ethics Tag - PaganSquare - Join the conversation! Tue, 23 May 2017 21:09:26 -0700 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb The Ethics of Glamour

It's tax season which is every bit as wretched as you expect it to be.  I'm on my feet for over nine hours a day in the goddamn copy room which is both a safe haven and a prison, depending on the day.  My book doesn't come out until August which feels even farther away the closer we get to it somehow, probably because I could have had a baby and a half in the time I'm sitting on my hands waiting for it to come out.  I mean, I'm trying to get launch events together for when it comes out but I'm like Ali Sheedy in The Breakfast Club dumping her giant purse out all over the table and no one wants to sit by me.  No.  One.

I very nearly had, like, the awesomest event ever put together but we had irreconcilable differences over how the bar tab would be handled.

It's depressing, Charmers.  I worry that no one will buy my book, no one will care about it and there will be no event to mark, oh I don't know, only everything I've been working for my whole f*cking life.  

And all I keep thinking is you have to f*cking blog so people will remember you exist!  Say new things!  BE INTERESTING.

Who wouldn't be sparkling and amazing with enough internal pressure to create a diamond?  I mean, that's where magic happens right?

So let's talk glamour.   At the end of the day, you can look at glamour two ways:

  1. You are leveling the playing field in an unfair world so you can manifest all the wonder you are working to manifest.


2. You are manipulating those around you to get what you want, which is the purpose of Witchcraft.

Um, you can imagine how much my publisher liked #2.  It's not exactly love 'n light sisters!!!!!1111!!!  

Obviously, if you want to feel really justified in everything you do ever, you should think #1.  If you like feeling like the dangerous type and the implication that you are a bottom feeder, you should think #2.  If you actually want to get somewhere with glamour, you should think both.

Manipulation is such a harsh word.  It makes everyone feel mad.  As someone who "reads" as feminine in some way especially, it's one of the worst things that can be said about you because in society's view, it separates you from all your soft, squishy maternal instincts that we all supposedly have.  That makes you a user.  That makes you a gold digger.  That makes you a climber.  That makes you self centered.  And my god, what is worse than being called that when you are supposed to put everyone else's needs before yours if you want to be a Good Girl?

Which is why, if we're being completely honest here, if you are good at glamour it's because you are manipulating others without them noticing.  That's the feminine part of the Arte, the subtlety.  Because oh lordess, if you get caught out for trying to manipulate those around you, the stakes are really high.  Possibly because you might be getting burnt at one (metaphorically now, less so even two hundred years ago).

So, let's pretend everyone has common sense here because that's a fun game.  You should, like, totally have a moral compass.  Because if you can't sleep at night because you did something crazy?  Guess whose fault that is?  I mean, you can blame Godzilla all you want for your ramen stand problems but he ain't gonna be the one starving to death because your ramen stand went out of business.  All your actions (and inactions) have consequences which is really tedious but a trufax.

The thing is, just about all of us, even the more introverted side of the spectrum, chose to have lives intertwined with others in some fashion.  We do things we don't want to do all the time for each other for all sorts of reasons - as a sacrifice on the altar of love, to curry favor, to right a wrong we've committed, to even an uneven internal score card, because it makes the other person happy which makes your life easier, lots of reasons.  And we don't think much about it because . . .if you have to worry about being a manipulative soap opera villianess every time you talk your spouse into getting milk for you at an inconvenient time, how would you ever get anything done?

And that's the point of glamour, really.  To get things done so you can further your ambitions. But (but).  You are also forming connections with others.  Maybe some of those connections are self serving, sure.  But some connections that start as self serving can develop into sincere affection and some connections that start as sincere affection can quickly become a quid quo pro Hannibal/Clarice situation.  You just don't know.  Go in with an open heart.  Remember no one's hands are spotless (including yours) but also remember that Lady MacBeth couldn't sleep at night until she was so sleep deprived that jumping off a parapet sounded like a fine idea. Remember that Witchcraft is used by the disempowered and life isn't fair, glamour isn't required to be either.  

