Wiccan Rede * Autumn 1989 by Morgana Sythove
A number of years ago Merlin and I were asked to do an interview for a national magazine. Although we didn’t particularly want to be ‘interviewed’ we were prepared to talk with the journalist in question and supply her with any information that she required. As agreed, she arrived and we proceeded to tell her about the Wicca. The basic philosophy was outlined – that we believe in the presence of a creative energy, often personified as the God and Goddess; that we try as far as possible to understand and feel the forces of Nature and to act accordingly; that certain techniques can help us to develop insights into the workings of Nature (magical training) and that these insights can in turn be used to help ourselves and other people, animals, plants, etcetera.
We discussed the ethical side of the philosophy, including the Wiccan Rede, and our basic attitudes towards ritual work and spiritual development. Questions were asked and answered.
At the end of the evening, having covered most of the general material, we were however somewhat surprised when we were asked what it was that made the Craft different from all the other religions in the world, since nothing we had said was particularly new!
Theoretically of course she was right. Nothing of the Craft philosophy is new: female wisdom and logic (Sophia) has been described as ‘that which is and always will be’. Natural Law follows this line of reasoning and is a continuum which exists with or without the ‘help’ of humankind. The ‘newness’ of course lies not so much in the philosophy but in our attitudes towards the natural and spiritual world.
If we want an answer to our journalist’s question then it must be that the people make the Craft different. Witches and pagans have a determination not to become subservient to the likes of popes and rabbi’s. After centuries of being told what to do (and what to believe) a growing number of people are saying ‘no more’: we are prepared to make our own beds and lie in them! Some people are choosing a non-religious path, whilst others are seeking a spiritual path in which the Gods are immanent. For us the God, creative power, whatever you want to call it, is a part of us, is a part of our world, our planet, our cosmos. And we are a part of it – not divorced from it, only to find consolation via the mediation of a man in a frock. The Craft is different from other religions because we hold the reins to our own beliefs and spiritual expression. Needless to say (just to finish the above tale) that the journalist decided that the Craft wasn’t worth writing about and consequently abandoned the project …
The experience which I have described above is surprisingly not that unusual. For many people Craft philosophy is vague at best, and/or incredibly simplistic. ‘Is that all?’ seems to be the common question in the blank gaze one gets after a two hour discussion. Somehow these days, if things aren’t ‘complex’, then they aren’t worth bothering about. A pair of jeans can’t just be denim – they have to be stone, snow, moon, used (pardon?) washed and preferably have a designer label on them to boot. Even young children are lead to believe that if their clothes don’t have a particular label, they are an outcast. How many parents have I heard lately complaining that their dear little son refuses to wear ‘ordinary’ jeans? Of course the ‘herd instinct’ drives us to want to belong and in many instances it is an important instinct but to follow the crowd aimlessly is deadly; deadly to our creative instinct. The most creative results lie in discovering the most simple and efficient design. Quite often even the most complex systems are based on simple patterns and combinations of patterns, as even science is discovering now that they’re finding the underlying simple formula’s that could be used to create nature’s diversity in shape and size. (Fractals for example).
One result of an intellectual development, which most of us are influenced by in the western world, is that we see details before we see the whole, whilst it is the perception of the whole which can often give us clues to the underlying design. I am always amazed at ‘design’ in nature – it is seldom extravagant and even the weird and wonderful patterns found have a purpose – either to decoy predators or attract partners, etc. As we know from ecological studies each species has a place in the biological chain, however small, and left alone it will regenerate and continue its particular cycle indefinitely. It seems that only humankind goes against this simple law and wants to change its place in the natural order – i.e. we want to adapt our environment to our needs and not adapt ourselves to natural surroundings. We don’s ask ourselves ‘what do we need?’ but ‘what’s in it for me?’.
The pagan who declares he wants to be a ‘simple pagan’ isn’t being derogatory – he means exactly what he says. But saying a radical ‘no’ to the consumer society isn’t easy. It means running the risk of being an outcast and not being taken seriously. Most of us are not prepared to go that far, neither physically nor mentally (let’s face it, not everyone is cut out for the country life – however idyllic it sounds!) So where does that leave us ‘urbans’? Actually with plenty of options! If the Wicca has anything to say (and I believe it does) then surely it must be to the ‘urbans’ even more so than to the ‘pagans’ (if you get my drift).
