‘THINK on THESE THINGS’ for March 29th

‘THINK on THESE THINGS’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler

How much voice do we really have in our own affairs? How free are we to speak out on the things we know and believe and want to say? How much voice to we have in public affairs?

How much goes unsaid because it may be bad for business, or it might make us look foolish? How often we should speak up but think it is none of our business. How quiet we are when someone’s unethical hand does wrong.

What is it that inhibits us? Our own fears. Fears of our own ignorance, fear of losing, fear of the bugaboos we know lurk somewhere, but just aren’t sure where.

Who are the people who are free of fears? They are the individuals who govern themselves in such a manner as to have thought out their own ideas enough to be able to speak freely for themselves.

Ethics would seem to be something to ignore if you wish to be successful in business. Many people strive harder today than at any other time to divide their lives so that being seen in church is good taste, and being unethical in business proves they are shrewd. Being successful isn’t nearly as important as proving that they’ve gotten that way by the clever undoing of their opposition.

There was a time when building a better mouse trap by the most efficient methods gave us satisfaction, but too often these days we are impressed because someone is smart. Not smart with intelligence, but smart with the cunning that goes along with the jungle code of getting before someone gets you.

The person who tries to get ahead by ethical methods, and by wanting only to provide something better than is already in existence, must also be equipped to withstand ridicule.

Frankly, the race of the tortoise and the hare is still on, and while the hare is tearing around showing off its ability to be a fast runner, the tortoise is making progress, and never losing its way.

Socrates, being asked the way to honest fame, said, “Study to be what you wish to seem.” Success takes time and moral discipline, but our successes will be as human beings first, and then the crown of success in business will sit easily and firmly.

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What are Wiccan ethics, the “Wiccan Rede” and “three-fold law?”

What are Wiccan ethics, the “Wiccan Rede” and “three-fold law?”

Wiccan ethics are seldom codified in a legalistic way, but may be informed by some common expressions such as the “Wiccan Rede” and the “three-fold law.” According to most versions of the three-fold law,
whatever one does comes back to one thrice multiplied, in amplified repercussion. One short, rhymed version of the Wiccan Rede states “Eight
words the Wiccan Rede fulfill: An it harm none, do what you will.” Often “none” is interpreted to include the doer themself in analogy to the “golden rule” of other faiths. There are no universal proscriptions
regarding food, sex, burial or military service and Wiccans, as a rule, discourage proselytization (attempts to convert others to a different
religion).

Morality and Spell-craft

Morality and Spell-craft

Author: Solonius

As adult thinking human beings, we all follow a certain set of moral guidelines that we have learned from our ancestors, or which were indoctrinated into us throughout our upbringing. We call this idea of what we would, or would not do, our conscience. Our angel and devil are sitting there on our shoulders, arguing over the idea of selflessness and selfishness. This argument leads us into a personal conflict. We have to come to a justification of why we wish to do a thing. When that thing contradicts what we know to be right, or what society tells us is right, we become morally conflicted.

So the question is where do our basest levels of morality lie? There is a base level of what we would or would not do; from there our higher morals are built in increasing complexity. To find out where we stand, think on the following topics: At a base level, there is my life (or the lives of my loved ones) first, and everyone else’s second. If the choice was between my or my loved ones lives against any other’s life, I choose mine and my loved ones. I’m sure everyone else would view that choice in the same way.

If you have spent your life building up a home, property and future prosperity, then others come along who haven’t done those things and just want to take what you have built, for themselves, you’d fight and kill to keep what you had made for yourself. What right does anyone else have to come and take what you have made away from you? So is it morally right to fight to keep what you have made, or to fight for you and your loved ones lives? One group of people is very prosperous through their own efforts, and another group is not. Is it morally right for those less prosperous to demand a portion of the wealth of the more prosperous? Is it morally right for one group to force their concepts upon others? Where do we draw the line of right verses wrong?

My right might be your wrong. I don’t wish to force another to follow my concept of right; however others wish to force me to follow their concept of right. Who is morally correct? You are given a choice: One child can live or be put to death, but that death will result in a cure for AIDS. Would you sacrifice that one child for the greater good? If not, then possibly millions will suffer and die as opposed to one. If you chose the child to live, then you believe that individual good is more important than group good. If you choose the child to die, then you view the society as more important than the individual. So therefore it is morally okay for someone to come and take away what you have through your own efforts, and give your abundance to those who do not contribute.

These morality questions are all the same. There is no moral difference between any of these situations. On one hand, there is individual good, and on the other, there is group good (with the group being viewed as an individual entity) . These morality questions can also be viewed as situational. Or we rationalize that a moral good is universal to all, when in fact, we are just rationalizing that good for all from the aspect that ‘our group’ is the ‘all’ that matters.

In order to be at peace with ourselves, our internal moral compasses should all be aligned in the same direction. We need to honestly look at our own morality and decide where it lies and in which direction it points. That is who we are on our basest level. From there we can move upward morally, consistently, because you shouldn’t believe one thing this way and another thing contradictorily that way.

So what does this all have to do with the Pagan etc. community? The Rede instructs: “And it harm none, do what you will.” That ‘will’ should have a healthy dose of morality applied to it before devoting any energy to ‘doing what you will’. [As a side note, I feel that many confuse the word ‘will’ with ‘what you want’. Will, in this instance, is using the force of your gathered and focused WILL (purposeful directed energy) to implement your desires.] All the above leads down to this: When you spell-craft, are you doing so from a morally correct position?

It is often said what you put out comes back to you three-fold. This is to give you caution, to pause, and to really think about what you are trying to accomplish for yourself or others. As adult thinking human beings, we must acknowledge our culpability in the actions we take, to admit to ourselves our true purpose. Only then, without inner conflict, can we fully enact our desires. Conflicted morality leads to conflicted emotions, which lead to conflicted energies.

How can you effectively enact your WILL if you think you are doing something against your moral fiber? If your thoughts are scattered how can you direct your distracted energy? And this is just with our OWN desires, what of the desires of others who wish us to enact something on their behalf? You can see how difficult this becomes without a moral underpinning?

Prior to performing any spell work, you should do an honest self-assessment. Will what I wish to put into action cause harm to others? If harm is possible, is it justified? As an example: if you help out a friend by performing a spell that they get a promotion at work, is the person who is currently holding that position ineffectual, and therefore not as deserving of the position as well as your hard working friend? That person could be fired, that is harmful to them personally, financially, and their family’s well-being could be in jeopardy because of them getting fired. You were doing something good for your friend, but your actions could cause harm to more than you think. See how morally sticky this can get without thoroughly thinking something through before beginning?

Why not do the same thing, but more expansively? Perform your spell that the Boss gets promoted, and in the vacuum of the vacant position your friend is chosen to fill it. Who loses there? Not a lot of moral conflict to overcome in the second situation, you can therefore direct the energy to accomplish your desire with more focus and positive emotion.

Above I asked, ‘is it justified?’ Justice is the means of society to enforce the laws or moral standards of that society. Your friends car gets bashed by a hit and run driver. You perform a spell that the culprit is discovered and gets thrown in jail for reckless driving. Not a lot of conflict there because of the ‘wrong’ done. However, you should not go wishing for more harm to befall the hit and run driver. That driver was rushing an injured family member to the ER (hey, you don’t know) . While the hit and run was unfortunate, and they couldn’t take the time to get your friends license plate number, they definitely had more urgent worries. It would be morally wrong to wish more harm to someone who intended none. Why not wish that the culprit be discovered, and that JUSTICE be served. Simply leave the details for the universe to work out. As you can see this requires LESS detail, and leaves you morally un-conflicted as well.

We could play these scenarios out all day, but at the heart of the matter is using your morality to keep yourself out of conflict when preparing for spell work. In order to lessen undesired consequences, practice honesty with yourself and admit your true reasons for doing what you WILL.

Homeopathy is Witchcraft? Um…

Homeopathy is Witchcraft? Um…

Author: Rushyo

Many of my friends and peers have been discussing a motion by the British Medical Association’s Junior Doctor’s Committee which has the potential to offend various practitioners of Witchcraft and has seemingly being received with a mix of humourous banter, dismissal and annoyance. The Doctor who proposed the motion stated, in unequivocal terms, that ‘Homeopathy is Witchcraft’. This article is intended to provide a broad understanding of the history of both Homeopathy and Witchcraft for the benefit of parties on all sides of the fence (scientists, Homeopaths and Witches) and assess the possible impact of this statement.

