Day 20- Ethics why is it important in our communities
Here is a subject that doesn’t get touched on very often but for anyone entering in it is very important for them to understand even witches, druids, shamans, voodoo and hoodoo have ethics they live by. Simply Ethics is moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity. That still follows suit in witchcraft or any practice whether Wiccan or non-Wiccan. Teachers have a responsibility to not only uphold a code of Ethics but to teach their students them and for them to understand why we have them.
A good teacher:
Teaches spiritual as well as magickal aspects of Paganism
Encourages healing magick
Has a well-balanced life. If they can’t have a balanced life they can hardly teach a balanced method of magick.
Is willing to teach differently for each student.
Encourages practice as well as theoretical teachings
Welcomes questions and is willing to admit when they don’t know
Networks with other Pagans and groups, being able to refer you on when they are not proficient in the area of Paganism you are seeking to explore.
( © Brian M. Walsh 2002 as a brief to all students in Pagan and Magickal training.)
Just like Solitary witches Covens will have there own set of Ethics that are kept in the covens Book of Shadows, for example:
Most traditions adhere to more modern “Covenants of Sacred Law” –there are many variations, these are adapted from the Temple of Danann:
1. Love is the Law and Love is the Bond.
2. Honor, Love, and Trust are the Sacred Virtues of the wise, within the Circle and without.
3. Whatever action you take will return to you threefold.
4. An it harms none, live according to Will.
5. The wise shall revere each living thing, for all life is Sacred.
6. The wise shall give due reverence to the Old Ones and obey their Will.
7. The Wise shall observe the Sacred Days in Holy rite.
8. The Sacred Knowledge may not be revealed to the unworthy.
9. None may enter the Circle without purification, and then only with the sanction of the presiding Priestess and Priest.
10. All due respect shall be given to the Priest and Priestess who serve as representatives of the Old Ones.
11. As the Wise are to the Old ones, so shall be their Sacredness.
12. All are equal within and without the Circle according to ability and knowledge.
13. Judge not the path of Brother or Sister, for all paths are Sacred.
This is adapted from Spiritual Philosophy and Practice of Wicca in the US Military, by Dr. David L. Oringderff (Taniquetil) and Lt.Col. Ronald M. Schaefer, USAF (Astralaya)
Here is the Wiccan Code of Conduct they also have the Wiccan Rede which I shall share that as well.
WICCAN BASIC CODE OF CONDUCT
1) IF no one is harmed by your action (physically, emotionally, or spiritually) then do as you will to do in life, in accordance with your Higher Self. Seek your identity and your purpose.
2) WHEN someone does something good for you, then repay the kindness by doing something good for another person, so that the seed that was planted will bear fruit.
3) KEEP your word and your oaths, when you give them.
4) DO NOT kill anything except when food and protection are required.
5) ACKNOWLEDGE and give due reverence to your gods, observing all of the sacred times and festivals.
6) BELITTLE no one’s belief, but simply offer what it is you believe to be true.
7) STRIVE to live in peace with those who differ from you.
8) STRIVE to be aware of those around you and seek compassion within yourself.
9) BE true to your own understanding and strive to turn away from what is opposed within you.
10) HELP others according to their need and according to your ability to give of yourself.
11) RESPECT nature and strive to live in harmony with her.
Raven Grimassi, The Wiccan Mysteries
Wiccan Ethics And The Wiccan Rede
By: David Piper, Sat 21 May 94 12:16
Part I: What Sayeth The Rede?
The “archaically worded” construction “An it harm none, do what ye
will,” rendered into modern English is literally, “if it doesn’t harm
anyone, do what you want.”
Many modern Wiccans “reverse” the construction, however, taking the
first part and putting it after the second to read: “Do what ye will an
it harms none,” or in modern English “Do what you want if it doesn’t harm
Many people give the word “an” or “if” a value of “so long as” – which
is the acceptable substitution, because it doesn’t alter the meaning of the
Rede itself. However, they then proceed to read “so long as” as “only
if,” and that is *completely different* because the Rede has ceased to
be a “wise counsel” [anyone checked the meaning of “rede” in the
dictionary lately?] and become an injunction: prohibitive commandment,
rather than permissive advice.
