Ahimsa & Wicca

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Ahimsa is a philosophical concept that translates literally into ‘not to strike’. It is also generally interpreted as meaning ‘non-violence’ and ‘compassion’. It is mostly associated with Eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Of these three, Jainism has the most strict interpretation and adherence. For many Jains, this means not even perpetrating violence for self-defense, and certainly not in war. Of course, one does not need to be a follower of these religions to practice Ahimsa.

Ahimsa means practicing compassion and non-violence toward all living things. In even the loosest interpretation, very few, if any, exceptions can be made. Humans are not held at a higher regard than non-human animals, thus the killing of animals and consumption of meat is strictly forbidden. Violence toward those who themselves perpetrate violence is also prohibited. For example, a follower of Ahimsa shall not endorse the death penalty or any other violent punishment for any person convicted of committing a violent act. The only time an exception may be made is in the case of self-defense or the defense of another innocent person.

The theory behind Ahimsa is the belief that all life is sacred and connected. No one individual is more or less important than another, and therefore you shall cause no harm to a fellow living being. All life is also connected, so when violence is perpetrated against one, it is committed against all. Violence harms everyone, which is why we must refrain from it.

Wicca teaches a deep respect and reverence for nature and life. The most prominent line of the Wiccan Rede, ‘An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will’, only furthers this point. In this way, the philosophy of Ahimsa is compatible with the religion of Wicca. In order to have a respect for nature and life, we must refrain from harming it by practicing compassion and non-violence. The practice of Ahimsa promotes the greatest good, as violence has no positive outcome, as its only purpose is to cause harm to what we hold sacred.

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Wicca & Vegetarianism

*It is not my intention in writing this article to ‘force’ vegetarianism on anyone, but only to explore the relationship between Wicca and vegetarianism.* 

Many Wiccans are vegetarians; many are not. Some claim that one cannot be Wiccan while continuing to consume meat. Others argue that Wiccan principles support and justify omnivorism. I do not believe either of these to be true. For a period of time, I considered vegetarianism to be a tenet of Wicca, a core teaching that could not be deviated from. However, I realized that by doing so I would could risk alienating many who did not agree with this idea. I will always consider vegetarianism to be an important part of my life and practice, but no longer hold the idea that one MUST be vegetarian to identify as Wiccan.

I’ve been Vegetarian longer than I’ve been Wiccan (or at least formally identified as Wiccan). I chose vegetarianism based solely on ethical grounds. Health was not part of the equation, as I believe this to be an incredibly selfish reason to become vegetarian, and neither was spirituality. However, in the coming years the two would become increasingly intertwined. For the purpose of this article, I will focus on the relationship between Wicca and Vegetarianism, and less so on purely ethical issues.

The Wiccan Rede and Vegetarianism
I am a strict follower of the Wiccan Rede. I realize that others are not, but will write this through the perspective of someone who closely abides within the Law.

“Bide within the Law you must, in perfect Love and perfect Trust.
Live you must and let to live, fairly take and fairly give.”

“Live you must and let to live” clearly states that while we live, we must not take that right away from anyone else.

“Fairly take and fairly give” is a line that many use to justify the consumption of meat. They argue that this justifies taking animals from the earth for the need of survival. However, I would argue that doing so is hardly ‘fair’. We are no longer living in the wilderness fighting to survive by any means necessary. We live mainly sedentary lives and get the bulk of our food from supermarkets. Eating meat is no longer a necessity, thus does not qualify as ‘fairly taking’.

These Eight words the Rede fulfill:
‘An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will'”

Perhaps the most important line of the Wiccan Rede, “An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will” states that we are free to do as we please and to live our lives the way we choose, so long as doing so does not bring harm upon anyone. Eating meat causes harm to animals, there is no way around this. The methods used to slaughter animals are far from ethical (if any means of slaughter could ever be ethical); and by purchasing and consuming meat, we are contributing to this. Because eating meat is not a necessity, I do not believe that we have the right to cause harm on another living being in order to produce it. Again, this is my interpretation and strongly held belief. Explore this issue on your own and come to your own conclusion.

Vegetarianism and Spirituality

Everything carries with it energy, meat included. When we consume something, we are also consuming its energy. I will not go into details of how meat is produced, as this is not the point of the article. But when such a high level of negative energy is generated, it will be attached to the product of what caused its generation. When meat is consumed, the negative energy associated with its production is consumed as well. This is not good for the spirit and will only hinder spirituality.

Many claim that once they stop eating meat, they become much more spiritually aware. This is because they are cleansing themselves of all that negative energy. This is not to say that those who eat meat cannot be spiritually aware or are somehow inferior as practitioners, but simply to suggest that vegetarianism can enhance your spiritual life.