Homeopathy is described as ‘a form of alternative medicine, first proposed by German physician Samuel Hahnemann in 1796, that attempts to treat patients with heavily diluted preparations.’ by Wikipedia’s Homeopathy article. It is a pseudo-science that has undergone significant scientific scrutiny. It is practised throughout Europe and other parts of the world [1] as a method of healing and has cost the British National Health Service £12 million over three years [2]. The ultimate conclusion of various scientific studies is that Homeopathy has been reasonably proven not to be efficacious. That is, there is no compelling scientific reason to think it actually does anything: beneficial or otherwise. There are accusations that many Homeopaths engage in their trade out of ignorance of evidence-based science (the stipulation that medicinal treatments should be prescribed based on the assertion of scientific benefit) and, in certain cases, their own financial well-being over that of their patient’s health. [3][9]

Homeopathy itself is ‘a system based on the principle that a much diluted preparation of a substance that causes symptoms in healthy individuals can cure disease that causes the same symptoms in a sick person.’ [4] Essentially the ingredients are chosen for their similarity to the symptoms presented, diluted to the point at which conventional science suggests they cease to exist and ‘succused’, an act of tapping the diluted treatment to ensure the water holds a ‘memory’ of the solution.

The term of Witchcraft, as used in this article (for its definition is very subjective, as I shall address later) , is a practice popularised primarily in modern times by the Wiccan religious faith. Wiccans refers to themselves as ‘Witches’ as members of the faith, which represents their practice of Witchcraft as part of their religious belief. Witchcraft itself is however practised by various parties outside the Wiccan faith for varying purposes and with different intentions. As a result, some Witches are bound by the Wiccan codes of ethics, which constrain Wiccans to ‘do no harm’, and some are not. Witchcraft presently has no known scientific basis and is not presented with any.

Witchcraft is the act of invoking power beyond the material world defined by science, often linked with a spiritual element, intended to perform a tangible task with a particular stated goal. As practised by Wiccans, Witchcraft is used to invoke the power of the Gods through prayer and ritual. It is important to understand that Witchcraft and religion are considered to be quite separate entities, as articulated at length by members of the Witchcraft community, whilst often found in tandem [5].

With the introductions completed, let’s consider the context of the made by the committee. The motion was proposed by Dr Tom Dolphin as a humourous motion and was widely received as such. The motion was passed with a significant majority and to a wide chorus of laughter throughout the hall. Dr Dolphin retroactively stated that his use of the term ‘wasn’t talking about Witchcraft in the sense of Wicca or Paganism, I was talking about the old village healers, the ones whose treatments were more or less made up’ [6]. Whether there is in fact a difference between those two is a matter left up to interpretation.

So why take would anyone take offense? A corollary might be the use of the term ‘Jew’ to refer to one who is frugal or a ‘Gypo’ as one involved in petty crime. Both terms are clearly derogatory. In these colloquially utilised examples it is clear where offense might be gleaned. The origin of both terms is well understood to be their respective ethnic groups who are the aggrieved parties in those instances. To be subjected to a broad stereotype which is unrepresentative of the actual activities of the party can be interpreted as an attack (deliberate or out of ignorance) on those people, with the result that it perpetuates the stereotype that the party does not wishes to spread.

In this instance the main source is grievance is, I believe, the implied comparison of Witches to Homeopaths. Many Witches, especially those within the Wiccan faith, are bound by strong ethic and religious codes of conduct [7]. A byproduct of this is that Witchcraft is widely held to be practised in a responsible and conscientious manner. Homeopathy on the other hand has a less sterling reputation, with many scientists (myself included) actively campaigning against elements of Homeopathic practice [8]. To propagate the association of ethically dubious practices [9] with another whose proponents typically make a significant effort to hold high ethical standards is bound to cause friction, intentionally or not.

So why might this parallel be drawn if it was not intended? Both Homeopathy and Witchcraft are not well supported by science and receive public attention for it. Whilst Homeopathy is expressedly for the purpose of offering healing, Witchcraft is also often utilised with healing in mind. There are parties on both sides who would attempt to monetise their particular trade – although whether they represent the majority in either case in completely up to subjective interpretation.

Ultimately it is clear that the statement was well-intentioned and appropriate in context but it does highlight a certain degree of misunderstanding that such a statement might cause offense – I imagine the same party would have never thought to suggest a possible corollary in another better known religion in that forum. It highlights the continuing lack of education in Britain as to Witchcraft as a modern, progressive practice and how misperception is propagated amongst society.

It is worth considering that one of the reasons why Homeopathy and science come into conflict where Witchcraft and science do not is the practice of Witchcraft does not infer with evidence-based medical practices. Witchcraft is not state sponsored in lieu of funding for evidence-based medicine, whereas Homeopathy is. I feel it is fair to say that Witches and scientists do not interfere with each other’s practice. The responsible practice of Witchcraft dictates that it does not interfere with situations in which people’s lives are at stake. Homeopaths do not have such qualms and it is, in fact, their raison d’être to do so [10].

In the end, this is just an unintentional faux pas but the relationship between science and Witchcraft is widely untested. There are no journals assessing Witchcraft’s viability as a science, whilst Witches stay out of scientific pursuits. So why does such a relationship matter? Witches and scientists have much in common. They both believe in fundamentally making informed decisions, learning about the world around them and meeting significant ethical standards. Indeed of the last 30 news links passed on by the Witchvox Facebook page, 19 of them are on issues of science and Witchcraft, by its very nature, is ripe for scientific experimentation given its tangible goals and uncertain efficacy.

It is easy to see how any future relationship between the two could be scarred if it was felt that scientists did not do their research into matters pertaining to it. Yet a scientist would not want to be associated with ignorance, so perhaps if the current relationship of implied consent were to evolve into something more, it is inevitable it would turn into one of mutual understanding.

From the perspective of ethics, many Witches (particularly Wiccans) and scientists have much common ground and a mutual distain of irresponsible ethical practices, such as those prevalent within Homeopathy, seems only natural.

Should such a relationship be fostered? Science and Witchcraft may seem like impossible partners, but they are by no means mutually exclusive and it is my experience that Witches are over-represented amongst scientists and scientists over-represented amongst Witches. Much could be gained from the collaboration of minds in two progressive fields, both seeking to improve the world through honest knowledge whatever form it comes in.

Of course, when the ill educated press throw tact and logic to the wind and state that ‘homeopathy is harmless not voodoo medicine’ in reference to this issue and cite anecdotal experiences as justification for medical policy [11], it can only serve to create a sense of solidarity that might otherwise seem very far away.


Footnotes:
[1] http://www.homeopathyeurope.org/regulatory-status
[2] http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/jun/10/complementary-medicine-nhs-more4
[3] http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/homeo.html
[4] http://www.skeptics.org.uk/homeopathy.php
[5] http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/wiccaandpaganismbasics/a/WWPDiffs.htm
[6] http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00sfw5t/Jeremy_Vine_17_05_2010/
[7] http://www.religioustolerance.org/wicrede.htm
[8] http://www.1023.org.uk/why-you-cant-trust-homeopathy.php
[9] http://www.1023.org.uk/whats-the-harm-in-homeopathy.php
[10] http://www.hmc21.org/orthodox-medicine/4535621644
[11] http://news.stv.tv/opinion/178405-homeopathy-is-it-witchcraft-or-science/

Ethics and Etiquette

Ethics and Etiquette

By Morgaine

When we speak of ethics and etiquette in relation to pagansim what are we referring to? Are we speaking of outdated rules and actions that no longer have meaning and we only give lip service to? I don’t believe so. Ethics and etiquette are living, breathing codes of life, shaping our actions in relation to each other, and ourselves. They are a guiding force in the way we live our lives.

Let us first look at ethics. Ethics are defined as –a set of principles; moral philosophy; rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or the members of a profession; human duty; a particular system of principles and rules concerning duty, whether true or false; rules of practice in respect to a single class of human actions; motivation based on ideas of right and wrong; the philosophical study of moral values and rules.

When we begin to speak of ethics, we need to realize that this can be a very touchy subject. We are human after all, and we want to think our ethics are the correct ones. While there are generally accepted community ethics, it is personal ethics that make up who we are. And these are not the same for each person.

Before we begin to discuss in depth community and person ethics let us first look at the Rede, the most common code of conduct among Wiccans.

