This is the first part in a series on a set of laws known as the Ordains.
The Ordains, as we know them today, can be found in the works of Gerald Gardener, the man scholars credit as the founder of Wicca. Depending on the source, these Ordains may contain anywhere from twenty to over eighty rules and guidelines that most practicing Wiccans have accepted for generations. The Ordains have, over the years, morphed into various versions. Maiden’s Circle uses a simplified version that has been edited and altered to reflect our core beliefs.
Every version I’ve read begins with the same specific line. You may recognize this rule. You’ve heard it echoed in various Pagan tenets and groups, and it’s the basis of my own practice.
“An ye harm none, do as ye will.”
Like the phrase “Blessed be” and a powerful devotion to the number three, this statement pervades throughout most Pagan circles I’ve participated in. It lives in the core of Wicca and remains a constant influence over how I choose to live my life.
The idea of what this phrase means to me, however, has changed drastically from when I was 14. And there was a time when it meant nothing at all.
At first, I took it to the extreme—something I believe many of us do. It got to the point that I was so intent on saving nature that I couldn’t stop to appreciate it.
A year later, my world-view took on a more nihilistic color. Nothing seemed to matter, and “do as ye will” shone a little brighter than the “harm none” that precedes it. I stuck in that mindset for a few years.
Now, though, I think I’ve found a healthy medium. “An ye harm none, do as ye will,” without the archaic language, boils down to: “So long as you harm none, you may live as you choose.” However, the world we live in complicates that sentiment.
Simply by existing in the modern world means we’re complicit in the harm of someone somewhere. While we are all responsible for improving the situation, the task doesn’t lie on the head of any singular person. Not you and not me.
“Harm none” doesn’t mean you have to go off-grid and live in a minimalist box.
Sure, in my ideal world every single person would live in a self-sustaining home powered by wind and sun with gardens both inside and all around the neighborhoods. No one should be homeless. No one should go hungry. And I won’t believe anyone who tells me we don’t have the resources.
My ideal world isn’t yet a reality. Someday, I hope we get there, but for now, I must do what I can. In my actions and words, I try to limit the direct harm I cause any other living being.
I fail a lot. Even when my intentions are to help, things don’t always play out that way. People get hurt, including me.
In my evolving understanding of “An ye harm none, do as ye will,” I’ve had to take frequent looks at my own flaws and misbehaviors. There are many moments in my past I’m not entirely proud of. There will be more in the future.
The key to not letting guilt or shame overwhelm me is in forgiveness. So long as I do my best to be a good person and try not to actively hurt anyone… So long as I work towards helping others heal and keep love in my heart, I can forgive myself when I mess up.
“An ye harm none, do as ye will” isn’t a call for perfection. Nor is it permission for bad behavior or recklessness. We can’t turn a blind eye to our own misdeeds under the guise of “I’m not trying to hurt anyone.”
This is certainly true on my end. The way for me to honor this important guideline is to continue to do my best. I must not only actively avoid harming other living beings, but I need to regularly look at my failings in order to learn how to be a better person.
The first Law reminds me of this. Showing up in both the Wiccan Rede and the Witches Creed, it is the main tenet of the Wiccan practice. Therefore, it’s a constant guide in my life.
What does it mean to you to “harm none”? Leave a comment here or a message on Facebook. I’m dying to hear from you!
Lady Morgana Brighid HP MCCA
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