The Wiccan Rede Project: Deborah Blake

The Wiccan Rede is arguably one of the most important tenets at the basis of modern Witchcraft practice. This is not to say that all Witches follow it, of course, although many of those I know do—even those who don’t call themselves Wiccans, per se. And there are many different versions, so saying you follow the Wiccan Rede is a little like a Christian saying they live by the word of the bible: one then has to ask, “Which bible?”

Just to be clear, I tend to use the shorter, simpler (and less ornate) version of the Rede:

Bide the Wiccan law ye must
In perfect love and perfect trust
These eight words the Rede fulfill
An it harm none, do as ye will
Lest in thy self defense it be
Ever mind the law of three
Follow this with mind and heart
And merrie ye meet and merrie ye part

To me, there are three simple but crucial pieces of spiritual “law” in this short poem: harm none, the law of three, and perfect love & perfect trust. Taken together, they pretty much sum up my take on Witchcraft. (Leaving aside, for a moment, the issue of connection with deity and nature, which is also at the core of my practice.) As you can probably tell, I am a lot less concerned with niceties like “kissing your hand times three” than I am with general attitude and behavior towards others and self.

“An it harm none, do as ye will.” On the surface, this is a rule that gives you permission to do pretty much anything you want, as long as whatever action you take does nothing to harm anyone else. Whoo hoo! Except, of course, that nothing is that simple. To begin with, it implies—and rightly so—that Witchcraft is a spiritual path based on personal responsibility. You are responsible for your actions towards others (this will be important for the next bit as well)—no blaming the devil, or even human nature. It is up to you to judge whether or not your actions will harm another, and act accordingly. This means constantly considering the consequences of everything you do. Suddenly seems a lot tougher, doesn’t it?

And then there is the often-ignored fact that “harm none” includes yourself. This means, in theory, that none of us should ever do anything that would have a negative effect on our health and well-being. (Thank goodness they decided that chocolate is health food!)

Can any of us truly live our lives every day without doing anything, no matter how small, that harms either ourselves or another? I doubt it. Even Gandhi couldn’t pull that one off, and he really tried. But what we can do is strive our best to attain that goal, and when we fall short, we can take responsibility for our actions and—if possible—undo whatever harm we might have done.

Say, for example, that you inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings by sayng something mean. First, you acknowledge that what you said was wrong, then you try to make that person feel better again. But then—and this is the important bit—you try not to do it again. It isn’t enough to say you’re sorry. Following the Wiccan Rede means doing your best to learn and grow, so you don’t make the same mistakes again.

“Ever mind the law of three.” Some Witches argue about whether or not there is really a threefold rule of returns, but most of them would agree that what you put out into the universe comes back to you, one way or the other. Call it the Law of Three, or Karma, but either way, it means that—at least in part—you are responsible for what you draw into your own life. This doesn’t mean that crappy things won’t happen to you, even if you are a nice person every minute of every day. But it does mean that a positive attitude is much more likely to result in a happy, prosperous, and fruitful life. And that a negative attitude will almost certainly circle back and bite you on the hind end.

It also means that if you purposely harm others (as you are forbidden to do), that harm will likely show back up on your doorstep one day. You will note that the Rede makes allowances for self-defense, however. You aren’t expected to sit back and let someone beat the crap out of you…but you’d better be sure you weren’t the one who started the fight!

Possibly the most important “law” in the Wiccan Rede, as far as I am concerned, is probably the most difficult one to follow. “Perfect love and perfect trust” is a concept that Wiccans talk about a lot—but what does it really mean?

For me (and I can only speak for myself in any of this), perfect love and perfect trust means that we accept each other as we are—imperfections, flaws and all—and love each other anyway. When we do so, we are channeling the love of the goddess and the god, and doing their work here on earth.

But it can be pretty hard to love some folks some of the time, and all folks all of the time, in an unconditional and nonjudgmental manner. Let’s face it—people can be difficult! (Not us, of course, but everyone else.) And this rule doesn’t mean you should just love other Witches, or people who follow your same belief system. Nope, sorry. It means everybody. Just like the “harm none” rule, there is no way we are going to be able to pull this one off, at least not all of the time.

But the point of walking a spiritual path—and the point of the Wiccan Rede—is to give us something to guide us as we live our lives. The gods don’t expect us to be perfect. I believe, however, that they expect us to work to be our best, and following the Rede to the best of our abilities is one way to try and do just that.

About the Author:
Deborah Blake is the author of Circle, Coven and Grove: A Year of Magickal Practice (Llewellyn 2007), Everyday Witch A to Z: An Amusing, Inspiring & Informative Guide to the Wonderful World of Witchcraft (Llewellyn 2008), The Goddess is in the Details: Wisdom for the Everyday Witch (Llewellyn2009), and the forthcoming Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook (2010). She has published numerous articles in Pagan publications.

Her award-winning short story, “Dead and (Mostly) Gone” is included in the Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction: 13 Prize Winning Tales (Llewellyn, 2008). Deborah is currently working on her third novel and hopes to find both an agent and a publisher for her fiction soon. Deborah’s first novel, Witch Ever Way You Can, has been the winner or finalist in many RWA (Romance Writers of America) contests and received the EMILY “Best of the Best” Award. Her fiction is primarily Paranormal Romance, although she also writes Fantasy, Mystery and Young Adult.

Deborah had been interviewed on television, radio and podcast, and can be found online at Facebook, Twitter, My Space, and at her own website.

When not writing, Deborah runs The Artisans’ Guild, a cooperative shop she founded with a friend in 1999, and also works as a jewelry maker. She lives in a 100 year old farmhouse in rural upstate New York with five cats who supervise all her activities, both magickal and mundane.

This month Deborah will be presenting “The Real Witch: Witchcraft Basics for the Paranormal Author” on line. Click here to learn more.

The Wiccan Rede Project: Thuri Calafia

My take on the Wiccan Rede
By Thuri Calafia

Well, first I must say that I was several years down my path before I had any idea there was more to the Rede than the last eight words. To this day, that’s what I think of when I say I live by the Rede. And in that, I do, absolutely. When I did see the Rede in its entirety, as today, I find some that resonates deeply, and some that seems obscure or unnecessary. I’ve also noticed through the years, having seen “it” several times now, that there seem to be more than a few versions. As to this one, well, it seems silly to speak on the parts that hold no meaning for me, so I will comment only on that which resonates:

Bide the Wiccan laws ye must, In perfect love and perfect trust.
I can get behind the perfect love and trust thing, but other than the last 8 words of the Rede, I know of no “Wiccan laws,” although I suppose this piece of prose is laying them out for us. In that respect, no, I don’t follow all of the “laws” following. There is no absolute authority, no governing body in the Wiccan faith, and that’s a good thing. We see all too often in American politics and corporations (which are basically one and the same anymore) how easily power corrupts, especially when the millions are governed by the few.

