Page 1 of 1

Fidelity and Legalism

Posted: Mon Mar 21, 2005 10:37 pm
by Vetle
"True in love must ye ever be,
lest thy love be false to thee."

I've been tempted many times in my life but this part of the Rede has always been my strength. Today I was thinking about it and decided to read the whole Rede again. I was satisfied when I read these two lines but then was disturbed at the next, and final, pair of lines:

"These eight words the wiccan rede fulfill;
An harm ye none, do what ye will."

These words are meant to be the embodiment of the entirety of the Rede and its message. In my opinion, it seems to create some loopholes in this situation. Say, for example, that your "love" is completely unaware of what's going on. What someone doesn't know can't hurt them. So would that warrant cheating?

It's not so much a personal dilemma as much as a moral dilemma. It's the fact that I've found that the code of ethics I've trusted the longest has a loophole. This makes me rather uncomfortable and a bit disturbed.

One of the things I like about paganism is the fact that the "spirit of the laws" is generally observed, as opposed to strict legalism. However, the epitome of the wiccan code of ethics (if you harm none, do what you will) is written in such a way as to imply a legalistic observation of the law.

This has been haunting my thoughts for a while now. I'd like to know everyone else's thoughts on this.

Posted: Tue Mar 22, 2005 7:32 am
by Kystar
Personally, I've always believed that it depends on your attitude towards sex vs love. My Antaine and I see them as connected, so we agreed to stay faithful. (And I'm not all that interseted in sex to mess around.)

However, I can see the point of view of "Sex isn't love. It's better when love is there, but it isn't the ultimate act of love." I've even got a set of characters in a story who have that opinion. Even though they're married to each other, they'll have the occassional fling for fun.

In some ancient cultures, they believed that love meant helping each other in everything, but that sex wasn't important, it was just a part of natural activity. It was a gift from the Goddess to be shared with many. So, no one really got upset when their mate was off banging someone else at a festival. Then again, they weren't aware of paternaty, they thought spirits mixed by the Goddess made kids. It made for a more diverse gene pool, I guess, so it helped.

anyways, I doubt this helps, but that's my POV.

Posted: Tue Mar 22, 2005 7:39 am
by Luciferish
Well, not being a strict follower of the Rede in general my opinion may not weigh very much here but we'll discuss "fidelity" as a whole as expressed in pagan laws and see where it goes.....

"True in love must ye ever be
Unless thy lover is false to thee"

Some would say this is a throw back to the victorian concept of relationships, but there are a few twists on it that remove the monogomist stigma from it.

From "The Pagan Laws" which is first seen published by Hanz Holzer:

"Thou shalt be free to love whomever thou please, so long as thy primary obligation to the home, family, and community are not neglected. "

This gives a little licence for Polyamory, which is quite popular in paganism. The idea here being that if you have obliged to marry or have relationships that you have a certain freedom based on agreements and vows taken to be flexible.

Another excerpt from the "Ancient Wiccan Laws" which are another of Gardner's brain children:

As a man loveth a woman by mastering her.
So the Wicca should love the Gods by mastering them.

This went out of the window in the 1960s and 1970s with Equal Rights, many feminist Wiccans and pagans reject this concept as a throwback to victorian concept. But in this concept "Mastering" is "Understanding" and should not be taken as many love to use it, as a dominant mastering, but as mastering a craft. To know all the details of a person and deity is how you can really refine your relationship with them. If a mate is going to have the desire to "cheat" then there should be some discussion and agreements made about this behavior. It should be an open understanding.

The most modernized and level version of these concepts from "The New Book of the Law" by Lady Galadriel, published in the late 1980s.

33. You should not couple together if it shall cause pain, jealousy or deprivation to another by doing so. Union for malice or evil reasons such as these upsets the balance, and the Lords of the Universe shall make adjustments accordingly.

34. Let those who would love, and would be as one, and bear child, be handfasted. For the sharing of love in this manner is beauteous and love’s union in the energy of the Gods, and the heritage of the child. It is important for children to know and to identify with those who brought them here.

35. The Law of the Goddess is that none of the Wicca shall take and wed someone who they do not love, whether it is to harm another, or for some form of material gain.

