The Rule of Three

Week 35 (R): the rule of three

Ever mind the Rule of Three:
What you send out comes back to thee.

I believe that what you sends out comes back to you. At least, I want to believe. But then some shitty people go on being shitty, and I don’t see them suffering the way they inflict suffering on others. So is this a rule that only applies to Pagans? Is that how that works? What good is a tenet that on the surface appears to be universal but in fact only applies to members of that faith?

The Rule of Three is in good company, what with Islam teaching its followers to respect others, Jews are taught to imitate their G-d’s love for people, and Christianity’s tenet of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. And I’d wager that most Atheists would agree that we ought to be nice to one another. So why does this seemingly universal law not immediately noticeable?

kitty wants to know why everyone can't just get what's coming to them

kitty wants to know why comeuppance isn’t universal

Sometimes called the Threefold Law or the Law of Return, the Rule of Three was one of the first things I learned when I started reading about Paganism. Most (all?) Wiccans subscribe to the Rule of Three, so that was what I believed in. But over the years, my skeptical side has pointed out “Hey, that guy’s an asshole, why isn’t what he’s sending out coming back to him?!” Then I felt almost cheated, in a way. Even if I haven’t always seen it in action, I think the Rule of Three still has value.

For one, it reminds us that what we send out can return to us. In general, I think it reminds us to create more than we destroy. To construct goodness and positivity, rather than forge negativity and ugliness. Maybe this sounds like something a fluffy bunny would say. Perhaps this is an overly optimistic view of the world, but I truly do believe–or at least want to believe–that as people (not just as Pagans) we ought to always be trying to enhance the world rather than diminish it.


Should Paganism have rules of conduct? Yes, absolutely. Some sort of guidelines for my moral compass is a necessary part of my (and I think I can say most people’s) life. But should the Rule of Three be one of them? I like it at its core–be good to each other–but I also have seen situations where you cannot continue to be good to someone without cost to yourself. And I believe in self-care above a great deal of other things.

Further Reading

Coughlin, John J. 2002. The Three-Fold Law.

Rule of Three.

Wren. 2000. The Law of Three.

One response

  1. Pingback: Trois, Tres, Three! | Anonywitch

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