Perfect love and perfect trust is somewhat relative, strange as that may sound. Do I hold a bunch of strangers in an open public circle in perfect love and perfect trust? Well, no. But I can hold my gods in perfect love and perfect trust when entering that circle, that they would not let me be somewhere where the energy is harmful to me.

In terms of one’s coven, I would have to submit that from personal experience to have perfect love and perfect trust of my covenmates would have to be a requirement, as least for me personally, to even consider being in coven with them to begin with. For me, a coven is a close, spiritual family. It’s deeper than family, actually, because a coven is a family by choice.

Live and let live- Fairly take and fairly give.
Live and let live has been a philosophy of mine since probably my late teens. Fairly take and fairly give is a tough judgment call… what is “fair” exactly, and who is in charge of determining that? I definitely believe in honesty and integrity, taking only that which I’ve earned or which belongs to me. Stealing is just stupid because it always comes back to bite you in the ass (see the threefold law). But “fairness”… that’s not so easy. Sometimes we can think life is being unfair to us, but perhaps it’s about a lesson our spirit is trying to learn. Then, what is actually a gift can be seen as a burden, when in fact it’s totally “fair” from the standpoint of our spiritual lessons.

Cast the Circle thrice about to keep all evil spirits out.
Hmmm, never heard of this one before reading this. Perhaps we do cast the circle thrice, in a sense, with our actions of purifying, charging, then casting. And yes, to keep evil out, but more importantly, to keep the energy in, until it’s ready to be released!

To bind the spell every time, Let the spell be spake in rhyme.
I’m sure many of us have had spells fly brightly when we didn’t use rhyme, but it’s also true that our gods, guardians, and other spirits love the sound of poetry. They also love candlelight and incense. I think there are many things that bind spells, however, the strongest being focus and intention. Whatever gets the practitioner into that energy pattern will work beautifully to help spells succeed, whether spoken in rhyme or not.

Soft of eye and light of touch-Speak little, listen much.
This just sounds to me like good manners, and having the good sense to know that you don’t know everything. I’m all for that!

Deosil go by the waxing Moon-Sing and dance the Wiccan rune.
In many traditions, it’s considered very important to move deosil if building, constructing. This keeps energy flowing in the right direction for its purpose. This also makes a lot of sense in terms of the moon “rule” here – during waxing moons is the time to do such actions. In some traditions, it’s no big deal if one moves widdershins momentarily, and in others it IS a big deal. I’m of the more laid-back camp, but still strive for that energy movement. As to the Wiccan Rune, I read the words to it in the Farrars’ Witches’ Bible. Didn’t really do it for me. I take this part as being somewhat symbolic – that if we want to raise energy, some of the best ways are with chanting, singing, and dancing.

Widdershins go when the Moon doth wane, And the Werewolf howls by the dread Wolfsbane.
The waning moon is considered very important for de-constructing or destroying. Again, it’s all about energy flow, just like with the waxing moon. Don’t know too much about werewolves, so I’ll refrain from comment on that one.

When the Lady’s Moon is new, Kiss the hand to her times two.
The only thing I can think this means is that we should show the goddess our love, respect, and reverence. This couplet may be speaking of saying devotionals, but I think I may be reaching a bit on that one. I must admit I haven’t a clue what these lines mean.

When the Moon rides at her peak, Then your heart’s desire seek.
Aaahh, yes. “Whenever you have need of anything, once in the month, and better it be when the moon is full…” These lines tell us that when we have need, to do our spellwork on the full moon to give it the most power. This could also be interpreted as the moon being at apogee – straight above us, which would be the most powerful time yet to cast a spell.

Heed ye flower, bush and tree-By the Lady blessed be.
For me this is about paying attention to my environment, and taking care of the planet. As one who holds the earth in reverence, I must do what I can to help the earth and show respect to all living things. In doing so, I am blessed by beautiful and healthy thriving life in my surroundings, and the certain knowledge that I have done right and have earned the Lady’s (and the Lord’s) respect.

Merry meet an merry part- Bright the cheeks an warm the heart.
Merry meet and merry part are common greetings and partings in the community in general and in circle also. A nice way to say, “I’m happy to see you!”

Mind the Threefold Law ye should-Three times bad and three times good.
Many believe that whatever we send out returns to us threefold. This is why you’ll rarely meet a Witch who’s ever cast a curse or done darker work without doing some serious homework and meditation about it. That’s not to say it never happens; just that if a Wiccan is going to engage in such activities, it’s usually considered wise to make sure no unnecessary harm befalls anyone, and many things have to be shifted into place in order to ensure that. It’s also why so many Wiccans are generous and kind and helpful. Not that we do good works just to for the hope of reward, but because if everything returns to you, it’s just so much wiser to have good returned than bad, and it begins the minute you do the action; it simply feels good to give, to help, to be kind. It’s a reward unto itself.

True in love ever be, Unless thy lover’s false to thee.
So… you can lie to your lover if your lover first lies to you? Nope. Personal responsibility is one of my soapbox issues. A common Wiccan saying that’s not in the Rede is “Give thy word sparingly and adhere to it like iron.” That is one of my most cherished guiding principles in life, for many reasons. So true in love I am, and if my lover lies to me, then it would have to be dealt with, but that doesn’t give me an excuse to break my word, though it would definitely strain, possibly end the relationship, depending on what the lie is about.

Perhaps this couplet is more about that old “an eye for an eye” principle, and I can certainly see where big lies could cause one to consider the relationship over, therefore there’s no longer a need to be “true.” In that case it’s simply an ending, however, like a breach of contract, and not an excuse to just go running around, causing harm and pain just to get even.

Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill-An it harm none, do what ye will.
A tough “law” to interpret, because everyone defines “harm” differently. I’ve known people who think I’m terribly unethical because I hunt, or have hunted in the past, although I do those actions ethically and with a great deal of respect to the animal, the environment, and the Goddess. I’ve also heard students call teachers on the carpet for smoking tobacco, because they’re harming themselves. So it really comes down to the individual’s definition of harm, and taking the responsibility to ensure our actions do not cause harm, which is still a pretty good guideline to live by.

About the author:
Thuri Calafia is a Wiccan High Priestess of many years standing, and the creator of the Circles System and School. She is the author of DEDICANT: A Witch’s Circle of Fire; A Course of Study in the Old Religion. Calafia is active in the Portland Pagan community, offering various workshops and priestess services, presenting regular Open Full Moon rituals and Witches’ Afternoon Teas, and teaching Circles Dedicant level classes. She is working on the second in the four-book series, INITIATE: A Witch’s Circle of Water. She lives with her beloved Labrador, Miss Alyssa Ramone.

