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Is the Wiccan Rede Ethical? (Part II)

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on June 17, 2013 | Comments (12)

I’d like to begin by thanking everyone who commented on my previous post concerning the Wiccan Rede. All of the comments received on it, save one, have been posted. I hope you’ve read them and that they’ve triggered debate and discussion.

The one comment that was not posted was far too long to include in the comment section. In fact, it was longer than my original post. This comment came from Rain Dove, the Priestess of The Dragon and The Rose Coven of Georgia. A quick look on The Witches Voice shows that “Rain Dove has been practicing and walking the path of Wicca since 1996, but has been studying since 1994.” The Coven practices the Jordanian Tradition of Celtic Wicca. By this she means they “are referring to attempting to practice, to the best of our abilities, the same religious path and follow the same religious beliefs of our Celtic Ancestors…The Jordanian Tradition was developed and designed by Rain Dove’s own experiences and training in this path. The Tradition is a mixture of Irish Paganism, Celtic Studies, Gardnerian and Alexandrian Wicca.”

As you will see, Priestess Rain Dove was rather upset by what I posted. Well, that happens. When you write a great deal and/or are willing to take a stand you’re going to upset someone. Although I could be wrong, I get the feeling from the tone of what she wrote that were I to edit her comments in any way she might get upset, so I’m going to publish it here exactly as it was sent in. For ease of understanding I will make my comments in between her paragraphs. To differentiate what she wrote from my comments, her words are in blue while my responses will be in black.

I would like to thank Priestess Rain Dove very sincerely for the time and effort she took to respond. Obviously, this means a great deal to her and I’m glad she was able to write this. As you will see, we have some differences. That doesn’t make either of us right or wrong, just different. She clearly considers the topic important and so do I. It is my hope that this will further open discussion, thought, and consideration.

This is a long post—a very long post!—so settle back and enjoy the ride…

Before I even begin this response, I want to let you know .. I am not a “writer”. I am not a “journalist” .. I am simply a practicing Wiccan Priestess. A practicing Wiccan Priestess who is also APPALLED .. at what I am reading.

Once again and as usual … the Rede has been taken out of context, been exaggerated, and is being viewed from ONE angle. Your first mistake was writing about something that apparently you don’t understand or know about. It might have been a good idea to have gotten with someone who is a High Priestess or a High Priest of WICCA .. ((and I don’t mean someone who is the HIGH PRIEST OR PRIESTESS OF THE PAGAN WICCAN CHRISTIAN BUDDHIST UNIVERSAL ANIMA ANIMUS TEMPLE OF ALL WALKERS OF THE OCCULT CHURCH !!!!!

I am talking about someone who has been on this path for many years .. as a WICCAN. Someone who KNOWS what our REDE means .. and what it applies to and HOW.
A Wiccan HP or HPS who perhaps … is also a writer or journalist .. so they could explain to you ((and alot better than I am getting ready to do)) … what the WICCAN REDE actually means.

Well, according to the information about you and your group on The Witches’ Voice, I have been studying, practicing, and was initiated into Wicca for over 15 years before you even began looking at it. I trained and was initiated into Wicca by Raven Grimassi and Scott Cunningham. I have “gotten with” and studied with, talked with, and practiced with Wiccans of numerous traditions long before you ever became interested in the Craft. And I have discussed the Rede with many of them.

The Rede applies to our MAGICAL lives. It doesn’t hardly ever … pertain to our MUNDANE lives .. such as “shopping in a grocery store”. This article just proves ONCE AGAIN …how badly training is needed in the Wiccan path. It is very evident that you not only do not understand what it means, you do not know or understand the PURPOSE of the Rede , either.

Kids *and* young adults, as well as … people who have had no training … want to get in our path, read a book or two … take a look at something that was written by any of our most respected Elders , and many years ago … .. and dissect the crap out of it, tear it apart, criticize it, downplay it .. or change the stinking words to it ….. just to suit THEM and possibly a handful of others who might *see* things the same way. I must ask, don’t you have something better to do with your time .. than to attack our Rede?

What is up with that???? Why don’t you go and try and do that with the Bible…??? I am sure there are many things written in it .. that you could dissect, criticize … downplay … analyze … tear apart!!!

