Internet Book of Shadows, (Various Authors), , at sacred-texts.com
J. Random Folksinger writes:
I had reason to search the Web under my pseudonym, J. Random Folksinger, and found a couple of my works included in your Book of Shadows Index. While it is nice to see my writings still in circulation, my Commentaries on the Abbreviated Laws (included in the Abbreviated Laws file) and the Book of the New Law (free-standing) are among my more negative works.
I am much prouder of my modern-English version of the Old Laws of the Craft, which is mainly different from the other versions because you can understand the language. I made no deletions and extremely few additions to the original texts, and compared over 10 different versions as well as various exigeses which were lovingly sent me by Judy Harrow.
I would very much like to have this added to your files, and have attached a copy for your perusal and/or addition. This is in DOS Text format, feel free to convert it to HTML if needed.
In Service to the Goddess,
aka J.Random Folksinger and Harry Smothers (many filk references)
In the Magic Circle, the words, commands and wishes of the High Priestess are Law. She is the earthly representative of our gracious Goddess. She is to be obeyed and respected in all things. She is our Lady and, above all others, a Queen in the highest sense of the word. All female coveners will curtsy and say "Blessed Be" when they come before Her, and all male coveners will bend their knee and kiss Her on the right cheek and say "Blessed Be".
In the Magic Circle, the High Priest is the earthly representative of the Great God. He commands the respect due a Magus, Lord Counselor and father.
THE LAWS WERE MADE FOR THE WITCHES TO ADVISE THEM IN THEIR TROUBLES. DO NOT CHANGE THEM LIGHTLY.
The Witches should worship the Gods as is their due, and obey their will. For the worship of the Gods is good for the Witches even as the worship of the Witches is good for the Gods: For the Gods love all their Witches.
As a man loves a woman more by learning more of her wants and desires, so should the Witches love the Gods by the learning (mastering) of them.
It is necessary that the Magic Circle, which is the Temple of the Gods in these times, be cast and purified such that it may be a fitting place for the Gods; and the Witches should be properly prepared and purified to enter into the presence of the Gods.
With love and worship in their hearts the Witches shall raise power from their bodies (and the elements around them), and they shall offer this power to the Gods so that the Gods may help their Witches.
The High Priestess shall rule her coven as the representative of the Goddess, and the High Priest shall support her as the representative of the God. The High Priestess will choose any member of the coven to be her High Priest, if he has sufficient standing in the coven. As the God Himself kissed our Lady's feet, gave Her the five-fold salute, and offered Her His power because of Her youth and beauty, Her sweetness and kindness, Her wisdom and justice, Her humility, gentleness and generosity, and shared His power with Her, so therefore the High Priestess should always be aware that all power comes from Him; it is only lent, to be used wisely and justly.
The greatest virtue of a High Priestess shall be recognition that youth is necessary to the representative of the Goddess. She will, therefore, gracefully retire in favor of a younger covener should the coven so decide in council. The true High Priestess should realize that gracefully surrendering the pride of place is one of the greatest virtues, and that thereby she will return to that pride of place in another life with even greater power and beauty.
In the Old Days, when there were many Witches, we were free and worshipped freely in the greatest temples; but in these times, we must celebrate our sacred mysteries in secret. Therefore, none but the Witches are to see our mysteries; no coven shall know the location of any other coven or who its members are, except the High Priest, the High Priestess and the Messenger; and that there shall be no communication among the covens, except by the Messenger of the Gods or the Summoner. Only if it is safe may the covens meet in some safe place for the Great Festivals; and while there, none shall give their true names or any information about their coven or its members. This law is made for this reason: No-one can tell our enemies what they do not themselves know.
It is ordained that no-one shall tell any person not in the Craft who other Witches are, or give them names or addresses, or in any way tell anything that can betray a Witch to their face. Nor may anyone tell where the covendom or covenstead is, where any meetings are held or any other information about the coven unless directed to do so by the coven in council.
If anyone breaks these laws, even under torture, may the Curse of the God and the Goddess be upon them, so that they may not be reborn upon the Earth (but shall live forever in the Hell of the Christians).
Let each High Priest and High Priestess govern their coven with justice and love, with the help and advice of the other and of the elders of the coven, always heeding the advice of the Messenger of the Gods if he should arrive. They will heed all the suggestions of their coveners and strive to settle any differences among them.