In other words, the original archaic construction actually says “if it
is not going to hurt anyone, it is ok to do” – this is *not* the same as
“if it hurts anyone it is *not* ok to do.”
What is the significance of the change? A larger one than you might
see, at first glance.
The “actual construction Rede,” or AC Rede, says it is ok to do
something that won’t harm anyone, but it *does not say anything* about
those things which do cause harm, except to set an ethical standard of
harmlessness as the criteria to judge by.
The “modern reconstruction Rede” or MR Rede, explicitly says that any
and all actions that cause harm are forbidden.
The two constructions do *not* mean the same thing at all. And it
should be obvious that this has implications on our thinking, and
discussions of the possibility of “obeying” the Rede.
Most of you will have heard or read, as I have, people saying the Rede
is something to strive to live by, even though mundane reality makes it
very difficult, if not impossible, to do so to the letter. *This is
only true of the MR Rede, not the AC Rede!* As examples, they cite
situations such as self-defense; *this violates the MR Rede*. Period.
But it does *not* violate the AC Rede. Period.
Earlier, I stated that the AC Rede does not rule on actions that do
cause harm – and this is true. It only rules on those actions which do
not, by saying that they are acceptable. This is relevant to “victimless crimes” for example – civil “crimes” may, in fact, be “ethical,” by
the judgment of the AC Rede.
What the AC Rede *does* do, in terms of actions that cause harm, is
state an ethical value by which an individual must judge the results of
her/his actions before acting. In other words, by stating that a harmless action is ethical, the AC Rede sets harmlessness as the criteria for evaluation. Acting to prevent a greater harm – but in the process causing lesser harm – may then be ethical, if there is no
harmless, or more harmless, a method of preventing that greater harm –
because *not* acting to prevent harm is to *cause* it, by an act of
*omission* rather than *commission*.
In short, the difference between the AC Rede, and the MR Rede is that
the AC Rede is a perfectly-obeyable ethical standard, but the MR Rede is
not, as so many people have pointed out. Do we take as our ethical
standard a “counsel” which *can* be obeyed or one which *necessitates
rationalizing in some instances*? Which is truer to the Wicca, and to
the *real* Rede?
I thought this little tid bit og information is good food for thought on the Wiccan Rede.
THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC:
Getting Specific about Magical Ethics
Sometimes a cliche just wears out. It loses meaning or, worse, begins to
say things we never meant. I think it’s time to retire the phrase “black
Saying “black” when we mean “evil” is nasty nonsense. In the first place,
it reinforces the racist stereotypes that corrupt our society. And that’s not
all. Whenever we say “black” instead of “bad,” we repeat again the big lie that
darkness is wrong. It isn’t, as people who profess to love Nature should know.
Darkness can mean the inside of the womb, and the seed germinating within
the Earth, and the chaos that gives rise to all truly new beginnings. In our
myths, the one who goes down to the underworld returns with the treasure. Even
death, to the Wiccan understanding, is well-earned rest and comfort, and a
preparation for new birth. Using “black” to mean “bad” is a blasphemy against
But even if we no longer speak of magic as “black” or “white,” we still
need to think and speak about the ethics of magic. Although black is not evil,
some actions are evil. It simply is not true that anything a person is strong
enough or skilled enough to do is OK, nor should doing what we will ever be the
whole of the law for us. We need a clear and specific vocabulary that enables
us to choose wisely what we will do.
We need to replace the word “black,” not simply to drop it. Some Pagans
have tried using “negative” as their substitute, but that turned out to be
confusing. For some people, “negative” means any spell to diminish or banish
anything. Some things – tumors, depression, bigotry – are harmful. There’s
nothing wrong with a working to get rid of bad stuff. “Left-handed” is another
common term for wrongful practice, very traditional, but just as ignorant,
superstitious and potentially harmful as the phrase “black magic” itself. So in
Proteus we tried using the word “unethical.” That’s a lot better – free of
extraneous and false implications – but still too vague.
Gradually, I began to wonder whether using any one word, “black” or
“unethical” or whatever, might just be too general and too subjective. Perhaps
all I really tell a student that way is “Judy doesn’t like that.”
I won’t settle for blind obedience. If ethical principles are going to
survive the twin tests of time and temptation, people need to understand just
what to avoid, and why. Even more important, they need a basis for figuring out
what to do instead. Especially when it comes to projective magic.
