What Does it Mean to ‘Harm None’?

“These eight words The Rede fulfill

An’ ye harm none, do what ye will”

But what does it mean to harm none? The world is far from being a black and white place and the situations we may find ourselves faced with reflect this. We may be in a situation where, no matter the decision we make, harm will befall someone by either our action or inaction. Is it even possible to live by these words at all times?

The best way to ponder this question and attempt to reach a conclusion is to examine a hypothetical situation. The situation is as follows: You are out with a friend when a man approaches and holds a gun to them with the intention of shooting them. This requires you to make a decision; whether or not to intervene. If you fail to intervene, your friend will be harmed. If you do intervene, assuming you must use force to disarm the perpetrator, they will be harmed.

No matter how you decide to react, you will be causing harm. If you choose not to intervene, you will not directly be harming your friend. However, your failure to act will result in them being harmed. When you have the ability to prevent harm from occurring, but choose not to prevent it, you are still causing harm by way of your inaction. Because you had the ability to prevent harm, but actively chose not to take action, this is no different from directly causing harm as you would be doing if you choose to intervene and attack the perpetrator. The end result is the same, it matters not if you were the direct or indirect cause.

Now that this is established, it becomes clear that no matter what you choose to do in the aforementioned hypothetical situation, you will be causing harm. If this is the case, you must now base your decision on new criteria. Because the perpetrator actively chose to put himself in a situation in which his intention is to cause harm, he becomes responsible for any harm that befalls him as a result of his decisions. Essentially, your friend is an innocent whereas the perpetrator is not. Under such circumstances, attacking the perpetrator to save your friend, an innocent, is the morally correct decision. Innocents must always be held in a higher regard and harm that befalls them seen as worse than harm that befalls a perpetrator of injustice.

In a complex world of complex situations and dilemmas, ‘harm none’ must sometimes be understood to mean ‘cause the least harm possible’.

Three Responses Pagans Get From Non-Pagans

In this article we will be discussing the three primary responses that Pagans receive from non-Pagans when their religious affiliation is learned.

1. Fear/Hatred: “You’re going to hell”

Unfortunately, this response is all too common. Fundamentalist Christians believe that anything even slightly different from their own beliefs is ‘Satanic’. (It should also be noted that not many people, especially Christian extremists, even understand what Satanism really is). Imagine what goes through their minds when they learn someone identifies as a Pagan or Witch. They will either become fearful or outright angry, start quoting the bible, and say that you are going to hell. It would also seem that they don’t understand that quoting the bible to people who don’t already accept it as an authority is completely pointless. The best way to deal with these types is to first attempt to explain your beliefs and how they are clearly in no way ‘evil’. If this fails, as it all too often does, simply ignore the person. Fundamentalist Christians have usually gone through a lifetime of brainwashing and find it incredibly difficult to accept new ideas.  You’re almost inclined to feel sorry for them…

2. Bewilderment: “You know magick isn’t real, right?”

Some people are unaware that Paganism is a spiritual path that even exists in today’s world. Others, while being aware of it, may think that believing in such things as magick means that the practitioner is somehow out of touch with reality (but believing that the Abrahamic god had to send his son to die for our sins because a lady ate an apple is totally reasonable). I once told someone that I was preparing for a ritual and the utter confusion on their face was hilarious. Had I told them I was getting ready to go to church, I am sure I would not have gotten the same reaction. The best thing to do is to tell these people that your practice honours nature and celebrates the seasons in order to make it sound a little less ‘strange’ to someone who is first hearing of it. Those who think that Paganism is nothing but ‘fairy tales’ can be dealt with by explaining that we believe that the earth and Universe is made of energy that we should strive to attune ourselves with. This has a scientific basis and will help the person understand the difference between ‘movie magic’ and real magick.

3. Fascination/Interest

Certainly the best out of these three, this group is fascinated with the idea of magick. There is no doubt that occult mysticism has a certain allure that catches the interest of those who are not so closed minded. Although they may not practice the craft themselves, some people find the idea intriguing. They will not tell you that you’re going to hell or that magick isn’t real, but will instead ask you many questions about it. They see us as mystic people who have some special ability to be in touch with the great mysteries of the occult. Answer all of their questions, for they are generally interested, and be thankful that they exist. It’s nice to be able to have positive interactions with non-Pagans who true fascination with our craft.