What do you Want?  How badly do you Want it?  What are you willing to do to get it?  What pacts and geas will you whisper to your goddesses and spirits?  What promises will you make?  What will you tear out of yourself?  What will you suffer?

Draw your line.  Take no quarter.  

Read more]]> (Deborah Castellano) Culture Blogs Thu, 09 Mar 2017 17:09:01 -0800
An it harm none

An it harm none do what you will at first glance seems to be an invitation for any kind of behavior.  However, this founding concept for most nature based religions is not as simplistic as it first appears. Paganism has two leading ethical principles, the Wiccan Rede and the law of return.  According to Marion Green in A Witch Alone “An it harm none, do what ye will. None in this case implies everyone and everything! An in old English means In order that and will is your soul’s own true will, not the whim of the moment.” (pg 41)  In other words - In order that no harm comes to anything or anyone do what your soul’s own true desires.  The law of return basically means that whatever energy you put out it will come back to you, three, ten or a hundred fold depending on what path you follow.  As with other religions, this is interpreted in a variety of ways.  The law of return, which is a western version of karma expounds personal responsibility.  According to Rabinovitch and MacDonald in An Ye Harm None there are two central concepts on morality “1) that there are causes for and reasons why something happens and 2) that every action you take will have effects.” (page 5)  In its simplest form the rede is the guide for making life choices. The law of return is the penalty or prize for any action taken.  

In any discussion concerning Pagan morality and justice it is difficult to pin down the one overriding belief the entire community has.  Paganism, Witchcraft, and the other nature-based belief systems are very individualistic, which is part of their appeal.  This means that those practicing these systems have to determine their own ethical and moral beliefs based on the minimal guidance found in whatever path they choose to follow.

Non-pagans feel these two principles are not enough of a guideline to live a moral life.  Where are the thou shall nots?  Where is the outline to tell us how to live our lives?  In reality this broad general concept allows each individual to take responsibility for one’s own actions and morals while attempting to live by them.  This is not an easy task.  It forces the individual to look deeper and more seriously at any action taken.  If I do this – will it harm anyone?  If I don’t do something will it cause harm?  It is easy to get caught up in the moment, to just go along with the group and follow with the actions everyone is taking.  It is not easy to step back in the heat of the moment and say is this a correct action to take.  Am I thinking and acting in accordance to my core beliefs or am I just reacting with no thought to the consequences.

As with any religion, it is a learning process to follow this rede.  Each new situation forces the individual to truly examine their beliefs before taking action.  The individual needs to look at all the options and avoid tunnel vision when determining the correct action in a situation.  Often this is not possible because life happens and it doesn’t always allow for time to contemplate.  This is why it is key to practice one’s core beliefs.  It is also important to be able to bring yourself to a place of peace and balance in a moment.  So when you react, you will hopefully come from a balanced and centered place rather than simply reacting to situational stimulus.

Additionally the rede and law of return allow the practitioner to make informed decisions based on their experiences rather than a hard and fast set of rules. Many other religions outline what a person can or cannot do like the ten commandments in Christianity.  One of these commandments is the honor one’s parents.  If parents have proved they do not deserve the honor, then honoring them really isn’t a moral justice but a moral injustice.  With the rede, honoring people who are unworthy of honoring is harmful so the practitioner is not bound to a law or guideline which produces negative consequences. 

Karma or the law of return is complex.  It isn’t as simple as tit for tat.  This is a very simplistic point of view.  There isn’t any force out there keeping tally of your actions.  The universal flow of life brings about a balance over time and lives.  In some cases, lessons can be learned from a negative situation so when is harm caused?  Rabinovich and MacDonald point out that there is a difference between harm and hurt.  Hurt is short term while harm is long term or permanent (page 9). 

The rede and the law of return are meant to make us stop and think about our actions.  Responsibility for actions and choices are key components of this belief system.  The two dominant guidelines are meant to help us take a step back when we are angry, scared, frustrated, and off balance in order to do the right thing even in a difficult situation.  

