Morality Of Wicca

Morality Of Wicca

Wiccan morality is ruled according to the Wiccan Rede, which (in part) states “An it harm none, do what thou wilt.” (“An” is an archaic word meaning “if”.) Others follow the slightly adapted Rede of “An it harm none, do what ye will; if harm it does, do what ye must.” Either way, the Rede is central to the understanding that personal responsibility, rather than a religious authority, is where moral structure resides.One of the major differences between Wiccans and other types of witchcraft is the Rede.

Many “traditional” witches or witches that follow other paths do not believe in the Rede. This is a major topic of controversy within the Wiccan and Pagan communities.Many Wiccans also promote the Law of Threefold Return, or the idea that anything that one does may be returned to them threefold. In other words, good deeds are magnified back to the doer, but so are ill deeds.

Gerina Dunwich, an American author whose books (particularly Wicca Craft) were instrumental in the increase in popularity of Wicca in the late 1980s and 1990s, disagrees with the Wiccan concept of threefold return on the grounds that it is inconsistent with the Laws of Physics.

Pointing out that the origin of the Law of Threefold Return is traceable to Raymond Buckland in the 20th century, Dunwich is of the opinion that “There is little backing to support it as anything other than a psychological law.” Her own personal belief, which differs from the usual interpretation of the Threefold Law, is that whatever we do on a physical, mental, or spiritual level will sooner or later affect us, in either a positive or negative way, on all three levels of being.

A few Wiccans also follow, or at least consider, a set of 161 laws often referred to as Lady Sheba’s Laws. Some find these rules to be outdated and counterproductive.Most Wiccans also seek to cultivate the Eight Wiccan Virtues. These may have been derived from earlier Virtue ethics, but were first formulated by Doreen Valiente in the Charge of the Goddess. They are Mirth, Reverence, Honour, Humility, Strength, Beauty, Power, and Compassion. They are in paired opposites which are perceived as balancing each other.

Many Wiccans also believe that no magic (or magick) can be performed on any other person without that person’s direct permission (excepting pets and young children who can be protected by parents and owners). Sometimes when permission is expected but not yet attained magical energy will be placed on the astral plane for the receiver to gather if and when he/she is ready.

The Wiccan ReDe

Bide the Wiccan laws ye must
In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust
Live and let live
Freely take and freely give
Cast the circle thrice about
To keep all evil spirits out
To bind the spell every time
Let the spell be spake in rhyme
Soft of eye and light of touch
Speak little, listen much
Deosil go by the waxing moon
Sing and dance the Wiccan rune
Widdershins go when the moon doth wane
And the werewolf howls by the dread wolfsbane
When the Lady’s moon is new
Kiss thy hand to her times two
When the moon rides at her peak
Then your heart’s desire seek
Heed the northwind’s mighty gale
Lock the door and drop the sail
When the wind comes from the south
Love will kiss thee on the mouth
When the wind blows from the east
Expect the new and set the feast
When the west wind blows o’er thee
Departed spirits restless be
Nine woods in the cauldron go
Burn them fast and burn them slow
Elder be ye Lady’s tree
Burn it not or cursed ye’ll be
When the wheel begins to turn
Let the Beltaine fires burn
When the wheel has turned to Yule
Light the log and let Pan rule
Heed ye flower, bush and tree
By the Lady, Blessed be
Where the rippling waters go
Cast a stone and truth ye’ll know The Rede of the Wicca
When ye have a need
Hearken not to others’ greed
With the fool no season spend
Nor be counted as his friend
Merry meet and merry part
Bright the cheeks and warm the heart
Mind the Threefold Law ye should
Three times bad and three times good
When misfortune is enow
Wear the blue star on thy brow
True in love ever be
Unless thy lover’s false to thee
Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill
An’ it harm none, do what ye will

Beyond the Ethics of the Wiccan Rede

Beyond the Ethics of the Wiccan Rede

Author: Bill BluWolf

The Rede is known to many of Wiccan practitioners as the ethical underpinnings to be followed. While different versions exist, a common form is “An it harm none, do what ye will.” Most of the attribution for the Rede goes to Doreen Valiente, Alexander Crowley, Gardner and according to some, King Pausol. Regardless of the source, we are told we are free to do what we want as long as no harm results. It is important to note that the Rede includes admonishment against doing harm to oneself.

