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|The New Book of the Law
Commentary by J. Random Folksinger
I have to preface this by stating that I was first drawn to this work by Leigh Ann Hussey, and reacted very negatively to it. This will be my second time through these Laws, with comments that are solely my own opinion. I know that Lady Galadriel put a lot of work (translate: sweat blood) into these Laws, and I am not attacking her or her work. Making my points without sounding negative would have been nice, but I have not been very successful at this; since several people have been asking me to put down why I didn't like them, I felt that getting the project over with would be better than struggling with a novel-length exercise in not offending anyone. To Lady Galadriel: I, too, have sweat blood over a reconstruction project similar to this (and I got lots of negative feedback, too). My finished copy, which includes the old "Burning Times" laws as a historical source or what to do when things really get bad, can be had from Leigh Ann, Judy Harrow, or
downloaded from WeirdBase in St. Louis as "JRFLAWS.TXT". My heart goes out to you, but I am commenting on your Laws from my head only.
On the Preface: The Book of the Law, or Liber Al, which Lady G. refers to as a primary source, is not the same as Craft law in most traditions as it was written by Aleister Crowley; it is, therefore, hardly a wonder why it was not found to be very pertinent by Lady G. If, indeed, Lady G.'s Book of the Law was not Liber Al, it is hard to understand where many of these Laws originated.
- Form and Order? Ask a Discordian or Shamanic Craft type. The Laws were created for guidance, as the latter part of this Law attests.
- Channels, and manifestation of the Source? This sounds more like New Age Christianity than Wicca. I should stop talking about the flowers in the language, although they are disconcerting and very distracting from the original goal of "readable, usable, and pertinent to the needs..." I suppose I can just use the term "flowers" as my way of saying that the language is unnecessarily complicated when it really bothers me
- and most of these laws do fall in this category.
- Oh, no. Not the Christian "Ye are as children" routine again. The Gods, in my training, wish us to grow, not perpetually remain children. To not test what they say is the same as channeling some unknown spirit and believing everything he/she says. We are growing, making the Gods proud, not belittling or mocking them.
- This law is over-judgmental (something I am accused of being at times), and ignores the need for working with our shadow-side; I suppose naiveté is the worst I can say about this Law. I can easily find better in Marion Weinstein's Positive Magic...
- The "Mothership" routine smacks of Close Encounters, but other than the children routine and some language problems, this one isn't too bad - but isn't there something in an initiation ritual about us and the Gods being the same "but for a difference of power"? I would think Brothers and Sisters of the Gods would be better terminology - feminists are welcome to reverse the wording.
- Hmmm. Sounds like tithing to me. While it is certainly a good idea, we give back to the Gods all the time - this would be making the meaningful ritual a mechanical one. Sustain its Priests and Priestesses? Paid (or fed) clergy? Shades of Paul! This part would still work in my tradition, since we are all priests and priestesses, but I know some that are different...
- I can't see the purpose of this Law, and know of no corresponding Law in the Laws I have come across. It sounds like the God of the Christians again, making people the way they are and then judging them for being that way.
- A direct statement would be better. Who do you know in these times that goes around weighing silver? Is this a modern metaphor? I don't think so.
- Does not parse. Sounds good, though...
- This sounds like it's setting up the teacher as infallible - shut up and listen. Also, while I hear Karma used frequently in Craft discussions, it is because it is a useful concept for us; however, this is the first time I have seen the Lords of Karma enthroned in Craft Law.
- I could have taken the Golden Rule in one of its permutations, but this is much more akin to the concept of "Sin" than that of Karma.
- "You must not be a teller of tales..."? What, we are to have no Bards in the Craft? If this law means that gossiping is not a good thing, why doesn't it say so? And "must hold no malice" indicates that we are not allowed to be human again -
true, it is better for the Craft that we all be as a loving family, but there are other ways to deal with the problems caused by personality conflicts than to outlaw legitimate feelings.
- Flowers. Old Law. (Meaning that, other than difference in wording, this is the same as the "Old Laws", i.e., Lady Sheba and others.)
- Oh, boy! Priestess Knows Best (and will be happy to be responsible for you). If someone asks me a question, give them the straightest answer I can, and without phoning up my Priestess for permission to do so. I am a trained, adult Witch, and am capable both of making my own decisions and taking the consequences for making a wrong decision. The "You must not put stumbling blocks..." sounds like the old parental admonishment, "Don't put beans in your ears." The Christians have enough stumbling blocks of their own; I don't think ours would even be noticed, and so are unnecessary.