Many Pagans or Wiccans believe that you should always practice from a place of love and light.  In an idealistic world this might be possible but there are times when the issue an individual is being faced with isn’t quite so clear cut.  Often times it is a matter of what is the best option rather than a clearly defined correct action.  The point at these times in our lives is to know and take responsibility for the actions you do take.  For instance if someone is giving you a hard time, some Wiccans feel you should not send the energy they are giving to you back to them.  Obviously it would be a negative thing to participate in the same behavior they are.  But is your only option to turn the other cheek and let the negative behavior continue?  Often when there is negative behavior and it goes unchecked it can only escalate.  So what happens when you have turned both cheeks, had discussions with the person asking them to stop and the behavior continues?  Patricia Telesco in How to be a Wicked Witch discusses options that are open to you.  A mirror spell which reflects the energy back to the sender is often very effective.  This spell is simple in that it basically is like holding up a mirror to the person and saying what you send out comes immediately back to you.  Some Pagans consider this morally wrong.  Others believe that so long as you are conscious of your actions and have tried to do everything else within your power to get the person to stop that this action is not morally wrong.  So long as you are aware of the repercussions and take responsibility for your actions then it is acceptable.

People new to the craft and this ethical system can sometimes get caught up in applying the basic concept of the rede and law of return without looking deeper at the topic.  As an example, a poor person must be poor to learn a lesson or it is karmic payback for the person to be poor.  A person who contracts a disease must need to learn a lesson from having the disease or is being paying back some negative karma.  These are attitudes that are judgmental and superficial.  This is a harsh and simplistic approach to the rede and law of return.  Poverty, disease, and other social or physical difficulties are not just caused by an individual’s actions.  Many factors go into them with only a small portion of it being the person’s own actions.  When addressing larger issues like this, there are many factors which play a multitude of roles in the issues.  

Like other religions, Paganism and nature-based religions have a complex moral standard which is applied individually based on the path the practitioner follows.  Application of the moral code, depends on the individual’s beliefs and experiences.  So while the rede and the law of return may seem overly simple and without direction or consequence.  Both remind the practitioner that whatever energy is put out will come back to them and offers specific direction on how to live life.

Read more]]> (Eileen Troemel) Culture Blogs Tue, 21 Jun 2016 06:55:29 -0700
What's Your Name?

What will they remember about you when you're dead?

1300 years ago, the Anglo-Saxon Hwicce—the Tribe of Witches—called it nama. 5000 years before that, it was *nomn. But they both meant the same thing.

As one whose concept of afterlife is the Grand Sabbat of the atoms, I've sometimes been asked: What, then, is your motivation for moral behavior?

The ancestors had a name for it: Name.

What's your name?

Call it name, or reputation. Name is what they know you by.

What do they say about you? What's your reputation among those that know you?

Read more]]> (Steven Posch) Culture Blogs Thu, 05 May 2016 06:01:39 -0700
To Speak and To Keep Silent There's a cycle in the Pagan blogosphere that needs to be interrupted. This or that public figure of Paganism stumbles, mildly or majorly, anything from making an offensive statement to doing something seriously unethical and even illegal. More than half the time, I think to myself "Who is this person, and why should I care?" But one by one, many take it upon themselves to step up and denounce or defend to demonstrate their upholding of ethics, Real Paganism(tm) or Loyalty and Respect for Our Elders (tm) Then we get upset about which "sides" our favorite bloggers, authors, festival presenters have taken, or not taken and there's another wave of backlash. I admit to taking part in this, but this last couple times I hesitated. What impact does my speaking or writing on this have? Is this person accountable to me? Do they follow the same value system as me? Do they represent my tradition or organization? Can I have a face to face conversation with them? 

I often put more thought into my writing than my speech. I try to talk quickly to get in all the words I want to and end up sounder more foolish as a result. The Druidic virtue of eloquence is certainly one I need to work on! I know my Wiccan compatriots have a saying about "Speak ye little, listen much" and the title of this blog post refers to the Witches' Pyramid, To Know, To Will, and To Keep Silent. I guess To Speak falls under To Will- it's not my pyramid, so y'all might have to explain it to me.

