Daily Archives: December 4, 2011

What Do You Do When The You-Know-What Hits The Fan?

What Do You Do When The You-Know-What Hits The Fan?

Author: Dove

Well…I wish I knew the answer to that one. I’m an expert in needing to know the answer because lately, I really have been asking the question.

About a year ago I found out that my best friend had developed breast cancer. Not the kind where we take a little tumor out and you go home and all is well. No the kind where we give you chemo from hell and then cut you breast off and then burn up your skin with radiation leaving you with an opening in your chest which has not healed yet! This was the major train wreck of cancer with spots on the skull and spine now! The “let’s do some more testing and see” kind of cancer. The BIG one. The kind that only the very best in medical treatment and the hand of the Goddess can save you from.

At the time that we found out about the cancer I was working at a good job bringing in a nice paycheck. I was a trained professional working in a field that after many years of study I was finely comfortable in. I felt that I was an important part of the corporate structure and was really doing really good work for my employer. I had the world by the tail. I was the “go to person” in my department and knew all the answers. Man, was I dumb.

I wanted to do all I could for my best friend and spend as much time with her as I could but I couldn’t see how I could be of much help with my busy work schedule. I was the big important working woman with clients who needed me.

I asked the Goddess to help me with this problem. Well…the Goddess answered me in a way that rattled me to my core. My boss named one of our own to the job of “Office Manager” a title of far reaching power, earning much respect. One of the first things my new office god did was fire me.

Well…I was devastated!!!! I have been in the work force for over thirty years and have never missed a paycheck! I lived to be over fifty years old and now I’m fired!!! I cried and I have to admit that I thought about doing bad magic on my dear old work mate. Really bad!!! I didn’t. I know that some of you think I’m a wimp and I probably am but I just couldn’t waste any more energy on that job or the people I was working with. Then what was the Goddess thinking? I am the major “bread winner” for this family. How were we going to live on just my husband’s payday?

Then, my husband who was working at a job that we knew was shaky at best got fired the very next week! He has a medical condition which makes a lot of jobs something he just can’t do. We were lucky when he found the job he had and that he was able to stay there for over seven years. He was able to keep his medical insurance so that the two recent medical disasters he has been through didn’t send us into bankruptcy. That was a total blessing but man we were in a fix!

Thanks to the economy being down the tubes we went on unemployment and that with my cashed out 401K has gotten us through so far. Don’t get me wrong I am looking for a job and would love to go to work today! I started looking for employment the very day I was fired but haven’t had any luck. I know that you hear that the unemployed are just setting at home eating bon-bons but I want to work and am doing everything I can to get a job. I’m even starting back to college this fall in order to upgrade my skills for a better chance of employment.

Well… back to my best friend. Because of my sudden lack of employment guess who was able to go with her for her chemo treatments….stay with her during surgery…..go over to her house to pack her open chest wound twice a day. Me! Talk about the Goddess taking care of a situation! I guess you could even look to “the book” and reference the tale of the corner stone being the one the others threw away. I was so happy to be there for her!!! I know that I am not a trained health care professional but I was there and am still there when she needs me. I hope that the fact that she could and did call me at anytime and I’d be right there helped her get through this horror.

Well…. like I said I could really use the answer to the question. I am still not employed and still looking for a job but I have gotten over the “corporate ego” thing and hopefully will never have that sickness again. The time I spent with my buddy packing a gaping chest hole has caused me to think that I could do that for others, so, I have applied for nursing school at the local community college. I know that I am older that dirt but I still have some good years left in me and I’m not the kind of gal to call it quits just because I reach retirement age.

My best friend is getting better and our hope is that we have her with us for a very long time. She still has an open chest wound that the doctor just put a wound-vac on. That and daily visits to a hyperbolic chamber will hopefully clear up that part of her problem. The doctors will still be looking after her for a long time and I will too. The Goddess was no doubt listening in on my thoughts when this whole thing started and fixed it so that I could help my friend and like I said, teach me a lesson that I needed too.

And about the sh*t…Well…The best thing I can think of to do is dig a hole and plant roses. When the roses bloom I will give some to my husband who I love and cherish even through he is not in the best of health and not working, my best friend to brighten up her day and I will keep some for me. After all of this I deserve them.

P.S. I’ll dig more holes so that I’ll be ready for the next time the you- know-what hits the fan.

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So Your Magic Has Failed You

So Your Magic Has Failed You

Author: Iritar

So you find yourself in a position where things did not turn out as you had hoped. You’ve lost your house, your spouse, and your sanity to whatever situations have occurred in your life. Your spells and energy work seemed to have failed.

Hope has always been recognized as a great virtue that you can have to endure travesty. Faith is in essence a measure of your capacity to Hope. Faith is the belief in what is not seen.

But with magic, hope is different. Hope can be self-defeating because it indicates that you expect the best, but acknowledge the possibility that something could go wrong.

Knowing is what is needed when performing magic. You must “know” that the magic will work. Knowing is greater measure of faith because it doesn’t acknowledge the possibility of failure.

If you do not know that your magic will work and your hope fails you, do now allow yourself to be discouraged. We learn more from our failures than our successes.

KNOW THAT YOUR MAGIC WILL WORK AND IT WILL!