- The key words are in the Preface: readable, usable, and pertinent. "Fetters" and "woe" are not very meaningful words in this half of the 20th century. Not sure about the use of "souls", either, since that seems to be mostly a Christian concern. Remember, Lady G. said that she reworded some of these laws "to make them clearer and more understandable". I think she missed here.
- Sounds like "Trust in God; He will provide." Where is the Craft basis for this Law?
- If you kill someone magically, accidentally or otherwise, you should be sacrificed to atone for it? My Goddess demands nothing in sacrifice. It would be far better to get into therapy and see how you could forgive yourself and help others to forgive you (I'm using "forgive" as a psychological, not religious, term). No problem with the first sentence.
- Could be said more clearly.
- The source for this, especially the final sentence, seems to be Jesus in Revelation.
"Many say, Lord, Lord, but I know them not..." etc.
- Sounds like, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God in vain".
Either that is what this law is saying, or it needs to be clearer.
- Old Law. I would have worded it, "In any disputes among the Wicca..."
- Old Law.
- To me, my magickal tools are channels between what is within me and what is outside of me (on the magickal planes, which frequently intersect with the planes of reality). Still, Do Not Haggle is Old Law.
- Old Law, except for the semantical substitution of "Power" for "Art" and the use of the judgmental terms "evil" and "unworthy".
- "Thou shalt not steal"? Hinted-at consequences are unnecessary.
- I don't understand "Show honor" as a phrase, and the last phrase is not comprehensible to me.
- "Those who are of the Wicca shall not own slaves," - good idea, although I have never seen it included in Craft Law. The rest of this sentence is again unclear and/or unnecessary justification. "Nor shall you take as a pledge any person's life,"; well, the Laws of Karma (if you accept them, which these Laws purport to) demand otherwise from time to time, and again, this has not been found necessary in any other set of Craft Laws I have seen.
- This is the second time the Golden Rule has been quoted in a faulty permutation. "If a stranger sojourns with you...they shall be as one of the Circle..." What, we're going to invite total strangers into our rites just because this Law says so? There are enough Laws that contradict this already. This doesn't sound right.
- This came straight out of Leviticus, and also exists in Baha'i law in a slightly clearer form. It's nice that We're getting ecumenical, but what is the need for this in Craft Law? The Threefold Law applies, and is easier to understand.
- The Good Wiccan Housekeeping Seal is required for Circle?
- Not a Wiccan Law. "Cleanliness is next to god/dessliness" would be a shorter way of phrasing this. Although the old customs (not laws) require bathing prior to a ritual, even that has been used to "find" Witches with in some areas (they're clean and smell nice - they must be seducing our men for Satan!).
- Not Law, but a start; I believe none should die without someone having cared for them; and that death with dignity is the hoped-for ideal. Many of you already know that I'm initiating action toward Pagan hospice, funeral, and cemetery care. The judgment about "their actions" is for the Dark Lord to make.
- Threefold Law is all you need here. Anything else is moral judgment.
- Amended version: "Let those who desire union as a couple (or other forms as might be desirable, such as a triad or a group relationship) be handfasted, sharing their love in a manner they and the Gods find pleasing." Children are not necessary for shared love (and often separate the parents from their mutual desires), and there is no need to deny Handfasting to couples not wanting children. I also am not certain that this needs to be a Law.
- "The Law of the Goddess is that none of the Wicca shall take and wed someone who they do not love." Period.
- Not Law. Also uses "brethren", another male term. (Anyone who has read my revision of Gardnerian Craft Law should have noticed the near-total lack of gender terminology.)
- The first sentence is incomprehensible, immaterial, or both. This law is very flowery, and I would love to know what Lady G. extracted it from.
- Old Law: "Never boast, never threaten..." seems to be the root here - and is much clearer in that form.
- The concept of magickal purity is one of ritual magick, not the Craft. This Law is, in letter and spirit, one of ritual magick. While some traditions of the Craft do get into ritual magick, that still does not make this "proper" as Craft Law.
- Old Law was both clearer and less "new-agey".
- Where hath the Goddess said these things? Nowhere in my tradition, and they sound more like things She may have said in circle - certainly no need to canonize them.
- Back to Leviticus. This is far too judgmental for any tradition I am familiar with.
There also seems to be confusion between "work" as in make money and "work" as in learning and teaching the things of the Craft.
- A sacred trust? This explains why Grove of the Unicorn built a sanctuary in Georgia, but I have never seen this expressed as a requirement. Most traditions are not getting over being hidden; this Law requires total openness. I think it's dangerous to do this in most areas, and having the Goddess decree (here) that we should do something that could harm Her Witches (something She expressly forbids us to do in the Old Laws) doesn't feel right. What is the source of this one? It appears to be the inner feelings of some Witch or Witches, which is not good enough to pass off as Craft Law.