As Thanksgiving approached, I saw more and more from my activist friends and organizations about how to talk about racial justice, American Indian genocide and other light-hearted topics at the dinner table with your relatives. While it all seemed very noble and well-intended, I thought "You don't know my relatives, you don't know why or how I celebrate Thanksgiving and what it means to me and my family. You don't have to deal with the consequences of opening more than a can of pumpkin puree at Thanksgiving."

I thought about how sometimes Pagans seem to think that we are all sitting at the same virtual Thanksgiving table, deciding whether to speak up or keep silent towards the same elders, teenagers and people in between. Nope. I'm not at the Bay Area Reclaiming Thanksgiving table. Or the Massachusetts Theodish Heathen Yule table. Or the British OBOD Druid Martinmas table. I can't tell you what food is traditional to serve, what is a proper conversation topic, the table manners, the ritual etiquette, and how much deference or egalitarian spirit you display towards elders, if you even have a concept of elderhood. 

If the Northern Dawn Covenant of the Goddess folks put on a well-done ritual that I attend, I'll tell them, "Well done! This is specifically what I liked about it". If I know someone pretty well in one of my communities, someone who may actually listen, and they say uncool things about Muslims, trans people, Latinos or what have you, I'll talk to them about it privately and explain why this was offensive and not OK in our community spaces, and try to understand where they got those attitudes and if and how they might be willing to change them. Even if they aren't interested in changing attitudes, they may at least change their behavior. If it's someone I don't know very well, a dirty look, raised eyebrow or talking to a mutual friend if possible about their behavior would be more effective. While this doesn't always work, I have often found that firmly but politely confronting offensive behavior and comments (using I statements) will have better results than going above the person's head to an authority. Especially with Pagans, we all know how much Pagans love authority! 

Read more]]> (Mariah Sheehy) Paths Blogs Wed, 02 Dec 2015 10:06:09 -0800
Labels, Identities & Boundaries I often see the words “label” and “identity” used interchangeably, but to me they have rather different connotations. A label is something society thrusts on you, to organize information- keep track of possible discrimination, to access services and accommodations or medical treatment in the case of disabilities and medical conditions. It’s something that you don’t have a lot of choice over.

An identity by contrast may be chosen, or it is a choice to make a label one’s own. It is a way to connect with other people in a community. There are also some that I find are kind of in the middle- as in “I identify as X, but it’s easier to access community and explain things if I use label Y”

The word Pagan can be all three- there’s many folks who primarily identify as “Pagans Not Otherwise Specified” often-times this is when they are new to Paganism and haven’t figured out something more specific, or they have developed an individual practice/belief system that is very much their own.

Pagan, is for me a “label of convenience”. There are values, interests, pieces of shared history, significant texts and so forth that I share with many other Pagans. Though I am not Wiccan, I feel a certain amount of comfortable familiarity with a Wiccan-influenced style of ritual, versions of the Charge of the Goddess, songs and chants. At the end of the day, a lot of these commonalities may be more secular and social in nature. I’m a neo-romantic by aesthetic and philosophical influence, with interests in science fiction & fantasy, lefty-politics. As a polytheist with both reconstructionist and Neo-Druid influences, I sometimes encounter “default setting Paganism” type assumptions, but perhaps because I’m so used to weaving my way around Christian, secular, heteronormative*, and neurotypical** assumptions (often with more pressure and threat of possible marginalization) a few eclectic Wiccan style assumptions seem pretty minor by comparison. When someone decides they hate Muslims and want to attack them, they frequently end up attacking Hindus and Sikhs, or people who are “Mediterranean-looking” regardless of their actual religion or ethnicity. Likewise, if someone decides they don’t like Pagans, Satanists or Goddess-worshipers, and they see a Kemetic temple, they are going to smash it, not knowing the difference. At the end of the day, such bigots don’t really care who’ve they’ve attacked – it’s still The Other.

