The Law of Three? Nope. Set Me Free!

The Law of Three? Nope. Set Me Free! July 12, 2019

<Blink.Blink.>

“Hellooo…”

Huh. Seems pretty quiet around here. Hopefully, someone will come along soon.

Anyway, let’s get this party started friends and neighbors!

As you can see, 3 Pagans and a Cat has moved from where we were hanging out at The Agora: The Central Hub of the Patheos Pagan Channel, to our very own Patheos Pagan channel. Right Here! We have a fresh space, but not a lot going on just yet.

Zip. Zilch. Nada. Blank. Space.

Image via pxhere.

I don’t know about you, but I’m having the skin crawlies with all this – nothingness. So, I feel it is imperative to post an article here. Right now. After all, writing articles is kind of my job around here, right? To fill this fresh, blank page with my personal views on witchcraft, paganism, and various kinds of life stuff. You will be happy to know that Ode and Car will also be contributing to this channel a bit. However, as you may have noticed the blog writing tends to be more my kind of thing. So, here we go.

I’ve decided to write about the Law of Three.

Now, why do I want to stir up that can of worms right out of the gate? Here’s why.

I’ve been noticing a lot of conversations on social media where people are getting into rather heated exchanges in regard to the Law of Three, aka., the Threefold Law. More importantly, I’m noticing some people getting after those who do not follow this so called “universal law” as part of their witchcraft practice. In fact, bring up the topic of hexing or cursing in a conversation in a group of magickal practitioners. Eventually, someone will offer a grave warning about the necessity of following the Law of Three (even if they don’t call the principle by that name). Based on what I’ve seen and heard, there are people who need to be set free from the dogmatic approach to the Craft which this particular tenet inspires.

Freedom! Image by marcosmesa via pxhere.com

The “Law of Three” is most often defined by vocal adherents as “anything you send out (positive or negative energy) returns to you three times.” The idea being if you “bless” someone then you receive triple the blessings. If you “curse” someone, you receive triple the cursings.

What I’ve related above is the most common definition I’ve heard of the Law of Three. Indeed, in my early days in the Craft (starting as a Wiccan) that is how I understood the principle through all my reading and in talking to other Wiccans.

However, my perspective has changed over the years as my spiritual journey brought me to where I am today as a Witch.

In my view, the most common interpretation of the Three-fold Law expressed as “the energy you send out returns to you threefold” is nothing more than a variation on the Pauline biblical teaching of sowing-reaping“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” Galatians 6:7.

“The energy you send out returns to you threefold.” Image by Tanuj_handa via pixabay.com

Additionally, there seems to be a kinship within the “Law of Three,” and the “sowing-reaping” principle, to Hinduism and Buddhism’s teaching of “karma” and “vipaka”, which serves as another kind of cause and effect in regard to one’s actions which then brings inevitable results (good or bad) to a person, whether in this life or the next. However, I’m no expert and am basing my opinion on the basics of what I’ve read.

These principles also come into play through the concept (or “law”) of reciprocity, which according to Dictionary.com, can be defined as a “mutual exchange.” There are those who teach this and the “law of attraction” as a universal principle in spiritual and energetic realms as well.

Let’s return to the Law of Three or “Threefold Law.” Is it a “universal” truth? What is its origin and how did it become such a big part of Wicca? According to what I’ve learned, what’s come to be known as the Law of Three found it’s voice within The Wiccan Rede.

“Mind the Threefold Law you should, three times bad and three times good.”

However, rather than a universal “law” or principle, the Law of Three or Threefold Law seems to be a misinterpretation of a passage from Gerald Gardner’s novel, High Magic’s Aid. According to an article written by Kelden, the story’s main character is told “Thou hast obeyed the Law. But mark well, when thou receivest good, so equally art bound to return good threefold.”

Is it a Universal law though? Image by geralt via pixabay.com

Reading those two sentences, there isn’t a lot of clarification. Original intention could have been lost in interpretation over the years.

What I believe happened in regard to “The Law of Three” is, that in an effort to live by the Rede’s “Do No Harm” admonition, these words from High Magic’s Aid and the Wiccan Rede have been conflated with the sowing-reaping teaching of Christianity. Who knows? Maybe Gerald Gardner borrowed the idea! Disagree if you will, but a lot of people come to Wicca, witchcraft or paganism from that religion. We have an overculture with a strong Christian influence. A religion which instills fear of punishment for “sin” and regards witchcraft as “dark,” “evil”, and “harmful.”

To those promoting the Law of Three, perhaps baneful magick is dark, evil, and harmful

Anyway, there is bound to be “spill-over” into the Craft from Christian belief as those who come to the Craft from that religion “de-program” from old dogma. Speaking from experience, the Law of Three can feel familiar when leaning into a spirituality so different from what came before. Indeed, the vehemence with which some practitioners assert the Threefold Law as “universal” and the attempts to persuade others to follow suit, suggests to me there is more than simple concern at play. As a former Christian, I’m inclined to wonder if fear is not the unconscious motivator behind the fervor during discussions wherein the Law of Three is invoked.

Here’s the thing.

Not all people follow the Threefold Law. People don’t want to be harassed or told they are wrong for practicing baneful magick. These are realities which advocates for the Law of Three need to embrace. There is no “one right way” to practice the Craft.

Not all Witches follow “The Law of Three.” Image by darksouls1 via pixabay.com

Doreen Valiente publically declared her belief that Gerald Gardner made up the Threefold Law. An article for The Pagan Grove by John J. Coughlin quotes Doreen from a FireHeart Journal (1991) interview saying “Personally, I’ve always been skeptical about it because it doesn’t seem to me to make sense. I don’t see why there has to be one special law of karma for Witches and a different one for everybody else. I don’t buy that.”

If you are a Wiccan or Pagan who follows the Threefold Law and the Wiccan Rede, then do so in peace. However, keep in mind the concept is not holy writ and trying to push others into following your way of doing things is reminiscent of certain monotheistic religions. There are Witches, Pagans, and magickal practitioners who do not follow the same beliefs, traditions, laws, or practices found in Wicca. Witches and magickal practitioners who have no fear or worry when it comes to baneful magick, and are ready to take responsibility for their own actions as sovereign beings. Also, I happen to know there are Wiccans who do not hold to the Threefold Law concept (I’m looking at you, Paul!).

My point is there does not need to be a huge discussion about the “dangers” of hexing or cursing with an allusion to the Law of Three every time the topic comes up. Let’s agree to disagree and move on.

About Gwyn
Gwyn is one of the hosts of 3 Pagans and a Cat, a podcast about the questions and discussions between three pagan family members, each exploring different pagan paths and how their various traditions can intersect. The most practiced pagan on the path, Gwyn is an Eclectic Green Witch and Clairsentient Medium. She loves working with herbs, essential oils and plants. She has been a musician, teacher, and published author. Now, she just wants to be a free spirit and talk about life. You can read more about the author here.

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