To many, the very idea of recalibrating "ancient wisdom" must really hit the heresy bone. But really, if Wicca and other Pagan religions that draw from the tenets of Wicca are non-dogmatic as they claim, then it’s high time to walk that walk. The very point of being non-dogmatic is that when we find ourselves in situations where our stated values perpetuate evil instead of good, we change those values. Any values system worth adherence must stand up in the real world and to do that long term requires change.
And this is why I am suggesting that we alter the Witches’ Pryamid/Pillars of the Magus just a little bit.
For those who may not necessarily be familiar, the Witches’ Pyramid is a call to magicians of any faith to master the following four qualities/practices. In Wicca, each is assigned to an element, alongside the Greek humors and many other associations.
To Be Silent
The one which merits revision at this point is To Be Silent. This is not because silence is wrong; it’s because as recent sex scandals in the Pagan community have revealed, it is much too easy to interpret this too literally and under the wrong definition. The Burning Times misinformation led many 20th century witches to shape their modern beliefs in reaction to a time that did not really exist (heretics were burned. Witches – i.e. herbalists, usually Christian, were hanged. The Inquisition did other things.)
Silence has become a deadly tool of evil, though when it was brought into Wicca it was meant as a way of preserving the good. The intent of silence was to first of all, honor the secrets of others. Those secrets meant names, the identifying details of lives of coven members and people that came to us for help.
It did not mean the Mysteries – that ban was lifted when Gerald Gardner was called to publish his books. I have deep quibbles with Gardnerianism, Alexandrianism and any asshat that throws around the term "NeoWicca" as though the Gardnerian and Alexandrian labels don’t make that clear enough. But even so, Gardner is, albeit very indirectly, a spiritual ancestor to me the way Mary Magdelene and John Calvin are to Protestants. ((I am not saying I am lineaged from Gardner. I am adding it because someone always on the alert for ways to injure their own butt will misconstrue the statement if I don’t footnote it.)) Mysteries have a way of being self-protecting as they are things you only get by living them, agrarian and bodily Mysteries alike. It did not mean magic, per se. Sharing magic and magical techniques is no different than teaching a person how to clean a gun or handle a knife. What that person shoots or cuts with it is in fact not connected to your karma and to think it does suggests a God complex. If we have free will, so do the people we teach – and controlling them rather than observing whether they live the path while using the skills is in itself an ethical violation.
Silence meant knowing when to hold the tongue, when to listen, when to observe.
Instead, it has been used to keep secrets for the sake of power alone, or to say nothing when evil plays out before your eyes.
Silence is now a tool of oppression when it was meant to be a tool of wisdom.
It is not the fault of silence, of course. The fault lies with our shared understanding of it.
So I propose a change to the pyramid – not in intent, but in word choice. Words, after all, have power and sometimes words change meaning and thus their powers change. So it is with silence.
Instead of To Be Silent I propose the Witches’ Pryamid say To Discern.
Discernment does what silence once bid: observe first. Understand. Recognize differences subtle and overt. Make decisions based on careful distinction, on an understanding that absolutes only work well in fiction.
If you see a violent situation play out before your eyes, discernment bids you to understand it. Is this a repetitive situation? The first time its happened? Is this merely the first time you have seen something happen? What were the circumstances? How will strangers be affected by your decision to act or not act?
If you are unconcerned with how people you don’t know are affected, why? Is that really a functional moral system? What if you replaced the word "strangers" with "innocents?" How does it look to you now?
Discernment will help you consider the consequences of your actions and the actions of those you observe; it is applied with a commitment to the greater good.
Ah silence, you are not at fault. But because we so little understood you, it is time instead to Discern.