I certainly agree with you that training is needed for Wiccans, Pagans, and magickal people of all sorts. One of the problems, however, is that sometimes people mistake the specific—their own, personal approach—for the general—what they assume must be true for everyone.

Therefore, while I acknowledge that you want to separate your magickal life from your mundane life, many others see them as united or at least vitally interconnected; they see the world as a wonderful, magickal place. Our understanding of the magickal nature of the universe “informs” our approach to daily—or what might be called “mundane”—life. In fact, part of my Wiccan training was to do exactly that. Certainly we each have a collection of different personas, putting on “faces” that we present to different people. We relate to parents, spouses, teachers, co-workers, friends, etc., in different ways. However, if we do not have a unifying and underlying principle upon which we base all of our actions, we are justifiably called hypocrites.

Even if we were to completely separate our magickal and mundane lives, there is nothing in any form of the rede that states it’s only for our magickal lives. It’s meant as a guide for all of our lives. I would not want a person to claim they represent Wicca when they are “shopping in a grocery store” and push elderly people to the floor to get the last bag of discounted apples, saying such behavior is allowed in Wicca because it’s not part of their magickal life, would you?

Let me see if I can put this most ridiculous article … in its place.

The Rede was simply put in place to help those who are “tempted” to go in the WRONG DIRECTION with magic, to think twice. Do not harm another .. *INTENTIONALLY AND WITHOUT JUST CAUSE* … BECAUSE … the three fold law does and can, and will respond. It doesn’t pertain to anything else. It doesn’t mean we can’t walk on the grass .. or we’ll *harm it* .. it doesn’t mean don’t eat meat, “you’ve harmed yourself and the animal” .. it doesn’t mean “don’t go to the grocery store and purchase those vegetables because they were grown by underpaid workers” ….. It does not mean ANY of those things.

I am sure that is your interpretation. But that’s exactly what it is: your interpretation. There is nothing in the history of the rede that says it must be interpreted this way. So what you are doing is abandoning the rede, as written, and created a new version of it, with more details, as you’d like it to be. I think that’s a good thing. Or perhaps it would be better to say, “The rede is a concept we should discuss,” which is exactly what my post did. That’s why you’re responding to it. You felt you needed to talk about the way it should be reinterpreted. 

It is not hard to understand what the Rede means. It is not hard to understand … that if you are going to practice the Occult , if you are going to practice magic, if you are going to go to places that ANGELS AND DEMONS DARE TO GO …… that FIRST, it might be wise to get with someone who is EXPERIENCED … and who has been doing this for a substantial amount of time .. before you try and strike out on your own. Just as … it might be wise to get some training before we write about something we do not understand.

I agree. Sort of like it might be a good idea to do a web search on someone before assuming they’re of a certain age or background. By the way, you might enjoy my eBook on my friend Scott Cunningham, The Magical Life of Scott Cunningham, available through the Kindle Store [LINK], Kobo [LINK], Nook Bookstore [LINK], Sony [LINK], and iTunes [through the store in iTunes]. And on June 26, 2013, I’m being interviewed on Seasons of the Witch by Raven Grimassi and Stephanie Taylor-Grimassi. The link to this live, FREE program, is here: LINK.

Second …. you must use common sense, logic and be practical and smart about it .. or else …. those things which *are* hidden .. may very well come back to bite you in the ass. (Hidden; i.e. Occult).

And again, I agree with you. That’s why I made my previous post. I was looking at the rede logically based on what is there, not what people might think is there.
<<<<>>>>

What??? This is absolutely RIDICULOUS. If a pet is suffering, it is ETHICAL AND MORAL to put the pet down .. so not to prolong the suffering. THAT IS NOT HARMING THE PET. That is MORALLY the right thing to do.

And I agree. It is the ethical and moral thing to do. However, to define something out of existence doesn’t make it true. My dictionary defines the word harm as “physical injury, esp. that which is deliberately inflicted.” Indeed, that is what happens when we euthanize a pet. We deliberately inflict a fatal injury (stopping breathing and the heart) in order to prevent pain and misery. The rede, as written, does not allow for this decent practice, allowing our beloved pets to pass to the summerland in peace.