The first key is to overcoming this defeat is to identify what caused the failure. Did you half heartily go through the motions of your ritual or spell? Did you charge your herbs, anoint your candles or focus your intent and desires into your spell components? When you performed your incantations, did you do it from a disposition of weakness or with empowerment? Were you feeling healthy and able to clearly visualize the energy within and around you? Did you use proper protection by casting a circle or call the corners for divine aid? Did your spell work infringe upon another person’s free will or did you request a dramatic change that would have disrupted the natural order of the Universe?

Sometimes, our intent and desires can be lofty. For instance, I’ve seen circles gather and collaborate with their groves and all pagans independent or not to unite and cast spells for world peace. Truly, this is a noble endeavor, but if world peace were to actually be achieved, this would upset the natural order of things because we would eliminate many obstacles for millions, if not billions of people that would otherwise serve as life lessons to help them to grow spiritual and emotionally. It is our struggles that make us strong. Nevertheless, continue to seek this World Peace because I believe that when the time is ready, this can be achieved when we stop looking at our differences as the human race and focus on what we have in common. Perhaps I’m a dreamer, but I know that this is all happening for a reason that will build to a world scale boost in enlightenment.

The next step is to identify what elements in your life may be hindering your personal power and your ability to connect to divinity or Spirit. Were you ill or exhausted during this time? Were you facing emotional distress that served as a distraction?

All is not lost however. As pagans, we can go beyond ourselves to find the magical aid we need to break through these barriers. We have an arsenal of tools and resources at our disposal. One merely has to walk into a natural area and natural tools to help aid your work will surround you.

For instance, you can grab a stick lying on the ground from an oak or ash tree that can serve as a wand. In desperate times of need, you can bypass the prompt and circumstance of dedicating this tool as a wand. Simply request that nature itself imbue this plain stick into a wand to focus and direct your personal energy. There are herbs that can also help you increase your awareness, heal your body and aid your purposes.

Get back to the basics. Look to herbalism for the answers. Nature gives each and every herb and mineral a natural vibration that can be used for specific purposes.

If you are suffering from ill luck, you can gather or purchase a Buck Eye and carry it with you. You can take a magnet and wrap a $1 bill around it with some rice and sesame seeds and place them in a plastic baggie and carry it on you as a makeshift sachet.

You can use plain salt or preferably sea salt and use this in a bath for purification and cleansing. I can remember having only a shower at one time and I would pour plain table salt on the top of my head before washing my hair and asking the Goddess to cleanse negativity from me and to protect me. The water from the shower would carry the salt all the way down my body and cleanse my energy as it went.

Red clover gather on the roadside in many areas can serve as a protective herb or draw fortune your way. Finding some honeysuckle and hanging it around your home serves to draw protection and healing to your home. A branch of green pine hung over your bed can drive away sickness and illness.

Arm yourself with what nature itself has provided us. I always recommend Italian Seasoning to those in a pinch to make sachets with it because it contains Rosemary, Thyme, Basil and other herbs with natural protective properties.

Break through the barriers that are holding back your magical power. Do an assessment of yourself to determine if your intentions are noble and abide by the natural order of things.

Continue to study, speak with your elders and if need be ask them to aid you in your work. Stop this notion that this is your fate or destiny and that things are out of your control. Magic is the stuff of creation and you can manifest real change within your life.

Take walks in nature, even local parks and feel the life teaming around you. Feel the wind on your face and understand the sheer power of our Mother as she caresses us with her bountiful kisses. Listen to the singing and harmony of the birds as they speak with one another and soar through the trees. Feel the life coming from the elder trees and the new saplings as they work towards making their place within the world. See the natural balance of harmony that exists within nature and allow all your doubts and worries fall away and negate themselves within the bosom of the Earth, just as the power of lightning is negated and canceled out by the ground, so shall your worries and doubts.

Everything has its time and in time, these setbacks will be behind you and you will gain lessons and insights into your own spirituality and truly discover yourself. Do not be discouraged. Stand strong!

Most importantly, stop thinking, believing, and hoping that your magic will work. KNOW IT!

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Applying The Law Of One In Wicca

Applying The Law Of One In Wicca

Author: Aidan Odinson

The Law Of One, especially as taught by the Universal Gnostic Fellowship, presents resolution and conflict, simplicity and complexity, as well as freedom and repression. In each pair presented in the previous sentence, the former is the result of the Law of One’s basic nature, while the latter is the reaction of some mortals to its lessons.*

Let us begin with the first sentence of The Law Of One and these conflicts become clearer.

“There is One Intelligence in the Universe which expresses itself as everything, and everything in the Universe is an expression of this One Intelligence.”

So many people would want to see this sentence as applying to their own spiritual path, and only to their own spiritual path. While it might not be quite correct to say that such a supposition cannot be true, logic and our own nature tell us that such a statement applying to only one spiritual path would be so difficult that it might as well be considered impossible.

As Wiccans, we have an advantage, since most of us are quite comfortable acknowledging and respecting other paths. But, it helps to understand why such mutual respect is such a necessity. To begin with, we need to understand our own limitations, and compare them to The Divine’s own lack of limitations. Many theologians, priests and preachers refer to The Divine as infinite, and for our experience, infinity is an appropriate description of The Divine.

