The Wiccan Rede
Bide the Wiccan Law we must,
in perfect love and perfect trust.
Eight words the Wiccan rede fulfill,
an it harm none, do what ye will.
Lest in self defense it be,
er ye mind the Rule of Three.
Follow this in mind and heart,
Merry ye meet, and merry ye part.
There has been a great deal of publicity about the Wiccan Rede. Many have claimed it to be the basis of Wiccan belief and that very well may be however, it is not an ancient text and it is not the basis of belief for Witches. This may very well be the single strongest identifying difference between the beliefs of Witches and those of the neo-pagans and Wiccans today.
The idea that any energy sent out, no matter what its form, will return to the sender three-fold is a good ethical practice to live by but is not, in actuality, an idea that can be proved by metaphysical theory or natural law. The maxim that "what comes around, goes around" is much more accurate and is provable through the theory of physics which states that "for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction".
Witches understand that there is a consequence for each and every action they take and every thought that emanates from there conscious and subconscious minds. Even thoughts are a manifestation of energy. If you are walking the path to enlightenment, there should be no room in your consciousness for those things which are destructive or counter productive to the balance we seek during every moment of our lives. Our goal is the understanding of the forces of the universe and learning how to work with them; how each and every thing in the universe acts and reacts to each other. Each being, whether conscious of its place or not, plays a role in the passion play we refer to as being or existence. Without each and every substance, animal, vegetable, mineral and star in the sky, the world we know would be substantially different, if it existed at all. Everything we have knowledge of is interrelated in a way which would change everything if even one of the elements which comprises our world were removed. This is not to say that we would not exist, but it is the conscious animals, ourselves, who have the mind and the intent to work outside the natural balance of the universe. There is much discord created, not by earthquake or hurricane, but by mankind who adds unnatural elements to the natural world or disrupts the harmonics of the universe with ideas and influences which were created to enhance humankind without foresight or interest in the ultimate outcome of our actions and the impact on the greater whole.
Critical analysis of these ideas have revealed many mysteries to modern man. The consciousness of humankind has given us an opportunity for growth that has exceeded even our own conceptions of what is possible. It is our natural human desire to grow and learn. It is also a natural human desire to understand that force which is greater than ourselves. To identify with the greater whole as well as the individual components which make up that whole is the understanding which explains our existence on this plane of reality. For some, the knowledge of their place in the universe is no longer a question but has become matter of understanding on the deepest levels of their soul. A connectedness with all there is. A conscious and subconscious sense of belonging to, and being fused with that which is all there is as well as the individual components which make up the dwelling place of man. For these individuals, the path continues on and there are other questions to be answered while other humans continue with the struggle of self-identification within their own realities of job, family and rush hour traffic.
Spiritual paths vary greatly. Human needs vary greatly depending upon the level on which each individual resides. Our western culture has been dominated for such a proportionately long time in terms of the socialized evolution of modern society buy Christian dogmatism, that the average person has been conditioned to obedience and belief in a system which does not aid in promoting spiritual growth or advocating personal responsibility. Our cultural mind allows individuals to do great harm to one another without considering the effects of their actions and long term repercussions. If all you have to do is ask for forgiveness, to set any harm to rights, that is a quick and easy fix. The problem is that the universe does not work like that. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. An apology after the fact will not undo the action and spiritual people understand this concept well.
Witches operate on an entirely different premise. They feel that any deliberate action which causes harm can never be undone but, that in order to set the balance to rights again, another equal and deliberate action with the same intensity may have to be done three times to reverse the energy and restore the balance. It is from this theory, that the Rule of Three and the Threefold Law which are taught by the Wiccans and Neo-Pagans stems.
Likewise, the Wiccan Rede is a beautiful piece of poetry and I would not advise anyone to be too critical of the lessons contained within it. It teaches the seeker to follow a simple set of ethical and religious practices which will help to develop the character, honor the Elder Gods in an acceptable manner, and treat the sacred wheel of the year as a pathway to growth, understanding and a balanced life. It speaks of ancient and universal wisdom which is often lost in this modern world we live in but the rede in itself, is a modern poem and not of ancient or even pre 20th Century literature.
One of the most important parts of the Rede, is often ignored, however. "Unless in self defense it be, ever mind the rule of three". Anyone, has the right to defend themselves. Witches donít usually put themselves in a position of being in the way of harm but if it comes to them, you can count on a Witch to have the skill and the determination to take care of any threat to their person, family or property. We have no sense of guilt over protecting that which is within our personal sphere. There is no remorse for keeping the balance when a disruptive force attacks and no rule or law requiring even an apology. Witches are prevalent in the military for this very reason. They make excellent warriors when protecting their homes and loved ones and this applies to both male and female.
Modern Witches have evolved and changed dramatically from our ancient ancestors. Our ancestors in centuries past had different concerns, interests and responsibilities from todayís Aquarian Age urban dweller, and even those who have the opportunity to live close to the land, are caught up in a diversity of social, economic and spiritual complications which have changed the profile of the average Witch.
At one time, a Witch was not called a Witch and the religion had no identity beyond individual identification with the cycles of nature and the powers of life and death. The people of the heath, "heathens" lived their entire lives within a geographically limited area and their associations with outsiders were subsequently limited. The people of each area or community had leaders, healers, elders, bards and storytellers who were known as the wise ones. These wise ones were revered for their knowledge and were the spiritual leaders as well. There were no High Priestesses and Priests. There was no need for structured covens or groves because all of the needs of the community were met by the individuals participating in the extended family occupying a specific geographical area.
Times have changed, however and the traditions of Witchcraft have changed and adapted to meet the needs of the people. Each Coven or Grove now attempts to guard the body of knowledge accumulated and passed on to them through the centuries and fill in the gaps of lost information by borrowing or adopting knowledge and understanding from other traditions that have survived to modern times. There is still a basic philosophy which identifies Witches and separates them from other neo-pagan religions and feminists as well as the Wicca. This was put into a set of 13 Principles of Belief by the Council of American Witches in 1975.
These principles were adopted in response to the emergence in the 1950ís of a new religion called Wicca which incorporated many of the philosophies and traditions of Witchcraft and caused a groundswell of interest in what we call The Old Religion. As the idea of earth based religions flourished in America and Europe, many "New" religions and traditions sprung up over night. In an attempt to protect their own identity and establish themselves as a legitimate religion to be protected by the United States Constitution, the Council of American Witches met and established the Principles of Belief.