27.5.13

The Ethics of Witchcraft

When it comes to the topic of morals and ethics, I have only written a post on the Wiccan Rede up to now. But I think it's about time that we expand on this. :)

The word "ethics" comes from the Greek word ēthike (ἠθική). Latin then adopted it and changed it into the word ethica. The French language didn't adopt it until the 13th century (etique) and only after this word had gone through this much was it incorporated into the English language. Ethics is defined as a set of moral principles. Each individual has their own, but groups can also have their specific sets of principles.

The shortened version of the Wiccan Rede is: 'An it harm none, do what ye will. I covered this topic in detail in my last post on the Rede and its analysis. But what does it actually imply? It summarizes the basic human morals, the things that we are taught as children; don't hit others, don't be rude, don't steal etc. It combines these social "obligations" with ecological awareness, the consciousness of one's surroundings, actions and the consequences they will have. As human beings we definitely have a responsibility towards other humans, towards the planet Earth, but also to all other living beings that inhabit it (be they animals or plants), and that is to be kind to them.

The ethics of Wicca and Paganism in general is very positive because it isn't based on threats, but on rewards. In stead of saying that you will, for example, go to Hell, it says that you will receive three times as much as you give...and if what you give is good, then so much the better for you! :D

There are a few lines from the well-known poem entitled "the Charge of the Goddess" which I would like to emphasize. They read: "Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth; for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. therefore let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honour and humility, mirth and reverence within you." All of the mentioned qualities are balanced out in order for us and the people around us to be happy. If you try to be too compassionate, then you will the the ones who will end up being neglected because you will always put other's needs in front of your own, but if you try to bee too strong, then those surrounding you will be feeble and will suffer. I will let you meditate on this for yourselves :)

Why do I tell you to think about this on your own? You might have noticed that improvement plays an important role in Paganism, not in the sense of the Craft, but in the sense of self-improvement, of letting yourselves grow and prosper. This is, in a way, the moral duty of any practitioner. Why? Well, we are usually aware of the affect we have on our surroundings and that we are connected with the people around us. By that logic, if we improve and grow, then so do the people around us grow, improve, become accepted and calmer with us.

Another thing which all Pagans, generally speaking, have in common is the belief that the Earth is a living organism, an integrated being (this may remind you of the Gaia theory). She, mother Earth, grants us life, just like any mother does; she gives us food and drink and radiates warmth (which she gets by absorbing the sun's rays) which we need in order to live. She awards us when we take care of her and when we take care of her (plant, plow, harvest etc.) but she also knows how to punish us when we don't treat her with respect (just remember the melting of the polar ice sheets and the other effects of global warming, although this is just one of many examples). The Gaia theory is often connected with Goddess worship and I am among those that agree with this :) If you don't know what I'm talking about, I will put it as plainly as I can. Basically, what this hypothesis says is that the Earth is a living organism of its own. In this way, every living organism leads a dialog with the Earth which results in life. If you find this interesting, then you can read more about it on Gaia theory's official site.

Now, to get back to the topic of ethics; if we look at the Earth as we look at other living beings, then we ultimately have an obligation towards her too. I found a wonderful description of Earth which reads as follows: "Those creatures - human, animal and vegetable - are the individual cells, he nervous system, the lungs, the sense organs of Mother Earth, just as the mineral kingdom is her living body-tissue and skeleton, the seas and rivers are her bloodstream, and her envelope of atmosphere is the air which she breathes as we do ourselves" (Janet & Stewart Farrar - A Witches' Bible, p. 137). Of course, this doesn't mean that Pagans are the only ones who are interested in the well-being of the Earth. Many organizations, groups, and even individuals who are devoted to this problem exist today. Some will manifest this awareness by ceasing to eat meat while others (like me, for example) will decide to continue doing so keeping in mind the fact that humans are omnivores and that this is all natural. This is a personal choice of every individual, so I can't give myself the right to tell you what is better or what is worse.

At the end of the story, the essence of all of this is respect for all other living beings.