- While I have been taught this, it was under "What We Do" rather than "The Law". The style of presentation sounds too much like what YHWH would have written as a law rather than the Goddess I know...
- Am I reading this wrong, or is this saying "Honor the Sabbath and keep it holy"? We need to set aside a whole day(s)? I don't think that's realistic in these times, although it might have been in Paleolithic times.
- Not necessary. Any teacher will give you this information.
- Definitely flowers. Let each Witch keep a book (she even dropped the "in their own hand" part). What else is necessary?
- Clumsy, with too many "they"s in spots; How about, "Study the signs of the Gods in all their forms; these shall guide your thoughts to the Gods and the Gods will take notice of you. Turn your thoughts and worship to the Gods, not the signs and statues of them."
- The original here says "If any in the Craft owns any land...guard all moneys of the Craft..." thus widening the circle of love beyond just the Circle you are a part of.
- Old Law. I feel this could be done a bit more clearly.
- Extremely Crowleyian in content, where the content can be determined. It sounds like it is favoring asceticism "for the good of the Craft...". Unclear rules like this have led to excesses in other religions they have appeared in.
- Not Craft Law. Paul would have loved to have this kind of law as stated by Christ, but it wasn't true then and it isn't true now. If we're not supposed to take money for the art, how come we can be allowed to take gifts?????
- Taken as an extension of #52, this law repulses me; however, having deleted #52, and deleting "offerings of...money", it could be OK. But it is totally unnecessary unless you're trying to set yourself up as the First Church of Wicca, N.A., complete with Christian abuses of power. In any loving circle, people will bring the incense, or the cakes and/or wine, or work together on building a new altar. This is already covered in the laws above, though.
- Harmony will be restored by working toward harmony, not by donating to your favorite non-profit Temple. Again, the emphasis on giving makes me think of televangelists ("I need to make the payment on my Inspirational Cadillac"). I don't know what problems Grove of the Unicorn has been having in keeping up their payments on the land or whatever, but their problems should not be used as a lever to change Craft Law (if indeed this is the object of these laws).
- Once more, this law either comes out of ritual magic or televangelism (or both). Every Witch should know (or know how to look up) the proper times for a ritual, and should be able to offer it up themselves ("through the most proper medium" could mean "Pay the Priestess" or it could mean "use the right tools" - if it is not intended to mean the latter, then this law has no basis in the Craft).
- Old Law, and one of the most important Craft Laws.
- Separating this Law from the previous one causes a minor problem - it now becomes "Never break the Laws" (and there are some dillies in this set) instead of "Never break this Law".
- The "Mighty Ones" decided for us "in days of old" that we cannot use the Art against anyone? A shirking of responsibility is again evident. While the same precept occurs in my set of the Laws, it is obviously a decision made in the light of persecutions, not something decreed from on high.
- Sentence fragments. (sic) This is a subject that is not in the Laws (but is in the Charge of the Goddess, without the God's side of things).
- Why do we need "the dimly remembered dawn of ages past" and Atlantis to make this point? This is the only version I've seen that goes beyond remembered history.
- Should be combined with #60, and have more of the excessive verbiage dropped. Oh, no!
Not another cry of "the evil of chaos" again! How can these people even talk
to Discordians? Any set of Laws that is intended to be Craft-inclusive must not include value judgments, especially using the words "good", "evil", and "chaos". This law seems to be wishing for the time when we were in power; every set of Laws I've seen prior to this one would settle for a time in which we are tolerated or accepted.
- I don't understand what this is trying to say - it seems to fluctuate between "No more secrets", "Only a few secrets", and "Don't tell anybody anything". Since all three of these have been expressed above, I'm not sure this law is needed; it hardly even adds to the confusion.
- The change from "always heeding the Messenger" to "always heeding the messages" is a little dangerous, but otherwise, this is Old Law.
- This law sounds pretty Gardnerian in tone, but it does not agree with Gardnerian myths -
i.e., while Goddess created everything, she did not create Death itself. Life without Death offers no regeneration, as Life could not continue on its own; the God was outside of Her creation, and so He had things to teach Her about Death. (Those of you who prefer Starhawk's version of this myth are totally ignored in this law.)
- I thought an HPs was only concerned mainly with what happens in Her Circle - this Law seems to state that She is concerned with an unstated, but large-sounding, community. Other than that, this is Old Law.
- I don't think this needs to be in the Laws, but it's a good idea for each Circle to consider.
