Magick and Personal Responsibility
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Article ID: 6333
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 3,967
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Posted: June 8th. 2003
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I was coming up on a red light, in heavy traffic, the first time I discovered magick was real. I extended my energies towards the light several cars ahead of me. I nudged the red with the visualization of green. To my delight, the light turned green and I reached my destination in record time. I thought that I could "spell away" the problems I was facing in my life once and for all. I was ready to retire to an island resort with my winning lottery ticket and a harem of attentive lovers. I was soon to learn that magick and Wicca were not as simple as I had thought.
Wicca has no dogma attached to it. We are not burdened with sacred texts transmitted to us directly from the Lord and Lady. Our ministers and teachers do not instruct us on the absolute and definitively correct interpretation of our path. These were all qualities I searched for as I came to Neo-Paganism. I was free to choose and experience the divine first hand. I could seek advice and guidance as I wanted but the ultimate decision was left up to me.
At first glance, Wicca seems to be an easy faith. I faced no one telling me how I was to be. This is akin to my first taste of freedom going to college. As my study and experience progressed, I eventually came across the Rule of Three and the Rede.
Simply put, the Rule of Three states "All you do comes back to you threefold." This is similar to the Hindu belief of karma. If I do bad things then bad things will happen to me. I have always been a risk taker and a skeptic. I could buy "Garbage in, garbage out" but I did/do not believe that some God sits out in the aether with a scale measuring each of my deeds' merits. No calculating Sky Father keeps a celestial abacus against me. I left these ideas behind with Christianity. I do believe that what I put out there comes back to me. The magician's life takes on the nature of his magick. If I am hateful and malicious in my spell work then my life will be one of anger, conflict and jealousy.
The Rule of Three boiled down to a simple question: Was I willing to pay the price of my actions? If the answer was "yes," then continue with the work. This looks like a chilling moral guide. If obsessed with getting even, I could put up with quite a lot of flak. Thankfully there is more than the Rule of Three.
The Rede states, "Do as Thou wilt, but harm ye none." Many people, most often Wicca's detractors, read this as "Do whatever you want." At first glance this may appear correct. It does not seem to require much thought. The Rede is akin to Christianity's Golden Rule. This oversimplification does not show the depth or wisdom of this spiritual truth. "After all," says the unobservant, "we have no commandments or moral codes. I guess this will be easy!"
I believe that one of the significant differences between Wicca and Christianity is the matter of morality. Morality is a codified system of right and wrong. Whether this is based upon a sacred text or not, there are general rules in which morality dictates the behavior of its adherents. Wicca has no moral dictates. It demands that each follower seek their own guidelines of behavior. This is called ethics. Rather than having a set list of behaviors to follow, Wicca asks us to apply a few principles to each situation. To be fair, this is what Christ was speaking of when he said to the Pharisees "the Spirit of the Law."
Another way to differentiate morality and ethics is this: Morality is an external set of rules or principles. Ethics is an internal set. Morality is given by other people. Ethics are something you develop within yourself.
Let's return to the second half of the Rede, "harm ye none." In each situation and decision one makes, we are asked to consider what exactly harm would be. Often Witches say that anything interfering with the will of another human being is harmful. One general guideline being not to work spells for anyone without their express consent. I have found this to be false on many occasions.
When my grandfather was struggling with cancer, I desperately wanted to do healing work with my coven on his behalf. My grandfather is deeply Catholic and had serious opposition to Witchcraft and occult phenomena. I knew that he also would allow almost anything that would help him recover. I did the working with my coven anyway. I knew that it might violate my grandfather's will to actively participate in a Wiccan circle, but not violate his will to recover from cancer. I had to evaluate the situation and base my decision on what I considered "harm." There was no harm in trying to heal a sick man who wanted to get better. It was a matter of ethics.
It gets even more complicated. If I do a spell to get a promotion that I feel I deserve, am I causing harm if another is passed over? The other person could certainly use the extra money. If I sent positive energy to a suicidal person, how do I know that somewhere down the line they will not be responsible for the deaths of several others? Am I responsible for any unforeseen, negative consequences of my magick? I have two guiding principles in these matters.