And if The Divine is infinite, how little do we actually know of The Divine? Perhaps one small part of infinite parts of one corner when there are infinite corners! And do we dare claim that The Divine is limited to that, which is encompassed by our own limited grasp?

I can only imagine what it would be like to suddenly have a glimpse of the fullness of The Divine. My guess is that the experience would be somewhat similar to what some people might have experienced in what was once called a “bad trip” on LSD. People like you and me simply cannot deal with the infinite, especially if it reveals itself to us all at once.

And here is where I find myself forced to take issue not only with atheists and agnostics, but also with many of those who claim to be followers of a deity.

It is difficult enough to deal with people who look upon religious beliefs as superstition and/or mental illness. Over the last few decades, even major leaders of mainstream denominations have been known to cast doubt upon that which had been considered to be basic teachings of the faith which they claim to be part of. As one common and current example, if a god, goddess, or some other deity chooses to cause a virgin to have a child, who am I to cast doubt upon that, whether or not it happens to be part of the path which I follow? If The Divine is infinite, who is any of us to proclaim a limit on what The Divine can or cannot do?

This does not prohibit us from choosing or adhering to some particular spiritual tradition, nor does it require us to avoid them or attempt to homogenize them. Spiritual traditions and denominations exist for a number of valid reasons, not the least of which is the legitimate attempt to describe and explain The Divine in terms that we mortals can understand. And, if one is going to embrace a particular tradition, it needs to be embraced fully and followed. Problems come with the “cafeteria” approach popular in certain quarters by which some who claim to be followers of a particular tradition pick and choose which aspects they will and will not include in their lives, as if it were possible to have Easter without Lent or Hanukkah without Yom Kippur.

Another serious problem occurs when people slander spiritual paths which are not their own. It is perfectly legitimate to compare and contrast, and I feel there is nothing wrong if I state why a particular spiritual path does not suit my needs. I also have no problem with legitimate criticism, and I doubt that The Divine would have a problem with legitimate criticism, either. I do believe, however, that one crosses a dangerous line when someone condemns a spiritual path as being “of ‘the devil’” or any equivalent condemnation.

Even the narrowest interpretation of Christian scripture expresses this point. I often use Christian scripture to demonstrate a point, because it is the one body of literature that will cause some Christians to pay attention. I will often follow that with some of their scripture that did not get included in their Bible to show them what they missed. The point of The Law Of One is a perfect example of an opportunity to make such a wake-up call to certain folks.

In the 12th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew beginning at the 24th verse, some Pharisees accused Jesus of using the devil to cast out devils from people, and Jesus points out the logical failure of such an accusation by saying that saying, which we have all heard, that a house divided against itself cannot stand. However, he goes on to say that the time is coming in which all sins and blasphemies will be forgiven except one, and that being blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. This is probably the most powerful promise and warning in all of Christian scripture. And it leads me to the conclusion that I may freely compare, contrast and even criticize the practices of another spiritual path or its members or leaders, but it is not my business to condemn it.

We can see another promise offered by The Law of One in the Gospel of Thomas, one of the gospels excluded from the canonical Bible used by most Christians. In the 48th chapter, Jesus says “If two make peace with each other in this one house, they will say to the mountain ‘Move away, ‘ and it will move away.” I am currently hosting a weekly podcast titled “The Secrets In Plain Sight”, and I cannot help but wonder if the Law of One in light of this promise, is one of the greatest, most powerful secrets which are hiding in plain sight for us to discover and harness. Could it be that when we can recognize our differences and keep them in their proper place so that we can work together, that will be when the greatest accomplishments come to be?

In the 113th chapter of the Gospel of Thomas, the disciples ask Jesus when the Kingdom is coming, and he replies by saying that it is spread out upon the earth, and people do not see it. This is not so different from a story in three of the canonical gospels about the “rich young ruler” who asked what he needed to do in order to inherit eternal life. After discussion about what he had already been doing, Jesus tells him to give all he has to the poor and follow him. And how many times have people been told to give all they have to the poor because of this story?

It seems to me that the so-called “rich young ruler” did not know what he already had, which is why Jesus felt the need to prescribe an extreme measure which would be disruptive and destructive if applied to all of society. It might not have even been an extreme prescription, but perhaps a wisecrack aimed at someone who needed to get a clue. Many do indeed miss the real point of that story. The story’s real point is that it is not necessary to wait anxiously for something that we already have.

And through the Law of One, we have the opportunity to make it all the more apparent.



Footnotes:
* If you wish to see The Law Of One in its full text, see a more full development of its principles at http://gnosticfellowship.com/one.htmlhttp://gnosticfellowship.com/one.html.

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Living Without A Golden Rule

Living Without A Golden Rule

Author: Jon Hanna

“The Rede is similar to the Golden Rule, a belief that is found in nearly every religion”.[1]

They say you should never cite Wikipedia. Certainly, as a source of facts or even facts about others’ opinions, it’s dicey at best. But, if you want a snapshot of what’s claimed at this point in time, it can serve even better than old versions of Encyclopedia Britannica serve for seeing what was commonly claimed at different points in the past.

So, we can take the above as indicating that at least some people out there claim the Rede is similar to the Golden Rule. I’d go further and say that this claim is quite commonly made. I have argued before that this association made between the Rede and the Rule is why the Rede is so well-known, even outside of Paganism.

