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DISCUSSION: Opinions on the Threefold Law & The Wiccan Rede

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DISCUSSION: Opinions on the Threefold Law & The Wiccan Rede

Postby Vervain » Mon Oct 14, 2013 1:46 pm

The following is from a facebook note I wrote in March 2013. It was addressed to the general public and not only to pagans, so forgive me if I'm telling you things you already know. I'm interested to hear your takes on the subject.

-------------------------------------------------

I realized I was a Wiccan sometime late in middle school, and overall I've been very happy with my decision to walk down that path. However, over the eight-odd years I've been stewing in the religion, I've come to realize that there are parts of what I started with that don't make sense to me. It's natural for this to happen, and it's certainly not something that worries me--I don't call myself Wiccan because I need to fit my beliefs in a box (I am a mostly solitary practitioner, after all), so it doesn't bother me when something doesn't quite fit into the box Gerald Gardner started building in the 1940s. However, it does give me something to think about.

The most recent thing that has come to bother me is the threefold law. If you're not familiar with it, it is:

Ever Mind The Rule Of Three
Three Times Your Acts Return To Thee
This Lesson Well, Thou Must Learn
Thou Only Gets What Thee Dost Earn

I like the idea that whatever you put out into the universe comes back to you, and that is indeed the heart of this concept. What I don't like is the idea that it happens in threes--it bothers me mathematically because if everything really happens in threes, you can just factor out the three and that's the same as everything happening in ones, which makes more sense to me and sounds a lot less like bullshit (pardon my French). I also don't like that it sounds like a reward/punishment system ("Thou only gets what thee dost earn") with some sort of immediacy. Furthermore, I don't like that it sounds like it was written by someone who wanted to write in Renaissance English but actually lived in the 20th century so didn't know how.

There is another version of the threefold law called the Law of Return, and this is something I like much better. Below is a rather lengthy quote from Catherine Noble Beyer (just another everyday practitioner who posts some of her thoughts on the interwebs), whose thoughts I find line up very closely with mine:

"The world does not work as simply as [the threefold law] make it sound. If it did we'd all be donating to charity like mad and reaping the rewards by the handful. The idea of things returning threefold is unnatural. According to the Law of Ecology (from biology class - as Wiccans we should be taking lessons from nature):
Everything is connected to everything else
Everything must go somewhere
Nature knows best
There is no such thing as a free lunch
But it is true that harm tends to beget harm, and it is true that one good turns deserves another: people remember a person's charity and are more likely to aid them in return. Hence, why I prefer to use the term "Law of Return" over "Threefold Law".
Let's also remember one of Newton's laws as another lesson from nature: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. "Opposite" does not mean that you receive bad for every good. It means what gets put out comes back. For instance, if you push upon a wall, the wall is actually pushing back with an equal amount of force - if it did not, it would fall over. That's straight from physics class."

If you're legitimately interested in this topic, I suggest you check out her whole article on the subject at http://wicca.cnbeyer.com/three.shtml

The only thing I require which the Threefold Law has and the Law of Return lacks is the benefit of being written in a short, rhyming ditty. The reason you hear rhyming spells from, say, the witches in Macbeth is that in this sort of practice there IS the belief that rhyme better connects a person to the universe--it forces rhythm and brings out the inner child, who is less sophisticated (here I make use of the original c. 1600 definition of sophisticated: "mixed with a foreign substance, impure; no longer simple or natural," etymonline.com) and therefore better able to participate in creative acts.

The simple solution to this problem is to write out the Law of Return in a short, rhyming ditty, so I did:

Of your actions ever wary be,
for all that derives is drawn to thee:
Water will wet, fire will burn,
and all you beget alike will return.


That's all.
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Re: Thoughts on the Threefold Law/Law of Return

Postby DPhoenix » Sun Oct 20, 2013 5:14 pm

vervain wrote:The simple solution to this problem is to write out the Law of Return in a short, rhyming ditty, so I did:

Of your actions ever wary be,
for all that derives is drawn to thee:
Water will wet, fire will burn,
and all you beget alike will return.


That's all.


I really like that rhyme!

I think the threefold law is more or less an arbitrary number to get the point across. I personally think the return has to do with how much energy you put into things & what kind of intent you have.
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Re: Thoughts on the Threefold Law/Law of Return

Postby Vervain » Sun Oct 20, 2013 7:27 pm

Thank you!
I quite agree. However, I find that the number three gets a lot of attention for being so arbitrary.
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Re: Thoughts on the Threefold Law/Law of Return

Postby DPhoenix » Tue Oct 22, 2013 3:52 pm

vervain wrote:Thank you!
I quite agree. However, I find that the number three gets a lot of attention for being so arbitrary.


That's true, the number 3 has always been a sacred number in so many different religions. That's probably why that number was chosen.
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Re: Thoughts on the Threefold Law/Law of Return

Postby Vervain » Tue Oct 22, 2013 5:06 pm

I think the number three makes sense in a lot of situations--beginning, middle, ending; maiden, mother, crone; father, son, holy spirit; body, mind, spirit; thought, word, deed... the list goes on. But when every energy put into the universe gets multiplied by the same number, it doesn't matter what that number is. Say I put out 4 units of good energy into the universe and 1 unit of bad energy (assuming, which I don't, that energy can be simply "good" or "bad"). The threefold law says that I should get back 12 units of good energy (4x3) and 3 units of bad energy (1x3). But if we look at this as a ratio of good energy to bad energy, then input:output is 4/1:12/3, and if you divide the output by 3/3 (which is just a fancy 1), you get 4/1:4/1. So, the threefold law is just a fancy way of saying that the amount of each type of energy the universe throws at you is directly proportionate to the amount of that type of energy you put out into the universe. Essentially, the problem I have with the threefold law is mathematical, not philosophical. I understand, if they were going to choose an arbitrary number, WHY they would choose 3--I just don't understand why a number had to be chosen if it was going to be completely arbitrary anyway.
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Re: Thoughts on the Threefold Law/Law of Return