Bide the Wiccan law ye must, in perfect love and perfect trust;

Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill;

‘An ye harm none, do as ye will’;

Lest in self-defense it be, ever mind the rule of three;

Follow this with mind and heart;

And merry ye meet and merry ye part.

Every Wiccan knows the Rede. Our passwords into the sacred circle are in here. Our major rule of ethic is here. And the reason for breaking this ethic, as well as the consequences of breaking it foolishly. When we extract the line most popular –An ye harm none, do as ye will’ and begin to dissect it, we have to wonder “Is this an ethic we can every achieve?”

I believe the Rede is a standard of living, like all ethics, and one that is an impossibility to achieve. The goal is to live as closely to the Rede as possible. In the attempt to do this, we begin to analyze our actions. We follow the path of LEAST harm. Thus, we begin to live conscious of our actions, and how they effect the world around us. And here comes the REAL lesson of the Rede. It forces us to have personal responsibility. Once you have acknowledged that the Rede is a goal to work for and not a given situation, and have taken of the blinders that let you go around smug and happy that your religion is so sweet it makes your teeth itch, you can get down to the work of making your life an ethical one. What this involves is considering each decision in the light of the Rede before you decide upon a course of action. You do this by looking at all the possible consequences of that action and whether that will cause harm to any, choosing the path that causes the least harm and, (THIS IS THE KEY) accepting the responsibility for the consequences of your actions whether intentional or unintentional. -Lark, HPS of Tangled Moon Coven.

Wicca, as well as most Pagansim, is a religion and spiritual path of personal responsibility. We strive to live in an aware state. When we do this, we recognize our free will, and the free will of others. If we ignore the lesson of personal responsibility, we fail to realize our true spiritual potential and our true spiritual will.

As we begin our path, we must develop a set of personal ethics, while maintaining a respect for the ethics of the community we are becoming a part of. Some community ethics are very well defined.

-Don’t practice black magick, or follow the left-hand path.

-Don’t attempt to harm another or interfere with their free will.

-Always act in a way that will reflect well upon your path. Never do anything that will bring harm to the Craft.

Since Wicca, and pagansim, are very open paths and for the most part do not seek to make anyone follow ‘ONE RIGHT WAY’, most of the ethics defined by community are concerning harm to others, and harm to the Craft.

But to begin a spiritual path, and to follow it every day of your life, you must develop your own set of personal ethics that define the way you live. No one can tell you what your personal ethics should be. Your teachers, mentors, HPS, HP can all recommend both in word and deed, ethics that work for them. You may be given a ‘Book of the Law’ that governs your group or tradition. If you are a solitary, you may read on the net, or in a book, acceptable codes of conduct, or ideals. But you cannot take someone else’s ethics and make them your own. You must do some soul searching, and decide how you feel about things. Now I am NOT suggesting that you ignore your HPS or HP, or your teachers and mentors. I am suggesting that you should always temper wisdom with personal experience. You must come to a point that you are willing to question what you are taught, to grow in your own self. Through this, your own sense of ethics and morals will come.

Now, here comes the biggie. What do you do when your personal ethics are in direct conflict with accepted community ethics? For example-it has become a phenomenon in the pagan community to love everything white and full of light, and shun everything dark and full of shadow. It has become unacceptable to speak of negative emotions like anger and envy. It has become unacceptable to feel hate towards another person, wish that a murderer would get the death penalty, which that rapist would get castrated by a bunch of angry women. Some of us fondly refer to this a fluffy, bunny Wicca, no offense to anything fluffy, or bunnies. We are taught to love unconditionally because we are all brothers and sisters, connected to each other and every living thing. We are taught that if we experience these emotions, maybe we aren’t all that spiritual, and especially not as much as Miss crystal love and light. We are often looked down upon if we say something like ‘I am so damn mad at my ex husband I could smack him’. The response I myself have heard to such comment is ‘my my, now THAT wasn’t very positive’. Well, guess what. It WASN’T. Now I am not saying that you should indulge in these emotions. They can be deterrents to developing a sound spiritual identity because they are ‘negative’ in the sense that they are base emotions that do not vibrate on the spiritual plane. But they also teach us lessons that can lead to spiritual epiphanies.

Life is a balance between light and dark. Nature is both beautifully creative and frighteningly destructive. Inside of a single human there is light and shadow, and to be totally balanced we must learn to face both, experience both and therefore learn from both. So back to the original question. Let’s say you don’t feel that you are evil if you feel anger at another person or what have you. What do you do when community ethics conflict with your personal ethics? In my opinion, as long as what you are doing does not come into direct conflict with the good of the general community, or does not manipulate or purposefully harm another person, then your personal ethics should come first. You should not do something maliciously to another person. When you do this, you are not only harming yourself, but you are harming that person, AND the whole of the community. It is very important that our community not be sullied, and the reasons are obvious. But beyond this, your personal ethics should prevail.

Do ethics change over time? Do you think that the ethics of our ancestors of 100, 200 or even 1000 or more years ago are the same as what they are now? I believe that ethics are a revolving and ever changing system. Some become outdated, and some we should always keep. For instance, it has only been in the recent resurgence of Pagansim in the last 50-60 years or so that the belief of ‘An ye harm none, do as ye will came about’. In times past, a witch who could not curse, could not heal. Societies have not always believed that you should not harm another person, or that interfering with someone life was a bad thing. The old wise woman of a village was sought out for every reason from fertility, to love, to revenge. It has been in our time only, with the resurgence of beliefs and the discrimination that we face, that we have adopted some of the common ethics we now have. I am NOT saying this is wrong, or that we should go back to the ‘Old Ways’. In a society that we now living in, and the information is available for spiritual purposes, there is no longer a need to seek out the crone of the village and ask her to grant you revenge on your enemy. But this is the perfect example of how ethics change with time. At one time it was ethical for old men to mate with young girls. In our culture, it is no longer ethical. So ethics change, and so they should. Change is the only constant in the universe, and without it, we grow stagnate and our lives become filled with rot and decay. Change blows in new life to help recreate our lives, our beliefs and yes, even out ethics.

The other common code of conduct that we hear of in the Pagan community is ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the Law, love under will.’ This comes from Aleister Crowley, from his book entitled ‘The Book of the Law’. Now knowing some of the things that we do about Crowley, it’s almost humorous to think of him in a discussion of ethics, except to point to what not to do maybe! But, this is a very powerful outlook on developing your own set of personal ethics.

In my understanding ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will’ does not mean you may do as you wish and that is it. It is speaking of your TRUE will, your TRUE purpose in life. And if you are following your true or higher will and purpose you will not come into conflict with another’s will so therefore you do not have to worry about stepping on anyone else’s toes. So you don’t have to worry about harming another, because you are in touch with the divine and you are following your own spiritual path and will, which will not cause harm or conflict with another. Of course, we still have conflicts with people. One way to look at this is as a spiritual lesson for either you or the other person. But if you are seeking to control another or harm another, this is not your true will. This is based upon the belief that every person is an individual, and as an individual you should be true to your own nature or consciousness. You must find your true will and make all of your actions subservient to the one great purpose. This again leads to conscious living.

If ethics are codes of personal and community conduct, then etiquette is a code of social conduct. Etiquette is defined as –the practices and forms prescribed by social convention or by authority; forms of conduct prescribed by polite society; code of correct conduct; also decorum denotes conformity with established standards of manners or behavior; the forms required by good breeding, or prescribed by authority, to be observed in social or official life; observance of the proprieties of rank and occasion; conventional decorum; ceremonial code of polite society; rules governing acceptable behavior.

Just like Emily Post and polite society, we in the Pagan community have behavior that is expected from us in how we interact with that community. In my opinion, etiquette is something sorely lacking in many Pagans. They are not taught certain things about how we interact with each other. This could be because maybe you didn’t have a teacher, or your teacher didn’t know them either. Or it could be because you or those who taught you just didn’t care, it wasn’t important to them. But I feel that etiquette is VERY important. It keeps us civilized, it aids us in how we interact and it shows the outside world that we know how to act.

Beyond the mundane world and it’s social etiquette, lets take a look at some things that are common among Pagan paths, especially the Wiccan path.