Some interpretations of the Rede certainly don’t compare at all, though. For a start, you have to begin by ignoring that it’s a rede, to turn it into a rule. The interpretation of the Rede as allowing harmless actions but leaving harmful actions to be decided according to other ethical considerations and the interpretation that compares the Rede to the Law of Thelema don’t offer such comparison.

It’s only that interpretation which forbids all harm, and that which insists one reduces harm done to a minimum, which can be compared. Even here though the comparison seems poor; these interpretations insist upon avoiding harm, while the Golden Rule, in its negative form, offers a means to determine what is harmful as well as insisting it be avoided. And the point of the Golden Rule is this very mechanism by which to make such a judgement, so to warn against harm without offering this mechanism is not analogous to the Golden Rule at all. Meanwhile, the interest of many Witches and Pagans in our responsibility to beings other than humans (that is to say, and interest in environmental and animal-rights concerns) leads them to quite deliberately consider questions of harm outside of matters of how other humans are treated.

This leads to two questions. The first is: why is this comparison with the Golden Rule made? The second is much more important, especially to someone like myself, who interprets the Rede in a way particularly distant to the Rule (personally favouring the first of the different interpretations I mentioned above) : how does one justify an ethic without a Golden Rule, when the Rule is held by so many to be the beginning of all ethics?

Let’s begin by looking at just what the Golden Rule is. “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”[2] is one Christian rendering of it. In short, this exhorts one to determine what is good by examining what one would like to be done to oneself, and to then do so.

The negative form exhorts one to determine what is bad by examining what one would not like to be done to oneself, and then to avoid such behaviour. This is where we have an overlap with those interpretations of the Rede that would have one avoid all harmful action, but an incomplete one as shown above.

Perhaps the most frequently stated feature of the Golden Rule is its ubiquity. Confucius is often cited as the earliest source of such a rule, and his writings were based on earlier oral teachings. Passages claimed as examples of the Rule can be found in Christianity, Judaism, Yoruba, Buddhism, Egyptian, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Brahmanism, Sikhism, Jainism, Taoism, the Baha’i Faith, Islam and Scientology.

This ubiquity would encourage one to find a similar Rule in one’s own religious practice for several reasons:

1. The question of legitimacy. Since the Golden Rule is so ubiquitous, one can be tempted to the position that any “real” religion must also have an example of this Rule. Believing this, then to demonstrate that Wicca has a place among them, one must demonstrate that Wicca also has an example of the Golden Rule. The also encourages other Pagan practices to borrow the Rede, so that they can make similar claims.

2. Seeking a universal ethic. Since the Golden Rule is claimed as a common principle in a great many religions, this offers common ground between many different religions.[3]

3. Claiming a right to tolerance. This is implied by both the first and second reason. If we are a “real” religion and if we have an ethic in common with most or all other religions, then we can use this as a basis from which we can ask (or demand) that those other religions treat us tolerantly.

4. Outside assumptions. People who aren’t Wiccan may assume that we have an ethic of reciprocity, simply because they are so ubiquitous.

5. Inside assumptions. Indeed people actually coming to some form of modern Pagan Witchcraft, may well simply assume that there must be a form of the Golden Rule somewhere, and hence assume that the Rede is an example of this.

With so many benefits to having a Golden Rule, where does not seeing the Rede as corresponding to the Rule, leave us?

To examine this, we must abandon, at least temporarily, the advantages that proclaiming an ethic or reciprocity would give us in inter-religious matters, and look at ethics themselves before we make statements about it for the benefit of people of other paths.

But let’s first look at what how the Golden Rule is said to benefit people of those religions that do have a form of it. Karen Armstrong has given two TED talks in which she talks of her hopes of having the Golden Rule more widely followed.[4][5] In doing so she is attempting to move the focus of people’s religious thinking from differences in dogma and toward this particular exhortation found in so many religions. (Incidentally, her discussion on changes to the concept of “belief” in one of them[5] is interesting to consider in relation to the way in which Traditional Wicca, and some other modern Pagan practices, place a greater emphasis upon praxis than doctrine) .

In both of these she speaks of compassion. Her proposed charter is not called a Charter for the Golden Rule, but a Charter for Compassion. The implication therefore is either that the Golden Rule and compassion are one and the same, or that the Golden Rule is the source of human compassion.

Is it? There is a leap that needs to be made between reciprocity and compassion. One objection to the Golden Rule is that of George Bernard Shaw, “Do not do unto others as you would expect they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.” The classic schoolboy objection to the Golden Rule is to ask how a masochist should act, if following the Golden Rule. Sometimes the Golden Rule is stated in terms of what the other person wants, The Golden Alliance[6], who seek to encourage people to follow the Golden Rule express it as “treat others as they wish to be treated [emphasis added]”, but this also has similar problems: Do we have to hurt the masochist?

Richard Bach’s taking this approach to the Golden Rule leads to him to conclude that he should do what he wants to do, and ignore the rule.[7] This is unsatisfying to my mind. He manages to argue against the Golden Rule, but his conclusions seem to me to be empty of any replacing ethic.