You are literally applying our Rede in situations where it DOES NOT apply. First, you are taking the Rede’s words .. for LITERAL FACE VALUE, for *exactly* what they say .. instead of seeing the REST of the Rede .. you take these few words and cut it up in shreds. When you place the REST of the words WITH the “harm none” clause … I believe you can clearly see it means .. UNJUSTLY CAUSING HARM to another. NO WHERE … does it say to “go against your moral code of ethics”. Common sense, being practical,. and using logic … as well as using a MORAL COMPASS … all play a role in the WICCAN Rede. Anyone knows … that if one has any kind of moral compass, they would not allow a pet suffer. Our moral code of ethics would not allow us to have a disease and not do something about it, either.

I respectfully disagree with you. The intent of the rede is to apply to all actions. However, you are correct. I am taking the rede’s words literally. If that is not done there can be dozens or hundreds of interpretations of it, including interpretations I’d disagree with and I imagine you would disagree with, too. If you want to change the rede to say, “An it does not unjustly cause harm to another, do what you will,” that’s fine. I would suggest that you start a website or at least blog on why you think it should be changed to say this.

I agree that most Wiccans love their animal friends. We consider them part of our families. There is even a long-held belief in some Wiccan traditions that unlike any other creature, cats are unique and can go in and out of circle without disrupting it. Our pets our special to us and, like most decent people (Pagan or not), we do not want to see them suffer. But that’s not what the rede says. That’s the way you are interpreting it. Fine. Why not re-write the rede so it is clear and doesn’t need such interpretation? After all, if you can interpret it according to your moral compass, others can interpret it according to their moral compass.

You have torn these beautiful words to shreds and have tried to turn them into something they are not. What you have said here is very indicative of no guidance in this path. It is utterly ignorant and ridiculous some of the *examples* you have used to explain our Rede. Our moral compass is used in conjunction with the Rede. But the Rede itself is applicable to our magical lives more so than our mundane. I would have a tendency to believe that most Wiccans use their moral compass in every aspect of their life. Like … if someone is being raped, or if a child is being abused … we don’t think of the Rede and use those words at face value. Naturally, we would do what our moral compass GUIDES us to do. There is no “repercussion” for HELPING someone or PREVENTING someone from being harmed. There is the three fold law, but the three fold law is not always a bad thing. Good things happen to us too. Good things return to us, just as the bad would return to us.

The rede is one of the bases for the Wiccan moral compass. It informs it and guides it. If it’s the other way around, then the rede is unneeded. We could function quite well following our moral compass without the rede. Of course, then you have to determine the source of our moral compass. It seems to me you are presenting some confused ideas, such as when you say there is no repercussion for helping someone in one sentence and in the next sentence you contradict this by citing the three-fold law.

<<<>>>>>
Dear, if you knew the history of the “bible”, you would also know that the words written in those texts … were written LONG before anything called “Christianity” came along.
The “we reap what we sow” statemetn … is considered to be a spiritual law. It is written in ALL spiritual and/or religious paths. No matter which one you go to, you will find that same idea. Maybe not in the same words, but the same message is most definitely there.

When it comes to “law of return” .. whether that be the “three fold law” .. or the “ten fold law” .. it does NOT mean that the way you have put something OUT .. is going to return in the same FORM. We might take our winnings or our inheritance and loan someone some money to get through a rough spot (a very kind act) .. and it may or may NOT .. return to us in the form of money. It could be .. that someone ELSE comes along .. and takes us out to dinner. Or .. maybe we get in a rough spot .. and someone comes to HELP US. It does NOT mean .. that we would get money in return THREE TIMES. And SPEAKING of “three fold” …..

That does not mean you will receive something THREE TIMES. It simply means that what you do, what you think, what you put out there .. shall return TIMES THREE (x 3) .. not THREE TIMES. It may not return in the same form, but be rest assured, it will return and likely “times (mulitiplication) .. three”.

Its like placing water in a glass … and dropping a pebble in the glass. It cause ripples to go to the *edge* of the glass .. and we have no problem seeing that. What we do have a problem seeing .. is the ripples returning to its source. They always return to the middle where the pebble was dropped into the glass. But what happens to the pebble, you ask? Well,. the ripples follow that pebble … all the way to the bottom of that glass. Even though YOU don’t see it … they are there.