  1. You should never touch someone else’s magickal tools and items without their express permission. If you see something you like and want to touch, then ASK. Don’t just hold out your hand for it, or just pick it up. A person leaves an imprint of their energy on what they touch, and they may not want someone else’s energy on their magickal items. This includes athames all the way to stones and jewelery. And do not take offense if you ask and are told no.
  2. The way you live reflects on our whole community. You should always respect others, no matter their path. Inside your own religion thee is a certain higher respect given each other, as Children of the Goddess. This comes from a basic understanding of the hardships of the path, and the process we all go through in some way to evolve. It can be equated to any secret society and it’s initiation process and path of self-discovery. This path is not for everyone, and if you take it seriously, will change your life in ways you could never imagine. Any path that causes growth can be difficult. And we link with others that are going through the same thing we are and take strength from and learn from them.
  3. We endeavor to hold ourselves to a high standard of living our spiritual lives that the mundane world does not. Therefor we support each other, lending a hand when the pitfalls of the world come about.
  4. When someone gives of themselves to teach or guide, we recognize that person’s giving, and respect it. Not all of us are called to teach, and those who are offer a valuable service that should not be taken for granted.
  5. When you are called to teach or guide, you have been given a very serious part to play in your community. You should never abuse it in any way. It also does not mean that you may use it as a way to gain power over, or look down upon any other person. We are all where we should be onour path, and it does not mean a thing that you have 10 or 20 years of service and someone else has 1. We are all equal in the eyes of the Gods. And if you are a teacher, you are held to an even higher state of conduct. You must never involve yourself in anything that could cause harm to your students or to the Craft. You should never do anything that would bring a bad light on us. For instance, you should never become romantically involved with one of your students. You should not condone the use of illegal drugs, or alcohol if the person is not of age. You should not use your position to control your students, or make them dependent on you. The goal is to aid a person on this path. You supply the seed as a teacher. You cannot take them by the hand and learn from them, or be easy on them when you should be honest.
  6. In that same light, those who would be considered an elder in our faith are given a large amount of respect. The wisdom that is gained from following this path for 10, 20 or 30 years is an asset to our community, and we should respect the Elders of the community for what they have learned and what they teach us.
  7. Due to the advent of the internet, there is a phenomenon growing among new seekers that is very disturbing. It involves not understanding the hard work it takes to learn the Old Ways, or the dedication and self sacrifice those who follow, and especially those who teach and guide give to the path. From this lack of understanding, new seekers think they can go to any page on the net, learn what they can and be done with it. It also leads them to think that they can ask for what they want, and someone will just hand it over. For example, I have been asked to send someone a copy of my BOS. This shows me that the person requesting this has no idea of what a BOS is, what it stands for and the process that is gone through to acquire it. This is flat out rude to begin with. This person is wanting their religion hand fed to them. They want to skip the hard work, the dedication, the pitfalls and the trials, and get right to the reward. This is simply not how it’s done. This person wants the secrets and mysteries handed to them on a silver platter, without having to leave the comfort of the computer chair and work for them. This isn’t possible. And I am here to say STOP. Be mindful of what you are asking. You can’t go to the net, read a page or two, then go ask someone for their BOS, or even ask them to teach you. There must be effort on your part. You are not an adept after reading a page, or a book, or even ten books. The mysteries cannot be handed to you on a silver platter and you are a master of the universe. This is what I call lazy Wicca, and through lazy Wicca you will never come to experience the mysteries, because they come through dedication, hard work and a personal dedication to the Gods.
  8. Those who are out of the closet must NEVER give away the secrets of their brothers and sisters. You should never give any personal information. You should never tell the secrets of a coven, who it’s leaders are, who the members are or any other information. We must honor our vows and protect those who for whatever reason have chosen to remain hidden from the eyes of the world.
  9. For those who are out of the closet, your life and your actions must be above reproach in the eyes of the world. As an open pagan, you may be the only one that a non pagan every sees. They will see every Pagan in you. So in all things you must be truthful. You must live with dignity and honor.

In our discussion of ethics and etiquette the point I was trying to impress upon you is this. We have become a society who thinks that we may do as we please, act as we please and there are no consequences. We fight with the Christians. We complain about how they fight amongst themselves. We sneer at them when they point to another of them and say how that person is wrong and they way they practice is wrong. And yet, WE DO THE SAME THING.

When I meet a fellow priestess, I treat her with respect as a person, and doubly so as a priestess, since I know how hard that path can be, to have dedicated your life and your service to the Gods and the Old Ways. If I meet someone who has been walking the path for 20 or 30 years, I respect that person because of the knowledge they have obtained in that time. That is not to say my 10 years is less, or they are ‘more spiritual’ than me. It is saying that this path is not an easy one all the time, and to have lived it every day for that amount of time is deserving of respect. I was taught as a child to respect my elders, and I believe that is still a valid lesson. The elders of this path can teach us things that we have never even thought of. At the same time, as an elder, you should always remember what it was like to take your first stumbling steps on this path, and how you may have longed for some guidance. It is just as wrong to be an elder, and act as if you know everything, or someone who is only 20 or whatever age could never be a spiritual person. We all must remember our ethics and etiquette, and encourage each other every day.

We have forgotten to practice our personal ethics, and have thrown etiquette out the window. We have forgotten Emily Post and Miss Manners, and have went on about our merry little way to fight like cats and dogs, without even offering basic human respect for those with diverging views, and this troubles me. It is a plague that is infecting our community. The Witch Wars continue. We struggle to make our way the right way, even if we don’t realize we are doing this. We forget the very basic teaching that we are all connected, and that all paths are valid, as long as they fulfill our spiritual needs.

Let us remember our ethics. Let us live our lives with honor, treating all of life with respect. Follow your own path, without interference into another’s. Work hard, study hard and receive the blessings of a life well lived.

The Rede Does Not Say “Harm None”

The Rede Does Not Say “Harm None”

Author: Praxiteles

I have always been puzzled over the general notion that the Wiccan Rede can be reduced to “harm none”, but it wasn’t until recently that the significance of this dawned on me. Ethics and morality in Western culture are almost always the ethics of denial, restriction, and rules, instead of the ethics of opportunity.

Think of the 10 Commandments: thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not commit adultery; keep holy the Sabbath, honor thy mother and father. They define a negative space you simply shall not enter, and a positive space you simply must occupy. In the realm of morality, we’re just not used to positive ethics, to the ethics of opportunity. So it’s not surprising that what most people seem to take away from the Rede is the negative component, “harm none”. Yet, in my opinion, this reduction of the Rede misses the whole point, and does great damage to its essential nature!

If we move things from the realm of morality into another realm, this will become clearer. Suppose that your lover says to you “My darling, just as long as there isn’t any bondage-discipline or sado-masochism, we can make love in whatever way the mood and inspiration comes to us! We can let our imaginations and passions run free and enjoy each other!”

Suppose that he or she says this to you, and then you start talking about how you both must ensure that nothing that you do will lead to BDSM, and start going on about how important it is to consider the smallest implications of every action in your lovemaking, and whether or not it might not someday lead to BDSM. Wouldn’t that be missing the whole point? Wouldn’t you be focusing in exactly the wrong area? The whole point of mentioning the negative space was to say that everything else was the positive space—such a large space, such room for growth and flowering! That was the point, not the other!

Or suppose that a mother says to her children: “My dears, you can play and run and do whatever you want, and wear whatever clothes you want, so long as you stay on our property between the road and the stream.” And suppose that one child sits down and draws a map and focuses intently on the road and stream, and then walks around noting the boundary lines and continually talks to the other children about how they must not cross these boundaries. Yet, the other children are busy making up fun games to play, running around, climbing trees, and enjoying themselves.

The thought of the boundary only enters their minds when they come to the road or the stream during a game, and they take some care to turn aside the path of their running, or chose another place to hide. Wouldn’t you think those children were the ones who had gotten the real message intended by the mother? Further, wouldn’t it simply be wrong to say that the mother had told the children “never leave our property; never cross the road or the stream”?

Because, that is not what she said. Essentially she said if you don’t leave the property then you can do whatever you want and wear whatever you want. Perhaps, if questioned, she would say that if the children have on long pants and their good boots and if they don’t run, they could go across the stream.

Getting back to the Rede, it says: An it harm none, do as ye will. Clearly this is not logically equivalent to “harm none”. If we invert it, it says “An it cause harm, don’t will it”—and does not say “an it cause harm, don’t do it.” Thus, in some Traditions, the Rede is amended to read “An it harm none, do as ye will. An it cause harm, do as ye must.” The issue is whether the harm is willed or not, not whether it is done or not.

