Pagan RulesI can hear you already... "Rules?!? What you mean, "Rules"? I'm a Pagan! If I wanted rules I would have stayed a __________ (fill in the blank with whatever organized religion you may have left). Besides, I'm a Solitaire! I do my rituals alone. What do I need rules for?" Fair question...
The answer is simple: Without Rules, we are left without guidance. Forming them into set sentences and including them in your tradition's Book of Shadows ensures that you can study them at your leisure, and refer to them for guidance.
It's all very well to say, "I won't do this, and I'll remember to do that." and, indeed, you DO have all intentions of remembering. However, we are human, and we do forget Having a set of laws in written form is a great memory booster.
Virtually every religion gives their followers a set of guidelines or rules of conduct. In such laws we often find the true nature of the faith, (which can sometimes be quite different from the actual actions of many of its representatives.)
Wicca possesses not one but several sets of such rules. The most famous of these, which has been published in several forms, originated from what is now known as Gardnerian Wicca.
Many other versions exist, and some covens create their own set of laws for use by its members. Underlying all such rules is one basic concept that is also adhered to by virtually all Pagans: "Harm None".
Follow are some examples of guidelines for Laws of interest to Solitary Practitioners. Remember, these are guidelines. You need to get out your trusty notebooks and think hard on each subject. Then, write what YOUR rules are.
Sometimes lists times and dates of ritual observances; more generally, At the very least, your laws should state that the Goddess and God are deserving of worship, and remind you to be worshipful. Such words might appear in the beginning of the law. You may also list times and dates of ritual observances. Are you going to have daily morning and/or evening devotionals? Are you going to observe certain days dedicated to certain aspects of the Goddess and/o God, or your Patron? These are just some of the questions you need to ask yourself.
This is the central, unifying theme of most laws: We simply do not cause harm to others. This law, in some form or another, should be in your set. But, you need to consider just what "Harm None" means to you. Does it extend to stopping or preventing harm being caused to someone by another? What sort of harm? Emotional? Physical? Financial? If this rule is broken, either intentionally or unintentionally, what reparations need be made, if any? Once you start thinking on this subject, you may very well fill up pages in your notebook!
Many laws state that blood is not to be shed within the circle, no ritual animal sacrifices may be made. 'Nuff said. Get it in writing!
USE OF MAGIC:
Some generally state that magic is not to be worked for pay, (for it could lead to performing destructive rites) and that magic is also never to be used to boost one's bride or to cause harm in any way. However, some sets of laws to allow for the use of 'the power' (i.e.,magic) to 'prevent or restrain' others from causing harm. (generally known as binding). Some state that one cannot use magic for their own "gain". (Although, personally, I find this unrealistic and unreasonable.) How do you feel about the use of magic?
Such laws warn Pagans not to boast or threaten others, and to treat other - Pagans and non-Pagans - with kindness and compassion. In addition, some laws state that Pagans must not use drugs within or without the circle; must not gossip about others, and mustn't interfere with the teachings of other Pagans. (It never hurts to include such messages in you laws. Though you may be the only one to read these reminders of the importance of kindness, the message may, at times, be necessary.) Remember, your rules are not just to give guidelines within circle or during ritual, but also in your daily lives. How you conduct yourself in the "mundane" world influences how the rest of the world views Pagans and Paganism in general. It is all well and fine to campaign for acceptance in the courts and the media, but to really gain acceptance, we must act acceptable!
Some laws state that all who express interest in Paganism should be taught, unless they misuse their instructions. Such laws have largely been either dropped or reinterpreted. Truly following them today could lead to each Pagan teaching hundreds of students, which would result in poor lessons and, thus, poorly-instructed students. Such laws simply aren't practical in today's world when so many clamor for teachings, especially on the internet! On the other hand, you may not feel qualified to teach, especially if you are just finding your path yourself. Myself, rather than "teach" I gladly "share knowledge". I try not to presume to tell someone how to believe, or what to do, but AM willing to share what I have learned, either from others, or my own experience. Examine your own feelings on this, and decide accordingly.
