American Council of Witches, 1973
The American Council of Witches was a short lived group founded in 1973 and disbanded in 1974. The group composed of 73 members spread across Wicca and the pagan community. They formulated 13 principles that were by and large common to witches and pagans in general. The group met at minneapolis minnesota between april 11th-14th, 1973 after being assembled by Carl Llewellyn Weschcke, President of the well known book publishers, Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd.
During those days, they crafted the 13 principles or 13 beliefs which are still utilised today. It disbanded a year later due to differences of opinion amongst members. The 13 principles were included in the United States of America army’s religious requirements and practices book in 1978. This was a handbook for chaplains outlining different groups and their beliefs. The group released the document ‘Principles of Wiccan Belief’ in early 1974 setting out their principles (reproduced below). These principles or beliefs are still used today by covens and groups worldwide.
Principles of Wiccan Beliefs
Council of American Witches
The craft contains a large number of groups with bonds to each other for the most part which are looser than those you will find between christian churches. Each has its own traditions, its own beliefs, its own pantheon etc. So just what is it that overall a witch believes in?
The American Council of Witches was formed to determine what it was that all witches have in common belief-wise. In the early 1970s, a paper was released with their findings and gives a good overall picture of it. The Council of American witches finds it necessary to define witchcraft in terms of the American experience and needs. We are not bound by traditions from other times and other cultures and owe no allegiance to any person or power greater than the divinity manifest through our own being. As American witches, we welcome and respect all life-affirming teachings and traditions and seek to learn from all and to share our learning within our Council. 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 wish to deny participation to any who are sincerely interested in our knowledge and beliefs regardless of race, color, sex, age, national or cultural heritage or sexual preference. We therefore ask only that those who seek to identify with us accept those few basic principles.
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 quarter.
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 feminine. We value neither above the other, knowing each to be supportive to the other. We value sex 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, 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 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 seeks to control the forces within her or himself that make life possible in order to live wisely and well 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 the christian traditions. 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 wellbeing.