The whole question of ethics is very important, I believe, for those on a Wiccan/Pagan path.

Most of us were brought up with rules to follow. We were "good" if we obeyed the rules, and "bad" if we did not. Very clear cut, very black-and-white, very simple. But here we have no rules. We have no Bible, no Koran, not even a Book of Mao!

Does this mean that we have complete moral license, and can do anything we want, and there are no consequences?

I don't think so. The Universe is always aware of everything we do; and it tries to give us exactly what we expect, and what we need. It determines these things from the way we act. So if we are completely selfish it assumes that, as we are unwilling to lend anyone a hand, we must not want anyone to help us at all. And that is precisely what it gives us. It surrounds us with people who won't give us the time of day. If, on the other hand, we are generous, it assumes that we must want generosity from those around us. So it surrounds us with others who are generous as well.

Just as in physics, all of our actions create reactions in the Universe. But instead of the reaction being equal and opposite, it's the very same thing, magnified. That is the Three-Fold Law, and there is more about it in the Ethics Frequently Asked Questions section.

Rules were originally made to help those who were unwilling or unable to think through the consequences of their actions. We make rules for children, because we want them to grow to adulthood. We don't try to explain electrocution, we tell them, "Don't touch the cord."

But eventually children grow up, and can understand all about electricity, and when to touch the cord and when not to and why.

At that point, the rules become obsolete, because reasoning has replaced rules.

So, for us, reasoning must replace the rules. We can no more chew on the cord now than we could when we were tiny. But now we know why. In just that way, we can no more simply throttle the people who annoy us now than we could when we were trying to follow the rules. The difference is that now we know why.

Far from giving us complete license, having no rules to follow means that we have to be even more thoughtful and aware of the consequences of our actions. There are no loopholes in the laws of cause and effect. Whatever we do, for good or ill, will come back to us; there is no one judging us, and no one is going to grant us forgiveness for anything, or let us escape the consequences of our actions.

So the obvious course is to make sure the consequences are going to be something we like! And we do that by being careful about our actions in the first place.

Of course, we all make mistakes. These give us wonderful learning opportunities. And I don't know about you, but I try to learn my lessons (especially the uncomfortable ones) right away! If I can do that, I won't have to take this part of the course over again. Because that's what it comes down to. I think we are here to learn, and have fun, and help other people learn and have fun (not necessarily in that order.) And the better we learn, the more fun it is.

When we make mistakes, I recommend going to whoever we harmed, apologizing, and trying our very best to reverse the harm, in whatever way the person hurts wants us to. That sends a clear signal to the Universe that you have learned. And if you have learned, you will be able to avoid the same mistake when the Universe gives you another opportunity to excel, by handing you the same problem again, and seeing what you do with it this time!

And all of that will, I think, make us more ethical than we were when we were just following rules, without thinking about them at all.

If you are interested in this topic, I have a whole bunch of questions that I have been asked while talking about Ethics from a Pagan/Wiccan perspective at conventions and festivals all over the place. You'll find them in the Ethics FAQs section to the left.

And I have also written a book about the topic. You can find more information about it here.