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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Sep. 8, 2002   This Page Viewed: 28,343,876  

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Question of the Week: 7 - 9/18/2000

The Ethics of Magick and Spellwork

Wiccans have the Rede and many other Pagans have similar ethical codes of conduct. But it isn't always easy to determine what the 'good of all' may be or even if it is a viable rule for each and every unique situation. How do YOU handle requests for spells? What about love magick, psychic weapons at high noon and the general use of magick and spells in your own spiritual life? How far would YOU go?

 Reponses:   There are 43 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

As I Look At This Familiar Question Several Things Run Through My... Sep 17th. at 11:41:34 pm UTC

Night's Aqua Tiger (Liverpool, New York US) Age: 16 - Email

As I look at this familiar question several things run through my mind. Conditions, personailities, copyrights, troubleshooting... Having my own personal webpage this question has come up before. My answer is the following : My spells are like reading my diary, I write them so I am comfortable with them and are at my ability level. Therefore, I do not share personal spells. Any, however, that come from a book or website I will be happy to share simply because you can find them there yourself. Most of the time I'll simply tell the person where to look because it's up to them to use the spell. I'm currently dealing with a unique situation... A new found friend of mine has mentioned to me that she's into Witchcraft. She's also been taught by very unethical people, and has been practicing without basics. Fact is she didn't even know there was such a thing as our protection circle. I'm a firm believer that if she had gotten in too deep the Goddess would have stepped in but she has been working with energy she didn't understand. (she also has a high amount of natural talent) My response? Easy... Gave her a book called Teen Witch by Silver RavenWolf, and immidately made her start studing. She currently isn't proforming magick (by my request and this is to my knowledge) until she finishes the book. Situations come up and we have to learn to deal with them, is there more I could do for my friend? Sure, be a friend and realize it's her reponsibility to do as she wills.

Here's A Minor Point I've Always Found Interesting, But Which Many Runeflingers... Sep 17th. at 11:51:13 pm UTC

LETHE (Norman, Oklahoma US) Age: 26 - Email

Here's a minor point I've always found interesting, but which many runeflingers (Wiccan and otherwise) seem to overlook: the Rede specifies that one's actions should harm "none", not just "no one else". By definition, that includes the person casting the spell as well as the recipient (or target, as appropriate). This by definition excludes hexworks, assuming that the caster accepts the threefold law as well. That is, since attacking, harming, or coercing another will bring harm back on the caster, that automatically violates the "an it harm none" rule, not only because of what it does to others, but because of what it does to the sender as well. Diet spells to induce bulemia / anorexia? Study-time spellwork to help you stay awake for a week straight? Don't even think of it - self-harm counts against the Rede just as well as the most classic of curses. Certainly gives new meaning to "the body is a temple" as well, since any harm done to the self, from eating nothing but Doritos for a month to self-mutilation, would be the closest thing to Sin that Wiccans and other Pagans have. In my experiences, too many spell-lovers have forgotten that by the Rede, Self is just as important and just as protected as Other. Lest this interpretation sound too selfish, I'll put in a vote for next week's question: Where does the sternly-worded "an it harm none" Rede leave room for self-scarifice, martyrdom, organ donation, etc.?

I Tend To Put More Empasis On The Threefold Law Than On... Sep 18th. at 1:40:14 am UTC