It is recognized that there will always be people who will try to make everybody agree with their ideas: these people are not necessarily bad -- they often have good ideas and these ideas should be discussed in council. But if they will not come to agree with their other coveners or if they say "I will not work with this High Priestess", then the elders will have them leave. It should be suggested that they might join another coven, or if they are of sufficient standing, they may be encouraged to found their own coven. For it is better this way, to avoid strife among the family of Witches.
When using geographic boundaries, whenever anyone of Third Degree lives more than a league from the covenstead (or are about to), any of these may found a new coven; indeed, any Witch living within the covenstead who wishes to form a new coven will inform the elders of this intention and immediately move to a new dwelling beyond the boundaries of known covensteads. Members of any coven may choose to join the new coven when it is formed, but they must totally avoid their old coven if they choose this course. The elders of the old and new covens should meet in peace and love to determine the boundaries of the covens. Any Witch living outside of any two covens may choose to join either coven, but never both. All may meet for the Great Festivals if the elders agree, so long as they meet in peace and love. Let the elders confer as to the use of this law when it is not directly applicable. Always be aware that the splitting of a coven breeds bad feelings (energy vortices?); this law was made chiefly for this reason. And may happier times come!
If you would keep a Book (whether it is called a Black Book, Book of Shadows, Book of Light, or whatever), write it in your own hand. Let your brothers and sisters in the Craft copy as they will from your book in their hand, but never let your Book out of your hands and never keep the writing of another. Every Witch should keep and guard their own writings, that none may be discovered through their Book being found in another's possession.
Destroy your Book whenever danger threatens, and commit as many as possible of these Laws to memory. Destroy the writings of a deceased Witch if they did not have time to do so themselves. If any of their writings are found, it is clear proof against both the writer and the holder, for our enemies firmly believe that "one may not be a Witch alone": their family and all who are known to be friends may be suspected as Witches. Be responsible with your writings and you will protect all who love you.
If your Book is found on you, it is clear proof against you along unless you tell our enemies what you know. You may be taken and tortured, but keep all thoughts of the Craft from your mind. If the torture is too much to bear, tell them, "I cannot bear this torture. I will confess. What do you want me to say?" If they try to make you talk about the Craft, do not; but if they try to make you speak of absurd things, such as flying through the air, consorting with the Christian devil, sacrificing children or eating men's flesh, say, "I held an evil dream; I was beside myself; I was crazed," or words to that effect, to obtain relief from the torture. Not all magistrates are bad -- if there is any semblance of an excuse, they may show mercy. If you have confessed to anything, deny it afterwards: say that you babbled under torture, or that you don't remember what you said. If you are condemned, do not be afraid, for the Craft is powerful and your escape will be aided if you stand fast. If you go steadfast to the flames, be certain that drugs will reach you and you will feel nothing of the pain. You will only go to death and what lies beyond -- the ecstasy of the God and the Goddess. If you betray anything, however, there is no hope for you in this life or that which is to come.
To avoid being discovered, choose your working tools to be ordinary items which you would have around the house. Make your Pentacles out of wax so that you can break and melt them at once. Do not keep a sword unless its presence would alarm no-one. Have no signs or names visible on anything. Write the signs in ink or water immediately before consecrating the tool and wash them off immediately after. Do not engrave anything, for this will only help you be discovered. Keep your athame and kerfan (working knife) among your kitchen knives, and let the colors of the hilts determine the one from the other and from the other knives. Always remember that we are the Hidden Children of the Goddess. Never do anything to disgrace the Craft or Her -- never boast, never threaten, and never say that you wish ill of anyone.
It is not forbidden to say, "There is Witchcraft in the land", for the Christians say so themselves and have made it heresy not to believe so; but always say, "I know nothing of it here, though it may be elsewhere." If any person speaks about the Craft outside of the Circle, say, "Don't speak of such things -- it frightens me. It is bad luck to talk about such things." Say this for this reason: the Christians have their spies everywhere. These spies have been known to talk as if they were drawn to the Craft and as if they would want to come to our meetings, and they say such things as, "My fathers and forefathers worshipped the Old Ones, and my mother; I would like to worship in this way myself." To all of these, tell them that you do not know what they are talking about, and that you wish they would stop. But to others, say, "It's silly to talk about Witches flying around in the air; they would have to be lighter than feathers or thistle-down. Besides, everyone knows that Witches are all bleary-eyed old hags; what fun could they possibly have at their meetings, and why should I want to participate? And besides, you know we were taught in school that there are no such things as Witches." Always make fun of the subject, that we may worship in peace when the persecution ends: let us all work for that happy time. May the blessing of the God and the Goddess be upon all who keep this law.
