Shocker: There Is No Universal Threefold Law in Wicca

The popular misconception that there is a Wiccan Rule or Law of Three or Threefold Return comes from a misinterpretation of a passage in a work of fiction written by Gerald Gardner, the grandfather of modern Wicca. The book was called High Magic’s Aid, and he wrote it with the permission of his High Priestess. It had to be fiction because at that point, witchcraft was still illegal in Britain. In that book and its fictional story, the protagonist undergoes a sort of initiation rite in which he is taught “mark well when thou receivest good, so equally art bound to return good threefold.”

This means that when someone does good by a witch, according to the witchcraft teaching in this *very* fictional novel, the witch is bound to return that good threefold. This is a far cry from “anything at all that you send out into the world will return to you threefold.” It actually means that what you do to a witch should be returned by her threefold, and specifically good acts. Which means it’s really, really good for you to bless, help or aid a witch. The idea is that the witch returns things triple, not the universe. The witch is herself the agent of a threefold response, not the universe. So if I, as a witch, do good work for a friend who is not a witch, there is no threefold return in that, because the non-Wiccan person was never taught to return good acts threefold. If I, as a witch, do a good work for my non-witch neighbor, there is no threefold return in that. But if I, as a witch, do a good work for my coven mate or my witch friend, then that friend or coven mate should return that good work threefold. if I, as a witch, do some nasty shit to my asshole neighbor, said neighbor will not return it to me, and even if she were a witch, she would only return it to me threefold if she somehow found out that something had been done to her, and who did it, which means that I did it poorly, and deserve the retribution.

You can find a copy of High Magic’s Aid, which is fiction meant to teach a few very broad witchcraft principles in a fictional way, here.

The part we are quoting is found on page 188. We recommend anyone who is familiar with the term Rule of Three to give it a read and think about what it really says and what it does not say. Keep in mind that this is a work of fiction which Gerald Gardner wrote to share some very generalized principles of the witchcraft he was taught at a time when witchcraft was still illegal in Britain (1949).

The insanely high number of uneducated voices on the internet that cry out “The Rule of Three!” whenever anyone even mentions negative magick tends to obscure the actual source into oblivion in favor of some fake, fluffy version of this principle which has been applied across the board to all magical undertakings in a rather ignorant and totalitarian manner. So the next time someone yells that phony baloney shit at you, politely inform them to eat a bag of scholarly dicks and drop them the link to this blog.

Blessed Be,

A Gardnerian

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47 comments

  1. I’ve a chapter about this in my first book, “The Book of Mirrors”. It explores this in some detail, including where it came from and who propagated it.

  2. Just like some many of the other religions, very dogmatic.

    It is simply part of the dogma that was used to (re)define the basis of the religion. It is mainly taught to its adherents. I have failed to see there being anything like a “rule of three” as being a Natural Law dictated from “action-reaction”, because it makes very little sense in Nature.

    Another good author to check out: Ernest Shertel(sic?). I believe he delved into the subject of the “rule of three” in one or more of his writings.

    And, uh, WAIT A MINUTE! Is it not one of things that is realized upon 3rd Degree Initiation: ” There is NO Law of Three”, after all ? ? ? At least that is the way it was presented to me (even though I already knew this beforehand).

  3. I never put much stock into it. It just seemed odd to think that the universe, natural law, or whatever would make us different than other people and make things come back to us with thrice the amount of kick. I think it was added as a way to appease the other folk as a way to point to something to say “look, see? We’re not evil.”

    1. The whole law of three yes have been in my heart but also of the universe. Send out good and care not if it gets returned. People what has happened to faith? The beliefs or our gods is being pricked and examined. I the words of John Lennon, let it be, let it be

  4. For me, I think just as long as there is some kind of law of return in the world I am happy, You put out good energy good things return to you, you unleash shitty energy and that is what returns. And there is that whole “Golden Rule” aspect of it that is nice too.

  5. I never believe the Three Fold Law or the idea that magick should never be used for personal gain. On another note I think the British laws against witchcraft were repeal many years ago. There are many openly practicing witches in Britain in this day and age.

  6. I think the “Three-fold Law” is promulgated by people who just can’t leave their Christian-cultural upbringing behind. And some of them are getting VERY pushy about trying to impose their version of “control”. In the past few years I’ve seen several books promoting a SEVEN-fold return and even one that claimed a TEN-fold return! Apparently the fluffy-bunnies are afraid that we can’t resist the pull of “harmful” magic without threats or coercion.

  7. Great article. Though one thing is bugging me.. the image you chose did you deliberately use it due to it’s other connotations (knowing that your blog, is usually no holds barred 😀 )?

  8. Interesting idea… must be why some people never get their karmic punishment/reward… so then when we ourselves get it, is it because we subconsciously do it to ourselves because we expect it to happen?