Another important consideration for ethics is the Rule of Three (Three-fold Law or Law of Return) . It states that whatever one puts out, it will return threefold. This is an attempt to warn the practitioner to do good works because it will come back to them three-fold. As an ethical consideration, it is not much different than the Christian’s “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12) . These ethical sayings also ring with the idea of Karma; (to use the Christian saying) what you sow, so shall you reap.

Notice that the ethics so far are prohibitive. They tell us what NOT to do. I get a chuckle from Google’s company motto that echoes what we’ve seen: “Don’t be evil.”

For Wiccans, there is a few last important ethical guides, one is well known to many especially Gardnerians: The Charge of the Goddess. A Charge of the God exists, as well as countless variations of both. Wiccan Laws exist as well, in Gardnerian and Alexanrian forms. I’ll spare you the gory details about the in-fighting regarding the Laws. Needless to say, many disagreed with them.

While the Rede and the Three-fold Law are largely prohibitive, they do so by also telling us we are urged to do positive works. I personally like the Charge from an ethical standpoint because it tells what we should do. In this way it is proscriptive and not prohibitive.

Paraphrasing the Charge of the Goddess, Doreen Valiente tells us we should:

Listen to the words of the Great Mother.
Be naked in your rites.
Meet once a month under a full moon.
Sing, feast, dance, make music and make love.
Have beauty, strength, power, compassion, honor, humility, mirth and reverence within you.

Many have taken her words and adapted them to make them suitable for different audiences and to fit other purposes.

My chief complaint with all of these ethical viewpoints is that they are largely useless in practical secular daily life. It is what we call applied ethics. For example, I am driving down the road and a deer jumps in front of my car. I have seconds to decide; do I hit the deer or do I drive into a ditch or hit a tree? Ethically, I don’t want to kill a defenseless animal. Nor do I want to harm my car, a tree or myself.

As an improvement, there is an international program (which Boy Scouts of America and Cub Scouts use) have a saying; “Leave no trace.” It is used when outdoors and the intent is to leave the place how it was found.

Leave no trace could cover a multitude of other situations, such as greenhouse gases, carbon footprints, new roads and development in protected ecosystems to ocean ecology. It also tells us what to do. Lets think of a short list.

1.Recycle. Our world’s resources are not infinite. We should be doing good management of what resources we do have and not waste them. We should re-plant the trees that we do take for our future generations.

2.Leave what you find. While walking in the woods, we don’t take things like rocks or animals. What is with our preoccupation at collecting massive amounts of material things? Like leaving only footprints, we should only collect what we need.

3.Be considerate of others. Not only this applies to local wildlife, it applies to other people.

4.Clean up after yourself. In the physical sense, it means trash management. In the spiritual sense, it means know your craft and behave responsibly. In the mental sense, it means don’t dump on others, and have a healthy outlook and healthy relationships.

What other things could you add to the list?

Leave no trace is attractive as an ethical proposition because it tells us what to do and what not to do at the same time.

As Pagans, we should look for a more responsible ethical framework. We were here before the other world religions. Shouldn’t we lead the way in ethics?

There are other ethical sayings we could use. “Be my best” comes to mind. The big flaw I see is that my best becomes a crutch when people do bad things. For example, “Well I was just doing my best.” might be a common excuse when a pedophile molests a child. If honestly applied, I do think it works, but maybe we can do better.

The one I like best is “Leave the world a better place than you found it.” It is all encompassing. It is a positive way to say that we should strive to do good works. It covers things from acid rain to gun laws to abortion. It is very simple. A kindergartner should understand this concept.

In applied ethics, it becomes fairly easy to do the right thing. In the example of the deer jumping in front of the car, we can rationalize some choices. The car may hit the deer. The car can end up in the ditch. But it is the more general context that makes it an improvement. Why did the deer do that? Are the local deer crossing roads due to over-crowding? Perhaps we should install fences and control where the deer cross the road. Maybe we should allocate more forestland for deer populations.

“Leave the world a better place” allows us to explore options, and become better stewards of our environment. It creates possibilities that did not previously exist and makes us better humans.


Footnotes:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiccan_Rede

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiccan_morality

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_Three_ (Wiccan)

http://doreenvaliente.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don’t_be_evil

http://www.reclaiming.org/about/witchfaq/charge.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leave_No_Trace

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.