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About Wicca, a Neopagan religion:

Seeking forgiveness for harmful actions.

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A quotation about the Wiccan Rede, the core Wiccan rule of behavior, and the Threefold Law, a basic statement on how the universe responds to people's actions:

  • Janet and Stewart Farrar: "The Rede is the philosophy of taking responsibility for your own actions during every moment of your life. It is of course a positive Law as opposed to the negative Laws of the Old and New Testaments. This immediately makes it a life affirming statement, but also means having to think about all your actions and what effects they will have on yourself, other people, society as a whole and your environment, not just now but also in the future."

  • Erin Dragonsong: " 'Ever mind the rule of three, what ye send out comes back to thee.' ..."

"...Karma in Wiccan law is an offering of healing."

"Every choice you make plants seeds for the future. Whether you plant sweet juicy crops or bitter stinging weeds is entirely up to you. That's the gift of free will. But whatever you sow, you will reap. Unavoidably. Every choice, every action, every thought bears fruit. And since the 'fruit' is inside you, you can't escape reaping it. ..." 1

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The nature of sin and transgression:

Most of the people on Earth who are affiliated with an organized religion follow a tradition or faith group within one of the large monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. Many groups within these religions teach, in part, of a single deity who monitors each person on Earth, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Denominations, traditions, and faith groups within these religions have each set up systems of beliefs concerning human behavior. They often include God rewarding individuals for their good behavior and punishing them for their bad behavior -- either when they are alive or after they die.

Some groups carry these beliefs one step further, and teach that God punishes entire countries for the transgressions of one or more groups within the country. They teach that God uses earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, etc. as methods of communicating his displeasure. For example, some fundamentalists and other evangelical Christians in the U.S. interpreted the half dozen or so biblical passages that may deal with same-gender sexual behavior as condemning homosexual activity. They expressed fear of retaliation by God using natural disaster during mid 2015 after five Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the country.

The Bible, in particular, not only teaches that God punishes people for their transgressions, but also teaches that God will engage in scapegoating -- punishing innocent people for the sins of those others who actually committed the transgressions. For example:

  • Exodus 20:5-6 in the Ten Commandments states, in part: "... I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me. ..."

  • The concept of Original Sin, as taught in many Christian faith groups, is based the creation story in the biblical book of Genesis which describes a sin committed by Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden. They ignored God's command and ate the fruit of "The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil." The groups teach that this transgression was imputed to all of the descendents of the original couple -- that is, to the entire human race through over 200 generations down to the present day. This is often referred to as "The Fall" of humanity. They teach that massive gulf was created by Adam and Eve's disobedience which can only be bridged by the salvation offered by Jesus Christ's atoning execution in Judea by the occupying Roman army.

  • Throughout the entire Bible, from the book of Genesis to Revelation, the are many other examples of the transfer of sin and its punishment from the guilty to the innocent.

Wicca, and other forms of Neopaganism, teach very different beliefs about sin and punishment. Sin is considered a personal responsibility, and is not transferred to others. However, many Wiccans were exposed to teachings in the Bible during their childhood and youth. They sometimes carry these troubling beliefs with them into adulthood, even after their conversion to a Neopagan religion.

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Scapegoating, sin and forgiveness in Wicca:

In Wicca, there are two concepts related to activities that produce harmful and beneficial effects:

  • 1. The Wiccan Rede:

    A common expression of the Rede is: "An it harm none, do what ye will."

    This web site's discussion of the Rede states:

    "The Wiccan Rede is considered by diverse Wiccans to be a rule, law, advice, or method of evaluating the morality of a decision, before taking action. It suggests that Wiccans review all of their possible choices and analyze the likely consequences of each option. Then they freely choose from among those actions that avoid harming anybody. Most Wiccans interpret the Rede as including both potential harm to themselves as well as to another person or persons."

    In some cases, all of the possible options will involve a degree of harm -- sometimes including taking no action at all. For example, driving a car to a meeting on Global Warming 100 km (63 miles) away will generate greenhouse gases which will add to Global Warming. In that case, many Wiccans assume that the choice involving the least or lesser harm is the one to select.

