I’m Right, You’re Wrong: The Fight to be Different

I’m Right, You’re Wrong: The Fight to be Different

Author:   Sarrestia 

I was thinking about writing all the examples and instances up front, and then lay out the bottom-line, but then I decided, what the heck:

Ladies and Gentlemen, there is not a damn thing you can do to be anything like the person next to you. No matter what you do, no matter how you live, no matter what you think, you will always, from before birth to after death, be different. This is not an opinion, this is not an ‘in-a-perfect-world’ statement, and this is fact, genetically to psychologically to metaphysically.

Every single person is built on two things: their genetics and their environment, not one or the other, but simultaneously.

Your genes are the product of half of two people’s genetics: your mother and father. Though you have their genes, you do not have all of them; you have a combination of genetics that they can never have. You are different! Even if you suddenly start looking ‘like’ your parents, or acting ‘like’ your parents, you are still not your parents. It is a genetic, biological impossibility.

Your experiences are the product of your environment, your genetics, and most especially, the thoughts and emotions you keep within your mind of those experiences. From the moment of birth, you begin to the act of experiencing the world around you, and within you. You are different!

Even identical twins, with the same exact genetic combinations, due to their experiences, will never, can never, be the same; they will be different. Though many studies of identical twins have shown that separated twins will display similar likes and dislikes, similar activities in their lives, but they are vastly different because of the families and environment they were raised. In addition, identical twins that were not separated, but were raised together have shown, repeatedly, that despite the same environment, they develop different personalities.

So, the very core of every single human being — in the genetics and experiences and behavior — will never be the same as another; we will always be different.

If this is so, then why do people demand that they be different? Why do children develop the intense, rebellious nature to become different from their parents, when they are and always have been? Why do people fight and kill to be different?

As to the title: I’m Right, You’re Wrong, it is this very thing of proving to another that they are different, in their personalities, their ideologies, etc that causes so many issues when it isn’t even about who is right or wrong. The point of any of this is that we are both right and we are both wrong. We are right in ourselves, to ourselves, but we are wrong to everyone else.

I would love to say that this problem is only the vice of the major religions, but alas, no. From the major religions to atheists, everyone thinks they are right and everyone else is wrong.

I will take this moment, before I continue, that this species of ours is blessed with the few individuals who have pulled themselves away from this trap to understand that it doesn’t matter what you believe in, they are happy with what they believe in and who they are; your beliefs, though nice to know, are irrelevant to their happiness. Sounds harsh, yes, but honestly it is the only way one can be happy, is to not allow everyone else’s opinions about one’s beliefs or their beliefs to be of any concern.

Unfortunately, this right vs. wrong attitude is deeply impeded in the pagan community. From the ceremonialists and traditionalists looking down at eclectics and solitaires to pagan women vs. pagan men to Wiccans vs. Witchcraft vs. New Agers vs. Fluff Bunnies… I can go on, of course. For a spirituality that is so ambiguous that the beliefs and actions of an individual is based on what feels right to him/her, and a spirituality that is far more accommodating to a person’s choice of lifestyle in any manner, it seems ridiculous that we would carry this issue with us. Of course, it may just be the result of the majority of pagans carrying this right and wrong issue from their previous religions, but I’m going to be optimistic (or pessimistic) and say it is just human nature.

By stating that I’m Right and You’re Wrong is human nature, it may be a lost cause and we, except for individuals, may never overcome this issue. However, at this point, I will be optimistic and say that the people who are formulating one of the greatest spiritual movements this world has seen in such a long time have the ability, if not the necessity, to overcome this pitfall and rise to a higher form of thinking with regards to anyone who is in the least bit different from you. Because guess what, they are, and will never see the same thing you see or feel or think or smell, and NEVER have the same spiritual experience as you.

Let the main religions continue their never-ending fight to be right and destroy, even if not physically they are still trying mentally and emotionally, those they feel are wrong. Let atheists struggle in their fight to convince people to shrug off millions of years of myth-based philosophies. Understand that you are different and will always be different and embrace that; embrace your weirdness, your difference, while at the same time acknowledging what we all share.

