Frequently Asked Questions

The following are questions I have received via email with the answers that I sent:

Q: What is your viewpoint on the use of the Rede in a conflict of harm?

A: On the surface the dictum known as the Wiccan Rede which contains the phrase "harm none" seems simple but all ethical principles can lead to difficulty and the possibility of contradiction. I think that when one says "harm none" there must be some thought as to whom is included in that thought. Certainly it means to avoid harm to others but it must also include the idea of preventing harm to the self. We are called to both avoid and prevent harm. I believe that the Rede challenges us to not only refrain from harming others, it also calls us to seek to prevent harm to other beings and to ourselves when possible. Conflict arises when it may be necessary to cause harm to one in order to prevent harm to another. A simple example would be if someone is threatening to hurt you or a loved one and you are in a position to prevent that harm by causing harm to the perpetrator. If it is possible to prevent harm to anyone by simply diffusing a situation without resorting to violence, that would be the ideal solution but such a solution is not always possible. Sometimes it may be necessary to cause harm in order to prevent harm. The question that arises from this fact is “how do I act in these situations and remain true to my ethical principles?” Fortunately for Pagans there are no Ten Commandments or a book of law written in stone that all must follow without question and there is a good reason for this. In my tradition, the Sacred Order of Living Paganism, we vow to remain true to 5 precepts which are: Reason, Respect, Responsibility, Reverence, and Revelry. The first two, Reason and Responsibility, remind us that we are each responsible for making our own decisions and for the consequences resulting from those decisions. In a case of harm versus harm, no single ethical principle will suffice. Each situation will be unique and will require the person to decide on a course of action based on their own wisdom through consideration of Reason and Responsisibility. The way to make such a decision is to follow a process of ethical decision making (assuming, of course, you have the time to consider such a process). That process has the following steps:
  • To the best of your ability, determine the intent of the person or being you believe may be threatening harm.
  • Consider all the possible courses of action you could take to prevent that harm.
  • Consider all the possible consequences to each of those possible actions.
  • Choose the course of action whose consequences will be most closely aligned with your ethical principles.
The first step is to determine the intent of the one who is threatening harm. Is that person (or being) clearly intending to cause harm without justification? There is a big difference between someone who is pointing a gun at you after asking for your wallet and someone who is angrily shaking his fist at you. In the first case, the intent of the attacker is clear while in the second case, you may not know why the other person is angry or what her reasons or intentions may be. In either case you have as much right and responsibility to prevent harm as you do to resist causing harm. (With this in mind, I also believe it is wrong to walk away from the possibility of preventing harm even if it means that doing so relieves you of the burden of possibly creating harm. This means that if you saw a person being threatened on the street that it would be unethical to simply walk away from the situation because you believe that doing so keeps you from having to consider causing harm.) Once you have determined an intent and believe that the other person means to cause harm without an justifiable reason you should determine what possible actions you can take to prevent that harm. As mentioned earlier, finding a way to prevent harm without causing harm is ideal but not always possible. Consider all the possibilities at first without regard to ethical principles. Then take the third step and consider all the possible consequences of each action. Think through each one carefully and consider how each one will affect you and all others involved in the situation. The final step then requires you to consider how the consequences of each possible action will cause harm to your ethical principles. In other words, which result could you best live with? This is where wisdom must be applied through Reason and Responsibility. I, nor anyone else, can possibly give out answers to each situation but with a clear set of ethics and spiritual principles, solutions to ethical dilemmas can be found.

Q: where did the whole "child" aspect come from? Is that like the Christian's "holy spirit" type thing?

A: The Child concept was taught to me by my first teacher and Priestess. It is the symbol of the life aspect that makes the God and Goddess aspect real and manifest. Without life, there is no force of male and female made whole. This helps us to understand that Life, you and me and all life is an equal part of Spirit rather than below it or separate from it. It is a concept that is older than Christianity. The Egyptians often portrayed images of Isis with her child god Horus, for example.

Q: Do you believe in telepathy?

A: Telepathy? Hmmmm. I believe there are fields of energy about us and in the universe and that communication is possible through it but, for the most part, we lack the ability to really understand and use those fields to communicate. I do think, however, that it is possible that our ability to use language may actually hamper our ability to communicate in other ways. In other words, we have come to rely on the symbolism of words rather then the direct experience of communication through insight and feeling which might be the real source of telepathy. If we possess the ability to communicate through our minds, it must be done in this manner - without words. I often communicate to my pets through mental pictures and feelings. This is the language they understand and we have forgotten. Is there telepathy? It might be better to ask a non-human.

Q: Merry Meet! I happened upon your site and thoroughly enjoyed perusing your online BoS and other chapters of your website. As I looked through the curriculum, I came across a term I am unfamiliar with: "Astors". What exactly IS an Astor?