In my opinion, the part of the Rede that people should be focused on is “do as ye will”. The Rede defines a huge, wonderful, wide-open space in which each of us can figure out what our beings aspire to do, to be. As long as we aren’t harming others or ourselves, we can feel confident that we can aspire towards the flowering and revelation of our True Will.

This is the important part of the Rede, and not the bit about “harm none.” And I find it incredible that so much attention is given to the issue of “harm none”. I’ve seen endless discussion about whether it is even possible to live without harming others, evening bringing plants and bacteria into the term “others.” Some try to elevate it to an ideal, unattainable, but the direction to be followed, like the Buddhist notion of saving all sentient beings. Others use it as the reason they aren’t Wiccan. Such a stupid idea! Obviously one can’t live without harming others!

All of these positions are tangential, because the Rede doesn’t say that we must live without harming anyone or anything. The Rede says that we can do what we will if it isn’t harming anyone. If it is harming someone, then we can’t just do whatever we will—other factors and consideration enter the equation then. What those are, each of us must decide for him or herself. Even here, the Rede offers no rules. Even here, the Rede is of a very different character than the 10 Commandments and general Western morality.

Some people want to be told what to do and what not to do, what to think as good, and what to think as bad or evil. They want rules and regulations—commandments. They believe that without these, no social order is possible. Yet increasingly in this day and age we can see that that assumption is unfounded, and increasingly there are people who want to figure out a way to arrange society and ethics to allow for as much freedom of expression and being as possible; to use ethical formulations to protect and support freedom, instead of to deny and restrict it. And, in my opinion, these people are essentially following the Wiccan Rede, whether they know it or not.

Far from being a liability, I find the Wiccan Rede to be a wonderful asset. It clears away so much muck from morality, and redefines the entire realm in a positive way. Understanding it in a negative way undoes much of the greatness of the Rede. So in my opinion, people should stop reducing the Rede to “harm none” and start trying to have more fun in life!

Differences in Ethics and Magick

Differences in Ethics and Magick


When looking into Traditional Witchcraft, the differences in the views of ethics and magick are an aspect that a lot of Wiccans have a great amount of disagreement with. In Traditional Witchcraft there is a stress on the responsibility of the Witch, just as there is in Wicca, but that responsibility is looked at more in the way of a responsibility to protect yourself and those close to you in any way you can, even if that means using adverse magick in a way that Wiccan never would. For some of today’s modern day Traditional Witches, the way Wiccans will “turn the other cheek” or not get involved in a magickal sense in some situations, is seen as being somewhat of a weakness.

Ethics

Ethics


There are a lot of different components that can be looked at in a compare and contrast way between Traditional Witchcraft and Wicca. But before looking at those, let’s first take a brief glance at what ethics are to the Traditional Witch. Traditional Witches have no code or laws of ethics to live by. The most important factor in using magick is the idea that you will be responsible for your actions. Because in Traditional Witchcraft there is no Wiccan Rede or other moral code, the use of “black magick”, hexes, curses, and the like, are not ruled out on principle. In fact, to the Traditional Witch, it is looked at as honorable to do whatever is necessary to protect oneself and ones family in a time when they are facing potential danger on any level. With responsibility being the main focus, the idea in Traditional Witchcraft that there is no good or evil, only your intent, this gives even more of a weight on the shoulders of a Witch considering adverse magick.

The Nine Virtues

The Nine Virtues

Author: Kalynn Osburn

In some way or another throughout the ages, there have been sets of attributes that have been deemed by both society and individuals to define the quality of a person’s character. From the Ten Commandments to Sanatana Dharma, from the Noble Eightfold Path to the Wiccan Rede, each comprises cultural appreciation of upright action and thought. Many of these hold the same tenants as one another, with values such as honesty, kindness, generosity and honor at the top of the lists. It is in this line that I have comprised what I feel to be the Nine Virtues, a series of considerations to which I think one should aspire in their life time.

In no way do I mean to say that this is the definitive list of ethical behavior! Nor do I want anyone to believe that I have an infallible moral compass! Far from it, in fact. These are simply the traits which I think are lacking in this era and should be given due consideration. While they include several from what is considered both warrior and maidenly virtues, I have done all I can to remove the gender considerations herein and I advise seeing them more as human virtues rather than belonging to one gender or the other.

The goal here is to strive towards these traits and to do your best to keep them in mind as you act throughout the day. I have listed them in order or personal importance (1 being the most significant to me) but these are not really quantifiable as more or less significant.

HONOR

Honor is among the most difficult to define of the virtues, and yet to me it is one of the most important. Many define this concept as a definition of a man’s duty or loyalty to one’s betters or higher ups within a military code of conduct. For women the term was historically used in reference to their virginity or the price a mate would have to pay in order to wed them. Honor can mean loyalty to duty, but it can also mean to act in a way that conveys dignity and rightness. Refusing to be goaded into a fight or not allowing your character to be falsified. Taking the protecting and care of your family upon yourself and working for their good at all times. Not allowing your friends to hurt when you have the means to prevent it. It comes down to looking at the situation and doing everything in your power to work through it with rightness of thought and deed. Honor also ties in strongly with other constructs such as: Integrity of the self, Accountability for your actions, and Respect for yourself and others

COURAGE

Courage is often misinterpreted as a lack of cowardice or fear. In reality, Courage is being afraid, terrified even, but pushing forward anyway. There are two types of courage: physical courage, which could be defending someone from attack or pushing yourself to the limit, and moral courage, which would be keeping to your moral or ethical code despite potential ridicule and ostracized. It can be difficult to remain courageous without becoming reckless or displaying an excess of bravado. In my experience the truly courageous are quiet, steadfast people who one would never suspect of being capable of such bravery. The one who rushes into a burning building to save a child and then disappears before the news crew can get a shot of them. The truest form of courage is in those whose names will never be known, but who take it upon themselves to act in defense of others.

MERCY

Mercy is often portrayed as the powerful showing pity to the weak. This is often emphasized by the Christian concept of a merciful God, one who wields incomparable power and yet exercises with caution or consideration for those under their influence. But to put this on a more relatable level, one could compare mercy with humanitarian efforts such as giving your time so that other’s might live life with greater ease, even if only for a moment. Through acts of kindness and charity, such as donating your clothing to homeless shelters, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or being a counselor for a youth group, one hopes to achieve a human connection as well as a greater understanding of compassion. To quote the Bard: “The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”

HONESTY

Honesty is not always as simply as just telling the truth. In this case, the virtue has more to do with being of straightforward character. It can be difficult to weight honesty with brutal, unfeeling truth, but it is important to remember that honesty does not give one the right to be callous. You should always consider how your answer would affect the other person’s state of mind. At times a gentler hand may be called for, but sometimes we must be direct in our approach. A good thing to keep in mind is to never do anything you know you are going to have to lie about later. With this thought, Honesty is more about acting truthfully and without deceit intended than it really is about telling your friend you like her dress when it looks awful.

CUNNING-

One could find it very amusing that I chose to put the virtue of Cunning right after that of Honesty, seeing as how the two so often seem to be at odds. But in this case it is to establish a balance between the two that I include cunning among the virtues. Cunning is not about lying, but about displaying keen insight or a knowledge of something that might baffle others. You could also term this as being clever or witty about a particular subject (such as witchcraft) . It is, above all else, using your intellect to solve problems and find new solutions to old issues. Brehons might be the best example of such folk, as they had to navigate their way around the law without denying the rights of everyone involved.

ENDURANCE

Endurance is the unique ability to keep going long after others have quit. There are two kinds of endurance: physical endurance, such as a woman in labor or a man running a triathlon, and mental endurance, such as that shown during studying final exam or sensory deprivation. One could also consider life to be an endurance trial, as we face hardships and difficulties one has to show the endurance and fortitude to overcome them. Life is hard, but not without it’s joy, and sometimes weathering the hard times creates more joy in the easy times. Being tenacious and sticking to your set goals without fail shows great endurance.

SPIRIT

Spirit is the belief and understanding of an innermost self, a soul or essence, which comprises you as an incorporeal being. It is a connectedness to a larger self and an understanding that there is a pattern and weaving to existence that you are a part of. This could also be termed Piety, though I would not include religious devotion as the explanation. Rather you strive to see the big picture of life, not only in terms of you and yours but also in terms of the universe as a whole. Someone who has the virtue of Spirit is confident, but without the danger of hubris and arrogance that so often comes with the idea of a higher spiritual understanding. As Albert Einstein said “Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.”

