The Wiccan Rede – Further Thoughts

Red Pentagram

In my first article on the Wiccan Rede I explored its history, and spent a lot of time basically debunking the idea that it’s a sacred commandment which must be obeyed at all costs. In this article I’m going to look at the short-form Wiccan Rede and explain why it is still relevant for modern Wiccans.

The short-form Rede is simply this;

“An it harm none, do what ye will.”

As I said in my first article, in this context “an” actually means “if”, so the short Rede is telling us to examine our actions and if they harm none, we can do as we please. This isn’t a commandment from God, but advice on how to live well and be a good person. Given that I’ve emphasised the fact that the Rede is not divine law, you may be wondering why I’m now saying that it has relevance for modern Wiccans.

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Whatever Works

Whatever works” does not equate to “anything goes“.

Wicca is not a tightly structured religion, and a lot of the time you are advised to use ‘whatever works for you’, or ‘whatever feels right to you’. This is not license to do just anything that you feel like. There are reasons behind the various practises in Wicca, and only when you understand why you are doing something can you think about changing it. I think a brilliant example of this is in Terry Pratchett’s Nation.

The natives of the nation in question create a traditional drink, and part of this involves spitting in the drink and singing a song over it. When foreigners come, they don’t know why these things are done and so omit them – with disasterous results. On the other hand, the girl that studies the culture learns that there’s some property in human spit that neutralises the deadly properties of the plant used in the drink, and the time it takes to sing the traditional song is the time it takes for the whole drink to be made safe.

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The Wiccan Rede

The term Rede, or Wiccan Rede, refers, apparently interchangably, to either the long poem I have provided a link to or, more accurately I believe, to the eight-word form below;

“An it harm none, do what ye will.”

If you’ve read any modern books on Wicca, or searched the internet for it, you’ll probably have found both versions repeated quite often. The Rede is the cardinal rule in Wicca, but half the websites present its text without exploring its origin or meaning.

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The Threefold Law

The Threefold Law is attributed to Gerald Gardner, and the basic idea behind it is that any energy you send out will return to you three times as strong. It is first suggested in High Magic’s Aid;

“Thou hast obeyed the Law. But mark well, when thou receivest good, so equally art bound to return good threefold.”

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The Burning Times

Examination of a Witch, by T H Matteson

The ‘Burning Times’ was a period of history when around 60,000 people were tried and convicted as witches. The majority of these trials took place between 1550 and 1650 CE, however most of the victims of the witch-hysteria were not actually Pagan, and they most certainly were not Wiccan as this is a much newer form of Paganism. In reality, most of them were Christians who had the misfortune to be in the wrong situation, at the wrong time.

In an attempt to answer the question of why these people died, I’ll give you a brief look at the factors that combined to open the way for witch burnings to occur.

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All Gods Are One God

In your exploration of Wicca, you may have come across the ideas that ‘all gods are one god’ and ‘all paths lead to the same place’. I had read these many times, in many places, and never really given them more than a passing thought. It was Kaatryn MacMorgan-Douglas that made me start to think more deeply on them when she addresses them in her book Wicca 333: Advanced Topics in Wiccan Belief.

In her book, Kaatryn objects quite strongly to both ideas. She says this;

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The word pentacle, meaning the five pointed star in a circle, is derived from ‘penta’ meaning five, and the ending of the word ‘circle’. The five pointed star without the surrounding circle is called a pentagram. This symbol is used by many Pagans today as a symbol of their faith. It is unclear exactly where it originated, however it has been used by many groups including Pythagoreans who used it as a secret symbol to identify themselves, and by early Christians who wore it for protection and as a reminder of Christ’s wounds suffered on the cross.

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Book of Shadows

These are a few ideas for beginning your Book of Shadows. It is by no means a comprehensive list, and there’s no reason for you to include everything here if you don’t want to.

Deity: Information on Gods and Goddesses in general; what each deity represents, as well as more detailed information on the God(s) and Goddess(es) that you feel a particular closeness with.

The Sabbats: Information on when the eight Sabbats are, and what things are associated with them, as well as the story they tell about the cycles of nature. You may wish to include rituals and activities for each specific day.

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Your altar does not have to be paticularly big, or highly decorative. These are the basic things you will need to create your own altar;

A table, positioned traditionally in the north. The ideal size is held at waist high, and an arm’s length wide, but a smaller one won’t make a difference; it’s just easier to fit all you might want to on a bigger table.

An altar cloth, which can be just a plain cloth all year round, or different colors, matched to the season or sabbat. You should choose a cloth made from natural fibres, if at all possible. PVC has a time and a place, and this is neither.

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Traditions & Faiths

This page gives you a quick look at some of the better known Wiccan traditions, and other Pagan paths. Wicca is a very open religion, with a focus on finding what works best for the individual, and there are almost as many different ‘flavours’ as there are people practising them. Many of these will follow a similar core set of ideas or beliefs, and from there a new tradition is born. One of the benefits to following a set tradition is the guidance available to you from people who have walked that path ahead of you, but it can be just as rewarding and fulfilling to find your own path as you go, practising a form of eclectic Wicca or Paganism.

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