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 Wicca 101 Series - Fourth Installment: Ethics 1 - Explanation

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Hexeengel

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PostSubject: Wicca 101 Series - Fourth Installment: Ethics 1 - Explanation   Mon Dec 14, 2009 2:55 pm

Note: This lesson will be in two parts. The first is simply explaining and defining Wiccan ethical tenents, while the second will explore some common scenarios and questions.

Wiccan Ethics

The basic ethical tenant of Wicca is the Wiccan Rede, which states, “An it harm none, do what you Will.” A simple, yet highly profound statement.

The word, “An” is usually cited as meaning, “if.” However, more accurately, it should be read “so that.” So in essence, the Rede says, “So that it harms none, do what you Will.”

"Harm," as mentioned in the Rede, means unwarranted, wanton damage. For example, it's not OK to smack someone for no reason, but if one feels pain after beneficial surgery, the doctor has not done harm; that pain is an acceptable consequence of the procedure.

"None," of course, not only means others around you, but includes yourself as well.

"Will," in this case, does not mean "whatever you want." Your Will is your sense of what is correct, just, and appropriate in a given situation, even if it isn't what you want to do. Another example, you find a wallet on the street with a substantial amount of cash inside. Your want may be to keep the money, but most likely your Will tells you to do what you can to return the wallet with ALL its contents to the rightful owner.

"Do as you Will" is not a statement of permission, it is a call to action, that you do consciously work your Will in any situation. Going back to the wallet on the street, you could just walk past and leave it there, but abiding by the Rede would mean that you pick it up and turn it over to the authorities or contact the owner yourself, whatever you deem necessary to return it to its owner.

Overall, "harm" in the Rede refers to wanton damage, maliciousness, forced acts, etc., whether mundane or Magickal. Additionally, the Rede does not state, "if it hurts someone, don't do it." Instead, it states, "so that it causes no harm, you must do it." Not that you can, or may, but that as a Witch, you have an obligation to do it.

Notice that that the Rede makes commentary on actions that cause no harm (that you are to follow through with those actions) but you may be wondering about actions that do harm. The Rede says nothing about them, this is true. It is left up to the individual to decide whether to commit actions that cause harm. This is an important caveat to the Rede that I feel is far too often, at the very least, overlooked if not outright ignored; sometimes working your Will means that someone will be harmed. But will an initial harmful action prevent greater harm in the future? Are you prepared to accept the consequences of said harmful action? All things to carefully consider when a harmful action presents itself as an option. If after such consideration harm is simply unavoidable, since you did in fact work your Will and your intent was not to do harm, any resulting harm is then another consequence to be dealt with (NOT ignored or disregarded, but actually faced), and not a violation of the Rede. The Lycian Tradition of Wicca adds a second statement to their interpretation of the Rede, “an it cause harm, do as you must,” to convey this particular caveat, but it is my personal understanding that this is implicit in the Rede as it stands.

Related here, it must be understood that the word “rede” means “advice or counsel,” not “commandment.” So although it is a call to action, encouraging one to engage in behavior that conforms to one’s Will, it is not saying, “you MUST act in this way, or else!” The consequences of disregarding the Rede’s advice are usually subjective and personal, and it is in fact part of the Rede’s advice that one think about what it will mean to ignore it.

And unlike some practitioners out there today, I don't believe that the Rede applies to everyone. If I can claim that I won't go to Hell because I don't believe in it, then it would be hypocritical of me to then say that everyone is bound by the Rede. It only applies to those who believe in it, those folk being Wiccans. While I may have my own opinions on the actions of others, I don't scream the Rede at all "wrong-doers" in an attempt to stop their behavior. If I did, I'd be no better than the fundamentalist Christians who yell at all of us Pagans that we're devil-worshippers and we're sure to burn for it.

If one were to translate the Rede out of the more poetic and archaic language in which it is most commonly presented, it would be essentially, “you have an obligation to do what you feel is right so that it causes no unwarranted damage, but sometimes that damage is unavoidable, and so you must also have the responsibility and maturity to accept the consequences of your actions, whatever those actions or consequences may be, including what may happen if you act contradictorily to your Will, or do not act at all.” It’s a lot of meaning to pack into eight little words, hence the power and profundity of the phrase.

To move on to a secondary but no less important ethical statement, the Three-Fold Law (sometimes alternately referred to as the Law of Return) is of course tied very much into the Rede, and it states that whatever is done, for benefit or for ill, comes back three-fold. This is not, however, a statement to be taken literally. Some believe the three folds are the physical, mental and spiritual levels that will all be affected; or that the levels are the self, those directly affected by the act, and the “bystander effect” of indirectly impacting others; or that equal acts will come back three separate times. But most, if not all, will agree that the Law is not saying donating $100 to charity will miraculously get you an extra $300 in your bank account.

Regardless, the point here is that none of us live in a vacuum so everything we do, Magickally and otherwise, will have an affect on everything else. The essence of it is then, to be aware of your actions, and that they have consequences. Sometimes those consequences are rewards, sometimes they are burdens, but they WILL happen. Just as one of Newton's Laws states, "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction." "Opposite" here is not to say that good actions beget bad consequences, but instead that the reaction, the goodness or badness, moves the other way, back to the source rather than away from it. As far as "equal" in that statement goes, applying it to the topic at hand means basically you get what you deserve, and the Universe/Gods/Karma/what-have-you will not dish out excessive rewards or burdens, only what is proportionally appropriate to the initial action.

To put it in the most basic of terms, Wiccan ethics are about being proactive and responsible in your choices, and having the maturity to face the consequences, whatever they may be.
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PostSubject: Re: Wicca 101 Series - Fourth Installment: Ethics 1 - Explanation   Mon Dec 14, 2009 3:33 pm

this is a great post. One of Gretchen's goals is to write a book on pagan ethics! You two should totally discuss this:P
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