36. Remember that your children are Goddess-spawned, and are free spirits. You do not own nor control them. They are your brethren, come to visit for a while, that they may share in the vision of your love and wisdom. Let each parent realize that although they may teach and guide with love, the child shall also teach the parent, and aid them in their growth and lesson

This is probably the most comprehensive view of the "Pagan Love Life" I have seen yet and puts the focus on the real issue. It kind of changes the definition of "Faithful" to something that is a little more oriented towards concern of others rather than restrictions that are imposed by outside law. Which I personally think is much more holistic approach.

Wicca has this tendancy to mirror/reflect Christianity often, but since I am not a Wiccan I'll give you my personal take on the subject and let you chew on that as well.

Humans are animals, to deny the instincts of the animal side of our conciousness it to deny part of who and what we are. A witch should be 110% attuned to these insticts and must understand that the difference between Animals and Humans is how we react to them. If the urge to run and frolic with some cute young thing is in your blood, be honest about it, open to your mate and the person before you do anything. Establish the boundries by which you wish to be held and stick to them, then when the times come that you are compelled, you may work within the constraints of your own cage, not one imposed by someone external to yourself.

Posted: Tue Mar 22, 2005 4:31 pm
by Stormy
I think that the issues of sex and love are so vastly over wrought that it simply should be something that is openly discussed and agreed upon between those involved.
Luciferish's comment
Humans are animals, to deny the instincts of the animal side of our conciousness it to deny part of who and what we are. A witch should be 110% attuned to these insticts and must understand that the difference between Animals and Humans is how we react to them.
is so on the money, but I add my two cents to it.
We ARE animals, we DO have animal urges and instincts, like it or not, it's a part of us. If you spend all your time trying to pretend you don't have these intinctual urges or all your time trying to suppress them, you are, in essence, trying to kill a part of yourself. But it is true that it is how we react to them that sets us apart, not just from the animals, but from other people as well.
If one finds themselves in a position where they are "looking for a loophole" then it's high time to have a long heart to heart with one's mate, be honest and work things out. As pagans, not bound by the "burn in hell" ideals of fundimentalist religions, that working out could very well involve someone being allowed to "get it out of their system" so to speak. It may be all that is needed, and accepting that, then moving past it when it's over, can actually make a relationship stronger.

Just my two cents.


Posted: Tue Mar 22, 2005 8:24 pm
by Vetle
Perhaps I put forth the wrong intention in my wording. I wasn't looking for a loophole and certainly do not want to cheat on my girlfriend, as I love her very much. However, I just happened to notice that there was a loophole there. I never looked for one in the first place, though.

I find it interesting to hear such varied points of view on this one. It's great that people can "think outside the box," as it were. Though the things said here are not in the vein of traditional thought or morality, they were very well thought out and defended.

Like I said, it wasn't so much a personal crisis as much as a moral dilemma relating to morality in general, not necessarily fidelity, much less my own. I'm not looking for moral handouts. I just wanted to hear people's opinion on this. I was curious to know if anyone else has found loopholes like this (whether intentionally or not) and just wanted to hear different points of view. Pluralism is truly one of the great concepts of paganism.

Posted: Tue Mar 22, 2005 9:36 pm
by Luciferish
You will find that most of craft law/pagan law is not intended for "legal" interpretation, though many wiccans to try to use it in this fasion.. Pagan law is often just a set of guidelines for keeping out of trouble, so its always got a catch or a loophole somewhere to allow for an "out" if something goes south.

So what it comes down to is act in according to your attained wisdom and experience, never do anything you may regret and you will always be OK.

I do hope you didn't take what I was doing as a "Moral handout" because I would not want to impose my moral construct on another person, it was merely an analysis of other similar craft laws I have seen on the subject, trying to illustrate the broad differences there are.

Posted: Wed Mar 23, 2005 9:56 am
by Willow
I think this entire debate is very interesting. I have always been for fidelity but my ideas come from a different place and I don't really want to push them on to anyone. But thanks for letting me see a differnt point of view guys.

