Principles of Belief For Wiccans
Remember that these are for the Wiccan faith and may or may not be practiced by members of any other pagan religions.
“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 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 with our Council. It is in this spirit of welcome and cooperation that we adopt these few principals 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 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.
We therefore ask only that those who seek to identify with us accept these few basic principles:
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 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.
4) We conceive of the Creative Power in the Universe as manifesting through polarity – as masculine and feminine – and that this same creative Power lives in all people, and functions through the interaction of the masculine and feminine. We value neither above the other, knowing each to be supportive of the other. We value sexuality as pleasure, as the symbol and embodiment of Life, and as one of the sources of energies used in magical practice and religious worship.
5) We recognize both outer worlds and inner, our psychological worlds – sometimes known as the Spiritual world, the Collective Unconscious, the Inner Planes, etc. – and we see in the interaction of these two dimensions the basis for paranormal phenomena and magical 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, magic, 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 or the Wiccan Way.
8) Calling oneself “Witch” does not make a Witch – but neither does hereditary itself, or the collecting of titles, degrees, and initiations. A Witch seeks o 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.
9) We acknowledge that it is the affirmation and fulfillment of life, in a continuation of evolution and development of consciousness, that gives meaning to the Universe we know, and to our personal role within it.
10) Our only animosity toward Christianity, or toward any other religion or philosophy-of-life, is to the extent that its institutions have claimed to be “the one true right and only way” and have sought to deny freedom to others and to suppress other ways of religious practices 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 do we accept the concept that personal benefits can only be derived by denial to another.
13) We work within Nature for that which is contributory to our health and well-being.”
A Brief History of Witchcraft
Paganism has been around and alive since the beginning of time. Documentation of magic and witchcraft exists even in the oldest texts. Numerous cave drawings all over the world depict symbols of the gods and goddesses worshipped throughout history. Paganism is the oldest form of religion.
Wicca is a Nature oriented religion, that puts emphasis on honoring both The God and The Goddess, and living in harmony with all things in the Universe. It can be practiced in a group, called a Coven, or it can be practiced as a Solitary Witch. We do not worship satan!
The devil is an anti-Pagan propaganda device invented by the Christian church. He (or, more appropriately, “it”) had never existed in written literature prior to the New Testament. The Craft is a pre– Christian religion which has been around much longer than the church or its concept of satan, who was never worshipped as a deity of the Old Religion. The devil is strictly a part of the Christian belief system, not the Nature-loving earth religion of Wicca. However, we do acknowledge the light and the dark sides of things, including religions.
There are also some very special Wiccan Holidays that are celebrated throughout the year. These holidays represent the honoring of The God and The Goddess, and the cycle of Nature.
Witches have an inseparable partnership to Mother Earth and celebrate Her turns of the wheel as Sabbats and Esbats. The Wheel of the Year marks the Sun’s journey across the sky, the solstices, equinoxes and the Earth’s changing seasons. Each spoke of the wheel marks an important moment of progression and change in the Earth. Witches will celebrate the holiday starting the day before until the day after the Sabbat date.
The Wiccan religious calendar contains 13 Full Moon celebrations and 8 Sabbats or days of power. The Sabbats are solar rituals, marking the points of the Sun’s yearly cycle, and are but half of the Wiccan ritual year. The Esbats are the Wiccan Full Moon celebrations. There are 12-13 Full Moons yearly, or one every 28 1/4 days. The Moon is a symbol of the Goddess as well as a source of energy. Thus, after the religious aspects of the Esbats, Wiccans often practice magick, tapping into the larger amounts of energy which are thought to exist at these times. Most rites are held at night. The eight Sabbats represent seasonal birth, death, and rebirth.
Witchcraft is recognized in the United States and in at least some parts of Canada as a legitimate religion. In I985, Dettmer v. Landon, the District Court of Virginia pursuant to rule 52 (a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, ruled that Witchcraft falls within a recognizable religious category and therefore is protected by the Constitution. I’m sure it is also recognized in other countries as well. Also, check out The U.S. Armed Forces Chaplain’s Handbook section on Wicca.
Types of Witches – by Silver Ravenwolf
“Alexandrian Tradition: Founded in England during the 1960s, Alex Sanders referred to himself as the “King” of his Witches. The rituals are said to be modified Gardenarian.
