An It Harm None: What To Do When Harm Is Caused?


Okay so my question is since one of the most basic Wiccan morals/ beliefs is the “harm none” concept I was curious about two different things. 1. What should you do other than accept the consequences when harm has been done through one of your actions? 2. What is to be done when another inflicts harm on you? Nothing? Just curious because I haven’t see this clearly stated anywhere.

The thing with “harm none” is that it has been grossly misinterpreted and misrepresented by so many people over the years that, in most cases, what the average person thinks it means is likely vastly different than what it actually is supposed to mean. So we’ll start with that, just to lay out the basics.

First and foremost, at no point (ever), does the Wiccan Rede prohibit one from causing harm, and in fact, it is literally impossible for any of us to go through life without causing harm to someone or something. The Rede, which in full states ‘An it harm none, do what ye will, simply tells us that if it doesn’t cause harm, we can do whatever we want. But nowhere in that statement does it say if it causes harm, don’t do it. The actual point of it all, is for one to carefully consider their actions before taking them, and to be willing to accept the potential consequences of such actions – for good or bad. In the end however, if one feels that a harmful action is justified/necessary, and is willing to accept the consequences, then there is nothing preventing them from taking the action. For more information on the history and meaning of the Wiccan Rede, I suggest reading The Wiccan Rede: A Historical Journey.

To your specific questions…

(1) If the harm was unintentional, we still need to accept the consequences and acknowledge that harm was done. Then we need to look for ways that we can make reparations (if possible). Saying “sorry” often makes us feel better, but in many cases it does nothing for those we have hurt. Taking actual positive action (assuming that there is one that can be taken), is the best choice.

If the harm was intentional, hopefully we thought carefully before taking the action and were able to anticipate the consequences and are prepared for them. If it’s something that we had considered, again – part of that consideration would be pre-planning what to do. Generally though, if those consequences occur in a way that were unanticipated (maybe we didn’t think carefully enough beforehand) or in some other way cause more harm than we were intending, we should refer back to the info on what to do when causing unintentional harm. Otherwise, if we have intentionally harmed someone/something, then there is nothing else to do as we’ve accomplished what we set out to do.

(2) The answer to this one is really going to depend on the individual. Some will look for positive ways to counteract the harm (such as shielding or looking for ways to invoke justice being served, etc…), while others will 100% strike back as hard and fast as they can with every curse and hex available, and some may be a mix of both. Since there is absolutely nothing preventing anyone from defending themselves and protecting others from harm, at least in terms of the Rede, if one feels that they need to take a harmful action in response to something that has been done to them (and again, being willing to accept any consequences) – then they should take it.

Personally, in the rare times that I feel that they may be necessary, I prefer “curses” that are sort of all purpose – like a “may you get everything that’s coming to you” sort of a thing. That way if they don’t do anything wrong, they have nothing to worry about (and it could even send positive things their way if they are doing good), but if they are doing harm to others, then anything negative that bounces back on them will be a result of their own actions. It doesn’t absolve me of dealing with any potential consequences, but it does put a lot more of the onerous on them for instigating it in the first place.

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Consequences of Suicide within Pagan Religions


TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of suicide

NOTE: If you are depressed and contemplating suicide, please, please get help. If you have a trusted friend or family member, counselor, teacher, etc… that you can talk to, do so. Otherwise (in the US) you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at  1-800-273-8255 or chat online with someone who can help via IMAlive or CrisisChat. For international assistance you can check the International Suicide Prevention wiki for resources. No matter how bad things may seem right now, they will eventually get better. Taking your own life is not the best solution, and there are people out there who can help.

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Hello, I’ve had this question for a few months now and I’m still trying to find the right way to ask about it. I’ve been looking up people to ask, but it never seems to work. When I found you, I got excited. If you commit Suicide, will you not be welcomed in by the Great Mother and Great Father? I’ve been told that if you commit suicide out of Deep Depression, you wont be loved or forgiven by the divine. I’m sorry if the question makes you feel uncomfortable, but I had to ask.

Thank you.

 

Within Abrahamic religions (and potentially others as well) the main issue that many will cite in terms of “forgiveness” is that you have to, not only ask for it directly, but also be truly repentant – neither of which one can do if they have already passed beyond the mortal/physical world. However others feel that in the end, it is one’s actions during their life (outside of that final moment), which will better determine whether or not there is love and forgiveness when they are received by God.

As many have come to Paganism from an Abrahamic religion, they will often carry over some of these beliefs, even if they are not necessarily relevant to their current path. The more relevant issue within Paganism though, is which Pagan religion? As, not all believe the same things, or may even have a particular stance on suicide. In general, in terms of NeoPaganism, you will probably find a very wide variety of personal opinions on the subject – ranging from it’s your life, do what you want, to extremely strict interpretations of the “rede” which equate an it harm none to mean don’t harm anything ever (including yourself).