The Wiccan Rede Project: Beverly Wilkes

The Rede
By Beverly Wilkes

When I received the email from Rebecca about the Wiccan Rede, it gave me a wonderful moment of nostalgia. I first learned about the Wiccan faith from some new friends in college one early fall night while we were hanging out at a bonfire by the river. I had never heard of it and asked a lot of questions trying to figure it all out with my limited knowledge of Christianity as my guide to compare. When William recited the Rede it was like a priest reading from the bible. He told me of the first witches and of magic. He was my mentor in many things and the leader of my coven.

What drew me to Wicca and why I keep these traditions is a complicated thing. I guess the clearest way to explain it is that Wicca completed me. I had gone to church with my parents and learned of the bible because my parents told me to. I never felt like any of it made sense. I felt like the religion was from a book. How could a book with its finite pages teach me about how to be a good person? Wicca is different. It doesn’t tell you how to be but rather helps you be.

“An it harm none, do as ye will.” A simple phrase that says so much. To be a good person, to be a happy person, just do what you want as long as it doesn’t harm you or anyone else. Once I accepted the idea that I did not have to please everyone around me, the world became a wonderful, beautiful place again. My sister has commented that she envies my ability to not care what others think of me. Others have asked me how I can do things like not wear makeup or how I can express myself the way I do without worrying what others may think. I say simply that no one is responsible for your happiness in this life but you.

Whether you believe in The Lord and Lady, or Buddha, or God, or any of the other thousands of possible deities that this world has known through the centuries, you have to decide how to interpret what they offer and act accordingly. For me, following a solitary path, The Lord and Lady are symbols of life’s cycle. They represent the seasons and the spirituality of man in a way that none of the other religions, at least those I know of, do. They make more sense to me and fill a place that I never knew was empty until I heard the Rede.

For a long time, I had not practiced, I had basically laxed in my faith. After I left my coven to move to West Virginia I continued for a time but eventually stopped unsure of myself and my belief. Then after moving again this time to New York I did not even keep an altar. A few years ago William, my mentor passed and I even began to question whether I had made the right choice. Recently, on the night of Samhain, I decided to renew my faith and once again honor the Lord and Lady. I had been thinking about the Sabbats and what they mean in relation to my life when of all things one of my cats, Min Yen, showed me my path. She was rooting around in a bookshelf, somewhere she is not supposed to be, and when I fussed at her she jumped down, knocking down a book on the way. A book that William gave me. “Eight Sabbats of Witches” by Janet and Stewart Farrar is a wonderful book and tool for any Wicca and I found myself reading it again within moments. Adding to that a recent gift of a tarot deck I found myself preparing for the ritual of the third and final harvest of the year and remembering my cherished loved ones who had passed. My faith was restored and I find myself writing this chaotic but hopefully helpful story for Rebecca’s readers. That said, blessed be to all.

About the Author:
My name is Beverly Wilkes. I hail from Glens Falls, New York. I’m a thirty-something with two kids who walk on all fours, are fuzzy, and don’t talk very well. I am currently obsessed with Facebook, and can be found there under same name and I have written/may write more fan fiction for “Supernatural” on the Fanfiction.net website under the pen name Almost Heaven.

The Wiccan Rede Project: Artemisia Shira Tarantino

by Artemisia Shira Tarantino

The Wiccan Rede, an ethical tenet or basic spiritual principle of Wiccans, came about logically as a means to put into brief context Wiccans’ thoughts and feelings about our moral values and natural way of life. Although the origins of the Wiccan Rede are debatable, the most well known version is the one stated by author and Wiccan High Priestess Doreen Valiente, grandmother to a number of Wiccan traditions, back in the 1960s:

“An It Harm None, Do What Ye Will”

Today, the Rede serves as a backbone to our teachings and practices, helping us to maintain integrity as we perform our rites and magickal workings.

Wiccan Values

Wiccans have a history, however short, of meshing our values with self-love. In Wicca, it is very important for the practitioner to understand and love herself or himself in order to connect fully with the Goddess and the God. Wiccans generally believe that we each represent the Goddess and the God – therefore, we must treat ourselves and each other with respect and reverence.

Freedom is a very important part of Wicca. You may not necessarily hear “freedom” being discussed often in our covens and circles, but in practicing Wicca one must have “free will” in order to accomplish our set goals and manifest our intentions. Censoring our practices in any way inhibits the magick and energy that is so important to our work.

While taking that into consideration, we also have to remember that we need to balance our free will while respecting others, as all are the earthly versions of the Goddesses and Gods (this includes people, animals, and nature).

If I want to practice magick, I must make sure that my intent is to manifest something within my own environment, as opposed to forcing my intent upon another. For instance, if I want to create a positive atmosphere for protection, I will concentrate on bringing those protective gifts from the Universe to me, as opposed to creating an impediment for someone else. Following the Wiccan Rede, I would create a spell or ritual for protection that would surround me, rather than impose a barrier on the person or thing that I feel might harm me.

Magic and Wiccan Ethics

To understand ethics in Wicca, one must first understand magic.

To perform magic, one must have the ability to attune oneself to Nature. This may be as easy as listening carefully to oneself and to the rhythm of the Earth and its cycles, the wind, the atmosphere, animals, and people. This ability may come naturally to some, or may be learned (every person is different). Once one is attune, it is easier to grasp a deeper understanding the wholeness of the Universe (or the Goddess and the God) and all its components. To see through the eyes of others is the beginning of peace.

In Scott Cunningham’s’ Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, he incorporates a list of eleven magical principles. This list is by far less known than the Wiccan Rede itself, but is an excellent primer to understanding ethics within one’s magical practice:

1. Magic is natural.
2. Harm none – not even yourself – through its use (Cunningham’s version of the Wiccan Rede).
3. Magic requires effort. You will receive what you put into it.
4. Magic is not usually instantaneous. Spells require time to be effective.
5. Magic should not be performed for pay.
6. Magic should never be used in jest or to inflate your ego.
7. Magic can be worked for your own gain, but only if it harms none.
8. Magic is a divine act.
9. Magic can be used for defense but should never be used for attack.
10. Magic is knowledge – not only of its way and laws, but also of its effectiveness. Do not believe that magic works – know it!
11. Magic is love. All magic should be performed out of love. The moment anger or hatred tinges your magic you have crossed the border into a dangerous world, one that will ultimately consume you.

I would also like to add that one should never perform magick on or for someone else without their permission. Even if it is for good – or if you feel it is in their best interest.

Ethics is a very important part of Wicca. While ethics has always been the basis for understanding the principles behind magical workings, Wiccans are just now beginning to discuss ethics on a full scale. There are now a select number of books, essays, and courses that focus specifically on Wiccan ethics. Being ethical takes effort; it cannot be left up to a single statement on paper or summed up in just a few words. It takes practice, compassion, personal judgment and instinct. One must learn to weigh all parts of the story (or spell or ritual) prior to settling on intent.