British Traditional Witch: A mix of Celtic and Gardenarian beliefs. Most famous organization at this time is the International Red Garters. British Traditionals move mostly from within the Farrar studies (the famous Witch husband and wife from England). They too are fairly structured in their beliefs, and train through the degree process. Their covens are also co-ed.
Celtic Wicca: The use of a Celtic/Druidic pantheon mixed with a little ritual Gardnerian, and heavily stressing the elements, nature and the Ancient Ones. They had a vast knowledge of and respect for the healing and magical qualities of plants and stones, flowers, trees, elemental spirits, the little people, gnomes and fairies.
Caledonii Tradition: Formally known as the Hecatine Tradition, this denomination of the Craft is Scottish in origin, and still preserves the unique festivals of the Scots.
Ceremonial Witchcraft: Followers of this tradition use a great deal of ceremonial magic in their practices. Detailed rituals with a flavor of Egyptian magic are sometimes a favorite, or they may use the Quabbalistic magic.
Dianic Tradition: First pinpointed by Margaret Murray in 1921 in “The WitchCult in Western Europe,” this term appears to include a mixture of various traditions. However, their prime focus in recent years is on the Goddess, and has been pegged as the “feminist” movement of the Craft.
Eclectic Witch: Look in any personals column in a Craft-oriented newsletter or journal and you will see this catch-all phrase. Basically, it indicates that the individual does not follow any particular Tradition, denomination, sect, or magical practice. They learn and study from many magical systems and apply to themselves what appears to work best.
Gardnerian Tradition: Organized by Gerald Gardner in England in the 1950s. Just why is this fellow so darned important? Gerald was one of the few people so determined that the Old Religion should not die that he took the risk of publicizing it through the media. Under all the hype, I truly believe he understood that the young needed the Craft as much as the Craft needed a new generation to survive.
Hereditary Witch: One who can trace the Craft through their family tree and who has been taught the Old Religion by a relative who was living at the same time. Channeling doesn’t count. How far one has to go back on the family tree to meet the conditions of the first part of this definition is debatable. Family Trades (another name for Hereditary Witches) occasionally adopt individuals into their dynasty. This decision is never a light one, and usually stems from the lack of offspring to carry on the line, or the high regard they hold for the person in question. The ceremony is intricate and important. After all, it is not every day you can pick your relatives! It is much like the marriage of an individual into a family.
Kitchen Witch: You will hear this term every once in awhile. Basically, this type is one who practices by hearth and home, dealing with the practical side of religion, magic, the earth and the elements. There are some who groan loudly at this type of terminology, viewing it as degrading or simply inappropriate. Just remember that the Old Religon started somewhere, and most likely the kitchen (or cookfire) was the hub of many charms, spells, healings, and celebrations. After all, where does everyone congregate during the holidays? Grandma’s kitchen has always produced magical memories for humanity; visions of Mother making that something special for a sick child still holds true today for many of us.
Pictish Witchcraft: Scottish Witchcraft that attunes itself to all aspects of nature: animal, vegetable, and mineral. It is a solitary form of the Craft and mainly magical in nature with little religion.
Pow-Wow: Indigenous to South Central Pennsylvania. This is a system, not a religion, based on 400-year-old Elite German magic. Pow-Wow has deteriorated to a great degree into simple faith healing. Although Pow-Wow finds its roots in German Witchcraft, few practicing Pow-Wows today in Pennsylvania follow the Craft or even know the nature of its true birth.
Satanic Witch: One cannot be a satanic Witch because Witches do not believe in satan.
Seax-Wicca: Founded by Raymond Buckland in 1973. Although of Saxon basis, it was authored by Raymond himself without breaking his original Gardnerian oath.
Solitary Witch: One who practices alone, regardless of Tradition, denomination, or sect. Solitaries come in various forms. Some were at one time initiated into a coven and eventually chose to extricate themselves from that environment and continue practicing a particular Tradition or sect by themselves. A solitary can also be an individual who has no desire to practice with or learn from a coven structure, but still may adhere to a specific Tradition or sect through the teachings of another.