It is because of this connection with Earth that herbalism is quite popular among Pagans. Two factors have to be mentioned when talking about the reason why Pagans like herbalism: 1) the pleasure of being able to help other; 2) healing by natural means (fresh plants given to us my Mother Earth) i.e. not using synthetic drugs ("the poison of the modern age"). But by no means should we ignore the miracles that modern medicine has brought us. After all, with modern medicine came a longer life span as well as many cures for diseases that were deadly up to that point. Though one fact remains, not all of these modern methods are the most natural or healthy solution to one's problems. A synthetic drug may contain some ingredients derived from nature, but a lot of chemical processes will be needed to produce that certain drug, many of which aren't 100% compatible with the human body. I repeat, it is up to you to choose whether you want to use modern medicine or "alternative" medicine (if I may include herbalism into this category). All of this plays an important role in witchcraft ethics because you, as a herbalist (but also as a patient) have to ask yourself many questions: what methods will help the most? Is it up to you to help? Will a certain method do more harm than it will help? etc. Let this be food for thought. :)

From what I know, most Pagans look upon their bodies as temples. Some may smoke or drink or eat junk food but we are people too. I eat mayonnaise every now and then even though I know that it is one of the unhealthiest dressings that I can put in my organism. But it is important that you don't take your body for granted. This also falls under the category of ethics because this is where your principles come out. They may be strict of mild, but they are your principles and you should stick to them! We are stronger if we are aware of them, if we don't abandon them and if we keep the promises we make to ourselves. The myth that drugs have to be/are consumed during rituals is exactly that, a mere myth. I'm not saying that this doesn't exist (because we can see all sorts of things on this planet), but this isn't a custom and is definitely not obligatory if we want to reach a "higher state of mind" during rituals. The same thing goes for alcohol; some sort of alcoholic beverage is usually consumed during rituals (usually wine), but everyone only takes a sip (and this surely isn't enough to get you drunk). Keep in mind that everyone has the right to say that they don't drink alcohol and you will be provided with an alternative (e.g. blueberry juice, apple juice, milk or basically any natural drink). We know that drugs were used in the past for divinatory purposes, but the people that took them were "professionals" (I'm talking about various Priests and Priestesses) and even they would be accompanied with someone who would look out for them. But the main difference is that drugs weren't illegal back then...in fact, people were encouraged to use them for religious purposes (basically, the more a Priest/Priestess was high, the more open they were to the gods). This isn't me urging you to take drugs! They really can be dangerous and should not be toyed with (just stating facts here). Nowadays, drugs are shunned upon (generally speaking) although some may not be as harmful as the law would make us believe. Anyway, I believe that you will be able to achieve a higher state of consciousness even without drugs or alcohol, just as you can have fun without them when you go out with your friends.

You probably won't be surprised when I tell you that good "Christian" values are basically the same as good "Witches' " values. Basically, they are good HUMAN values. After all, we are primarily human beings, and only after that can we make any gender, sexual or religious distinctions. I don't believe that a person has to know, for examples, all of the Ten Commandments to know that they aren't commandments at all, but simply common sense and basic knowledge about good behavior in a civilized society. The fact that someone chose to give them that name doesn't change what they are :)

Some would say that an important part of Wicca is magick (although I wouldn't agree...on the contrary, I believe that magick can be omitted entirely). But, I also believe that there is one reason that any person practicing magick has to follow, and that is the infamous "harm none". You have already heard this saying once in this post, but believe me when I say that you will come across it many more times on this blog. Anyway, this rule is worth gold when it comes to magick because people often do spells because of various private (and I would dare say sometimes selfish) needs. It is necessary to really think through something (which includes thinking about the consequences) before going through with it, or simply put, think before you act. I don't mean to say that every person who does magick jumps into it head first, nor is this intended for any particular person. I am simply mentioning this in hopes that a few mishaps can be avoided. Energy can be very powerful and one must learn to control it properly. It is like a knife; it can be very useful (for cutting food or ropes or opening cans or things like this) but it can also be very harmful in the wrong hands (it can be used for harming or even killing). This is a very dark example, but it is important to me that I get the message across. In addition to this, I remembered a sentence from Gardner's Book of Shadows which reads: Never boast, never threaten, never say you would wish ill of anyone. I believe this needs no further explaining.

I know that it can be hard for us to even follow the simplest rules of conduct, but I truly believe that the world would be a much nicer place if everyone could just stop to think about what they want to say or do. I wrote this post hoping that some of these words might serve to enlighten and inspire. We are all human and we all make mistakes, but have to at least try to harm others (and ourselves) as little as possible with our mistakes, and also try to correct them later on. :) It is never a bad time to start anew, to be more aware of yourselves and your loved ones and to spread love in stead of hate.

So, not wanting to bore you any longer, I bid you all a farewell! Yours,
Witch's Cat

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