There is though a suggestion that acting as he wants, his behaviour will still be moral and ethical, but little to suggest why this may be. A more promising form of this sort of ethic can be found in Saint Augustine; “Dilige, et quod vis fac“ – “Love, and do what you want”.[8] The suggestion here is that in acting out of love, one will inevitably not only be guided towards moral behaviour, but that what one wants to do will in fact already be moral, due to that guiding influence of that love.

Thelema takes a different, but comparable approach, in its concept of True Will. When people are acting out of such an understanding of their True Will, they are guided to correct action. Such a view of True Will though, while perhaps solving the question of how we can derive an ethic in practice, is by its nature difficult to examine in theoretical comparisons of different ethics. Even if it succeeds in leading Thelemites to behave ethically, it leaves little for us to examine in terms of how our own ethics works, unless we adopt Thelema wholesale. It is worth noting though that Thelema, like Saint Augustine, talks of love, “Love is the Law, Love under Will”. While love may be under will, and hence we might suppose is subordinate to it, we should note that Liber AL vel Legis says that Love is the Law. Love is not claimed as part of the Law, but identified with it.

Shall we try to define love? I should hope not. Poets are better at writing about love than philosophers, and both the poets and the philosophers disagree among themselves (and with each other since at least the time of Plato) . I would not think I could do a better job than either of them here.

Let us instead take stock of the views on ethical behaviour encountered so far.

1. An ethic of reciprocity.

2. An ethic of compassion, claimed to come from this ethic of reciprocity.

3. An ethic of love.

Can we reconcile these?

I think we can reconcile an ethic of compassion and love. Compassion is certainly seen as a component of love. Just how closely it is identified with love (particularly with agape or brotherly love) will differ, but I think the relationship between the two is strong enough that we can claim this relationship exists, without having to best all of the poets and philosophers when it comes to defining precisely what love is.

So, how can we bridge the gap between the ethic of reciprocity and an ethic of compassion?

Armstrong seems to suggest that empathy is how these two are related. It is here that I disagree with her.

To consider “how would you feel if they did it to you?” as we might ask a small child we are reprimanding, is only the beginning of empathy. We need to go beyond this question to deal with people who have different cultural experiences to us, who have different understandings of a situation, who are different to us in level of health, or physical and mental capacity, who are different to us in any way; and everybody is different to us in some way. In short, to empathise with someone is not merely to consider how we would feel if something was done to us, but to consider every way in which they are different to us.

To empathise well, is also to understand the limits of our empathy. When someone has experienced something that I have not, it is arrogant to assume that I can empathise fully. We state this flat-out when someone is going through a particularly difficult time and we simply tell him or her “I don’t know what to say”. It is the only way we can commiserate with someone who has gone where empathy cannot follow. Without recognising this limitation of our empathy, we fail to acknowledge the other’s individuality and autonomous identity.

To emphasise is also to communicate between our position and theirs, not lose ourself in our consideration of the other person. That would be theatre, of benefit only to ourselves in its catharsis, not to them or anyone else. There are indeed people involved in some of the minority religious practices of the West who boast of their empathic capacity, but who do little more than wonder around under some sort of emotional Brownian Motion, vicariously experiencing joy and misery, and not actually being of any use.

To emphasise is to put oneself in another’s position, while also remaining in one’s own. This is where we can begin to move from empathy to compassion.

It still doesn’t go all the way though. Compassion requires us to balance the needs of one with the needs of another. It requires us to balance short-term with long-term needs, and what they desire or think they need with what we believe they need. It requires us to look not just at the way the object of our empathy feels, but other considerations.

This balancing is often the hardest part of behaving ethically. Lets face it, the ethical considerations best served by any simple rule are the easiest to deal with. They can deal with strawman cases easily. Just about any ethic will agree that it isn’t ethical to beat up innocent people for sport, but this is not a difficult ethical question. The difficult questions are about how we balance differing needs, wants, and perceived needs, and the worth of an ethic is in how well it serves these difficult questions.

I would argue also, that this balance is of greater real importance in inter-religious dialogue than anything the Golden Rule provides for. Consider that those who would convert us, perhaps even by force, to their own religion will honestly consider that this is in our best interest. They are doing unto others when they try to bring us to what they consider to be a great and wonderful truth that they are glad they were brought to, and believe they would want to be brought to, were they in our position. It’s impossible to argue on their terms that we should be left alone, but we can argue that when they are balancing what they see as our desire to remain as we are with our need to be converted to their path, that their compassion should lean toward the former rather than the latter.

I can’t claim that this is an unassailable argument. In different circumstances, we can, and we will, and we should, sometimes decide to lean towards what we think someone needs over what they think they want or need. Any responsible parent does this all the time, and it can also be necessary in dealing with other adults. Compassion is not a ruler, it is a guide. To Pagan Witches, who claim — boast even — that our ethics insist upon personal responsibility, this should make an ethic concerned with compassion rather than with reciprocity, particularly deserving of attention. As long as it doesn’t result in similar hand-wringing over compassion in various hypothetical situations, that we so often drag the Rede down to.

So, while I have not agreed with Armstrong in the importance she places upon the Golden Rule, I do personally agree with the emphasis on compassion that she arrives at. Can I argue beyond my own personal agreement, that this is a Wiccan ethic, or at least a Wicca-compatible ethic, by finding compassion in the Rede?

No. But it can be found quite explicitly in the Charge:

And therefore let there be beauty and strength,
power and compassion,
honour and humility,
mirth and reverence within you.

