(Note from Daven: Here we are again, another page from The Witches’ Voice. I’m reproducing them here to get a wider distribution of these works. Wren did a kick-ass job making these articles and I think that everyone should read them.
Teachers of the Craft (Part #4)
Teachers and Magical Ethics
by Wren Walker
Many people are investigating the religions of Witchcraft, Wicca and other Neo-Pagan Paths today. There are many books and reference materials available, yet after some self study, there are some folks who would like to meet and perhaps work with a physical teacher. This can be a rewarding learning experience – or it could turn out to be your worst nightmare…
There you are. You have a class/workshop/teaching group. The students are seated and waiting for you to begin. As a responsible Teacher, you have some sort of class outline that you will follow. Hopefully, you plan to touch on the subject of ethical standards in the Craft. Here are some thoughts on how- and why- to incorporate the topic into your teaching materials.
Well…where did YOU come from?
Every student has had some experience with ethical considerations before he/she shows up in your class or workshop. Take a moment to reflect on your own upbringing. How did your childhood help to form what has become YOUR personal code of ethics?
“What the child sees is what the child does.“-Old Irish Saying Did Mom and Dad crow at the dinner table over some “deal” they put over on someone else? Did they welcome new neighbors with a plate of cookies? Did your folks tell someone that they just LOVED that gift…and then threw it away after the giver had left? Did they allow you to choose your own friends? Did your parents break promises that they had made with you? Did they choose to go without something so that you could have that spiffy new pair of sneakers? Did you see them struggle with an ethical decision? How did these or other incidents at home make you feel? Did you agree with the ethical choices that your parents made then? How do you feel about their decisions and actions now?
And remember High School? What about that unwritten law that everyone knew about? No matter what another student did, you just never ever “ratted them out”…This is typical adolescent “group think”, but as most of us mature, ethical choices become more complex and less “black and white.” (Unfortunately, some people never grow out of the adolescent stage!)
Think about your personal ethical values. While you probably don’t really want to “preach” to your students, you DO want them to reflect about the decisions that they may face as practitioners representing the Craft.
So…There they sit. Students at many different stages of ethical thinking.-and you, the Teacher-are about to teach them Magick! (“Calm blue ocean,” think “calm blue ocean”…)
Finding The Meaning Behind The Words:
Well, don’t I wish that I had the definitive word on this one! The truth is that each and every person must find the answers to ethical questions within themselves. Nevertheless, we all will come to a point somewhere in our lives- and most certainly in our magickal practice-where we must make a decision on a course of action. We will face what is called an “ethical dilemma”. How will we handle this? What should we, as Witches, Wiccans and Pagans, take into consideration?
As a Teacher, you will probably begin with a general discourse on the Wiccan Rede, Hermetic Laws or a similar code of ethics. This will be something that is either relevant to you personally or reflective of the code of behavior that is inherent in your group, Tradition or coven.
“Love and Courage are the wings of the spirit by which it rises to noble actions.“-Goethe. There is nothing weak or submissive, nothing dishonorable in showing decency and respect to others. On the contrary, the welfare of our society relies on it. The future of the Pagan community depends on it. What each individual decides to act upon at any given moment has ramifications that will extend far beyond him/herself. What IS our obligation to another?
In Christianity, the hard question is “Who IS my neighbor?” The question is “hard” because the injunction given is “To love your neighbor as yourself”. How well Christians have answered this question, we will leave for them to address. We have our own problems…
In Wicca, the tough one is, “An it harm none, do as you will.” Who are the “none” that we should not harm? Our covenmates? Our Pagan brothers and sisters from all Traditions and Paths? The whole world? Do WE have “neighbors” to think about? Are you sorry that I brought this whole thing up yet?
Perhaps the first place to look in determining what is right or wrong is society. Almost every society makes some determination of morally correct or ethical behavior. In some countries, a determination of what is right or moral is tied to religious strictures. In societies that are more secular, the influence of religious beliefs may be less obvious, but still a key factor. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” represent some American values.
Individual relationships, families and communities-any time that you are involved with other people- all necessitate a foundation of trust and security. A similar code of ethical behavior toward one another helps to establish a bond of trust-you can depend on certain boundaries- and a sense of security-there is a level of safety within the community that enables you to go about your business relatively free from interference.
