“An’ Harm Ye None”. One day I’m going to be sick and tired of interpreting this phrase, but that day is not today!
After writing my last post about suicide and paganism, I decided to do some googling. Basically, I typed ‘wicca suicide’ into google and was hoping for some sort of enlightening result. After all, if there was some sort of dialogue happening out there about suicide and Wicca, dear old Google would surely find it, right?
Now, I’m not saying that ‘nobody’ out there is talking about it, but it sure as crap seemed that way when the Google search came up. It was a bunch of articles, some about cults, some about (unfortunately) suicides. But from what I saw -> no discussion about the overlapping of Wiccan philosophy and suicide.
Now granted, I haven’t done an intensive research here. Feel free to drop in with your own links, as well as anything useful!
But there was a method to my madness (hah!) and I did that crappy half-hearted research for a reason. I wanted to see if there were resources readily and easily available to anyone doing a quick search in an attempt at help. The answer is that no, there isn’t easy resources.
This is terrible! Wicca is a rapidly growing religion ranking up there with some of the big monotheistic ones, and we have no suicide resources? Blah!
So what can we do? I would like to suggest that bloggers take up the topic. Try and think about how suicide fits into your wold-view, your afterlife, your concepts of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. I’m not expecting everyone to write a book, but just breach the topic. Let’s start a conversation here.
And so, in order to lead by example (not that I’m a great example anyways) I’m going to do my part and talk about suicide and Wicca, specifically suicide and the Wiccan Rede of ‘an harm ye none, do as ye will’.
Now the immediate response to ‘an harm ye none’ and the notion of suicide is that the Rede means, point-blank, no harm. This usually is seen as meaning to cause no immediate harm, such as inflicting pain upon creatures. Suicide is seen as being the result of an immediate form of harm. Why? Because in order to die, one must (usually) harm the body in some severe way. Going with the interpretation of the Rede as meaning to cause no (immediate) harm, it seems that the Rede is against suicide.
Or is it? You see, when I was suicidal, I contemplated suicide not as a painful thing, but as a form of release. A blissful step into an endless void of relaxation. Now how does this line up with the Rede?
I, personally, would argue that the Rede still orders us to not harm ourselves physically. I would even take it a step further and say that, as suicide causes very painful repercussions to those around us, we must avoid suicide in order to not harm our loved ones as well.
However! And here’s where I find the situation gets tricky. Are we harming ourselves (and thereby others) by remaining alive and entrenched in our misery? Is suicide really self-harm when the aim is, much like self-harm, to reduce the amount of pain and suffering? I would argue that, in certain cases, assisted death is an ethical option according to the Rede. How?
Well, consider the amount of pain that a person is in due to their being alive. Consider the harm being brought to those who are surrounding them, watching their loved one suffer and never being able to alleviate their pain. This is often a large amount of pain and suffering!
In the case of ethical assisted death/suicide, as far as I know of it (and I do not know much) the person wishing to die must go through many doctors and all other options of recovery must have been exhausted. This procedure ensures that the person has received treatment, and isn’t merely wishing to die due to a lack of treatment.
Now, in this procedure (that, again, I know very little of), there is a chance that those who know the suffering person will be informed of the person’s choices and be able to understand the reasons why. Due to this, I think that their suffering can be minimized.
Furthermore, in the case of assisted suicide, the person wishing to die is able to die on their own terms. They are mentally prepared for the process and have physical assistance. I would argue that the harm they are causing to themselves in this situation may be less than the pain that living would bring them. In this case, where the harm of living outweighs the harm caused by death, I think that assisted suicide is ethical according to the Rede.
Now, granted, this is a case of choosing between two forms of harm and choosing the lesser harm. Some may say that doing this is against the Rede. I will argue that that depends upon your interpretation of the Rede.
While some interpret the Rede as meaning to do strictly no harm, others would argue that it is impossible to do no harm at all! Even when eating plants, we are harming plants, and stealing food from bugs and deer. So to these people, the Rede is merely advising us to do as little harm as possible. It is with this interpretation that I am justifying my above argument, as I personally find that it is impossible to cause no harm at all, especially in the repercussions of our actions.
Does this mean that suicide is always an answer then? No, I do not think so, and I think it even less in the case of mental illness. Why? Because I believe in recovery. I believe that medication, spirituality, and a balanced environment can greatly help alleviate pain and suffering. And I sincerely believe that in order to apply the Rede, we must do all in our power to try and cease our suffering in as non-harmful way a way as possible first.
This leads me to say that applying the Rede to suicidal thoughts involves radical self care. It means to take your medication and consult doctors, to call help lines and to reach out in appropriate (and sometimes inappropriate!) channels. It means that even if the suffering person doesn’t feel like taking care of themselves and struggling on -> that is the moral imperative until every last option for recovery is exhausted. This means not only not giving up in the face of adversity, but also to not resign oneself to merely existing in suffering. We must actively try and heal this suffering!
To summarize, the Rede does not order us to live for the sake of living, nor does it force us to endure suffering for some sacred imperative, but rather to take care of ourselves in order to minimize harm to ourselves and to others.
There is much more to be said on the topic of suicide, notably ‘what about suicide and the afterlife’? or ‘what about suicide and the deities’?, but I will close this post here. I believe it’s long (and heavy) enough as is. Hopefully I’ll get around to the other topics soon enough.
I would just like to close by saying that, if you disagree with me and want to discuss, please be gentle. I am in a very fragile state these days and do not feel like having someone verbally assault me for voicing my support for assisted suicide. I understand it is a difficult topic for many and sincerely hope that I have handled the topic with enough delicacy.