Articles/Essays From Pagans
May 19th. 2013 ...
The Role of Identity in Magic
Talking Trash? It's a Dirty Subject but Waste Happens.
My Wiccan Journey
13 Keys: The Victory of Netzach
May 12th. 2013 ...
Pagan Studies I: How Should We Define Modern Paganism?
The Third Path
Nothing Special... Part Two
May 5th. 2013 ...
The Value of Multicultural Awareness
Put Your Back Into It (Our Lady of the Sacred Honey Badger)
Moon Musings, Planetary Preponderances and Red Lipped Bat Fish
April 28th. 2013 ...
Lessons from the Lessers: Iris
April 21st. 2013 ...
Taken By The Goddess: The Crescent Moon Tattoo
The Gods/Being Godbothered
To Be A Witch
The Archetypes are Gods: Re-godding the Archetypes
April 14th. 2013 ...
On The Inclusion of Children
'Wand Fun' With Grandson
Lessons from a Baby
Lessons of Freedom: On Divinity and Healing
April 7th. 2013 ...
Out of the Broom Closet... Sorta
A Journey Through the Witches Tarot
History and Science Behind Numerology
March 31st. 2013 ...
What is the Magickal Self?
Ethics and Numerology
March 24th. 2013 ...
Keystones of the Sacred Land
March 17th. 2013 ...
Why Some Pagans and Witches Still Hide
Witch Heritage 101: What Happens When Witch Haters Joke about anti-Witch Films
I'm Not a Broom. So What's with the Closet?
March 10th. 2013 ...
Top Ten Stupid Things I Did as a New Pagan: Part 3
Hunting for the Real Witch in Film
The Collective Shadow
Lies - The Opposite of Truth
March 3rd. 2013 ...
Grounding and Releasing Negative Energy
A Patchwork of Magick
February 24th. 2013 ...
Top Ten Stupid Mistakes I Made as a New Pagan (Part Two)
February 17th. 2013 ...
Top Ten Stupid Mistakes I made as a New Pagan... Part One
Gardening with Crystal Energies
A Call from the Ancestors
Moon Musings, Planetary Preponderances and Black Water Snakes
February 10th. 2013 ...
We Are the Weirdos, Mister: A Completely Uncool Story of Origin
February 3rd. 2013 ...
"I'll Grind Your Bones to Make my Bread": Pagans and Animal Husbandry
The Role of Contemporary Culture in Magic
A Pagan Response to Endangered Earth
The Great Mother's Gift, Heinlein, and the Nature of Squirrels
13 Keys: The Glory of Hod
January 27th. 2013 ...
Why We Do Need Wicca
The Cosmos In the Coffee Shop
On Travel Spirituality and Magick
January 20th. 2013 ...
Beloved Backs and How to Save Them
Building or Burning Bridges?
Plants, Magic and Intuition
Plagiarism - How It Harms Our Community
January 13th. 2013 ...
Ramblings of a Pagan Guy: Stupid Clichés
The Magick and Power of Words
Aging Is Not Easy
The Riddle of Who We Are?
January 6th. 2013 ...
Wicca v Witchcraft
A Witch in the Closet
Gut Hunches, Mouse Dreams, and Pinkie Sense
How Many People Can You Fit Under An Umbrella?
December 30th. 2012 ...
Ritual "Cheat Sheet" Bracelet
Magick is All Around Us
Confessions of a Living Satyr
A Tiny Bit of Belly Dance History
December 23rd. 2012 ...
The Warrior Goddess and You.
World Change: A Message from Greece
What's the Meaning of Life, Anyway?
My Brother's Keeper
December 16th. 2012 ...
Keeping Christ in Xmas
Love is the Law
Listen to Your Heart's Wisdom
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Some Thoughts on Ethics and the Wiccan Rede
Article ID: 3742
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 4,187
Times Read: 3,786
Author: Lark [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: December 8th. 2001
Times Viewed: 3,786
Let me say unequivocally that ethics is not some arcane and boring subject that we study in school and promptly forget as soon as we walk out the door. Ethics is the way we honor the Divine in ourselves and in others. It is a way of behaving that is at the core of our beliefs and the basis for how we choose to live our lives. You can call it by many names; good manners, the Ten Commandments, The Golden Rule, the Wiccan Rede...all are essentially a way of describing the same thing. Without ethics, civilization as we know it would cease to exist. Without them, we would lose the connection to the Divine that we treasure.
Let us look at the Wiccan Rede. "An it harm none, do as ye will." It is a simple and elegant rule on the surface. But people tie themselves in all sorts of knots trying to live according to its precepts.
First, and most importantly, the Rede is generally misinterpreted, and from this misinterpretation all sorts of problems arise. Taking all of the archaic language out of the Rede, what it is really saying is that any action which does not cause harm to yourself or to others is OK to do. In most of the Wiccan community, however, this meaning has been stood on its head and stated as any action which MIGHT cause harm to another is not acceptable. These are very, very different rules of ethical behavior. And herein lies the problem; because the second interpretation is impossible to fulfill.
