The Wiccan Rede
The Wiccan Rede is the actual statement that gives a moral system to the Wiccan religion. The Wiccan Rede is most commonly associated as part of the Neopagan religion of Wicca. The word Rede comes from Middle English, translated it means “advice” or “counsel. “
In 1964, the first public record of the Rede was given in a speech by Doreen Valiente. This was given in its most common form, also known as, the eight words couplet. There are many closely related variations of these words, but all possess the same basic understanding; “Do what you will, so long as it harms none.”
In 1974, the Long Rede was published in a neopagan magazine titled, ‘Earth Religion News’. This is a twenty-six lined poem, each line containing a rhymed couplet, which ends with the traditional eight words. This has since been published in many platforms with slight transitions in the wording but is typically referred to as the Long Rede.
The Rede is the Wiccan variation of the Golden Rule, which is found in the beliefs of almost every religion. Not all traditional wiccans follow the Rede, and there are many debates throughout various individual traditions of wiccans over its meaning. A common argument centers on the interpretation of whether the Rede is to be taken as advice or a quite literal list of commandments.
The Rede is virtually open to individual interpretation. It is merely presented as a guideline to fit each situation as it comes and does not specifically spell out which actions will bring harm and which will not. The specifics of what will or will not bring harm is open to personal interpretation of each individual.
Typically, the Rede is understood as meaning that an individual is meant to follow their true will and not to focus on simple wants, as well as when following one’s will that they do not harm anyone or anything. It is a way of giving encouragement to each individual to take personal responsibility for his or her actions.
Wiccans do understand that the Rede was written by inspired humans and was not given to us directly from Gods or Goddesses, which is why it is not mutually accepted without question. Generally, most witches, whether following the Rede or not, do follow the same basis of ethical principal understanding that what they put out will eventually come back to them.
Within the words, “Do harm to none”, it does not appear there is much room for interpretation. The Christian equal would be the concept of, ‘Treat thy neighbor as thyself.’ Honestly speaking, some of us treat ourselves awfully badly. This, quite literally, opens us up to interpretation that we may treat others just as badly. But, ‘Do harm to none’ is pretty spelled out. Do not harm anyone, anything, human, plant, animal, or even ourselves.
Technically speaking, it is virtually impossible to never cause any harm. To properly care for ourselves we must eat, and even vegetarians are in essence harming plants. A short walk across your front yard will likely kill many plants and harmless insects. The Rede seems to be more of a starting point, a clarification to always remind you that all actions have a ripple effect of consequences. The Rede is there as a constant reminder to thoroughly consider the consequences in your actions and to not do anything carelessly.
Dayanara Blue Star