INTROSPECTION

Introspection is being aware of your own needs, desires, flaws, virtues and state of mind. It is a conscious effort on the part of a person to fully consider their actions and thoughts and to consider the ramifications both to themselves and to others. It is the consideration of one’s own mind, or meta-cognition (thinking about thinking) . One could consider this like having a psychologist inside your own mind. You try to break down your own though process, questions yourself and answer honestly. It is not the same as doubting yourself or seeing your own advise as invalid, it is simply exploring your own motives and knowing where they come from.

TRANQUILITY

Tranquility is maintaining a state of calmness and levelheaded thinking. It is in allowing yourself to move beyond the hectic frustrations and troubles of the moment and not letting them interfere with your thought process or course of action. One could also add into this the feeling of contentment with your life as it is right now, without giving thought to the future or past. You become at ease with the reality of the world and life in general and accept your current state of being. Inherent in this is the ability to move past what may be happening at the moment and focus on what must come next.

Magical Ethics

Magical Ethics

ByPatti Wigington

There’s a saying among the contemporary Pagan community that “black magic is whatever works, white magic is anything else.” This stems in part from a misconception that black equals bad, white equals good, and that there are no gray areas at all. However, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Let’s look at the word blackitself, and figure out why it connotates evil. A big part of that is thanks to pop culture — after all, in popular shows like Charmed or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the good guys are the “white light” people. The bad guys are surrounded by darkness. Another part of the whole black = bad concept is because of people who can’t let go of their Christian upbringing, in which those who are righteous are surrounded by the light of God, and those who are damned will dwell in darkness.

The problem with this logic is that darkness in and of itself doesn’t have to be bad at all. After all, how beautiful is a quiet night out in the country, miles away from the lights of a city? Have you ever walked in the woods at midnight, embracing the comfort of the shadows? Darkness is what lies in the soil, below the earth, before a plant grows in the spring. It is the long nights of winter, when we are drawn into our homes to embrace our families and count our good fortune. It is the inside of the womb, warm and nurturing. Even the darkness of the grave, of death itself, may be seen as welcoming.

Once we accept that dark isn’t all that bad, it’s a lot easier to look at the concept of “black magic” vs. “white magic.” Even if we replace the words “black” with “negative” and “white” with “positive”, we’re still in a bit of a pickle, and here’s why: because it is the intent that matters as much as the action. In other words, if someone performs magic that others might see as “negative,” but does it for what they believe is an honest and just reason, then is it really negative magic?

To do magic is to say that you want to bring about change in the Universe — after all, if everything were perfect, there’d be no need for magic at all. Any magic capable of causing change is also magic that can harm, simply by its very nature. Magic isn’t some Super Spooky Power that we have — it’s a tool we can use to precipitate changes. Any tool can be used for helping or harming — if I have a hammer, I can use it to build a house. I can also use it to whack people in the head. It’s not the hammer that’s “negative”, but what I choose to do with it.

Case in point: in the early nineties, a serial rapist was terrorizing the women of a coastal city in the Carolinas. His reported victims, over two years, numbered at least two dozen, including a teenage girl who later committed suicide. A group of witches got together one night, and did a working calling for this man to be stopped by the Universe. A couple of weeks later, the prime suspect — who was later convicted — led police on a high-speed chase and wrecked his car, nearly dying from his injuries. He has lived since then severely handicapped, but he never raped another woman.

Negative magic, or no?

There are people within the Wiccan and Pagan community who feel that any magic that affects other people at all is unethical, and they have the right to not perform any magic on, against, or for others. However, there are an equal amount of people who believe that change brought about by magic is acceptable, just as change brought about by mundane methods is acceptable. Chances are, the two camps will never agree, but what you can do, as an individual, is respect the beliefs of those who may disagree with you, whichever side you may happen to fall on.

Look at magic as a way to improve your life. You can use it to bring love to you, to gain financial abundance, to eliminate problems from your life. You can use it as a method of growth and self-empowerment. It can be used to help you fulfill your dreams, desires and goals. Can you use magic to help other people? Sure — if they ask you to. If they haven’t asked — or if they’ve specifically told you NOT to do anything on their behalf, then don’t.

Ultimately, only you can decide which forms of magic fall into your personal system of ethics. If you feel a particular course of action is wrong, then avoid it. If you feel it is ethically acceptable, and you’re willing to accept the results of your actions, then so be it.

Magical Ethics and Guidelines

Magical Ethics and Guidelines

There’s a lot of spirited discussion about magical ethics within the Wiccan and Pagan communities. What’s okay to do, and what’s not? More importantly, do the rules apply to everyone? Read on to find out the basics of magical ethics, and how you can figure out what’s acceptable within your own magical tradition.

Magic for Personal Gain

There’s an awful lot of speculation about whether or not it’s okay to perform magic for personal gain. Unless your particular tradition forbids it, here’s why you should feel okay about doing magic to benefit yourself.

One of the first cautionary warnings that people new to the magical life seem to stumble upon is the idea that magic shouldn’t be used for personal gain. There doesn’t seem to be any clear-cut precedent for where this mandate came from, and in fact very few Wiccan or Pagan traditions follow it. To do magic is, after, to express your own discontent with the universe and the things in it, and to make changes come about to your satisfaction.

Think of it this way. Let’s say you are particularly skilled at building things. Is there some big Rule of Building that says you’re only allowed to construct things for other people, but never for yourself? What if you have a talent for balancing numbers? Does the Accountant’s Rede permit you only to do someone else’s bookkeeping, but not let you balance your own checkbook? Of course not. That would be ridiculous.

If your tradition says, “Don’t do this,” then don’t do it. Otherwise, what’s holding you back? Your personal code of ethics will help you determine whether or not you can perform an action or not. 

Magic is a skill set just like any other. You can use it alone, or you can use it in tandem with the mundane. Part of developing magical ability is to make your own life better. If you’re sick, you do a healing working on yourself. If you’re financially strapped, you do a working that brings abundance your way. Just like with any other talent, use the skills you have to benefit yourself. If you’d like to use it to help other people as well, that’s awesome, and something to be proud of. In the meantime, unless your tradition specifically forbids you from doing magic for personal gain, don’t ever let anyone tell you that your abilities can’t be used for yourself.

Ethics and Etiquette

Ethics and Etiquette

 

Hello,

I would like to contribute the attached article, written by me, to the IBOS. This article may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes, providing that this original copyright notice stays in place at all times.

Thank you,

Morgaine

© Morgaine 2001

 

When we speak of ethics and etiquette in relation to pagansim what are we referring to? Are we speaking of outdated rules and actions that no longer have meaning and we only give lip service to? I don’t believe so. Ethics and etiquette are living, breathing codes of life, shaping our actions in relation to each other, and ourselves. They are a guiding force in the way we live our lives.

Let us first look at ethics. Ethics are defined as –a set of principles; moral philosophy; rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or the members of a profession; human duty; a particular system of principles and rules concerning duty, whether true or false; rules of practice in respect to a single class of human actions; motivation based on ideas of right and wrong; the philosophical study of moral values and rules.

When we begin to speak of ethics, we need to realize that this can be a very touchy subject. We are human after all, and we want to think our ethics are the correct ones. While there are generally accepted community ethics, it is personal ethics that make up who we are. And these are not the same for each person.

Before we begin to discuss in depth community and person ethics let us first look at the Rede, the most common code of conduct among Wiccans.

Bide the Wiccan law ye must, in perfect love and perfect trust;

Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill;

‘An ye harm none, do as ye will’;

Lest in self-defense it be, ever mind the rule of three;

Follow this with mind and heart;

And merry ye meet and merry ye part.

Every Wiccan knows the Rede. Our passwords into the sacred circle are in here. Our major rule of ethic is here. And the reason for breaking this ethic, as well as the consequences of breaking it foolishly. When we extract the line most popular –An ye harm none, do as ye will’ and begin to dissect it, we have to wonder “Is this an ethic we can every achieve?”