Posted: Wed Mar 23, 2005 10:14 am
by Luciferish
Fidelity and Monogamy are not the same... It is possible to have a polyamourus relationship and remain faithful to a spouse or mate, this is simply due to open communication about the external relationships and encounters. I have known couples, both pagan and non-pagan, that are happilly married with little or no sexual restrictions, simply that they don't hide it from one another and are committed to maintaining their marriage/relationship. This is sometimes seen with Bi-sexual partners but I have seen it across the entire preference spectrum.

Its just a slightly different way of looking at a relationship, outside of the traditional frame.

Pagans have a kind of hybrid attitude which can go from either extreme, but they are usually not quick to judge those who are different in their points of view on this.

Some are strictly "one-person-people" who can't conceive or even desire others in their relationships, and some are the types who will drag anyone or anything off and give it a go in the woods... Its all a matter of personal preferences and self-governed constraints.

Posted: Wed Mar 23, 2005 10:31 am
by Stormy
Sorry, I wasn't trying to give a moral "handout" - I strongly believe that each person must do what is right for them and those they are involved with when it comes to such things. No offense intended.
Willow, it does my heart good to see that you are open-minded enough to be able to read others opinions/views on this and not get all bent out of shape. I say this because I must admit that many, many years ago, when I was still involved heavily in the religion of my parents, I would have never been so open and understanding about it. It's kind of ironic that I used to be such a stanch supporter of "total fidelity" and now I have evolved to a point of being able to not only accept, but to understand and even condone, as Luc put it "polyamourus" relationships. But let me make myself clear on one very important point about the entire polyamourus thing - it is not something to be entered into lightly, not something that only one half of a relationship can "know" about, not something to dive into because one is having problems in the current relationship - for it to be healthy and for it to actually work without causing undo pain to any of those involved, it has to be an openly discussed and agreed upon point. In other words, if I meet a total hunk of a man at the bookstore and we hit it off like fireworks, I can't go home after an afternoon of wild pleasure with a total stranger and say, "Ah, honey, I was thinking... maybe we could explore having a polyamourus relationship" ;)


Posted: Wed Mar 23, 2005 11:17 am
by Vetle
We tried something similar to those polyamorous things, mostly because of our distance. We discussed it beforehand and came to an agreement of terms and everything. It never worked though. About a month after the agreement, I had still not seen anyone else (much less even touched anyone else done anything more than friendly with them) because no one else could even peak my interest the way she does, much less bring me the same amount of satisfaction. I dropped ideas of seeing anyone else but let her keep seeing a guy she was seeing. About a month later, she realised it was a really bad idea so she dropped her end as well. That was about all there was to it.

The distinction made here by a few people between fidelity and monogomy is very crucial, in my opinion. I like the example Luc gave about the married couples who see other people. When I was younger, I used to think Swingers were a bit weird until I understood that it's sometimes the only way to keep the marriage working.

Based on the distinction between fidelity and monogomy, I think we can assume that polygamy becomes infidelity when one is not honest with their partner. In addition, one does not need to actually see other people to be (umm...I don't know the word in English but it refers to the state or condition one is in when they're practising the act of infidelity...infiel, if anyone knows Spanish), but can be a state of mind relfecting dishonesty toward one's partner.

Which brings me back to the loophole. Your thoughts are your own until they're expressed or acted on. So thoughts could not hurt your partner. However, the energy that one may release because of these thoughts or attitudes may be enough to hurt your partner. How would you know, though? In essence, the whole fact of the matter of infidelity (is that correct to say?) stems from dishonesty and is manifested in a thought or action that is a manifestation of a lack of respect for the other person.

Ok, so if it's alright to be false to your partner when they're false to you, where do you draw the line? It's according to individual interpretation of what is infidelity and what's not. Are there varying degrees of falsity and infidelity or is it pretty much black and white? The pair of lines from the Rede would suggest the latter but we all know that the world is not black and white.

As I said, my moral crisis is about how much trust we put in our set of ethical guidelines. As much as we may like to consider ourselves to be individuals or trailblazers, we're all, to a certain extent, reflections of ideas that were pulled from sources other than our own. I think this is what questioning your religion (I think it's a good practice, regardless of youre religion, as it makes your faith stronger if it can stand the test of logic) is really all about. To a certain extent, the moral dilemma is also about what is right and what is wrong in general, not specifically this area. I just found this area to be the best example.

