With These Eight Words
The Wiccan Rede Fulfill: "An It Harm None, Do What Ye Will." Copyright
08/17/92 by Servants Of The Elder Gods, Rocky Mountain Coven and James C.
The purpose of this paper is
to look at the Wiccan Rede, at the types of conduct it excludes, and at the
type of conduct it requires. We will begin with a detailed examination of the
wording of the Rede itself, which presents as "pseudo-archaic" but actually
makes excellent use of the specific meanings of several archaic words, which
have no real equivalents in contemporary English. We will then take a look at
the two sections of the Rede, and see why they are presented in their proper
order as written. Finally, we will examine various uses of magick and see
how--and if--they adequately measure up to the standard of the Rede.
THE VOCABULARY OF THE
As mentioned above, the Rede
appears to be presented in a pseudo-archaic or "phony ancient" form of
English. Is this simply harmless foolishness, or is there some excellent
reason for the vocabulary selected? Let's take a look at the Rede, word by
AN: This word is
commonly mistranslated as "IF", which is a significant error. The word "AN" is
more accurately translated "JUST SO LONG AS".
IT: This pronoun
refers to whatever it is that you are thinking of doing.
HARM: This refers to
anything which either you or any other person involved or affected by "it"
would regard as loss, damage, pain, discomfort, injustice, invasiveness, or
prevention, relative to the situation existing before "it" was done. Anything,
which goes against another person's free will, even if it intends them good,
would constitute serious harm.
NONE: This ought to be
self-explanatory. "None" is an all-exclusive word. If you harm anyone or
anything, including yourself, including a small rock in Trenton, New Jersey,
you have harmed "some", not "none".
DO: To perform
whatever working is contemplated by "IT", above.
WHAT: The meaning here
is "Whatever", and refers forward.
YE: The archaic PLURAL
form of "you". The current word "you" denotes both the singular and the
plural; the archaic word "YE" is always plural. We shall see, later on, that
this is no accident.
WILL: To will
something is to exercise your intellectual decision- making power to determine
the course of action, which you feel to be the best. "Will" has little or
nothing to do with "wish" or "want" or "desire". It is not an emotional
inclination or feeling. It is the employment of reason to make a decision
based upon your best judgment.
THE TWO SECTIONS OF THE
SECTION ONE: "AN IT HARM
NONE". Why does the Wiccan Rede not say, "Do what ye will, an it harm
none"? There is a reason why the "An it harm none" comes first in the Rede,
and that reason is that "An it harm none" is in- tended to come first in your
own thinking, as a Wiccan initiate and practitioner. If you or any Wiccan
begins with "Do what ye will", I assure you that you, like the Fundamentalists
before you, will find a way to excuse and even to justify anything you take it
into your head to do! Knowing this about human nature, the Lady inspired the
Rede to be written as it is, with the "An it harm none" to come first. The
Wiccan Rede's "An it harm none" has parallels in many disciplines. Perhaps the
most significant parallel is found in the Hippocratic Oath taken by every
physician before s/he is certified to practice. The first part of the
Hippocratic Oath binds the physician "First, to do no harm." It is sobering to
realize that magical ethics, as set forth in the Wiccan Rede, are or should be
so similar to medical ethics, an issue with such a powerful effect on so many
lives. When we read of a physician who has violated his medical ethics, we
read this with outrage toward him and with empathy toward those patients who
suffered inadequate care because the physician violated his ethics. It is more
sobering to realize that future generations will regard violations of magickal
ethics with the same degree of outrage, and rightly so.
SECTION TWO: "DO WHAT YE
WILL." Even without the first part of the Rede, "Do what ye will" is most
certainly not a blanket permission to do whatever you desire to do. As one
Wiccan High Priestess has observed, "Power corrupts, and absolute power
corrupts absolutely." Seems like I've heard that before, but it's certainly
true when you're talking about using real magick to accomplish real goals in
the real world. 1490 When we realize the kinds and orders of results, both
expected and unexpected, both knowable and unknowable, which eventuate from
almost every human action, it would seem the better part of both valor and
wisdom to never do anything at all, especially not anything which is done with
spiritual power guided by no more than human wisdom! Unfortunately, to do
nothing is also a choice, and the results of inaction are often far worse than
the results of even ill considered action. This is why the second half of the
Rede demands that we make a decision and act upon it, as well as conforming
that decision to the requirement that it harm none.