I believe the Rede is a standard of living, like all ethics, and one that is an impossibility to achieve. The goal is to live as closely to the Rede as possible. In the attempt to do this, we begin to analyze our actions. We follow the path of LEAST harm. Thus, we begin to live conscious of our actions, and how they effect the world around us. And here comes the REAL lesson of the Rede. It forces us to have personal responsibility. Once you have acknowledged that the Rede is a goal to work for and not a given situation, and have taken of the blinders that let you go around smug and happy that your religion is so sweet it makes your teeth itch, you can get down to the work of making your life an ethical one. What this involves is considering each decision in the light of the Rede before you decide upon a course of action. You do this by looking at all the possible consequences of that action and whether that will cause harm to any, choosing the path that causes the least harm and, (THIS IS THE KEY) accepting the responsibility for the consequences of your actions whether intentional or unintentional. -Lark, HPS of Tangled Moon Coven.

Wicca, as well as most Pagansim, is a religion and spiritual path of personal responsibility. We strive to live in an aware state. When we do this, we recognize our free will, and the free will of others. If we ignore the lesson of personal responsibility, we fail to realize our true spiritual potential and our true spiritual will.

As we begin our path, we must develop a set of personal ethics, while maintaining a respect for the ethics of the community we are becoming a part of. Some community ethics are very well defined.

-Don’t practice black magick, or follow the left-hand path.

-Don’t attempt to harm another or interfere with their free will.

-Always act in a way that will reflect well upon your path. Never do anything that will bring harm to the Craft.

Since Wicca, and pagansim, are very open paths and for the most part do not seek to make anyone follow ‘ONE RIGHT WAY’, most of the ethics defined by community are concerning harm to others, and harm to the Craft.

But to begin a spiritual path, and to follow it every day of your life, you must develop your own set of personal ethics that define the way you live. No one can tell you what your personal ethics should be. Your teachers, mentors, HPS, HP can all recommend both in word and deed, ethics that work for them. You may be given a ‘Book of the Law’ that governs your group or tradition. If you are a solitary, you may read on the net, or in a book, acceptable codes of conduct, or ideals. But you cannot take someone else’s ethics and make them your own. You must do some soul searching, and decide how you feel about things. Now I am NOT suggesting that you ignore your HPS or HP, or your teachers and mentors. I am suggesting that you should always temper wisdom with personal experience. You must come to a point that you are willing to question what you are taught, to grow in your own self. Through this, your own sense of ethics and morals will come.

Now, here comes the biggie. What do you do when your personal ethics are in direct conflict with accepted community ethics? For example-it has become a phenomenon in the pagan community to love everything white and full of light, and shun everything dark and full of shadow. It has become unacceptable to speak of negative emotions like anger and envy. It has become unacceptable to feel hate towards another person, wish that a murderer would get the death penalty, which that rapist would get castrated by a bunch of angry women. Some of us fondly refer to this a fluffy, bunny Wicca, no offense to anything fluffy, or bunnies. We are taught to love unconditionally because we are all brothers and sisters, connected to each other and every living thing. We are taught that if we experience these emotions, maybe we aren’t all that spiritual, and especially not as much as Miss crystal love and light. We are often looked down upon if we say something like ‘I am so damn mad at my ex husband I could smack him’. The response I myself have heard to such comment is ‘my my, now THAT wasn’t very positive’. Well, guess what. It WASN’T. Now I am not saying that you should indulge in these emotions. They can be deterrents to developing a sound spiritual identity because they are ‘negative’ in the sense that they are base emotions that do not vibrate on the spiritual plane. But they also teach us lessons that can lead to spiritual epiphanies.

Life is a balance between light and dark. Nature is both beautifully creative and frighteningly destructive. Inside of a single human there is light and shadow, and to be totally balanced we must learn to face both, experience both and therefore learn from both. So back to the original question. Let’s say you don’t feel that you are evil if you feel anger at another person or what have you. What do you do when community ethics conflict with your personal ethics? In my opinion, as long as what you are doing does not come into direct conflict with the good of the general community, or does not manipulate or purposefully harm another person, then your personal ethics should come first. You should not do something maliciously to another person. When you do this, you are not only harming yourself, but you are harming that person, AND the whole of the community. It is very important that our community not be sullied, and the reasons are obvious. But beyond this, your personal ethics should prevail.

Do ethics change over time? Do you think that the ethics of our ancestors of 100, 200 or even 1000 or more years ago are the same as what they are now? I believe that ethics are a revolving and ever changing system. Some become outdated, and some we should always keep. For instance, it has only been in the recent resurgence of Pagansim in the last 50-60 years or so that the belief of ‘An ye harm none, do as ye will came about’. In times past, a witch who could not curse, could not heal. Societies have not always believed that you should not harm another person, or that interfering with someone life was a bad thing. The old wise woman of a village was sought out for every reason from fertility, to love, to revenge. It has been in our time only, with the resurgence of beliefs and the discrimination that we face, that we have adopted some of the common ethics we now have. I am NOT saying this is wrong, or that we should go back to the ‘Old Ways’. In a society that we now living in, and the information is available for spiritual purposes, there is no longer a need to seek out the crone of the village and ask her to grant you revenge on your enemy. But this is the perfect example of how ethics change with time. At one time it was ethical for old men to mate with young girls. In our culture, it is no longer ethical. So ethics change, and so they should. Change is the only constant in the universe, and without it, we grow stagnate and our lives become filled with rot and decay. Change blows in new life to help recreate our lives, our beliefs and yes, even out ethics.

The other common code of conduct that we hear of in the Pagan community is ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the Law, love under will.’ This comes from Aleister Crowley, from his book entitled ‘The Book of the Law’. Now knowing some of the things that we do about Crowley, it’s almost humorous to think of him in a discussion of ethics, except to point to what not to do maybe! But, this is a very powerful outlook on developing your own set of personal ethics.

In my understanding ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will’ does not mean you may do as you wish and that is it. It is speaking of your TRUE will, your TRUE purpose in life. And if you are following your true or higher will and purpose you will not come into conflict with another’s will so therefore you do not have to worry about stepping on anyone else’s toes. So you don’t have to worry about harming another, because you are in touch with the divine and you are following your own spiritual path and will, which will not cause harm or conflict with another. Of course, we still have conflicts with people. One way to look at this is as a spiritual lesson for either you or the other person. But if you are seeking to control another or harm another, this is not your true will. This is based upon the belief that every person is an individual, and as an individual you should be true to your own nature or consciousness. You must find your true will and make all of your actions subservient to the one great purpose. This again leads to conscious living.

If ethics are codes of personal and community conduct, then etiquette is a code of social conduct. Etiquette is defined as –the practices and forms prescribed by social convention or by authority; forms of conduct prescribed by polite society; code of correct conduct; also decorum denotes conformity with established standards of manners or behavior; the forms required by good breeding, or prescribed by authority, to be observed in social or official life; observance of the proprieties of rank and occasion; conventional decorum; ceremonial code of polite society; rules governing acceptable behavior.

Just like Emily Post and polite society, we in the Pagan community have behavior that is expected from us in how we interact with that community. In my opinion, etiquette is something sorely lacking in many Pagans. They are not taught certain things about how we interact with each other. This could be because maybe you didn’t have a teacher, or your teacher didn’t know them either. Or it could be because you or those who taught you just didn’t care, it wasn’t important to them. But I feel that etiquette is VERY important. It keeps us civilized, it aids us in how we interact and it shows the outside world that we know how to act.

Beyond the mundane world and it’s social etiquette, lets take a look at some things that are common among Pagan paths, especially the Wiccan path.

