Council of American Witches

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Council of American Witches

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The Council of American Witches was organized in the fall of 1973, in St. Paul, Minnesota, and led by Carl Llewellyn Weschcke, its first chairman. It began with 73 attendees of different traditions. Despite many differences of opinion, a consensus of statements of principle was formulated. From this, Weschcke produced the first draft of "The Thirteen Principles of Belief" statement, which has become one of the cornerstones of Wicca. Five years later this document was incorporated into the Department of the Army Pamphlet No. 165-13: Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups—a Handbook for Chaplains.

Weschcke says that he wanted the council to be called the Council of American Witches, rather than the American Council of Witches, because he felt strongly— and still feels—that U.S. Wiccans are of a different caliber from European ones. He says, "In particular I wanted to protect against any feeling that `authority' in Wicca belonged in the `Old Country.' I have always been fearful that Wicca would succumb to institutionalization—seminaries, hierarchy, dogma, official history, etc."

Wicca has always been a religion of individuals and individual covens and traditions. This is why there is no one "king" or "queen" of all Witches. But there are so many different paths that it is difficult to organize a cohesive body of any sort,

and this is why the Council of American Witches shortly disbanded. Yet they managed to present a front united enough to produce the 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 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/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 to 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.

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 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.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
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