THE NEW BOOK OF THE LAW
Commentary by J. Random Folksinger
I have to preface this by stating that I was first drawn to this
work by Leigh Ann Hussey, and reacted very negatively to it. This will
be my second time through these Laws, with comments that are SOLELY MY
OWN OPINION. I know that Lady Galadriel put a lot of work (translate:
sweat blood) into these Laws, and I am not attacking her or her work.
Making my points without sounding negative would have been nice, but I
have not been very successful at this; since several people have been
asking me to put down *WHY* I didn't like them, I felt that getting the
project over with would be better than struggling with a novel-length
exercise in not offending anyone. To Lady Galadriel: I, too, have sweat
blood over a reconstruction project similar to this (and I got lots of
negative feedback, too). My finished copy, which includes the old
"Burning Times" laws as a historical source or what to do when things
*really* get bad, can be had from Leigh Ann, Judy Harrow, or downloaded
from WeirdBase in St. Louis as "JRFLAWS.TXT". My heart goes out to you,
but I am commenting on your Laws from my head only.
On the Preface: The Book of the Law, or Liber Al, which Lady G. refers
to as a primary source, is not the same as Craft law in most traditions
as it was written by Aleister Crowley; it is, therefore, hardly a
wonder why it was not found to be very pertinent by Lady G. If, indeed,
Lady G.'s Book of the Law was *not* Liber Al, it is hard to understand
where many of these Laws originated.
1. Form and Order? Ask a Discordian or Shamanic Craft type. The Laws
were created for guidance, as the latter part of this Law attests.
2. Channels, and manifestation of the Source? This sounds more like New
Age Xtianity than Wicca. I should stop talking about the flowers in the
language, although they are disconcerting and very distracting from the
original goal of "readable, usable, and pertinent to the needs ..." I
suppose I can just use the term "flowers" as my way of saying that the
language is unnecessarily complicated when it really bothers me -- and
most of these laws do fall in this category.
3. Oh, no. Not the Xtian "Ye are as children" routine again. The Gods,
in my training, wish us to grow, not perpetually remain children. To
not test what they say is the same as channelling some unknown spirit
and believing everything he/she says. We are growing, making the Gods
proud, not belittling or mocking them.
4. This law is over-judgemental (something I am accused of being at
times), and ignores the need for working with our shadow-side; I
suppose naivete is the worst I can say about this Law. I can easily
find better in Marion Weinstein's POSITIVE MAGIC...
5. The "Mothership" routine smacks of Close Encounters, but other than
the children routine and some language problems, this one isn't too bad
-- but isn't there something in an initiation ritual about us and the
Gods being the same "but for a difference of power"? I would think
Brothers and Sisters of the Gods would be better terminology --
feminists are welcome to reverse the wording.
6. Hmmm. Sounds like tithing to me. While it is certainly a good idea,
we give back to the Gods all the time -- this would be making the
meaningful ritual a mechanical one. Sustain its Priests and
Priestesses? Paid (or fed) clergy? Shades of Paul! This part would
still work in my tradition, since we are all priests and priestesses,
but I know some that are different...
7. I can't see the purpose of this Law, and know of no corresponding
Law in the Laws I have come across. It sounds like the God of the
Xtians again, making people the way they are and then judging them for
being that way.
8. A direct statement would be better. Who do you know in these times
that goes around weighing silver? Is this a modern metaphor? I don't
9. Does not parse. Sounds good, though...
10. This sounds like it's setting up the teacher as infallible -- shut
up and listen. Also, while I hear Karma used frequently in Craft
discussions, it is because it is a useful concept for us; however, this
is the first time I have seen the Lords of Karma enthroned in Craft
11. I could have taken the Golden Rule in one of its permutations, but
this is much more akin to the concept of "Sin" than that of Karma.
