I absolutely agree with you that there are many ethical systems worthy of attention. I've even said many times (to the surprise of many who claim to be Wiccan) that not all Wiccans follow the Wiccan Rede; many quite legitimate Wiccans abide by entirely different ethical systems.
Oakthorne has a great discussion going right now on the meaning of the Wiccan Rede and the Threefold Law of Return (see http://realpagan.net/forum/topics/the-witchs-rede-the-threefold
If you don't mind, i would like to mention a slightly different but related issue: that there are entirely other ethical issues to consider even in Wicca, than just the Rede or the Threefold Law.
For one major example:
It's become a somewhat common practice these days among many relatively new Pagans / Wiccans to enter groups like this and ask for "a spell" for this or that purpose -- and there are always some who are more than willing to provide them, without asking a single question about the requester's experience, training, or knowledge of magick.
Many Wiccans (and many other Pagans) seem to have at least a passing acquaintance with the Wiccan Rede, but they frequently forget that is just the *beginning* of Pagan an magickal ethics -- There are several other principles that they sometimes seem to either forget, ignore, or even be unaware of --
A responsible teacher carefully examines the attitudes, values, and behaviors of any potential student, -- their wisdom, maturity, self-control, commitment, self-discipline, etc -- *before* giving them information which might prove to be a curse to them or others around them (if they were to use that information carelessly, irresponsibly, or unwisely).
This can even be found in many fictional stories about metaphysics: Remember how many a “crotchety” old teacher (like Obi-Wan Kenobi or Yoda in Star Wars, or Mr. Miyogi in “The Karate Kid”) put their potential student(s) through various ‘tests” to determine their readiness and worthiness for Training?
The practice of asking strangers for spells is (somewhat pejoratively) called “Spell-Begging”, and while it (unfortunately) does tend to be done in beginner chats and discussion Groups, it is strongly discouraged by experienced Wiccans, for several reasons.
D. Ethical Responsibilities of Teachers:
This is admittedly a principle that even many “intermediate” students don’t seem to realize. Here’s how it was put in an excellent article titled, “So You Think You’ve Found a Teacher” by Valerie Voigt (see http://www.spelcastor.org/teacher.htm
“Magickal Training FORGES A PERMANENT KARMIC LINK Between Teacher and Student.
Let's take that one again, to impress it upon the mind:
BETWEEN TEACHER AND STUDENT.
Yes, that's right -- PERMANENT LINK.”
[End quote, Valerie Voigt, “So You Think You’ve Found a Teacher”, http://www.spelcastor.org/teacher.htm ]
This is another reason why teachers are very careful to examine the character, personality and maturity of any potential student –As teachers, they are *responsible* for whatever the student may do with the knowledge/ training the Teacher gives them – at least until the student reaches Third (or Highest) degree in that particular Wiccan system or Tradition, and a “Cutting of the Cords” Ritual is performed, which sets them free of that responsibility.
This is also why a student should exercise caution, discretion and good judgment when deciding to apprentice with any teacher: the teacher’s problems, as well as their skills and strengths, could tend to get passed along, through the karmic link. Thus, a student will want to choose a teacher whom they respect as a person, AND who has reasonably good control over her/his life.
The term, "Spell-Begging" is a (somewhat pejorative) one that's often used to describe the (beginner's) practice of asking for spells. It is considered a major "no-no" by most experienced Wiccans, for good reason:
“…..An important thing to realize though is traditionally, witches do not ask strangers for spells. There is never any need to. When you do, you come off sounding at best a little naive, and at worst like a complete fool - especially those who insist that, “Of course all witches should help each other with any information they have.” Wrong. Traditionally witches understand the training that needs to come before spell working and they don't need that kind of help. And even more importantly, they are ethically obligated to not give information out to anyone whom they do not know personally, and cannot trust to use the information correctly. So, if you find someone offering to teach you magic or give you spells whom you do not know very well, in person, then you can be sure they have not been trained as witches and are not qualified to give the information they are offering. This is an all to frequent occurrence in online “chat rooms” and e-mail discussions groups.”