Strega Witches: Follows a tradition seated in Italy that began around 1353 with a woman called Aradia. Of all the traditional Witches, this group appears to be the smallest in number in the United States; however, their teachings are beautiful and should not be missed.
Teutonic Witch: From ancient time the Teutons have been recognized as a group of people who speak the Germanic group of languages. Culturally, this included the English, Dutch, Icelandic, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish peoples. This is also known as the Nordic Tradition.
The Wiccan Witch: I personally like the word “Witch” very much. To me, it means mystery, healing, power, special, different, balance, and history. It means knowledge, secrets, he earth, and a bond with both the male and female sides of myself. The word “Wiccan” does not give me those feelings. It projects a different set of associations – weaving, church, New Earth, wicker furniture (don’t ask me why) and the movie The Wicker Man which although I despised, I fully understand). It also means “front,” a way to bring the public into accepting our belief system for what it actually is, not what their preconceived ideas of a word dictates to them. Neither definition is better than the other; you must choose for yourself.”
Some Pagan Terms adept: Through serious study and accomplishments one is considered highly proficient in a particular magickal system.
Altar: This is a special, flat surface set aside for magickal workings and/or religious acknowledgements.
Amulet: Considered an object of protection that has been charged to deflect specific negative energies or thought forms.
Ankh: An Egyptian hieroglyphic that is widely used as a symbol for Life, Love and Reincarnation.
Aradia: This is the name of a Italian Goddess sworn to protect her people against the aggression of masculine faith and its persecutors during the reign of medieval terror. She taught around 1353. She was imprisoned more than once, escaped several times and eventually disappeared.
Arcana: This is the two halves of the Tarot deck. There is the Major Arcana, that consist of 22 trumps. They reflect the dominant occurrences in our lives. Then there is the Minor Arcana (also known as the lesser Arcana), they consist of 56 suit cards. They assist the Major Arcana by reflecting smaller occurrences in our lives.
Astral: Another dimension of reality.
Astral Travel/Projection: This is the process known as separating your physical body from your astral body to accomplish travel on the astral plane.
Athame: This is a ceremonial knife that has been cleansed and consecrated. It is NEVER used for blood-letting, and very rarely used for cutting anything on the material plane.
Bane: This means bad, evil or destructive.
Banish: To rid the presence of. To magickally end something or exorcise unwanted entities.
Bind: To magickally restrain someone or something.
Blood of the Moon: A woman’s menstrual cycle. If this occurs at the time of the full moon, she is far more power than any other time of the month.
Book of Shadows: This is a collection of information for a Witch’s reference.
Bolline: This is a white-handled knife used for magickal purposes such as cutting. Example: inscribing candles, or cutting a branch for a wand.
Cabala: Is the ancient Hebrew magickal system.
Call: Invoking Divine forces.
Chakras: In the human body there are seven major energy vortexes. These vortexes are: 1. The crown (white) 2. forehead (purple) 3. the throat (blue) 4. the chest (pink or green) 5. navel (yellow) 6. abdomen (orange) 7. groin (red). Note that there are colors associated to each chakras. To mention also there are smaller vortexes in the hands and feet.
The Charge This is a story of the message from the Goddess to her children.
Channeling This is where you allow a disincarnate entity to “borrow” your body to speak to others in the forms of writing or verbal.
Charms: The can be amulets or talisman that have been charged to perform a specific task, an incantation being said over it.
Cleansing: To remove negative energy from an object or place by utilizing positive, psychic energy.
Consecration: To bless an object or place by charging/instilling it with positive energy.
Coven: Is a group of Witches, (13 or less), that work together for positive magickal goals, and perform religious ceremonies.
Covenstead: Is the place that Witches meet where they can feel safe and at home. This could be a building or a place.
Dedication: This is where the individual accepts the Craft as their path and promises to study and learn to reach the goal of adeptship in a given tradition.
Deosil: This is clockwise movement.
Divination: This is the act of using magickal tools/symbols to gather information on people, places, things and events in the past, present and future.
Dowsing: This is the use of a pendulum or stick to find the location of a person, place, thing or element. This is also very useful in answering yes and no questions.
Drawing Down the Moon: This is a ritual used during the Full Moon for witches to empower themselves and unite their inner selves with a particular deity.
Earth Magick: Magick that uses the powers and forces of the Mother Earth.
