Ethics are the principles within us that govern our choices in life, our actions and our behavior toward others. Ethics are not to be confused with morals, which are ideals imposed on us by others based on what they want us to do, or laws made by lawmakers to support a smoothly functioning society. Although Witchcraft/Wicca has no holy book or written doctrine that has been passed down through the centuries, there are strong ethical principles that are generally accepted and followed by those who walk the path of the Witch. While not all Witches and Pagans will agree to some of the ideas expressed here, and volumes could be written on this subject, I would like to share my own views about the ethical Witch.
Witchcraft as a way of life is a path of Responsibility, Respect and most of all, Love.
The calling to be a Witch is one of great responsibility, as Witches are the “Wise Ones” who use their knowledge and magickal skills for the highest good of their communities, themselves and all they come in contact with. Witches on the spiritual path become role models, counselors, healers, teachers, and are often sought for guidance and direction. The wise Witch is aware that his/her actions are being observed by others. Witchcraft is not meant to be a shortcut to material gain or to wield power over others. The path of the Witch is not always easy, and requires much time devoted to meditation, study, introspection , inner development and magickal practice. Many come to Witchcraft with the ill-conceived notion that it is a fast way to get what you want: just say a few magick words and all your desires become real. They soon discover Witchcraft is not just about lighting candles and casting spells- it involves work and concentrated effort. It is not a path for those who are timid or passive. A Witch must be thick-skinned and strong-willed, especially when encountering those who may ridicule and criticize our beliefs. As Witches, we know who we are and what we believe. Some who are new to the Craft learn the hard way that when magick is used haphazardly it can have serious repercussions. Since Witches are looked upon as stewards of spiritual wisdom, they must conduct themselves in a responsible manner in all areas of life, including work, health and social interaction. Most Witches believe in a Threefold Law of Return, which means that whatever we do in word or deed, whether our intentions are good or harmful, will return to us three times greater in intensity (or in some variation of 3). This means we must examine our motives, emotions and intentions, as well as the words we speak, to be sure they come from a place of love and highest good. Another ethical principle of Witchcraft/Wicca is The Wiccan Rede, which states “Do What Thou Will, And Let It Harm None”. The Witch knows that each situation is unique, and must use wisdom to determine the potential harm in any given scenario. This also means that we do not harm ourselves or force our will upon others. Will in the Wiccan Rede is sometimes emphasized to imply “highest will” merged with “personal will”. When these are aligned, there is no harm. It should be noted, however, that not all Witches and Pagans follow the rede. Many traditional Witches (who do not identify as Wiccan) consider The Wiccan Rede and the Threefold Law to be products of modern Wicca and instead choose to live by their own ethical standards. Whether or not you believe in these concepts, most will agree to the notion of treating others the way we want to be treated, and that our actions have consequences, threefold or not. The silly idea that “magick can’t be used for personal gain” comes from the Charmed TV series, and is totally incorrect. Magick can be used for personal growth and to help fulfill immediate needs. If the Witch’s immediate needs, (such as work, good health, clothing, food, a home, a vehicle, etc) are not met, how can he/she assist with the needs of the community? Another part of responsibility involves warning others about dangerous and un-ethical leaders in the community. These may be shop owners, teachers or other Witches/Wiccans in the local public eye.
Yet Another important responsibility of the Witch is education. Years of false representation, accusation and media hype have presented a negative view of the Witch, and it is important to educate the community about the true origins of Witchcraft as an ancient path of healing and love for the Earth. We must show that Witches come from every walk of life, every socio-economic background, and are both female and male. Let us work to replace the false stereotype with the image of today’s modern Witch. I believe it can be done.
Witchcraft is also a path of respect, as we acknowledge that not all Witches do things the same way. Those who journey along the path of Magick and Witchcraft consist of a diverse and colorful tapestry of traditions and practices. Ritual space, the magick circle, is sacred and should be regarded as such. Those who lead ritual deserve our respect, as do the Goddess and God, and let us not forget they are present in the circle with us. Respect the ceremony, and do not engage in talking or laughing at inappropriate times. Do not handle magickal tools that belong to someone else without asking their permission. Respect should be given to teachings and traditions (provided they are not harmful), sharing what is meant to be shared, and guarding secrets that are intended to remain secret. Celebrate the differences of tradition, and do not scoff at someone who conducts ritual in a different way than you simply because “that’s not how I learned it”. Those who participate in ritual merely for entertainment or judgmental purposes need to re-evaluate their motives and perhaps seek a different path. Witchcraft is not a spectator sport. It is a path of transformation, healing, magick and service to the Earth, to the Goddess and God. Respect also involves honoring the wishes of others. To do spellwork for someone else without their permission is considered un-ethical, though sometimes exceptions are made in emergency life-threatening situations when the recipient cannot communicate their wishes. In these instances, some Witches will contact the “higher self” of the recipient through meditation to obtain a “yes” or “no” answer regarding spellwork. Witches also respect and care for the Earth, the embodiment of the Goddess. Many Witches are activists for environmental issues, animal rights, human rights and a healthy land to live on. The Earth is alive with the divine energy of the Goddess, and she has been badly mistreated. It is time to bring restoration to our planet, Mother Earth, and to support the living creatures who reside in her forests and oceans. We have a duty to care for those who cannot care for themselves.
Most importantly, Witchcraft is a path of Love. When your magick is ruled by love, you will know that your intentions are for the highest good. The ethical Witch recognizes that all of his/her actions and magickal work must come from a place of love and service. Magick should not be done out of anger, jealousy or revenge unless it is used to help resolve these specific issues. Anger at injustice can be directed to fight the injustice itself. We recognize that we are all connected and part of the web of life. If one part of the web is harmed, the entire web is adversely affected. The vibrations are felt throughout. Motives and intentions must be closely examined to be certain they are not rooted in selfishness or pride, and this is not always an easy task.
Those who follow Witchcraft as a spiritual path do so, not on a quest for power, but because they are in tune with the Earth and the forces of Nature. They seek to develop their inherent gifts and abilities, to bring healing and the light and love of the Goddess and God into their lives and the lives of those in their community. This can only be done in a spirit of responsibility, respect and love.