Projective magic means active workings, the kind in which we project our
will out into the world to make some kind of change. This is what most people
think of when they use the word magic at all. Quite clearly, magic that may
affect other people is magic that can harm. This is the basis of the proverb “a
Witch who can’t hex can’t heal.” Either you can raise and direct power, or you
can’t. Your strength and skill can be used for blessing or for bane. The choice
– and the karma – are yours.
Just as some people feel that strength and skill are their own
justification, others feel that any projective magic is always wrong – that it
is a distraction from our one true goal of union with the Divine or a willful
avoidance of the judgements of Karma. I think these attitudes are equally
inconsistent with basic Wiccan philosophy.
We are taught that we will find the Lady within ourselves or not at all,
that the Mother of All has been with us from the beginning. We can’t now
establish a union that was always there. All we can do, all we need to do, is
become aware. Knowing what it feels like to heal and empower, again and again
till you can’t dismiss it as coincidence, is one of the most powerful methods
for awakening that awareness. It makes no sense to say that the direct
experience and exercise of our indwelling divinity distracts from the Great
Indeed, it is this intimate connection between our magic and our
self-realization that our ethics protect. Wrongful use of magic will choke the
channel. No short term gain could ever compensate for that.
The karmic argument against practical workings seems to me to arise from a
paranoid and defeatist world view. Even if we assume that the hardships in this
life were put there by the Gods for a reason, how can we be so sure that the
reason was punishment? Perhaps instead of penance to be endured, our
difficulties are challenges to be met. Coping and dealing with our problems,
learning magical and mundane skills, changing ourselves and our world for the
better – in short, growing up – is that not what the Gods of joy and freedom
want from us?
One of the most radically different things about a polytheistic belief
system is that each one of us has the right, and the need, to choose which
God/desses will be the focus of our worship. We make these choices knowing
that whatever energies we invoke most often in ritual will shape our own
further growth. Spiritual practices are a means of self-programming. So we are
responsible for what we worship in a way that people who take their One God as
a given are not.
Think about this: what kind of Power actively wants us to submit and
suffer, and objects when we develop skills to improve our own lives? Not a
Being I’d want to invite around too often!
So it will not work for us to rule out projective magic completely; nor
should we. Total prohibitions are as thoughtless as total permissiveness or
blind obedience. Ethical and spiritual adults ought to be able to make
distinctions and well-reasoned choices. I offer here a start toward analysing
what kinds of magic are not ethical for us.
Baneful magic is magic done for the explicit purpose of causing harm to
another person. Usually the reason for it is revenge, and the rationalization
is justice. People who defend the practice of baneful magic often ask “but
wouldn’t you join in cursing another Hitler?”
For adults there is no rule without exceptions. If you think you would
never torture somebody, consider this scenario: in just half an hour the bomb
will go off, killing everybody in the city, and this terrorist knows where it
It’s a bad mistake to base your ethics on wildly unlikely cases, since
none of us honestly knows how we would react in that kind of extreme.
Reasonable ethical statements are statements about the behaviors we expect of
ourselves under normally predictable circumstances.
We all get really angry on occasion, and sometimes with good cause. Then
revenge can seem like no more than simple justice. The anger is a normal,
healthy human reaction, and should not be repressed. But there’s no more need
to act it out in magic than in physical violence. Instead of going for revenge
– and invoking the karmic consequences of baneful magic – identify what you
really need. For example, if your anger comes from a feeling that you have
been attacked or violated, what you need is protection and safe space. Work
for the positive goal, it’s both more effective and safer.
The consequences of baneful magic are simply the logical, natural and
inevitable psychological effects. Even in that rare and extreme situation when
you may decide you really do have to use magic to give Hitler a heart attack,
it means you are choosing by the same choice to accept the act’s karma. Magical
attack hurts the attacker first.
The only way I know how to do magic is by use of my imagination, by
visualizing or otherwise actively imagining the end I want, and then projecting
that goal with the energy of emotional/physiological arousal. All the
techniques I know either help me to imagine more specifically or to project
more strongly. So the only way I can send out harm is by first experiencing
that harm within my own imagination. Instant and absolute karma – the natural,
logical and inevitable outcomes of our own choices.
