Ethics – by Toni

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    Mary Santangelo / Toni B []

    Witchcraft, unlike most conventional religions, does not have a long list of laws governing behavior. Many Witchcraft or Wiccan groups have adopted either The Wiccan Rede (long or short) or Crowley’s Motto as their ethical standards or guidelines to live by.

    Ethics in itself is a set of moral principles or philosophies governing individual human behavior. Depending on what part of the world you are from not to mention the individuals cultural background, ethical standards can change in an instant. What maybe considered morally wrong for one group at one end of the world may be morally right for the other at the opposite end.

    We can surmise from history that Paganism and the practice of it were certainly different from today’s Neo-Paganism, Wicca or Witchcraft; nevertheless, we can say that the Rede was created to give a more cohesive structure to Gardner’s Witchcraft Movement.

    In ancient times, tribes had their own rules, regulations, rituals, and ceremonies governing clan behavior. Even today, remote tribes in Africa have their own rites of passage even when it comes to a young boy or girl becoming a woman or a man. In one African tribe, during there “rite of puberty”, the young girls must have their entire face tattooed, while an opponent harshly whips the young boys. These standards would be considered horrendous in our more modern world, yet to these tribes, it is morally correct as well as an honor to participate in these rites.

    When we are growing up, we usually leave it up to our parents to direct us as to what is considered right or wrong within the society we live in. Our moral standards are left to the adults who are responsible for our care whether it is our teachers, parents, church, or family.

    Most mainstream religions are labeled with dogma. Dogma in Greek means “opinion”. In other words the religions pose a system of principles for the individuals to live by. In traditional Witchcraft, however, there is no such dogma. Everyone is responsible for his or her own actions. Honor is their motto, loyalty their creed. Depending on the tradition, some groups have adopted certain virtues and principles that they feel were prominent within the particular culture their tradition is based on.

    Witchcraft and Wicca have undergone an array of changes over the last 30 years to say the least “some good” some not so well, but then that is my opinion. In any religious or spiritual organization, there must be guidelines to follow or rules to live by, otherwise it becomes an “anything goes” type group, disorganization follows and nothing truly gets accomplished. Chaos must become order in any state of being.

    The religion of Witchcraft does not bog us down with lists of dogma to obey. Perhaps that is why it is the fastest growing religion to- date, however, the founders of modern day Wicca did give its followers a Golden Rule. That is (as I prefer to use the older short version), Bide the Wiccan Law he must in perfect love and perfect trust. Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill, and ye harm none do what thou wilt. Lest in thy self-defense it be, ever mind the rule of three. Follow this in mind and heart, merry we meet, and merry we part.

    Most modern Wiccan groups have adopted The Wiccan Rede within their ethical framework. There were two forms of the Wiccan Rede. The long version was written by Lady Gwen Thompson who was responsible for the growth of the Celtic tradition within the United States. The short version I was told was originally printed in Green Egg, a pagan newsletter prominent in the late 60’s – 70’s. The author of the short version, however, is usually attributed to Gerald Gardner. Regardless of the authors, the Rede has become the major “Golden Rule” for most modern day Wiccan’s.

    The Wiccan Rede: attributed by Gerald Gardner Eight Words the Wiccan Rede fulfill And ye harm none, Do what thou will Lest in thy self defense it be Ever mind the rule of three; Follow this in mind and heart Merry we meet and Merry we part.

    Crowley’s Motto
    Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law;
    Love is the Law, love under will.

    I have listed the short version of the Rede and also Crowley’s Motto, which seems to have been the original form from which the more modern was taken from.

    First of all, let’s begin by acknowledging the fact that Gerald Gardner took the phrase of Do what thou wilt, from a friend of his named Aleister Crowley. The two men became acquainted the year before Crowley died. They hit it off and probably had some deep conversations concerning magick and the occult. Crowley’s affectionado presented Gardner with a 4th degree certificate acknowledging him as part of his O.T.O. (Ordo Templi Orientes) organization. Apparently Crowley felt that Gardner would open an O.T.O. camp and therefore gave him the authority to do initiations, however, Gardner had other plans.

