One complaint raised against Wiccans is that they have no ethical guidelines
by which to measure their conduct. Wiccans, it is charged, have "only"
the Rede (and, in certain traditions, the Laws), and because the Rede,
like the Golden Rule, provides no positive injunctures, it can be seen
as comparatively lax...
But Wicca in fact has within its sole universal text the Charge of the
Goddess. The Star Goddess says, "Let there be beauty and strength,
power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you."
The Charge can be seen as an eight-rayed star, like the one worn by the
Goddess Ishtar or the eight points of the Wheel of the Year, consisting
of the virtues considered to be the most desirable in Her followers. The
Rede has taught us that we are to avoid doing harm. Here we receive further
instruction in what we are encouraged to do.
First on the Goddess's list of virtues is beauty. This is consistent
with Wiccan philosophy in general, with its emphasis on celebration
of love and pleasure, and the other appealing qualities of Nature. Beauty
is the province of the Love Goddesses such as Aphrodite, Oshun, Venus
and Hathor. What pleases the sense, pleases the Goddess. She invites
us to dress as well as we can afford, to adorn ourselves and our homes
in a way that appeals to us. However, we must also remember not to pursue
our ideal of beauty to a degree that causes us, or other people, harm;
so the impulse to tan until we have skin cancer, malnourish ourselves
into an unhealthy body type, "beautify" in ways that require
the torture or death of animals, to be cruel to others who do not meet
our own standard of beauty, does not fall within the scope of the Goddess's
The Goddess embraces the beautiful aesthetic and calls us to reawaken
to its healing powers. She exalts in beautiful music that stirs the
emotions, in rich colors and textures that call out to be touched, in
shapes that flow pleasingly from one to the next. She is present in
the elaborate Japanese garden. She tends the dandelion that emerges
victorious between the cracks of the pavement.
We also need to remember to honor the beauty of destruction. While
creation is beautiful, without destruction to temper it, it runs wild
and makes everything into a cosmic junk pile. To make a garden beautiful,
we plow up and make a shambles of the soil so that our seeds have a
place to grow. So in life, in order to cultivate inner beauty, we must
be willing to be torn open to make a place for the seed, to neglect
even things theoretically of value-that class we keep meaning to take,
that unpursued fantasy of becoming a rock star-in our pursuit of the
greater good we have chosen.
The balance of beauty is strength. Like beauty, strength has a physical
virtue, because the Wiccan faith embraces the physical as an aspect
of the Divine. We make our bodies as healthy and whole as we can, since
this improves our strength. We study the use of herbs, eat organic food,
sometimes become vegetarians. Yet we frequently neglect the more obvious
practices, like eating less and getting regular exercise. Strength is
in the buck as he charges through the wood, in the lioness as she pulls
down the antelope, in the mother bear as she charges the hunter threatening
her cubs. Physical strength is the power to survive, and to pass on
the best chance for one's offspring to survive. It is the cardinal virtue
of the Horned God, and of the Lady of the Beasts.
Strength also implies the ability to stand firm in the face of opposition.
By pushing through resistance, by moving through adversity by force
of will, we gain strength.
Wiccans easily embrace the word "power" when we imagine that
it means magickal force. Yet there are other meanings for "power,"
and these we seem to find more intimidating. Many of us wish for a world
in which all people are created and treated as equal, and in which our
decisions can be made by consensus. But in our society, inequity of
power is the norm, and "equality," even in our circles, often
an illusion. ("Once they know you can cook," my friend Karen
says, "it's always your job to bring the food.") it is a natural
human desire to want recognition for good work. In celebrating and using
our unique gifts, we come into our personal power.
Power sometimes manifests in the ability to lead others. A good leader,
someone who is able to move decisively on behalf of a group, and to
inspire the group to fulfill its goals, is a wonderful asset.
Compassion is the ability to feel for others
and is the natural balance of the virtue of power. Compassion moves
forward and embraces others, regardless of difference; it looks out
not only for "its own kind," but for all beings, simply because
In the Boddhisatva Vow of Compassion, for example, a soul that has
attained enlightenment chooses to remain within the cycle (viewed in
that tradition as the ultimate sacrifice) in order to light the way
for others to follow. Yet we should not become so consumed with the
needs of others that we forget to nurture ourselves. If we become so
fixated on others that we take no time to replenish ourselves, we burn
out-and again the world is impoverished, because we have nothing left
Honor appears in balance with humility; therefore, we must
take honor to mean, in part, respect for ourselves. To honor someone
means to pay respect to them and pay respect to the Goddess through
our rituals. Living by a code of honor is also a source of power, as
it trains the will and enforces a connection to the ethics by which
we believe we should live. We must remember, through our lesson of compassion,
that other cultures and religions have different codes of honor, and
react to members of those systems accordingly. Appropriate behavior
varies widely from one locale to the next.
Humility allows us to look at our shortcomings. We must do
this with compassion toward ourselves as well we are cautioned against
believing or hoping that we can be perfect, or wishing that we could
A popular idea is the thought that we all create our own reality. The
concept correctly applied can be helpful in creating positive changes
in our lives. Unfortunately, this easily crosses into a "blame
the victim" mentality. It tempts us to turn a complacent eye to
the suffering of others, with the justification that they must have
"asked for it" on a karmic level. This mindset flies against
the virtue of humility, and once it takes hold, it also erodes compassion.
For an attendant of the Goddess, the point of gaining power is to use
it to serve the highest good through compassion. It is humility that
allows us to keep this balance. By the same token, it allows us to pick
ourselves up and keep going when we have our inevitable bad moods, selfish
moments-knowing, in the balance of honor and humility, that everyone
has down times, and that we can get back up again and keep trying.
Mirth balances all the virtues and their opposites: it can
help create beauty where there is ugliness, give courage to those who
feel powerless, and deflate power and honor when they become too heavy
with their own importance.
Cultural structures, whether secular or religious, tend to fear chaos.
When we divide our world into dualities, we often assign "evil"
to chaos and "good" to order. However, Pagan religions traditionally
acknowledge that the forces of chaos are also the source of creation
often honoring this paradox by assigning the Trickster a special day
or season during which He is celebrated with a temporary reversal of
the culture's normal rules.
Of course, no gift is without its potential for misuse, and so, mirth
misapplied can become cruel rather than cleansing. Practice of the other
virtues, particularly humility and compassion, can help keep this side
of mirth in balance.
Reverence must be part of any sincere religious system. Reverence
encompasses respect, which makes it the balance of mirth.
Humans have an innate need to hold something as larger, greater, dearer
than our limited self. For Pagans this "something" often begins
as Nature, which we come to understand in turn as a reflection of the
Divine. For others it may be a particular ideal, such as liberty or
peace or their homeland or people or a concept like "the advancement
of science." Reverence not only gives us a feeling of connection
to a greater whole, which is one of the main sources of fulfillment
in life but it also inspires us.
The dark side of reverence is zealotry. We come to believe that the
end justifies the means. The practice of humility and compassion, as
well as mirth, can help to safeguard against this extreme.