Article Info

published: 4/16/05
updated: 2/10/14

Neopagan Ethics and Social Views




Morality in Wiccan Belief

As with beliefs and practices, Neopagan ethics can vary. But most Neopagans share the same ethic of doing no harm and the basic values of religious freedom, reverance for nature, equality of the sexes, and openness to forms of sexuality. Below are some more specific ethical guidelines given by various Neopagan paths.

Wiccan Ethics

The Wiccan Rede

Wiccan morality is ruled according to the Wiccan Rede, which (in part) states "An it harm none, do what thou wilt." ("An" is an archaic word meaning "if".)

Others follow the slightly adapted Rede of "An it harm none, do what ye will; if harm it does, do what ye must." Either way, the Rede is central to the understanding that personal responsibility, rather than a religious authority, is where moral structure resides.

One of the major differences between Wiccans and other types of witchcraft is the Rede. Many "traditional" witches or witches that follow other paths do not believe in the Rede. This is a major topic of controversy within the Wiccan and Pagan communities.





Many Wiccans also believe that no magick can be performed on any other person without that person's direct permission (excepting pets and young children who can be protected by parents and owners). Sometimes when permission is expected but not yet attained magical energy will be placed on the astral plane for the receiver to gather if and when he/she is ready.

The Law of Threefold Return

Many Wiccans also promote the Law of Threefold Return, or the idea that anything that one does may be returned to them threefold. In other words, good deeds are magnified back to the doer, but so are ill deeds. The Threefold Law is sometimes stated like this:

Ever Mind The Rule Of Three
Three Times Your Acts Return To Thee
This Lesson Well, Thou Must Learn
Thou Only Gets What Thee Dost Earn.

Gerina Dunwich, an American author whose books (particularly Wicca Craft) were instrumental in the increase in popularity of Wicca in the late 1980s and 1990s, disagrees with the Wiccan concept of threefold return on the grounds that it is inconsistent with the laws of physics. Pointing out that the origin of the Law of Threefold Return is traceable to Raymond Buckland in the 20th century, Dunwich is of the opinion that "There is little backing to support it as anything other than a psychological law." Her own personal belief, which differs from the usual interpretation of the Threefold Law, is that whatever we do on a physical, mental, or spiritual level will sooner or later affect us, in either a positive or negative way, on all three levels of being.

161 Laws

A few Wiccans also follow, or at least consider, a set of 161 Laws often referred to as Lady Sheba's Laws. They are based in large part on Gerald Gardner's Old Laws, which he attributed to his New Forest coven and first came to light in 1957.

Some Wiccans find these rules to be outdated and counterproductive. One Wiccan comments, "I find much of this document, regardless of origins, to be outdated and unnecessary. It is at points sexist and ageist, and it is saturated with the paranoia associated with the myth of the Burning Times." {3}

Eight Wiccan Virtues

Most Wiccans also seek to cultivate the Eight Wiccan Virtues. These may have been derived from earlier Virtue ethics, but were first formulated by Doreen Valiente in the Charge of the Goddess. They are Mirth, Reverence, Honour, Humility, Strength, Beauty, Power, and Compassion. They are in paired opposites which are perceived as balancing each other.

Wicca and Feminism

Wicca has a close association with feminism, and many women Wiccans say they are attracted to Wicca in large part because of its emphasis on female equality, divinity and power. In addition to the emphasis on the Goddess, an attractive aspect of Wicca for feminists is the ability to identify with powerful historical women who were persecuted by the male-dominated Christian church.

Dianic Wicca is the most feminist-oriented tradition of Wicca, in that it emphasizes the Goddess alone and excludes men from covens. Other traditions, however, believe that this approach is improper and interferes with the balance of masculine and feminine in nature.

Wicca and Homosexuality

Throughout most of Wicca and Neopaganism, all sexual orientations are considered healthy and positive, provided that individual sexual relationships are healthy and loving. Sexual orientation is therefore not considered an issue. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are almost always welcomed in individual communities, covens, study groups, and circles. Many homosexual Neo-Pagans were initially attracted to Neo-Pagan religions because of this inclusion, in which their relationships are seen on an equal footing. Sometimes their desire is more specifically to move away from what they see as homophobic pressure in their original religion.

In support of this philosophy, many Neopagans cite the Charge of the Goddess, which says "All acts of Love and Pleasure are Her rituals." Therefore all forms and expressions of sexuality, as long as they are otherwise healthy and consensual, are accepted.

One qualified exception is Gardnerian Wicca and other relatively traditional groups. Gardnerians do not make any moral judgments about homosexual people, but they usually form their covens from male-female pairs.

Most traditional Wiccans worship the God and Goddess. Traditional Wiccan covens aspire to having equal numbers of men and women, to embody their belief in the importance of balance between the male and female (which extends sexually). This, and the imbalance of female and male practitioners, can sometimes be a practical obstacle to gay people and women who wish to join traditional circles, an obstacle often shared by single people. The actual sexual orientation of the individual is not an issue.

Also see:

Kemetic Ethics

Kemetic ethics are based in the Egyptian concept of Ma'at, which is truth, justice, order, and "that which is right." In addition, Kemetics look to ancient Egyptian law texts such as the Declaration of Innocence (also called the "Negative Confessions"), which contain a list of 42 sins a deceased person claims not to have done, and the Wisdom Texts, which are pieces of advice written by Ancient Egyptians.

The Declaration of Innocence includes such sins as murder, muddying the rivers of the Nile river, adultery, theft, eavesdropping, and sexual perversion. This last sin is often translated in older texts as committing homosexuality, but Kemetic Reconstructionists consider this a mistranslation and are open to homosexual members. A common theory is that the prohibition refers to child prostitution.

Sources

  1. "Wicca." Wikipedia. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicca>. (April 2005.) All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.
  2. "Neopagan views of homosexuality." Wikipedia. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neopagan_views_of_homosexuality>. (April 2005). All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.
  3. "The Old Laws." Wicca: For the Rest of Us. <http://wicca.timerift.net/laws/old_laws.html> (April 2005).

External Links

  • Gay Paganism: A Celebration - Witches' Voice
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