12. "You must not be a teller of tales..."? What, we are to have no
Bards in the Craft? If this law means that gossipping is not a good
thing, why doesn't it say so? And "must hold no malice" indicates that
we are not allowed to be human again -- true, it is better for the
Craft that we all be as a loving family, but there are other ways to
deal with the problems caused by personality conflicts than to outlaw
13. Flowers. Old Law. (Meaning that, other than difference in wording,
this is the same as the "Old Laws", i.e., Lady Sheba and others.)
14. Oh, boy! Priestess Knows Best (and will be happy to be responsible
for *you*). If someone asks me a question, give them the straightest
answer I can, and without phoning up my Priestess for permission to do
so. I am a trained, adult Witch, and am capable both of making my own
decisions *and* taking the consequences for making a wrong decision.
The "You must not put stumbling blocks..." sounds like the old parental
admonishment, "Don't put beans in your ears." The Xtians have enough
stumbling blocks of their own; I don't think ours would even be
noticed, and so are unnecessary.
15. The key words are in the Preface: readable, usable, and pertinent.
"Fetters" and "woe" are not very meaninful words in this half of the
20th century. Not sure about the use of "souls", either, since that
seems to be mostly a Xtian concern. Remember, Lady G. said that she
reworded some of these laws "to make them clearer and more
understandable". I think she missed here.
16. Sounds like "Trust in God; He will provide." Where is the Craft
basis for this Law?
17. If you kill someone magickally, accidentally or otherwise, you
should be sacrificed to atone for it? My Goddess demands nothing in
sacrifice. It would be far better to get into therapy and see how you
could forgive yourself and help others to forgive you (I'm using
"forgive" as a psychological, not religious, term). No problem with the
18. Could be said more clearly.
19. The source for this, especially the final sentence, seems to be
Jesus in Revelation. "Many say, Lord, Lord, but I know them not..."
20. Sounds like, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God in
vain". Either that is what this law is saying, or it needs to be
21. Old Law. I would have worded it, "In any disputes among the
22. Old Law.
23. To me, my magickal tools are channels between what is within me and
what is outside of me (on the magickal planes, which frequently
intersect with the planes of reality). Still, Do Not Haggle is Old Law.
24. Old Law, except for the semantical substitution of "Power" for
"Art" and the use of the judgmental terms "evil" and "unworthy".
25. "Thou shalt not steal"? Hinted-at consequences are unnecessary.
26. I don't understand "Show honor" as a phrase, and the last phrase is
not comprehensible to me.
27. "Those who are of the Wicca shall not own slaves," -- good idea,
although I have never seen it included in Craft Law. The rest of this
sentence is again unclear and/or unnecessary justification. "Nor shall
you take as a pledge any person's life,"; well, the Laws of Karma (if
you accept them, which these Laws purport to) demand otherwise from
time to time, and again, this has not been found necessary in any other
set of Craft Laws I have seen.
28. This is the second time the Golden Rule has been quoted in a faulty
permutation. "If a stranger sojourns with you...they shall be as one of
the Circle..." What, we're going to invite total strangers into our
rites just because this Law says so? There are enough Laws that
contradict this already. This doesn't sound right.
29. This came straight out of Leviticus, and also exists in Baha'i law
in a slightly clearer form. It's nice that we're getting ecumenical,
but what is the need for this in Craft Law? The Threefold Law applies,
and is easier to understand.
30. The Good Wiccan Houskeeping Seal is required for Circle?
31. Not a Wiccan Law. "Cleanliness is next to god/dessliness" would be
a shorter way of phrasing this. Although the old customs (NOT laws)
require bathing prior to a ritual, even that has been used to "find"
Witches with in some areas (they're clean and smell nice -- they must
be seducing our men for Satan!).
32. Not Law, but a start; I believe none should die without someone
having cared for them; and that death with dignity is the hoped-for
ideal. Many of you already know that I'm initiating action toward Pagan
hospice, funeral, and cemetery care. The judgement about "their
actions" is for the Dark Lord to make.