Compassion is right there, and if anything it’s a lot more strongly suggested by being in the Charge than being in a mere rede. While the Charge is not claimed as an irrefutable scripture, it’s not labelled a rede either, so it certainly can be considered a stronger statement than what we are told is a rede.

Of course, compassion does not exist here on its own. It is one of a set of eight qualities that we are exhorted to exhibit. No one of these is held to be more important than the other, and if anything, compassion is “sitting in the corner” by being in the middle of this set.

It is also quite strongly paired with power. In particular, we must note that while we are not explicitly told to have a balance between power and compassion, we are certainly told that we should have both of them.

Compassion without power is the easiest to exhibit in practice. It takes no moral courage to say “Oh that’s terrible, the poor thing!” but to consider oneself powerless to do anything to help. Power without compassion lets us stomp over others on our way to what we want. A lack of both compassion and power lets us idle in unconcerned impotence. But when power and compassion are both in evidence they strengthen each other into a compassionate power, and a powerful compassion.

Here then is an ethic that demands that we have the ability to act. It doesn’t shy away from power with cautionary tales of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice and hand-wringing about the possibility that to act may in some convoluted causal chain of events lead to harm being done (though it certainly doesn’t encourage thoughtless action with no consideration of consequence, either) . It demands action, and for that matter while the Charge also demands humility, so too does it demand honour, and I would argue that this includes acting so as to be able to speak proudly of one’s actions. It is not a modest ethic; it is an ethic with guts.

And it also delivers what Armstrong says she has found in looking at what is good in her religion and many others. So while I can’t see the Golden Rule as anything but ethical training-wheels in arriving at compassion, we are in agreement on what is ultimately important.

Why then, is the Rede so often spoken of as a Wiccan principle, not just as if it was some sort of tenet (how can advice be a tenet? how can a praxis even have a tenet?) but as if it was the tenet? How has the Rede emerged so strongly from the entire corpus of publicly-known Wiccan lore to be referenced in popular television shows?[9]

Well, there is concision. We all like concision. The existence of quotation dictionaries shows that brevity is not just the soul of wit, but also does much to give the impression of profundity. In the age of the soundbite, our love of concision is perhaps greater than ever.

Still, while the Charge is not small enough to fit onto a t-shirt, this and some other passages are. But what we have then is incompleteness. Even the Charge in its entirety does not give anywhere near as complete a statement of anything, as something like the Credo does for Roman Catholicism. How can it? How can any passage when the focus of the Wicca is upon what we do, rather than upon what we believe? And certainly, how can my personal interpretation of one small part of it here, out of the ritual context in which it belongs, possibly hope to compete an eight-word, two-clause sentence? I would not even claim that those eight qualities are the total of Wiccan ethics; though I am choosing to focus on one of them here. The Charge itself has more to say on ethics, and the rest of our liturgy more still, particularly our oaths, and this is still not the sum of it all.

The Golden Rule, on the other hand, is often said to offer completeness. Rabbi Hillel could summarise his religion while standing on one leg, by saying it was “… the whole of the Torah; the rest is the explanation, go and read it”. Completeness is satisfying. Part of the attraction of the soundbite is the illusion of completeness.

But is this really something to build a living ethic from, never mind a living religious practice that has other aspects besides ethics? Our world is imprecise and our understanding limited. How clear is this after experiencing Mystery? This is precisely why I would favour an imprecise guide over a simple rule. The charm of the concise bon mot should always be suspected.

Part of the desire to find a parallel between the Rede and the Golden Rule may be a desire for the comfort of concise completion. It takes courage to turn from any comfort, but turning from comfort is often necessary as we work for a better understanding of our Craft. Surely, whether you agree with my thoughts on compassion above or not, turning from comfort is also necessary for an ethic ready to deal with the messier moral questions we might face.



Footnotes:
[1] “Wiccan Rede: Interpretations of the Rede”.

[2] Matthew 7:12. King James Version

[3] Parliament of the World’s Religions. 1993. “Declaration Toward a Global Ethic”

[4] Armstrong, Karen. 2009. “Let’s Revive the Golden Rule”

[5] Armstrong, Karen. 2008. “Karen Armstrong makes her TED Prize wish: the Charter for Compassion”.

[6] “Golden Alliance”.

[7] Bach, Richard. 1977. Illusions. New York: Dell Publishing Co. ISBN: 0-440-20488-7.

[8] St. Augstine of Hippo. “Homily 7 on the First Epistle of John”. A translation is available at and elsewhere.

[9] E.g. Renshaw, Jeannine. 2007. “Mean Ghost” [Television series episode] in Gray, John (Creator) , Ghost Whisperer (television) , Los Angeles: ABC Studios, Burbank.

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Charm School: Miss Manners for the Pointy Hat Crowd

Charm School: Miss Manners for the Pointy Hat Crowd

Author: Albiana

Did you know that there are delicate matters of etiquette and protocol you are expected to know and abide by when attending a ritual, even an open, public one? Are you aware of what is expected of you as a guest to someone’s covenstead and circle, so you don’t make an embarrassing faux pas or accidentally insult your hosts? Some of these tips below are common sense and a few are requisites for the more traditional type circle arrangements, but it doesn’t hurt to err on the side of decorum even if attending a non-specific ritual gathering.

