You have probably noticed -astute students that you are!- that I have made little mention of the Gods and Goddesses in this series. In fact, early on I cautioned you to NOT make a commitment to the Old Ones just yet. There is a real reason for this and it is now time to discuss it.
There has been a small but insistent clamor lately from those who wonder why no one is teaching the “deeper” things of the Craft. The first reason is that these are difficult issues to write about. The second reason is that they are even more difficult to actually work through. And the third reason? (I’m Celtic-I think in threes!) These are the issues that will determine if Witchcraft is really the religion for you.
You may think that you are sure already. “Of course, Witchcraft is for me! Why would I have been studying this for a year and a day if I didn’t think this was my Path?”, you may exclaim. Well, hold off on that impassioned vow. A few more moments will not make a difference…or will it?
What you have been DOING so far is studying and practicing. What you have been LEARNING is what all this study and practice means to YOU. You have been forming your own sense of…
What is “Integrity”? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “integrity” means “The condition of having no part or element taken away or wanting; undivided or unbroken state; material wholeness; completeness; entirety.” Or better still, “The condition of not being marred or violated; unimpaired or uncorrupted; a condition of soundness.”
That is what you have been learning to do in the previous lessons. You have been doing exercises that have helped you to form your own ‘faculty of judgment’, your own ‘condition of soundness’. You have been working on building your personal integrity. You have to know what it is that you believe before you can make a decision on what is right or wrong for you.
Many problems that now exist in the Pagan community would probably never have come about if more people had taken the time and made the honest effort to find out if Witchcraft really was for them BEFORE they made a commitment to it. Instead they find themselves in situations where they are forced to either, 1. admit that they made a wrong choice, or 2. try to change the religion to fit them. Instead of Witchcraft transforming them, some attempt to transform Witchcraft to suit their particular needs and desires. They are ‘continually re-inventing’ Witchcraft and Wicca to suit themselves!
“A PROMISE IS A PROMISE”…
If you have decided that Wicca is your religion of choice, you have committed yourself to following its basic principles. One of these principles is, of course, the Rede. If you are promising to abide by the precepts of “And It Harm None..”, have you worked out what you would do if someone attacked you? Attacked your child? Does “harm none” mean you should become a vegetarian? Do you think that it is even possible to “harm none?” Well, that is what you are promising to do, isn’t it?
Traditional Witchcraft may not have a “Rede” of its own, but Witches were known as the “Wise Ones” for a good reason. They were respected. They were fair. They were healers. They helped the community. They changed things. They made good decisions. They didn’t promise what they could not deliver and they delivered what they promised. It is still the same today.
Too often folks make a promise in haste and then spend countless hours justifying why they had to break that promise “just this once” because of “conditions beyond their control.” They have their reasons-lots and lots of reasons. Truth is, they just didn’t give enough thought to their commitment BEFORE they made it. If you haven’t given serious thought and reflection to both the results and obligations contained within a promise, do not make one! And most certainly not to the Gods…
“If someone turned your body over to just any person who happened to meet you, you would be angry. But are you not ashamed that you turn over your own FACULTY OF JUDGMENT to whoever happens along…’-Epictetus
INTEGRITY REQUIRES THREE THINGS:
1. The ability to discern what is right and what is wrong.
This requires reflection, time and effort. It is a difficult process but one which cannot be avoided by anyone who truly wants to be a spiritual person. How much easier it is to find someone else to tell us what to do, what to read, what to think and how to act! But then, who would actually be living your life? Who would be in control? Who is pulling the strings? If you don’t think that you would enjoy being a puppet, then you simply must find out where your limits are, what you believe to be correct behavior and what you yourself are willing-and unwilling- to do.
Whether there is an “absolute” right or wrong is something that theologians and philosophers have been wrangling with for centuries. In fact the very thought that they could be wrong keeps many people from being willing to take a stand on anything at all!
The possibility that you may be wrong is lessened by careful study, investigation and thought. Of course, you may be honest about a belief. Later you may find out that you were honestly wrong! However, approaching each subject with an open mind; examining all the possibilities, answering all the ‘what ifs” will help you sort this out. Make no mistake about it, this is the most difficult process that you will ever undertake.
Most people and societies do agree that some things are just “more” right than others. (See “Teachers and Magickal Ethics” You need to find out the measure of your own “rightness quotient”. You need to do the work of creating your personal code of behavior and ethics. Then you can hold that as a standard for decisions on what religion, what group or what Path is correct for you. And you thought that just finding a coven was hard! Finding the right coven, the right place, the right religion can change your life for the better. The wrong choice can be devastating.
If you have not done this work, then you are basically leaving yourself open to follow anything or anyone -and to do anything that they tell you. Witchcraft and Wicca are religions of personal power and responsibility. If you are not willing to do the work of discernment and introspection-to formulate a set of integrated values for yourself-then Witchcraft and Wicca are probably not for you.
INTEGRITY MEANS DOING THE RIGHT THING:
2. Acting on what you have discerned even at personal cost.
Suppose the teacher that you have been studying with begins to introduce issues or behaviors that you just don’t feel are “right’. Suppose that you now find that having sexual relations are a part of this group’s workings? What if suddenly this loving coven wants you to do a death spell against someone who has given another covenmate a hard time? What about that “harm none’ thing? What if you do not want to participate in this activity? But what if, by refusing to participate, you can no longer be part of this group? What will you do?
You may have put a lot of time and effort into a group. You may have even been initiated or attained a degree. These people are your friends-maybe you even think of them as your ‘family.” Now you face losing all this and starting over. The group may say bad things about you if you leave. You may lose your friends and their support. You have to decide- do you stay and compromise your own code of right and wrong? Do you leave? Where is your soundness, your faculty of judgment, your integrity now?
The truth is that most of us cannot say whether we really possess integrity until we are tested on it. Doing what we believe to be right-determined by the hard work of reflective discernment-even when it becomes personally painful tells us if we indeed have it or not. Didn’t I tell you that there is ALWAYS a test? This is one. There will be others. Get used to it. Witchcraft and Wicca are religions that require that we as Witches and Wiccans are equal to the challenges that life brings our way. If you can easily compromise your ethical principles or can turn your back to what you know to be right action, then Witchcraft and Wicca are not for you.
INTEGRITY MEANS KEEPING YOUR COMMITMENTS:
3. You openly declare where you stand.
Now we finally get to the Gods and the Goddesses! Do you still think that you are prepared to stand before Them and pledge your life, your heart and your hands to Their service? For that is what the religion of Witchcraft and Wicca are all about-SERVICE.
- It is not about gaining power-although that will certainly be a part of your magickal life! It is about enabling others to learn ways to empower themselves.
- It is not about “getting more” for you-although you will benefit in untold ways. It is about “giving more” to others in Their Name.
- It is not about changing others to suit or cater to you-although others will find you nice to be around! It is about changing yourself, so that you are better equipped to do the work of the Old Ones on this Earth.
- It is not about fame-although others will seek you out. It is about being available to help those in need.
- It is not about pulling others down-although what is not working will fall before you. It is about building others up and creating new and healthy systems.
- It is not about financial wealth-although you will always feel “rich!” It is about sharing what you have with the rest of the community.
- It is about keeping promises, going the extra mile, doing what is correct and for the good of all. It is about uprightness, honor, truth, healing, giving and service.
- It is above all holding high the Names of the Old Ones, keeping to their Ways, honoring all Their children, caring for the Earth and being committed to carrying out whatever tasks that They have set upon you to do. It is about Integrity-Theirs, yours, ours.