Alongside the Wiccan Rede, there are other ethical Wiccan tenets which were created to also be incorporated into magical workings and living a magical life, such as The Three-fold Law, similar to Hindu’s Karma, in that everything you do comes back to you three-fold. There is also a fairly new (circa 1974) set of 13 Principles of Wiccan Beliefs set forth by the American Council of Witches, which many covens and Wiccan temples have adapted and use to this day. But no ethical tenet is without its flaws.

An Inherent Flaw

As with people, any moral or value also has its weakness – no matter how good its intention. The short version of the Wiccan Rede states, “An It Harm None, Do As Ye Will.” There are a number of versions of the Rede, as it has been interpreted and re-interpreted. If we were to interpret the statement literally, it means that, as long as you don’t harm anyone, you can do what you will. But the downside of a literal translation leaves moral statements such as this open for loopholes. The Wiccan Rede is only a part of the whole picture. In theory, it sounds good. And on paper it may even represent perfection. But in practice, it is incomplete. One must honor the never ending cycle of giving and receiving. If the Wiccan Rede is the “please,” then where is the “thank you?”

Imagine needing fresh water where you live. Your area has none, but 50 miles north there is a fresh water reservoir. So you build a pipeline channeling the water to you, and now you and your fellow townspeople have fresh water where there was none before. However, that water had to come from somewhere. Little did you know that another set of townspeople 50 miles north had been counting on that water, which you have redirected. You may have more of it, but now they have less of it.

When we tap into the Universe seeking its gifts, even if we abide by the Wiccan Rede, we must remember that while we perform any action, there is a reaction. We must be mindful of this and be prepared to give back energy to the source from which it was borrowed. This is the principal behind what Wiccans call “grounding.”

One cannot perform magick without the use of Nature and the graces of the Goddesses and Gods. Therefore, when performing any kind of magick, one must be thankful for the elements and energies that she or he is borrowing from the surrounding Universe. All elements and energies are recyclable, and what comes from the earth and sky, should eventually return to earth and sky. Once you have raised energy, you must ground that energy and bring it back to its source.

The Wiccan Rede should be used as a jumping-off point, or a starting guideline, to the bigger picture of Wiccan principles and practices. But by the Rede alone one cannot live. Just as the Judeo-Christian ethical tenet The Golden Rule (Do Unto Others as You Wish Them to Do Unto You) does not present a full ethical picture of how to live one’s life, so does the Wiccan Rede lack a full-circle “big picture.”

Personal Responsibility and “The Truth”

A huge difference between Wiccans and the Judeo-Christian culture is where the angle of personal responsibility lay. In the Judeo-Christian culture, a believer is taught to submit to the Almighty One (God) and accept what has been given to them. This, in turn, is eventually taken for what some call “absolute truth” (a fixed, one-sighted and unbendable view of Truth). Interpretation of this ethic leads to define responsibility as falling in the hands of the Almighty One, and not the individual.

On the flip side, due to the importance of free will in magic in Wicca, and a number of other Pagan- or Nature-based religions, an individual is given power by placing more responsibility upon people themselves. It is the belief that the gifts that have been bestowed upon us by Divinity (whether it is the Universe, the God and Goddess, The Great Spirit, etc.) are to be used wisely and in accordance within our ethical framework. Furthermore, due to the recognition and use of free will, which naturally lends itself to individuality, we come upon what is called “relative truth,” a personal perception of the facts based on individual views and opinions. Relative truth enables us to bend reality, which is the very definition of magic. Observing a larger picture of relative truth, we see that there are many versions of what “truth” really is – perhaps as many as there are people in the world. But who is right and who is wrong? Wiccans may say – neither.

This is where the Wiccan Rede comes in. The first part, “An It Harm None…” describes the respect that one must give to others due to our inherent Divinity. And the second part of the Rede,“…Do What Ye Will” – the “free will” part of the statement – shows us that we are all individuals with different perceptions of life. How could one possibly work magic while following someone else’s will, or incorporate a value into our rituals that does not match our own? Throughout the whole process of working magic, people have a deep responsibility to both others (to harm none), and ourselves (to do what is necessary to fulfill our magical intent).

People from all walks of life, whether they believe in absolute truth or relative truth, are flawed. The day that humans are no longer flawed, is the day that we no longer need to create and follow any ethical tenets at all, let alone subscribe to any religion or set of values. Until that day, it is my unending, idealistic hope that we all coexist peacefully and not harm one another, while doing what we will to live our lives as best we see fit.

Peace and Blessed be,
Artemisia Shira Tarantino

Bibliography and References

Cunningham, Scott, Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. (p. 10)
Valiente, Doreen, Witchcraft for Tomorrow. (pp. 36-46)
Online essay: The Wiccan Rede, A Historical Journey by John J. Coughlin, http://www.waningmoon.com/ethics/rede.shtml (Coughlin also has a book out called Ethics and the Craft)
Online essay: The Wiccan Rede, by Wren Walker, http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usfl&c=basics&id=2876
Online essay: That Old Black Magic: Getting Specific about Magical Ethics, Judy Harrow, M.S.,
http://home.att.net/~wiccanhistorian/bos/magickalethics.html

About the Author:
Shira, whose magical name is Artemisia Cybele, is a Witch in the Minoan Tradition (an ancient Crete tradition of the sacred Snake Goddess and Minotaur God), which is a derivative of the Gardnerian path. With a cultural background in Judaism, she has been Pagan all her life and has been a practicing Wiccan since the mid-1990’s – having immersed herself in Minoan studies since 2002. Shira studied under High Priestess Lady Chandara Anath as a member of Circle of the Crescent Moon (Initiation and Dedication), which was one of the original covens affiliated with Temple of the Evening Star [a 501 (c) 3 Wiccan organization] in New York.

Shira is the founder of Handfastings.org, a website that links people in the Pagan and Wiccan communities with ordained officiants. She first conceived Handfastings.org on Beltane of 2004. It is a free service to the community and helps to connect couples and families who are interested in being handfasted (wedded) with Pagan clergy. The website currently lists more than 70 legally ordained officiants from four countries.

Shira is a former instructor at the Woolston-Steen Theological Seminary. She developed core and elective curriculum, and taught Natural Magick 101. Sponsored by the established Aquarian Tabernacle Church, the Woolston-Steen Theological Seminary is one of the first accredited seminaries in the U.S. dedicated to Pagan theology and Wiccan studies – and the first of its kind to offer live online classes with audio/visual teacher-student interaction. Shira was thrilled to have been a part of this unique venture.

An artist and writer, Shira has been a non-profit fundraising and development professional since 1994. She is a former director of development of a number of New York-based non-profits and is now a volunteer consultant for charitable organizations. She is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology where she studied advertising and communications along with fashion design.

Currently affiliated with the Church of Spiritual Humanism for the purposes of ordination, Shira has created Perfect Love Handfastings and is legally registered to perform handfasting ceremonies in New York City. In addition, she has studied Reiki and received her Level 1 attunement from Reiki Master Valerie Gaglione Schott, M.S., R.M.T., IARP of Westchester, NY.