If any in the Craft holds any property, let all Witches guard it and keep it clear and good for the use of the Craft. It is the further responsibility of all Witches to guard Craft funds wisely.
If any Witch offers a well-made item, it is proper to pay them for it according to the value of the work; this is not taking money for the Craft, but payment for honest work -- even the Christians believe that "the labourer is worth his hire". Still, if any Witch works willingly for the good of the Craft and will not accept payment, this shall be to their greater honor.
It is known that a coven may be bound together by sexual ties, and that this is often not desirable. When it is found that this is not desirable, the coven should be made up of loving couples, and there may also be single coveners. In such cases, it is required that the search for new love be undertaken outside the coven except when two single coveners find love with each other; otherwise, it will often cause division in the coven. For while all acts of love and pleasure are indeed the rituals of our beloved Goddess, She is not inclined to favor acts which divide Her covens and scatter Her Witches unnecessarily.
If there should arise quarrels or disputes among the Witches, the High Priestess or High Priest shall immediately convene the elders and inquire into the problem. The elders shall hear each side separately, and then both together. Their decision should be just, not siding with one side until the matter is determined, recognizing that there are people who cannot work under others, and others who cannot make wise decisions. To those who must always be in charge, the possible solutions for them are to void the coven altogether, find another coven for them, or for them to found a new coven (taking with them all who will go). To those who cannot rule wisely, the solution is that those who cannot bear the rule will leave the coven. No one can truly worship the Gods when personal conflicts among the coveners are not resolved; all who cause strife in the coven must be told, "Go away from us, for the Craft must ever survive."
In the Old Days, we could use the Art against anyone who treated the Witches badly; but in these times, we must not do so. Our enemies have invented a burning pit of everlasting fire into which their God throws everyone who does not worship Him, except for those few who buy their penance from His priests (for their God always seems to be in need of money). Even as our Gods need our aid to make fertility for people and crops, so it is that the God of the Christians is always needing men to find and destroy us. Their priests tell them that any man who is helped by us will be damned to their Hell forever, to the point that men are mad with the terror of it. But the priests also make them believe that they may escape this Hell if they give up Witches to be tortured, so that these men are always thinking, "If I catch only one Witch, I will escape the fiery pit." For this reason we have our hiding places, and when no Witches are found, the searchers will say, "There aren't any Witches, or at least not in this area." But as soon as one of our oppressors dies or even catches a cold, the cry will go up that it is "Witches' work", and the hunt will be on again. And while they may kill ten Christians for every Witch, they will not care, for they are countless millions while we are few indeed.
THEREFORE, IT IS ORDAINED that none shall use the Art in any way to harm anyone or even wish them ill. However much they may injure us, HARM NONE, and may the Christians forget that we exist.
These laws are ordained to help us in our difficulties. No person, no matter how large the injury or injustice they incur, may use the Art in any way to do evil or harm anyone. But they may use the Art, after great consultation with the elders and fellow coveners, to keep the Christians and their tools from harming anyone -- but only to constrain them. To this end, some day men will say "That man says he is a mighty persecutor of Witches, but all we ever see him torture are old women -- we cannot see that they have hurt anyone, and if they are all such powerful Witches, why has he not been harmed?" They will see him as the evil person he is, regardless of his professed beliefs. We know that too many people have died because someone had a grudge against them, or were persecuted because another wanted their wealth or because they were too poor to bribe the witch-hunters. And many have died only for being old women -- so many that most men now seem to believe that only old women are Witches. This is to our advantage, for it turns many suspicious eyes away from us; but we mourn deeply for the old women. Still, in England and Scotland, it has been hundreds of years since a Witch "died the death"; be vigilant, for the misuse of our power might begin the persecutions again. Never break this law, no matter how much you are tempted. Never consent to the breaking of this law: even a High Priestess who merely consents to the breaking of this law must be deposed immediately, for it is the blood of all the Witches that she endangers. DO ONLY GOOD, and then only when it is safe to do anything at all.
