Witch Talk

The Wiccan Rede: Things to Remember

The Wiccan Rede is one of the core tenants that Wiccans follow. It states “An’ it harm none, do what ye will”, and is open for interpretation depending on your path and tradition. Just because it is a core tenant, though, doesn’t mean there isn’t some confusion about it. Here are some things to consider.

  • Rede does not mean law.
    • The word “rede” comes from the Old English word
       ræd, which means counsel or advice [1]. When you quote the Rede to someone, which you should only do if you are 100% positive that person also follows the Rede, remember that the Wiccan Rede is not a law in Wicca. The Rede is a guideline that Wiccans follow, and for that reason, is up for interpretation.

  • Sometimes doing nothing is worse than doing something.
    • If you’re applying the Wiccan Rede to every aspect of your life, and not just the magickal part, you need to take into consideration the fact that your inaction can be just as harmful as your action. I’m going to use an extreme example here, because I think it makes the point a little easier. Keep in mind that sometimes situations in life are not this black and white.
    • Say you’re driving along the highway and you witness an accident. The car that crashed looks pretty bad and rolls at least once. And you keep driving. You don’t dial the emergency number and you don’t stop to see if the driver and/or passengers are ok. In this situation, your lack of action can lead to devastating consequences for the people in the car that crashed. This example is extreme, and I would hope no one would do this.
    • The Rede can also lead to some ethical dilemmas. For example, say you notice that a coworker whom you get along with is stealing supplies from work. You’ve tried speaking with them, but they deny what they’re doing even though you’ve witnessed it first hand. You don’t want this coworker to get into trouble or get fired, but you know that what they are doing is wrong. So, do you inform your superiors and, in the process, potentially hurt the employee in one way or another? Or do you let the coworker continue what they’re doing and possibly hurt the employer? And, if you let it continue and the superiors find out anyway, will that also affect you if they find out you knew? Does your answer change depending on the workplace? It is an international corporation? Is it a “mom and pop” store? Does your answer change depending on what the coworker is taking? Are they taking pens and paper? Or are they taking toilet paper and extra food left in the fridge?

  • The Rede is only eight words.
    • Despite popular belief, the Wiccan Rede is not a long, many-lined piece of prose. There are several works published that include the Wiccan Rede in a longer form, most of them adaptations of The Rede of the Wiccae by Gwynne Thompson, who founded the New England Coven of Traditional Witches in 1972 [2]. The only part of the prose that is the Rede itself is this: “An’ it harm none, Do what ye will”.

  • The Rede is not as old as you think it is.
    • The first recorded use of the Wiccan Rede that I can find in any research is that of a speech given by Doreen Valiente in 1964. I can’t for the life of me find a copy of this speech because I’m interested in it for several reasons, but many people believe that the Rede is based on more than one other person’s writing. It is even believed that Doreen Valiente took words from Gardner and made them more, archaic sounding, for lack of a better word [3].

  • The Rede is not for everyone.
    • This is something that I see all the time and it bothers me as much as the people that are on the receiving end of it. As Wiccans, we know that other Wiccans should follow the Rede. It is part of our practice and faith. However, there are others out there who practice witchcraft who are not Wiccan, and therefore do not have to follow the Rede or any tenants of Wiccan faith. Witchcraft has been around far longer than the faith of Wicca, and we cannot expect, nor should we, that every other witch out there will be Wiccan. Do not, under any circumstances, throw the Wiccan Rede at people when they talk about hexing, cursing, jinxing, or any other form of magick that would be frowned upon in Wicca. It is rude, disrespectful, and extremely ignorant to do so. You can disagree with their path, that’s fine, but do not pass judgement on someone else because their practice and faith are different than yours.

[1] https://www.etymonline.com/word/rede
[2] http://www.nectw.org/
[3] http://www.waningmoon.com/ethics/rede3.shtml

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