    Crowley’s phrase for his Thelemic organization was Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law, Love is the law, love under will. Not withstanding Crowley’s originality, however, Crowley himself borrowed this phrase (Do what thou wilt) from a Renaissance writer named Francois Rabelais (1494?-1553) from his work called “The Abbey of Theleme” respectively. This work is about a monastery in which both men and women (monks and nuns) reside, how they lived, dressed, and the code they lived by. The character, Gargantua, who built the Abbey, describes this code of conduct. “Their whole life was ordered not by law, statue or rule, but according to their free will and pleasure.” “The only rule of the house was: “DO AS THOU WILT”, because men that are free, of gentle birth, well-bred and at home in civilized company possess a natural instinct that inclines them to virtue and saves them from vice”. ( World Masterpieces-Volume I 1965 by W.W. Norton & Co. Gargantua and Pentagruel, Book I pg. 1271)

    So, with that said, are we to believe that if everyone lived in these conditions that we would therefore know how to treat each other with respect. Apparently, Crowley felt this was true and so did Gardner, hence the implementation of their Golden Rule. However, can we come to the conclusion that EVERY person who follows a Pagan path (and I am just not talking about Wiccan’s in general), is truly free, of gentle birth, well-bred and at home in civilized company? Not likely, unless perhaps we all locked ourselves into Rabelais’ Abbey of Theleme and “lived” the lifestyle.

    So, where does that leave Wiccan’s? Still with the same Golden Rule and how do they live it in a Pagan population with various living conditions? Let me say that it is always a struggle to try to define or even interpret the phrases and writing of others, especially if a commentary is not attached. Meaning, the individual who sets these guidelines may have had their own interpretation. So with this in mind, I shall interpret it as I personally feel it to be.

    Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfil
    And ye harm none, Do what thou will

    “Do what thou Will” (Crowley)

    First, lets define the word “thou”, taken from the Hebrew meaning Ateh and was a common name in ancient times to address the Divine Creator. In many esoteric orders, it is stressed that we in a sense are co-creators just as our divine counterpart. Being a co- creator, you are responsible for your own actions.

    The word “will” written as “wilt” in Crowley’s version, implying purposes and choice in ones life. Now the cliche is, if you follow your “true will”, you will have a responsible approach as co- creators in our world and be a responsible citizen in society. Easy enough, but is it? In today’s Pagan communities, I have seen more than enough irresponsible choices being made not only in group settings but personal lives as well. Does being a co-creator instill too much power clouding one’s choices as irresponsible? Are we not responsible for our actions? Of course we are! We are human aren’t we? Not everyone makes right choices. Everything we do in life causes an action. It is a law of the universe; we can’t run from it, as everything we do (good or bad) will cause a reaction sooner or later. Every pebble we throw in the pond will cause a rippling effect – some harsher than others. This law is cause and effect.

    What is cause and effect? It means every action has a reaction. This tells us that nothing happens by chance. It has been in effect since ancient times and is considered by some a Hermetic law. Being responsible for our actions means not blaming things or events that happen to us on God, the Devil, someone else or even destiny. As destiny implies a pre-determined course that must be traveled over a period of time having no control over the outcome. True will enables one to create their own future, not a future destined by a higher power.

    By following your true will, you become open to the deity that dwells within you, as well as recognizing the deity that dwells within all mankind. For example, the word Namaste (a common greeting in India) means, “The God within me, greets the God within you”. This is where the law of cause and effect come in, because if you accept the above law, then you realize that when you do anything to another, you are truly doing it to yourself. You see we are all intricate threads in the fabric of life. A web forever connected to each other. This also leads to a principle in magickal study and that is “To know thyself”. By doing this, you give yourself a gift. The gift is “knowing” what it is you are truly seeking, enabling you to create your destiny and following your true will.

    “An it harm none”.