Nelli (Carmel Valley, California US) Age: 23 - Email

I tend to put more empasis on the threefold law than on the rede, simply because I am a scientist, and the threefold law is not a moral statement, it is a simple fact of life. By understanding that what I put out comes back to me, it becomes easier to operate from a position of respect and compassion no matter what situation I am in. But having compassion and respect are not necessarily synonymous with turning the other cheek.
I think that one of the big grey areas here is the relationship between manipulation and harm. Is manipulation always a form of harm? And what, if any, is the difference between "thinking good thoughts" for or about someone, and doing a formal ritual for or about them? Most of us agree, I think, that causing another to fall in love with you against their will is harm. But what about self defense? What if someone wishes you ill, or spells you ill? What can you do to defend yourself without violating the rede?
If someone were to attack me mentally, psychically, or even physically, I kind of get caught in a double bind by adhering strictly to the rede. If I allow them to harm me, I am essentially harming myself, which is a violation of the rede, and has repercussions. If, on the other hand, I defend myself - maybe by casting a spell to bind a person from harming me, I am manipulating them, which could also be construed as a violation of the rede. Even just casting a spell to protect me from all harm could arguably be questionable, since I am actively thwarting someone's will if they are trying to do me harm.
Healing is another tough one. It seems clearly unethical to do a healing spell for someone who has refused healing, but what about someone in a coma, who can neither agree nor refuse? What about an infant, who hasn't the speech to convey agreement or refusal?
I do not separate the morals of my magical life from those of my mundane life. I try to live my whole life in awareness of the law of cause and effect, and to have respect and compassion for all beings. And the lines I draw in my magical life are the same ones I draw in mundane life.
If somone took a swing at me, I would do my best to dodge the swing, and then use their own momentum to tumble them, or at least push them away - so that I could get the f**k out of dodge. I would not stick around to see if I could give my opponent a black eye or a bloody nose, I would not continue to spar with them. In the same sense, I would definitely defend myself from magical or psycic assault, but I would not "hit back", unless that was the *only* option for self-defense. And just as I would consider it ok to use western medical procedures on a sick infant or on someone suddenly fallen into a coma (unless they had previously expressed wishes to the contrary), so I would consider it ok to work magic on their behalf.
I do healing spells for myself, and on my own behalf for friends and family. I have never been asked to do a spell for someone else; if I was approached about doing a spell, I would suggest to that person that they pray or meditate or do their own (proper) spell. I would try to explain the ethics behind the issue, and let them make their own choice.
Generally, I only use spells for and on myself. For protection, wealth, and, yes, beauty. I have used spells for self defense when I have needed to, which fortunately has not been more than a couple of times. Likewise, I have cast a couple of healing spells for very ill friends/family.
This is, of course, a fascinating and neverending discussion, and I look forward to reading all of the postings over the next week!
Blessings. . . .

Honest Work Is Still Good Magick! I Teach Anyone And Everyone Who... Sep 18th. at 8:45:49 am UTC

Trish Telesco (western, New York US) Age: 40 - Email

Honest Work is still good magick! I teach anyone and everyone who will listen that we are co-creators with the Universe. To me, this means expecting to do at least half the work necessary for our own enlightenment and wellbeing on all levels of body mind and soul. When someone asks me for a spell, typically the first question is "why" (especially love spells). After hearing the answer, then a decision must be made as to the ethics of sharing ideas, and how those ideas should be expressed responsibly. If, for example, a teenager wants someone to fall madly in love with them, I simply say I cannot help them with that. I can, however, teach them how to bring love into their lives without manipulation and how to promote self love.

Additionally, when spells are shared we must be careful to explain that changes to those spells (for personalization) need to maintain meaning and congruity - otherwise they're no different than rote dogma without any power whatsoever.

As for how far to go...Let's face it, all of us walk a fine grey line. Magick is GREY (e.g. neutral). It's what we do with it that changes the flavor and colors of energy. There are times to fight, times to protect, and times simply to get up off our butts and do it ourselves without magick! I'm a firm believer in the power of elbow grease and good intentions! Why? Because that IS a kind of magick -- it's the kind that comes from living your life in a uniquely spiritually aware way.

Ok, hopping off soap box now.

