Council of American Witches is an alliance of Wiccans from different traditions, which was active in 1973-74 in an effort to define the principles of Wicca. The effort was spearheaded by Carl Weschcke, a Wiccan priest and president of Llewellyn Publications in St. Paul, Minnesota. Weschcke believed that the formulation of a common set of principles and definitions would help dispel myths about witchcraft and distinguish it from Satanism in the eyes of the public and press.
Under the sponsorship of Llewellyn Publications, 73 Wiccans from various traditions convened in Minneapolis in the fall of 1973 and formed the Council. Weschchke was named chair. A newsletter, Touchstone, was inaugurated, and the Council began collecting statements of principles from Wiccan traditions around the country. Differences were many, but by April 1974 the Council was able to unify them into a general set of 13 principles. Weschchke drafted “The Principles of Wiccan Belief,” which many Wiccans continue to endorse, and which were later incorporated into one or more editions of the handbook for chaplains in the U.S. Army.
In adopting the principles, the Council stated:
In seeking to be inclusive, we do not wish to open our- selves 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.
Shortly after this landmark action, the Council disbanded, due in part to continuing differences among traditions. The principles of Wiccan belief are as follows:
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 fulfilment 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 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 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 Unconsciousness, 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.
6. We do not recognize 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.
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 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.
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 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.
- Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon. Revised ed. New York: Viking, 1986.