The Three-Fold-Law



Among most Witches and many Pagans, the three-fold-law goes
hand in hand with the “Wiccan Rede” as the basis for ethics in the magickal community.
But what is the basis for the three fold law? Where did it come from? How does
it operate? Is it live or is it Memorex?

If you’ve read our previous discourss on ethics, you already
know how we feel about the Rede: a nice sentiment usually over interpreted to
the point where magick is no longer an option. The three-fold-law gives the
Rede some clout. It’s no longer just a matter of being a nice guy and harming
none. No, someone created a “law” that exacts an automatic penalty for breaking
the Rede. Whatever you do, good or bad, will come back on you three fold, or
three times. An example would be if you cause Jim Smith to lose his job,then
you will lose your job and the next two as well. On the positive, if you give
Jim a gift of $100, the cosmos will give you back $300. However, it rarely works
that way, and apologists for the law of three will say that somehow material
gain is exempted, or that your return on the gift to Jim may come in a form
other than money. As you can see, this so called “law” is already ripe with
loopholes. I wonder if it has anything to do with one’s status in the Pagan

I know of High Priest/esses who have worked magick to bring
down the law of three, on someone they feel has violated the Rede in some way.
This suggests that it’s not really a law, since a law (like gravity) would operate
without magickal invocation. It also suggests that the operator is immune, since
drawing down a “three-fold” whatever on another would seem to trigger yet another
“three-fold” event upon the operator. But it doesn’t seem to work that way.

The basis of the three-fold law seems to be karma. Now
karma on its surface is a belief I like, since it would be the spiritual equivalent
of TANSTAAFL. Like actions receive like rewards. But the actual doctrine is
deeper than that. Karma originates in the ancient Hindu religion. It basically
says that in this life you are paying for, or being rewarded for the mistakes
or good deeds you did in your previous life, and that you are also learning
how to live more perfectly with each new life (the doctrine of karma being intimately
linked with Hindu reincarnation / transmigration of souls). Each life therefore
is a cycle, and you ascend or descend upon the ladder of enlightenment in each
life, until you reach a state where you no longer need to reincarnate. In practice,
karma is a really handy way for the high Brahman caste to justify the state
of the lowly Untouchable caste in India’s caste system. This is just another
religious tool the rich and powerful use to keep the masses in line. Western
occultists borrowed Karma from Hinduism and reinterpreted it for their own purposes.
This happened during the occult awakening in the early years of this century.
Aleister Crowley, H. Spencer Lewis, and others are credited with the importation
of Karma and Reincarnation from Hinduism into the modern western magickal thought.
Both ideas proved popular, and were incorporated into a number of magickal systems,
including Rosicrucianism and Wicca. The evidence suggests that the ancient Celts
believed in a form of Reincarnation as did the ancient Egyptians, and they seem
to have believed in a form of karma as well. So I would not lightly dismiss
Karma as something that does not exist. It does, and we are subject to it. It
was Doreen Valiente that was credited for the Wiccan version of Karma, the three-fold
law. t/srceress/karma.htm

Generally, the westernized version of karma is less nasty
than it’s Hindu forebear. It takes the form of the Christian idea of “do unto
others…” or the American folklore idea of “what goes around comes around,”
or giving “tit for tat” (“What is ‘tat’? And how do I trade it for the other
thing?”– George Carlin). A related law in Physics is the one where every action
causes and equal and opposite reaction, so at least the natural world backs
up the simplified version of Karma. So why did Wiccans feel it wan’t good enough
as is? My guess would be that Doreen felt that Karma didn’t offer enough clout
as it stood, so she reinterpreted it as the three-fold-law, making it thrice
as effective. Thus this so called “law” becomes an effective tool to keep the
“little people” of Wicca (and Paganism) in line with what the “Lords and Ladys”
want. Yet another example of religion being used to control people. Ironic,
since this is another reason many of us left the religions we were raised in.

The “Law of Three” works the way all magick works: it runs
on belief. In other words, if you believe in it works, if you do not it doesn’t.
It may be that it works on the principal of mass belief; i.e., if enough people
believe in something it becomes a law (or in the case of an entity a God), and
therefore may work on people who do not believe in or even know about it. In
the later case what we have is a curse, not a law, since it would bring down
misfortune on any hapless person who came into contact with it (rather like
a landmine a child stumbles upon).

My solution to the tyranny of the law of three is two fold:
1) stop believing in it. And believe that your active non-belief is stronger
than the corporate belief of the community at large. 2) Stop teaching it. The
same applies to karma. Stop believing in it and stop teaching it and soon it
will have no effect on you. Don’t believe me? Well, have you ever been a Christian?
If you’re like most of us you were raised in some form of Christianity. Did
you believe in Jesus Christ at one time? Of course you did. Did he have an impact
on you life when you did? He most certainly influenced you. Do you believe in
him now? No. Does he have an impact on your life now that you are a Pagan? Not
at all: “that software no longer runs on your system.” To be sure his followers
will still impact your life, and so will the believers in karma/law of three,
but Christ himself does not. He no longer exists in your universe. In the same
way, you can rid yourself of the insidious and insipid law of karma, just by
no longer believing in it.

So what should you believe instead?

How about this: Thou art God. God’s and Goddesses are above
such laws. You are basically a good person. You are not inclined toward doing
harm (though sometimes it’s unavoidable). You are inclined towards doing what
is good, what is right, and what is Godlike, and what needs to be done. You
operate out of love. You take responsibility for what happens in your universe
and are not prone to blame a God, devil, law, or some other entity for your
troubles. Thus you break the pattern of spiritual co-dependency so prevalent
in those yoked to monotheistic, patriarchal and karmically based religions,
and those religious leaders who feed on control. And thus you become a mature
adult, in control of your own life and your own destiny.


Note: The above essay is the original “Lesson 2-B”
from the Druiccraft 101 course presented by the Order
of the Mithril Star