This was a discussion question from the LA Pagan Alliance Page, and I thought it would make an interesting blog…
The Wiccan Rede says “An it harm none, do as ye will.”
Wicca is a unique religion in that there is no “official” book that all adherents of the religion look to as a divine source of scripture, such as the Christians’ Holy Bible. However, most Wiccans that you talk to follow certain shared beliefs such as the Wiccan Rede. But can the Rede be left open to interpretation?
Our question this week: What does the Wiccan Rede mean to you, specifically?
This is one of my favorite questions because I think that it can be answered in so many different ways and I think its answer draws upon so many different fields, among them religion, philosophy, and psychology (my favorites)
The definition of the word “rede” is interesting. For those of you who don’t know, the word “rede” means
“advice or counsel given by one person to another” when it is used as a noun and “to advise (someone)” or to interpret (a riddle or dream)” when it is used as a verb.
I think the second verbal definition is particularly intriguing…a “rede” contains within it an element of interpretation. From the noun definition, it is “advice;” it is not a “law” as some have mistakenly thought.
I believe the rede is open to interpretation. I also think that it can be looked at from at least two different perspectives when one is a practicing wiccan/pagan/magician…there is both a magickal way to look at it and a mundane way. From both perspectives, I can only speak for my own interpretation, and I accept that others will have interpretations that vary from my own.
From a magickal perspective, I interpret the rede to mean that as long as I perform magick that does not intentionally hurt another, then I can perform whatever spells I like. I stress the word intentionally because I believe that intention is at the heart of what we do. There are some who say they would not perform a job spell because that could mean that someone else did not get the job. I say – it was not my intention to hurt that other being…my intention was to better my life. That being said, I would not perform a spell to bind someone to me or cause someone to lose money or a job or possessions because that would be causing harm to another being. In my Wiccan practice, I come from a very deep Buddhist perspective, and so I always try to think of spell blowback that could occur and divert it before it does as well as always trying to come from an open and loving place in my heart when I perform any kind of magick.
From a mundane perspective, I have been a vegetarian for the past 20 years. I do “personally” take the rede to mean that I should not consume or use the products of animals that were killed or raised in an inhumane way. However, I do not expect everyone to interpret the rede in that way. And at the same time, it is virtually impossible to escape the cruelty of this world. I am certain that I buy clothing and other products from companies that, if I researched them, I would discover some kind of harm that they cause to the environment or to humanity. Still, we live in this world and we have to choose our battles and be okay with what we choose. For me, that means not consuming animal products and eliminating as many products from my home as I can that contribute to the cruelty of the world. But I know I’m not perfect, and I know that I can’t eliminate everything.
I have learned that I have to be okay with what I do right now. And maybe someday, I’ll do more. But for all people, I think that we have to be okay with how we live, and if we ever decide that we’re not, that’s the time to revisit the “rede” and maybe try to reinterpret it for ourselves. Of course, there seem to be certain things that most Wiccans would agree were against the “rede,” such as the killing of another human being outside of mercy or self-defense. But apart from that and other extreme cases, I do believe that the rede is open to individual interpretation and is fluid, in that it can change for any individual at any time. This “advice” gives us a framework for which to live by, and it’s up to us to interpret what that means.
Just my 2 cents. Would love to hear your opinions!