33. Threefold Law is all you need here. Anything else is moral
34. Amended version: "Let those who desire union as a couple (or other
forms as might be desirable, such as a triad or a group relationship)
be handfasted, sharing their love in a manner they and the Gods find
pleasing." Children are not necessary for shared love (and often
separate the parents from their mutual desires), and there is no need
to deny handfasting to couples not wanting children. I also am not
certain that this needs to be a Law.
35. "The Law of the Goddess is that none of the Wicca shall take and
wed someone who they do not love." Period.
36. Not Law. Also uses "brethren", another male term. (Anyone who has
read my revision of Gardnerian Craft Law should have noticed the
near-total lack of gender terminology.)
END OF PART ONE
37. The first sentence is incomprehensible, immaterial, or both. This
law is very flowery, and I would love to know what Lady G. extracted it
38. Old Law: "Never boast, never threaten..." seems to be the root here
- and is much clearer in that form.
39. The concept of magickal purity is one of ritual magick, not the
Craft. This Law is, in letter and spirit, one of ritual magick. While
some traditions of the Craft do get into ritual magick, that still does
not make this "proper" as Craft Law.
40. Old Law was both clearer and less "new-agey".
41. WHERE hath the Goddess said these things? Nowhere in my tradition,
and they sound more like things She may have said in circle --
certainly no need to canonize them.
42. Back to Leviticus. This is far too judgemental for any tradition I
am familiar with. There also seems to be confusion between "work" as in
make money and "work" as in learning and teaching the things of the
43. A sacred trust? This explains why Grove of the Unicorn built a
sanctuary in Georgia, but I have never seen this expressed as a
requirement. Most traditions are not getting over being hidden; this
Law requires total openness. I think it's dangerous to do this in most
areas, and having the Goddess decree (here) that we should do something
that could harm Her Witches (something She expressly forbids us to do
in the Old Laws) doesn't feel right. What is the source of this one? It
appears to be the inner feelings of some Witch or Witches, which is not
good enough to pass off as Craft Law.
44. While I have been taught this, it was under "What We Do" rather
than "The Law". The style of presentation sounds too much like what
YHWH would have written as a law rather than the Goddess I know...
45. Am I reading this wrong, or is this saying "Honor the Sabbath and
keep it holy"? We need to set aside a whole day(s)? I don't think
that's realistic in these times, although it might have been in
46. Not necessary. Any teacher will give you this information.
47. Definitely flowers. Let each Witch keep a book (she even dropped
the "in their own hand" part). What else is necessary?
48. Clumsy, with too many "they"s in spots; How about, "Study the signs
of the Gods in all their forms; these shall guide your thoughts to the
Gods and the Gods will take notice of you. Turn your thoughts and
worship to the Gods, not the signs and statues of them."
49. The original here says "If *any* in the Craft owns any land...guard
all monies of the Craft..." thus widening the circle of love beyond
just the Circle you are a part of.
50. Old Law. I feel this could be done a bit more clearly.
51. Extremely Crowleyian in content, where the content can be
determined. It sounds like it is favoring asceticism "for the good of
the Craft...". Unclear rules like this have led to excesses in other
religions they have appeared in.
52. NOT CRAFT LAW. Paul would have loved to have this kind of law as
stated by Christ, but it wasn't true then and it isn't true now. IF
WE'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO TAKE MONEY FOR THE ART, HOW COME WE CAN BE
ALLOWED TO TAKE GIFTS?????
53. Taken as an extension of #52, this law repulses me; however, having
deleted #52, and deleting "offerings of ... money", it could be OK. But
it is totally unnecessary unless you're trying to set yourself up as
the First Church of Wicca, N.A., complete with Xtian abuses of power.
In any loving circle, poeple will bring the incense, or the cakes
and/or wine, or work together on building a new altar. This is already
covered in the laws above, though.
54. Harmony will be restored by working toward harmony, not by donating
to your favorite non-profit Temple. Again, the emphasis on giving makes
me think of televangelists ("I need to make the payment on my
Inspirational Cadillac"). I don't know what problems Grove of the
Unicorn has been having in keeping up their payments on the land or
whatever, but their problems should not be used as a lever to change
Craft Law (if indeed this is the object of these laws).