    According to Wikipedia:

    "The rejection of specific exhortations and prohibitions of conduct such as those given in the Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments and emphasis on the consequences of one's actions makes the Rede's character somewhat different from major religious texts such as the Bible or the Qur'an. The Rede is only a guideline which the individual must interpret to fit each particular situation and unlike most religions, which actions "do harm" (and which do not) are not discussed in the Rede. What exactly does and does not do harm is therefore open to personal interpretation." 2

    The Rede bears some resemblances to the Ethic of Reciprocity, a.k.a. Golden Rule: That one should do onto others as one wishes that others will do in return. However, the Rede goes one step further, in that it forbids harm that one might do to oneself, such as drug abuse. The Golden Rule is found in many different religions in different wordings.

  • 2. The Threefold Law (a.k.a. the Rule of Three or the Law of Return):

    This is the belief that any harm (or good) that a Wiccan does to someone else comes back to hurt (or benefit) them -- magnified three times over. To Wiccans, this is a very powerful motivator to do no harm. Both the Wiccan Rede and the Threefold Law are included in the very beautiful Wiccan Credo, a poem about Wicca whose origin is unclear. 3

    Some Wiccans consider this Law as a form of Karma. However, the two are not identical. Karma, as found in Buddhism and Hinduism, refer only to the status one will have in a future life being dependent upon one's actions in the present life. The Threefold Law is generally believed to take effect quickly, at least within the person's lifetime.

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Seeking forgiveness:

Sometimes, a Wiccan will follow the Rede and choose a course of action that results in harm to another person. The Wiccan may have been careless in the Rede's application, or did not consider all possible results to an action, or been unaware of the possibility of certain results, or even been unlucky because an unlikely result occurred.

Many Wiccans would agree that if their actions caused insult or harm that:

  • As a minimum, for the Wiccan to issue an apology to the individual(s) harmed, if the negative affects could have been foreseen.

  • If the harm that resulted was unforeseeable, that the Wiccan offer at least their concern and disappointment to the individual(s) harmed.

  • That a path forward to reverse or ameliorate the harm be sought and considered.

That leaves the Threefold Law.

  • According to Wikipedia:

    "The first published reference to the Rule of Three as a general ethical principle may be from Raymond Buckland, in a 1968 article for Beyond magazine.The Rule of Three later features within a poem of 26 couplets titled "Rede of the Wiccae", published by Lady Gwen Thompson in 1975 in Green Egg Vol. 8, No. 69, and attributed to her grandmother Adriana Porter. The threefold rule is referenced often by the Wiccans of the Clan Mackenzie in the Emberverse novels by S.M. Stirling." 4

  • Some Wiccans believe that the "three" in the Threefold law is not a firm value. Rather, good or evil returns a sufficient number of times or in sufficient intensity to make an impact on the person who took the original action. 4

  • Most believe that the Law is not administered on a case-by-case basis by the Goddess and God. It is actually a natural response of the universe to good and bad deeds.

  • Some may fear the Threefold Law as much as some monotheists might fear retaliation from their God.

  • Since both good deeds and evil deeds are returned to the individual, there is the possibility that they might cancel each other out and produce zero net effect, or that the net effect will be positive. So an antidote to the effects of an evil deed might be to commit good deed(s).

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Some web sites that discuss forgiveness in Wicca:

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Erin Dragonsong, "The Wiccan Three-Fold Law," Wicca Spirituality, 2016, at: http://www.wicca-spirituality.com/
  2. "Wiccan Rede," Wikipedia, as on 2016-AUG-29, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  3. Evylyn Rose, "The Wiccan Credo," Messages in the Moonlight, 2015, at: http://www.moonlightmessages.com/
  4. "The Rule of Three," Wikipedia, as on 2016-AUG-26, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/

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How you may have arrived here:

Home page > Wicca > here

Home page > World Religions > Wicca > here

Home page > World Religions > Neopaganism > Wicca > here

Copyright © 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2016-DEC-10
Latest update : 2016-DEC-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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