The Importance of Not Giving a Fuck

Many things are worth caring about. There is one thing in particular, however, that requires us to actively participate in not paying it any mind; what others think of us. When someone criticizes our interests, lifestyle, or things that bring us happiness, it becomes necessary for us to raise our middle fingers high and choose to genuinely not give a fuck.

The most self destructive thing we can do is compare ourselves to others. Everyone has different life circumstances. Problems arise when people choose to use their particular individual life circumstances to form a view on how others should be living their lives. The issue, of course, is that others are living under different circumstances, and therefore the life circumstances of one can not be applied to another.

For example, a lawyer who is married with the standard 2.5 kids (ok, we’ll just say 3) expects everyone else to live a similar lifestyle because this is what is right for him. What is right for him, however, will not be right for someone else. Perhaps another person is an unmarried artist who chooses to forgo marriage and children, as well as choosing to live a generally ‘unconventional’ lifestyle. This is what’s right for him. Neither of these lifestyles are superior or inferior to the other, they are simply different. Moreover, they are the correct path for those who follow them.

Ideally, everyone would realize this reality. Unfortunately, the world is filled with cynics and pessimists who view anyone adhering to a lifestyle different from their own as inferior. For this reason, it is important that we know how to properly react to their opinions of us. This proper reaction can best be described as not giving a fuck. When we say ‘not giving a fuck’, we mean truly, in the most genuine way, not giving a fuck.

It is important to realize that when someone has a negative opinion on your lifestyle or the things that bring you happiness, it is a reflection on them, not a reflection on you. They are often very insecure, and to put it quite frankly, miserable individuals. Their cynical opinions have no bearing on you. The best thing you could learn to do is completely disregard them as they truly hold no merit whatsoever.

It takes a very strong will to truly live by this philosophy. The best way to develop the strong will necessary is to begin an active practice. The next time someone says something unnecessary and cynical to you, choose to not give a fuck. Tell yourself ‘I truly do not give a fuck about this bastard or their opinion of me. I am secure in myself and do not need the validation of a miserable cynic.’ Do this until you genuinely believe what you are telling yourself. Before you know it, it will become second nature.

If you are an unmarried 45 year old man who enjoys spending his free time reading comic books, do it. If you are a 15 year old who enjoys spending your free time with your nose in a book, do it. If you are a 70 year old man who enjoys skateboarding, toilet humor, and playing Pokémon Go, do it. These are things that make you happy; you need no other reason to do them. When a cynical pessimist tells you that you’re a ‘loser’, that you ‘have no life’, or that you are living your life incorrectly, stick your middle finger in their face, tell them to fuck off, and go back to whatever it is you were doing. Think no more about it for their opinion truly does not matter. Do not give a fuck about them or their message of ignorance and cynicism. Keep doing what makes you happy and pay no mind to those who only wish to belittle you and make you as miserable as they are.

Nothing is Coincidence

Absolutely everything happens for a reason. It may not always be the reason one might expect, but reason nonetheless. Everything that occurs in life, from grand events to the most miniscule incident, has meaning. Those who practice magick know that their work often manifests itself subtly. What secular individuals call coincidence, we know to be much greater.

For example, imagine you stub your toe on the way to your car. You pause for a moment to scream a few obscenities and wait for the pain to subside. This disrupts your routine by about thirty seconds. Driving along to wherever it is you’re going, you realize that you’re thirsty from screaming earlier and decide to stop at the local 7-11 for a drink. You pull into the 7-11 and meet a friend inside. The two of you make plans to get together later that night. You meet up with your friend that night to find he has also invited another friend of his. This friend of a friend happens to be a sword salesman, and after discussing your mutual interest in swords, he offers to sell you a scimitar at a great price, something you’ve been searching for quite awhile. If you would not have stubbed your toe, you would have never gotten the opportunity to buy a scimitar.