THE STANDARD OF THE REDE:
Please note that the Wiccan Rede contains no loopholes whatsoever. The Rede
does not say, "An it harm none to the best of your knowledge." The Rede also
does not say "An it harm none to the best of your ability to discern whether
it will harm someone." The Wiccan Rede does not say these things, or anything
similar to them. It simply says "An it harm NONE, do what ye will." This means
that YOU, once you have committed to live by the Wiccan Rede, are committed to
be solely and totally responsible for any harm resulting from ANY ACTION YOU
TAKE, MAGICKAL OR NOT. Paul Seymour's forthcoming book begins with some strong
cautionary notes concerning the use of magick. One of the examples he gives is
particularly tragic, and concerns a young man who worked a simple and
apparently harmless "money spell". The spell worked, and the young man got his
money--he inherited it, when his parents were both killed in an accident
shortly after he worked the spell. Paul does not say in his book if this young
man was a Wiccan initiate. If he was, then in addition to his sorrow and loss,
he has had to live with the fact that, by the standard of the Rede, he is
ultimately responsible for the death of his parents. When you commit to live
according to the Wiccan Rede, you commit to conform your entire life, not just
the magickal, mystical and religious aspects of it, to the standard set by the
Rede. Never again will you be able to act impulsively or without considering
the results of what you do.
Never again will you be able
to act or even speak in thoughtless irritation or anger. Instead, you will
come to consider the implications of every word you speak, and of every
routine action you do. For it is not just by magick that we can harm others;
or ourselves everything we do, and everything we say, has the potential to
help or harm others, and to help or harm ourselves. It is also important to
note that the Rede sets up a standard, which prevents us from harming
ourselves as well as others. Other religions, including Christianity, regard
it as virtuous to suffer harm for the sake of another, even to die so that
another person might live. The Wiccan Rede does not permit this. You are to
harm none, and this means that you are not to harm yourself, even for the sake
of doing good for someone else. To some, this may seem like a selfish
standard. But think about it. Would you wish to benefit by someone else's
injury or death? Of course not! If you did derive some benefit, such as an
inheritance, from the death of another person, would you feel good about this?
Well, some people might, but probably you would not. Therefore, in a very real
sense, you yourself are harmed by a benefit you derive from the injury or
death of another. True, the harm is emotional, but it is entirely real. Wicca
recognizes that human beings are social creatures. What does harm to one, does
harm to all in varying degrees. Therefore, it is imperative that each person
strives to harm no one, himself or herself included. Finally, it is
significant to note that word "ye" in the statement, "Do what YE will." This
is the ancient plural form of "you", and it means that your individual will is
assumed to be in accord with some other will, instead of acting entirely on
its own. What is this other will, which, together with yours, comprises the
"ye" in the Rede? Well, if you are working in a coven, it could well be the
combined will of the members of the coven. But this would not apply to those
who are working on their own, and it is not the highest or best meaning, even
for those working in coven.
does one act, so as to be certain to harm none? Not by refusing to act, since
inaction is itself a decision, and often causes far more harm than even rash
action. Not by delaying action until the time for it is past, because that is
the same as inaction, and not by relying solely upon your own human wisdom,
either. The best way to act, so as to be certain to harm none, is to call upon
the Goddess and/or the God, and to hand to Them the power you have raised,
together with the situation you have raised the power to deal with, and say,
"You are holy, good, and wise, and know how to use this power to help and not
harm. Do Your will in this situation. That is my will, that Your will be
done." And thus the Rede is fulfilled: For the "ye" who will are yourself and
Themselves, who are good, and love humanity, and who always act for the
highest good of all.
Craft Code of Honor
As presented to the Wiccan Community at Witchstock Inter-Tradition meeting in
1998. The Inter-Tradition guidelines were written and presented by Lady
Rhiannon of Serpentstone, Lady Cassandra of the Temple of Hecate Triskele,
Lady Grey Cat of Northwind, Lady Silver Ravenwolf of the Black Forest and
Grandfather Michael Ragan. This is an extraction from a complete document
entitled Inter-Tradition Guidelines. This document contains Minimums for
Initiation, Requirements for Eldership, The Law (including universal and
coven) and the Code of Honor.
1. Chivalry must be followed by all (Honesty, bravery, generosity and
2. One's oath is one's sacred pledge. Pledge sparingly, for it must be of
3. Speak no ill of another for all truth may not be known.
4. Pass not hearsay.
5. Be honest with all - and demand the same.
6. The fury of a moment plays folly with truth. Keeping one's head is a
7. Wisdom brings power. Apply discretion in its use.
8. Pledge friendship to those who warrant. To strengthen your brother or
sister brings strength to you. Pledging friendship to the dishonorable brings
dishonor to you.
9. Reveal not the secrets of others, lest your own secrets be lost.
10. Have pride in self. Seek perfection in body and mind, for you cannot honor
another unless you honor self.
11. In all things, moderation.
12. Revere the God(s) and Goddess(es) of your tradition.
13. Respect the religion of others.
14. Accept the Laws of return (Karma).
15. Accept personal responsibility.
16. Respect the Laws of the Gods, humankind and nature.
17. Be loyal to your Coven, your High Priest and High Priestess, the Elders
and your Craft brothers and Sisters.
18. Revere the natural world.
19. Respect the inner self.
20. Honor your succession of teachers.