“An it harm none, do what ye will”
These eight words are not the complete Wiccan Rede., but they are a guiding principle
of Wicca. However, for ease I will refer to these eight words in this article as the Rede. It
seems quite simple on the surface, but actually it is a very sophisticated concept. I will
go into detail as to how this principle actually functions. So please read through to the
end as I make several points throughout and then tie it all together at the end. Skipping
through could lead to a misunderstanding of what I am saying.
Many take it to mean that they have free reign to do what they wish as long as it does
not harm another person. While correct, it is more complicated than that. It is a
guideline, advice to follow. It is something you consider before making your decisions or
actions. It is not a law to be strictly adhered to because it is impossible to live by as a
dogmatic law. To begin with, many forget to include themselves as one of those that
they are not to harm. An example would be smoking. Smoking alone in your house
harms no one…except yourself.
Something as simple as buying clothing made overseas can cause harm. How? To
begin with it harms those in your home nation that loses their jobs because no one
buys their domestic product. If the clothing comes from countries that have slave labor
or horrible working conditions the harm there is obvious. What if you can’t afford
domestically made goods and cause yourself financial stress do to purchasing them. Is
that harm? Yes and so is it to not buy from those foreign producers as well.
What about meat? Does it cause harm to eat meat? Of course it does. I would go as far
as to say it causes harm to even eat vegetables. You kill vegetables and plants just as
you kill cows for food. We could also get into allowing harm to occur to another without
trying to stop it as allowing harm through inaction.
So, where am I going with all this? I used the above examples as a way of
demonstrating how the Rede is advice and how impossible it is to strictly adhere to it.
We all cause harm to someone or something every day whether we intend to or not.
Simply being alive causes some harm to something else.
The Rede is intended to guide us in our decisions so that we cause the least amount of
harm possible and it tells us what is completely permissible. If what you do causes
absolutely no harm then you are completely free to do it without concern. However, if
what you do causes a level of harm you must balance it with what good it will also do or
what needs it fulfills. Such as the act of consuming food. Eating meat causes harm, but
it is necessary to our survival. So, we weigh it against the Rede. As a result I choose to
buy organic beef and free range chicken/eggs when possible. I need to eat meat as
part of a balanced diet, so I choose the meat where the animal was treated humanly.
So, as you can see the Rede is an ethical guideline which can be confusing at times.
Each Wiccan must determine their own ethical code guided by the Law of Return and
the Wiccan Rede. Since the Rede can cause confusion I choose to follow another
version of the Rede. One that is more specific and straight forward. I follow the Rede
created and used by the Lycian tradition of Wicca. That Rede states:
“If it harm none do what you will; if it cause harm do what you must”
In other words, I am free to do what I wish if it causes no harm to another or myself. If
necessity requires me to cause harm, I do so at the appropriate level. I do not seek to
cause harm and will look for other alternatives before resorting to doing harm.