Table of Contents
- History and Philosophy of Witchcraft
- Tools, Clothing, and Names
- Getting Started
- Covens and Rituals
- The Sabbats
- Meditations, Dreams, and the Minor Sabbats
- Marriage, Birth, Death, and Channeling
- The Power of the Written Word
- Getting Set Up
- Solitary Witches
Wicca is a loose religion, consisting of eclectic philosophies that draw from anywhere and everywhere, to focusing exclusively on one tradition, whether it’s a tradition like Gardnerian or Seax-Wica, or an ethnic practice such and Scottish or Hellenic. This makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly what any individual believes, but in 1974 a group of Wiccans called the American Council of Witches met to discuss what their basic beliefs were. There ‘principles’ are vague, and intentionally so, to provide room for different traditions and individuals to interpret and apply them in whatever way they choose. The military has guidelines for Chaplains when it comes to Wiccans, and pretty much every guideline starts with “Some, but not all, Wiccans believe” or “Most, but not all, Wiccans believe…”
These principles are not doctrine, but excellent guidelines to follow when taken in context. Remember these were written in 1974, and so some of the language is outdate. The Council of American Witches disbanded in the same year they were formed, and the Principles of Wiccan Belief was the sole contribution of the group. A couple attempts to revise these principles and form a new Council have fallen short, and for a religion as resistant to authoritarian rule as Wicca is, this is probably for the best. In Seax-Wica in particular, we reject any sort of hierarchy, and accept these principles based on their merit, not out of recognition of the Council of American Witches’ authority. That being said, it is highly encouraged that these principles be studied and taken to heart.
We will go over the principles first, then take a look at some of them in context.
“In seeking to be inclusive, we do not wish to open ourselves to the destruction of our group by those on self-serving power trips, or to philosophies and practices contradictory to those principles. In seeking to exclude those whose ways are contradictory to ours, we do not want to deny participation with us to any who are sincerely interested in our knowledge and beliefs, regardless of race, color, sex, age, national or cultural origins, or sexual preference.”
Principles of Wiccan Belief
- 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.
- We recognize that our intelligence gives us a unique responsibility towards our environment. We seek to live in harmony with nature, in ecological balance offering fulfillment to life and consciousness within an evolutionary concept.
- 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.
- 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 feminine. We value neither above the other, knowing each to be supportive to the other. We value sex as a pleasure, as the symbol and embodiment of life, and as one of the sources of energies used in magickal practice and religious worship.
- We recognize both outer worlds and inner, or psychological, worlds sometimes known as the Spiritual World, the Collective Unconscious, 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.
- 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.
- 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 that we identify as Witchcraft – the Wiccan way.
- Calling oneself Witch does not make a Witch – but neither does heredity itself, nor the collecting of titles, degrees, and initiations. A Witch seeks to control the forces within herself or himself that make life possible in order to live wisely and well without harm to other and in harmony with nature.
- 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.
- Our only animosity toward Christianity, or toward any other religion or philosophy of life, is to the extant 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.
- 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.
- We do not accept the concept of absolute evil, nor do we worship any entity known as Satan or the Devil, as defined by the 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.
- We believe that we should seek within nature that which is contributory to our health and well-being.
Taking Things in Context
These principles were written in the 70’s, and some of the language used then has changed. For starters, in the introduction it refers to homosexuality as “sexual preference”, which harkens back to a time when it was thought to be a choice. The current term by today’s standard would be ‘sexual orientation’.
In the fourth principle, and several times after, magic is spelled with a ‘k’ at the end. This is an archaic way of differentiating ‘real’ magic from ‘illusion’ magic, but has since fallen out of favor.
The eight principle talks about ‘a Witch’, and in 1974, those who called themselves Witches typically meant the same as Wiccan. By todays standard, a ‘witch’ is anyone who practices the low magic of herbalism, healing, etc., while a Wiccan is an adherent of the religion. When these principles refer to ‘Witches’, it means ‘Wiccans’.
The twelfth principle mentions Satan ‘as defined by the Christian tradition’. Islam shares the same belief in Satan, although they inherited the concept from Christianity, so while this statement is accurate, it misleading and gives the impression that only Christians believe in Satan.
These principles are not only excellent guidelines for us to follow, but they are also used by others to define us, such as the Chaplains Handbook of the US Military. Considering all the negative resources and ways people can define Wicca, the Principles of Wiccan Belief are an excellent, though not perfect, definition.