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As a prelude to this section on Magick, I thought it prudent to include a few further words regarding ethics. Above all else, the Craft is about taking personal responsibility for your thoughts, your words, and your actions both in your daily life as well as in your magickal practices. In essence, it requires an individual to have a heightened sense of ethics.

Craft "laws" are generally presumed to be based upon two concepts today, the "Rede" and the "Law of Three," aka the Law of Karma. Let's take a look at these two "laws."

The Rede states:

An' it harm none,
Do as ye will.

The Law of Three basically states: What you give, you get back threefold - either in this life or another.

Many of today's pagans, when asked to explain these two laws, will give definitions which sound very much like the Christian Ten Commandments in digest form - sin and punishment; "thou shalt not… and if you do you're gonna get whammied in triplicate." In my opinion, few today actually understand the intricacies of the Rede, and fewer still undergo the meditation necessary to comprehend the subtle nuances that permeate every aspect of our lives.

First and foremost, the Rede is not a commandment! The Rede is a "counsel" only. It advices us to give more than a perfunctory look at our proposed action and consider the consequences, not just to ourselves but to the world as a whole. In attempting to homogenize the Craft for the public at large, the Rede has been boiled down and rewritten so that those who espouse it seem to be all light and no substance or, as they used to be popularly known in the days of the old BBS, "fluffy bunnies." You'll find many pagans today who can't even quote the Rede correctly.

The problem lies in the archaic wordform "An'." I've seen it "quoted" as everything from "And" to "If" (in absolute terms), to being dropped completely. "If" comes closest to the true meaning. But most today take that "If" as an absolute. They feel the Rede is enjoining against taking action if anything is harmed. They forget that the Craft is based upon the principles of free will, thought, action, and responsibility. Rather than being an injunction against action, it is a permission TO act. If no other is harmed, the action is without consequences. If an entity is harmed, however, the consequences must be borne by the initiator. That individual must decide if the action is worth the consequence. This means that someone given to exessive thought can become lost in a maze of inaction, for there are no thoughts or actions that are absolutely without harm to everyone and everything.

The Craft was never meant to be a "fluffy bunny" religion. Our Elders fought and often died horrible deaths for their beliefs and forms of worship. Celtic history is filled with glorious battles fought for a "just cause," in particular against the Romans. The Strega absolutely refused to give up their beliefs. They fought every step of the way, finally employing cunning and guile when they could see the battle was lost to Christian church. We owe these brave ancestors respect and honor, yet by taking the Rede at face value we dishonor their sacrifices.

Therefore, I feel the Rede instructs us simply to act honorably. If the honorable action is to work against something or someone who is causing great harm, then to refrain from acting because it "goes against the Rede" is dishonorable and leaves us open to the consequences of that inaction. However, this honorable action must be tempered by an understanding of our own inner motivations as well, lest what we deem "honorable" actually be self-serving.

My insistance is that a balance must be struck. We in the Craft are taught that all life is a striving towards balance. This need for balance permeates every aspect of our path. We are taught to strike a balance between the spiritual and the mundane, between the outer personality and the shadow self, and in our rituals between male and female energies Yet when it comes to the core guiding aspect of our Craft, we expect there to be no ambiguity, no teetering between degrees of "right." We expect the path to be clearly defined within the framework of eight small, absolute words. Large learning experiences await those who try to live their Craft within this structure, in my not so humble opinion.

The Craft issues no caveat against harming another; only that you must accept the consequences should harm occur. There are no lines of distinction between greater or lesser harm. On a most basic level:    you eat meat, you're a party to killing an animal. You eat vegetarian, you're party to killing a plant. Yet, you have to eat or you kill yourself via starvation. The greater good is served by eating; whether carnivore or herbivore, it's your choice as long as you're willing to accept the consequences. These consequences are increasingly played out in our bodies through diseases and other adverse medical conditions associated with the types of foods we eat. Still, it's better than the consequences of not eating at all!

When considering whether a situation should or should not be acted upon in a magickal manner, the need is for intense reflection and understanding of your own personal motives. You must be honest enough to separate purely self-oriented motivations with other-oriented motivations... without shame or blame. Understand your shadow self and recognize when it's influencing your decisions, then be aware enough to recognize your shadow self's influence may be what's called for in this situation, and give it as much consideration as necessary.

When deciding on a course of action, however, you should exhaust all mundance avenues first and foremost. In other words, why hit a fly with a sledgehammer when a flyswatter will do just fine! If you've exhausted all aspects of the mundane to no avail, be sure your motivations are honorable before you proceed magickally. A "harmless" spell with declared good intent can turn around and bite you because of unspoken or unconscious feelings of enmity towards the subject. Say what you mean and mean what you say whenever you attempt to cast a spell or do a ritual. This is especially imperative when appealing to the Goddesses of Justice - Hecate or Kali, for example. Remember, no situation is ever one-sided where right and wrong are concerned. There is a balance there, and Justice will seek to balance the scales, rather than favoring one over another.

If you're not certain what type of magick is acceptable in a given situation, send pure energy to the person, instead. Let the Gods decide how that energy can best be used to serve that individual.

Remember, your actions towards one can have a cascading effect on the collective, and always remember there are times when the best action is no action at all.

Everyone interprets the Rede according to their level of spiritual growth within the Craft, their own intuition, their personal relationship with the Gods, and on the study and opinions of others. This understanding is and will continue to be shaped according to an individual's real-life experiences, as well. One should never be fearful of questioning his understanding of the Rede, nor of changing his attitude towards it. There will always be those who disagree with your fervently-held opinion, for no two people of the Craft ever walk the Spiral in exactly the same way. Simply understand that the Rede is a counsel only and not an immutable law. It is an admonition towards caution expressed within our own ancient lore: If you always seek to act honorably, then whatever consequences you need bear will be within your own need for Balance.

-- Lady Shyra, 2000


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