I would think, also, that somebody dumb enough to do such workings often
would soon lose the ability to imagine specifically, as their sensitivity
dulled in sheer self-defense. That callusing effect is the reality behind the
pious proverb that says “if you abuse it, She’ll take it away.”
But not every other magician is ethical. Psychic attacks do happen. Should
we not defend ourselves? Of course we should. Leaving ourselves open to psychic
attack is no good example of the autonomy and assertiveness our chosen Gods
expect. But first, how can we be sure what we are experiencing really is
The fantasy of psychic attack is often a convenient excuse that allows us
to avoid looking at our own shortcomings. When lack of rest or improper
nutrition is the cause of illness, or a project isn’t completed on time because
of distraction, it’s a real temptation to put the blame outside ourselves.
Doing this too easily betrays our autonomy just as badly as meek submission to
attack does. Then, to compound matters, projected blame becomes an excuse for
unjust revenge — and that is baneful magic without excuse.
Once in a rare while, some fool really does try to throw a whammy. It’s
hard to predict when you might be targeted. Passive shields are always a good
idea. Like a mirror, these are totally inactive until somebody sends unwelcome
energy. Then a shield will protect you completely and bounce back whatever is
being thrown. You may not even know consciously when your shield is working,
but the result is perfect justice.
Perfect justice; elegant and efficient. You won’t hurt anybody out of
paranoia or by mistake. And perfect protection, even though we do not have
Bindings, according to some, are completely defensive. They do not harm,
only restrain. But imagine yourself being bound – perhaps by someone who
believes themselves justified – and notice the feeling of impotence and
frustration. Binding is bane from the viewpoint of the bound.
Even if restraint were truly not harm, bindings are just plain poor
protection. They target a particular person or group. What if you suspect the
wrong person? Somebody harmless is bound and your actual attacker is not bound.
Shields, which cover you, not your supposed enemy, will cover you against
any enemy, known or unknown.
So, baneful magic, besides being painful in the short run and crippling in
the long run, is never necessary. There are better ways of self protection,
and retribution is the business of the Gods.
Coercive magic is magic that targets another person to make them give us
something we want or need. When most people think of the “Magic Power of
Witchcraft,” this is what they have in mind.
The spell to make the teacher give you a good grade, or the supervisor
give you a good evaluation, the spell to make the personnel officer or renting
agent choose you, the spell to attract that cute guy, all are examples of
So, what’s wrong with high grades, a good job, a raise, a nice apartment
and a sexy lover? There’s nothing at all wrong with those goals. An it harm
none, do what ye will. As long as nobody is hurt, go for it! But don’t strive
toward good ends by coercive means.
Although there is no deliberate intent to do harm or cause pain in
coercive workings, other people are treated as pawns. Their autonomy and their
interests are ignored.
For Pagans, to do this is total hypocrisy. We profess to follow a religion
of immanence, one that places ultimate meaning and value in this life on this
Earth, here and now. We claim to see every living thing, humans included, as a
sacred manifestation. To do honor to this indwelling divinity, we place great
value on our own personal autonomy. How can we then justify treating other
people as objects for our use?
Nor is it harmless. Forcing the will, controlling the independent
judgement of another human being, is harm. Once again, empathy leads to
understanding. Just imagine you are the person whose will and judgement is
being externally controlled. How does puppethood feel? From the viewpoint of
the target, the harm is palpable.
The Pagan and Wiccan community as a whole is also hurt by coercive magic.
One of the main reasons people fear and hate Witches is our reputation for
controlling others. This is an old, dirty lie, created by the invading religion
in an attempt to discredit the indigenous competition. Today, that reputation
is mostly perpetuated by people who claim to be “our own,” who teach unethical
coercive magic by mail order to strangers whose ethical sensitivity cannot be
evaluated long distance. May the Gods preserve the Craft!
People who are connected to the situation, but invisible to us, may also
be seriously hurt: the cute guy’s fiancee, the other applicant for that job.
What you think of as a working designed only to bring good to yourself can
bring serious harm to innocent third parties, and the karma of their pain will
be on you.
That isn’t the only way an incomplete view of the situation can backfire.
There’s a traditional saying that goes, “be careful about what you ask for,
because that’s exactly what you will get.” What if he is gorgeous, but abusive?
What if the apartment house is structurally unsound? Better to state your
legitimate needs (love in my life, a nice place to live) and let the Gods deal
with the details.
