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

The Law of Return and the Wiccan Rede

The Law of Return and the Wiccan Rede

Author: Rebecca Ivy MoonPanther

Note: This article is in two parts. The first part is concerning what I prefer to call the Law of Return (also called the Rule of Three, Three/Seven Fold Law, etc.) .

We all have been wronged before. It sucks, and we all know that some people/things are really experts at knowing what pisses you off the most. And then we often hear of people doing unspeakable things and getting off easy. Take as examples: most school shooters shoot themselves after they have sufficiently caused enough damage; Hitler did so, too. So they get an easy death. One shot and gone, right? How do we know that justice was really served?

I cannot say it truly was. I cannot say it wasn’t either, for the record. But being a witch, and a Wiccan one at that, I believe that everyone, no matter whom or what you are or believe in gets what comes to them. Be it positive or negative. Whatever you give you get back.

I believe in reincarnation, and that every life brings us closer and closer to the divine. No matter how miniscule the step, it is there. Now understand that I am not saying that these criminal shooters or Hitler are going to reincarnate as a target at a gun range and get shot for all eternity. And I do not believe in the patriarchal Hell/Satan either. But I do believe in justice, and I believe in it because of all the unheard voices in the world. The people who have been wronged who cannot speak. The dead who were killed before their time. Men, women, babies, mothers, fathers…people who will not die in vain.

Although, it was fate that they leave this Earth, the Divine Spirit, my Lady Luna and Father Helios cannot see their children suffer without proper retribution. The Law of Return is a universal belief that what you do will come back to you, in whatever multiplication you choose to see, be it three, seven, nine, or just whatever multitude the event happened in (which is my belief) .

Now, my brother (of all people) said something about karma that made a lot of sense.

“If the person does not know what they did was wrong, karma couldn’t come to them.”

Of course, his grammar was not as good, but you get the point. That is a very good point, and I agree. That’s when perception comes into play. If we are talking about a universal principle, we have to take individual perception into account. Everyone sees what he or she wants to see, consciously and subconsciously. You may really, really want to see something, but inside, you know you’re not ready for it.

Like fate. If subconsciously, you believe you did wrong, then wrong will come to you. But if inside you believe you were giving justice, or some kind of belief like that, (i.e. a Nazi extremist, skinhead, or Al Qaeda bomber) , then it will not.

However, retribution will be given in other ways. Like on our side of the world, we are very prejudiced against Middle Eastern folks because of 9/11. The spirits of those men have to see how their fellow Arabs are being treated now. The injustice is because of them. (Heightened security, extra scrutiny, all of it.)

I am really getting off track, but moving on.

The Law of Return basically says that we alone are responsible for our actions. Our actions, our decisions are the only things we, ourselves, can control. Not Satan, not a cult leader… no one else can be responsible for what we freely decide to do. But once you give up your own power, your rebound involves any action that was not made because of your better judgment.

This Law goes so well with Perfect Love and Perfect Trust because you have to love and trust the divine enough to say, “I own my life and my actions because you gave me a mind and a body and a heart to make my decisions with. I am in control, but in the event I get overwhelmed, I can surrender my problems to you.”

I know this law is true because I lost one of my dearest loves, and best friends to a force I couldn’t stop. I know that fate works because I have faith in it. Have faith in the universe, and it will bring you peace.

This second part is my take on the Wiccan Rede.

The Rede has been interpreted as a lot of things. Long, short, law, advice, or not even relevant at all.

The truth is “bad” things and “bad” events exist because, not only were we given the capabilities to make these things (ex: given the knowledge to make steel, which can be made into a sword) , but also because they are here for a reason.

Bad and good are up to the individual’s interpretation, and of course, perception. For example, most of us good ol’ American kids have gone to D.A.R.E., right? Drugs are “bad”. I know this as I have already gone over that abuse hump and survived it to this point.

But at the same time, if there were no drugs or addiction, or abuse or neglect, so many people would not experience the feeling of being alive and reborn that stopping an addiction or freeing themselves from tyranny often gives. Drug free programs would have no use and we would not know the uses, medicinal and otherwise of most plants. Some of our best songs in many genres were written out of and about addiction or abuse of some sort.

There are many things that come out of “harm”, so really, labeling anything as “bad” or “good”, “light” or “dark”, “good” or “evil” is pretty much futile in my opinion. Without one, the other cannot exist. This world is not black and white, or even gray. It is of many shades, hues, sizes, and shapes and we need to consider them all, even within our own “world”.

Although there really is no point in labeling anything as bad or good, we all must have some sort of ethics system to regulate the extension and boundaries of expression and free will. That’s how I see the Wiccan Rede.

I do not see it as a law for every person because it is simplistic by itself. However, within its simplicity is its beauty and curse. We all want to do what is best and what will bring the most positive energy to the universe. That poem simply puts a label to that ideal.

It is not to be taken literally, because if we never harmed anything, we better be plants, because we can’t eat anything. In any topic of ethics, it is very tricky because every side of the spectrum has to be taken into account. This world is complicated, but this aspect of humility towards all things, giving back what you take, and treating all with respect and tolerance is an ideal for which all of us should abide by.

Please know that you don’t have to like something to tolerate it. Tolerance is simply saying, ok do what makes you happy as long as you don’t hurt others.

And, as far as defending yourself, and all that, you are included in the universe, as we are all connected. If I am to hurt you, then I am in essence hurting myself. So, protect yourself!

You are all you have at the end of your days in this life. You are the constant that keeps the fabric of existence in tact. If you were meant to be gone, you would not be reading this. The Goddess has given us trials, and has given us the God in the form of the Sun and his rays for us to see the light of every dark situation. There is always a plan B, and your actions will reflect in your environment.

I think that’s it.

Love and Light to you all.

       


Footnotes:
*These articles are my opinion, based on my solitary studies in Wicca. If you have comments, constructive criticism, or what have you, please contact me.