(BTW, sorry if my English is taking a dump but I'm on spring break and school is about the only place I speak English; I haven't spoken it regularly since last week; corrections are welcome)

Posted: Thu Mar 24, 2005 1:43 am
by Luciferish
I understand what you are saying about the potential paradox of belief, morality and path. I was handed a question recently that ran me smack into that very thing... Once I started into my analysis of ethical constructs I found myself rather perplexed by the contradictions and conflicts...

I realized then that Morality and Ethical behavior are subjective to the person doing said behavior. Also it is subjective to the observers, recipients and anyone else. My right may be your wrong and vice versa. So to be honest I have to stand on the craft concept of Perfect Love and Perfect Trust being the only real Law in the craft. The rest are simply axioms, corollaries or postulates of that law.

Posted: Thu Mar 24, 2005 11:44 am
by Vetle
Luciferish wrote:So to be honest I have to stand on the craft concept of Perfect Love and Perfect Trust being the only real Law in the craft. The rest are simply axioms, corollaries or postulates of that law.
Brilliantly put. I never thought of it that way. It's interesting how we put so much emphasis on the "an it harm none" part but we only make small mention of "perfect love and perfect trust." Though I must say that "an it harm none" is a bit more important in general, especially since perfect love and perfect trust would open us up to alot of abuse when applied to people in general, especially those we don't know that well. However, I completely agree with you about perfect love and perfect trust. It should be the most important when we consider the "law" that should govern us in our relationships with partners, family, friends, and any other loved ones.

Posted: Thu Mar 24, 2005 1:16 pm
by Luciferish
Personally it also governs relationship to the entire universe, all actions and events as well. If we regard all things occurring for purpose (Perfect Trust) there must be absolute acceptance of all events being for our benefit, no matter how painful they may be at times (Perfect Love).

Perfect Love is not blind, nor is perfect trust. "An it harm none" is not an axiom I subscribe to, since it is inherently flawed. Harm is as much a part of being a human being as Healing. You must harm to survive, if you define harm as anything that causes pain, discomfort or death to any living thing. Not being Wiccan I don't recognize its importance other than to say its a "nice consideration" when making decisions about your actions. Harm should be a consideration but if it is necessary then there is little else that can be done. All actions harm something, no matter how small or benign.

Posted: Mon Mar 28, 2005 12:20 pm
by FyreGarnet
The funny thing is, I hadn't been able to reply to this post after reading it, as I had to run. But I'm finally getting to it.

I am wiccan, and I never really thought about everything the rede said and meant. I'm still learning, reading, learning, reading.....But anyway, when I read what Luc said about the perfect love perfect trust, I completely agreed. I have always been the trusting person, maybe even too trusting, but I'll not change that because I get bitten. And I've always been loving and caring. And while I'd not intend to harm anyone, it is inevitable. For me, the word harm in the rede has been meant more like malicious intent. But also a warning to look at your actions before making them. Think of the consequences.

Nonetheless, when I was talking to someone the other night, he said that you cannot believe in perfect love and perfect trust, because we are human, and are not perfect. I don't agree with him. You can believe in it all you want, and you can try your best to live a life like that. Maybe I'm rambling here, but it all made me think.

And then just last night, a person who I thought was a friend turned on me. Once again bitten by being so caring. Using me for many things apparently. He is no longer a friend, because friends do not do that. But, I'll not go after him. If friends do, I want no knowledge of it, because I know that I cannot force them to do anything. My meaning here is that even though I've been burned so many times, my beliefs have not changed. I will always trust people, I will always love people. A select few people that know about some very personal things already know this.

This in correlation has everything to do with fidelity for me. I'll never go after another man if I have told the one I'm with that I'm only with him. I will trust him to do the same, and never worry that he will do otherwise unless he gives me reason to believe so. And while I'll never judge anyone for having anything other than what I want, it just won't work for me. And I am glad that I'm like that. It means that I can truly be trusted and in relation loved.

I hope that this gives you an idea of how I feel, vetle, and this is in no way meant to be a handout, this is true. But we learn from our mistakes, other people's mistakes, and just from experiences in general. And you would not have asked this question if you never meant to learn.