I do not discount however, the varied experiences of my fellow polytheists. Many of them have been dismissed, excluded or erased from general Pagan settings, even sometimes after multiple efforts to explain and educate about their traditions, attending many general community events and mingling and so forth. I also know polytheists who have been excluded by other polytheists for “Doing It Wrong” somehow. If someone isn’t part of your tradition, and they aren’t trying to mess with something that belongs exclusively to your tradition, it is not your job to tell them they are Doing it Wrong. If you’re part of a tradition, you and others might have to define what the limits and rules of it are- though this is a lot harder to do unless you have a specific organization or the bounds of a closed culture. ADF can’t say what Druidry in general is, and who counts as a Druid, but we can say “This is what ADF Druidry looks like, how we do ritual” etc.

I am both a Druid and a Unitarian Universalist- both of these are philosophical/religious movements that encompass many theological beliefs & practices. If I were raised in a Celtic-speaking culture, I might feel entitled to denounce the broad use of “Druid” in non-Celtic cultural contexts, but I chose to pursue an interest in living Gaelic cultures as an Anglo-American raised adult, so I don’t claim to be any more or less of “real Druid” than 18th century British aristocrats in funny hats.

Likewise, I’m not always sure how well polytheism, especially culturally based polytheism fits within a UU environment, but seeing the founders of both Unitarianism and Universalism considered themselves definite monotheists and Christians- then I can be every bit as UU as a UU atheist or Buddhist. 

At the end of the day, regardless of your labels or identities, I will judge you by your actions and words- what does your tradition teach you about hospitality, responsibility and honor, and how do you live by those values? I will admit that I am far from perfect in upholding my own values and I am a continual work in progress. I believe in forgiveness- from fellow humans, and redemption through one's actions. We have to admit our mistakes, learn from them and move on and work to make things better in cooperation with others. 

*heteronormative- assuming heterosexual. usually married, monogamous and gender-conforming social norms

**neurotypical- neurologically wired in such a way considered "normal" or standard by society

Read more]]> (Mariah Sheehy) Paths Blogs Wed, 28 Oct 2015 13:01:15 -0700
Unpacking Piety

Do ut des means “I give so that you may give.” It is one of the defining points of Roman polytheism, and it is the most important. It is in these 3 Latin words that we can lay out how the Romans viewed their Gods. It is in these 3 Latin words that we can lay out a different approach than what we likely grew up with in regard to relationships with the Gods and society as a whole.

Ask someone in the Pagan community about Roman polytheism and you will regularly hear that it was contractual to the point of lifelessness. Actually, ask a lot of Roman polytheists the same, and they will repeat that statement as well, preferring to take the outdated tone of early scholars of the Roman religion, who regularly were Christian and carrying on a long tradition of upholding their perceived superiority through biased writing and opinion.

So allow me to start off this piece of writing by stating explicitly that the view of bland and superficial business contract is one that comes from the vantage point of the early Christian writers and is solely based on propaganda. Within this view do ut des reduced to the stereotype of business contract, and while it is used as a legal term it reaches far beyond legal contract, which we will touch upon momentarily.

The Christian God's covenant is one of moral actions and held beliefs in the form of a covenant, and in return, He1 watches over His people, making sure they don't lapse from their contract of religious morality. If they do, He tries to bring His people back into the fold so that they may be rewarded at the end of their lives. The Christian God defines how people are to act in all aspects of their lives, and it plays a rather all-encompassing role within the Abrahamic religions, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. It is because of this that many of us are unable to remove morality and philosophy from our religions, because even if, like myself, you weren't raised within Christianity, you were raised within a society that embraced the morality brought forth by the religions as a whole.

And really? Not all of it is necessarily bad. Moral codes are excellent things to live by. Philosophy makes life richer. We should all evaluate our actions and beliefs. In fact, we should challenge them in order to grow. But that doesn't necessarily have to come from the same place as our religion.