The Wiccan Rede Is A Beautiful Poem, As Is The Witches Creed... Sep 18th. at 9:49:16 am UTC

Artemis Moonshadow (Kfar Saba- Israel, Israel) Age: 15 - Email

The Wiccan Rede is a beautiful Poem, as is the Witches creed and many other poems that state "Harm None" and "Everything returns times three".
As a newbie I've pondered these ideas at length.
Noe I've always believed in the law of return, "Whatever goes around comes around", but, BUT it ever returned times three, it actually came back the same strength as I sent out.
It's a law of physics "Every action has an oppisate and equel reaction" that is my law of return.
Now the Rede, at first I thougt Gods what a great way of life, but an impractical one.
Harm none means no one and nothing, no way Jose. It doesn't work that way, no matter what you do, you will always, it may not be intentional but still you will end up hurting someone, and you have to take responciblity for your actions.

There's a traditional Witches saying that goes "If you cannot Hex, you cannot heal" I find that very logical.
It's the same way nature works, our mother destroys many things many times a year, yet at the same time, she grows them and is beautiful.
The Gods of mythology have always been merciless but at the same time they protected us.

When you work magic you have to embrace the dark side as well in order for the balance inside you to work.
Think of with out light there is no dark and vice versa.
When somebody hurts you and/or family you always think about hurting that person, Witchcraft has taught me that thoughts are things and that working magic is the manifestation of those thoughts.

I think as long as you have your thoughts and feelings in the right place you can do what you want, and remember that you should never work magic out of anger, you shouldalways analyze the situation before jumping into it.
Good luck with your spell work and remeber it's YOUR ethics and beliefs.

May the Gods Bless and Happy Mabon

I Do Not Follow The "rede". I Do Follow My Own Ethics... Sep 18th. at 10:58:15 am UTC

Kyriea (Brooklyn Park, Minnesota US) Age: 32 - Email

I do not follow the "Rede". I do follow my own ethics when it comes to magickal and mundane issues. I feel that each person needs to determine whether or not what s/he is doing is appropriate or not. The "harm none" and "good of all" is subjective. I know some take it as literal and therefore will not cast a spell of healing or whatever without the persons permission. I personally do not look at it that way. If I know there is someone who is sick and I wish to send a bit of healing energy to that person I do not feel that I need his/her permission. Other religions pray for healing and such without permission, I should be able to do the same. I do not, however, cast spells that would violate someone's free will. Love magick and the like should never be done IMHO.

I Am A Polytheistic Eclectic Pagan Witch. I Follow The Wiccan Rede... Sep 18th. at 1:12:16 pm UTC

Brigid Moonwater (Sunnyvale, California US) Age: 26

I am a Polytheistic Eclectic Pagan witch. I follow the Wiccan rede eventhough I am not wiccan. The rede is what seems right to me. Though I don't think it really matters what code one uses as long as one tries to do good. I do not do love spells, I have a particular distaste for them being a victim of one myself. It's like being somekind of lovesick zombie, I still hurt from it. But love spells can be good, if you use them in such a way as to help yourself feel good about yourself and not infringe upon someone else's free will. If you are in a "witch war", it is hard not to go against the rede, but being defensive rather than offensive is good to keep you from getting bad Karma. I never use spells that go against the rede, but there is always an acception to the rules. I don't do spells for anyone that isn't a witch. Sounds kind of funny, but most spell requesters really don't know what is involved and I really can't explain the craft to someone who doesn't use it. It's the kind of thing that you need to already be on the path to learn. How far would I go? I always avoid doing anything wrong, but if I have to... I mostly avoid doing anything wrong according to the rules I follow: the Wiccan rede and Karma. It is hard to say how far I would go, I suppose the only answer I could give is as far as absolutely necessary.

I Don't Do A Whole Lot Of Magick. Well, Not A Whole... Sep 18th. at 2:05:07 pm UTC

Amanda (Providence, Rhode Island US) Age: 20 - Email

I don't do a whole lot of magick. Well, not a whole lot of "official" magick anyway. I try and live my life ethically, and generally follow that if I didn't want someone to do something to me, I don't do it to them. The golden rule, when used honestly, is a pretty good yardstick to measure the rede by.

Is is ok to do a healing spell for my sick grandmother who would go on a rampage if she found out? No, of course not. If she doesn't want to be associated with those energies, no matter how "good" for her, I have no right to push them on her. How about someone who doesn't have an opinion either way, or who would be ok with it, but you can't get in touch with them? That's a little more ok.