Well, I don’t claim to be an expert on the history of the Bible. I’ve only been studying that since the early 1970s, and there are people with far more knowledge of the subject than I. Nor do I claim to have studied “all spiritual and/or religious paths” as you seem to be claiming you have done. How else could you state that “ALL spiritual and/or religions paths” believe a certain thing? And you are correct that times three doesn’t equal three times. Perhaps what you’re saying—contrary to my example where if I break someone’s arm my arm will be broken three times—is that if I break someone’s arm, my arm will not be broken three times, but in three places?

The problem I question is with the dogmatism of the three fold or three times. What if it is only 2.9 times? What if it is 3.1 times? You talk about other spiritual/religious paths, but I know of no others that necessitate a specific number of times the energy of an action is returned to you. Perhaps some others reading this know of a religion or ancient tradition that believes this way.

More importantly, in my opinion, is not merely that energy is returned, but why that energy is returned. If it’s simply, “if you do X you will get 3X back, so don’t do X,” it’s implying that the universe wants to treat us like little children, or like the those who interpret the Abrahamic faiths as telling people what to do and not do just because that’s what God says.

<<<>>>

This is yet another misconception. Wiccans do not *follow* the law of karma. The law of karma is a Hindu belief. While we do not deny the existence of karma, nor do we not *acknowledge* the theory of it, we do not follow that belief. It is not part of our *foundational* beliefs, in other words. THE THREE FOLD LAW .. and KARMA .. are TWO TOTALLY DIFFERENT THINGS.

What are the differences , you ask? Karma deals with past lives. The belief is .. what you are going through in THIS life.. is a result of what you did in a past life. Whether that be GOOD, BAD OR INDIFFERENT. The THREE FOLD LAW .. deals with NOW. The PRESENT. The three fold law means that what we do., what we think .. what we put out there … shall return to us TIMES THREE (again multiply x 3) … IN THIS LIFE. It does not WAIT until the next life. Does this mean we don’t believe in karma? NO. It simply means we have experienced the three fold law in our own personal lives … to happen in the present. It could be that some things … happen in our next life, we don’t know. What we DO know .. is that we’ve experienced the three fold law .. IN THIS LIFE. In other words .. its actually happened. We’ve received something for something we’ve done.

Respectfully, this information is incomplete. First, the concept of karma precedes Hinduism. Second, part of karma deals with a carry-over of the results of actions of past lives on the current life. However there are traditionally four types of karma, most of which are related to our current lives. Rather than repeating them here I would direct readers’ attention to my article on this available at this LINK. Now it is true that some authors, such as Ray Buckland, do consider the three-fold law as limited to the present life. However other authors, such as the Farrars, believe that our actions carry over from life to life. Who is right? That’s going to come down to our beliefs. All I can say is that within their current lifetimes many people do not receive either a positive response in some way for their good actions or a negative response in some way for their bad actions. I believe that most people are aware of this. If we limit karma and/or the three-fold law to one lifetime, it would appear not to be accurate.

<<<>>>
You said it yourself RIGHT HERE .. in this paragraph. And it is EXACTLY how we apply the Rede in our lives. ” I’ll try to stop them without hurting them. However, if I must, I will use force.” ..

The Three Fold Law is something that works in our favor .. or against us .. depending on our INTENT of what we do. If you INTENTIONALLY stop another from hurting someone else .. or… to save another … this is not hurting or harming without JUST CAUSE. The Rede applies if we set out to harm someone WITHOUT JUST CAUSE. Again, so simple .. but everyone wants to complicate the hell out of it. No where .. does it say in our Rede .. to go against our moral codes or compass. In fact, it is saying USE your moral compass and/or code of ethics.

And again, it reads to me as if you want to change the rede to say “intentional harm” rather than just “harm.” Further, you are contradicting your claim that the rede only applies to magickal practices when here you’re saying your interpretation also relates to more mundane causes.

<<<>>>>
I don’t think you want to know what I *really* think. If I wrote it, it wouldn’t get posted. What I do wish .. is that everyone would stop dissecting our religion and our ethics and morals that we live by. As a practicing Wiccan Priestess who has been on the Wiccan path for almost 18 years, I feel that there are way too many “wannabes, dabblers, trouble makers, know it alls AND new agers” … coming into our path and tearing it apart. If you don’t want to be Wiccan, then don’t be. IF YOU ARE NOT WICCAN, what is your concern of our Rede? No one told you that you had to live by the Rede. Most who are NOT WICCAN .. DO NOT claim it, nor do they live by it. It’s called the WICCAN REDE .. for a REASON. Its WICCAN. It is not PAGAN, it is not BUDDHIST, IT IS NOT CHRISTIAN .. IT IS WICCAN.