Attachment to a specific moral or philosophic code isn't something that the Roman Gods ask of their people, save for possibly mystery cults or philosophical schools directly tied to Gods. If you have been raised in an environment like that of the modern United States with many Christian roots, it can be hard to imagine Gods relating and working with humans in other ways until you've had direct experience with that, but it is exactly what it is. Each God regularly comes with their own set of moral expectations and desires if you work with them long enough, sometimes contradictory to another God you are working with. Just like working in human relationships of any kind, one cannot expect our friend James to like oranges just because the last person we visited with did.

Morality has nothing to do with Roman polytheism, and that isn't a bad thing. If we break a conduct rule, we don't have to be concerned that our Gods are going to punish us for eternity. And unless the breach of contract was truly egregious and ignored, we are likely safe as long as we make the proper apologies. While ancient Romans had concepts of the afterlife that sometimes played into specific cults, the religion sanctioned by the State was about making this life, specifically that of the community, a good one, which led to the religion of the home being about making the life of the household a good one. It was about a contract, yes, but that was a social contract that in turn extended out to the legal system. One must not forget that Romans believed their success was a direct result of their piety, and therefore no aspect of their lives was left untouched by their religion, held in mirrored symmetry with the most important social construct of Rome: The family.

Do ut des, I give so that you may give, is the basis of piety as the Romans saw it. It is not about contract in a business sense. It is about social contract, which encompasses our relationships not only with the Gods, but society as a whole. To the Ancient Romans and many modern Roman polytheists, all Gods of all sizes had a direct hand in the weave of society. For most, the Gods were not concepts or archetypes, but active players in every day life that have a specific role to assume. They are our Ancestors both celestial and infernal, They are the spirits of the land we walk on, and They are the “big guns” most think of when they think of the Roman pantheon. That is one of the reasons why the Romans are so infamous for having a God for every function – There is a God fulfilling very specific roles that no other can fill. It is mirrored in humans with our endless array of roles and jobs that we assume.

It is because of my Gods being real individuals that I accept piety as a key role in not only my religion but in every aspect of my life. For Roman polytheists, piety should not just be about our relations with the Gods. If we are reviving the religion of our Roman Ancestors, piety is about our relationship with humans, animals, and the land as well. Do ut des, the greatest expression of piety, is about social contract and fulfilling our obligations to our society, without denial that our world and society has active members who are not of the human condition.

And yes, I used the word obligation. We in the United States have not only been raised in a culture that is morally-inclined towards Christianity, but the last few generations have been raised to inherently believe that the individual is more important than the community. This isn't meant to be political commentary so much as it's simply a statement stressing that Americans as a whole are highly individualistic people, for better or worse. Our concept of social contract and obligation to our fellow citizens is skewed until in the face of crisis, when we see the very best of humanity reaching out to help those affected.

On top of this societal viewpoint, many of us come from a place where words like piety and obligation are negative. As individuals we use obligation in a way that carries a lot of guilt behind it if we don't do something. Piety brings about the images of monastic life and being forced to go to a church we didn't believe in.

But the concept of piety is simply one of understanding your obligations to society and carrying them out, and it's naturally a neutral term. This is still part of our society. This is part of our culture. The place I can point to is taxes, which I understand many people hate, but we pay them with the understanding that we get something back from them... We give so that the government, which is created for and by our society, is able to give back to us in the form of public streets, schools, parks, and fire departments. And yes, I'm unable to remove my own political ideology from my religious beliefs, but at the same time my religious beliefs have greatly influenced my political ideology. However, my statement here is solely that of a text book example, in reality not perfect, but how things were set up to work.

Another example of social contract is that, as a parent, I'm expected to make sure my child is taken care of. If I don't, my child will be taken away from me. I'm obligated to take care of her. Some days that job is not so easy, but it's one I do because that is my place in her life. Obligation is simply expectations that come with the many roles we fulfill in our lives. It is a neutral term. The emotions we place on those obligations are our own to deal with, and we are equally obligated to speak up with expectations of our contracts with the greater society that do not match our deeply held convictions or we are being asked too much. Part of the American social contract is to protest when things are not aligning with our values as Americans and what we consider our inalienable rights to be.