    Well, this can be a tricky sentence at first glance. Acknowledging that Gerald Gardner wrote the short version of the Rede we must take a look back at history. In the 30’s and 40’s as opposed to the 90’s and the 21st century, I can say what we consider harmful now, wasn’t considered harmful back then, like smoking for example. I can only conclude that the word “harm” meant true physical or mental harm. Like do not kill or abuse another mentally or physically. Today, it seems we have given it a more extended meaning….don’t harm ANYTHING. I then had to be realistic, for it would be impossible to not harm something in the course of ones lifetime. I say this because in many esoteric teachings, EVERYTHING IS ALIVE! This includes furniture, all of nature (plants, trees, animals, etc) anything run by electricity, us, your TV and VCR (don’t laugh); our food (meat or vegetable) I could go on and on. To harm absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing, would be a very restricted life to say the least. So I had to use logic and common sense with the words. “An ye harm none”.

    Whatever our individual divine will is, we must have the “FREEDOM” to carry it out and give that same “FREEDOM” to any other individual on this planet. Meaning, we must not interfere in the lives of others. By interfering, you are harming yourself and others because you may be restricting them from following their true will, therefore carrying out their personal destiny. Finally, if one does want to follow this rede, they should follow this REDE with love (the foundation of all magical workings), one is fulfilling the cycle of life giving credence to the Great Work.

    Lest in thy self defense it be,
    Ever mind the rule of three.

    This sentence gives us the right to self-defense. Throughout human history, humankind has been a survivalist. If need be we would do what we had to do in order to stay alive. Witches are not pacifists. Many are in the armed forces fighting for their country and killing the enemy if need be. The same goes if a family is threatened by a burglar or house invasion, one defends themselves and their family. There is no time to “worry” about karmic paybacks. A person will do what they have to do to defend their house and family. It is just human nature. Will there be a ripple in ones life if this event should occur, of course. Anything that we do, no matter what, will have an effect on everyone and everything else in and around our lives.

    Although, Doreen Valiente did question The Law of Three, we can honestly say that the law of karmic return usually does not have a number attached to it. When we drop that pebble in the water, we really don’t know how much of a ripple we may cause. Therefore, our return may be more or less than threefold. Here is Doreen’s comment on The Law of Three.

    “Another teaching of Gerald’s which I have come to question is the belief known popularly as ‘The Law of Three’. This tells us that whatever you send out in Witchcraft, you get back threefold, for good or ill. Well, I don’t believe it. Why on earth should we assume that there is a special law of Karma, which applies only to Witches? For the Goddess’ sake, do we really kid ourselves that we are that important? Yet, so I am told, many people, especially in United S tates, take this as an article of faith. I have never seen it in any of the old books of magic, and I think Gerald invented it.” (Doreen Valiente, Pagan Federation Conference, Croyden, England, Nov. 1997, as quoted in Wiccan Wisdom Keepers, p. 34).

    In Crowley’s phrase “Do What thou Wilt shall be the whole of the Law” has been pretty much covered in the same manner as Do what thou will in Gardner’s version. The difference is whole of the Law (with the word Law capitalized). This phrase also does not mean do whatever you please. They are guidelines to live by concerning one’s free will. Because the “Divine” (the Law) gave us “free will”, it is our heritage. We have freedom of “choice”. In other words, what we want should always be in good conscience. Every decision we make should be to the best of our knowledge might I dare say, “Karmically correct”. This should be equally considered when a Witch does magick, especially “love spells” or any spell that may interfere with ones free will.

    To negate an individuals “free will” does not show a spirit of love, but disrespect for that persons feelings. Witches should be cautioned on manipulation of other peoples will. To some, this is where the line of White and Black magick convenes. Love spells should begin with the individual. Building a relationship, knowing and understand oneself is essential in building a magical foundation. Every action we do, has a consequence and unfortunately no matter how cautious we may be, we may never know what that consequence is until the action has taken place.

    Love is the law; love under will is the second half of Crowley’s phrase. Love and will go hand in hand. If you are gladly following your true will, than it is done whole-heartedly and with much love as a co-creator of the universe. Crowley believed that “Every man and every woman was a star”; all individual illuminated souls shinning brightly amongst all the rest of their brothers and sisters in the night sky -individually, but yet side-by-side.

    World Masterpieces-Volume I 1965 by W.W. Norton & Co. Gargantua and Pentagruel
    New Aeon Magick by Gerald del Campo

    All rights reserved, Mary Santangelo / Toni B []
    Forums at The Chalice and Serpent
    Yahoo! Group: Traditional Stregheria
    Do not reproduce without written permission by the author.

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