Ah, the 3-Fold-Law, aka “The Wiccan Rede.”
Nothing sends an otherwise pleasant discussion among modern witches skidding into a toxic cesspool of indignant self-righteousness like this widely despised “rule” of spellcraft.
It usually goes something like this.
Poor Rita, just read her first book on witchcraft ever. She dares to sit down with her very first coven, and meekly protests when Miranda mentions her plans to curse her ex-boyfriend or whatever.
Rita: But . . .what about the Rule of Three? Won’t it come back to you and something bad will happen to you?
Everyone Else (eyes rolling, in united, haughty, exasperated voices): OMG RITA! Don’t be so judgy! Not everyone believes in the 3-fold-law. Geeeeez!
Well, today, I’m here to defend poor Rita. So sit down, my gentle crones, we need to talk.
What is the 3-Fold-Law?
The 3-Fold-Law, or the Rule of 3, is a spiritual doctrine. It asserts that any energy you put out into the universe returns to you times 3.
You already know the 3-Fold-Law, of course. Even if you’ve never read a single book about witchcraft in the entirety of your life.
Everyone knows this rule. Because everyone has some version of it in their cultures. Do any of these sound familiar?
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
“What goes around, comes around.”
“Knock it off, Brenda. You wouldn’t like it if your little brother licked your ice cream, would you?”
Wait . . . why would anyone object to this?
This is where it gets sticky.
A lot of people outside the Craft (and I, suspect, even within it, albeit secretly) wonder why the hell anyone would object to a spiritual principle that guides practitioners to be mindful that their actions have consequences?
Well . . . that’s complicated.
People are tired of being confused with Wiccans.
Contrary to popular belief, the 3-Fold-Law is not exclusive to Wicca.
Although many people who object to the 3-Fold-Law seem to be oblivious to this point.
Certainly, however, a number of other occult and new age traditions regard the Law of Three as a tenet of their faith.
Nonetheless, because it’s so closely associated with Wicca, practitioners from other traditions regard them as inextricably entangled and, therefore, want to disassociate themselves from it.
It makes them defensive.
Generally, people tend to trot out the 3-Fold-Law when confronted with a practice, spell, or belief that runs contrary to it.
For example, some people regard cursing as justified in certain circumstances.
(And before you judge them, remember that even the law justifies murder in some circumstances).
So, for example, if someone is stalking your daughter, many spell crafters feel justified in cursing the offender if it serves as a counteraction to this offense—-much as the law might justify you punching someone in the face if they charge at you unprovoked.
Not ideal, and perhaps best avoided, but (as they see it, anyway) sometimes necessary.
Naturally, it’s understandable that a practitioner working under this philosophy of the Craft might feel attacked when the aforementioned Rita naively busts out her 3-Fold-Law rhetoric.
It’s contrary to the laws of classical physics.
To me, this one is the most interesting argument against the 3-Fold-Law—-although I find it somewhat contradictory.
Some people (particularly those with a more rational bent on the Craft) see the 3-Fold-Law as a fundamental contradiction to the laws of physics.
Particularly Newton’s law: “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.”
Their contention is not that the universe doesn’t respond in kind to negative or positive energy, but that it responds proportionally. In other words, not at a multiple of 3, which would require the creation of energy, violating yet another principle of physics that you may remember from your high school sciences:
“Matter can neither be created nor destroyed.”
Personally, my feeling is that spiritual practices are inherently irrational and there is little value in trying to view them through that lens, but that’s a whole other topic.
Why it’s kind of ridiculous to argue about this.
Look. It’s time to give the Ritas of the world a break.
After all, we don’t give Buddhists or Hindus a bunch of shit when they try to explain their understanding of karma.
Most of us (the ones that are socialized enough to present ourselves to a diverse public outside our own like-minded covens, anyway) recognize that they are simply sharing their perspective.
You can take it, or you can leave it.
If you really feel compelled to (and frankly, I rarely do), you can gently explain that you don’t quite see things that way and maybe, just maybe, take the opportunity to clear up a misconception about the Craft.
But let’s not make Rita feel stupid for simply repeating one version of what might arguably be the single oldest and most universal spiritual tenet in the history of humanity.