As a Priestess of the Goddess, Shira considers herself to be a student of life and will forever welcome newfound knowledge and fresh experiences during her existence on this good Earth as Mother Gaia sees fit. She is in love with Wiccan ritual and helping to better all creatures of the planet through magic, meditation, love, tolerance, and understanding. She lives in Westchester, NY with her husband, their two cats, and gave birth to their first child early 2009.

The Wiccan Rede Project: Lisa Mc Sherry

I am a Wiccan, and I don’t really follow the Rede. I’ll pause now for your shocks of horror to pass, and for you to clean up the drink you just spilled.

Better? Good.

Let me explain a bit. The Wiccan Rede isn’t actually for Wiccans, it’s for Witches. Specifically for Witches who practice outside of the coven structure. No, really. No matter what you read in a book, the Rede has a strange history and uncertain origins, but I can tell you that the founder of Wicca — Gardner — did NOT write it as a long-winded poem. What was generally agreed to was only the eight words: An’ it harm none, do what ye will.

Moreover, he never saw it as a Law. For him, and many early witches, it was a guideline, an ethical precept along the same lines as the Christian Golden Rule. Any ethical person lives in such a way as to not cause harm.

But witches had a bum rap. Because of all of the negative stereotypes, witches had to get more than a little strident about the fact that THEY weren’t evil, and it was very easy to be able to point to the rule that we all follow: harm none. See? We’re just good people who wouldn’t hurt a fly much less cast an evil spell or curse your crops.

As increasing numbers of witches were learning their craft outside of the coven structure, the Wiccan Rede became a tool to govern ethical behavior outside of the group dynamic of the coven, where ethics were regulated as a matter of course. (In any group structure the dynamics are usually subtle and serve to align with one another. This is even truer within a magickal group where perfect love and perfect trust must be given freely, and can’t be with a ‘bad apple’ in the group.)

Having said all of this, I am quick to point out that in no way are my ethics ‘bad’ or even ‘loose’. By any standards.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Rede this last month, in preparation for this essay. What I’ve come to is that I normally don’t think about it at all. I live it. Perhaps that is a function of having been a witch for nearly 30 years. Perhaps it’s just that I am a normally ethical person for whom moral decisions never arise — no, that is absolutely not true.

In my mundane job, for example, I’m a manager and an executive of our company. A lot of difficult decisions come across my desk every single day. The office place seems to be a natural place for the white lie, the small dissembling, or the kind statement that was totally unmeant. So I have to think about the consequences of my actions, my decisions all of the time. (In a sense, its what I’m paid to do.)

So, I ‘live the Rede’ in that I am constantly judging and evaluating the consequences — intended and unforeseen — of my actions and decision. I just don’t think of it in terms of the Rede (Harm None). What comes up much more intimately is my own personal system of ethics.

As part of my training I created this nearly ten years ago, and it’s a part of what I give my students every single year. Here it is:

1. Never speak falsehood.
2. Bear in mind that the act of withholding the truth is always potentially a lie, and a significant moral decision is required each and every time you do so.
3. The decision to withhold truth should never be based on personal needs.
4. The decision to withhold truth must always be based upon the needs of the person from whom the truth is being withheld.
5. The assessment of another’s needs is a complex act of responsibility; it can only be executed wisely when one operates with genuine love for the other.
6. This assessment must be undertaken with the fact that we tend to underestimate the capacity of another’s strength.
7. Trust is earned, not given.
8. Treat others with the dignity and respect with which you deserve to be treated.
9. Love yourself before all others.
10. Speak thoughtfully, but openly, and do not worry about what others think — it’s your life to live, not theirs.
11. An it harm none, do what you will.
12. Give back more than you take.
13. Walk upon the earth lightly, honor her as your first ancestor.
14. Value yourself and your services fairly when compensation is involved.
15. When given work to do, do it the best you know how.

It’s a system, but in the decade since I developed it I haven’t wanted/needed it to change, although it has dramatically changed my life. You’ll notice the Rede is in there (#11) but its one of an overall piece, not the focus.

As a guideline I’m all in favor of it, presuming that the person following it has thought it through and is conscious of the larger implications. We’re not saints, we’re not perfect. Every single day brings temptations to just pay a little less attention, to let it slide, just this once. . . But any ethical being won’t let that happen consciously.

At the core, the Rede requires a high level of truth and personal responsibility.

Author’s Bio:
Lisa Mc Sherry is the author of “Magickal Connections” and “The Virtual Pagan” (we even interviewed her!). She’s been the primary leader of JaguarMoon Coven, an eclectic Wiccan cyber coven (jaguarmoon.org) for eight years. She hosts a review site for items of interest to the alternative spirituality community at facingnorth.net. A prolific writer, her essays and articles can be found in a variety of publications, including PanGaia and newWitch. In her spare time she enjoys playing with her dog and longtime partner.

To read more of Lisa’s thoughts on the Wiccan Rede click here.

The Wiccan Rede Project: Lyn Bullard-White

When Rebecca asked folks to write about the Wiccan Rede, I had to think for a bit about it. I am more of an eclectic pagan than a true Wiccan, though Wiccan beliefs are a part of my personal belief system. Like many people before me, I started out as a Christian and stumbled into paganism. I’ve pulled beliefs and ideas from across the spectrum. I’ve used everything from high magick and European traditions to eastern mysticism and kitchen witchery to form a belief and magical system that work for me.

I’ve seen the Rede, most often in it’s short version: “Do as ye Will, an ye harm none”. In theory, it’s a wonderful idea. In reality, it’s not entirely possible. The very act of living means causing death and destruction. It probably sounds terribly pessimistic or being doom and gloom, but it’s not. It’s something older than the Wiccan Rede; it’s the natural cycle of life.

A prime example is this: in order to live, we must eat. Whether you are an omnivore or a vegetarian, you cause death or harm to creatures or plants by their consumption. Whether it’s that lovely baked potato or a savory steak, something died to provide your sustenance. The potato plant had to be pulled from the ground to harvest its tubers and the cow had to sacrifice its life to provide meat. In the end, you’ve caused harm. Realistically, it’s how life has worked from the very start.

On a different level, there is the issue of how to deal with a person who hurts others. By definition, a police officer who captures a criminal is causing harm. The officer may have to chase and tackle the person, or he may even have to shoot that person. The criminal may end up in a jail cell. Those things, from the criminal’s point of view, would be considered harm. However, what about the greater good? If the criminal isn’t stopped, even if it means that harm in some form comes to them, then more harm happens to other people that the criminal later goes on to hurt.

Those are some obvious issues. Many more statements could be made about simply living in today’s modern word; gas and energy consumption, the toxic materials in electronics, the conditions the clothes and shoes we wear were created in, animal testing by companies who produce the products we use, and so much more.

