A group identified as the Counsel of American Witches was established in 1973 and organized by the president of Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd, Carl Llewellyn Weschcke. Llewellyn Publications is presently one of the largest Neopagan, Occult, and New Age publishing companies in the world. The group consisted of over seventy Neopagans, Pagans, and Witches who sought to clarify and unite the varied Neopaganism beliefs and traditions.
The group held a Witchmeet in the spring of 1974 in Minneapolis, Minnesota: the goal of the Witchmeet was to dispel the misconceptions people have about people who practice alternative religions. The outcome of the meeting was the creation of the Principles of Belief, sometimes identified as the Thirteen Principles of Belief or the Thirteen Principles of Wiccan Belief. These beliefs remain endorsed by many Neopagans, groups, American Witches, and solitary practitioners today. In 1978, these same principles were mentioned into the United States of America Army’s Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups: A Handbook for Chaplains, and the principles were identified as fundamental teachings and beliefs.
The Principle of Beliefs are as follows:
1. We practice Rites to attune ourselves with the natural rhythm of life forces marked by the phases of the Moon and the seasonal Quarters and Cross-Quarters.
2. We recognize that our intelligence gives us a unique responsibility toward our environment. We seek to live in harmony with Nature, in ecological balance, offering fulfillment to life and consciousness within an evolutionary concept.
3. We acknowledge a depth of power far greater than is apparent to the average person. Because it is far greater than ordinary, it is sometimes called supernatural, but we see it as lying within that which is naturally potential to all.
4. We conceive of the creative powers in the universe as manifesting through polarity – as masculine and feminine – and that this same creative power lies in all people, and functions through the interaction of the masculine and feminine. We value neither above the other. We value sexuality as pleasure, as the symbol and embodiment of life, and as one of the sources of energies used in magickal practice and religious worship.
5. We recognize both outer worlds and inner, or psychological worlds – sometimes known as the spiritual world, the collective unconscious, the inner planes, etc. – and we see in the interaction of these two dimensions the basis for paranormal phenomena and magickal exercises. We neglect neither dimension for the other, seeing both as necessary for our fulfillment.
6. We do not recognize any authoritarian hierarchy, but do honor those who teach, respect those who share their knowledge and wisdom, and acknowledge those who have courageously given of themselves in leadership.
7. We see religion, magick, and wisdom in living as being united in the way one views the world and lives within it. A world view and philosophy of life which we identify as Witchcraft or the Wiccan Way.
8. Calling oneself “witch” does not make a witch -- but neither does hereditary itself, or the collecting of titles, degrees and initiations. A witch seeks to control the forces within him/herself that make life possible in order to live wisely and well, without harm to others and in harmony with Nature.
9. We acknowledge that it is the affirmation and fulfillment of life, in a continuation of evolution and development of consciousness, that gives meaning to the universe we know, and to our personal role within it.
10. Our only animosity towards Christianity, or towards any other religion or philosophy of life, is to the extent that its institutions have claimed to be “the one true right and only way,” and have sought to deny freedom to others and to suppress other ways of religious practices and beliefs.
11. As American Witches, we are not threatened by debates on the history of the Craft, the origins of various terms, or the legitimacy of various aspects of different traditions. We are concerned with our present, and our future.
12. We do not accept the concept of “absolute evil,” nor do we worship any entity known as “Satan” or “the devil” as defined by Christian tradition. We do not seek power through the suffering of others, nor do we accept the concept that personal benefits can only be derived by denial to another.
13. We work within Nature for that which is contributory to our health and well-being.
Look to future posts for an explication of each of the Thirteen Principles of Belief.
By Dayna Winters and Patricia Gardner
About the Authors
Dayna Winters and Patricia Gardner are the co-authors of Wicca: What’s the Real Deal? Breaking Through the Misconceptions along with Angela Kaufman. (July 2011). If you want more information on dispelling Wiccan Misconceptions you can get the book at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Schiffer Publishing, and fine stores everywhere.