You may wonder, as you study Wicca and develop some proficiency in Magick, what is to stop you from imposing your will on others or using Magick for extremely selfish ends. There is, of course, the Wiccan Rede and the Three-fold Law. These are externalizations of a sense of ethics, deeply held beliefs that should give Wiccans a moral foundation from which to proceed. In addition, a liberal dash of good old-fashioned common sense is always a good idea.
There is a responsibility on the practitioner of Witchcraft to be as certain as possible that the spell or ritual to be performed does not impede anyone’s free will. Fortunately, it is usually not difficult to determine if your Magick or spell-casting is ethical. Here are some points to consider:
- Ask yourself is the magick really necessary?
Have you tried all the everyday means to accomplish the purpose? Remember, the Gods do indeed help those who help themselves. For example, it's not a great idea to cast a spell to get rid of the flu if you haven't been to see your doctor!
If you’re satisfied that you have done all you can by mundane means, then proceed with your spell or ritual. Be sure, though, that the result you are trying to accomplish is what you really want and that you’re prepared to live with the result. Formulate carefully, in your mind, your intent and then verbally state it clearly. Know exactly what you want to accomplish and be precise in your wording.
- Will anyone be harmed as a result of your spell-casting?
This is the most important question to be answered. 'Harm' in this sense means things such as impeding someone's free will, causing physical injury or discomfort (including 'revenge'), or interfering with another person's destiny. This is distinguished from 'hurt' - sometimes it is necessary to hurt in order to help. Extracting an abscessed tooth is certainly going to hurt, for example, but leaving it in would be far worse.
If you have any doubt in your mind, it's usually best not to do the spell. Indeed, such doubt would probably negate your work anyway. Don't do anything you don't 'want on your karma', or that you wouldn't want done to you. No matter what the purpose, there is almost always a positive way to accomplish it, and you must find this positive way. Always strive to think through the implications of your magick, and be guided by your conscience.
- Do you know all sides of the situation in question?
Many times a Wiccan may be pressured to perform a spell or ritual in order to "fix" a situation. Don’t do it until you've done your homework. Gather as much information about the situation as you can. Weigh that information, use your judgment and common sense, and then make your decision. Do not allow anyone else to make that decision for you – it's your karma, remember. You may decide that you can indeed help, but other times you may realize it's better not to act at all.
Of course, you must be ready and willing to take complete responsibility for the results of your working. If you aren't, then do not work the spell. No one can relieve you of that responsibility. Your powers are yours and you must always be responsible for them. In Witchcraft there are no 'the devil made me do it' excuses. Accepting responsibility for one's actions is a true mark of the Witch (and a beneficial attitude in mundane life). Also, it's always advisable to add, in the wording of your spells, a standard disclaimer that the end result of the spell be "for the good and happiness of all concerned", or words to that effect.
Another ethical point that is often raised is whether to perform Magick for yourself. Often, the old authorities advised against using Magick for "selfish" ends. While it can be preferable at times to make a request of fellow coveners, if you have a true need there is no reason to avoid working a spell for yourself. As someone once said, "It's very difficult to cast a Circle and honor the Gods when the landlord is banging on the door!"* Be careful what you ask for, of course; but if you have a sincere need or legitimate wish, then proceed with your spell.
Having read all this, you might feel that you should rarely, if ever, turn your hand toward practicing Magick. Nothing of the sort; Magick is a natural power and neither intrinsically good nor evil. Only your intent, and your ethics, make that choice. Keep a sense of ethics about you and practice Magick to your heart’s content.
Farrar, Janet and Stewart. The Witches' Way. Blaine, Washington: Phoenix Publishing, 1986
Leek, Sybil. The Complete Art of Witchcraft. New York: Signet Books, 1971
Valiente, Doreen. Witchcraft for Tomorrow. London: Robert Hale, 1989
*Personal conversations with Janet Christian of Shadow Dancers coven.