I did some research and found out that the word rede comes from middle English and means to council or advise. (thank you, Wikipedia!) If you take the Wiccan Rede as advice, it has some great stuff. The longer version contains a great deal of pagan and magical knowledge. The general principal of the shorter Rede, if taken as a moral rather than a rule, councils us to not cause harm to others and the world around us. That is a beneficial rule to live by. That philosophy has come to us in many forms throughout time. There is the “golden rule” that says to do to others what you would want done to you. That moral has been stated, with far more eloquence, from religions such as Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity (to name a few).

Personally speaking, that viewpoint works better for me than if it were a rule or law. It falls in line with my own personal beliefs, for the most part. From my perspective, the Wiccan Rede is a nice source of wisdom and knowledge but I don’t take it literally or as law. What works for others will, of course, vary. And that’s how it should be!

Author’s Bio (Lyn Bullard-White):
I was asked to write a short blurb about myself and perhaps provide a picture. Being as how I’m not a big fan of being in front of a camera, I think I’ll decline the photo option. As to who I am…I’m a 36 year old mom of three kids. We have cats, fish, and a leopard gecko. I have more plants than anyone living in an apartment probably should have, but that’s okay. I was introduced to other views of the world quite young by having grown up in a haunted house. I formally began studying magic when I was 15 and I’ve been learning and growing since. I’m a a gamer, I love anime and manga, and I read and watch sci-fi and fantasy. That’s me in a nutshell.

The Wiccan Rede Project: Kerr Cuhulain

A lot of people in the Wiccan community focus on the first part of the Rede: Harm none. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it is an incomplete interpretation. It’s only half of what the Wiccan Rede is all about. The Wiccan Rede is a double edged sword: It cautions you not to harm others, at the same time urging you to be all that you can be.

My Order of Scáthach focuses on both halves of the Wiccan rede. The Wiccan Rede is a cornerstone of our practice in the Order of Scáthach. Harming none is very important, but so is being all that you can be. Wicca is about empowering yourself, so that you can reach for your dreams. If you are not being all that you can be, you’re not entirely living up to the spirit of the Wiccan Rede. The Order of Scáthach insists that it’s members use both halves: We strive to be glorious.

The Wiccan Rede requires Wiccans to use their heads instead of someone else’s list of rules. It requires us to take responsibility for our actions rather than relinquishing this responsibility it to someone or something else. Wicca is not a Zoroastrian system like Christianity having only extremes of light versus dark, good versus evil, right versus wrong. That sort of system is an approach which requires no thought. There are no shades of gray. It is composed of long lists of rules and rigid codes. Our path, unlike the Christian one, is not based on guilt. The Judeo/Christian system can be summarized by the expression “Thou shalt not”. Our system can be summarized by the expression “I will not”: It is based on responsibility, not guilt

The Wiccan Rede is not a rule. It is a statement counseling us to think. Personal responsibility is the basis of the Wiccan ethical system. We must take responsibility for our actions and think about what we are doing. Rules are for training young children to be adults. At some point you must grow up and understand the reasons for the rules. This understanding should replace the rules. Wiccans don’t steal because it is illegal: Wiccans don’t steal because Wiccans understand that stealing is wrong.

About the Author:
Kerr retired from the Vancouver Police Department in November 2005 after serving 29 years with them. He was awarded the Governor General’s Exemplary Service Medal. Kerr’s past job assignments within the VPD include the Emergency Response Team, Hostage Negotiator, Child Abuse Investigator, Gang Crime Unit, and the Mental Health Emergency Services Unit. Kerr is currently working as a police dispatcher for ECOMM for Southwestern BC.

Kerr has been a Wiccan for 39 years and has been involved in anti-defamation activism and hate crimes investigation for the Pagan community since 1986. Kerr was awarded the Shield of Valor by the Witches League for Public Awareness. Kerr is the author of the “Law Enforcement Guide to Wicca”, “Witch Hunts”, “Wiccan Warrior”, “Full Contact Magick” and “Magickal Self Defense”. Kerr has a column on anti-defamation issues and hate crimes on The Witches’ Voice web site called Witch Hunts. Kerr is the former Preceptor General of Officers of Avalon, an organization representing Neo-Pagans professionals in the emergency services (police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians).

To learn more about Kerr, visit his website.

The Wiccan Rede Project: Lady Passion

Unbound Ethics: Surprising Revelations About The Wiccan Rede
By Lady Passion, High Priestess, Coven Oldenwilde

It’s a little known fact that the Wiccan Rede as we’ve come to know it is a modern invention, for in antiquity, Pagans’ concept of ethics was largely based on folks living up to the four Cardinal Virtues of Prudence, Courage, Temperance and Justice.

The simplicity of the original ‘Rede’ reflected its oldeness: “Eight words the Rede fulfill, ‘An [If] it harm none, do as ye will.” But as an ethical device, this part of ‘the Rede’ is quite problematic. For example, many beginning Seekers wrongly believe that Witches abide by this principle above all else, and that these words form the cornerstone of occult ethics. While “harm none” is an olde concept first published as the philosophy of fictional character Good King Pausol in the 1870s, the “do as ye will” part smacks of specious, modern Crowleyism (i.e., “Do as ye wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love over Law, Law under Will,” The Book of the Law, 1901). Ultimately, while “harm none” is a goodly aspiration, it is innately impractical — for who but a God/dess can do this?

Eventually, this portion of ‘the Rede’ was superceded by the exhortive: “Bide the Wiccan Law ye must, In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust”. Later, numerous High Priestesses from Amber K to Gwen Thompson expanded ‘the Rede’ to increasingly lengthy and badly-rhymed versions so popularized today on Azure Green.com posters.

Raymond Buckland first referenced a Law of Three-fold Return in a 1968 article for Beyond magazine, but no one knows the origin of the modern, oft-used portion of this: “Ever mind the rule of three, what you send comes back to thee.” Note herein the absence of any threat of a three-fold return against spell casters that everyone now fears.

While Witches are right to instinctively embrace the earliest part of ‘the Rede’ by merit of its lovely antiquity, this has also led them to wrongly assume that if they make a magical mistake Karma or the Gods’ wrath will swiftly smite them thrice for their audacity. And this is simply untrue.

Indeed, the very concept of a three-fold return rather implies either or both a Christian ‘Golden Rule’ and Dharmic/Karmic influence much at odds with ancient Pagan cosmology. (Witches believe both that evil ilk tend to reap what they sow while alive, and in the rather glacial grind of cosmic lessons learned over numerous reincarnations.)

I was taught by a famous High Priestess that the ‘Law of Three-fold Return’ was not an exhortive against Witches’ meddling magic, but meant to serve as a warning to our persecutors to not harm us or receive our triple retribution in self defense.

