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Orthopraxy is a term derived from ὀρθοπραξις meaning "correct action/activity", and is a religion or aspect of a religion that places emphasis on conduct, both ethical and liturgical, as opposed to faith or grace etc.[1][2][3]

While orthodoxies make use of codified beliefs, in the form of canonized scripture, and ritualism more narrowly centers on the strict adherence to prescribed rites or rituals, orthopraxic religions are focused on issues of family, cultural integrity, the transmission of tradition, sacrificial offerings, concerns of purity, ethical systems, and the enforcement thereof.[4] Typically, traditional or folk religions are more concerned with orthopraxis than orthodoxy, and some argue that equating the term "faith" with "religion" presents a Christian-biased notion of what the primary characteristic of religion is. In the case of Hinduism orthopraxy and ritualism are conflated.

Wicca is generally described as highly orthopraxic, with "traditions" being precisely that- defined by what is traditionally done, rather than by shared beliefs.[5]

However, that orthopraxic quality refers almost entirely to ritualism, as it is ritual actions which are taught to new initiates. Orthopraxy as it applies to ethics still exists in placing greater emphasis upon what is done than what is believed, but expression of ethical concerns tends to be aspirational and leave much of the details to the practitioner himself or herself. An exception would be the concern of the ethical importance in upholding oaths, but as these oaths are themselves a ritual act, this concern exists in the overlap between ritualism and other aspects of orthopraxy.

In many of the larger religions that exist, what element of orthopraxy does exist is based on the orthodoxy that exists; they teach beliefs and then teach that the behavior they expect from practitioners is based on those beliefs. This is in stark contrast to Wicca, where ritual behavior is taught, and the experiences of those rituals informs the beliefs of each Wiccan.

More recent forms of witchcraft that are derived from Wicca cannot follow in Wicca's orthopraxy as some parts of that orthopraxy insist upon Wiccan lineage, and some other parts are kept secret. It is also seen as undesirable in many forms of such witchcraft, with a desire to deliberately not restrain people to particular ways of working.[6] As such forms of witchcraft do commonly have a large number of commony expressed beliefs, such forms of witchcraft could be held to have returned to a (loose) orthodoxy, though many still claim to be free from dogma, even while expressing their dogmas, as they hold a negative view of the concept of "dogma" itself.[7]

It is unclear where other long-established forms of witchcraft fit with either orthodoxy or orthopraxy. Robert Cochrane referred to his non-wiccan form of witchcraft as "the faith",[8] and some other evidence suggests a stronger component of orthodoxy than exists in Wicca. Descriptions of cunningmen often suggest a "right" way to practice their craft, suggesting an element of orthopraxy, but also attempts to reconcile their behavior with Christianity, suggesting an element made on the grounds of Christian orthodoxy.


  1. Jackson, Elizabeth. The Illustrated Dictionary of Culture. Lotus Press. 2007. ISBN 9788189093266
  2. Westley, Miles. The Bibliophile's Dictionary, Writer's Digest Books. 2005 ISBN 9781582973562
  3. McKim, Donald K. Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms. Westminster John Knox Press. 1996 ISBN 9780664255114
  4. Antes, Peter. Geertz, Armin W. Warne, Randi R. New Approaches to the Study of Religion: Regional, Critical, and Historical Approaches Volume 2. Walter de Gruyter. 2004 ISBN 9783110181753
  5. SilverWitch, Sylvana (1995). "A Witch in the Halls of Wisdom: Northwest Legend Fritz Muntean Discusses School, Theology, and the Craft", in Widdershins Vol.1, Issue 3 (Lammas 1995).
  6. Ravenwolf, Silver. 1998. Teen Witch: Wicca for a New Generation. St. Paul. Llewellyn Worldwide. ISBN 1567187250
  7. Hanna, Jon. What Thou Wilt. Evertype. 2010. ISBN 1904808433, pp. 40-43.
  8. Cochrane, Robert. 1965. Letter to Joe Wilson, dated "20 Dec 1965". [1]