What the Wiccan Rede Means to Me
The word Rede comes from Old English and it means a guide or advice. The Wiccan Rede is the principle by which many Wiccans live their lives, but it is not an immutable cosmic law, rather it is a guide by which to live, if you so choose. Humans are born with the gift of free will, and all have the freedom of choice in how they exercise that will.
The exact origin of the Wiccan Rede is uncertain. According to Gerald Gardner, the Rede is derived from the legendary Good King Paulsole, who declared, “Do what you like, so long as you harm no one.” and apparently was adhered to by a successive generation of witches. It has also been claimed that the Rede has its origin, at least in part, in the writings of Aleister Crowley, Lady Gwen Thompson, Francois Rabelais, and many others---though these claims have been disputed. Suffice it to say, the origin of the Rede cannot be clearly defined.
The Wiccan Rede has been a somewhat controversial subject among Wiccans, Witches, and Pagans. Some have theorized that the Rede’s true purpose was to assist in making modern witchcraft more acceptable to the public. Because the Rede is a concept that was generally believed to have been written by a living person rather than a strict commandment from a deity, it is not generally given the same weight as laws in other religions, such as the Ten Commandments.
Generally, witches do not believe that they should use their powers to interfere with another’s free will. They believe that it is unethical to use magick to harm or manipulate others in any way. Many witches believe that the Rede prevents them from casting spells on others without that person’s permission---even healing spells. This interpretation seems extreme, for it means that spells should not be cast against wrong doers—a witch could make no effort to stop a rapist, or murderer magickally because they would be interfering with that person’s free will. Conservative witches argue that they can instead cast spells to protect victims. Often witches get around the issue by casting binding spells, that is, spells aimed to prevent evil.
In the old craft laws, witches were taught that they could not attack another person maliciously; however, they have every right to protect and defend themselves if the necessity arose and to do so in a manner that they feel would most efficiently get the job done. Some witches practice cursing or other manipulative spells when they feel that it is warranted, but they do so with the knowledge that they must accept the consequences of their actions and keep quiet about their work. The poetic version of the Wiccan Rede states, in part, “Live and let live, fairly take and fairly give.” To me this means that in the course of my life, that I should attempt to be fair with others and exercise patience as well as to resolve my problems with others on a mundane level, but should the time come when I feel the need to use magick against another individual, then I should let the punishment fit the crime.
For example, as much as we want to murder that person who cuts us off in traffic and exceeds the speed limit endangering others on the road that would be over-kill. However, in this instance it wouldn’t be uncalled for to magically ensure that that person gets detained by the authorities, their license suspended, or at the very least, get ticketed.
Another area of concern in magick circles is that of casting love spells. Generally speaking, casting spells to bring “an appropriate lover” to yourself are considered not harmful, as you are asking the universe to send someone to you who is compatible and who would be accepting of your attention and interest and who would return your affection in kind. However, many witches feel that casting spells to cause a specific person to fall in love with you to be inappropriate and a violation of the Wiccan Rede. However, it is my belief that casting a love spell is no more manipulative than having good hygiene, wearing enticing cologne, dressing to accentuate your physical form, or even flirting! In the same manner, casting a spell to get a specific job is no more wrong than dressing the part and presenting yourself as having the right attitude and qualifications for that job.
The Wiccan Rede is often cited along with the Threefold Law. Whereas the Rede provides us with a guide for living an ethical life, the Threefold Law represents the consequences of straying from the Rede. The Threefold Law says that an action is not returned in equal measure, but rather will be magnified three times, which defies the laws of physics. I personally do not believe in the Threefold Law, in this respect. Wicca, as a religion which draws its teachings from nature itself, should therefore reflect the law of nature. Science tells us that every action has an equal or opposite reaction. An object propelled upwards will descend at the same rate of speed at which it climbed. Therefore, I believe that “what is sent, comes back” in equal measure.
In summation, I believe that the Wiccan Rede to be an idealistic guide to the way in which a person can live their life. As humans, we have free will and we will not always exercise that will in accordance with the Wiccan Rede. The Wiccan Rede empowers me to find and pursue my true will, and it is not an excuse for inaction, or to be the world’s dormat. I believe that magick is a means to an end and that it is no more manipulative than other means that are used by those who do not use magick. I believe in treating people with fairness and consideration and in attempting to resolve my problems with others on a mundane level before resorting to magick. I have the right to protect and defend myself from harm, and I have a choice in how I will protect myself. When I choose to invoke the forces of magick against those that have or have attempted to bring my harm, or who are a threat to me and my well being, I choose to let the punishment fit the crime. If I violate the Rede, I do so with the knowledge that what I send out will eventually return to be in equal measure, not magnified thrice over. And this is what the Wiccan Rede means to me.