The Wiccan Rede Is Not A Poem

It’s late and I’m on my second whiskey ginger, so I’ll try to make this brief. Oh shit, I forgot to use the royal we. Ignore that shit. We’re going to lay some truth bombs on you, general pagan masses. This is an ancient secret kept by the Wica from time immemorial, and it’s one of the secret tests we use to determine who’s legit, so write this shit down, cause it gives you some real serious Wiccan street cred:

THE WICCAN REDE IS NOT A POEM.

Did you get that? THE REDE IS NOT A POEM. IT DOESN’T EVEN RHYME. Let that shit sink in.

The entirety of the Wiccan Rede is eight words long: “An it harm none, do what ye will.”  That’s the whole thing. Anything other than that isn’t the Wiccan Rede. Let’s talk a little bit about its verbiage and its history, and by that, we mean “let us regurgitate shit to you from Wikipedia because it’s late and we’re buzzed.”

“The word “Rede” derives from Middle English, meaning “advice” or “counsel.” (Too drunk to find and install WordPress footnote plugin, but the thought was there, so feel special.) So basically, the Rede of the Wicca is a piece of advice or a bit of counsel. What do we know about advice/counsel? It’s non-binding. If it were binding, it would be called a law, or doctrine, or a tenet, or something. But it’s not, so it’s just advice. It basically means “If it doesn’t hurt anyone (or anything), then go right the fuck ahead.”

We also remember that admittedly strange period in high school where math class suddenly involved “if/then” shit. WTF was that anyway? We totally blocked that out until just now. That was some whack shit, right? WTF does If/Then have to do with math? God damn. But we digress. Following simple logic (or some vague attempt at tautologies), we see this: the word “An” in the Wiccan Rede translates to the modern English word “If.” When we say “If,” we’re qualifying something. If X is true, then Y. So IF you are pregnant, THEN you will have medical bills. It’s a simple statement of one thing predicates another. But IF you are NOT pregnant, then you may or may not have medical bills OR a shotgun wedding. Basically, an IF statement has nothing to do with something that does not meet that IF. Like, IF you graduate high school, you have a shot at going to college. IF you don’t graduate high school, then you do you, boo, and god help you. You get that rent money however you can, mama.

So, the Rede says, “If it harms none.” That means that the second half “do as ye will” only applies to situations in which “It harms none.” Makes perfect sense. If it’s not hurting anybody, go right ahead. That might be why there are so many homosexuals in Wicca and why we love a good same-sex handfasting. They’re not hurting anybody, especially straight marriage. And let’s be honest, who’s more likely to have open bar: DINKS or people with kids? But what about situations in which you are definitely going to fuck a bitch up? Let’s apply it then.

Does your situation harm none? No? It harms multiple persons? Let’s see if that fits our if/then situation. “If it harms none,” OH WAIT IT DOES HARM SOMEONE. Ok, so where’s the “IF IT HARMS ONE” rede? There isn’t one. There is nothing that says anything about harmful/baneful magic. The Rede says nothing about it. The Rede does not say “HARM NONE! HARM NONE! THIS IS THE WICCAN PRIME DIRECTIVE! HARM NONE!” It basically says nothing at all about harmful magic, because that is the provence of each witch’s individual conscience. Besides, who’s going to tell you not to stop a known rapist? No one.

So, now that we got that out of the way (OMG WICCANS CAN DO BLACK MAGIC OMG!!!11one), let’s move on to that ghastly poem which was erroneously entitled “The Wiccan Rede.”

100% Wikipedia: “In 1974 a complete twenty-six line poem entitled “The Wiccan Rede” was published in the neo-Pagan magazine Earth Religion News. Each line contained a rhymed couplet laid out as a single line, the last line being the familiar “short rede” couplet beginning “Eight words…”.

This poem was shortly followed by another, slightly different, version, [sic] entitled the “Rede Of The Wiccae”, which was published in Green Egg magazine by Lady Gwen Thompson. She ascribed it to her grandmother, Adriana Porter, and claimed that the earlier published text was distorted from “its original form”. The poem has since been very widely circulated and has appeared in other versions and layouts, with additional or variant passages. It is commonly known as the “Long Rede”.