Which brings me to another point: despite all of our differences, we are still all members of the human species (unless there is someone that is reading this that does not currently carry human DNA within them…beg my pardon, no offense) . Every single person feels the same emotions. Whether they are expressed differently or triggered differently, a happy person in Iraq will look and act the same as a happy person in Nebraska (I know, I’ve seen happy Iraqis but I’ll have to debate the extent of a happy Nebraskan) .

We are different and we are the same, we are all right and we are all wrong. We are all individuals within one species on one planet, with DNA that is at its most basic the same with every single living creature on this planet.

Pagans, we are a fractious bunch from the very start because we choose to follow what is right within our hearts and souls, not because of what someone else says is right. So why do I constantly see people writing and commenting on their opinions of another person’s spiritual choice? Does their decision to join a coven, take the best from all the rest, or follow the creeds of people with less than credible sources change your beliefs, affect your beliefs, make you doubt your own? If so, then your heart and soul are telling you that the path you are currently on isn’t the one for you.

Today’s I Ching Hexagram for December 20th is 43: Determination

43: Determination

Thursday, Dec 20th, 2012

hexagram09

 

 

 

Personal resolution points to a breakthrough, but decisive action is required. As long as you diligently hold your ground and ward off negative tendencies and influences, the good will prevail.

The persistence of negativity, which is that which opposes the good, is a constant in human affairs. Just when it is thought to have been eradicated, up it will pop again, sprouting through some crack in the pavement of civilized society. Evil need not take dramatic or extravagant forms, such as those exhibited in Nazi Germany. Garden-variety lies and deceit are much more common and persistent, but should be rooted out just as diligently. One must be determined to not accidentally feed negativity — either in one’s social or professional life, or in one’s own soul. In either case, definite rules must be followed for the struggle to succeed.

The first rule: do not compromise with evil. Destructive or exploitive actions must be identified openly for what they are, and discredited. The second: one cannot successfully resist negativity on its own terms. New, positive alternatives that lead away from the source of the problem are generally more successful, and appropriate than trying to counter negativity with raw power. The third rule: the means used to counter negativity must be consistent with the end to be achieved. One cannot stop the spreading of lies by spreading more of them.

Finding Your Own Pagan Family Values

Finding Your Own Pagan Family Values

 

by Sienna

Before I got to know any pagans in my area, I was a stay-at-home mother of two. Because this was a very boring lifestyle, I volunteered to help out an organization called Parents Anonymous and became a group therapy counselor. What a relief it was to learn that much of the organization’s methodologies tied in with pagan values. I’m sure many pagan families can benefit from this experience, so I’ll share what I know here.

Pagan families are growing, both in number and in size, and now at the family season of Yule it’s a good time to take a look at the environment that pagan children grow up in. Many of our children (including mine) are getting to the age of puberty. This means that there are some heavy lessons ahead involving sex, drugs, peer pressure, societal pressure, setting morality and setting guidelines.

In a Christian community, the Bible provides the framework of morality that parents can teach their children. A Christian community has 10 commandments that allow parents to draw lines between right and wrong behavior. But what framework can we work from if we are pagans?

The answer is simple: An ye harm none, do as ye will. Even if you are not Wiccan, this guideline (or something similar to it) is in most codes of behavior for most non-Christian belief systems. But whichever code of conduct you choose for yourself in your dealings with other adults, you must use the same code of conduct when dealing with your children. Kids are the first to spot a hypocrite, and if they spot you being hypocritical, you will have a hard time regaining their respect.

So let’s take a look at what that phrase, as stated above, means. Doing your will, and by this I mean your True Will, which has been defined as “the true purpose of the totality of one’s being,” means finding out what suits you best. Your Will is made up of tiny decisions made every day that lead you in one particular direction. The voice of your conscience is a part of your Will, as well as your long-term goals, and what people and things are attractive to you. Everything you have done so far has put you where you are now. So remember: When you are interacting with your children, it was an act of your Will that put them there.

One of the things that we sometimes forget about Will is that I have no right to guess what my kid’s Will is, and she has no right to guess mine (or anyone else’s, for that matter!). Although parents can offer advice and information, in the end the decision to act or not act belongs to the child. Whether my daughter goes to college, is gay or straight or chooses Christianity, it’s none of my business, unless she tells me it is. Just because my daughter is my offspring doesn’t mean I get to set her Will. Any attempt to do so violates the first part of the sentence: An ye harm none.

