How do Modern Witches define themselves? Since the
Craft is decentralized and each coven is autonomous, no single definition
applies to all Wiccans. In the United States, most attempts to
create a set of common principals and definitions have met with failure.
Most of those who join Wicca, do so in part, because of its implicit
autonomy. "It is a religion without the middleman" to
repeat the words of one craft priest. Despite this, there have
been numerous United States witches to try to meet and define the slippery
term "witch." One attempt to create an ecumenical definition
of modern Wicca that would be acceptable to many traditions began in
fall of 1973 when Llewellyn Press, the occult publishers, sponsored
a meeting of witches in Minneapolis. Seventy-three witches from
different traditions attended. They formed the Council of American
Witches and, during the winter of 1974, began collecting statements
of principal from various groups. These were printed in the council's
Carl Weschcke, publisher of Llewellyn, wrote in Touchstone,
that many witches felt a common definition was necessary as a "self-policing"
mechanism "to protect ourselves from misunderstanding brought about
by those whose personal power trips have exposed all of us to ridicule
and injury." It was also felt that a common statement would
help dispel the sensationalist image published in the media, which continued
to link Wicca and Satanism.
It turned out that there were many differences among Wiccan
groups, a few of them conflicting. Here are some of the answers
to the question: "What is a Witch?"
A Witch above all worships the Triple Goddess and her
Consort, The Horned God, in one form or another. A witch works
magic within a very definite code of ethics. A witch acknowledges
the male-female aspects in his/her rites. A witch takes total
responsibility for her actions, herself, and her future.
-- NROOGD (New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn)
Witchcraft is an initiatory mystery religion whose
adherents seek, through self discipline, to live a life dedicated to
the pursuit and practice of knowledge, wisdom, and compassion under
the guidance of the Gods.
-- Coven of Gwynvyd, St. Louis, Missouri
A Witch is a member of a religion by which its own
internal definition is monotheistic. [This definition was obviously
in conflict with the others.]
-- School of Wicca
Wicca can be defined as a pagan mystery religion with
a polarized deity and no personification of evil.
-- Lady Cybel
Some witches refused to take part in this process of defining
the Craft, feeling that a common statement of principles implied an
unacceptable degree of centralization. One Witch wrote to Touchstone
In the early days of the Church,
we of the Wicca were persecuted for not joining with the common belief
of the Church fathers because we refused to join, be baptized or pay
our tithes to their God. We were tortured, burned, hanged, and
placed in vats of ground glass. We preferred to live simply, worshipping
our old Gods of Harvest, and doing as we had for years before, and as
our fathers had done
The Church sent in spies who
reported on us into our worship circles, and those of us who were caught
were humiliated and killed because we were as we were
and of course
the Church wanted the money and wanted to oppress the people.
Now it seems to us old Wicca
that that is what you younger's are doing
oppressing us, trying
to force us to join in an organization and criticizing us for wanting
our freedom and our belief in freedom
Let us not quarrel among ourselves.
Leave us be and we shall do the same for you. Worship as you see
best and allow us also the same right. This is the true Wicca
and the free way.
-- From an anonymous Witch
Other conflicts arose between people bound by strict oaths
of secrecy and others who wished to share their information openly.
Some felt that little should be "secret" except for the names
used for deities and initiation rituals, so that their psychological
impact would not be lost. Another problem was "validity."
Many felt that initiation was an internal process and that one could
receive a valid initiation in a dream or vision, or even at the hands
of frauds. Others felt that only certain traditions were "valid."
The groups were closest on ethics. All agreed with
the basic Wiccan Creed - "An ye harm none, do what you will."
Most affirmed Aleister Crowley's famous statement: "Do what
thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law.
Love under will." Most agreed that it was unethical to "forcefully
violate a person's autonomy." Most affirmed the divinity
of all living beings. NROOGD's statement was the strongest:
An it harm no one, do what ye will. You may not
alter another's life/karma without their permission. Solve the
problem, no more, no less. All power comes from the goddess.
You must help brothers and sisters in the craft as best you can.
If you stick your hand in a flame, you'll get burned.