Better to Rush Upon this Blade
Beautiful dagger– Photo by inhisgrace; creative commons license
Oh, the power of words! Especially when said in a ritual circle.
As my Circle grows, I find it helpful to discuss situations with other High Priests and High Priestesses because at some point, I’m going to be asked a question I really cannot answer and that the questioner really cannot find a correct answer for on the Internet. So it helps to talk through common problems with uncommon people.
One of my Circle-mates expressed some concern to me about the prospect of having a knife held to the student’s throat upon taking oaths and worried that it was some type of threat not to leave the Circle. I should certainly hope not because I myself left the group and the person who held a blade to my throat years ago and chose to make my own path.
But my first thought, when this question arose, was that if a student has such doubts about threats against leaving when newly entering a Circle, then that student has no business making a commitment to stand in that circle.
My own take on the athame at the throat and the words, “Better to rush upon this blade and spill out your life’s blood than to enter this Circle with fear or falseness in your heart,” is that it’s not a threat. It’s a sharp–pardon the pun–reminder that if one’s heart is not true and fearless in pursuing a spiritual calling, then there’s a powerful backlash that flows with the Laws of the Universe, and not as a result of an irritated High Priestess or control-freaking High Priest who want to get even. For most pagan clergy, the biggest concern I’ve heard is that you don’t have an accidental stabbing take place when someone trips or flails! I learned a different perspective, though.
One of the High Priestesses in our forum spoke of a student of hers and a painful lesson for them both. While she prepared to bring him into ritual circle, her guides warned her that it would have terrible repercussions if he entered the Circle with falseness in his heart. She ignored her guides until she couldn’t. She suspected he’d lied to her about something–something that really didn’t matter that much to her, she said, because she understand his embarrassment in the matter–but she couldn’t be sure. She wanted to make sure everything was clear between them.
So she asked him outright, thrice, and he answered her, thrice. She told him it was important that he be truthful with her. He might lie to his own mother, but not to his High Priestess.
She returned to preparing the ritual circle, but her guides appeared again. If he entered the Circle with a lie in his heart, they said, then there would be consequences because by making a commitment to the sacred path, his lies would be exposed and he would be forced to walk in truth. At this point, she became a little worried. The message was clear that if she found he was lying to her, then she should NOT take him into the Circle with falseness in his heart because the results would be very painful for him.
She went back to him, to where he waited, but this time, she didn’t ask outright. To her surprise, she was presented with a way of finding out if he’d been truthful but it would require her to do something she found unethical and underhanded. She felt she would be untrustworthy as a High Priestess to stoop to such tactics. So she prayed about it and decided that it was his decision, that only he knew for certain if he’d been completely truthful and was entering the Circle without fear or falseness in his heart.
She admits now that she probably should have been surer of his veracity but he’d been her student for a long time and she wanted to trust him and so she did. She made it his decision to go forward.
She wondered again, she said, when she pressed the knife to his throat and warned him that death would be better than embarking on this path amid lies and fears. But he gave the appropriate passwords and began his journey.
Those of us listening cheered her on for her decision and her choice to approach the situation with forthrightness and ethical behavior. Then she told us that she’d never think of those words, “Better to rush upon this blade,” without thinking of the consequences. The lies he carried were revealed within three days’ time, and they both ended up suffering for it.
That quieted most of us. I don’t think we’d ever considered the backlash on others in the Circle when someone enters the Circle with fear or falseness. After all, we’re the ones holding the dagger.