First, Do No Harm …

witch, cauldron, healerNon-maleficence is one of the central mandates of medical ethics, both modern and historic.  The Hippocratic oath is taught in medical schools around the world, and those who seek to become licensed physicians are hoped to believe it as a guiding principles of their professional morality.

At least that is the ideal.  With the insanity going on south of the border, it seems that the US government believes that harm is ok if the patient is a woman.  While the medical profession searches its collective souls for the courage to stand up for its patients whether or not they happen to possess a uterus, many of the Witchy persuasion are feeling the call to study or return to midwifery.

In my post on Virtues of the Goddess, I mentioned that Wiccan ethics do not end with the Rede and the oft quoted ‘An it Harm None, Do what ye Will’.  And while the last stanza of the Wiccan Rede is well known, it doesn’t seem to be well understood.

‘An it Harm None, Do as Ye Will’ does not mean ‘do no harm’ or even the popular simplification of ‘Harm None’.  Where the latter suggests that you must never do harm, the former merely gives the green light if you have weighed your options and found them to be harm-free.

This suggests that the responsibility of action or inaction is placed squarely on the Witch‘s shoulders – where it should be.  The only way you get to act with impunity is if you are certain that you will do no harm.

Otherwise … well, let’s take another look and see what the Rede suggests. Many claim that this stanza deals with situations in which harm is unavoidable:

Mind the Three-fold Laws you should three times bad and three times good.

I think we can all agree that magnification of action/consequence is not how karma works.  I have a feeling that Doreen Valiente knew that as well.  So, if this doesn’t refer to karma, what does it refer to?

Ripples.  This warning refers to the ripple effect within the interconnected web of life.  Every action you take, and every inaction as well, creates a change.  You cannot pull on one string of the web without disturbing every other.  And like ripples, when the consequences of your change come back around, they can be much larger than what you sent out.

Remember the movie It’s a Wonderful Life?  Same thing.  Removing Jimmy Stewart‘s** character from existence had far-reaching consequences that he hadn’t taken into account when wishing he had never been born.

So, what’s a Witch to do when faced with an ethical quandary?* Follow the Rede and be mindful.  If it won’t hurt anyone (yourself included), then go for it.  Otherwise, keep in mind that your actions and your words, both magical and mundane, have consequences.  Then ask yourself, are you willing to live with them?

Religious Witchcraft has no ‘Thou Shalt Not’s, but neither is any Witch an island.  Pagans are big on reminding people that we are connected to the earth and should thus be mindful of how we go about our daily lives. And just as we are all a part of the earth, we are a part of each other – whether we like it or not.

I’m not saying ‘Love Thy Neighbour’.  Just remember that they are your neighbour.  You have to live with each other.  The rest is up to you.

*I’m going to add a minor disclaimer about every Pagan and Witch having their own personal morality and not everyone follows the Rede … yadda, yadda, yadda.  YMMV.  If you’re reading this blog then I tend to assume that you already know that not all Pagans are the same.  If you’re reading this blog, I trust that you assume that I know this as well.

**If you want to see an awesome Jimmy Stewart movie, check Bell, Book and Candle.  I have a feeling most of you, my dear readers, will love it πŸ˜‰

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4 thoughts on “First, Do No Harm …”

  1. This is wonderful! Thank you! I also like to think of ‘harm none’ as being pro-active as well, going out and helping people in some way. ❀

    1. I’m glad you liked it πŸ™‚ I try not to read more into the Rede than what is there. I like to think that the Charge of the Goddess has more ethical advice for us to consider πŸ˜‰

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