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Principles of Wiccan Belief
Commentary copyright 1997 by Lynna Landstreet.
The original document is, I believe, considered to be in the public
In 1974, one group of American Witches meeting in Minneapolis adopted the following principles. Since then, several versions of these principles, with minor differences in wording, have been circulated. These principles are not required of anyone, but they do reflect the thinking of many modern Wiccans, in the United States and elsewhere. This version is the one reprinted in Chas F. Clifton's Witchcraft Today series; the accompanying comments in square brackets are my own.
The Council of American Witches finds it necessary to define modern Witchcraft in terms of the American experience and needs. [And how very American an attitude! Considering that neopagan Witchcraft didn't even originate in the US, this is a bit presumptuous...]
We are not bound by traditions from other times and places, and owe no allegiance to any person or power greater than the divinity made manifest through our own being. [Personally, I find this statement a bit problematic. As Wicca is a religion, presumably we owe some allegiance to the Gods! And to limit our understanding of them to only that aspect which is "made manifest through our own being" is anthropocentric arrogance.]
As American Witches, we welcome and respect all teachings and traditions, and seek to learn from all and to contribute our learning to all who may seek it. [While this sounds quite reasonable at first glance, I think there are some problems here as well. First of all, how do we define "welcome"? Is this saying that "all teachings and traditions" can be part of Wicca? If so, doesn't that make the term rather meaningless? Wicca is one specific religion, not a catch-all category for all forms of spirituality and religion! It is quite possible to respect other religions while still remaining distinct from them and cognizant of one's own identity and uniqueness.]
It is in this spirit of welcome and cooperation that we adopt these few principles of Wiccan belief. 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 to those who are sincerely interested in our knowledge and beliefs.
We therefore ask only those who seek to identify with us to accept these few basic principles:
- We practice rites to attune ourselves with the natural rhythm of life forces marked by the full of the Moon and seasonal quarters and cross-quarters.
- 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. [This last bit is a little fuzzy, but seems to be some variant on the ever-popular "humans are the crown of creation and everything else in nature was just a practice run" theme. If you've looked at other areas of this web site, you can probably guess what I think of that...]
- 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 Creative Power in the Universe as manifesting through polarity -- as masculine and feminine -- and believe that this same Creative Power lives in all people, and functions though the masculine and feminine. We value neither above the other. [Note that masculine and feminine, as used in this context, are not synonymous with physical male and female. For some of my views on polarity, see Dealing with Dualism and Alternate Currents.]
- We value sex as pleasure, as the symbol and embodiment of life, and as the interaction of energies used in magical practice and religious worship.
- We recognize both an outer world and an inner, or psychological world -- sometimes known as the Spirit World, the Collective Unconscious, Inner Planes, etc. -- and we see in the interaction of these two dimensions the basis for paranormal phenomena and magical practice. We neglect neither dimension for the other, seeing both as necessary for our fulfillment. [Note: the idea that the Otherworld is purely psychological in nature or synonymous with Jung's collective unconscious is highly contentious, and utterly out of keeping with most traditional cultures' views on the matter.]
- We do not recognize any authoritarian hierarchy, but do honour those who teach, respect those who share their greater knowledge and wisdom, and acknowledge those who courageously give of themselves in leadership. [For some of my views on this, see Power in the Craft.]
- We see religion, magic and wisdom in living as being united in the way one views the world and lives within it -- a worldview and philosophy of life that 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 her/himself that make life possible in order to live wisely and well, without harm to others, 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. [See my note after principle two above. Only more so.]
- Our only animosity toward Christianity, or toward 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.
- 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. [But the rest of us are? What does your being American have to do with this?] We are concerned with our present and future. [Fine. Just remember what they say about "those who do not learn from history..."]
- 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. [Fourteen principles? Fourteen? You know, if you'd just leave out number ten, which is so nebulous as to be meaningless anyway, you'd have a much "witchier" number...]
Despite my comments, I do, for the most part, like this set of principles better than many others I've seen. I do, however, think that some fairly central principles have been left out -- like the Wiccan Rede, the belief in the Threefold Law or some other form of karma/cause-and-effect, the acceptance of divinity as immanent within the natural world (not just humans!), and last but not least, the worship of the Gods! Vague and new-agey references to "the Creative Power of the Universe," with or without polarity, don't say much about why Witches worship pagan Gods. A little more theology would be a big plus. Overall, these principles do seem to downplay the specifically religious nature of Wicca to some extent, which I find problematic. But they are a start...
How do you define Wicca? What do you think are the most important principles? E-mail me your ideas, and maybe I'll add them to this site...
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