The situations in the above example have a direct causal relationship. Stubbing your toe caused you to yell; yelling caused your throat to dry, the dry throat caused you to stop at 7-11, stopping at 7-11 caused you to meet up with a friend and make plans; this caused you to be given an opportunity to obtain a much sought-after scimitar. None of this was coincidence, it was a series of direct causal relationships that all served a purpose.

Another, more significant, example might be the following. Suppose you stubbed your toe, but the following day you wake up to find that your toe still hurts and has become swollen. This goes on for awhile until you decide to go to a doctor. During this doctor visit, your physician recommends a standard physical as you have not had one for quite some time. During this routine examination, cancer is discovered. Luckily, it was caught early enough that treatment proves viable. If you had not stubbed your toe, you would have not gone to the doctor and treatment may not have been as successful if the cancer was discovered much later.

These things happened because you were meant to buy that scimitar or discover your health issue. The series of ‘coincidences’ were merely used by the universe as a means to an end. They were not merely random occurrences or accidents; they were meaningful events leading up to following events that were indeed meant to happen.

Magick also often works in the same way. If you were to do a spell for a job, a job would not simply ‘fall into your lap’, but you may receive an invitation to a party where you will meet a business owner who has an opening. Or perhaps you do a spell to keep a harmful person away from you. A week later, you hear that this person was offered an opportunity to move to another state, and they were doing so. This is not coincidence, it is the manifestation of your magickal work.

Everything that happens to you, no matter how large or small, is all part of a higher purpose. Nothing happens merely by accident. Nothing is without meaning or purpose. Recognize this, and you will become aware of just how perfect the universe is and how magickal the workings of it truly are.

Lessons from Paranorman

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Paranorman tattoo

There are several lessons, both magickal and mundane, to be learned from the 2012 film ‘Paranorman’. The setting, Blithe Hollows, MA, is clearly based off of Salem, MA, with the witch trials and subsequent unjust executions as a central theme. The story follows a boy, Norman, who is ostracized from his community for his interest in the paranormal and his ability to communicate with spirits. The people of his town, along with his own family, bully him relentlessly for being ‘weird’. Like so many in the real world, they are simply afraid of what they do not understand. It is not until he uses his abilities to save the town that people finally celebrate him and his gift.

For those who are deemed ‘normal’ by mainstream society, Paranorman teaches acceptance and respect for those who are deemed ‘weird’. For the purposes of this article, however, I will focus on lessons that can be learned for those who are themselves the ‘weird’ ones.

First, Paranorman teaches self-acceptance. Unique abilities, style, and worldview are gifts that should be embraced. They may even be used to serve the community as a whole by doing something no one else is able to. You should have confidence in yourself and not allow others to dictate how you think or act.

This brings us to the next lesson, forgiveness and understanding. It is important to understand that those who act in a hostile manner toward you because of your differences are doing so only because they are fearful of what they don’t understand. By understanding this, we realize that their actions are often a reflection of their own insecurities, rather than a reflection on you. This understanding can lead to forgiveness. It is important to remember that forgiveness is best when it is done for your benefit. When you forgive, you are releasing negative feelings that do not serve you, such as anger and hatred. In this way, forgiveness is in your best interest, not only in the interest of the other party.

Finally, we learn that it is best to act kindly to others, even if they act unkindly to you. When you treat someone poorly, you are only giving them further reasons to treat you badly. However, when we treat others with unconditional love and kindness, we show them that even though we are ‘weird’, we are not bad people. This is especially important for those of us in the magickal community. There are still many people under the unfortunate and false idea that we are evil devil worshippers. By treating these people kindly, we are showing them that we are good people. We are taking fuel from their fire; their accusations of us being evil become even less reputable when we display acts of love and kindness.

Others, while perhaps not considering us evil, will still consider us weird. It is our job to show them that being ‘weird’ is not a bad thing. It just means that we have our own styles, ways of thinking, abilities, or spiritual practices. Showing these people that while we are different in some ways, we are not dangerous or threatening. We may look and believe differently, but we are still humans who treat others with kindness, and there is no reason to fear us.