Let’s take a look at the word harm. Harm occurs when one person attempts to stop another person from doing his or her Will. Kids can do harm to their parents by breaking the law while they are minors, not telling the truth or breaking well-established rules. Parents can do harm to kids by expecting too much, disciplining too much or neglecting their needs.

Watch yourself and your reactions to your child, and see if there is any Will subversion going on. Do you give in when he gets emotional? Do you get angry when she states her own opinion? Discuss the rules of your household with your children. Make sure that all of them are logical, and take the time to explain each one to the child. If you can’t explain it in words he or she can understand, do you really need that rule? This means no because-I-said-so’s.

But what about when someone’s Will is causing harm? What happens when a drug dealer sells drugs to curious children? What happens when someone’s sex drive causes him or her to react inappropriately toward a minor? How does one deal with the harm that this causes without hurting our children or impeding another person’s Will? This gets tricky, indeed, when there are no commandments that outline particular behavior.

Each lifetime has its lessons to learn, and perhaps your path has crossed the path of one of these types of people. Think about the lessons learned from a drug dealer, an oversexed acquaintance or a violent maniac. The lesson to “stay away from these types” had to be learned somewhere in life. Would you be who you are if no one had ever done you harm?

This is not to say that drug dealers should be allowed to sell crack to your kids on the playground. This is never good, for Christians or for pagans. But what is more effective, openly attacking the drug dealer, or telling the kids how it does harm to themselves and their parents if they choose drugs and why the dealer is a person to stay away from? Many people would choose both of these methods; however, an open attack on someone usually makes them sneakier or more determined in the behavior you want stopped. The most peaceful resolution is to educate those whose naïveté would allow them to be harmed. In this way, you are helping your children choose the correct path of their Will and allowing the lessons they need to learn to happen.

When I have warned my children of all dangers, when I know they understand what my words mean, I have done all I can do without causing harm to them myself. Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own behavior and with whom we choose to associate and avoid. Therefore, getting angry at children for getting themselves in trouble is pointless and sometimes heartless.

Punishment in a pagan family is yet another issue of Will. If my son’s Will is to stay out all night on a school night, he will pay the karma in lower attention span and perhaps lost grades in school. But teenagers have very little idea of what the long-term consequences are, because they have not lived a long term. Therefore, it is my job as his parent to drive the lesson home. When he says he’s going out, I ask him what time he is coming home and discuss whether or not this is an appropriate time to be in bed for a full night’s rest. Then I explain that if he does not stick to his word, he will be given extra chores, have privileges revoked or have other nonviolent unpleasantries occur. At that point, the decision of whether to stay out all night is back on him, and because he knows I’m consistent, he knows he’s going to do those chores if he is not!

In writing this article, I was asked, “So what about the kid who is impossible to deal with, who is entirely unreasonable?” There is no such child. Just because your teenage daughter is not listening to reason from you doesn’t mean she is entirely unreasonable. Someone, somewhere, has her attention, even if it’s her best friend who gives her lousy advice. What has happened here is that the child has lost respect for you somewhere down the line. All it takes is one time for her to see you not being honest, fair or reasonable yourself, and she may lose respect for you. Just once.

So begin by reinforcing the positive parts of your relationship with your child. Remember, you are both individuals, and you can be yourself with your kid, as much as you are with your best friend. When you understand that this is an adult in the making, and not an annoying, needy creature that you have to support, you will find the most reasonable path of communicating with her or him.

Which brings us to communicating with kids. Think about how young you were when you began having independent thoughts of your own. Your kids have been thinking for themselves since day one and will continue to come up with their own original ideas and attitudes for the rest of their lives. Allowing your kids to tell you these ideas without judgment will encourage them to think for themselves and preserve the level of respect that they have for you. Showing respect to my children while explaining my point of view makes sure that they have heard me, so that they don’t learn the lesson the hard way. Children listen when they have respect for the adult speaking. Winning respect that has already been lost is a long, hard job, so it’s easier not to disrespect them in the first place.

