Do Pagans/Wiccans Have a Concept of Evil?

I found myself the other week trying to explain a Pagan view of good and bad and evil to a group of non-Pagans. It was a question I hadn’t really even thought of very much myself.  Do Pagans, and more specifically, Wiccans, believe in evil?

I said no.  I don’t think we do.  I’m speaking more in the terms of a Wiccan point of view and manner of belief, but parts of this may apply to the broader Pagan community–forgive me if I happen to generalize at times.  Also, this concept isn’t even fully formed in my own mind, so pardon if I backtrack or even contradict myself in my musings–I’ll try not to, but no guarantees.

I don’t think we believe in evil.  That doesn’t mean we don’t understand the concept, or that we don’t have a concept of evil, but I don’t think we believe in it as a part of our spirituality.  “Evil” here has the meaning of an act that is so far beyond reprehensible that it can barely be conceived.  Evil is an act or a person that causes unimaginable levels of pain or harm to a person, a group, or another living being.  Hitler, for example, is considered evil by a great many people.

The problem (as I see it) with relation to the concept of evil is that many Pagans believe in a natural order.  Death is not evil, but natural.  Harm is not evil, but merely something to be avoided because it’s bad, and it happens.  It’s an accepted fact that we will all be hurt at some point in our lives–the only unknown is how badly we’ll be hurt.  But that doesn’t necessarily equate to evil.  This part seems to be a matter of degree.  A little pain, a little hurt, all falls within the natural order, but great pain and great harm that goes beyond what one person should in theory be able to accomplish falls under “evil.”

As a moral person, I can see that.  But it’s not a part of my spirituality, it’s outside of it.  The concept of evil, to me, doesn’t enter into or come from my beliefs.  The greatest concept of evil that most people either believe in or can understand is the concept of Satan and the Devil.  Many people say that evil comes from Satan.  This understanding of evil comes from the religious beliefs of that person and tends to mean that what is evil is unnatural, created by the Devil, sinful, and/or morally reprehensible.  This idea is directly related to the spirituality in the fact that believers have a model held in front of them saying that if X, Y, or Z is done, then you can’t get into Heaven or be a good person or be a moral person, etc.

Pagans don’t have that.  We believe that everything has its natural place, and you can do pretty much whatever you want to if you’re willing to accept the legal, moral, and/or karmic consequences of the action.  Doesn’t mean the community will like you, or condone what you do if it’s found you are actually causing harm, or tell you you’re wrong.  It just means that spiritually, from a faith standpoint, there is nothing in the belief system that says what action is wrong or evil and what action is not.  From a moral standpoint, I think most of us would agree that murder is wrong.  But from a spiritual standpoint and a Pagan worldview, murder is acceptable if you, the perpetrator, are willing to accept the consequences of your actions knowing that this carries heavy karmic implications (if you believe in karma) and heavy legal and moral implications.  Mind, I’m not saying we advocate murder or anything like that, because we don’t–what I am saying is that the emphasis is placed on making the choice.  If I were in a situation where I had to murder someone because it was the only way I could protect myself or my family, I’d probably do it, and accept the consequences.  Would I go and commit outright murder?  No, because I know that’s wrong.  But nothing in my spiritual beliefs says that it’s wrong or evil to do so–that is coming from a moral standpoint, not a religious one.

What do other Pagans and Wiccans think?  Do you think we have a religious or spiritual basis for the concept of evil, or do we not?  I’m interested in what others think on this subject, so please, weigh in!


5 responses to “Do Pagans/Wiccans Have a Concept of Evil?

  1. I come here as a person raised Christian but subsequently Pagan as many of you are. the Devil of course explained it all and I am a bit at sea without it. I do have a problem with all the intent and right to do this if accepting of the blame. It is hard to go along with that when you think of child killers and the like but my problem is not really about accepting Karma. My question is why would anyone want to do it, what makes a person so deviant he wants to rape a baby. set fire to a cat. I know that people say sex or kicks, but it has to be more than that, sex can be good or bad as can getting kicks. So what is it that makes people do terrible things. Balance is talked about but is that not the same thing call it Yin and Yang, Male and Female, good and Evil. If the devil didn’t make you do it what on earth did?

  2. Hi. I am newbie Eclectic Pagan. I am still learning. I come to this site from the private message on Facebook, then I google about “no evil” in Pagan.
    It’s hard to be clear up about what Pagans thinking…
    Thanks for this article! I will look for another article that could explain clearer to me. 🙂 If you know any another article that I can read about like this, please let me know! I’d like to read about it! 🙂

  3. Pingback: My Thoughts On ~Spiritual Gifts~ « Knowledge Is My Wisdom

  4. I agree with both of you to a point, but my idea of what evil is or is not is comprised of being raised in a typical christian home. We are taught from an early age that evil is something we are born into, that the world in general is an evil place. Also that if we did something bad we had to ask for forgiveness for the “our world” to be right again. Well now that I have grown up and researched the religions of the world on my own, I now consider myself Pagan. In my opinion there is no evil, I do not believe that there is a devil or Satan that “makes me do anything”. The excuse “the devil made me do it” I think is a cop out for people who do not want to accept the responsibility of their own actions. I do believe however, that what ever decision we make in life is ours and we have to deal with the consequence, be it good or bad. Every action has a consequence, we as people just have to be mature enough to make the right decision based on morality, spirituality or religion and not try to blame some one else or some entity.

    As a mother myself, I agree with the post above me in saying that if someone hurt my child I would retaliate. Just like a mother bear, I will do anything and everything to protect my cub. But that is my decision and the consequences would be mine to accept. Being that I am new to the Pagan religion, I am still learning and trying to figure out what exactly I do believe, but I can say I do not believe in evil in the way it has always been taught to me. I believe that evil is not an action nor is it real, I believe that we as humans are faced with the choice or right or wrong in all decisions that we make and that it is our morals that help us to make the right choice. Nothing or no one is evil, our mother earth does not create evil, we as humans turn things into “evil” by the choices we make and the consequences we choose.

  5. i dont think that the pagan belief system is as clear cut as that, at least not for me. Evil is defined, as i see it, as the true intent to do harm of any kind to another person, or group of people. It isnt about the actual act, per se, but the intent. If someone decides to hurt one of my children, for example, i feel no fear of any karmic consequence for hurting or killing them. I am the mother and i will protect what is mine, with no fear of spiritual reprisal. However, if i decided to defraud or steal from a fellow human on this planet, i would expect reprucussions. If i were to clearcut a grove of trees for monetary gain, i also see that as a crime. Embracing this belief that the earth is my mother, and that i should love and honor her, has changed my idea of what evil is. I think that evil is an idea of perception, shaped from the view of each person.

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