This is not to say that we should be pushovers and not stand up for ourselves, quite the contrary. We must remember to be proud of who we are and continue to be ourselves. However, when confronted with hostility, we must combat it with love. Understand that these people are only attacking us because they are afraid of what they don’t understand. Prove to them that you are not a bad person. Fighting fire with fire only burns the whole world; fighting fire with water will eliminate the destructive force and bring peace. Be the water and extinguish the hate with love. And above all, never be afraid to be who you are.

A Word on Catholicism

Catholics are often criticized by many groups, including Pagans, atheists, and other Christian sects. The reason for this seems to stem from the idea that Catholics are particularly strict and repressive. But is it really fair to label them as such. In this article, we will examine why it may not be wise to put Catholics under particular scrutiny.

First, a personal background. I was raised Catholic. I went to Catholic school for nine years (Kindergarten-8th grade). However, my family were not strict Catholics by any means and completely accept my path as a Wiccan. They sent their kids to Catholic school mainly for the idea that it was a better education. The school I went to was also fairly liberal. Some of my fellow students were openly gay or atheist, and were for the most part accepted. We also partook in the same shenanigans as any other school-aged kids. Looking back, I do believe I received a very good education and am thankful for my time spent there.

A common belief about Catholics is that they are particularly repressive when compared to other groups. However, there really is not much truth to this. A Catholic priest will never hold a mass where he condemns homosexuals or nonbelievers to hell. He will also never command parents to beat their children for disobedience or as a method to ‘break their will’. Other Christian sects, particularly evangelicals and Baptists, do in fact support such radical and dangerous ideas.

I have never been told by a Catholic that I am going to hell, whereas I have lost count on how many times I’ve been condemned by protestants. In fact, a true Catholic knows that they do not have the authority to make such a claim. Not even the Pope can say if a particular person or group will go to hell. The true message of the Catholic Church is love and compassion, as opposed to the fire and brimstone message of many protestant sects.

The criticism that Catholics receive is not wholly earned. It is based off of many preconceived notions that for the most part are simply untrue. I do not share their theological beliefs, but I can respect them as a group that does not preach hate or eternal damnation. As I often say, IF I was a Christian, I’d be a Catholic.

Expanding Consciousness Through Symbolism: Ants

As anyone who practices Magick is well aware, symbolism is a very powerful tool. Spells and rituals employ a wide range of symbols to charge and direct energy. Today I will demonstrate how we can expand our consciousness through symbols and our associations with them.

Oftentimes when reading books on spirituality, or in other areas such as psychology, a list of symbols will be presented and we are asked to give a list of things or ideas that we associate with that symbol. In this article I will focus on a symbol that at first may seem peculiar, the ant.

When asked what one associates with ‘ant’, many will say such things as ‘small’ and ‘insignificant’. They may think that because the ant is so small compared to them, that it is essentially meaningless and holds no great power. I will argue that this view is flawed, and by looking deeper into the symbolism of the ant, one can expand their perception of the world.

Although ants are indeed small in size (at least when compared to ourselves or other, much larger animals), this does not mean that they are simple or insignificant. Ants are in fact complex beings with their own functioning society, or colony. Colonies can be small with only a few dozen members, or very large with millions of members. No matter their size, ants work with one another to make their communities thrive. They will skillfully coordinate with one another, leading other worker ants to food, or alerting others to danger, such as to a group of ants from another colony or an animal who may be there looking for food. They also work together to build their colonies, which often include a complex, practical tunneling system. By doing these things, ants are able to create a thriving society, just as humans do.

As we can see, ants are far from being mindless beings who wander around aimlessly until death. Much can be learned from recognizing this. By appreciating the complexity of something that we may otherwise view as insignificance, our perception of the world widens. We acquire a deeper respect for the world around us and everything that it is made up of.  This can be applied to all areas of our lives. By understanding that things are much more significant than they appear to be on the surface, we expand our conscious understanding of the universe and everything in it.