It sounds to me like what you’re saying is that your interpretation of the rede is correct and that nobody has the right to question you about it, because if anyone dares question you they are merely “wannabes, dabblers, trouble makers, know it alls AND new agers.” If that’s the belief system within your coven, fine. My attitude is somewhat different. When I give workshops (and I’m giving two worldwide webinars in the near future, one on Tarot & Magic and the other, which I am repeating by popular demand, is on Magickal Self-Defense), I always begin with the letters: TFYQA. That stands for “Think For Yourself. Question Authority.” I invites questions and disagreements and try to present my positions so people can understand them. I have stood in front of screaming Christian fundamentalists, as well as some very polite ones, asking questions about beliefs and why I dare to stand up for the Lord and Lady.

When you’re a voice in the community, people will look at how you present yourself and how you respond to questions. Saying that you won’t answer people because they’re wannabes or dabblers, etc., or that their questions (which may challenge our perceptions) are trying to dissect our religion and that is bad gives the implication that there are only certain “right” people who are entitled to information. When someone tries to dissect our faith it may be because they’re trying to understand it. When someone tries to tear apart our faith I choose to stand up for it by answering their questions.

I think it’s wonderful that you’ve been on the Wiccan path for almost 18 years. Having walked the Wiccan path for about 35 years, I say that your choice to join us is fantastic. The thing is, I love the Lord and Lady enough to think that even if people don’t want to follow our faith, if they adopt some of our ethical and moral beliefs and practices they may be better for it. So I choose to share with people within and without the circle. If we simply blindly follow tradition without asking questions our living faith becomes mere dogma. That is something I hope never happens.

The words of the WICCAN REDE .. are for WICCANS. They are not for anyone else … unless they CHOOSE to apply them in their lives. If you CHOOSE to live by the Rede, then get with someone who can better explain to you … what the Rede actually means. Especially before you go writing about it.

We all choose whether to apply them in our lives. To follow blindly and without questioning turns Wicca into just another dogmatic belief instead of a living, growing faith. Even you have reinterpreted the rede to meet your needs. That’s great. That should be discussed.

I have a friend who told me about a time when her young daughter was performing with a group at her elementary school. The performance began with the Pledge of Allegiance. When everyone paused after saying, “One nation, under God,” her daughter piped up saying, “and Goddess.” I think that’s great. She’s thinking. She’s questioning. Maybe it will help others open their minds and lead them to think and question, too.

The one request that alot of us Wiccans have at this time … it to stop coming into our religion and dissecting, analyzing and tearing it apart … just to suit your own beliefs, to suit your own personal spiritual needs , wants or desires.. Wicca has worked and is STILL WORKING.. with the REDE,. THE 161 LAWS, THE PRINCIPLES and ALL OF THE DIFFERENT TRADITIONS in place for LOTS AND LOTS OF YEARS … and … its been working JUST FINE !!!

If you want something DIFFERENT … then make up your OWN religion.

That’s just it. Contrary to the belief held by some people, there are dozens of traditions that call themselves Wiccan. Are they actually Wiccan? How far from Gardnerian or Alexandrian or some other tradition can they be and still justifiably be called “Wicca?” This is a debate I believe we should be having, but are not. These are questions we should be asking, but are not. Personally, I believe that if we don’t ask these questions of ourselves, others who are not Wiccans will make those decisions for us (or attempt to do so). I don’t consider that a good thing.

We’ve never had this problem before .. with folks coming into our path and trying to change it, to morph it into what THEY want it to be .. until recently. Over the last 5 to 10 years, we’ve had HUNDREDS .. coming into this path trying to destroy it.
We do not FIX something that isn’t BROKE.
LEAVE IT ALONE.

Actually, we’ve always had this problem. I have dozens of books by people claiming to be Wiccans and that supposedly enlighten us about Wicca even though they have little or no relationship to the Craft. Most of the people who have been involved in Wicca for a long time love to laugh about some of these books.