- This seems to be based upon the Old Laws' "If any in the Craft has any land...", but it does take that additional step into demi-deified clergy. I wish I knew whether Grove of the Unicorn was an authoritarian structure or not, but these Laws go a long way toward making its sound like one. (I'm not sure this group could "pass" Isaac Bonewits' Cult Danger Evaluation Frame after having read this many of their Laws.)
- Aha! Almost Old Law, and a "Burning Times" law! This is still a good Law, but it was formulated to keep anyone from knowing more than one group to "give away" if they cracked under pressure of Inquisition.
- Old Law; probably should be included in #68.
- Are we talking about pneumonia, herpes, or a cold here? You can do a lot better healing work in Circle (in my experience) than outside of it in many cases, and any Witch can decide for her/himself whether they are too sick to be in Circle and ask (or not ask) for healing. I suppose I find this law too judgmental, or too general.
- Old Law.
- There is no definition of Council given (the "Old Law" says "the Elders"), and the "Old Law" states that either the High Priest or the High Priestess can convene the Elders (useful if the HPs is out of town...) Otherwise, Old Law.
- Generally, Old Law. Some of the restatements are difficult or unwieldy, but no real problems.
- Old Law. (Actually, a bit of another Old Law is grafted in for clarification, but it doesn't hurt anything.)
- In conflict with English(/American) Law, "Ignorance is no excuse," includes threefold law (which is not included in the Old Laws), and throws in the Lords of Karma again; rephrased, this could be an excellent law or rule, but I do not recognize a single source for this one. Some ritual magic, a little Hinduism, no Craft per se.
- Nice thought; sounds like a personal addition.
- As above, the "want of an offering" is not an issue in Old Law; the "lack of a robe" has never been discussed, since most groups I am familiar with generally work skyclad or negotiate the issue. Personal addition?
- Nice thought; sounds like a personal addition.
- So many flowers that (I feel) most would miss the point. I'm afraid I did, and I'm a musician.
- Sounds like the Apostle Paul. The qualities I was taught to look for in a High Priestess were caring, leadership, patience, ability, and knowing when to ask for help. This cuts out faith (something Goddess says in Her Charge is not asked for) and belief (something she wouldn't be in Circle without). More flames on the topic of children.
- Source? Sounds clergy-like to me...
- Old Law states that a requirement of being High Priestess is youth; while this is not easily practiced in all covens, going to the opposite extreme is probably not much better. My personal experiences have been in covens where everyone takes their hand at practicing HP and HPs, with the HPs acting more like organizer and running coven meetings.
- Ouch. Based upon Old Law, this Law removes the aspect of Love as an excuse (or Glands, if you like the Wombat Wicca version) - and demands both judgment and atonement for a HPs who has left and come back - even uses the judgmental term, "deserts", in dealing with the issue. The Old Law may have its drawbacks, but is a much better guide (I feel) than getting nasty about it. Oooh, they don't even get to hold office again! Many things are sacred, and certainly being High Priestess is one of them, but in my teaching, Love is a higher ideal, and the Craft has always allowed for it.
- Old Law, with flames as above. "It is the lives of all of the Craft they endanger." Honor is still undefined in this context.
- The use of the word, "Sabbatical" is cute in this context, but this should be a part of #83 rather than separating them out. Also, the phrase, "the Maiden should continue in that office" confuses the reader as to which office - the law has already stated that she should reap the reward; does election of another person invalidate the election? It should read, "...the Maiden shall be the Maiden for the new HPs."
- This is a new idea, and probably a good one: the Priestess and the Priest need not be the consort of the other, but are selected each by the coven or circle and are free to choose their own consorts. The one possible negative I can think of concerns the few times when Great Rite is held, and the feelings of their consorts on this matter. But then it lets the coven decide whether the choice was right nor not! If we're dealing with private lives, let them remain private. Based on Old Law, except that in Old Law the Priestess is chosen and She selects the Priest. This law again contains too many value judgments - if you need a perfect person to run your circle, you will never meet.
- Adapted from the Letters of Paul the Apostle, not the Old Laws. It is nice to state that we should be responsible for ourselves, but that is a part of being a Witch (oops, by these Laws, Witches are only children, so I suppose making "those of the Priesthood" adults is what this law is about). This also seems to state (per Christianity) that their mates, children, and house are all possessions; hardly a feminist or Craft perspective.
- Reverse Christian. Extremely sexist, and no more or less bad than making the Man ruler of the world.
The New Book of the Law is published by:
The Grove of the Unicorn PO Box 13384 Atlanta, GA 30324
To order, send a legal size SASE. A small contribution towards printing/handling costs will be appreciated.
These comments have been made by Gerald L. Bliss, who is also known as J. Random Folksinger.