The common misinterpretation of the Rede says we must harm NONE...no exceptions, no excuses...no harm to the Earth, our fellow creatures, the people around us, or to ourselves. Is this possible? No, of course it is not. We are living beings who require the resources of our planet to survive and to maintain ourselves. Unless you have learned a way to live on air and sunshine, you must cause the death of other living beings in order to eat. We build our homes out of trees sacrificed to provide us shelter. If we get the job we wanted, it means that someone else did not. By the standard interpretation of the Rede, we should have neither food, nor fuel, no electricity, nor shelter, nor even modern medicines because each of these involves causing harm in some form or another.
By the standard interpretation of the Rede, harming someone in your own self-defense is a violation of the Rede. Yet you would also violate it by allowing harm to come to yourself or to another through your lack of action. No one who is a policeman or a soldier could be a Wiccan as well..at least according to the generally accepted interpretation of the Rede; yet both are necessary for our society to survive. Is this reasonable?
When we first come to the Wiccan path and we are taught the usual interpretation of the Rede, it sounds so simple and clear-cut. And then we start seeing the inconsistencies...and we start rationalizing to make the Rede fit situation it was never meant to fit. We may begin to say that the Rede only applies within a cast circle or in regards to magical workings. Or perhaps we come to look at the Rede as a quaint piece of doggerel which really is meaningless. And when we do that, we leave ourselves without an ethical framework on which to build our beliefs on right living.
So, let us go back to the first interpretation; that any action which does not cause harm is OK to do. That is simple, straightforward, and fairly easy to live by.
But what about actions that may cause harm? The Rede says nothing of these. It leaves us to make the judgment on our own as to whether we want to pursue a course of action or not. What this involves is considering each decision you make very carefully before you commit yourself to 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. That is what our religion is all about PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. You can't stand before the Gods saying, "I didn't mean...", or "I didn't think...", or "the Devil made me do it"...it won't wash! Your answer MUST BE, "I chose to do this". And if you did it, it's all yours to deal with. OUCH! That can be pretty uncomfortable to face up to. We all like to shift the blame away from ourselves. But taking the difficult path is the way to spiritual growth.
And here is another hard pill to swallow. If you take a course of action which you felt initially (or which you managed to convince yourself) would not cause any harm...and harm does come of it, you are still responsible for the consequences. Part of that responsibility then becomes trying to make right the harm which you inadvertently caused. We all make mistakes, we are after all only human. But being willing to acknowledge our mistakes and repair the harm we caused brings us closer to becoming one with the Divine.
We are also taught early in our spiritual journey as Wiccans about the Three-Fold Law, that whatever we do for good or ill returns to us three-fold. . And again it becomes a concept rife with misunderstanding and misinterpretations. We behave because we are afraid of being smacked with the Karmic paddle. Being good little Witches because we fear punishment if we break the rules does not make ethical beings, just clever ones. There is no Karmic scorekeeper out there keeping a list of who's been naughty or nice. There is no Divine retribution, or something like the Christian Hell for violations on the Rede. What the Three-Fold Law is telling us is choices of action have consequences for which we alone are responsible. And if our choices are consistently negative or harmful towards others, then the energy which tends to return to us will also be negative and harmful. To live our lives full of anger, guilt, and negative thoughts can lead to both physical and mental illness right here in this lifetime. In effect, we become the tools of our own Karma. So, what kind of energy would you like to wake up and find on your doorstep one morning??
Ours is a religion of personal responsibility, not a religion if rules and strictures. This is both a liberating and an extremely difficult path to follow. The biggest obstacle to living rightly is ourselves. For man is not so much a rational being as a rationalizing being. We are often apt to confuse WANT with NEED. We mistake that which will bring us happiness. We pretend that a course of action will not bring any harm, when we truly know otherwise. And out of these wrong choices we cause great harm and evil in the world. In other faiths you might chuckle to think that you broke a rule and no one saw. You might feel that you had successfully gotten away with something, or you might have managed to make excuses, to put the blame on someone else. Wicca does not allow you that freedom. In Wicca, you and only you are responsible for your choices. And you, and only you will stand before the Gods to make answer for your deeds.
Location: Madison, Alabama
Author's Profile: To learn more about Lark - Click HERE
Bio: Lark is a Third Degree Initiate of the Oak, Ash, and Thorn Tradition of American Eclectic Wicca, and High Priestess of Tangled Moon Coven. She has been a Pagan all her life (at least her Mother always said she was a little Heathen!), and practicing the Craft for eleven years. She holds a BS in nursing and a MS in counseling. She served in the US Army for 20 years, including Vietnam. She and her husband (and High Priest) live on 85 acres of land which they are holding in trust from the Earth as a nature preserve and Pagan retreat. They share their home with two Irish wolfhounds, a beagle, and 15 cats (most rescued from the side of the road). Lark can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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