The dinosaurs existed for about 165 million years. They weren’t broken. They just couldn’t evolve to meet the changing environment. I would hate to see Wicca vanish like the dinosaurs because of fear of introspection and change.
<<<>>>
This statement is ridiculous. First and foremost, there’s no TRADITIONAL SOURCE that holds ANY position … for anything pertaining to karma, the three fold law .. or any other spiritual theory or belief. ITS CALLED FAITH. And EXPERIENCE in life. When you get ENOUGH experience in life … you might come to understand this.

Rain Dove
Priestess of The Dragon and The Rose Coven of Georgia

Well, the reference to your comment isn’t clear. But I’d like to thank you very much for raising your concerns and expressing your ideas. You seem to be saying that you have an interpretation of the rede which isn’t in the rede itself. I think that’s fine. I would strongly encourage you to write your version and post it on your website or blog. I would encourage discussion and debate about it by Wiccans and non-Wiccans alike.

I wish you and your coven continued success and peace.

Well, readers, what do you think?
Should we accept the rede without change or should it be updated?
Should we accept something else?
Do we accept it as written or as interpreted?
If we believe it should not be accepted literally whose interpretation should we follow?

Please leave your comments below.

Reader Comments

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#1 
Written By Corvus
on June 17th, 2013 @ 1:35 pm

Don,

I’m going to avoid the shrill tone of priestess Rain. I don’t believe the Rede has any further value to the Pagan community. As my wife likes to say “the Rede is for children” in that it purports to compel proper ethical choice out of fear of punishment. The acme of ethical maturity should not be to choose the right path out of fear of pain, but out of a sense of justice and propriety.

I contend there is no difference between ethics of magic and ‘mundane’ ethics. Ethics is a system of determining the proper course of action in any situation relating to others. To be effective and meaningful, ethics must apply always. Otherwise, it’s just whim in a fancy dress.

Consequently, for magical people, it must have a base in acknowledging the power of working one’s will in the world. So any act of will is a magical act, and as such must invoke the ethical guidelines one holds.

I have seen far too many get away with too much to believe in karma, and ethics are a tool we humans have created to deal as humans on earth. I doubt the Gods much care how we live our lives, as they have much bigger fish to fry.

So I create my ethics out of a human need,i.e.how to relate to others. Being a magical being, by will I shape the world, so I simply ask “What sort of world do I wish to live in?”. The answer includes the consequences for myself and others. Hate unearned pain? Don’t cause it. Hate injustice? Don’t stand for it. Love peace? Work for it. Shaping the world means doing what is right, by your own best estimates.

Forgive the brevity, but I’m replying on a mobile device.

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#2 
Written By Jess
on June 17th, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

Well, that’s a perfect example why I’m Solitary and so uncomfortable with the idea of being in Circle. Too much judgement, not enough listening. Sigh.

If we aren’t thinking through spiritual concepts, questioning meanings, and allowing for multiple interpretations, do we not become blind followers? I’d rather think, discuss, and deepen my understanding of myself and my ethics and morals in the world than accept any single interpretation as “the right one,” including the literal meaning of the words.

I still have much to learn, and I so appreciate both posts for the philosophical spark they’ve provided. Thank you.

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#3 
Written By Jolene Oldham
on June 17th, 2013 @ 2:20 pm

“I have a friend who told me about a time when her young daughter was performing with a group at her elementary school. The performance began with the Pledge of Allegiance. When everyone paused after saying, “One nation, under God,” her daughter piped up saying, “and Goddess.” I think that’s great. She’s thinking. She’s questioning. Maybe it will help others open their minds and lead them to think and question, too.”

I love that you still remember that.

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#4 
Written By K
on June 17th, 2013 @ 2:56 pm

It’s not about “time spent” on the Path. It’s how the Pilgrim walks it, no? …almost an entire blog post dedicated to cutting someone down to size?

And yes, indeed — there are plenty of traditions that call themselves Wicca.

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#5 
Written By Frater Phergoph
on June 17th, 2013 @ 3:04 pm

I think you have a good point – I think you crouched your original point less delicately than you should have. Fundamentally I think this issue is “where does Modern Wicca come from?” There’s two schools of thought here – one is that it’s been handed down in some unbroken form from ages untold. The other opinion which I believe is the one you hold is that witchcraft has been handed down for generations, but Wicca itself is a modern creation from Gerald Gardner and Crowley. There were other people shaping it, but fundamentally there was no Wicca before Crowley and Gardner put pen to paper.

