Weschke, Carl L.

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Weschke, Carl L.

"The Principles of Wiccan Belief"

Reprinted in Drawing Down the Moon in 1979

Written by Margot Adler

Neo-Paganism is a term applied to a number of related movements that have attempted to revive ancient polytheistic (belief in more than one god) religions of Europe and the Middle East during the twentieth century. This term is customarily used in place of such words as "pagan" and "witch" because of negative associations with the witch-hunts that took place during the Middle Ages in Europe and during the seventeenth century in New England. Yet many Neo-Paganists call themselves witches, or Wiccans, and they meet in covens (the ancient word for groups of witches). While covens differ in structure and ritual, they share a tendency to worship nature as a way to renew connections between human beings and the universe.

When Neo-Paganism began to emerge in the 1960s, most covens met independently and often secretly, creating a sense of mystery. There were complex reasons for this separateness and lack of openess, such as the wish to avoid being misunderstood as worshipers of Satan or to preserve the validity of rituals. By the early 1970s, however, a split had taken place among the diverse groups: some insisted on maintaining strict codes of secrecy and would not reveal the names of members of their groups; others wanted to announce themselves and share their ideas with people in the mainstream society. Yet most groups accepted the central Wiccan creed, "An ye harm none, do what ye will"; that is, people are free to act as long as they do not harm others.

In an attempt to unify the Wiccan movement, the Council of American Witches was organized and met in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in April 1973 to draft "The Principles of Wiccan Belief." The statement was written by Carl L. Weschke, director of the council and owner of Llewelyn Publishing, which printed witchcraft documents.

Things to remember while reading "The Principles of Wiccan Belief":

  • Wiccans practice what is considered "white" magic, or good magic. They do not seek to harm or hurt anyone or anything.
  • It is not a part of Wiccan belief to worship the devil or practice evil.
  • Wicca was officially recognized in the United States as a non-profit religious sect in 1975, two years after this was written.

"The Principles of Wiccan Belief"

The Council of American Witches finds it necessary to define modern Witchcraft in terms of the American experience and needs.

We are not bound by traditions from other times and other cultures, and owe noallegiance to any person or power greater than the Divinitymanifest through our own being.

As American Witches we welcome and respect allLife 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 beinclusive, we do not wish to open ourselves to the destruction of our group by those self-serving power trips, or to philosophies and practicescontradictory 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 sexualpreference . . . .

We practice Rites toattune ourselves with the natural rhythm of life forces marked by Phases of the Moon and the Seasonal Quarters and Cross Quarters.

We conceive of the Creative Power in the Universe as manifesting throughpolarity —asmasculine andfeminine —and that this same Creative Power lives in all people, and functions through theinteraction of the masculine and feminine. We value neither above the other, knowing each to be supporting of the other. . . .

allegiance: devotion

manifest: obvious

life affirming: something that is positive

inclusive: to include

contradictory: expressing the opposite

preference: choice

attune: adjust

polarity: opposite sides

masculine: to have male traits

feminine: to have female traits

interaction: to affect one another

We see religion, magick, and wisdom-in-living as being united in the way one views the world and lives within it—a worldview and philosophy-of-life which we identify as Witchcraft, the Wiccan Way.

Calling oneself "Witch" does not make a witch—but neither does heredity itself, or the collecting of titles, degrees andinitiations. A Witch seeks to control the forces within him/herself that make life possible in order to live wisely and well, without harm to others, and in harmony with Nature. . . .

We do not accept the concept of "absolute evil," nor do we worship any entity known as "Satan" or "The Devil". . . . We do not seek power through the suffering of others, nor do we accept the concept that personal benefit can only be derived by denial to another.

heredity: the inheritance of characteristics and traits from your parents

initiations: memberships to groups

contributory: contributes, adds to

We acknowledge that we seek within Nature for that which is contributory to our health and well-being.

What happened next . . .

The Council of America Witches disbanded in 1974. The following year the Covenant of the Goddess (CoG) was formed to incorporate hundreds of separate Wiccan covens and was officially recognized as a church in the United States. The CoG is the largest Wiccan organization, representing a variety of belief systems and practices. At the end of the twentieth century Wicca was the eighth largest religion in the United States, ranking with Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and other established faiths.

The Wiccan Code of Ethics

  • Witches must follow the Wiccan Rede, "An' ye harm none, do what ye will."
  • No fees can be charged for initiations (admission) or initiate (new member) training.
  • "Reasonable fees" may be charged for services that earn a living.
  • The autonomy (self-governing) and sovereignty (independence) of other witches and covens must be respected.
  • Witches should be mindful of both the unity and diversity of their religion.

Did you know . . .

  • According to the Institute for the Study of American Religion, Neo-Paganism is the fastest growing religion in the United States.
  • Wiccan spiritual practices and rituals coincide with the phases of the moon, the solstices (the beginnings of Summer and Winter) and equinoxes (the beginnings of Spring and Fall) and traditional celebrations such as May Day and Halloween.

For Further Study

Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press, 1986.

Barstow, Anne Llewellyn. Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts. San Francisco, California: Harper, 1999.

Buckland, Ray. Witchcraft From the Inside. St. Paul, Minnesota: Llewelynn Publications, 1995.

Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft, 2nd ed. New York: Checkmark Books, 1999.

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Weschke, Carl L.

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