Where I think we get hung up as modern people is that religious obligation has emotionally been a place of being forced to participate in religions that have not aligned with our values of beliefs and personhood, and when we were not able to fulfill these expectations, obligation turned into a place of guilt and shame. I hope we find a way to not force our children to experience those same feelings towards our Gods, because I feel that's not the way we are meant to approach the Gods.

But we are adults. Consenting ones at that. Adults who are capable of navigating our relationships with the Gods. We aren't even obligated to fulfill the contracts that the Romans had with the Gods, unless we are asked to do so. However, we can use their system as a way to approach the Gods, and in doing so we are able to have a clear definition of what is expected of us, making it easier to navigate the relationships we have with Them.

It's regularly said that sacrifice is gift-giving. It's stressed that reciprocal gift-giving was an intrinsic part of society for the ancients as if this isn't how our society works today. Perhaps we think of gifts as packages wrapped in pretty paper that we never get anything back for... This is not what is meant when we speak of offering and sacrifice.

Again, it comes back to social contract. To pretend that our various social roles do not act in this manner still today is ignoring the very nature of society. We give so that others may give, and it is cyclical.

We pay the farmers money in exchange for food, so that they may buy what they need while we feed our families. This is a cycle. My family eats the food, the farmer grows more food, I go back to the farmer to buy said food. And so on and so forth. If I don't pay the farmer for the food in some way, in the end we both go hungry.

As a Roman polytheist, this sort of basic social contract is the cornerstone of what piety is. If we accept and understand that pietas, piety, as what we consider right and good as citizens of a greater community, we accept that we cultivate a myriad of relationships with any and all members of this world. If we accept that in our understanding of the way things are, the Gods of all sizes are part of our greater society, we accept that They also deserve Their piece of what we have. We give Them what They've earned by being part of our lives, watching out for us, and playing Their part. This is what it means when it's said the Gods are like parents... They watch after us. They care for us. They do not punish us unless we've stepped outside of the contracts we have as humans, which varies from God to God, obviously.

But to practice cultus, to cultivate a relationship with the Gods is to invite Them into our lives and social groupings. This means that the right thing, the pious thing to do is give Them Their piece of the what we have in order to take care of Them as we would a beloved family member, and in return if They accept it then They can give back to us. What those offerings are is between the Gods and those offering, which means that it may be an agreement of actions, energy, or objects, but all of these things are ways we are able to offer to the Gods if They will have it.

Pretending that this reciprocal relationship between the Gods and humans is superficial or cold is allowing the very nature of all healthy human relationships to go unexamined. If the Gods provide for us, we, too, should provide for the Gods.

Religion is about the community of all Powers and souls involved being in a reciprocal relationship, because if we accept the Gods are real then we also accept that even the solitary practitioner is never truly alone in their worship.

If we don't get anything at all out of the relationship with Them, are we likely to stay in that religion?

The Gods come. They answer our prayers. They watch after us.

And in return we should do the same for Them.




1. You will see my capitalization in regards to the Christian God. This is due to my acceptance that He is a God, though I am not part of His tribe and therefore am not held by His covenants. I do not, however, reject His existence. That means that I afford Him the very basic signs of respect due to Him being a God while I, myself, am a human. He's simply not my God.

Photo: "My Heart is Hers" by Sean McGrath, under creative commons license

Read more]]> (Camilla Laurentine) Paths Blogs Sat, 08 Aug 2015 09:38:16 -0700
What's "Malefic" Magic? Do Wiccans curse or harm people with magic? How do I tell which kinds of magic are ethically okay and which aren’t? If I do a spell to steal my cousin’s girlfriend, am I evil?

First off, yes, these are real questions from my inbox.

The energy, power, force of will, positive thinking, or whatever you want to call the force that makes magic work is neither good nor bad. It’s like electricity—it can be used in ways that are good, bad, or somewhere in between. Anyone can do magic. You don’t have to be practicing any religion—including Wicca—to succeed. "Malefic" (a fancy word for "bad") magic is when someone uses that power or force for selfish or evil purposes and/or intends to cause harm with it.

