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.