A: In our tradition, celebrations of the sun (sabbats) are performed pubicly on the eight sabbat days. Esbats are celebrated on the full moon and is used to celebrate the goddess in small groups or covens. Thirdly, when the moon is dark, we practice a personal celebration called the astor which is done when the stars are best seen (hence the name). It fits in with our understanding of three deities: the God which is celebrated at the sabbat, the Goddess which is celebrated at the esbat, and the Child which is celebrated during the astor.

Q: I agree with the tenents of Wicca, but I'm still not sure of the concept of the devil, I feel the devil is nothing more than Human Nature and the choices we make. Can you help me with this?

A: Sure. The devil, you must remember, is a creation of Christianity, not Paganism. It was a concept created to help explain the perceived battle of good versus evil. When asked how could such an omnipotent God allow evil and suffering into the world, a scapegoat (another word with an interesting story) had to be offered. The Zoroastrian philosophy, one of the many religious currents active during the time of early Christian development, claimed that the world was caught in a constant struggle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. God was obviously a force of light. The force of darkness came from an angel that decided to leave heaven and return to earth. This angel became known as the devil – the force of darkness. Early pagans did not have any such concept of evil versus good. Good and evil were choices made by humans. Suffering and hardship came from poor choices or, in another words, from not understanding the wishes and teachings of the gods. So you are correct when you say that evil is a result of the choices that we make and the consequences these choices have upon others.

Q: I'm having conflicting thoughts about the definition of harm when it comes to the Rede. What IS the definition of harm? At first it seemed so obvious to me, don't hurt another person, but does that include accidental harm? What about military personnel who are ordered to kill the enemy? I'm really digging into this one.

A: It is good that you are having this internal debate. The principle of no harm is not so easy as it first sounds. That is why we added the other four Precepts of the Five Precepts. You have to balance no harm with self protection and needs and with your own intellect and intuition. All actions have consequences and we cannot simply live our lives by a simple set of words. We must always weigh our decisions with their possible consequences and seek to cause as little harm as is possible. I define harm as that which impedes the mental, emotional, spiritual or physical potential of another being.

Q: If we are all reincarnated after death & since the population keeps on growing, where do all the spirits come from?

A: You are assuming that my concept of reincarnation is something it might not be. I do not believe that we die and then get recycled back into another life and continue that way as a single continuous strand of lives (usually all from royalty, of course). This would lead to the type of illogical conundrum you mention in your question. I believe that all life comes from a single source – a mysterious and wonderful presence. When we die, we return to that source and from it, future life is created. This is still reincarnation, in my view, for all life is derived and returned from a single source. Because of that fact, I believe we can learn from past lives and learn that all our present actions have consequences in the future fabric of life. It also means that the more human lives we create on this planet, the potential for a variety of life is reduced – something that does not often get discussed. We must come to understand the impact of our endless growth on this planet and knowing that we come from the same source of life may be a start.

Q: What does the term Magick Spirituality mean to you? and how is it different from other forms of spirituality?and how would one go about explaining it to someone else?

A: This depends on your definition of Magick. I define magick as conscious transformation. Therefore, magick becomes spiritual when you direct your will towards positive transformation – primarily of yourself and your relationship to the universe. It is different from many other types of religious philosophy because we believe we are an equal part of the cosmos and not just separate beings. We do not simply hope and pray for change, we believe that we must take an equal part in enacting change.

Q: I am finding it hard to figure out how to incorporate Wiccan spirituality into my daily life, like when I am at work, for example. I do a little ritual every morning but then it seems like there is nothing else I can do to practice the magicak side of my path until I am able to do another ritual. Any suggestions??

A: One way to incorporate Wicca into your daily life is to consider all things you do as ritual and meditation. This means acting always with intent and with mindfulness. Sometimes I light incense or a candle at work or, if this is not feasible, I may carry a stone with me or put it on my desk. The practice is not the object. The objects are only reminders of the practice. Be aware of your intent in all actions, consider what you do in relationship to your spiritual understanding and go through the motions as if everything was a tai chi exercise.

Q: Is it important that the Sabbat, Esbat, and Astor rituals reenact part of the mythology of Wicca?

A: Your question points to a common misunderstanding about Wiccan practice. No external action is important in itself. It is only important if it has meaning to you. If the Wiccan mythology has no significance to you, then celebrating it during rituals is pointless and will make rituals just another thing that has to get done for the day (or the season). Think and meditate on what the changing of the seasons and the motions of the earth, moon, and sun signify to you. What about those things makes you feel connected? How can you best recognize and honor that? Once you know this, you will know what to do in your seasonal rituals.