    1. We definitely feel that our own subconscious expectation/thoughts on the matter affect its manifestation, as that is one of the thing which witchcraft teaches us. To take it a step further, this concept may be something that actually helps us to police ourselves, so in itself, it’s certainly not a bad thing. We just get tired of the awful assertion by the uninitiated that it is inviolable law and the jamming of it down newcomer’s throats, driving away potential Wica.

      The real teaching behind it is an edict to return threefold any good we have received from other witches. It’s a great mandate to strengthen each other and our community.

      1. I never truly believed it my self as good for good and evil for evil , but you will find many a book writer that mislead and I fill that Gardner mislead many along with many others . thanks

    2. In the Buddhist faith, we have to believe that karma of the universe is on a cosmic scale. So we are talking millions of lifetimes, billions of planets and stars, maybe even trillions of alternate universes. It is fun to pretend we understand it as an intellectual game, but we can’t. Whether or not you believe in rebirth, the world is too complicated and interconnected to work simply. The true believer in Karma focuses on the rewards of being a good person, not the punishments from our imaginary enemies. Doing good deeds can be confidence and peace of mind, (if its not for evil intentions like martyrdom, showing off and resentment.) It is a bad habit to want vengeance, and its not really apart of any religion, but you have to acknowledge it is psychologically soothing and intellectually stimulating. Sympathizing with people who are making terrible life choices out of greed or fear or insanity, depowers them. People who make bad choices suffer for those choices. This is reality, because even people who make the best possible choices sometimes suffer moral dillemmas and make errors in judgement. How can a man who purposed chose to do evil ever find comfort in that lasts his whole life?

      While it is natural to want vengeance, you don’t become religious to hope someone else dies. The worst punishment for being an asshole to other people, is you will never know what it is to be nice to people. To never have the confidence and peace of mind that you did your best. The asshole will be burdened with ill-gotten gains that cannot help in the end. The asshole will never have true friends and a family, the kind who will make you laugh and give you the shirt of their back even if you are missing a pair of pants. But every asshole can one day become a good person, and be relieved of some of his bad karma, as everyone can learn to make better decisions that eventually make a worldwide impact.
      Superstitions are supposed too be harmless, not take upn too much brain space, and not harm yourself or others. Its the curse of being Sentient to be misinformed by our complicated brain box.

  9. Karma and the three fold law are a lie, I have seen vial atrocities played out by many creature that have had no come back what so ever. It s just a tool to make insecure humans feel better about being abused by others. It is about as flimsy as heaven. Be an abused nothing and even if you do nothing, a random bad thing will happen to the abuser. Utter rubbish. it keeps slaves…..slaves. No actions, just keep taking the kicks until your die. Dont worry you will be rewarded in Sicilian heaven.

  10. Actually it is a common superstition in the Catholic church that if you give money to the church it returns to you tenfold. It is a fine practice for reminding yourself to be kind… but absolutely shit when it comes to taking control of your finance. A little superstition never hurt anyone as long as you don’t wast much money or time on it.

  11. You are NOT a Wiccan if you think the Three-Fold Law doesn’t exist. And if you are Wiccan, you are just a beginner. As in, you probably just started out this week or even today.

    The three-fold law is a religious tenant that Wiccan’s follow to obey the rules of Wicca. It states that whatever someone puts out into the world, whether it be good or bad, will come back three-fold ( or 3 times).

    Here is the original Three-Fold Law. You are needing to do a lot of research in your journey. You have NO idea what you are talking about. Stop pretending to know things when you don’t.

    “Obey The Three-Fold Law You Should,
    Three Times Bad And Three Times Good.
    For whatever you put into this world,
    Will come back to thee.”

    1. Hi Srindi (I’m assuming that’s your name, but if not, please excuse the error.)

      Thanks for coming to my blog and telling me that I’m NOT a Wiccan! I love shit like that. The unfortunate thing about such a statement is that I have been studying and practicing Wicca for about 18 years and I am a 3° Gardnerian High Priest, so I assure you, I am about as Wiccan as anyone can get 🙂 I also don’t think that the threefold law doesn’t exist; I KNOW it doesn’t exist the way that popular non-initiate, eclectic Wicca thinks it does. If you read the blog post you’re commenting on, you’ll see exactly why I’m saying this and the evidence that I present for it. Since you’ve not chosen to discuss any of that evidence, I will just go ahead an assume that you are actually the “beginner who started out this week or even today” and that’s great! You may find that Wicca is a wonderful religion full of insight and mystery and if you’re lucky enough to find someone who is properly trained and qualified to teach you, one day you may come to love it as much as I do 🙂

      I notice that you seem to be under some type of delusion about some three-fold law. I can attest that this idea of a law is actually not a law, it is an exhortation in High Magic’s Aid, which was written by the witch who brought Wicca out of the broom closet (so to speak) named Gerald Gardner. The work in which it is published is fiction, according to him. If you actually read the blog, you’ll see where there is a teaching to return something three fold, but it has nothing to do with the universe returning everything threefold and much more to do with one witch returning what he/she receives from another witch, specifically good. So if a witch does you good, you should do them three times as good in return. It’s a lovely little teaching in that fictional work that applies solely to actions between witches.