Never accept money for the use of the Art, for money always smudges the receiver. Christians take money for the use of their arts, and they sell pot-metal charms, pardons and potions to men so that they may escape from their sins. Do not act like these; as long as you refuse to take money, you will be free from the temptation to use the Art for evil causes. All may use the Art for their own advantage or for the advantage of the Craft, but you must always be certain that no-one will be harmed by its use. Let the coven debate the use of the Art at length, and only when all are satisfied that none will be harmed by its use will the use be allowed. Remember that if you cannot achieve your means in one fashion, your aim may still be reached through another -- always harming none.
If anyone in the Craft needs a house or land and there is no one willing to sell to them, you may use the Art to incline an owner's mind to be willing to sell, provided that the spell does not harm the owner or the property and that the full value is paid without haggling. Never bargain or cheapen anything while living by the Art.
The most important of laws: Do nothing that will endanger anyone in the Craft or which will bring them into conflict with the law of the land or any of our persecutors. In this regard, it is NEVER permissible, in any dispute involving the Craft, to invoke any laws other than those of the Craft, nor may any tribunals be held other than one consisting of the High Priestess, the High Priest, and the elders.
The coven is to keep two books on herbalism. One of these will list the names and uses of all herbs which are cures for ills or are otherwise good for humans, and all may have access to this book to learn these things. But keep a separate book with the names of all poisonous herbs and those used in dark spells, letting only the elders and other trusted Witches know of these secrets or even of this book's existence.
Remember that the Art is the secret of the Gods and may only be used in earnest -- never for show, or pride, or personal glory. The Christians may taunt you saying, "You have no power: Perform some magic for us, and then we may believe." Do not listen to them, for the Art is holy and is to be used only in need.
It has always been the way of men and women that they should seek after love, and while no one should be reproved for this, it may be to the disadvantage of the Craft sometimes. It has happened too many times that a High Priestess has found a new love and run off with him, giving no word to the coven of this. A High Priestess may resign in full coven at any time, and this resignation is valid; but if she has not resigned, the coven shall wait for her to return for a year and a day (for she may return sooner, having left for love). If she has a deputy, that deputy is to act as Priestess for as long as the High Priestess is away. If she returns within this time, all will be as if she had never left; but if she does not return within this time, a new High Priestess shall be elected in full coven. Unless there is a good reason to the contrary, the deputy, having done the work, should reap the reward and be chosen as the new High Priestess. But if another is chosen, the deputy shall be the maiden and deputy of the new High Priestess.
The High Priest serves at the pleasure of the High Priestess. If the High Priestess is gone for more than a year and a day, he shall continue in his office while the deputy serves in her place. However, once a new High Priestess has been chosen, the new High Priestess will appoint her own High Priest (and it may be the current High Priest or not). Neither the prior High Priest nor his friends may be angry if a new High Priest is chosen, for pride must always give way to harmony in the coven.
The Art is sacred: it is the Art of the working of energies, and it must always be taught inside of the Magic Circle. It has been found that teaching the Art frequently leads to a sexual attraction between the teacher and student -- and that this often improves the result. If for any reason this is not desirable, it should be avoided at the beginning by both persons firmly - and verbally - resolving that their relations will be limited to that of brother and sister, or parent and child. It is for the reason that shared love often increases the result of working magic that teaching should always be done from man-to-woman and from woman-to-man. When a coven is made up of members of all one sex, the masculine-to-feminine energy exchange should be adhered to whenever possible. Teaching people about the Craft, however, may be done whenever and wherever it is safe, so long as the teacher is knowledgeable, the student is willing, and the information taught is available publicly or is not a secret of the Art. No-one may charge for teaching, unless it is to cover such expenses as the cost of the room, books or other printed materials, refreshments, and so forth.
Order and discipline must be kept within the coven: the High Priestess or the High Priest should and may punish all faults. To this end, all in the Craft should receive their correction willingly. With the culprit kneeling, all in the Circle should be told of the offense, and the sentence will be pronounced. Punishment might include the scourge or the recasting of the Circle, followed by something silly such as several kisses. The culprit must acknowledge the justice of the punishment by kissing the scourge upon receiving sentence, and afterward by thanking everyone for their loving correction.
SO MOTE IT BE!Source: "J. Random Folksinger" (I did this as a project for my 2nd Degree.) -- Available on most pagan BBSes and the Web as JRFLaws. These laws are a combination of what I was taught and what I learned, using many different sources, including my neo-Gardnerian training, two different sets of Celtic Craft laws, several other versions found in print, exigeses lovingly provieded me by Judy Harrow, and the picked brains of several of my students. You may contact the redactor at firstname.lastname@example.org, as of 11/99 (subject to change).
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