Postby Heartsong » Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:40 pm

Perhaps purely for the poetic romance associated with the number three?
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Re: Thoughts on the Threefold Law/Law of Return

Postby Vervain » Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:05 pm

I can see we're at an impasse, but that's alright.
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Re: Thoughts on the Threefold Law/Law of Return

Postby Heartsong » Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:20 pm

I just meant that if they HAD to pick a number, three would have been it, maybe for that purpose. I understand your point, though, and I like your rhyme much better. :)
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Re: Thoughts on the Threefold Law/Law of Return

Postby Vervain » Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:23 pm

I don't mean to be arguing, and I'm certainly not insisting that anyone like my rhyme better--I just wanted to express my puzzlement and propose a solution.
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Re: Thoughts on the Threefold Law/Law of Return

Postby DPhoenix » Wed Oct 23, 2013 9:15 pm

So... you're looking for a mathematical solution to calculate the return on a person's actions via the 3 fold law? Might need a rocket scientist/physicist for that. :)
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Re: Thoughts on the Threefold Law/Law of Return

Postby Vervain » Wed Oct 23, 2013 9:37 pm

DPhoenix wrote:So... you're looking for a mathematical solution to calculate the return on a person's actions via the 3 fold law? Might need a rocket scientist/physicist for that. :)


No, I'm not. I think the idea that there is or might be a mathematical solution is silly.

Because I think it is silly, I proposed a rhyme which does not deal in mathematical solutions.

That is all.
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Re: Thoughts on the Threefold Law/Law of Return

Postby firebirdflys » Thu Oct 24, 2013 12:16 am

Vervain, I like the rhyme very much :D
...I think three is important when requesting things or casting circle....but to me the reason three is powerful, is that when considering structure, it takes 3, you can't build a lean-to with one or two sticks, it takes at least three to make it happen, it is the smallest possible denominator to make a form.
vervain wrote:Ever Mind The Rule Of Three
Three Times Your Acts Return To Thee
This Lesson Well, Thou Must Learn
Thou Only Gets What Thee Dost Earn

Ya,... thy floral words doth not serveth thee... I think I have heard several versions of this, but I think the point is the 3x3, which add to nine, and I think that is really the more important number...like it is code to the magic number 9. (the gestation period thus the key to life)
Ever mind the law of three or as the law is three by three.
I'm not really sure that things return in three, sometimes it is more...like when I made a ding in someones car and didn't leave my name ( I was in a rental and panicked :| ) I have definitely reaped mine, at least three times but more like 9, or even more! I think it is a reminder to live upright and conscientious life...a way to be...eh, moral if you will. Like, you may only get it back once, but it might also come back you again and again and again and again.
Another thing with three,... it has been said that if you really want something, you must request it thrice. :fairy:
With this rhyme, "as the law is three by three, as I do will so mote it be", one will use the word 3 which will add to 9 and the rhyme is 15 syllables that adds to 6. In magic there is much more math and numerology than I would like, so I have a terrible time with that whole aspect, but it does fascinate me halfsm .
interesting topic...
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Re: Thoughts on the Threefold Law/Law of Return

Postby Kyrie » Mon Dec 09, 2013 9:52 am

I do believe in the Law of Return....however, I see no need to tack on a multiplier.
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Your Opinions on the Rede and the Threefold Law

Postby Kyrie » Wed Jan 15, 2014 5:42 am

This subject has been brought up many times. But seeing as how it is the "foundation" of Wicca, I think it's important, especially for beginners, to really think about whey they do or do not adopt it into their belief structure.

This article raises a lot of good questions about the Rede and the Threefold Law. I wanted to post it here to get everyone's opinions on both the article and the Rede/Threefold Law.

http://www.llewellyn.com/blog/2013/06/is-the-wiccan-rede-ethical/

There are things in this article that I don't necessarily agree with, but whether or not you agree with it 100%, it brings up some good points that we need to think about and consider. I don't try to follow either the Rede or the Threefold Law to the letter because that would be impossible. My whole theory is don't go out of your way to hurt someone with the exception being in cases where the welfare of yourself, your family, or your home are at stake. I do believe that you reap what you sow....if not in this life, in the next. However, I don't see the need to tack on a multiplier.

Well, that's my beliefs.. I'm just curious as to what everyone else thinks on this subject.

Also, I'm sure there's going to be at least ONE person that says "Well, you aren't truly a Wiccan unless you follow the Rede." And to this person, I ask: Why? What brought you to that conclusion?

Edit: Another question I would like to open up for discussion - In your opinion, does the Rede (whether you follow it or not) apply to both the magical and the mundane or just the magical?
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Re: Your Opinions on the Rede and the Threefold Law

Postby Philomena » Wed Jan 15, 2014 7:19 am

I have my own mixed beliefs when it come to this. I agree with karma ''You are free to do whatever you want in life,
but you are responsible for whatever you do.'' However, I also strongly believe in the law of return. I don't follow any 'law' or 'rede' per say, I just try to be a make responsible choices and be fair to everyone. I will and have never used any spell to sway someone one way or another. Why? Because I don't think it fair to control someone's freewill. If they have done me wrong, and I feel passionately about this, I have faith in the basics of law of return and that it effects everyone. I also try to be good to all aspects of nature. No one is perfect, that is where 'intention' comes in for me. Everyone makes mistakes, just as long as you try to make good choices and have good intentions you would be a pretty good person in my book. This is a very good article btw :)
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