Elder: Is a group of people that oversee the operations of the church and its functions. These people are experienced and educated in Magickal adeptship and counseling.
Elements: Earth, Air, Water and Fire. They may also be associated in a magickal circle with direction, East is Air, South is Fire, West is Water and North is Earth. The center of a circle is Spirit or Akasha.
Enchantment: These are magickal objects that have been charmed and kept secret and hidden from all human eyes and affects a hidden aura.
Evocation: This is to call something out from within.
Fascination: Also known as mind-binding, this is an act of mental effort to control anther person’s or animal’s mind.
Gaea/Gaia: This is a Greek Goddess, now meaning Earth Mother or Mother Earth.
Green Man: This is another name for the God.
Handfasting: This is the name of a Wiccan or Pagan marriage ceremony.
Initiation: This is the experience and/or awareness of a person, that their personal and earthly reality has been changed.
Macrocosm: The world around us.
Microcosm: The world within us.
Magick: Focusing your will and emotions to cause change in both the macrocosm and microcosm.
Magick Circle: This circle protects the Witch from outside forces while conducting ritual magick. The magick circle is considered the doorway between the worlds, and allows us to move between the two.
Magickal Systems: This is the set of guidelines relating to specific Gods and Goddesses or Traditions, Denominations, Sects and/or Pantheons.
Pantheon: This is a group of Gods and Goddesses in a specific religious structure.
Pentacle: This is an upright 5 pointed star that is encircled. Each point of the star has a meaning: 1. Earth 2. Air 3. Fire 4. Water 5. Spirit.
Priestess: Is a female that is devoted to the service of her chosen deity and humankind.
High Priestess: Is the female leader of a coven, she plays the role of the Goddess in certain ceremonies. This could also be a solitary Witch that has dedicated herself to a particular God or Goddess.
Priest: This a male that is devoted to the service of his chosen deity and humankind.
High Priest: Is the male leader of a coven, he plays the role of the God in certain ceremonies. This may also be a solitary male witch that has dedicated himself to a particular God or Goddess.
Reincarnation: To return to the physical body. The soul upon death, exits one body and begins to prepare to come back into life within another physical form.
Ritual: A physically/mentally focused ceremony to thank or honor your chosen pantheon, or to perform a magickal working.
Runes: Are used in divination and magickal workings. They are a set of letters from the old Teutonic alphabets, inscribed on wood, stone, clay, tiles. They are widely used in all forms of magick.
Scrying: Divination method using specific tools, such as a bowl of inked water, where the diviner “sees” normal or mental visuals or information without any visual.
Sigil: Is a magically oriented seal, sign or other device used in a magickal working.
Spell: This is a magickal rite, an extension of mental/emotional energy, either spoken aloud, written, said to oneself, it could be drawn and even expressed in the form of dance. There must be a need for the spell to be successful.
Talisman: Is a magickally charged object, to bring something to the bearer.
Vision Questing: Also known as pathworking, The use of astral projection, or dreamtime to accomplish a specific goal.
Webweaving: The sharing of information between magickal people by means of any form of communication to assist each other in their studies and life goals.
Wheel of the Year: This is the full cycle of the seasonal year, beginning with Samhain in some traditions and Yule in others.
Widdershins: This means to move Counterclockwise.
Working: Known as magickal working. This is the process used magickally to reach a positive goal.
Magic vs. Science One very interesting aspect about magic and the craft is that it is more science than religion. Every aspect of witchcraft is almost purely scientific based on the manipulation of energy and the human mind. So often, I get questions from people asking me to prove it. These same people ask the same question of Christianity as I did so many years ago. Prove it. The wonderful thing about the craft is that there is nothing intangible; nothing that you cannot see. There are no all-knowing gods hidden in the sky that push the clouds around or make the rivers flow. Our gods are the clouds and the rivers. One of the most refreshing things about the craft is knowing that one can go outside at any time, on any day and lay down on their God/dess and feel it between their fingers or flow between their toes or breathe it into their lungs. Everything in witchcraft is real. There is no spooky-ooky magic. There is no great invisible creator. There is no Hell. There is only that which is real and the belief in things one can see and feel. Witchcraft is likely one of the most down-to-earth religious practice.