The Threefold Law

threefold lawLately I’ve been thinking about this concept, as I am doing a lot of reading and researching at the moment, and keep coming across this concept is a lot of Wicca/Witchcraft books. While I know that there are many traditions in Witchcraft that do not follow this concept, some do, as well as most (if not all) Wiccans, and it’s got the brain going, considering this concept more deeply and not just taking it for granted.

I don’t think I’ve ever really believed in this concept in the way that most believe. In the threefold law, in many, many sources it states that whatever you do will return to you threefold. In a very simplistic sense, if you do good things, good things will happen, and if you do bad things, bad things will happen. Many sources state that this is rule of karma.

karma dilbertI feel that this is a very odd Western misinterpretation of karma, for starters. As well, I know of plenty of instances and people who do good things, who go through the ringer, and plenty of people who do bad things, and don’t seem to suffer any consequences. (Trump, anyone?) Karma is not a system of reward and punishment. As well, the Hermetic principle of like attracting like can work in this instance, but not in the way that most people would believe. It’s not that simplistic. Note that I use the word simplistic, rather than simple, because there is a huge difference, at least in my opinion.  Let me explain.

A lot of magic uses correspondences in order for success, according to the principle of “like attracts like”. This can also work in our daily lives, but it doesn’t mean that doing good things will make good things happen to you, or vice versa. We can’t control reactions to actions on that level. We can try and use magic to persuade a favourable outcome, and when combined with a good ethical stance this would be for the benefit of the whole. But there is a correlation.

I feel that when we do magic, or perform any sort of action whether on the physical or metaphysical level, we affect energy. This for me feels like a more appropriate definition of correspondence. That energy is not only external to us, but will affect us on three levels. Those levels are:




Let’s take an example of cursing someone. If we curse someone, we must be pretty pissed. That anger will have an effect on us at each of these three levels. We know that emotion, memory and other things can get stored in the body, creating tension, stress, high heart rates and more. As well, when we are angry our mental and emotional levels change, and we become the anger if we are not careful. When we become anger, we have lost our sense of self, our authentic being, and have allowed anger to take control. On a spiritual level, anger does not help us to commune with the world, the ancestors, spirits of place, deity or anything in a deeper level. In fact, it can be a great hindrance to it, as integration is at the heart of most spirituality and religion. In an earth-based tradition such as Wicca, Witchcraft or Druidry, where we believe that deity is immanent, this means that when we are angry and curse someone, we do not recognise the divinity within others. When we curse others, we are, in effect, cursing the gods too.

The popular interpretation of The Threefold Law to me feels more like a reward/punishment system to keep people in line, in an overly simplistic fashion. It requires people not to think too much about all the areas in between the concepts of “good” and “bad”, or even how those concepts are so relative to each person and their own experience. It also doesn’t acknowledge the deeper levels of meaning that can occur if we ponder this “rule” more closely. To me, it just seems too close to a heaven/hell concept, which I find too simplistic to give much attention to. Others may disagree, and I honour their perspective, but it just doesn’t work for me.

suffering mark levineSo, looking more deeply at The Threefold Law, if we do something bad, like cursing someone, then it could be said that on a certain level it comes back to us threefold, but not in the sense that seems to be very popular, ie. do good and good things happen, and vice versa. But if our actions are not honourable, and if we do things to harm other people, we are in turn harming ourselves, our environment, our gods: everything. Harming others causing suffering, both externally and also within in a threefold pattern: we harm our physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. We’ve lost that connection to everything else, that sense of integrity and integration.

If we curse someone, we affect ourselves physically by holding on to that anger. That affects us mentally, and if our curse does indeed work, might even lead us down the road to more cursing. This leads to a reinforcement of such behaviour, and also reinforces the anger within us, which will make us physically and mentally suffer more and more. We can often fall into a deep depression by holding onto this anger and feeding it, instead of seeing the positive in the world around us. We will become angry people. This all has an effect on us spiritually as well, for we have denied the existence of deity outside of ourselves. This severely limits our perspective of the world, and just continues an ever increasing downward spiral of behaviour that causes suffering both within and without.

So, the Threefold law can affect us in three different ways, but it’s not as simplistic as some would have you believe. It’s simple, yes, but not simplistic. Let’s not get the two muddled!