From her perspective, it’s the spiritual system that seems to resonate best with them. I agree with you that a spiritual system needs to be integrated wholly – I would start to seriously questions someone’s sincerity to the Great Rite if they would deny spiritual application to the material world. But for you, you’ve chosen to look deeper, and realized that there is an insincerity to a lot of modern practitioners. I think that this applies equally well to buddism, islam, christianity, wicca, ceremonial magic… it holds that each religion should have insincere practitioners. It just goes with the road. For you, Wicca isn’t appropriate. You might enjoy witchcraft, but wicca as a spiritual system doesn’t fly. It doesn’t fly to me either. It doesn’t mean I am critical of people for choosing it, it just means I can point out why it’s wrong for me.

It would have been infinitely better if you had said just that. “It doesn’t fly for me, and here’s why.” In the previous paragraph, I agree with you, and I think we’re both on the Ceremonial Magic page. But for people not on the ceremonial magic page, the circle exists merely as a boundary between magic and not-magic. So is she really being insincere when she says the rede has only magical applications for her? No, she’s being sincere to her particular, individual beliefs. You’ve written a piece on “why wicca isn’t ceremonial magic”.

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#6 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on June 17th, 2013 @ 3:41 pm

Thank you for your comment, Frater Phergoph. Part of the challenge (and some people who are newer to the path may not be aware of this) is that when Wicca first became known it was considered another name for Witchcraft. They were synonymous. Many practitioners used Wicca as a more acceptable term for their practices and beliefs as opposed to the term “Witchcraft” which had—and has—a lot of negative associations. Over time, this evolved, such that Witchcraft and Wicca are partially overlapping subsets of (Neo-) Paganism. And I’m sure there will be some who disagree with that description.
Anyway, as a result of this equivalency, there are some people who called their practices Wicca and presented modern versions of some very ancient techniques. Others called what they were doing Wicca and were specifically following the teachings of people such as Gardner, Sanders, etc. “Wicca” is an old term, but its popular use is modern. Just using that term and saying that “Wicca is very old” is as false as saying that “The practicers of Wicca are new.” Unfortunately, it’s necessary to clarify what a person specifically means by “Wicca” to make any such claims. Otherwise, you’re left with what could be seen, at least superficially, as limited either/or positions of Hutton or Whitmore.

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#7 
Written By Priestess Najah
on June 17th, 2013 @ 5:39 pm

It is for this very reason, I refrain from calling myself “Wiccan”. I’ve never understood the Rede. It doesn’t make any sense to me. It feels dogmatic and full of guilt. And trying to remain honest, I can’t label myself, something I don’t understand or feel to be true – for me.
How can I promise I won’t harm anyone or anything? In my study of Shao-lin Kung Fu, it is actually considered a crime not to protect yourself. And how do I know if my judgement of what I need to do to protect myself is true and valid? I can only go on what I need to do at the time. If I have to feel a God or Goddess is going to judge me, punish me 3×3 for doing what I truly believed was right at the time, then to me, I’m right back in the same dogma of the punishing God of Christianity. And if my judgement was wrong, and I did make a mistake, then hopefully I will learn from those mistakes and keep evolving.
I was drawn to the Earth-based Nature path, to get away from that type of thinking. I suppose if one considers themselves “Wiccan” then they need to follow their guidelines as it is laid down for them. For me, I feel comfortable with “Pagan” because it avoids those trappings.

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#8 
Written By Carolyn
on June 17th, 2013 @ 9:10 pm

I define Harm as Evil, and Evil is defined as power without compassion. Power without compassion. Do not use your power without compassion. Think about it. Enough said.

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#9 
Written By Pralixus
on June 17th, 2013 @ 11:16 pm

Firstly, let me congratulate you on the way you handled this post. I never would have had the patience, nor would I have been able to so completely eschew the use of sarcasm.

Secondly, you ask, “Should we accept the rede without change or should it be updated?” I tend to agree Frater Phergoph and T. Alan Greenfield that Wicca (as the term is used today) goes only back thru Gardner to Crowley. Thus, I see the Rede itself as the update.

