[This continues yesterday’s blog, updating my thoughts on magic and psychic talents–since I am unfortunately thought to have some expertise about such matters. Sheesh!]
3. You cannot use the arts of the Craft to win fame, fortune, power, or any other sort of material or social advantage.
This is how all the psychic arts work, not just those of the Craft. Why they work thus is another question—that they do work thus is well-known. Perhaps the simplest explanation is that if your major motive for working is (or becomes) a desire for fame, fortune, etc., psychic abilities cannot function; many erstwhile psychics throughout history have lost their abilities and become charlatans, because they did not know this rule. You can (as many people do) make your living by a psychic art, as long as you charge only enough to live comfortably by your society’s standards; it is only going on a “power trip” that would endanger your abilities. Similarly, trying to affect people without their knowledge (or the magician’s favorite project, raising “demons” in order to control them) is another sort of power trip and will have exactly the same effect on your abilities. Another way to state this rule would be, “The arts of the Craft are the gift of the Goddess; if you misuse them, She will take them back.” Do not attempt to control elemental or other spirits; that’s a power trip.
4. You cannot use the arts of the Craft for show, in pretence, but only in earnest, and only in need.
If you work a ritual, it will have effects, whether you think you want it to or not. You cannot “pretend” to throw a hex, for example; the Lady may not recognize pretence. On the other hand, you cannot work the arts successfully just because you want to; the Lady won’t cooperate. You have to need the energy or the information for some real purpose, else you can’t tap into it. Spiritual gifts in general, like a full Awakening, are bestowed only when you need them, not because you merely want them.
5. The arts of the Craft are those that can be worked only in a cast circle with at least one other person.
The arts of the Craft are thus defined as those that will work only under these conditions and therefore can be learned only in circle. Psychic arts that work under other conditions are thus not necessarily part of the Craft and are therefore exempt from some of the restrictions that apply strictly to the “Arts of the Craft.”
[Back about 1971, many were accepting Gardner’s assumption that the two people in the circle had to be of opposite genders. That assumption has long since been jettisoned by almost every Craft Tradition. The rule that a man had to learn the arts of the Craft from a woman, a woman from a man, except between parent and child, may still be a preference, but it is no longer considered a rule.]
6. You must always pay whatever price is asked, without haggling or complaining, when you buy something to be used for the Craft.
The Ardanes provide that the Arts of the Craft can be used to persuade someone to sell something, as long as his asking price is met, but this would violate Law #2. In contrast, this law is a safeguard against using your psychic talents not-quite-consciously to take unfair advantage of someone.
Any two covens will likely have rather different symbolic systems for their workings, different understandings of Craft Laws, and so on. Trying to work with both would then tend to confuse you, snarl up your communication lines to the Lady, and reduce the efficiency of your learning and working. Of course, if two covens do have identical systems (which could happen only if they shared a common ancestry), they could be considered the same coven for the purposes under discussion here.
In its original context in the Ardanes, this Law seems merely an observation of fact: even if you’re working with two or more covens, your loyalty will be with only one of them, and if there were a parting of the ways, you would stick with it. Obviously, in time of persecution, divided loyalties and disagreements could be a source of great danger and would have to be forbidden. Also, if a High Priestess has final authority in a coven, she might not want a Witch she is trying to train be influenced by another Priestess.
8. None can coven with others they cannot agree with.
Stated this way, this law becomes an etymological tautology, for “coven” means “to agree” (or “to come together”). The more those in a coven can agree on the rules, on the symbolic system used for workings, on the purposes of the workings, the greater the coven’s effectiveness will be. Naturally, minor disagreements will crop up regularly in a group of individualists; they are not what this law concerns. Rather, it applies to disagreements (or bad interpersonal feelings) that are strong enough that they are amplified by the group field, make the meeting unpleasant, and so make it impossible for the coven to work. If unresolvable frictions between members neutralize the workings, the group that is meeting will then not be a coven. For this reason—not, one may hope, out of mere in-group exclusiveness or arbitrariness—a coven must select its members carefully for compatibility. Also, since a coven is necessarily a “small group,” many normal small-group processes will operate in it. These can be powerful and emotionally very heavy, but there’s nothing mysterious about them. Don’t mistake them for something occult; that would lead you up a blind alley.
The original context of this law in the Ardanes makes it clear that a coven can—and often, for its own survival, must—expel a member who, although not violating any other laws, is making it impossible for the coven to function, though only as a very last resort.
[Part III comes tomorrow.]