Why a Three-fold Law of Return in Witchcraft?

As a witch who has practiced in an initiated lineage for decades I have always had a problem (nowadays known as an “issue”) with the Three-fold Law of Return.

I may believe in Karma to some degree, but even that confuses me at time, especially the use of the term in Buddhism where there is no “God” to run the “karma court”. In western occultism they refer sometimes to the “Lords of Karma” which I guess are some kind of Archon Watchers who administrate the whole system. I think karma may be a law within one’s spirit or soul much like there is karma in the body where if you put your hand in a fire then yes your karma will be a painful burn.

But back to the Three-fold law of return. What I questioned was why karma is three fold for witches and not everyone else? And I found out that Doreen Valiente had the same question when she wrote referring to it in Gerald Gardner’s teachings:

“Another teaching of Gerald’s which I have come to question is the belief known popularly as “the Law of Three”. This tells us that whatever you send out in witchcraft you get back threefold, for good or ill. Well, I don’t believe it! Why should we believe that there is a special Law of Karma that applies only to witches? For Goddess’ sake do we really kid ourselves that we are that important? Yet I am told, many people, especially in the USA, take this as an article of faith. I have never seen it in any of the old books of magic, and I think Gerald invented it.”

So in my research I found this 10 part article called The Three-fold Law by John J. Coughlin who has a website called Waningmoom.com. I had never heard of him before, and he defines himself as a Dark Wyccan and you can explore that at his links above. But the article is very well written and covers all bases and worth reading just for the history of post-Gardner witchcraft in it. It is well documented with lots of quotes, like the one above, and he lists all his sources. So give it a read and enjoy!

2 thoughts on “Why a Three-fold Law of Return in Witchcraft?

  1. If I misinterpret what you’re saying, a thousand apologies.
    Karma and the threefold law are not nearly the same thing. Karma is the accumulation of actions, both good and bad, for the next incarnation of your soul. So if what you would do in this life is mostly good, then the fate of your next incarnation is going to be good as well. It is the path of reaching the Buddhist Brahma.
    The Threefold Law of Return is not used in all witchcraft. It is used purely in Wicca, which not all witches are. And the Threefold Law is more of a made-up concept about an almost instant reaction to an act of magic that you have preformed, but only after you have sent out the energy. I highly suggest reading the following as it explains a lot better than I do.

    • Yes i agree and know karma is not the same as the supposed three fold law, which is why i mentioned my questions about karma too. I should have used the word Wicca in the title instead of Witchcraft as the former is into that concept. Much of modern Wicca has a lot of Theosophical ideas in it. Regarding Buddha and Brahma those are two different religions. Thanks for that link and i will check it out. My post was to just have a discussion of these concepts.

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