Should the ritual you plan to attend not advise you of these things by word of mouth or as a part of the written or online open invitation, it is in your best interests to contact the hosts in advance to make inquiries BEFORE the event. Chances are they will be busy on the day of and may not have time to answer you properly or fully, so be contentious and ask them well ahead of time.

Ask permission before bringing outsiders with you. The reason for this is two-fold: unless otherwise stated in the invitation, it may extend only to you because of your relationship with the hosts. Outsiders, even spouses or family members may need to be cleared with the hosts or the other participants first. The second reason is that the hosts may be using the RSVP’s to their invite for a head count so they have enough supplies for the ritual or enough food for the feast.

Don’t come empty handed. This is, foremost, a hospitable ‘thank you’ to your hosts for all their planning and gracious use of space. A dish for the potluck feast, a bottle of wine or mead, flowers for the altar…. all are wonderful gestures. Additionally, some invitations cite that the host group may be collecting canned goods, clothing or other items to give to charity. Or that they may accept, or even require, a monetary contribution to cover the expenses of materials used or the space rental if in a large forum. Sometimes these monetary contributions are on a sliding scale, but don’t be so gauche as to expect to not pay anything at all if the hosts have alerted you about this up front. Springing a “pass the hat” on you without prior warning, however, is tacky on their part.

Have robe, will travel. Most invitations will state whether or not street clothing is acceptable. And it is pretty darn unlikely that a semi-public or public event will be skyclad. For the most part, it is customary to have your own ritual robe to wear while in circle. Some hosts may have a spare for guests to use in a pinch, but don’t assume they will have one set aside for you…. or that it will fit! If you don’t own a robe, usually Ren wear or all-black attire is a good choice for a substitute. Do not wear anything with monstrous logos — save your Dickies shirt or your favorite sports team jersey for your own time!!

Bring your own personal working tools. Just like the robe, you should have your own personal working tools with you and not expect them to be provided. It goes without saying that you cannot expect to borrow any old athame! Should you find yourself without yours, just use your finger. Be aware that in some traditions, female witches are also “required” to wear a necklace of some sort. If you don’t have one, ask the hosts to borrow something.

A simple, yet powerful word: Hygiene. It may sound ridiculous to have to put this on the list, but I can attest to having been in some public circles where this should have been on the loudspeaker. Brushing one’s teeth and bathing are mandatory. Some covensteads may offer facilities to freshen up if you’ve traveled some distance to attend, but don’t rely the hosts giving you a place to take a full-on shower if you’re coming to circle straight from your workout or whatever. Please arrive clean and groomed. Also be very sparing with your cologne/perfume; better to skip it entirely. I’ve been to rites where the person next to me was so overwhelming as to distract or clash with the incense. Please know that eau de parfum is not a substitute for soap and deodorant!!

Let your hair down. Again, according to myth, folklore and what is mandatory to some traditions, your hair should not be plaited or bound during ritual. Some say it is the work of the faery; some say it knots up the personal magic; some say it tangles the energy of the circle. Whatever the reason, it is nice to be completely unfettered during the rite…just be careful if you’ve got waist-length locks and are dancing near the quarter candles!!

Be on time…. or if you’re unavoidably running late, do the courteous thing and CALL. I cannot stress enough how completely obnoxious it is for people to use that lame-ass excuse of “Pagan Standard Time.” It is unaccountably rude to your hosts and the other attendees who have managed to arrive on time to have to alter their schedules to wait around for you. It may be that the ritual itself has a time-sensitive component, which cannot be halted because you got caught in traffic, couldn’t find your keys or whatever. If you’re running late or have a flat tire, please be mindful that the universe does not revolve solely around you and call your hosts. Allow them the option of continuing to wait for you, to start the rite and cut you into circle late or else ask that you skip the rite this time.

Make your own babysitting arrangements. Do not assume that it is ok for you to bring your kids or pets to the hosts’ home and that they will find something to keep them occupied while the adults are in circle. Either find a babysitter or call to ask the hosts if it is all right to bring your children. If you are allowed to bring them, you are responsible for their behavior and responsible for keeping them busy/occupied during the circle. Don’t expect that your hosts will have entertainment set aside for them or allow constant interruptions of the rite to cut you in and out of circle to attend to your children’s needs.

No talking or giggling during circle. You would think it obvious that folks who attend the ritual would want to pay attention and participate fully, wouldn’t you? Unfortunately, there are always a few who think it is playtime and who find that if the attention isn’t on them, that it is appropriate to make comments under their breath, make sound effects, start giggling or goofing around or otherwise draw attention to themselves. If you cannot control your borderline ADHD behaviors, perhaps you should rethink your participation in a group setting. For all intents and purposes, you are like a visiting dignitary in someone else’s kingdom.

Treat the hosts with respect and you will be treated likewise. Do not critique the ritual while it is in progress; besides, most folks don’t want to hear “in my group, we do it this way” sorts of feedback. Even if you have something nice to say, please save it for private disclosure after the rite.

