Deepening Craft: The Three-Fold Law and Other Things

Obviously, the very first lesson is to teach newbies and dabblers to watch out because their actions could come back and bite them in the butt big time. Very useful caution for those who have just discovered Wicca and just bought their first book and are so eager to do something!

Then you progress and become more comfortable in your Craft. The rule of three seems quaint. While I believe in simple karma, aka every action has a reaction, the return of your karma three times over seems a ridiculous overkill. I considered this something that had no place in my Craft.

Then, beginning formal training I was required to copy this in my own hand. Internally I grumbled, but it wasn’t anything worth making a fuss over. Yet, as I went back through my notes to copy things over into my BoS, I noticed it again, and when I felt that internal flinch, I took note. Witches have been copying this phrase and spreading it amongst the Pagan community for a lot longer than I have been alive. So, I reasoned, there has to be more there than I am seeing.

So to begin with, you commit an action. For that action there must be a reaction. Where does that reaction take place? The first response to your action? Not in your target, but within yourself. The Witch changes themselves before they change the world around them. We shift consciousness and perspective at will. Every action we take will internalize within us first. When we are brave, we internalize that bravery. Bravery becomes part of us. Every time we act cruelly, we internalize cruelty. Cruelty becomes part of us. Our praxis, that which we do, becomes us.What we practice becomes rote which becomes “not doing” which means we can be kind or cruel without giving thought to the matter, depending on how we have become accustomed to act. I know people who are consistently cruel and unkind in their words, not because they are bad people, but because they fell into that pattern of communication and now it comes unbidden.

So the first-fold return of karma has taken place. The next reaction that takes place in response to our action is in our target. If we seek to heal the Gulf then a reaction will take place there. If we hold a door for someone and smile at them, there will be a reaction from them. Though the reaction is not always what we expect, a reaction does happen. Where I went amiss was in assuming this was the first and only reaction to my actions. In truth, it’s not even the most important, as regardless of the reaction from the target of my actions, I will internalize the action as part of who I am.

So our actions return to us by changing us within, however minutely, and by causing a reaction in our target. Where does the third return come from? All around us. We do not act in a vacuum, but in a universe of shifting, flowing energy patterns, all swirling around us. As Witches we learn to test the temperatures, to feel the currents, and align ourselves with the energy around us. Our atmosphere, made of moisture and wind, stirred by heart and coolness, is a bubbling cauldron all around us. Every atom of existence pulses with the same potential. In the military “side effects” are sometimes called collateral damage. It’s a negative term but it’s useful in thinking about how what we do affects everything around us.

If I open the door for you, not only do I reinforce kindness as part of my being and elicit a friendly smile from you, but I also get a reaction from the people around us. Perhaps the person behind me will hold the door for someone else, something he was only prompted to do by witnessing my action. Maybe my action imbued the atmosphere of the area with a kindness that didn’t exist a moment ago, with then affects me. Kindness is practiced and, in the practice, is reinforced.

Now if I am in line at the store, and I sigh and grumble under my breath about how long you’re taking to check out, then I reinforce the impatient parts of me. I get a negative reaction from you, and soon the entire line is huffing, unfriendly and impatient. Which reinforces my original behavior. My impatience returns to me three-fold.

So, maybe it’s not earth-shattering, but revisiting the Three-Fold Law made me have a deeper understanding of my Craft, and a greater appreciation for the wisdom I’ve received from Elder Witches. I may revisit the Three-Fold Law in the future only to find another layer of meaning waiting for me. The law never changed, but my relationship to it did. That’s what i mean by deepening my Craft.

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About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • http://meadowsweet-myrrh.blogspot.com/ Ali

    Thank you! I’m glad you decided to share some of this in response to the questions your last post generated. I especially like your take on the Three-Fold Law. Not being Wiccan, I haven’t had much cause to contemplate its meaning on any deep level, so it was fascinating to read your thoughts on it. It sets an excellent example for others hoping to deepen in their spiritual work as well (another three-fold return? ;)).

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  • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

    Glad you liked it Ali! It’s nice to be able to learn from other Pagans! One reason I love hanging out with Recons!

  • Vivianna

    I really like your take on the concepts you presented. In a vacuum, I find the law of 3 troublesome and arbitrary. (Don’t even get me started on karma!) But you’ve provided some additional context and new thoughts to think!


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