The Wiccan Rede

Despite what Hollywood and the Holy Rollers would have you believe, malefic magic is not a part of Wicca. Many Wiccans follow a code called the Wiccan Rede—which, if you Google it, is worded in dozens of ways—that basically says, “Do what you will, but don’t harm anyone.” Negative magic, by definition, is against the Rede. But it’s taboo amongst Wiccans who don’t follow the Rede, too, in part because of the impact that malefic magic has on the person doing it.

Doing Your Will

The most powerful part of the Rede is not the “do no harm part,” although that’s important. It’s the admonition to “Do what you will.” There are many theories on how this phrase came into common Wiccan use, but it’s more than likely derived from the writings of occultist Aleister Crowley.* The law for Thelema, the school of thought/magical system he created, is “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law, love under will.”

The will is not the same as the “want.” The “want” is what we desire—a double mocha, to win the lottery, to be the filling in a giant One Direction sandwich cookie. (There’s no accounting for taste.) But the will is far more important than that. It’s the soul’s purpose. It’s what you are meant to be doing with your life. It’s your calling. It’s that thing that when you are doing it, you are in harmony with nature and the world around you. You’re swimming with the current, not upstream. Ideally, if you’re a Wiccan doing magic, that magic should align somehow with your true will, or at least not contradict it. Doing magic to harm someone is not working your will.

What You Do Becomes Part of You

Using magic requires you to connect—sometimes briefly, sometimes more than briefly—energetically with the focus of your spell, be it a person, an idea, or an object. If you do a spell to heal someone, for example, you need to connect to the energy of that person for it to work. The connection you make when doing malefic magic is negative. The negative energy or intent can rebound back on you or stick to you. You are not separate from the act of harm you are doing, and what you put out into the world tends to follow you around. Some Wiccans say that anything you put out will return to you three times. I don’t know if that’s three separate times, or one time, three times as strong, but it doesn’t matter. The point is, you are what you do.

The Will of Others

One of the ways I’ve often heard malefic magic defined in the Wiccan community is that it’s magic that takes away the free will of another person. For this reason, many Wiccans ask a person before they do magic on that person’s behalf, even if it’s for a helpful or benevolent purpose, such as healing or to help the subject get a new job. If working our own will is important, we should try to respect others’ wills, too. So the guy who wants to steal his cousin’s girlfriend isn’t evil, per se, but he’s talking about circumventing the free will of two other people, so his spell wouldn’t wash in the Wiccan community.

Shades of Grey

So does that mean that no Wiccan has ever done manipulative, coercive, or negative magic? Of course not. We’re not perfect, and we’re definitely not saints. And there are also edge cases that can be hard to classify. For example, magic to bring a violent criminal to justice could be seen as robbing the accused of his or her free will, but is it counter to the Rede if done in the name of the greater good? This is very slippery ground.

If you are considering this kind of magic—I wouldn’t, by the way, but I’m not you—know that what you are thinking of doing is so serious that you should never proceed without all the facts. Unfortunately, you’re probably never going to have all the facts, even if you witnessed the alleged crime. You must also make sure you’re not working from a place of self-righteousness or out of desire for revenge. These cloud judgment and make things that aren’t ethical or are borderline seem more acceptable. Magical work is serious. It becomes a part of you. Is what you’re doing a reflection of your true will?

The safer—if more indirect—course in cases like this is to find a way to try to bring about a good outcome without inadvertently harming someone who may be innocent. Instead of working to have the person be convicted, ask that the best possible outcome for everyone occurs, or that justice is done. Just make sure the “justice” you’re asking for isn’t revenge, or reframing your working won’t make it any more ethical.

*It’s ironic that we use Crowley’s law as an ethical yardstick or a way to determine if what we are doing is aligned with our life purpose, since Crowley—although brilliant—was himself far from ethical.



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