Finally, remember this: asking specifically limits us to what we now know
or what we can now imagine. But I remember a time when I could not have
imagined being a priestess. What if the cute guy in the office is perfectly OK,
but your absolutely perfect soul-mate will be in the A+P next Wednesday? The
more specifically targeted your magic is, the more you limit yourself to a life
of tautology and missed chances.
And beyond all the scenario spinning lies the instant karma, the natural,
logical and inevitable consequence of the act. It’s more subtle than in the
case of baneful magic, since you are not trying to imagine and project pain,
but the damage is still real.
Every time you treat another human being as a thing to be pushed and
pulled around for your convenience and pleasure, you are reinforcing your own
alienation. The attitude of being removed from and superior to other people
takes you out of community. As the attitude strengthens, so will the behavior
it engenders. The long term result of coercive magic, as with mundane forms of
coercion, is isolation and loneliness.
Are you beginning to think that magic is useless? Did I just rule out all
the good stuff: love charms, job magic, spells for good grades? Not at all. It
is not only ethical but good for you to do lots of magic to improve your own
life. Whenever it works you will get more than you asked for – because along
with whatever you asked for comes one more experience of your own
effectiveness, your power-from-within.
Work on yourself and your own needs and desires without targeting other
people. Then feel free! Ask for what you want. Visualize it and raise power for
it and act in accordance on the material plane. “I need a caring and horny
lover with a good sense of humor.” “I want an affordable apartment near where
my coven meets with a tree outside my window.” “I need to be at my best when I
take that exam next week.” Fulfill your dreams, and sometimes let the Gods
surprise you with gifts beyond your dreams.
Manipulative magic is magic that targets another person for what we think
is “their own good,” without regard for their opinions in the matter. In the
general culture around us, this is normal. As you read this, you may have some
friend or relative praying for you to be “saved” from your evil Pagan ways and
returned to the fold of their preference. These people mean you well. By their
own lights, they are attempting to heal you. We work from a very different
As polytheists, we affirm the diversity of the divine and the divinity of
diversity. If there is no one, true, right and only way in general, do we dare
to assume that there is one obvious right choice for a person in any given
situation? If more than one choice may be “right,” how can one person presume
they know what another person would want without asking them first?
No life situation ever looks the same from outside as it does to the
person who is experiencing it. Are you sure you even have all the facts? Are
you fully aware of all the emotional entanglements involved? Perhaps that
illness is the only way they have of getting rest or getting attention. Perhaps
they stay in that dead end job because it leaves them more energy to
concentrate on their music. How do you know till you ask?
And, to further complicate the analysis, it’s possible that the person you
are trying to help would agree with you about the most desirable outcome, but
fears and hates the very idea of magic. They have as much of a right to keep
magic out of their own life, as you have to make it part of yours!
Our religion teaches that the sacred lives within each person, that we can
hear the Lady’s voice for ourselves if we only learn to listen. “… If that
which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.”
In behavioral terms, when you take another person’s opinion about their own
life seriously, you are reinforcing them in thinking and choosing for
themselves. The more you do this, the more you encourage them to listen for the
sacred inner voice.
Conversely, whenever you ignore or override a person’s feelings about
their own life, you are discounting those feelings and discouraging the kind of
internal attention that can keep the channels to wisdom open. Although
well-intentioned meddling may actually help somebody in the short run, in the
longer run it trains them to dependency and indecision. Few intentional banes
damage as severely. This is especially true because even the untrained and
unaware will instinctively resist overt ill-will, but in our culture we are
trained to receive “expert” interference with gratitude.
Check by asking yourself, “who’s in charge here?” The answer to that will
tell you whether you are basically empowering or undermining the person you
intend to help.
And, as usual, the effects go both ways. The same uninvited intervention
that fosters passivity in the recipient will foster arrogance in the “rescuer.”
It’s control and ego-inflation masked as generosity. It’s very seductive.
If you make this a habit, you will come to believe that other people are
incompetent and powerless. Then what happens when you need help? Your contempt
will make it impossible for you to see what resources surround you.
Manipulative magic is ultimately just as alienating as coercive magic – and
it’s a much prettier trap!
The way to avoid the trap is to do no working affecting another person
without that person’s explicit permission. Proteans are pledged to this, and I
think it’s a good idea for anybody.
