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In the 1970s in the United States, a coalition of Wiccan groups banded together and set to put and end to misconceptions about Wicca. For too long, they thought, Wicca had been subject to uninformed stereotypes, stigma, and lack of proper recognition. So, what are the thirteen principles exactly?
The Thirteen Principles of Wiccan Belief were a summation to clear up misconceptions about Wicca and they outlined concepts such as: non-harm, disassociation from the devil, acknowledging the power of nature and the spiritual world, and living in harmony with the universe.
They also covered some societal issues like environmental responsibility and equality of the sexes. The federation wanted to communicate what Wicca was, and also what it was not.
The Principles are monumental because Wiccans and neo-Pagans are loosely organised and often can never agree. However the 13 principles of Wiccan belief forged an agreement among these diverse groups. The legacy of this historic agreement still lasts today.
For more general information about Wiccan beliefs, check out our beginner’s guide to Wiccan beliefs.
Origination of the 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief
In the 1970s, there were many misconceptions about Wicca and other pagan religions in the eyes of the general public. For instance, often Wicca and Witchcraft were misunderstood to be the same as Satanism or were misconstrued with the Christian Devil. There was much fear of pagan practices, and many untrue myths and stigma floating around.
A group of American Wiccans wanted to go on the offensive and correct the misinformation. Wicca is naturally a decentralized religion as there is no official religious document, no central leader, and no governing authority. Wiccans are subject only to the divine.
There are infinite varieties which fall under the umbrella of pagan religion, and each practitioner has their own personal belief. They sought to create a document to clearly outline a general set of principles which all Wiccans adhere to.
However they thought it was possible to create a summary that all traditions could agree to and unite under. It was the goal of these principles to clarify what Wicca really was (and wasn’t).
The period surrounding the 13 principles spans from 1973 until 1974. It started when Carl Llewellyn Weschcke created and chaired the “Council of American Witches”. (It’s sometimes called “The American Council of Witches”.)
The council was composed of about 73 members from various Wiccan, Pagan, and Witchcraft paths. The council convened in fall 1973 in Minneapolis.
You may know Carl Llewellyn Weschcke from his publishing company, Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd., which publishes pagan, Wiccan, and occult books. Weschcke published a newsletter called “Touchstone,” which formed the basis of a comprehensive document on the wide variety of Wiccan beliefs.
In April 1974, the council met again in Minneapolis. At this meeting they adopted Weschcke’s document. This document became the 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief that we know today.
Legacy of the Principles
Although the Council only lived for a short time (it disbanded later on in 1974), its legacy lives on. One of the largest impacts of the Principles is its inclusive definition of the overall guidelines of Witchcraft traditions. It embraces the full range of pagan and Wiccan beliefs. As a testament to this, the Principles are still embraced today.
Another notable legacy is to get governmental recognition of Wicca. The Principles were added to the US Army’s Handbook for Chaplains which is a huge achievement.
The the 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief were groundbreaking in another way. They described everyone regardless of “sexual preference.” This was an incredible feat at the time.
The Text of the Thirteen Principles of Wiccan Belief
These were taken from the text of the Council of American Witches Principles of Wiccan Beliefs.
Adopted By The Council Of American Witches Spring Witch meet of 1974, Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Council of American Witches finds it necessary to define modern Witchcraft in terms of the American experience and needs. In 1974 the Council of American Witches was formed with 73 Witches of varying traditions. They attempted to form a statement of common principles and definitions shared by Witches in order to dispel misinformation.
These principles have been incorporated into one or more editions of the U.S. Army handbook for chaplains. Although most Witches embrace the Wiccan Rede, many embrace some or all of the 13 Principles of Wiccan belief.
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. Here follows the introduction that accompanied the principles, this explains them better than we can, and the 13 principles themselves.
The 13 Principles of the Wiccan Belief:
Introduction: 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, colour, sex, age, national or cultural origins or sexual preference.
- 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 recognise that our intelligence gives us a unique responsibility towards our environment. We seek to live in harmony with nature in ecological balance offering fulfilment to life and consciousness within an evolutionary concept.
- We acknowledge a depth of power far greater than that 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.
- 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.
- We recognise both outer 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 fulfilment.
- We do not recognise any authoritarian hierarchy, but do honour 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 which we identify as Witchcraft – the Wiccan Way.
- Calling oneself a “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 without harm to others and in harmony with nature.
- We believe in the affirmation and fulfilment 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 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.
- As American Witches, we are not threatened by debates on the history of the Craft, the origins of various terms, the origins 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 Christian tradition. We do not seek power through the suffering of others, nor do we 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.