55. Once more, this law either comes out of ritual magic or
televangelism (or both). Every Witch should know (or know how to look
up) the proper times for a ritual, and should be able to offer it up
themselves ("thru the most proper medium" could mean "Pay the
Priestess" or it could mean "use the right tools" -- if it is *not*
intended to mean the latter, then this law has no basis in the Craft).
56. Old Law, and one of the most important Craft Laws.
57. Separating this Law from the previous one causes a minor problem --
it now becomes "Never break the Laws" (and there are some dillies in
this set) instead of "Never break *this* Law".
58. The "Mighty Ones" decided for us "in days of old" that we cannot
use the Art against anyone? A shirking of responsibility is again
evident. While the same precept occurs in my set of the Laws, it is
obviously a decision made in the light of persecutions, not something
decreed from on high.
59. Sentence fragments. (sic) This is a subject that is not in the Laws
(but is in the Charge of the Goddess, without the God's side of
END OF PART TWO
60. Why do we need "the dimly remembered dawn of ages past" and
Atlantis to make this point? This is the only version I've seen that
goes beyond remembered history.
61. Should be combined with #60, and have more of the excessive
verbiage dropped. Oh, no! Not another cry of "the evil of chaos" again!
How can these people even *talk* to Discordians??? Any set of Laws that
is intended to be Craft-inclusive must not include value judgements,
especially using the words "good", "evil", and "chaos". This law seems
to be wishing for the time when we were in power; every set of Laws
I've seen prior to this one would settle for a time in which we are
tolerated or accepted.
62. I don't understand what this is trying to say -- it seems to
fluctuate between "No more secrets", "Only a few secrets", and "Don't
tell anybody anything". Since all three of these have been expressed
above, I'm not sure this law is needed; it hardly even adds to the
63. The change from "always heeding the Messenger" to "always heeding
the messages" is a little dangerous, but otherwise, this is Old Law.
64. This law sounds pretty Gardnerian in tone, but it does not agree
with Gardnerian myths -- i.e., while Goddess created everything, she
did not create Death itself. Life without Death offers no regeneration,
as Life could not continue on its own; the God was outside of Her
creation, and so He had things to teach Her about Death. (Those of you
who prefer Starhawk's version of this myth are TOTALLY ignored in this
65. I thought an HPs was only concerned mainly with what happens in Her
Circle -- this Law seems to state that She is concerned with an
unstated, but large-sounding, community. Other than that, this is Old
66. I don't think this needs to be in the Laws, but it's a good idea
for each Circle to consider.
67. This seems to be based upon the Old Laws' "If any in the Craft has
any land...", but it does take that additional step into demi-deified
clergy. I wish I knew whether Grove of the Unicorn was an authoritarian
structure or not, but these Laws go a long way toward making its sound
like one. (I'm not sure this group could "pass" Isaac Bonewits' Cult
Danger Evaluation Frame after having read this many of their Laws.)
68. Aha! Almost Old Law, and a "Burning Times" law! This is still a
good Law , but it was formulated to keep anyone from knowing more than
one group to "give away" if they cracked under pressure of Inquisition.
69. Old Law; probably should be included in #68.
70. Are we talking about pneumonia, herpes, or a cold here? You can do
a lot better healing work *in* Circle (in my experience) than outside
of it in many cases, and any Witch can decide for her/himself whether
they are too sick to be in Circle and ask (or not ask) for healing. I
suppose I find this law too judgemental, or too general.
71. Old Law.
72. There is no definition of Council given (the "Old Law" says "the
Elders"), and the "Old Law" states that either the High Priest or the
High Priestess can convene the Elders (useful if the HPs is out of
town...) Otherwise, Old Law.
73. Generally, Old Law. Some of the restatements are difficult or
unwieldy, but no real problems.
74. Old Law. (Actually, a bit of another Old Law is grafter in for
clarification, but it doesn't hurt anything.)
