In 1974, a bunch of witches got together and formed the American Council of Witches. This loose group of Wiccans disbanded soon afterwards, but not before they had created a document that outlined what we do - and do not - believe in the Wiccan faith. The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief is that founding document, and its creation was an achievement for an otherwise very disorganized religion.
In the 1970s, New Age religions were widely mistrusted by the broader American public. There was a perception that Wicca in particular was an evil, devil-worshipping cult. Preposterous, of course, but even well after the 1970s this sort of popular misconception about the faith persisted. Thus, there was a need for clarification.
I'm not sure if Wicca would have achieved semi-mainstream popularity without the help of the American Council of Witches. Those 73 Witches created a foundation of belief that is still remarkably important today. The beauty in the 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief is just how broad they reach.
What Do The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief Teach?
The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief do not:
demand that you worship a particular god
declare that other religions are bad or dangerous
set up a structure of who's in charge within Wicca
tell us what happens after we die
Instead, the 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief encourage us to:
Honor and respect the teachers in our lives
Worry more about our internal work and practice than about any titles we might claim for ourselves
Recognize inner and outer worlds, and live in harmony with both
Move away from shame-based religious systems that teach us that sex and life are not worth celebrating
The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief are also remarkably progressive. In the 1970s, crafting and using a nondiscrimination statement was nearly unheard of. And yet, the American Council of Witches wrote, "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 sexual preference." It was simply groundbreaking in a time where LGBTQ folks were still living in the shadows.
How Do I Use The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief?
The 13 Principles are not a religious document. They're not meant to be studied or memorized. They do look nice when you hang them on your wall, but that's beside the point. The 13 Principles are meant to simply capture the spirit of our faith.
If you're a beginner Wiccan, the 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief can be a great inspirational tool. I often found myself reading and re-reading the text when I was first starting out. Reflecting on the 13 Principles is a great way to compare and contrast what they mean to you. Revisiting them every few years is also a great way to see how your opinions have grown and changed.
Without further adieu, here are the 13 Principles, in their original form.
The Original 13 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 these 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 sexual preference. Principles of the Wiccan Belief:
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 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.
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 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 (gender) 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.
We recognize both outer worlds and inner, of psychological, worlds sometimes known as the Spiritual World, the Collective Unconscious, Inner Planes, etc.-and we see in the inter-action 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.
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.
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 "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 other 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.
Our only animosity towards Christianity, or toward any other religion or philosophy of life, is to the extent that its institutions have clamed 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 legitimacy 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 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.
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