You don’t need to wait passively for the person to ask. It’s perfectly all
right to offer, as long as you are willing to sometimes accept “no” for your
answer. For the person who believes s/he is unworthy or who is simply too shy,
offering help is itself a gift. Taking their opinion seriously is an even
greater gift: respect.
The rule is that whenever it is in any way physically possible to ask, you
must ask. If it’s not important enough to pay long distance charges, it
certainly isn’t important enough to violate a friend’s autonomy. If asking is
literally not possible, then and only then, here are a few exceptions:
Sometimes an illness or injury happens very suddenly, and the person is
unconscious or in a coma before you could possibly ask them. If you know that
this person is generally comfortable with magic, you may do workings to keep
their basic body systems working and allow the normal healing process the time
it needs. If they are opposed to magic, for whatever reason, back off!
Traditionally, an unconscious person is understood to be temporarily out
of their body. Maintaining their body in habitable condition is preserving
their option, not choosing for them. Doing maintenance magic requires a lot of
sensitivity. At some point, the time may come when you should stop and let the
person go on. Be sure to use some kind of divination to help you stay aware.
This is a hard road. It may be your lover, your child, lying there
helpless. Any normal human being would be tempted to drag them back, to force
them to stay regardless of what is truly best for them, regardless of what they
want. Don’t repress these feelings, they do no harm, even though your actions
might. It takes great strength and non-possessive love to recognize that your
loved one knows their own need. You may be calling them back to a crippled
body, to a life of pain. You may be calling them back from the ecstasy of the
Goddess. And this is no more your right than it would be to murder them.
If a person is temporarily not reachable, you may charge up a physical
object, such as an appropriate talisman or some incense. When you present it
to them, give them a full explanation. It is their choice whether to keep or
use your gift. By interposing an object between the magic and the target in
this way, you can work the magic in Circle, with the coven’s power to draw on,
and still get the person’s permission before the magic is triggered.
With all these rules about permission, perhaps it would be safer to work
only on ourselves? Safer, yes, but not nearly as good. If you have permission,
you may do any working for another person that you might do for yourself.
Coercive magic is just as unacceptable when somebody else asks for it, and you
may not do manipulative magic on your friend’s mother, even at your friend’s
request. The permission must come from the magic’s intended target and from
nobody else. With proper permission, working magic for others is good for all
Every act of magic has two effects. One is the direct effect, the healing
or prosperity working or whatever was intended. The other is a minute change in
the mind and the heart of the person who does the working. Everything we
experience, and especially everything that we do in a wholehearted and focused
way – the only way effective magic can be done – changes us. Each experience
leaves its tiny trace, but the traces are cumulative. They mold the person we
will become. Our karma is our choice.
Instant karma can also be good karma. Logical, natural and inevitable
outcomes can be desirable. When you send out good, what you send it with is
love. Love is the driving force. When you let love flow freely, the channel
down to love’s wellspring stays clear and open. When you send out good, you
direct it along the web of person-to-person connection, and awareness of that
web is reinforced. The totality of that web is the basis of community.
When you send out good it feels good. In the same way that sending out
bane requires imagining pain, sending out blessing requires imagining pleasure,
strongly and specifically. And, when you send out good, just the same as when
you call it to yourself, you reinforce your sense of effectiveness in the
world. Blessings grow in the fertile ground of mutuality, to the benefit of
A pattern is becoming visible. In baneful magic, the magician intends to
harm the target. In coercive magic, the intent toward the target is neutral. In
manipulative magic, the magician actually means the target well. But no matter
how different the intent may be, in all three cases magic is done to affect
another person without that person’s permission. In all three cases, the
target, the practitioner and ultimately the community are all hurt. And in all
three cases, there are safer and more effective ways to reach the valid goals
that we mean to aim for.
So, perhaps there is a descriptive word that covers all wrongful magical
workings after all. How about “non-consensual” or “invasive” magic?
There’s one thing left to examine: the paradox of making rules to protect
If we make some of our choices as a community, by discussing things
together and arriving at a common understanding about what magical behaviors
are acceptable among us, then we choose and shape the kind of community we
Or we could give up our right to choose, because we feel we shouldn’t tell
each other what to do. Some people believe that a refusal to set community
standards promotes personal autonomy. It never has before.