How Does One Make An Ethical Choice?
It is never easy, nor should it be. What we do ultimately reflects on who we are. We owe it to ourselves-and those around us- to think long and hard on these “tough” choices. That person in the mirror is always YOU.
“The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they while their companions slept
Were toiling upward in the night.“
–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
1. Look at the situation–Gather as much information as possible and do not jump to conclusions. Never base your decision on what someone else has told you. Find out for yourself. In an “emergency”, you may have to just “go with what you have”. But make sure the source is a reliable one. ( Sometimes if someone is trying to “hurry” you into a decision, it is because they do NOT want you to get all the information. They want you on their side…now…just like high school…)
TEACHERS: Ask your students if another person has ever “rushed” them into making a decision only to find out later that the situation was “Not As Described”. How did they feel about the choices that they made? While in school, did they ever know about an incident but ‘didn’t tell”? Would they make a different decision today? “Good maxims are the germs of all truth. When firmly fixed in the memory, they mold the will.“-Foubert.
2. Think about alternatives.–Run different scenarios through your mind. What may happen if I do this? What about…..?? What outcome are you looking for? What are the ways to approach this decision that may best achieve this result? Who ELSE is involved? Will they support this decision? Will this help-or hinder- finding a solution to the problem?
TEACHERS: Give your students a magickal “ethical” dilemma (spellwork or interpersonal conflicts immediately come to mind!) and see if they can come up with at least five alternatives. Discuss them in class. Is there a “best” choice”? “Tell me whom you admire and I will tell you what you are, at least as regards to your talents, tastes and character.“-Sainte-Beuve.
3. What are the guidelines?–What principles do you hold dear? What about self-respect? Would this decision affect another’s free will? Would they have consented to this decision? Would they be harmed? What do I owe in terms of respect to another human being? Would I be preventing harm? Is this the best choice for all concerned? Is it fair? What if the situation was reversed? Would I be happy with the results of the decision if this was ME that was on the other end of things? What has happened in the past that may affect the decision making process?
TEACHERS: Have students answer the above questions. Then ask them what they think a person such as Ghandi, Lincoln or King would have done in this situation? (Now ,I’m not saying any of these folks actually was a Witch…but then again, that Lincoln guy….) What about a God or Goddess? What do Their myths say about something similar to this? Did this exercise change the students’ original decision? “Every action is measured by the depth of the sentiment from which it proceeds.” –Spiritual Laws, Ralph Waldo Emerson
4. Test your limits.–If the situation changed, would my decision still be valid? Am I setting a good example? (Teachers, are you?) Those great men cited above held to their ethical standards and paid the price for it. Am I sure enough of my own ethical decisions that I would be willing to do the same? Will this decision change how I feel about myself? If everyone acted this way, would the world be better or worse? Does it just seem like the right thing to do? Don’t discount that inner voice! (Check your solar plexus…”Am I just hungry or is my body trying to tell me something”?)
TEACHERS: Ask your students” “What IF everyone acted this way?” What kind of future would such actions bring into being? Is that future the one that we really want? “If we are ever in doubt what to do, it is a good rule to ask ourselves what we shall wish on the morrow that we had done.“-Sir John Lubbock.
5. O.K.–Make your choice. You will have to live with it. You will certainly learn from it. This means accepting responsibility for your choice. It also means accepting the possibility that you might be wrong or that you will make a less than “ideal” decision. The object is to make as good a choice as possible with the information available.
TEACHERS: Do your students feel a little better equipped to handle ethical decisions now? Have they perhaps been able to “walk a mile in another’s shoes”? Have they discovered that rational thought on issues tends to diffuse conflicting desires and make some choices easier?
6. You can’t make someone else’s choices. No one can make yours for you.–‘Nuff said? Teachers can guide students in techniques, but ultimately your ethical decisions-like your Magick-comes from within. Who you are- and who you will become- is something that only you determine. It really is YOUR choice…
“The greatest thing a human mind does in this world is to ‘see”. Hundreds of people can talk for one that can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion-all in one.“-Ruskin.