100% A Gardnerian: GWEN THOMPSON WAS NOT WICCAN. Repeat: NOT WICCAN. So a non-Wiccan witch came in and took a Wiccan principle that Doreen uttered in the 60s and then wrote a poem about it. THAT’S LOVELY! But it has nothing to do with our religion. If we wrote a poem about the Pledge of Allegiance involving enemas and Summer’s Eve, NONE OF YOU WOULD BE REQUIRED TO DOUCHE DURING HOMEROOM.

Just like we can’t walk into a Catholic Church and write poems about their catechism and expect them to be forced to adhere to it, a non-Wiccan cannot write Wiccan dogma. Hell, even a Wiccan can’t write Wiccan dogma. We’re an orthopraxic religion, not an orthodoxic one. (Missing footnote here too, because tomato, tomahto.)

So the next time someone tells you that the Wiccan Rede is a bunch of crazy harm none shit, just drop them a link to this article and tell them it involves a lot of swear words.

 

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20 comments

  1. Hah. Now I can shove this into the optic nerves of my fellow American(hah) “wiccans.” Love this blog by the way.

  2. If the word Rede means advice doesnt that mean you can ignore it completely anyway. Hell get advice all the time from well meaning but crazy people who do not seem to understand the first law of being a triple leo is that you are always right… and the second law is to obey the first law. Advice is something you get the back pages of magazines penned by drunken jounralists who are too pissed to write the weather.,

  3. Ok, if we were to write the Wiccan Rede as aform of logic, such as a computer process or a Logician would read, then it would look like this:
    If you want to do x, and x harms none
    then do x.
    As the author points out, there is no ELSE option provided.
    However, there are really only two relevant options:-
    either its

    If you want to do x, and x harms none,
    then do x
    else
    don’t do x.

    This is the viewpoint the author is complaining about.
    The alternative
    would be

    If you want to do x, and x harms none,
    then do x
    otherwise
    do x anyway.

    If you put this into a computer language and compiled it,
    the compiler would simply recognise that both branches produce the same result
    and so would would simplify it to

    If you want to do x,
    then do x.

    But this isn’t the rede, is it? It leaves out at least half of it.

    So, either the people who wrote the rede got it wrong,
    or the author of this blog article got it wrong.

    Let me put it another way. – logically –
    If you want to do x, but it harms one or more,
    and you do it anyway,
    then you are a selfish moron, incapable of simple logic.
    Please hand over all decision making powers to someone responsible,
    as you clearly cannot trust yourself to understand the issues.
    Go to your HPS and demand that you be punuished to drive the demon of stupidity from you,
    and I don’t mean with one of those namby-pamby little Wiccan flails either.
    Tell them you are too stupid to be Wiccan. Wiccans are supposed to be the priesthood.
    You are at best another self-indulgent Pagan, who should ask the priesthood for permission to do anything. Hand over your book and tools for destruction.
    And under no cercumstances post anything about what Wicca is or is not on public blogs,
    or you will give all the real Wiccans a bad name.

    1. Ok, so thats a bit over the top. But hey, thats what happens when people go around claiming its ok to do stuff that harms people. Get it?

      1. It’s called “Personal Accountability” a concept that I find rather lacking in the current “Entitlement Generation” of Heathens/Pagans/Wiccans. Sadly it comes in part from reading to many books by Shinny Twinkle Moon publishing. It also stems from folks not getting proper training and not just in covens and reading groups.

  4. What makes you think that “An it harm none, do what ye will” is the Wiccan Rede? When were these eight words given this title? Who gave it this title? Since Thompson poem was called “The Wiccan Rede” first, shouldn’t that take priority?

    1. From Wikipedia, because it was well before our time:
      “Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill, An it harm none do what ye will. Note: this is the first published form of the couplet, quoted from Doreen Valiente in 1964… In 1974 a complete twenty-six line poem entitled “The Wiccan Rede” was published in the neo-Pagan magazine Earth Religion News.”