Such warping of the Rede’s original intent has so pervaded the Craft Community, that many Witches are now prone to avoid working spells for fear that they will inadvertently engender cruel backlash. Despite the fact that this portion of ‘the Rede’ makes little magical sense (since the God/desses are on Witches’ side, why not liberate us rather than figuratively tie our hands behind our backs?), few deeply consider its illogic — inadvertently allowing ‘the Rede’ to become an instrument of oppression to us, rather than one of support. This is a counterproductive shame.

As such a modern invention, ‘the Rede’ should be viewed with more than a bit of skepticism and, therefore, not revered as comprising Witches’ basic magical text (as our Books of Shadows truly are).

The words in the Rede are goodly thought-provokers, goodly phrases to ponder from an ethical perspective. But they are not holy writ, and should never be assumed so. The Rede should never be used to oust anyone from a Coven, as it is not a traditional set of “rules” per se. (Our traditional Books of Shadows have 163 ardanes and numberous Notes and Guidelines to consult when it comes to determining whether or not a deal-breaking ethical breach has occurred.)

*Diuvei and I wrote an entire chapter about Witch ethics in our The Goodly Spellbook: Olde Spells For Modern Problems. Our Coven Oldenwilde abides by the ardanes handed down to us in our Books of Shadows, as well as the four Cardinal Virtues, the latter of which nicely correspond to the four Elements and traditional Witch Powers:

Prudence = Air = The Power To Know (the wisdom to know what to do, when);
Justice = Fire = The Power to Will (the determination to right wrongs, often when someone exerts their Will over anothers’);
Courage = Water = The Power to Dare (the ability to be bold when others feel timid); and
Temperance = Earth = The Power to Be Silent (the ability to be discrete and restrained when need be).

In many ways, Witches have more traditional ethical standards than monotheists do: After all, we don’t have a mere ten commandments to worry about. Indeed, we have hundreds of goodly maxims and reminders with which to check our egos and magical motives.

We should be grateful to our ancestors for leaving us a wealth of timeless treasures to abide by — but avoid elevating more modern models, such as the long version of the Rede, above their true station.

About the Author:
Lady Passion (Dixie Deerman) is a renowned psychic, magical expert, and co-author of the critically acclaimed The Goodly Spellbook: Olde Spells For Modern Problems, Sterling Publishing, NY, NY (Italian translation, Il Libro degli Incantesimi: Antiche Formule Magiche per Risolvere Problemi Attuali, Milan). The Goodly Spellbook has been cited in numerous other books, such as The Temple of High Witchcraft by Christopher Penczak, and Mystical Dragon Magick by DJ Conway.

Lady Passion writes for numerous magazines (NewWitch, Oracle 20/20, etc.), and often works magic for TV studios (Universal, Sci-Fi Channel), production companies (A. Smith & Co., L.A., Trafford Media, England), and series (Extra!, Finding America). Often been featured on BBC London radio, NPR, CNN, Fox, and the Washington Post, etc.

Lady Passion is a Registered Nurse. She has over 30 years of experience finding missing persons, de-ghosting haunted houses, securing dozens of Pagan inmates their religious rights, and teaching the Craft of the Wise to everyone from soccer moms to Mensa members. Folks worldwide consult Lady Passion to fix their magical, medical, and legal problems, and to find out what their future holds. Thousands nationwide have annually attended her public Halloween ritual held since 1995.

For more information about her work, visit: www.oldenwilde.org

The Wiccan Rede Project: Raven Digitalis

‘Will’ & the Wiccan Rede
An Extract from “Goth Craft: The Magickal Side of Dark Culture
By Raven Digitalis (used with the author’s permission)

In his book Magick in Theory and Practice (Castle Books, 1991), Aleister Crowley defines magick as “The Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.” This may sound like a very simple and straightforward definition, which it is, but the magician must really dissect what these words mean in order to come to a fuller grasp of the process. I have found Mr. Crowley’s definition to be not too far off from many other occultists’ personal viewpoints, regardless of their level of respect for the guy. To first analyze this statement, we must understand what Crowley meant by “will.” To draw a correlation with modern witchcraft, the final stanza of the fifty-two lined Wiccan Rede is this:

Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill:
An’ it harm none, do what ye will.

This is a modification of Crowley’s spiritual principle “Do what thou Wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” This is one of the primary phrases of Thelemic philosophy, which is said to have been delivered by spiritual means to Crowley and his wife while in Cairo, Egypt on their honeymoon.

After his wife Rose began experiencing a number of occurrences in which she channeled arcane spiritual messages, Crowley administered a sequence of tests that showed that Rose possessed information impossible to know without massive amounts of prior research, apparently delivered to her from legitimate external sources. Crowley later identified these sources as the Secret Chiefs (Masters) of the Great White Brotherhood (Lodge), who are seen as a number of ascended masters who uphold evolutionary consciousness on the earth plane.

The height of the Cairo working was Crowley’s instruction to sit in a temple at noon for an hour on three successive days to receive a channeling from an external source himself. It was then that Crowley received a transmission that became known as Liber AL vel Legis (Liber CCXX): The Book of the Law. The book was later researched and declared genuine by a number of occultists. The being that delivered the information identified himself as Aiwass, who became recognized as Crowley’s Holy Guardian Angel.

The cryptic Egypt-centered philosophies delivered in The Book of the Law became the primary teachings of the path of Thelema, the magick of which works to push the practitioner to individually find the way to connect with the higher, cosmic self or God-self, thus uncovering one’s True Will (cosmic destiny) in order to achieve the Great Work: that which we are destined to achieve during our incarnation. Another message delivered in the channelings of Aiwass was “Thou hast no right but to do thy Will,” stating that all things done in life in accordance with one’s True Will are correct and spiritual, while anything done out of line and against one’s will is incorrect and thus sinful.

Like Crowley’s channeled philosophies, the final line of the Wiccan Rede does not mean “go ahead and do whatever the hell you want.” If the Thelemic definition of will is taken into account, it portrays the fact that all acts of magick are part of one’s life-plan and that magickal practitioners help uphold the world in which we exist. This includes 100% personal responsibility for any action one takes. It does not mean pursuing all temptations and pleasures of the flesh; nor does it mean to invite ego or chaos above morality. At the same time, it doesn’t mean to disregard them. It means uncover your destiny and follow it accordingly through conscious thought. One’s destiny is one’s life path; that which is meant to be accomplished. This includes both one’s greater destiny or life’s work as well as every moment of being; that which constructs the bigger picture. Thelemic magicians call the accurate following of one’s True Will the “Great Work.”