Appeals to individual rights can be real seductive. None of us wants Big
Brother looking over our shoulders, telling us what to do “for our own good.”
For Witches in particular – members of a religious minority with bad image
problems – this is a very legitimate fear. But make sure when somebody talks
about “rights” without specifying something like “religious practice rights” or
“the right to consensual sex,” that you find out just what “rights” they mean.
Rhetoric about “rugged individualism” has been used in recent history to
fast talk us into letting the rich or strong dominate all our lives. Without
anything to stop them, they can destroy the forestland, or deny jobs or
apartments to “cultists.” Personal autonomy for most of us is diminished when
we allow that.
Magic can be used for dominance, just the same as muscle or money. There
is no difference, ethically, between the magical and the mundane. We are not
obligated to tolerate power trippers among us. We are not obligated to run our
own community by the slogans and groundrules of the dominator culture.
Thinking about “rights,” or about “laws” for that matter, in the abstract
leads to “all or nothing” thinking – immature and slogan driven. I don’t think
we should ever “just say” anything. We need a deeper and more mature analysis.
We need to ask questions like “right to do what?” and “law against what?” We
need to get away from absolutes and to look in practical terms at the
advantages or disadvantages of our choices.
Once more, our religion itself shows us the way to steer between the false
choices. “An it harm none, do what you will.” What a person does that affects
only herself – magical or mundane – is truly nobody’s business but her own. For
example, consensual sexual behavior affects only the participants. But toxic
waste dumping affects everybody in the watershed.
As long as we look at behavior in terms of private choices or individual
will, we obscure the distinction that really makes a difference. If we’re
serious about wanting to give each of us the most possible control over our own
lives, then decisions should be made by all the people affected by the behavior
– not just by the people acting.
As soon as another person is magically targeted, that other person is
affected. If we allow such targeting without consent, we are not supporting
personal autonomy, we are subverting it!
When the behavior begins to affect us all – for example when real estate
development threatens the salt marshes, and ultimately the air supply – or,
very specifically, when invasive magic erodes the trust we need to work
together – then we have a right to protect ourselves as a community. No
ideology should turn us into passive victims when something we hold precious
stands to be destroyed.
Invasive magic hurts the target first, and soon the actor, but in the long
run it hurts all of us. It’s been so long since we’ve been able to meet
together, share our knowledge, help one another in need. Pagan community is
very new, and still very fragile. It can only grow in safe space.
The People of this Land forbade skirmishes around the pipestone quarries,
keeping that sacred source open to all. Otherwise, no sane person would go
there, and the Old Ways would wither. For much the same reason, we cannot
tolerate poppets in our council meetings.
An atmosphere of coercion and manipulation and magical duels does not
nurture community. Eventually, for self protection, the gentle will either
change or go away. We could lose what we have misguidedly refused to protect.
As within, so without: our karma is our choice.
My Top 3 Rules For Pagan Living
by Deborah Blake, Dallas Jennifer Cobb, & Susan Pesznecker
One of the great things about being a witch is that there aren’t a lot of rules. Most Pagans tend to be free spirits who choose this path because they don’t like being told what to do or how to think.
On the other hand, my experience over the last thirteen years or so, since I set my own feet on the Pagan path, is that most folks-whether they call themselves Wiccans, witches, or Pagans-tend to share a few major beliefs. You might even go so far as to call them Pagan rules.
Okay. Don’t everyone start yelling at me at once. You’ll scare the cats, for goddess’ sake. I’m not saying that every Pagan believes in or follows these rules. I have yet to find anything that every single witch I know agrees on. Nor am I telling you that you have to follow these rules. Each witch must decide for him- or herself which
of these beliefs resonates as “truth.”
However, if you are dedicated to living your life the Pagan way, it is a good idea to know what your peers consider the rules to be. And it never hurts to have an answer when some nonPagan asks you, “What do witches believe in, anyway?”
The Wiccan Rede: An It Harm None, Do As Ye will
Whether a witch considers herself to be a Wiccan (and many do not), most witches follow the Harm None rule. Simply put, it states that you may do whatever you wish, so long as, in doing it, you are not harming anyone.