Keep in mind too though that Wicca, and those paths that are inspired by Wicca are often about taking responsibility for one’s actions in the “here and now”, rather than preaching the concepts of “Hell” or divine retribution. So what we do on Earth, during our life (including ending such life), has little bearing on the afterlife. For those who believe in reincarnation – it may set the course for additional lessons that one may need to “learn” in a future life (if one believes in such things).

Within other Pagan traditions, again it varies. For example, Norse lore offers multiple examples of suicides occurring, and typically those who committed such would go to Helheim in the afterlife. As this is where most of the dead would go (outside of those killed in battle – who went with Odinn and Freyja), it was clearly not any sort of punishment or lack of love/forgiveness that got one sent there. Within Kemeticism, when one dies, their heart is weighed against Ma’at’s feather, and those who are found unworthy would stay in Duat, while the others would move onto the afterlife in Aaru. There are no specific prohibitions against suicide within the lore though, and again it’s more about having lived a virtuous life in general. Within Greek and Roman traditions, suicide was generally only condemned if done for petty reasons. Keep in mind too that for thousands of years some cultures upheld the practice of Sati, in which it was perfectly acceptable (or even encouraged/forced) for wives to kill themselves via immolation when their husbands died.

In the end (literally and figuratively), it’s really going to depend on your own beliefs on the subject. There is no clear rule or opinion, and even within the same traditions if you ask 20 people, you’ll probably get 20 different answers. My personal thoughts on the subject are this – any God or Goddess that one is devoted to, or has spent time serving or honoring, is not going to forget that devotion. So unless one spends their final days/hours completely repudiating said God/Goddess, when the time comes they will be welcoming. It’s entirely possible that they may express disappointment, if they don’t agree with the choice, but I do not think that they would withhold love because of it. The Gods know what is in our hearts, and particularly in the case of someone who has struggled with severe depression, or other mental illness for many years, it doesn’t follow they would punish someone for losing that battle.

 

ADDITIONAL NOTES: Suicide has been a hot topic the last few weeks in the wake of Robin Williams’ death. This question was actually submitted a day or so before that tragic event and I had been in the process of writing it up when I saw the news. The original intention, when we’d gotten the question, was to post the reply immediately, however with the flood of suicide and depression/bipolar related commentary that was suddenly going around, we felt that it would be better to wait (at least a little bit). It was an emotional time for many people, and this would give everyone a chance to process their grief and/or any feelings on the topic of suicide, without bombarding one more thing on top of it all. However, we also don’t want to let too much time pass, as it is a timely topic and for some people an important one. It’s also a sensitive subject for many though, so if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to let us know.

If anyone knows of more specific myths or lore which directly speak to the topic, relating to a particular culture or religion, please feel free to comment as well so that we can add it.

And again if you need help, never hesitate to ask for it. Particularly when one is depressed, it can often seem like there is no one who cares, but this is often just a symptom of the illness. There are people that care, and who can help. You are not alone.

 

TIP – Wiccan Rede


When it comes to Wicca, there are many aspects that are often misunderstood, and the the “Wiccan Rede” is a big one. Considering that it often incorporated into Neo-Pagan practices (without being properly understood), it’s sometimes a bit scary to contemplate the ways in which people attempt to apply it, not only to themselves, but to those around them. What many people don’t seem to realize is that the term “rede” simply means advice, which means that the “Wiccan Rede” is not an unbreakable law, or even a strict requirement – it is just exactly what it states it is… a bit of guidance along the path.

As to the “Rede” itself – “an ye harm none, do as ye will” (and yes it is just those 8 words, not the longer poem that many quote) it doesn’t actually tell us that we can’t cause harm, it just says – “if you harm none, do what you want”. So clearly not causing harm is acceptable, however if we look closely at that statement, at no point does it say “if it causes harm, don’t do it”. The truth is, that as long as one has carefully considered one’s actions and is willing to accept the consequences of taking those actions, then one can do whatever one feels is necessary. In the end, it’s all about taking responsibility for one’s actions, not about prohibiting a particular action when it is needed.

It is always acceptable to defend oneself from harm, and to protect one’s family and loved ones, and the Rede was definitely not meant to imply that one cannot do that. Too many people take it as some sort of blanket prohibition, which it really isn’t, and in truth it is impossible to go through life without causing harm to someone or something.

For more information on the origins of the Rede, and the meaning behind it, you can check out the following… The Wiccan Rede: A Historical Journey