Wiccan Rede

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The Wiccan Rede (pronounced /ˈriːd/ reed) is a statement that provides the key moral system in the Neopagan religion of Wicca and other related Witchcraft-based faiths. The most common form of the Rede is An it harm none, do what ye will.

The word "Rede" derives from Middle English, meaning "advice" or "counsel" and being closely related to the German Rat or Swedish råd. "An" is an archaic Middle English conjunction, meaning "if." "Ye" is an archaic or dialect form of "you" (nominative plural).

Other variants of the Rede include,

  • Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill, An it harm none do what ye will. Note: this is the first published form of the couplet, quoted from Doreen Valiente in 1964. Later published versions include "ye" instead of either "the" or "it": "Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill — an ye harm none, do what ye will" (Earth Religion News, 1974); "Eight words ye Wiccan Rede fulfill - An' it harm none, Do what ye will" (Green Egg, 1975)
  • An it harm none, do what thou wilt
  • An it harm none, do as thou wilt
  • That it harm none, do as thou wilt
  • Do what you will, so long as it harms none

Contents

History

The Rede in its best known form as the "eight words" couplet was first publicly recorded in a speech by Doreen Valiente in 1964.[1] A similar phrase, Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law, appears in Aleister Crowley's works by 1904, in The Book of the Law (though as used by Crowley it is half of a statement and response, the response being "Love is the law, love under will"). According to B.A. Robinson of the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, Crowley adopted this line from François Rabelais, who in 1534 wrote, "DO AS THOU WILT because men that are free, of gentle birth, well bred and at home in civilized company possess a natural instinct that inclines them to virtue and saves them from vice. This instinct they name their honor".[2]

King Pausole, a character in Pierre Louÿs' Les aventures du roi Pausole (The Adventures of King Pausole, published in 1901), had a similar motto of Do what you like as long as you harm no one. Although Gardner noted the similarity of the rede to King Pausole's words, Silver Ravenwolf believes it is more directly referencing Crowley.[3] Another notable antecedent was put forth by the philosopher John Stuart Mill with his harm principle in the 19th century.[4] "Mill argues that the sole purpose of law should be to stop people from harming others and that should people want to participate in victimless crimes, crimes with no complaining witness, such as gambling, drug usage, engaging in prostitution, then they should not be encroached in doing so."[citation needed]

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