If you provide a basis for communication that cuts through all the fear and worry with your kid, there is nothing that any other person can do or say to undermine your authority with the child — including his or her other parent. Don’t fear what the other parent will say, and don’t pull any punches when talking with your kids.

Lying is something that all children attempt at some point in time. In most families, this is the point where communication breaks down and arguments start. Saying “You’re lying” will just get the kid defensive.  However, if you know your child is lying to you, do you really have to tell him or her that? Just act as if you did not hear the actual words that came out of his or her mouth, and behave as if you know the truth. In other words “I didn’t make that mess” is not answered by “yes, you did” but by “clean it up.” Once a kid figures out how pointless it is to lie, he or she will stop on her own.

The most effective way to communicate with children is positive reinforcement. Catch them acting in a way you like, and tell them you like it. When writing this article, I asked my well-behaved 11-year-old, “What keeps you from breaking rules?” She said, “I want you to be happy with me.” This is a natural reaction for all kids; they want to please. Use this tendency by telling kids when they are being pleasant.

Most attention-getting behavior (which is 90 percent of “misbehavior”) can be rectified by giving the attention energy that the kid is trying to get. If you’re used to doing energy work, just visualize a direct line of energy between yourself and your kid whenever he or she wants your attention. Yes, you might find yourself giving more energy than you were prepared to give at the moment, but isn’t that the job of a parent? Realize that eventually your child will have enough energy from you and learn to find some within his circle of peers. In the meantime, make sure the lines of communication stay open.

Open communication is especially important when you are trying to teach your children to follow their own Wills and oppose outside manipulators or people who would do them harm. Respect is important here. Even though the person committing the act against them is not necessarily respectful, it is important to teach kids a perspective of respect for their own minds. Two wrongs do not make a right, and two disrespects do not teach respect.

If possible, it’s best to begin response to any unwanted pressures with a simple “No.” However, if someone puts a hand somewhere that my daughter didn’t agree to, it is perfectly acceptable for her to say in a loud voice “Get your hand off my ____!”  This is a clue to everyone around to protect her. It also tells the perpetrator that this child is not a pushover and will help my child be able to withstand the real world and its manipulation tactics.

When it comes to drugs and alcohol, it is extremely important to explain to kids that after that first drink, you are no longer in a position to exercise your Will. Remind them that it is illegal for a minor to drink, which could harm you, the parent. Secondly, if they find themselves being pressured to alter their awareness against their Will, the safest bet is to walk away. This is one argument they need not get into at all.

The best approach I’ve found yet in dealing with Will manipulators is to know your own Will so that you recognize when it is violated. Explain to kids that it is probably not within their Will to get high, give sexual signals to an adult or commit acts of violence. It is a kid’s Will to create his or her future and learn how to live in this society. It is a kid’s Will to dance, sing and play and make good decisions about who to dance, sing and play with.

To help children stay safe, give children healthier options in the first place. Ask any “good” kids why they don’t shoot heroin, and they will tell you that they have better things to do. The kids who wind up doing drugs typically have unhappy home lives, no knowledge of addiction patterns or consequences and access to drugs. All three of these are direct lines into drugs and can be stopped by the parent, if the parent is paying attention and interacting positively with the kid on a daily basis.

One of the fastest way to lose a child’s respect is to overreact in situations where the child’s well-being is at stake. It’s easy to get angry when you see your children pressured or hurt. Many parents overdefend their children in such cases, often causing harm for others in their zeal. To keep yourself from this situation, keep your actions balanced: equal energy returned for the amount of energy received. If someone insults your kid, it is not equal energy to get violent with him or her. If someone pressures your kid once, it is not equal energy to spread rumors about that person for the next six months. It is, however, equal energy to ask that the person leave your child alone.

Balance cannot be kept if you are acting in anger, because anger adds to the energy you return, and therefore it becomes more than what was received. Calm down before taking any steps to correct the balance between your kid and whoever stepped on his or her Will. Always return the same amount of energy that was given; in my observation, the laws of karma become instantaneous in such situations.

We don’t live in a perfect world; however, we raise our children the way we do because we all value our freedoms. Respect, communication and love are all we have to combat the negativity in our environment. To keep our children safe, we must first not allow ourselves or them to be vulnerable. The best gift you could give a child is the capacity to walk his or her 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.