Love magick... hmm... do *you* want to have a love spell cast over you? I don't. Case closed. Anyone who has ever asked me for a love spell, or even about them has gotten that sort of answer.

I don't like to do spell requests. I get really nervous giving someone that kind of thing, especially when they think that it *has* to work because you're a witch and you know about these things. I only do spell requests for people who I know will follow the directions, and fully understand the consequences of what they are doing. Mostly, that means only *very* close friends. What if it doesn't work or it works, but not in the way they expected? I'm not about to be yelled at because something didn't go quite right. I don't want to take responsibility for that sort of thing, so I don't do it for people I barely know. I don't need that kind of stress.

How far would I go? Not so far that I couldn't look myself in the eye and say I did the right thing. Any further than that just gets me in trouble with myself, and I hate being mad at me.

Love, luck, and lollipops,


I Am *responsible* For Everything I Do. Whether I Admit It Or... Sep 18th. at 2:54:48 pm UTC

NightWing (Denver, Colorado US) Age: 38

I am *responsible* for everything I do. Whether I admit it or not. And I tend to think that a person gets pretty much what he deserves. This then is the point I start from when considering spells and magick for others (and myself, for that matter).

The specific nature of the request and the need; how much information (ACCURATE info) I have about the situation; WHO the person is (I will risk far more for a close friend than for a mere acquaintance); all these are part of the considerations I make before deciding whether to use magick and how much/what sort of magick.

Almost the only hard-and-fast rule I have is that I won't perform magick for someone unless I know them personally. IOW, no e-mail/chat friends.

I Absolutely Won't Do Love Spells For Any One Due To The... Sep 18th. at 3:47:07 pm UTC

Betty J. Ryan (Tucson, Arizona US) Age: 23

I absolutely won't do love spells for any one due to the high rate at which they go wrong in one way or another. I won't do a spell for someone unless I know them well and have all the facts on the situation, I also do a divination to see if I should even get involved. I have no problem defending myself with magick if it is needed, if you can't use it when you need it why have it.
I use magick in all of my rituals even if only to feel that much more connected.

If We Forget About The "wiccan Rede" Momentarily, Using Common Sense, You... Sep 18th. at 5:17:54 pm UTC

blackthorne (Concord, California US) Age: 36 - Email

If we forget about the "Wiccan Rede" momentarily, using common sense, you may
descern for yourself that doing a spell for someone else, no matter what the
intent, if going to be difficult-if you are removed from the situation, how
are you going to summon the significant attitude, emotion, ect. Do you think
you would be able to do it without it being diluted.
Next question would be, Are you willing to take on the carmic debt?, Are you
willing to take responsability for making a wrong descision? Can you carry this
burden if it becomes one?
How many of us have been asked to intervene with a spell, and have later been
glad we didn't?
I can imagine that we all at one time or another have made a bad descision, this
should be considered normal, how can you grow as a pagan when you are not going
to try things out?
I think that most pagans are unwilling to talk about mistakes, bad judgements,
and wrongheadedness, because they are afraid to admit fallability.
When we can get beyond this, we will really be able to talk about something,
for now, people are too interested in proving they are not a BAD WITCH.
I for one will admit to making mistakes, I also will admit to many stupid
things I did, that I have since learned from.

My Ethics Are Easy. I Don't Do Magick. I Figure, There's Enough... Sep 18th. at 6:09:09 pm UTC

shay (Phoenix, Arizona US) Age: 34 - Email

My ethics are easy. I don't do magick. I figure, there's enough ambiant magick in the world that I can coast on that stream without forcing my intentions on the world. I know that seems very unwitchy of me, but I just don't think I need to be messing with the flow of the universe. There are times when magick occurs spontaneously in my life, and for that I am grateful. But to try to force it into my world, and for my purposes, seems a bit grandiose and selfish.

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