And, if in doubt, you can always follow this great maxim: don’t be a jerk.

jerk jude


13 thoughts on “The Threefold Law

  1. So much yes. I have always felt a bit… disconnected from the Threefold Law, though I never could find the right words to express why that was. You have perfectly said what is true within my heart. Thank you for sharing your words. My mother tried to explain it to me when I was a child, though she just regurgitated quotes and read passages from books to me.

    It is highly simplistic and definitely a Western notion that is distantly related to Karma, but does not hold all of the traditions and religious concepts.

    I have always held the belief that the grey areas are where truth is – as a young adult, I watched my great-grandmother whither. She had had seven strokes within two months, and the part of her that was HER had already left, leaving behind a shell that had no concept of anything. When she was on her last legs, her daughter begged her not to go, saying that she could not live without her (it was driven by greed, not by love).

    I asked for my great-grandmother’s death. I wrote and performed a ritual to bring about her passing, in which I broke down and cried for hours because I was in so much pain over her state at the time and knowing that I had lost her long before, knowing that she would never meet my children or see me married. She was in so much physical pain at that point, she was being kept in hospice on life support, and I was never able to say goodbye. Her body was failing her and her daughter refused to let her go. She passed away a few days after the ritual, eight days before her birthday.

    Was I wrong to do it? Because it dealt with death, is it considered ‘evil’ or ‘bad’? In my eyes, and in my heart, I was not in the wrong. I did that ritual to ease her suffering, to let her pass when her daughter would not. I didn’t want to lose her, but I knew that she, the SHE that I had loved with all my heart, was gone. Did it harm her daughter? Of course, but her own greed and selfishness would have brought on worse consequences for her than what she suffered for a short while after Mahmuh died.

    I believe that our intentions make our work ‘black’ or ‘white’, not the works themselves, and definitely not the deities we honour. If someone’s sole intent in doing something is to bring harm, that would bring about the physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual consequences of the Threefold Law. However, should the intent of a working be for the good of others, even if the consequences bring pain, I feel that the caster/practitioner is generally safe from harsh consequences – that is not to say that they won’t feel it on any or all levels, but it won’t be as much as an issue.

    I apologise for the length of this comment. ❤

    • Oh Victoria, what a difficult position to be in, and such a difficult decision to make as well. My own personal opinion regarding death in instances such as these would be to alleviate as much pain and suffering as possible, and if that means ending life support, then I am all for it. I’ve had to make the difficult decision for my cats, to end their pain when they were on their last legs, and to spare them even more days, perhaps weeks of suffering. But I know that it was the right choice, heartbreaking though it was to make (my cats are my children to me).
      Intention is the greatest part of any action, and we must look deeply into our souls and our selves to ensure that our intention is based upon the good for all. I’ve seen recently a lot of people using the caveat “so long as it is for the benefit of all” in spells and ritual, which seems to work for them and that they can find comfort in that. But I also think a very deep exploration of our selves should come first, and not simply have these words knocked off a the end of all ritual/magical workings, as some sort of metaphysical caveat without soul-searching.
      My deepest sympathies go to you, and blessings on your journey through life. xoxo

      • I’ve always wondered why more people who do ritual/magic work shy away from deep soul-searching – I understand that it can be terrifying, at times, but it is also enlightening. But I also understand that many people are worried about what they will find. I believe that any spiritual undertaking requires a better understanding of ourselves, on a soul-deep level, because of the energies being worked with, regardless of the Path someone is on. As someone with a mental illness, soul-searching is doubly important because it not only solidifies my stance on the work to be done, but it also helps to settle my spirit in a way. And I definitely agree that one should do the work and understand the deeper meaning and reasons behind a working before they throw that sort of caveat in there. I feel like I am repeating myself… Either way, thank you so much for your kind words ❤

  2. I never baught into that stuff – I feel Karma meens simply that what happens has konsequences BUT those do not have to hit the cause right back! Great post – please carry on:-)

    • No, not everyone does. But for me, politics enters into every aspect of life, because it’s the people in government who affect our society the most. As such, I express my political views here on my blog as I choose, in order to make certain points. Your views may differ.

      • Agree entirely with your point here. To not draw attention to something/one that you feel is causing much harm is to allow that to continue to affect who knows how many others….always with the caveat that our point of view is precisely that…a view from a particular point.
        For example, the UK’s largest power station at Drax, where we used to live, has converted to burning wood chip. It trumpets its green credentials (it used to burn coal) and receives government financial support to do this. However, it has been ‘found out’ to be obtaining its wood chip, in part, from ancient Canadian woodland. How can I not speak out? Yes, it’s political but politics means ‘of the people’.

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