The first is that I believe the Gods or the source of the Gods is Love. While the Source is infinite, I am not. I am a finite and fallible creature. I cannot see every outcome, no matter how hard I try. I will make mistakes and poor decisions. I will continue to have character defects and human failings. This helps me to remain humble. In my humility, I have to trust that the All will guide and direct me when I ask for help and remain open to that help.
My second guiding principle is what I call the Escape Clause. With every working I do I ask that the outcome be "for the greatest good of all involved." This is an energetic way of saying, "Thy will be done." If I believe that the Gods are Love, then it follows that the Gods' will will be carried out in Love. I may not even understand how it is carried out in my limited capacity. I may never understand why I did not get the theoretical promotion or why my grandfather did succumb to cancer.
If I rely on the Gods with humility, then I can practice faith and trust. The Gods in turn grant me some important gifts. The first gift is serenity. From serenity, which is a sense of peace, comes another gift. I am given the knowledge that I belong to the universe. I and all things are exactly as we should be. This is not passivity to life. This is not submissiveness. I am not drugged against the troubles and tribulations of the world either. Rather, serenity is a sense of belonging. Serenity fills me with the desire to participate in life because it is beautiful, the light and the dark. This is the aim of most religions, to impart true spiritual connection to its followers.
I have talked about magick. I have talked about ethics and morality. I have talked about the Law of Three and the Rede. What do any of these things have to do with personal responsibility? How has working magick and treading the Wiccan path caused me to grow?
Let's return to working magick. When my first spell worked (the green light spell) I was thrilled. I thought that I could wave a wand and everything would get better. Through practice and experience I learned that all magick has a cost. All magick requires effort on my part, and not just the effort of raising energy toward my goals.
A few years ago I broke up with a boyfriend. I was very lonely. I did a series of visualizations to meet someone. My basic intent was "I am lonely. Let people pay attention to me." I did not consider the consequences of my actions. I got exactly what I asked for. Two days later, a man came to see a room I had for rent in my home. He began to stalk me. After a few weeks of harassment I was scared and did not know what to do. I had asked him to leave me alone to no avail. I thought this was being responsible for my actions.
My teacher pointed out to me that I needed to be responsible for my actions before I began any magickal working. I needed to think through exactly what I wanted. I had to define what I was seeking and specify the proper channel.
Magick is like electricity, it takes the path of least resistance. If I were using electricity I would need to make sure all of my connections were solid, the wire grounded and that I had the proper amount of power for whatever I was doing. Magick is just like this. When all of the groundwork is laid, then I can tap into the power source.
I did not violate my stalker's will. I asked the universe to send someone to pay attention to me. Magick took the available resources, an emotionally unstable person, and sent him my way. I did not ask that it be for the greatest good. I was not responsible with my actions beforehand, so I had to take responsibility for them after the fact. My mundane attempts at responsibility, setting boundaries and locking my doors, were not enough. I made the mess magickally and had to clean it up in the same manner. My teacher helped me ward my home and do a banishing ritual directed at my stalker. I have not seen or heard from him since that day. I learned some important lessons in a very dramatic way.
The same lesson can be applied to the spell regarding getting a promotion at work. I can direct all the energy I want in spell work, but if I do not take action on the mundane or earthly level, I will never see the results. If I have not worked for my promotion, if I always show up late to work or never finish my work by the deadlines, I can not expect to get the promotion. Magick requires action. If I raise the energy to get a job, I have to be a tool for that energy to work. I have to go out and look for the job. I have to provide a channel for the current to flow through. The action may end in a spectacular series of "coincidences" that gets me my dream job. Most often, if I ask for my highest good to be put first, my magick leads me to places I would never have dreamed of. I would almost always have short changed myself in the long run had I demanded that my own results be met.
I hope that these examples help convey how magick and Wicca have taught me personal responsibility. Two great books discuss these topics more in depth. When, Why... If by Robin Wood and Pagans & Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience by Gus Dizerega, Ph.D., discuss the topics of ethics and personal responsibility in greater detail. I recommend that any serious student of Wicca read them. I have not retired a millionaire to the Caribbean. Instead, I am engaged in life in a way I never thought possible. For today, that challenge is better than anything I could have planned for myself.
Location: Charleston, West Virginia
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Bio: Rainbird is a gay male pagan living in Northwest Washington. He is a proud member of Artemesia Coven/Circle of MT. He currently participates with a NROOGD group in his area. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to email him at the link above.
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