      So yes, Doreen called it the Rede about a decade before Gwen Thompson made up some bologna about her grandmother. Here, have a link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiccan_Rede

  5. To play devil’s advocate, one could say that the Rede, despite its name, is law. More clearly, that the idea that one must not cause harm is law.

    Consider two published sources:

    “The Meaning of Witchcraft” by Gerald Gardner – page 127 of the Mercury Publishing edition. Gardner writes,

    “It is an old saying that ‘The difference between orthodoxy and heterodoxy is that orthodoxy is my doxy and heterodoxy is someone else’s doxy.’ John Calvin’s doxy (a most ill-favoured hag) was embodied in his famous dictum, ‘All pleasure is sin.’ Nowadays most people modify that a little, saying ‘My pleasures are innocent, everybody else’s pleasures are sin.’ Witches cannot sympathise with this mentality. They are inclined to the morality of the legendary Good King Pausol, ‘Do what you like so long as you harm no one’. But they believe a certain law to be important, ‘You must not use magic for anything which will cause harm to anyone, and if, to prevent a greater wrong being done, you must discommode someone, you must do it only in a way which will abate the harm.’ This involves every magical action being discussed first, to see that it can do no damage, and this induces a habit of mind to consider well the results of one’s actions, especially upon others.”

    Gerald Gardner: Witch by J.L. Bracelin/Idries Shah – page 166 of the IHO Books edition. A few paragraphs in the chapter, Gardner’s effort to purchase the Mill on the Isle of Man is recounted:

    “Gardner decided that witchcraft might be able to help him. Witch-law, he recalls, is explicit that nobody must be harmed, ‘but witches must have roofs over their heads’.

    “This Law allows those who need houses when none will sell, or where there are difficulties, to incline the seller’s mind…’An it harm him not’.

    The two quotes seem to define the “harm none” concept as a “Law” beyond mere advice.

    So, the question mentioned in the original post: what if an action harms one? The second quote especially clears this up. The example states that one may incline the seller’s mind if it does no harm to the seller. This sounds more like a prohibition, or at least a conditional situation in which one may only incline the seller’s mind if it harms him not.

    Further, the first quote addresses situations in which one must disable an attacker, for example: that the work can be carried out only in a way that minimizes the ability of the attacker in causing harm.

    To apply if/then rules of logicians seems like one is over-thinking things. It seems like this view of harm none/harm one is splitting hairs in a way that common-folk who came up with Witch ethics — or GBG, who was uncommonly educated, had not intended.

    ‘You must not use magic for anything which will cause harm to anyone” just seems pretty clear.

    1. One last quote I forgot to include in the other post comes from the IHO edition of “Gerald Gardner: Witch”, page 187:

      “As Gardner himself so many times, while the religious observances of witchcraft are celebrated regularly, magical processes are not carried out except when they are considered necessary, and then only when they are to be of beneficial effect upon people, without harming anyone.”

      1. This is slightly belied by words from Garner himself which indicated that inclining the seller of a house to be more favorable for you, for a fair price, was totally allowed wothin Wiccan praxis. So coercive magick was ok, as long as it was deemed fair by the witches doing it. It’s all terrible subjective, which is the case with the vast majority of things.

  6. what about solitary witches,does the wiccan rede apply to them also or it’s whole different ball game for them?

    1. The Wiccan Rede applies only to Wiccans, though it’s generally good advice for any type of witch. It applies to Wiccans evenly, regardless of whether they work in a coven or solitarily. Remember, it’s advice, not law.

  7. Thank you for the information,I thought it applied to all witches and now i know.Someone told me whatever i do as a witch casting spells it will come back to me threefold,even if i casted a binding spell in their direction it will come back to bite me and even if i do it just to be left alone. I’d like some information about burning a black candle while casting the warning spell for all to leave me alone who i think might be a threat,I’m wondering what do one does with the candle after it burned itself out? and i asked someone about it,I got an answer that is way off base it had to do with steps of a ritual instead of answering the bloody question of how to dispose of the candle after the spell is casted.

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