That is, “an it harm none” strikes me as the “training wheels” necessary to make Wicca palatable to a wider segment of the population than Thelema can (yet) be. Thus, I don’t see the Rede so much “for children” literally, but rather “for children to the Path,” those who have not yet had sufficient training to know their Will and to do it, those who cannot yet really conceive of a Nietzschean state beyond good and evil.

So as long as we’re taking a poll, I say leave the Rede as it is, and when one is ready to move on from it—perhaps because one has begun to think about it hard enough to know that it is impossible to follow *while* thinking about it—then move on. Just like upgrading any other tool in the box, it need not involve such histrionics as were evidenced above by a priestess so blind as to claim that there is only one proper Wicca tradition while simultaneously rolling her own.

Again, I commend your fortitude, even as I realize that just in commenting I couldn’t avoid taking a swipe myself.

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#10 
Written By Donald Jones
on June 18th, 2013 @ 4:39 pm

(Sigh) All religions have their fundamentalists. The thing that I take away from HSP Dove’s response is not specifically what she had to say, but is about her highly emotional response in doing so. My observations about fundamentalists are that they have a deep fear that they are wrong. I first came to this realization decades ago when, as an agnostic, I cornered a relative into a box about the inerrancy of the Bible. It isn’t that hard to do and I felt a little ashamed afterward to have done so. When cornered with no place to go she burst out with, “But if we are all wrong about this, we are all fools!” I responded with, “I would never call you a fool, but about this, you just happen to be wrong.”
As a side note about the, Law of three fold return, I sometimes, when I am feeling particularly cynical, will say, “The only reason it is three times as bad when it comes back is that when something bad happens to you, it just feels like it is three times as bad as when it happens to someone else. “ Before someone jumps down my throat about this, think of this; someone who feels no compassion for others is a psychopath and someone who cannot emotionally separate what happens to others and themselves has other problems with enmeshment and codependency. There must be a more precise clinical name for it, but hopefully it is rare as it sounds totally debilitating. As it turns out (based on experience) ones actions do come back, and some of it is instantaneous. There was an evening decades ago when I was one muscle twitch away from shooting someone who was breaking into my house. I decided instead to make my presence and the existence of the rifle known to the person on the other side of the threshold. They ran but the experience changed me. I can only imagine the change that could have resulted if I had shot first and asked questions after. Can anyone say “military PTSD”?
I digress. If we can find a better way of expressing an ethic that assumes that we, the universe, its laws and the divine is all of a piece and that living consciously within the limits imposed on us as individuals (like gravity) in a way that acknowledges the whole while not surrendering our right to be part of it, then let’s have it. Until then, we should teach the Rede by asking our students to ask questions and do their best to tear it apart. I have faith (no don’t respond to that word either) that honest seekers will be left with a deeper understanding of what the intent of those eight words are supposed to mean.

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#11 
Written By Alder Lyncurium
on June 24th, 2013 @ 11:42 am

Personally, I have never understood why people put so much effort, going on and on with the Threefold Law and the Wiccan Rede.
It seems that it is a recurrent subject in “Traditional Witchcraft” groups, where they difference themselves from Wicca based on those two principles.
At that point I really think to myself: Do people actually think that we strive to “harm none” when we “harm” in the very first moment that we come into this world? Do people actually think that our believe is that we throw a stone to someone, and we will get three stones hitting the back of our head in a few minutes?

I could think of a myriad of principles which are utterly essentials to the Craft, and those two are not among them – at least not as they are popularly conceived.

Marian Green puts it beautifully in her A witch alone: “The witches hold one sentence as their Law: ’An it harm none, do what ye will.’ ‘None’ in this case implies everyone and everything! ‘An’ in old English means ‘In order that’ and ‘will’ is your soul’s own true will, not the whim of the moment.”

Now, whether that’s the meaning in old english or not, it’s a very good way to explain it.
I, as a witch, believe in responsibility. We do learn to heal, but also we definitely know how to curse.

Regarding the Threefold Law, apart from the symbolism of the number 3, I doubt any witch would take that literally! Or put much emphasis on it, not in its “popular meaning” anyway.
Actually, I am sure that there are more articles talking about “how non-practical are those two principles”, that witches teaching and emphasizing them.

Again, responsibility, cause and consequences – those are the principles I hold. And it’s quite ironic to have to argue against what people believe to be very very true, but are, after all, urban myths – or rather, a product of books, instead of actual witchcraft…

B*B

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