to the fact that she still loved him, not because she felt it would be wrong per se. Additionally, her research into the book rather melodramatically entitled "Darkest Magicks" (sic) and her reasons for it were essentially selfish (ie she wanted to either cure or take revenge for Glory hurting Tara). While self-defense is permitted, revenge is not. The spells in that book were designed to harm others, or at the very least, intimidate and manipulate others. Her "Will Be Done" spell is another good example. Spells cannot be cast on another person without their full knowledge and prior permission. Willow had neither. Though she did not do it purposely if she had added "by the free will of all, and with harm to none, as I will it, so shall it be done" at the end of her spell, no-one but herself would have been effected by it. These examples show that Willow has not and does not abide by the Rede.
Also, in 'Bargaining', Willow lures a fawn to her using the magic of the Goddess and then kills it to use it's blood in the spell to raise Buffy. This is anathema to Wiccans as the Goddess does not condone nor need animal sacrifices in her worship. Although she hid her actions from both Tara and the other Scoobies involved (Xander and Anya), it remains to be seen what consequences will occur from her actions.
Additionally, as was pointed out by Audrey at the willowgiles yahoo list,
"the strongest point [in my honest opinion] concerning [Willow not being Wiccan] was made during "Forever".
When Dawn wants to resurrect Joyce and asks Willow and Tara for help they represent two very different sides:
Willow's arguments all center around the possibility and the difficulty of the process. Her objections arise from the point of such a spell being too difficult and therefore too dangerous. Tara on the other hand is the one who is not interested in this, but points out the moral end ethical dilemma of such a spell, trying to explain to Dawn (and Willow), that they can't do this not because it's impossible, but because it's immoral and unethical.
This is a dimension Willow lacks completely, as is proven by her later dealings (pointing Dawn to the book, that helps her find out what she needs to know)." (taken with permission from Audrey's post. Thanks Audrey!)
I think everyone who has seen the end of Season 6 will agree that Willow in no way was living by the Wiccan Rede. She murdered Warren by using magic to skin him and wanted to hurt Jonathan and Andrew as well. She even used the magic against her friends because she was so blinded by rage and hurt. Though in the end she overcame her attempt to end the world using magic, Season 6 is an excellent example of why Willow is not a Wiccan, but rather a witch.
Throughout Season 7, Willow is called upon to perform extremely strong magic to help defeat the First. Although she is usually hesitant, she does so anyway, though not without some backup in case she goes overboard. In the Season 7 finale 'Chosen', Willow instructs Kennedy to kill her if she looks to be getting sucked into the black magics again. However, the magic she taps into is actually good magic (which she thinks is 'nifty' because of the incredible rush it gives her) and she successfully transfers the powers of the slayer to all potentials everywhere. Although this brings her closer to the term 'Wiccan' (she even calls upon her Goddess in 'Chosen'), it is clear that she uses magic and witchcraft, not as a tool of worship, but rather as means to an end.
Regardless of our views on Willow's religion (or lack thereof), since she refers to herself as Wiccan on the show, writers should logically continue to do so in fics. After all, that is canon. What a fic-writer should be doing, however, is basing Willow’s behaviour on her presented norms, rather than using book references to Wicca instead. For example, Willow will use magical violence if she considers it appropriate, a ‘genuine’ Wiccan would not.
The Wiccan group on campus, although derided in the show (and rightfully so given the contempt in which they held our heroine) are probably closer to actually being devoted to the Goddess than are either Willow or Tara.
While we make no value judgments on what Willow is mystically, it seems remiss not to point out the incongruities presented on the show.