No drugs or alcohol prior to the rite. This too goes along with being responsible for your behavior… Hello! Rede anyone? Intoxicants and hallucinogenics alter your cognition and perceptions. Those around you in circle who come to expect a certain level of perfect love and perfect trust from their fellow attendees cannot be confident that you will behave accordingly if you are drunk, disorderly or spaced out. If the objective of most rituals is to get everyone on the same mental/emotional/spiritual plane, it is immensely difficult to do if a participant is whacked out on something. This may also include the ingestion of some over-the-counter cold or allergy medicines too. So if the warning label says “do not drive or operate heavy machinery, ” chances are it is probably not good for you to take prior to ritual.

If you’re sick, do not share in the communal cup or do not attend the ritual. Please don’t spread your illness to others, especially in light of this latest round of cold and flu season! If you’re sick, stay home. If you’re recovering from being sick, please be considerate and not partake of the communal cup. Asks the hosts to give you your libation in a separate vessel or else just “kiss the cup (at the base) ” when it is passed ‘round the circle to you but do not imbibe.

Find your own transport. Kindly make your own arrangements to get to and from the ritual site. It is not the responsibility of the hosts to retrieve you from the airport or the train station. If you don’t have your own vehicle, call a cab or share a ride with other attendees, etc.

Disclose any allergies. This may seem a bit silly, but it is practical. Outdoor rituals have the episode of bee or wasp stings. Some indoor rituals are hosted in homes that have pets and if you’re allergic to fur, feather or other pet dander you could be in for a sneezy night! Same goes for food allergies. Best to know up front if you should skip partaking in the ritual cakes if they might contain tree nuts or other ingredients which would make you need a trip to the ER. Doesn’t hurt to ask.

When proper, do not disclose real names of participants. Out of respect for privacy, there are some events where the participants may wish to be known by a pseudonym or “circle name” only. Do not “out” anyone by their real-world name if you happen to know it unless you have permission to address them as such.

Always move deosil in circle, unless expressly directed to do so by HP/HPS. A good way to remember this is always walk with your right side facing the center of the circle. Perhaps it is a superstition, but for some traditions, this idea is further extended in that you are not to do any ritual movements or gestures using your left hand (even if you are left handed) . You may want to either ask the hosts or just observe what is customary for that group and follow along.

Try to stand in alternating ‘Male-Female-Male-Female’ while in circle. Again, this may be a strict rule for some groups and an ideal situation but not mandatory for others. When in doubt, it seems best for energetic purposes to position participants in this manner. Take a cue from the host group as to whether or not they observe this custom.

Go to the bathroom beforehand. Just like when you leave for a long car ride, please take care of your private business before things get underway. It is disruptive to the circle’s energy to have to cut people in and out of the sacred space for potty breaks. Pregnant women do get special dispensation for this though. *grin*

Shut off your cell phone, Bluetooth, iPod or other electronic device. It is all about not disrupting the flow of energy folks. Not only should you NOT have such electronic device with you in circle, but please turn them on mute or completely off during the rite. Nothing shatters group concentration like hearing your annoying ringtone or the rhythmic buzz of your cell in the background of a meditation or during a pinnacle point of the ritual.

Be aware of any “home court” rules. Different covens or groups have their own local preferences. For example, if they put their altar in the East and you’re used to working with yours in the North or the Center, you have to abide by their local customs while on their turf. Do not expect to impose the version of ritual style you may be used to working in someone else’s ritual space. If you fear something may be so distracting or abhorrent to you that you do not wish to participate, ask to be cut out of the circle and quietly, peaceably leave the ritual. Do not wage a formal protest in the middle of the circle.

Lastly, say ‘Thank You!’ A little courtesy is worth a lot these days. Showing appreciation for the amount of time and effort your hosts have put into the event is gratifying…and may garner you more invites in the future!

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Eternal Truths for December 4th

Fairy Comments & Graphics
Eternal Truths

1. Once over the hill, you pick up speed.
2. I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.
3. If it weren’t for STRESS I’d have no energy at all.
4. Everyone has a photographic memory. Some just don’t have film.
5. I know G-d won’t give me more than I can handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.
6. Age is a very high price to pay for maturity.
7. Dogs have owners. Cats have staff.
8. We cannot change the direction of the wind … but we can adjust our sails.
9. Some days are a total waste of makeup.
10. Do you believe in love at first sight … or should I walk by you again?
11. If the shoe fits……buy it in every color.
12. Men are from earth. Women are from earth. Deal with it.
13. Age is a very high price to pay for maturity.
14. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
15. By the time you can make ends meet, they move the ends.
16. Someone who thinks logically provides a nice contrast to the real world.
17. My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.
18. Not one shred of evidence supports the notion that life is serious.
19. Junk is something you’ve kept for years and throw away three weeks before you need it.
20. For every action, there is an equal and opposite government program.
21. If you look like your passport picture, you probably need the trip.
22. Bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of checks.
23. Experience is a wonderful thing. It enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.
24. Men are from earth. Women are from earth. Deal with it.
25. Opportunities always look bigger going than coming.

 

Sima  Oh, My Aging Funny Bone 
~Magickal Graphics~

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Daily Affirmation for Sunday, December 4th

Fairy Comments & Graphics
I’m smiling because I love myself. 

~from Christine 

 
~Magickal Graphics~

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Feng Shui Tip of the Day for December 4th

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Attract job opportunities by placing a mirror in the entryway of your home. This will symbolically broaden your career path.

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