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
How Many People Can You Fit Under An Umbrella?
Gut Hunches, Mouse Dreams, and Pinkie Sense
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.
Is Nothing Profane?|
Posted: January 25th. 2003
Times Viewed: 1,896
People are entitled to call anything sacred, or everything sacred, or even to claim that nothing is sacred. What is important is that their beliefs and actions do not harm or inconvenience anybody to an unacceptable level, and that if they do, their right to practice these 'sacred' acts be taken away. Therefore, a group can claim as much as they like that their act of sacrificing babies is sacred--they will, and should, be forbidden from doing so.
This raises the important question: 'What is harm?' On a basic level, harm is something that takes away a person's will or dignity, acts that undermine the value of life of the individual. This general idea is formulated in the Rede (an harm it none, do thy will). So, basically, call anything sacred and feel free to do it--so long as it doesn't get in the way of anyone else.
However, it is impossible to go through life without doing harm. Life depends on death, cannot exist without it, and whatever I or anyone else does, it always has the potential to harm someone, whether directly or indirectly. If I walk across the street and a car swerves to not hit me and hits someone else, maybe even a group of people, then my action has caused harm, even if that was never my intent, and even if there was no way I could possibly foresee the consequences. (Okay, so actually looking before I crossed the road might have helped, but we'll ignore that part.) This is, to my mind, perhaps the greatest weakness of the Rede--that it assumes I will know for sure what the consequences of my actions are. This is rarely the case. However, it is important to remember that the Rede is just 'wise counsel', not a steadfast, inflexible law. It is the purpose of the Rede to make the individual think about the possible and likely results of a particular action. If you do something and inadvertently harm someone, you have not, in my opinion, violated the Rede.
It could be claimed that there are acts in a religion that are so much a fundamental part of the belief system, and are so important to the people practicing it, that they should be allowed to carry it out regardless of the harm they cause. Take the case of sacrificing babies: most people would find this practice abhorrent, and determinedly not sacred. But suppose the people of a certain culture were experiencing a severe famine, and many members of the community were dying. What if a sacrifice was the people's last hope? Suppose they believed that if they did not sacrifice the child, their entire community would suffer and many more people would die. Suppose, indeed, that they believed the baby would gain a position of honour in some form of afterlife, and be much better off than struggling to survive on earth, where, as things stood at that time, it would have little chance of surviving. Could we categorically say to them: no, you're wrong, you cannot sacrifice that baby? What justification would we have? That the taking of life is wrong? But within their belief system, we are killing far more people, albeit indirectly, by not doing what their gods want. Using the category of 'no harm' presumes a certain, by no means universal, viewpoint, which values earthly life over death, happiness over sadness and pain, and presumes that suffering is necessarily bad. But people cannot grow without experiencing loss.
Similarly, there are some Christian groups that claim that all Witchcraft is the work of the devil, and having pentagrams and other religious symbols endangers people, as it allows the devil access to that area. The fact that Wiccans do not believe in the devil is irrelevant in their eyes. Sometimes the differences in opinion are so vast that it is impossible to find common ground. I'm not saying all Christians think like this, but for those who do, there is no way anyone can change their mind. The point is that their way of seeing what is harmful and what is not is so vastly different to that of Wiccans that there seems little space for compromise.
Overall, there are no easy answers. It is possible to defend any position, and the ability to defend it does not make it right. (And just because I have defended a position in my essay does not mean that I believe in it. Obviously, I do not condone the killing of babies.) Everyone sees the world through his or her own viewpoint--to a certain degree, at least, and we can never escape from that. This does not mean that humanity should adopt a completely laissez-faire attitude. It is crucial to examine what groups are doing and why. In the more difficult cases, examine what people know for certain. No one can claim to possess absolute knowledge about what happens after death. Approaching the problem in pragmatic terms is crucial. Harm might be doing the person some good, but it probably isn't.
We cannot take away people's right to claim something to be sacred. But if there is evidence that their acts are harmful, then not intervening because the group might possibly be right is basically the same as giving people the right to do whatever they want in the name of religion.
A final thought: I would call nature sacred. And yet animals kill with indifference; and earthquakes, volcanoes, and floods reduce what people have worked for years to achieve to nothingness. Nature is indifferent to morality, death, and the passage of time.
Location: , USA
Bio: Elijah Jordan lives in Britain and has been studying the Craft for about a year. He welcomes e-mails about his essay, or anything to do with Wicca. He likes to write, read, and watch (hopefully one day direct?) films. He is currently studying philosophy at university, and this is his first essay for Witchvox
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