Of course, you will find that it is not so simple after all if you look at this rule more closely. For one thing, there is no way to predict which actions might eventually lead to harm, although sometimes it is obvious. If you purposely run over someone’s foot with your car, for instance, that will most assuredly harm them. But what if you refuse to give your friend a ride when they ask for one, and they get in an accident in the taxi on the way home? Did you cause harm?
No, that one is not your fault. The difference here is in your intention. The law of Harm None (to my mind, at least) is about not causing intentional harm either to yourself or to others. Oh, yes, it applies to your actions toward yourself, too. (Put the potato chips down.)
This rule is even more important when you are talking about the use of magick. As witches, we know that we can use the power of magick to affect the world around us. Hopefully, we use that power to create positive change in our lives.
For me, Harm None is the most important rule of all, and it leads directly to the other two. While I realize that many people find it acceptable to use the powers of magick to harm others, especially those whom they believe “deserve it,” I have to disagree. I am not so wise or so all-seeing that I can be certain of who does or doesn’t deserve to be punished for their misdeeds. I am happy to leave such weighty choices up to the gods, and trust in the second rule-the Law of Returns-to take care of such things for me.
The Law of Returns
The Law of Returns is fairly simple: what you put out into the world is what you will get back. This belief isn’t limited to Pagans, either. Some witches go so far as to call it the Threefold Law and believe that everything comes back to us times three. So if you donate money to a good cause, you might get a winning lotto ticket. Kick an old homeless guy-well, watch out!
I don’t worry too much about whether what I put out into the universe comes back to me once or three times. I do try to be careful to put out positive thoughts, words, and actions, however, and I avoid negative ones. You can see how this ties in to the rule to harm none. If you walk around harming others, that harm is likely to come back to you in one form or another. This is why I don’t believe in using magick in any negative fashion (aside from that fact that it just isn’t nice).
I often use this rule as an example when I explain to nonPagans why there is no such thing as the wicked witch. “After all,” I say, “if you magickally give someone warts, you are likely to end up getting hives in rude places. What self-respecting witch would risk that?”
In real life, following the Law of Returns is as simple as obeying the rule of Harm None. It can be hard to predict the exact results of your actions. And since witches believe that words and thoughts have power, the Law of Returns means that it is important to watch everything you say and think, in addition to what you actually do.
Impossible? Well, yes, it is. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our best. I have found that since I started to pay more attention to what I said out loud and what I thought to myself (for example: “I hate him” or “Man, that was stupid of me”), I have been much more aware of my own negativity and more apt to replace those negative thoughts and words with more positive ones. Have I seen a difference in what the universe gives back to me? You bet I have.
Which leads me to my third rule: Take Personal Responsibility.
Take Personal Responsibility
Witchcraft is a spiritual path of personal responsibility. We tend to believe that each person is responsible for his or her own actions, unlike some religions that blame the devil, or some sort of human predisposition toward sin, for a person’s actions. It involves personal choice to deliberately harm another. And if you put negativity out into the universe and get crap back, that is your responsibility, too.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean that we somehow did something to deserve every bad thing that happens to us. Bad things really do happen to good people. Sometimes there is a lesson to learn. Sometimes it may be part of a bigger plan that we human beings can’t see. And let’s face it, sometimes crap just happens. That’s life.
On the other hand, many of life’s ups and downs can be traced back to us. We choose how to respond to each situation. Choice is the important word here. This is where we get back to personal responsibility. You can’t control everything that happens to you. But you can chose whether or not to respond positively and productively (like actively searching for a job once you’ve lost yours, and crafting some powerful prosperity magick to boost your chances of finding a new one) or negatively and unproductively (sitting in the corner, drinking and cursing out your significant other, your ex-boss, and whoever is in charge of the country at the time).
Why These Rules Are Important
I said at the beginning of this article that one of the great things about being a witch was that there weren’t a lot of rules. But another aspect of Paganism that I love is that the rules we do have add up to one important concept: we have control over our own lives.
If you think about it, all three of these rules-Harm None, the Law of Returns, and Personal Responsibility-all mean that we can make a positive difference in our own lives, in the lives of others, and in the world around us. To me, that’s what being a witch is all about.
Hopefully these articles I pulled help me convey why Ethics is an important part of any path and how it can actually help change the perspective to others who ahve negativily sterotyped us for hundreds of years.
Blessed Be )0(