Written and compiled by George Knowles
It has been said many times, and I myself can be quoted saying “Wicca has no high authority, no single leader, no prophet and no bible to dictate its laws and beliefs”. Yet in America during 1973–74, an attempt was made to uniform and define the many differing beliefs across the many paths and traditions prevalent at that time. A short-lived alliance of contemporary witches was formed under the aegis of the ‘Council of American Witches’ spearheaded by Carl Llewellyn Weschcke.
Weschcke believed that a common set of principles and definitions encompassing the many paths and traditions in America, would ultimately help to dispel many of the myths about Witchcraft, and distinguish it from Satanism and other misconceptions in the eyes of the general public, and such as proliferated though the general press media.
As happened, some 73 or so representatives from the many paths and traditions convened in Minneapolis during the autumn of 1973. They formed the ‘Council of American Witches’ and Weschcke was nominated as chairman. Through his publishing company Weschcke published a newsletter called ‘Touchstone’ which the council used to collate information about their many differing beliefs.
After many difficulties and altercations, by April ’74 the council was able to unify a general set of principles loosely acceptable across the many traditions operating in America. Based on this, Weschcke then wrote and defined ‘The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief’.
The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief:
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 that 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 Power 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 the feminine. We value neither above the other knowing each to be supportive of the other. We value sex as pleasure as the symbol and embodiment of life, and as one of the sources of energy used in magical practice and religious worship.
5. We recognize both outer worlds and inner, or psychological worlds sometimes known as the Spiritual World, the Collective Unconsciousness, the Inner Planes etc – and we see in the interaction of these two dimensions the basis for paranormal phenomena and magical 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 greater 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 – the Wiccan Way.
8. Calling oneself ‘Witch’ does not make a Witch – but neither does heredity itself, nor the collecting of titles, degrees and initiations. A Witch seek to control the forces within her/himself that make life possible in order to live wisely and without harm to others and in harmony with nature.
9. We believe in the affirmation and fulfillment of life in a continuation of evolution and development of consciousness giving meaning to the Universe we know and 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 only way’ and have sought to deny freedom to others and to suppress other ways of religious practice and belief.
11. As American Witches, we are not threatened by debates on the history of the craft, the origins of various terms, 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 accept that personal benefit can be derived only by denial to another.
13.We believe that we should seek within Nature that which is contributory to our health and well-being.
Due to Weschcke's efforts these principles were later incorporated into the army's 'Chaplains handbook' for use in the U.S. Army. Shortly after this achievement the Council of American Witches disbanded, this due mainly to the difficulties inherent in reconciling differences among its many member traditions. The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief lived on however, and today many American Witches continue to endorse it.