75. In conflict with English(/American) Law, "Ignorance is no excuse,"
includes threefold law (which is NOT included in the Old Laws), and
throws in the Lords of Karma again; rephrased, this could be an
excellent law or rule, but I do not recognize a single source for this
one. Some ritual magic, a little Hinduism, no Craft per se.
76. Nice thought; sounds like a personal addition.
77. As above, the "want of an offering" is not an issue in Old Law; the
"lack of a robe" has never been discussed, since most groups I am
familiar with generally work skyclad or negotiate the issue. Personal
78. Nice thought; sounds like a personal addition.
79. So many flowers that (I feel) most would miss the point. I'm afraid
I did, and I'm a musician.
80. Sounds like the Apostle Paul. The qualities I was taught to look
for in a High Priestess were caring, leadership, patience, ability, and
knowing when to ask for help. This cuts out faith (something Goddess
says in Her Charge is not asked for) and belief (something she wouldn't
be in Circle without). More flames on the topic of children.
81. Source? Sounds clergy-like to me...
82. Old Law states that a requirement of being High Priestess is youth;
while this is not easily practiced in all covens, going to the opposite
extreme is probably not much better. My personal experiences have been
in covens where everyone takes their hand at practicing HP and HPs,
with the HPs acting more like organizer and running coven meetings.
83. Ouch. Based upon Old Law, this Law removes the aspect of Love as an
excuse (or Glands, if you like the Wombat Wicca version) -- and demands
both judgement *and* atonement for a HPs who has left and come back --
even uses the judgemental term, "deserts", in dealing with the issue.
The Old Law may have its drawbacks, but is a much better guide (I feel)
than getting nasty about it. Oooh, they don't even get to hold office
again! Many things are sacred, and certainly being High Priestess is
one of them, but in my teaching, Love is a higher ideal, and the Craft
has always allowed for it.
84. Old Law, with flames as above. "It is the lives of all of the Craft
they endanger." Honor is still undefined in this context.
85. The use of the word, "Sabbatical" is cute in this context, but this
should be a part of #83 rather than separating them out. Also, the
phrase, "the Maiden should continue in that office" confuses the reader
as to which office -- the law has already stated that she should reap
the reward; does election of another person invalidate the election? It
should read, "...the Maiden shall be the Maiden for the new HPs."
86. This is a new idea, and probably a good one: the Priestess and the
Priest need not be the consort of the other, but are selected each by
the coven or circle and are free to choose their own consorts. The one
possible negative I can think of concerns the few times when Great Rite
is held, and the feelings of their consorts on this matter. But then it
lets the coven decide whether the choice was right nor not! If we're
dealing with private lives, let them remain private. Based on Old Law,
except that in Old Law the Priestess is chosen and She selects the
Priest. This law again contains too many value judgements -- if you
need a perfect person to run your circle, you will never meet.
87. Adapted from the Letters of Paul the Apostle, not the Old Laws. It
is nice to state that we should be responsible for ourselves, but that
is a part of being a Witch (oops, by these Laws, Witches are only
children, so I suppose making "those of the Priesthood" adults is what
this law is about). This also seems to state (per Xtianity) that their
mates, children, and house are all possessions; hardly a feminist or
88. Reverse Xtian. Extremely sexist, and no more or less bad than
making the Man ruler of the world.
THE NEW BOOK OF THE LAW is published by:
The Grove of the Unicorn PO Box 13384 Atlanta, GA 30324
To order, send a legal size SASE. A small contribution towards
printing/handling costs will be appreciated.
These comments have been made by Gerald L. Bliss, who is also known as
J. Random Folksinger. Address further comments to Lady Galadriel at the
above address and/or myself. My address is P.O. Box 1842, Colorado
Springs, CO 80903. Also, please feel free to give pointers on how to
make some of these comments in a less-judgemental manner (especially
since my major complaint on these Laws was their own jundgemental
style). I need all the help I can get...