This is basically a discussion of terms and definitions that I believe are essential to the discussion of Wicca and Pagan traditions, though just as valid for others as well in my opinion. I agree with many that the terms initiation and Wicca are thrown around to lightly by some. For me this isn't a matter of status or exclusion, but rather simply a matter of accurate communication.
Self initiation seems to me like reading a bunch of books on physics without any classes and declaring yourself a physicist. I'd say a scholar perhaps, but not a physicist. This isn't to say you can't learn a lot and sometime even know more then someone who has done the work to become a physicist. It has more to with giving the term for someone who earned the title and respect of others who also did so. I am a firm believer in the validity of self dedication, but its not the same as initiation. You simply can not perform the rites of initiation on yourself, since part of an initiation is not knowing entirely what is going to happen. It is in part that feeling of uncertainty and mystery of the moment that one simply can not do if they are in control of the situation. Only the most extreme fundy Pagan and Wiccan have a problem with self dedication, but I can certainly understand the term self initiation rubbing people the wrong way.
Wicca, despite the many random Wicca books available, is a specific tradition with specific practices. There are a few different branches, but they all stem from Gardner. I have some Wiccan training and use the basic form, but I would not call myself Wiccan. Its not my tradition no matter how similar in form we are. I prefer the term Pagan, though even that is a questionable term. I'd be much happier with the more creative Wicca books if they called themselves “insert term” Paganism, rather then Wicca.
Pagan or more appropriately NeoPagan, is the modern term used for those who practice an Earth based spirituality that may or may not have specific historical traditions. These can be from recreationists that try to duplicate ancient traditions to people who pick and choose from all available ideas to create something uniquely their own, and everything in between.
Tradition, what gets me is the number of people who created their own tradition. I don't understand that generally. Tradition takes much more then one persons practice or even one groups. For the first group its their practice, when other groups start separating off then I'd say its sect (yeah my religious studies classes are showing, but then ass other groups start breaking off of those and hundreds of people are now doing what the first group is doing, only then can you really start calling yourself a tradition. Also if each group is breaking off and then modifying what is done, its not a tradition. You wouldn't say Christmas Palm trees are traditional, but they are still part of some peoples practice. That is the sort of distinction I'm trying to make with this.
Another term that causes a lot of confusion is Witchcraft. I don't think there is an easy answer for this one. Much like Pagan this is a sort of blanket term that covers a lot of area and worse yet is that different people using the term don't want to be associated with others that also use the term. A Wiccan is a type of Witch, but there are also Satanic Witches and atheistic Witches that despise when people say Witchcraft is a religion. I'd say I have to side with the atheistic Witches on this one. Witchcraft is essentially a series of practices involving herb lore, spellcraft, etc... but there could be a dozen people using the same spells, herbs and tools, but each could be different religions. So I'd have to say Witchcraft is a type of practice and one that is very eclectic in borrowing whatever works. Many Witches are spiritual or even religious, but the practice is not in and of itself religious.
Essential References for basic Pagan Scholarship
Margot Adler- Drawing Down the Moon
Isaac Bonewits- Bonewits's Essential Guide to Witchcraft and Wicca
Ronald Hutton- Triumph of the Moon
Starhawk- The Spiral Dance
Michael York- Pagan Theology