  1. You should never touch someone else’s magickal tools and items without their express permission. If you see something you like and want to touch, then ASK. Don’t just hold out your hand for it, or just pick it up. A person leaves an imprint of their energy on what they touch, and they may not want someone else’s energy on their magickal items. This includes athames all the way to stones and jewelery. And do not take offense if you ask and are told no.
  2. The way you live reflects on our whole community. You should always respect others, no matter their path. Inside your own religion thee is a certain higher respect given each other, as Children of the Goddess. This comes from a basic understanding of the hardships of the path, and the process we all go through in some way to evolve. It can be equated to any secret society and it’s initiation process and path of self-discovery. This path is not for everyone, and if you take it seriously, will change your life in ways you could never imagine. Any path that causes growth can be difficult. And we link with others that are going through the same thing we are and take strength from and learn from them.
  3. We endeavor to hold ourselves to a high standard of living our spiritual lives that the mundane world does not. Therefor we support each other, lending a hand when the pitfalls of the world come about.
  4. When someone gives of themselves to teach or guide, we recognize that person’s giving, and respect it. Not all of us are called to teach, and those who are offer a valuable service that should not be taken for granted.
  5. When you are called to teach or guide, you have been given a very serious part to play in your community. You should never abuse it in any way. It also does not mean that you may use it as a way to gain power over, or look down upon any other person. We are all where we should be onour path, and it does not mean a thing that you have 10 or 20 years of service and someone else has 1. We are all equal in the eyes of the Gods. And if you are a teacher, you are held to an even higher state of conduct. You must never involve yourself in anything that could cause harm to your students or to the Craft. You should never do anything that would bring a bad light on us. For instance, you should never become romantically involved with one of your students. You should not condone the use of illegal drugs, or alcohol if the person is not of age. You should not use your position to control your students, or make them dependent on you. The goal is to aid a person on this path. You supply the seed as a teacher. You cannot take them by the hand and learn from them, or be easy on them when you should be honest.
  6. In that same light, those who would be considered an elder in our faith are given a large amount of respect. The wisdom that is gained from following this path for 10, 20 or 30 years is an asset to our community, and we should respect the Elders of the community for what they have learned and what they teach us.
  7. Due to the advent of the internet, there is a phenomenon growing among new seekers that is very disturbing. It involves not understanding the hard work it takes to learn the Old Ways, or the dedication and self sacrifice those who follow, and especially those who teach and guide give to the path. From this lack of understanding, new seekers think they can go to any page on the net, learn what they can and be done with it. It also leads them to think that they can ask for what they want, and someone will just hand it over. For example, I have been asked to send someone a copy of my BOS. This shows me that the person requesting this has no idea of what a BOS is, what it stands for and the process that is gone through to acquire it. This is flat out rude to begin with. This person is wanting their religion hand fed to them. They want to skip the hard work, the dedication, the pitfalls and the trials, and get right to the reward. This is simply not how it’s done. This person wants the secrets and mysteries handed to them on a silver platter, without having to leave the comfort of the computer chair and work for them. This isn’t possible. And I am here to say STOP. Be mindful of what you are asking. You can’t go to the net, read a page or two, then go ask someone for their BOS, or even ask them to teach you. There must be effort on your part. You are not an adept after reading a page, or a book, or even ten books. The mysteries cannot be handed to you on a silver platter and you are a master of the universe. This is what I call lazy Wicca, and through lazy Wicca you will never come to experience the mysteries, because they come through dedication, hard work and a personal dedication to the Gods.
  8. Those who are out of the closet must NEVER give away the secrets of their brothers and sisters. You should never give any personal information. You should never tell the secrets of a coven, who it’s leaders are, who the members are or any other information. We must honor our vows and protect those who for whatever reason have chosen to remain hidden from the eyes of the world.
  9. For those who are out of the closet, your life and your actions must be above reproach in the eyes of the world. As an open pagan, you may be the only one that a non pagan every sees. They will see every Pagan in you. So in all things you must be truthful. You must live with dignity and honor.

In our discussion of ethics and etiquette the point I was trying to impress upon you is this. We have become a society who thinks that we may do as we please, act as we please and there are no consequences. We fight with the Christians. We complain about how they fight amongst themselves. We sneer at them when they point to another of them and say how that person is wrong and they way they practice is wrong. And yet, WE DO THE SAME THING.

When I meet a fellow priestess, I treat her with respect as a person, and doubly so as a priestess, since I know how hard that path can be, to have dedicated your life and your service to the Gods and the Old Ways. If I meet someone who has been walking the path for 20 or 30 years, I respect that person because of the knowledge they have obtained in that time. That is not to say my 10 years is less, or they are ‘more spiritual’ than me. It is saying that this path is not an easy one all the time, and to have lived it every day for that amount of time is deserving of respect. I was taught as a child to respect my elders, and I believe that is still a valid lesson. The elders of this path can teach us things that we have never even thought of. At the same time, as an elder, you should always remember what it was like to take your first stumbling steps on this path, and how you may have longed for some guidance. It is just as wrong to be an elder, and act as if you know everything, or someone who is only 20 or whatever age could never be a spiritual person. We all must remember our ethics and etiquette, and encourage each other every day.

We have forgotten to practice our personal ethics, and have thrown etiquette out the window. We have forgotten Emily Post and Miss Manners, and have went on about our merry little way to fight like cats and dogs, without even offering basic human respect for those with diverging views, and this troubles me. It is a plague that is infecting our community. The Witch Wars continue. We struggle to make our way the right way, even if we don’t realize we are doing this. We forget the very basic teaching that we are all connected, and that all paths are valid, as long as they fulfill our spiritual needs.

Let us remember our ethics. Let us live our lives with honor, treating all of life with respect. Follow your own path, without interference into another’s. Work hard, study hard and receive the blessings of a life well lived.

Harm None and the Rede?

Harm None and the Rede?

Author: Phoenix Sol

The rede is a very important thing to me and most other Wiccans I know, and some other branches of Paganism. However I feel that this important piece is highly misunderstood by a lot of the community. I have seen it again and again so I thought that I would maybe try to clear up a few important points that I have found.

Please read the whole thing before you judge my above statement, I understand that some of you might disagree with the points I am about to make and I respect your different views and opinions even if I do not personally agree. You can feel free to think what you think but I have not heard my view put out there in the past so I feel that I must do it now.

‘Harm none.’ What do these two words imply? To harm nothing would be to not exist. To live is to cause harm and death so that the cycle of life can go around. There are microorganisms in the air that when you breathe you kill them. Every time you eat you are causing harm, if you eat meat then someone had to end the life of your meal and even if you don’t eat meat then you are still causing harm to the plant you are eating, for it too was a living organism.

Anything you say can harm another human, even if you tell your religion to a loved one who is against it then you are harming them in some way. If someone attacks you then you would you use what you could to survive or let him or her do what they will because you refuse to cause harm on them? The latter option is impractical, unsafe, and if you chose it you probably would not be mentally all right even if you did live through it.

I do not know why people can think that they truly follow this code in life when it is clearly out of the questions in some situations. However is it even a code?

People who claim to ‘harm none’ do so usually by following the rede thinking that this is what the rede says. However the rede I have found and follow says, ‘An ye harm none, do what ye will.’ The two words mentioned earlier are by no means the only part of the rede as it consists of all eight words. If the eight words were there then it would stand to reason that all of them would share an equal importance.

As mentioned above, I have a very hard time excepting that the only two words in the rede that are important is ‘harm none’ because then the rest of the rede would not be there at all. This is not a short story either where words just get thrown in even if they have little to no meaning within the context of the larger story. This is one sentence that every word has to be perfectly chosen and placed in order to make the meaning get across in such a short amount of space.
In modern language this translates into, ‘if you harm none then you may do as you will.’

Note again it does not say only ‘harm none.’ The ‘if you, ’ or ‘an ye, ’ implies the choice. Such as if a mother said to their child, ‘if you eat your dinner then you may have your chocolate cake.’ If you do something then you will get a sort of reward in return. I know that this is not the basis of Wicca, or Paganism in general, but it is the best example I can come up with for trying to get across my point. So now that we have established what the first four words mean lets move on to the next four.

‘Do what ye will.’ Now this part I feel is much more straightforward than the first four words. It is well known that in Paganism there is no dogma that you MUST follow and there are no rules that direct your behavior. We do not condemn as some monotheistic religions do, threatening with hell fires and the like. However as this alone would make sense, the Pagan paths to not look for this type of behavior as you have to have some structure (what that structure is depends on the particular path that you choose to follow) . But you should also realize that this is also not quite what the rede is telling us. The last part is that we have to take the two parts discussed so far and add them together.

Now there is another common misunderstanding of what it says at this point. I would like you to realize now that if the rede meant to say that you could do whatever you want as long as what you do doesn’t do harm then it would have been worded much differently. It would read, ‘Do what ye will, if ye harm none.’ Think again of the parent and child, this situation would say something along the lines of ‘you can only play in the park if you don’t use the sandbox.’ And yet again this is not how the rede is read.

What it is saying, however, is that if what you are doing causes no harm then you can do it freely. It is not commending the action of causing harm but implying that you may not do harm lightly, with no purpose. Harm is inevitable and the rede I lives by tells me that a logical reason, such as surviving or happiness or well being, is necessary if one decides that they need to cause harm. Harm should not be done without reason however it is inevitable.

This is the rede I live by, ‘An ye harm none, do what ye will.’

Now again this is just how I view the rede and it may be interpreted differently. I will respect other views on it but I would like to say that some things are plain impossible for humans to accomplish.