The Variability of Pagan Ethics


I probably should start off my first blog post with an easier topic…but this one seems right, and it is something that has been on my mind recently.  So here goes!

At last Friday’s Pagan Student Union meeting the main topic for discussion was ethics and magick.  Ethics is a difficult subject for anyone to talk about because ethics and morals are highly personal.  Many people only discuss such things with close friends or relatives.  Some simply don’t want to voice their stance on a subject, while others are almost too vocal about their version of ethics.

One piece of the discussion that stuck in my mind was the subject of cursing.  I don’t mean cursing in the sense of saying socially-unacceptable words, but cursing as in laying a magick on someone and cursing them.  When is it okay to curse someone?  What does cursing mean?  There are always gray areas, but are some things black and white?

The Wiccan Rede says “An it harm none, do what ye will.”  But what does that really mean?  The Rede does not define harm–so what is considered harmful?  What does “none” mean in this sentence?  Does it mean others outside of myself, or am I included?  When I realized that there were more questions raised than answered, I decided to think more on it.

For me, the Rede means do what I want to, as long as I am not hurting other people–including myself.  Breaking this down further, I believe the Rede is saying do not willfully intend to harm others, including myself.  Try to weigh out the consequences and see how my actions and words will affect the people around me, and try to see how my actions and words could harm myself.  Other pagans do not include themselves in the “harm none” philosophy, for reasons that are their own.  I include myself because if I am looking at how my actions affect others, then I am also looking at how my actions affect me.  And really, I’d rather not harm myself.

As for that the word “harm” means…this is where cursing ties into the Rede as a beautiful example.  There are other definitions, but I define harm as inhibiting free will and free choice, inflicting bodily damage, or inflicting emotional damage.  Many curses do exactly those things.  So when it is okay to break the Rede and curse someone?  Is it ever allowable?

I haven’t quite yet determined all the parameters, but in my view, I think cursing another person is allowed if they are intentionally harming me or someone I care about.  For me this would mean any degree of bodily damage, invading the home, or destroying a reputation.  If a person did any one of those things to me or to someone I cared about, I would feel justified in cursing them.  If someone were intentionally harming me, I feel a curse in self-defense is warranted, as well as in defense of those I care about.

The gray lines of what would push a person to cursing are different for everyone.  But everyone does curse.  Everyone.  Even non-pagans.  You know those socially unacceptable words I mentioned earlier?  The ones that your mother would wash your mouth out with soap if you said them as a child?  Those are the “curse words.”  The difference is that while everyone curses, pagans know how to put some extra force behind the curse.  And that is what creates the ethical questions of what is cursing and when should cursing be done.

These issues are things that every pagan should think about.  Once you begin to study magick (and true, some don’t study it), then you have the ability to affect you, the people around you, and the world.  How will you contribute to the world through your magick?

Think on that a while!

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3 responses to “The Variability of Pagan Ethics

  1. You mention a few reasons why you may curse someone, such as them invading your home or destroying your reputation. Isn’t there a danger in responding to physical actions with a magickal response? Especially if someone is destroying your reputation, isn’t it better to deal with that in words and actions then spells or curses? Maybe I’m just an over-conservative magick user though ^_^

    ~ We all have our own ways of dealing with our problems and our own lines~

    • Hi Derrick,

      Those are all good questions. Keep in mind I pointed out that I’m still working out what my parameters for cursing are. In figuring out what would push me to curse someone, I am mostly working from hypotheticals. I have never been in those situations, but I imagine those would be the sort of things that would push me beyond my limits. When actually in a situation like that, I may find that it’s not enough to cause me to curse, but I don’t know that yet. As for my reputation, this is very important to me, and I do my best to maintain a good reputation. I wouldn’t curse someone if it was a moment of slander or ill-chosen words, and that is a situation I have been in before. Cursing would only come into question if words or actions have not brought a resolution. I actually find myself in this very situation currently, and am finding out where I draw the line.

      Being an over-conservative magick user isn’t a bad thing! It doesn’t sound like either one of us would go around cursing people for the slightest thing, or without a good deal of thought over the matter. It just means your reasons and mine are different, and that’s okay!

  2. Beautifully written!

    In my personal beliefs, I weigh the harm someone is doing to me versus the harm I would be doing to them by making them stop/hurting them. In the end, I take the course of action that results in the least harm for myself, first.

    Of course, there is always the boundary of what you’re willing to deal with without acting upon it (i.e. someone cutting you off in traffic); however, I think you said it best: We all have our own opinions.

    An important part of working magick is knowing yourself, and what you’re willing to accept from yourself.

    Casey

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