Breaking Craft Stereotypes:
An ye harm none, do as ye will. There are too many stupidities arising from the misunderstanding of this most famous Craft saying. Fluffy-bunnies often take the Rede to mean that one who is Wiccan can not harm any other being under any circumstances. Some people try to explain it away by saying that the Rede in fact only refers to magical practices (though they never provide any sound argument for this idea). Many teachers and writers attempt to explain it away by saying that the Rede is really just a line of advice and not a strict moral injunction. (Those who take this approach are actually on more solid ground since “rede” can be taken to mean “advice” or “admonishment.”) But all of these ideas about the Rede are really missing the point. The Rede is not a negative command, such as in the Ten “Thou-Shalt-Not” commandments from the Bible. Nor is the Rede any sort of commandment at all. The Rede is a challenge to act. It basically says that actions that do not harm others are fine and should be encouraged. It is in no way meant to imply that those who adhere to Wicca can not ever harm anyone else in self-defense or in times of dire need. The Rede is meant to be understood in the following way: “You are free to do as you wish. Refrain from harming except when it is a greater harm to refrain.” The Rede does NOT mean one can not defend oneself through force if need be. It does NOT mean one can not eat meat. It does NOT mean that the true nature of the world is all white-light and fuzzy-critter and thus Wiccans must turn the other cheek at all times. It does NOT mean that one can not use hexes or other magic to zap others when they most certainly have it coming. What it DOES mean is that one should stop and think about what one is doing…and how one’s actions contribute to atmospheres of hostility or malice. If your action will only add to the harm being done, then perhaps you want to find another angle before you go ahead and act. What it CAN mean is that, say, you need to really zap an ex-lover to get them from bothering you, then at least think upon it a while and decide if it is something you must do. What it DOES mean is that, regardless, you must take full responsibility for your actions. You can not go around saying that the Goddess wanted you to do it. You must own up to your own life. What the Rede also points toward is that people may want to think about DOING SOMETHING to prevent harm from being done around themselves. Sitting back and doing nothing while harm is being perpetrated is still only an individual choice that must be owned up to. You can NOT just simply say “I can’t do anything about that.” You must look into the situation and remember that you have been named a “Witch.” As such, there are always a few more options for you than may be readily apparent on first glance. Before I go any further I must address the issue that some of you outside of the Wiccan milieu may raise: The fact that the Rede is really the Law of Thelema. Just how the Rede can be taken to supposedly be the Law of Thelema which states “Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be the Whole of the Law. Love Is the Law. Love Under Will.” is beyond me. Thelema and Wicca are very different systems as is readily apparent to anyone familiar with both, despite the claims of some supposed “occult” experts who write bad histories. The Law of Thelema was written down by Crowley in 1904 in “The Book of the Law.” The Wiccan Rede became known about five decades later through Gerald Gardner. So perhaps the reason why some people have assumed that the Wiccan Rede is really the Law of Thelema is because it is likely that Gardner was influenced or inspired to write the Rede from it. Wherever Gardner found inspiration for it, the Rede now refers to an entirely different belief system than that of the Law of Thelema. So will some people get this through their heads finally? (Probably not.) Now that that’s settled… Keep in mind that any written or oral system or code of ethics is never meant to be taken at face value, unless it is something like “Touch fire and you will get burnt.” The Rede is meant to spur Wiccans on to reflection about themselves and their situations. It is purposely broad so that it is NOT taken as a blanket statement by any sensitive thinking being. It would help Wiccans in particular, and Neo-Pagan Witches in general, to speak only if you truthfully know about something, otherwise refraining. All of the mindless “i-know-Wicca-and-you-don’t” fluffy white-light chatter is truly a harm that ye should not will to do. In this way, perhaps instead of being the source of interminable arguments, the Rede could be of some use. -Irreverend Hugh, KSC
May 9th, 2005
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