Gerald Gardner and Aleister Crowley were in contact whilst developing their own magickal systems: Crowley, the Thelemic magick of the OTO under his leadership, and Gardner, modern Wicca. They exchanged an unknown amount of material that helped one another form their magickal systems. They also interacted with other magicians and witches of the time, who exchanged multiple ideas and traditions between themselves. We do know that Gardner was initiated in Crowley’s OTO. While Gardner and Crowley’s relationship remains more or less ambiguous to this day, it’s speculated that the final lines of the Rede, which are seen in a similar form in Gardner’s Old Laws (Gardner did not write the Rede we are now familiar with), are modifications of Crowley’s input. It has even been speculated that Crowley actually wrote most of Gardner’s original Book of Shadows upon receiving payment to do so! Still others believe that Gerald Gardner modified Doreen Valiente’s writing The Witches’ Creed to form portions of his Old Laws, or that he created lines now integrated in the Rede as a combination of the Creed and the Thelemic Law. Other theorists who do believe Gardner had a strong influence in the creation of the Rede believe that he simply borrowed lines from Crowley’s material in the process of creating modern Wicca. For example, a couple of lines from Crowley’s Gnostic Mass are used word-for-word in the invocation of Drawing Down the Moon. The Drawing Down is accredited to Doreen Valiente, the first Priestess of Gardnerian Wicca.

In the Ostara 1975 issue of The Green Egg periodical, Lady Gwen (Gwynne) Thompson published The Rede of the Wiccæ (which is the Wiccan Rede), attributing the material to her deceased paternal grandmother Adriana Porter, who was said to have gotten it from earlier sources. Is this the origin of the Rede, and if so, how did Ms. Porter compile her material? We do know that Lady Gwen’s version was circulated among members of the New England Covens of Traditionalist Witches (NECTW). Regardless of the text’s origins, which are as of now unknown, the idea of will in both systems remains very much aligned. They are very similar and carry the same message: do the life’s work that you are meant to do.

Author’s Bio:
Raven Digitalis (Missoula, MT) is the author of Shadow Magick Compendium: Exploring Darker Aspects of Magickal Spirituality and Goth Craft: The Magickal Side of Dark Culture, both on Llewellyn. He is a Neopagan Priest and cofounder of the “disciplined eclectic” shadow magick tradition and training coven Opus Aima Obscuræ, and is a radio and club DJ of Gothic and industrial music. Also trained in Georgian Witchcraft and Buddhist philosophy, Raven has been a Witch since 1999, a Priest since 2003, and an Empath all of his life. Raven holds a degree in anthropology from the University of Montana and is also an animal rights activist, black-and-white photographic artist, Tarot reader, and is the co-owner of Twigs & Brews Herbs, specializing in bath salts, herbal blends, essential oils, and incenses. He has appeared on the cover of newWitch magazine, is a regular contributor to The Ninth Gate magazine, and has been featured on MTV News and the ‘X’ Zone Radio program. Visit Raven at www.ravendigitalis.com and www.myspace.com/oakraven.

The Wiccan Rede Project

As the New Year was approaching, I of course turned my eye towards what kind of content The Magical Buffet could offer its readers in the New Year. I knew I wanted to find a new and interesting way to talk about Wiccans and Witchcraft practioners. I wanted to have a real discussion about the nature of belief and the differences of perspective of its adherents. When discussing other faiths often times publishers, interviewers, etc. compare differing interpretations of religious texts. Of course, as many of you know, there is no one definitive religious text for Wiccans. The faith is so eclectic and adaptable that you can ask 10 Wiccans what is the defining text for their faith and you will get about 20 different answers. Ask me how I know. Then it hit me, there is the Rede.

What is the Wiccan Rede? According to “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wicca and Witchcraft” the Rede “was first published in ‘Green Egg Magazine’ in 1975. Lady Gwen Thompson, a witch from the Celtic Tradition, submitted the poem. Her grandmother, Adriana Porter, had given it to her. No one is really sure how old the poem is. Some people believe it was written in the mid 1930s. Others believe that is unlikely, because the word Wicca was not used until the 1960s. No matter how old it is, the Rede remains a central pillar of the Wiccan faith.”

Again, ask 10 different Wiccans and get 10 different answers. Then I thought, would you really get 10 different answers? Well you know, there is only one way to find out. I sent out an email to past contributors to The Magical Buffet and a few friends and asked them if they would be interested in sharing their thoughts on the Wiccan Rede with my readers. Many wonderful people responded. I’m not going to list them all, because I want there to be some mystery, but to name a few: Raven Digitalis (author of “Goth Craft” and “Shadow Magick Compendium”), Thuri Calafia (author of “Dedicant: A Witch’s Circle of Fire”), Lady Passion (co-author of “The Goodly Spellbook”) and many more. My intention is once a month to share an opinion article on the Wiccan Rede.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Rede, we’re not talking about some thick tome of mythology. I’ve seen several versions of the Rede, but when I think of it, I’m always thinking of the version that appeared in “Green Egg Magazine”.

“The Rede of the Wiccae”

Bide the Wiccan laws ye must
In perfect love and perfect trust.

Live and let live-
Fairly take and fairly give.

Cast the Circle thrice about
To keep all evil spirits out.

To bind the spell every time,
Let the spell be spake in rhyme.

Soft of eye and light of touch-
Speak little, listen much.

Deosil go by the waxing Moon-
Sing and dance the Wiccan rune.

Widdershins go when the Moon doth wane,
And the Werewolf howls by the dread Wolfsbane.

When the Lady’s Moon is new,
Kiss the hand to her times two.

When the Moon rides at her peak,
Then your heart’s desire seek.

Heed the Northwind’s mighty gale-
Lock the door and drop the sail.

When the wind blows from the South,
Love will kiss thee on the mouth.

When the wind blows from the East,
Expect the new and set the feast.

When the West wind blows o’er thee,
Departed spirits restless be.

Nine woods in the Cauldron go-
Burn them quick and burn them slow.

Elder be ye Lady’s tree-
Burn it not or cursed ye’ll be.

When the Wheel begins to turn-
Let the Beltaine fires burn.

When the Wheel has turned a Yule,
Light the log and let Pan rule.

Heed ye flower, bush and tree-
By the Lady blessed be.

Where the rippling waters go,
Cast a stone an truth ye’ll know.

When ye have need,
Hearken not to other’s greed.

With the fool no season spend
Or be counted as his friend.

Merry meet an merry part-
Bright the cheeks an warm the heart.

Mind the Threefold Law ye should-
Three times bad and three times good.

When misfortune is enow,
Wear the blue star on thy brow.

True in love ever be
Unless thy lover’s false to thee.

Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill-
An it harm none, do what ye will.

That’s it. Yet, this seemingly simple poem lays out the basics of spell casting and the ethics of being Wiccan. Not too shabby for 26 couplets, right? Of course, as mentioned before, ask 10 different Wiccans, get 10 different interpretations. Like any religious text, the Wiccan Rede holds different levels of regard depending on the individual. I hope that you’ll enjoy learning and debating the Rede each month as contributors offer their opinions on the subject.

Welcome to The Wiccan Rede Project.