First we have to ask ourselves why it is that humans ever chose to live in towns. Whatever drove us to abandon the heaths and build crowded, dirty towns? What in fact is the urge behind urbanisation? Surely it must have something to do with our human evolution. One thing we know is that the more industrialised a nation becomes, the more urbanised its people are. England is a very good example of how the Industrial Revolution resulted in people pouring into the towns to find work (in the factories of course). This was the sociological consequence of a basically intellectual development. The intuitive approach of past ages was giving way to a scientific approach. Naturally the mass of the population was not ‘intellectual’ but as a result of a growing intellectual/scientific atmosphere the ordinary man was presented with new opportunities, although it meant finding work in the factories and living close to them.
Intellectual development is in many ways unique to humans – our ability to see ourselves apart as individuals, our ego-sense, is not found in the other living kingdoms. We can choose, or at least we have the feeling that we can choose. 150 years ago the freedom to choose was still limited – for women in particular it was extremely limited. Gradually however we have become aware that we do have choices. And of course a scientific discovery such as the pill has made making choices for women virtually as extensive as for men.
Although we may believe that industrial and scientific developments of the last century are causing irreparable damage to the environment, we also have to admit that it has made our choice making ability much more extensive. This new freedom is not enjoyed by all the world’s citizens and many people still have to live under virtual feudal circumstances. Intellectual development however will be experienced by all humans, sooner or later, whether they like it or not, because it is an inherent stage of development in human evolution. Intellectualism is of course not the end of the line – already in the West we are seeing a growing awareness that intellectualism is only one aspect of our human-ness. We have other faculties and only by integrating all the aspects of ‘human nature’ can we come to know and appreciate the ‘whole human’. Many people feel rather despondent about the human race – they see nothing but man’s destruction. Mother Nature is being raped and we in the West are the main offenders. I don’t hold such a pessimistic view. Of course man has caused gross atrocities, not only to the planet as a living organism, but also to his fellow man. however I cannot help believing in the basic good of the human race, and that eventually people will realise that although we do have a unique individuality, we are also members of a group and as such have a double responsibility: to ourselves and also to our fellow humans and all that lives. Urbanisation may have lead us to an un-spiritual existence but it has also made us realise that we have to work towards spiritual realisation – it is not something which is just ‘given’.
The hardness of the city can actually prompt us to realise that there must be more to life than a load of bricks and mortar. But to be optimistic in view of the godless environment requires a strong constitution. So how can we prepare ourselves to be resilient and ultimately be a source of strength and inspiration for those around us who (temporary) fall into despair?
On of the ways in which we can build up our strength is to use the very ‘masculine’ forces which are the essence behind the scientific/intellectual development. Probably the most masculine source of energy is symbolised by the sun – it is bright (even to the point of blinding) and it is warm, to the point of scorching. As with most forms of energy we have to be careful in applying it: too much and we’ll probably en up killing the very thing we are trying to stimulate. Certainly too much sun can be dangerous as we all know. But for most of us a spell of sunny weather can do wonders for our general attitude to life. Suddenly things don’t look so gloomy (literally) and it usually means we can get out and enjoy the outside air instead of being cooped up – even in winter time. Even in the cities sunshine can do wonders: people seem to smile a lot more and everyone seems in a better mood. Sometimes I think, “wouldn’t it be nice if we could ‘store’ the sun’s energy and use it on an occasion when we are feeling particularly low?” Well, in a sense we can!
The next time it’s a sunny day (or even better if you are on your holidays in a sunny country) try the following exercise. Close your eyes and with your ‘mind’s eye’ begin to concentrate on your body starting with your feet, and gradually go along your body until you’ve arrived at your head. First feel how the sun penetrates your skin and then visualise how the golden energy radiates along your bones, into your muscles, etcetera. Visualise how this energy warms and stimulates your whole being. When you have covered your whole body, relax and bathe in the sunlight until you feel completely enveloped in a sunshine bubble. Try to store this feeling. At the end of the ‘exercise’ thank the sun for his warmth, energy and light. Get up, walk around feeling the earth under your feet once more, and have a drink and something to eat.
Then, when you feel low on energy, during a long rainy period for example, sit or lie down in the same position, and repeat the whole experience. Of course now the ‘physical’ sun is not available or visible but your mind’s eye should be able to recall the stored memory quite easily.
For town witches such an exercise can prove invaluable, especially if people around you are draining you of (life) energy. Often we feel that we have to be ‘thick skinned’ to survive in the city and whilst many people believe this to be true it seems a rather defeatist attitude. Male energy in the form of a ‘sunshine bubble’ can also protect us from negative vibrations. It can provide us with an invisible armour which can help us to overcome such a hard and cold environment.