KEEPING THE LAW:
Pagans are reminded to keep the law and not allow it to be broken. (Sound advice. This usually appears near the end of the law.)
THE LOVE OF THE GODDESS AND THE GOD:
A gentle reminder that we are not alone. (Generally, it's best to begin and to end the law with confirmations of Their love and concern.)
Using the above outlines of laws, you can come up with your own. Their precise form, and their method of presentation, is completely up to you. Your laws can be numbered or not. They can be written in rhyming couplets or in prose. Use whichever style suits you.
Here are three versions, that Scott Cunningham has written, and I have adapted to my own. The first is partially based on the above analyses, the second is adapted from "Wicca: a Guide for the Solitary Practitioner:, as is the third, which deals exclusively with magic.
I follow the Old Ways, I walk with the Goddess and God and receive Their love.
I will keep the Sabbats and Esbats to the best of my abilities, for to do otherwise is to lessen your connections with the Divine. Should I not be able to perform a full rite, I will at least take time to silently remember, and thank the Goddess and God.
Harm none. This, the oldest law, is not open to change. In harming none, I shall also endeavor to prevent harm to the best of my abilities.
I will not shed blood in ritual, The Goddess and God do not need blood to be worshipped.
I shall be kind to all creatures, for hurtful thoughts and deeds are quite draining and are not worth the loss of energy.
Misery is self-created; as is joy, so I shall create joy and distain misery and unhappiness. This is within my power. Harm not.
I shall not teach others but will share information, to the best of my ability, to those students I choose. I will not share information with those who would use this information for destruction or control. I will not do this to boost pride, for one who shares for vanity or glory shall take little pride in their handiwork, one who shares out of love embodies the Goddess and God.
Ever remember, keep the Law close to your heart, this is my nature.
If ever the need arises, any law may be changed, or discarded, and new laws written to replace them, so long as the new laws don't break the oldest law of all: Harm none.
May the Blessings of the God and Goddess be on me always.
Whenever possible, I shall hold my rites in wooded areas or on the beach. If this is impossible, a garden or a private room shall suffice, if it is readied with incense or flowers and well cleansed.
I shall Seek out wisdom in in all forms: Books, Friends and also in stones and herbs and in the songs wild birds. I shall listen to the whisper of the wind and the roar of water if I am to discover magic, it is here that the old secrets are kept. Books contain words but trees contain energies and wisdom books never imagined.
I shall always remember that the Old Ways are constantly revealing themselves. So I shall be as the willow that bends and sways with the wind. That which remains unbending shall be broken, but that which bends will survive and grow.
I shall not mock the rituals or spells of another, for who am I to say mine are greater in power or wisdom?
I shall endeavor to ensure that my actions are honorable, for all that I do shall return to me three-fold, good or bane.
I shall beware any who would try to spiritually dominate me, who would try to control and manipulate my workings and reverences. True reverence for the Goddess and God occurs within. I will look with suspicion on any who would twist worship from me for their own gain and glory, but I will welcome those who are suffused with love.
Honor all living things, for we are all of the same family: The universe. I shall endeavor to destroy no life, unless it threatens that of another.
And this is the nature of my way.
The Power shall not be used to bring harm, to injure or control others. But if the need arises, the Power shall be used to protect my life or the lives of others.
The Power is used only as need dictates. It is not to be used frivolously.
The Power can be used for my own gain, as long as by doing so I harm none.
It is forbidden to accept money for use of the Power, for it quickly controls its taker. Gifts of the Goddess and God are to be given as gifts to others. Accepting gifts from others for works done in their behalf is acceptable, providing those gifts are not solicited.
Do not use the Power for prideful gain, for such cheapens the mysteries of magic.
Ever remember that the Power is the sacred gift of the Goddess and God, and should never be misused or abused.
Most Craft laws are secret, and can't be published in any form. However, the above examples included here should provide you with enough information to start to create your own laws.