Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Wiccan Rede - A Study In Ethics

Advice of the Ancients

Bide the Ancient Laws ye must, in Perfect Love and Perfect Trust.
Live ye well and let to live; fairly take and fairly give.
Soft of eye and light of touch, Speak little: listen much.
Heed ye flower, bush and tree. By the Lady, Blessed Be.
Honor the Old Ones in deed and name, let Love and Trust be our guides again.

Cast the Circle thrice about to keep unwelcome spirits out;
To bind the spell well every time, let the spell be spake in rhyme.
Deosil go by the waxing moon; sing and dance the Witches' Rune.
Tuathal go, by waning moon; chanting out the baneful rune.
When the Lady's moon is new, kiss the hand to her times two;
When the Moon rides at her peak, then your heart's desire seek.

Nine woods in the cauldron go; burn them fast and burn them slow.
Birch in the fire goes to represent what the Lady knows.
Oak in the forest towers with might; in the fire brings the God's insight.
Rowan is a tree of power, causing magick and life to flower.
Willows at the waters's edge stand, ready to help us to the Summerland.
Hawthorn is burned to purify, and draw faerie to your eye.
Hazel, the tree of wisdom and learning, adds its strength to the bright fire burning.
White are the flowers of the Apple tree that brings us fruits of fertility.
Grapes grow upon the Vine, giving us both joy and wine.
Fir marks the evergreen, to tell what does immortality mean.
Elder be the Lady's tree, burn it not or cursed you'll be.

Four times the Major Sabbats mark, in the Light and in the Dark.
When the Wheel begins to turn, let the Samhain fires burn.
When the time for Imbolg shows, watch for flowers through the snows.
When the Sun King rules again, dance the Dance, it's now Beltaine.
As the wheel turns to Lammas night, power is brought to the magick rite.
Four the minor Sabbats fall; use the sun to mark them all.
When the wheel has turned at Yule, Light and Joy as the Horned One tules.
In the Spring, night equals day; Eostar has come our way.
When the Sun has reached its height, Oak and Holly then shall fight.
Harvest comes to one and all when the Mabon Sabbat falls.

Heed the North Wind's mighty gale; lock the door and drop the sail.
When the Wind blows from the west, departed souls will have no rest.
When the Wind blows from the south, Love will kiss thee on the mouth.
When the Wind blows from the East, light the hearth; enjoy the feast.

True in Love ever be, lest thy lover be false to thee.
Where the rippling waters go, cast a stone if truth you'll know,
With no fool a season spend, lest ye be counted as his friend.
When ye have and hold a need, hearken not to others' greed.
When misfortune is enow, wear the blue star on thy brow.

Merry Meet and Merry Part, bright the cheeks and warm the heart
Mind the threefold Law ye should; three times bad and three times good.

Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill-
An Ye Harm None
Do What Ye Will.

In our tradition,Circle of the Dragon's Crystal Unfolding or "Unfolding" as we like to call it,  we teach a class on the Wiccan Rede and Ethics.  I recently revisited this subject in our "seekers" class. While there is some information available on the Internet regarding this subject,  I feel that a good discussion on the Rede  is never a bad idea!  While we may feel we have a good grasp of it's meaning.  There is always a new perspective or something fresh that we can take away from the Rede.

Before launching into our task at hand, I do want to add, due to the length of the discussion, this topic will be broken into several blog posts.  So I would advise you to "stay tuned" as we explore the Rede together!

Most of pagans and wiccans are familiar with the last stanza of the Rede ;  "Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill- An ye harm none do what ye will. "   While the Rede is a powerful statement in and unto itself, it can also  be a bit like taking biblical passages out of context.  While they give great meaning, we sometimes lose site of the bigger picture, or lesson, by failing to read or understand the rest of the book or chapter.

The above rede is the full version as acknowledged by our tradition.  There are several different versions of the full  rede, yes we are aware of this.  I will not go into the discussions of why this one versus that version, here.  Those are best saved for our seekers classes.

What is the Wiccan Rede exactly?  The word Rede is derived from Middle English, meaning advice or counsel.  The short version of the Rede "Eight words the ...." is considered to be a statement which provides a key moral system to Wiccans.   So with the rede we have advice on morals, or a written code of ethics.   The "full rede" is that and more.   Before getting into all it's glorious intricacies,  it is best to have an idea, from where we draw the rede.

History of  The Rede
The rhyming couplet of  "Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill- An Ye Harm None  Do What Ye Will. " publication is attributed to Doreen Valinete in 1964, quoted from a speech given by her.   However, there are earlier hints at it within the works of Aleister Crowley;  "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law", appears in Crowley's 1904 work in The Book of the Law. Crowley adopted this line from Fran├žois Rabelaiss, who wrote, in 1534,, "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". Les aventures du roi Pausole (The Adventures of King Pausole, circa 1901), contains the motto of  "Do what you like as long as you harm no one." There are several also  other authors who are believed to have influenced portions of the rede, either through conceptualization or wording.  Native Americans, have also been recognized as possible as contributors, with similar concepts existing in their belief systems.

 "The Wiccan Rede" was published in the neo-Pagan magazine Earth Religion News in 1974 as a complete twenty-six line poem.  Shortly on it's publications heels followed another, slightly different, version, entitled the "Rede Of The Wiccae",  which was published in Green Egg magazine by Lady Gwen Thompson, as taught to her by her grandmother Adriana Porter. Lady Gwen Thompson further claimed that the earlier published text was distorted from "its original form". From that time the poem has since been widely circulated with additional or variant passages. This form of the Rede is referred to as the "Full Rede" or "Long Rede".

(Next Blog:  Perfect Love and Perfect Trust!)

  1.  Robinson, B.A. "The Wiccan Rule of Behavior: The Wiccan Rede. Origin of the Wiccan Rede: Updated: 27 September 2007. Available Online at:, Visited 28 December 2007.
  2. "The Wiccan Rede: A Historical Journey – Part 3: Eight Words". 
  3.  Robert Mathiesen and Theitic, The Rede of the Wiccae: Adriana Porter, Gwen Thompson and the Birth of a Tradition of Witchcraft, Olympian press, Rhode Island, 2005, pp.68–70.
  4.  Valiente, Doreen. c.1953. Available Online at Accessed 28 December 2007.
  5. Crowley, Aleister.  Liber AL vel Legis (1904),
  6. Circle of the Dragon's Crystal Unfolding, teaching circulclum, "Advice of the Ancients"

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