      I notice also that you reference “the rules of Wicca.” Might I ask you what you think these rules are? Where are they from? Are they published anywhere? By whom? I would love to see this source of yours.

      I notice that one of us is pretending to know things that they don’t, and, well, it’s not me. Except I’m psychic enough to realize that you’re not really pretending, because you actually think that you’re right. This is amusing, but also unfortunate. I would highly recommend that you study Wicca from traditional sources, say, the man who brought the religion out into the public, his initiates, and their initiates, and so on down the line. I really, really cannot advise you enough to question everything that you read online, and not to blindly follow some bologna websites that make false claims about my religion because they were never initiated into it or taught any of the secrets (or actually known truths) about it, such as the dreadful Wicca Spirituality website, which is just awful. Remember, always question sources, and when in doubt due to conflicting information, be sure to ask known experts whose credentials can be verified, like Gardnerian and Alexandrian priests and priestesses! If you have a question about Wicca, you should always feel free to ask one of its initiated priests. We’re a pretty good source for info 🙂

      I don’t know where you got that dreadful little poem, but I can assure you that it is most certainly not Wiccan. It looks like its something that someone made up about Wicca which is simply not true. But don’t worry; once you’ve studied for long enough, you’ll have a strong amount of knowledge and common sense built up and your bullshit blasters will shred right through crap like that online when you come across it.

      Thanks again for reading! And if you ever want a good body of initiated priests and priestesses to ask questions about Wicca from, I highly recommend the Gardnerian Wicca Seekers and Initiates page on Facebook. There are hundreds of people there who would be happy to help you with questions and to dispel any malarky that you may have accidentally digested.

      Blessed be!

  12. So who wrote the flowerly saying, “Ever mind the rule of three what thee sends out comes back to thee.” I thought Gardner.

    1. Gwen Thompson, who was not a Wiccan. Shewas another witch in the 70s who claimed initiation via her grandmother, but never had any proof. She was a member of a group called NECTEW. They had no connection to Gardner or to Wicca. She wrote the long poem some people erroneously identify as the Rede of the Wicca because she named the poem “The Wiccan Rede.”

      Gerald never taught a universal law of threefold return. It was born out of a public misconception of one teaching in High Magic’s Aid, which was fiction.

  13. Reblogged this on traditionalwitchcraft and commented:
    I wanted to share this, as I see so many questions about this. Although this is a Wicca matter and not Traditonal Witch, it’s still an issue that effects both Wiccans, traditional witches, and all types of witches world wide. What, with all the misunderstandings about this, which is often peddled in popular occult books. This getting treated practically like like a bible verse for everyone to adhere to. Although this lineaged Gardnerian Wicca is crass at times, she is blunt and do the point, and her article is an excellent read, which seeks to dispel the long standing misappropriation of “three fold”.

  14. Thank you for your blog! I have found on many occasions, I have needed to share it, thanks to all the bastardized versions of it, that have been peddled by books, misleading the multitudes! I have also re-blogged it on my blog, as I believe that hopefully the more that understand the actual and real “three fold” of the Wicca religion, as coined by Gardner, and how he intended it to be, may some day replace this inaccurate universal law frenzy about it.

  15. And I wanted to let you know, because some seem to want to give you crap about it, I have encountered many numerous witches that are both thankful and grateful for your blog, including those that had long since been misled about “three fold” and those who have been badgered by people who treat it like a bible verse to thump over everything. So the nay-sayers can shove it. lol

  16. you can delude yourselves into thinking black magic doesnt return, but ive felt it kill friends and family of the user. whats more is if one is humbled at gods feet , forever prostrated to the spirit that god himself uses to kneel before humans, it becomes 7 fold return, ten fold and hundred fold. I judge was seriously willing me into an accident and a week later i had a random inspired feeling of someone in a bloody accident. Ive only confirmed one death precisely at the time i felt it. You may escape it but those around you wont.

    1. It’s no delusion Mr. Been Attacked 4 years now, it is a matter of fact, that many who practice all the color spectrum (white, black, etc.) have never had anything return to them, not once; not with them, nor anything bad happening to their loved ones or pets. Yet, every once in a while, some one like yourself will come along and insist on this, claiming personal experience with it. My theory on why every so often this happens, when many others I know and my own personal experience is that it does not, is that those that fear it, believe it, etc. give it a life of it’s own, thus creating an Egregore of it, thus like a living entity in their life that will strike at them. Don’t feed it anymore, you continue to feed it coming onto this blog to insist that it’s real, even when others never had that experience, and older crones like myself, likely never will. The old additive of feeding into something gives it power over you and your life seems to be something you should consider.

      But other than that, regardless of whether or not your opinion is that any laws of returns exist, does NOT mean that this is what the “three fold” is about, or was ever about, as this actual initiate of Gardnerian Wicca has quite clearly explained.

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