The Wiccan Rede consists of eight words:
"And it harm none, do as ye will."
While the Rede is often mistaken as law or holy script, it is merely advice. Obviously, just by fulfilling the functions of life, we cause harm in some shape or form. For example, we must eat to live, yet regardless of what we eat we are harming others (animals and/or plants) or preventing population growth of others (seeds, nuts, eggs, etc.). Even the very act of breathing or walking can bring harm to microorganism. Considering this, to live (whether human or otherwise) is to cause some level of harm.
The idea behind the Rede is that we should live our lives striving to cause as little harm as possible. Anything that can be done without causing harm to anyone or anything (including ourselves) is acceptable. In cases that harm must be caused, it is a matter of choosing which action would cause the least amount of harm. Essentially, any action or not action at all that would knowingly cause more harm than another is unacceptable.
Looking back to our example of eating, we know that we must cause harm to sustain our bodies and that to neglect our bodies would likewise cause harm. The actions we want to take according to the Rede, then, would be those causing the least harm. For example, if you choose to eat meat to sustain your body, you want to find humane methods in which to hunt or otherwise obtain meat. If you hunt, you want to ensure you choose weapons and tools to cause the least amount of harm when killing another living creature. If you raise cattle or purchase meat through any number of available outlets, you will want to ensure that humane raising and butchering processes are adhered to.
The Wiccan Rede does not only apply to choices surrounding our most basic needs. It applies to our day-to-day lives, social interactions, and magick. The Rede is telling us to think before we act. We must weigh all our options and take others into consideration before we move forward. This is not to say that we can not be independent. Far from it. The Rede simply states we must recognize our interdependence in our independent thoughts and actions.
For example, social interactions include everything from our relationships, friendships, neighbors, local communities, and even the internet. Our behaviors in every interaction have the potential to cause harm. By thinking before we speak and considering who we are speaking to, we can interact without causing harm. When harm must be caused, we can weigh our options to choose a path that will cause the least harm. Such as when you need to confront an individual about an addiction, negative behavior, or a plethora of circumstances. Some ways of confronting an individual may cause harm to their confidence, esteem, social status, relationship with you, etc. However, finding tactful ways of approach can significantly reduce such harm and save a relationship.
The Wiccan Rede often takes on an addition when it comes to magick. Ideally, any magick done must come with enough forethought and foresight before a spell is cast to ensure that the magick at hand is carried out harming none and for the highest good of all it may affect. However, there are times when mundane efforts cannot resolve a problem and the only way to stop it is with magick that may be harmful to the recipient or caster such as hexes and curses. Throwing around such negative magick should never come lightly and thus the Wiccan Rede is a central focus in all magickal workings. In difficult times, "An it harm none, do as ye will," continues to say "unless to prevent a greater harm."
Here is where the deeper reflection and consideration comes in before magick is performed. Just as the Witches' Pyramid teaches, one must Know before s/he can Dare. If magick is attempted to right a wrong (seeking justice) or prevent a greater harm, reflecting on how a spell could potentially affect others becomes more in-depth. Will the curse/hex/jinx cause more harm than it will prevent? Does the magick affect more than just the intended recipient? Is the caster ready and willing to receive any negative consequences in casting the spell? What unintended effects might the spell have? Is the curse/hex/jinx to provide real justice that is not taking place through non-magickal ways? Or simply to "teach a lesson" out of revenge or an attitude of "I had to learn the hard way and so do they"?
When we really look at what the Rede teaches us to do and how to live our lives, we recognize it goes beyond mere advice. It serves as a great reminder that we must know ourselves, understand our thoughts, be mindful of our actions, and stop to reflect on the ripples we make with every step we take and word we speak. As a central part of Wiccan thought, we can really understand what it means to be a Wicca through these eight simple words.
© 2005-2013 by Evylyn Rose
Wicca 101 >