(Forest Butera, http://www.bluemoonwicca.org/spells.html)
Here’s another quote on this issue, from “Magic; Rites of Passage; Paths of Power”
(Rev. 7/20/01) - http://bluemoonwicca.org/class09.html
“The knowledge of how to do magic is a gift revealed to us by the gods when we take the trouble to get to know them and honor them. Doing magic is much more than following a "spell" recipe in a book. Spell books do exist, but only to provide examples and suggestions. Traditionally trained Wiccans do not depend on spell books for their magic.
“Teachers of traditional Wicca are very careful of choosing to whom they teach magic. The teacher is responsible for what happens to the knowledge they provide so they must be absolutely sure of the intentions and ethics of the student. For this reason you will not find traditional Wiccans talking freely to strangers about how to do magic nor do they give out "spells".
Traditional Wicca teachers guide qualified students through the process of designing their own spells when the time is right.”
End quote, http://bluemoonwicca.org/class09.html
Spell-casting is an advanced skill set, which requires mastery of a number of other, basic, essential skills. Students should therefore begin with the BASICS – like Centering, Grounding, Cleansing, Shielding, Visualizations, Meditation, Creating Sacred Space (including Casting Circle). Teaching spell-craft (or indeed any other magickal work) to a beginner is like trying to teach advanced Calculus to someone who has little or no experience of basic Math.
In fact, as many a beginner has discovered, to their surprise and distress -- there are very real issues – and even (potential) dangers – involved with practicing ritual, divination (or other psychic/ metaphysical activities) and magick, with little preparation or training.
And it’s important to remember that such “training” includes not just “information” (though that is certainly an important aspect) – but perhaps even more importantly, personal – emotional, mental, spiritual qualities – like discipline, self-control and self-possession, patience, etc. IMO, Serious problems can occur when one takes on the study and activities of metaphysics without accompanying self-discovery and self-discipline – which can be exceptionally difficult to do when studying without a good, experienced Teacher/ Mentor/ Guide.
Here’s a quote, on the use of the (rather pejorative term) “Fluffy Bunnies”, from “Wicca for the Rest of Us” at http://wicca.cnbeyer.com/fluffy.shtml
“Fluffy Bunnies” Think speaking a few words out of a book over a candle is how one makes magic. An entire library of books will not allow you to practice magic on their own. Magic involves belief, focus, practice, and serious intention. It also involves responsibility and a healthy dose of common sense. One class on magic at the local new-age store does not bestow mad majickkal skilz.”
For example, I have elsewhere discussed the fact that we all have an internal “Shadow” which can cause us problems, especially in the practice of Metaphysics – (Please see “Magick, Metaphysics & The Shadow” here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BeginningWicca/message/19747 )
The Nature of Magick and Spell-Casting:
Spells work in part, according to the focus, discipline, will, intention, desire, symbolism and imagery of the creator / caster of the Spell. If spellcasting is started/ attempted before the basic principles of magick are clearly taught and understood, they simply will not have the power or focus to work well. Spells should be created by the person who intends to use them. A spell that is "borrowed" or taken from someone else will seldom have the power of a spell written by the person using it.
These are just a few of the major reasons why i believe that:
a. (Legitimate) Wiccan Teachers do (and should) tend to be very careful about whom they accept for Training;
b. Anyone who presumes to “teach” Wicca (or any aspect thereof) to another, should be very careful and realize that it is a great and serious -- and LONG TERM -- responsibility they are undertaking.
c. I recommend that beginners who are *serious* about wanting to learn and practice (authentic) Wicca, seek a good, well-trained, experienced (High Priest/ess) Teacher.
d. A beginner should *not* begin with Spell-casting; they should begin with the Basics.
I hope that’s helpful to someone – Blessed Be – GaiaDianne
Thanks a bunch for posting. I loved reading through!
Cheers, for posting this Lark. Really useful information there. Like Pheonix Sun Ra this is a post I enjoyed reading and I will refer to your post again.