"/Aan is born to believe. And if no Church comes forward with its title-deeds of truth...to guide hi my he will find altars and idols in his own heart and his own imagination// —Benjamin Disraeli ike most genuine forms of spirituality, Wicca creates a sense of security and stability within the believer. This sense of stability, of knowing there is something more to life than just the physical, brings promise for the future. When this sense of security is combined with a true love for deity, the void of the soul is filled and true peace of mind is found.
One of the most outstanding features of all religions is belief—belief in deity, sacred scripture, and ritual custom. Beliefs form the nucleus of all religious systems. They are the roots and trunk from which the religion grows and flourishes. Without strong beliefs, no religion can weather the tides of time.
Because Witchcraft is a child with many fathers, and the offspring of a thousand claimants, it is difficult to place the beliefs of one tradition above another. No one knows for sure where most of Wicca's doctrines actually come from, and to complicate matters, most contemporary Wiccans frequently disagree when it comes to religious matters.
However, there is one thing that most Wiccans and Pagans will agree on: The Principles of Wiccan Belief. These principles form the cornerstone of modern Wiccan belief, much as the Ten Commandments do for the Christian religion. The principles, which follow, were adopted by the Council of American Witches at their 1974 spring meet in Minneapolis. Most Wiccans still hold fast to these principles, even though the council disbanded shortly after its spring meet that year.
The Council of American Witches finds it necessary to define modern Witchcraft in terms of the American experience. 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 throughout 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 within our Council. We therefore ask 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.
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 of the Universe as manifesting through polarity — as masculine and feminine - and believe 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 sex 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, or 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 worldview and philosophy of life that we identify as Witchcraft, the Wiccan Way.
8. Calling oneself a "witch" does not make a Witch -but neither does heredity itself or the collecting of titles, degrees, and initiations. 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.
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 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, or 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 do we accept the concept that personal benefit can only be derived from denial to another.
13. We acknowledge that we seek within Nature that which is contributory to our health and well-being.
One of the nice things about Wicca is its live-and-let-live philosophy. There is room for everyone and for everyone's personal belief system. Most Wiccans consider it unethical to impose their beliefs on others, let alone tell them how they should worship. This mandate to tolerate and respect others is passed along to each new initiate in the form of the Wiccan Rede — the Wiccan golden rule.
The Wiccan Rede
Bide the Wiccan laws ye must, in perfect love and perfect trust.
Live and let live -fairly take and fairly give.
Cast the Circle thrice about to keep the evil spirits out.
To bind the spell every time, let the spell be spake in rhyme.
Soft of eye and light of touch - speak ye little, listen much.
Deosil go by the waxing moon - sing and dance the Wiccan Rime.
Widdershins go when the Moon doth wane, and the werewolf howls by the dread wolfsbane.
When, the Lady's Moon is new, kiss the hand to Her times two.
When the Moon rides at Her peak, then your heart's desire seek.
Head the North wind's mighty gale - lock the door and drop the sail.
When the wind comes from the South, love will kiss thee on the mouth.
When the West wind blows o'er, the departed spirits restless be.
Nine woods in the Cauldron go, burn them quick and bum them slow.
Elder be ye Lady's tree - burn it not or cursed yell be.
When the Wheel begins to turn, let the Beltane fires burn.
When the Wheel has turned to Yule, light the log and let Pan rule.
Heed ye flower, bush, and tree — by the Lady blessed be.
When the rippling waters go, cast a stone and truth ye'11 know.
When ye are in dire need, hearken not to others' greed.
With the fool no season spend, or be counted as his friend.
Mind the threefold law ye should — three times bad and three times good.
Wh.en misfortune is enow, wear the blue star on thy brow.
True in love ever be, unless thy lover's false to thee.
Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill, an ye harm none, do what ye will.
The word "coven" usually conjures up visions of people all dressed in black, wildly dancing around a bubbling cauldron. While this picture is not necessarily without merit, it is not the sum total of Witchcraft or the Wiccan religion.
Although most Witches prefer to remain solitary (that is, to work alone), there are those who join covens, usually made up of 13 people, including a leader. The number 13 is considered lucky because it can't be divided against itself. This is, however, the ideal, and not the norm. Most groups have far fewer members.
One of the first things a new member is given upon joining a coven is a set of tenets, or coven laws. These laws have been drafted by the coven members for the purpose of maintaining order. They are usually based on common courtesy and good sense, two things most people seem to forget when emotions are involved.
The following laws were passed on to me when I was initiated more than 20 years ago. Whether you are a spiritual leader or a solitary practitioner, reasonable standards and ethics never go out of style.
1. Each group or tradition in Wicca has its own beliefs and ways. Each should follow according to its own path. So long as it harms none and respects the spirit of the universe, all traditions shall be viewed as equally valid under the God and Goddess.
2. We believe there is a supreme Force that created and maintains the universe and represents itself through the myriad of universal gods and goddesses. We acknowledge these gods and goddesses as whole and complete unto themselves and equal unto each other.
3. For our part, we do not fear to have a woman bring in a woman, nor a man bring in a man. It is better to have a wise teacher of the same sex than a fool of the opposite.
4. We view Wicca as an answer, not an excuse to avoid that which takes effort or may be emotionally hurtful.
5. For those who seek initiation, it should be remembered that initiation is an occurrence within the heart. The ceremony is only its restatement before the gods and those who represent them.
6. Within any organization there must be a leader or leaders. In Wicca we defer to a High Priestess and a High Priest. We also realize that there is no such thing as a perfect High Priest or High Priestess. The imperfections of our leaders should not be cause for disorder, but rather for understanding, tolerance, and love.
7. There comes a time in every family or coven when there must be a cessation of friendship. What one might refrain from saying to a friend or loved one, one might be obliged to say as a High Priest or High Priestess. Discipline is one such obligation.
8. You must remember you will never have the power of the teacher who trained you. This does not mean that you will never have the same amount of power as those who came before.
Power is not ability, and your ability may surpass all others'. Power is the ability to demand respect. You will never have the respect due to your teachers. Demand your own by controlling your ability.
9. Thinking of hurting is not the same as working to cause pain. Either action may be accomplished with little force of will, but with greater force of will, both can be avoided.
10. Those with knowledge and ability need not prove it. Those who fear their ability fear themselves. Fear has no place within the Craft of the Wise.
11. Express only that which you know. Work only within your realm of availability. Leave the fools unto themselves, and seek out those with truth in their hearts. Let not their words nor actions lead you but rather look to their works and deeds. Those speaking truth will be known by their works.
12. Observe and listen, and reserve judgment. For until the silver is weighed, who knows the weight.
13. Always treat others as you yourself wish to be treated. Remember that evil begets evil, but good begets joy and happiness.
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