"If witchcraft is a nature religion then the primary laws of nature must hold true above all else. So the first law of witchcraft must be, logically thinking, the strong survives and, the second law of witchcraft, as in nature, must be, life must consume life in order to live. This not only contradicts the fabled Wiccan Rede but also renders it null and void. ... The whole idea is of the fabled Wiccan Rede is impractical and proves itself flawed when applied to real life situations in the mundane world." - Shawn Poirier, 1967-2007
Witchcraft is not only an early pagan form of religion but also the science and craft of causing change to occur in conformity with Will. Since it is a craft of the wise, one must use wisdom when practicing it. Let's apply that wisdom now.
If one were to say that the strong survives in nature how does one measure this strength? Is it physical strength we're speaking of? Or is it spiritual strength? How about emotional strength? Or mental strength? Which is stronger of all of these? When we speak of using Will to change the things around us doesn't that imply that mental strength is, at that point, stronger
I must pause here for a moment and advise my readers that there are as many interpretations of those simple eight words as there are Wiccans and if you are anything like me your understanding of them may have changed as you grew within your own practice. Over time, God Herself may have revealed to you as she has me, new understandings of what seems to be very straightforward concept.
Many will say that the Rede literally states that you are to do what you want as long as it causes no harm or simply, harm none. If you are an individual who subscribes to that interpretation how would you respond to someone like Mr. Poirier who eagerly points out that when an individual consumes meat or even vegetables they are indeed causing harm? To eat the meat on your dinner plate an animal was killed. As he states, “Life consumes life in order to live.” What about when we cut the grass, weed the garden or chop down trees to provide wood for our homes? How about when we kill a mosquito? Don’t all those actions go against the Rede? Perhaps Shaun is correct when he declares that the Rede is rendered null, void and impractical for real life situations.
Personally, I don’t believe this to be so as I do not interpret the Rede as a rule dictating what I am not allowed to do. It holds too much similarity to The Ten Commandments I grew up with as a child: You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. Sounds similar to: You shall harm none. I do not resonate with this idea, instead I find myself in agreement with the opinion of author Kaatryn MacMorgan who states in her book Wicca 333: Advanced Topics in Wiccan Belief:
“In reality, the Rede states ‘an it harm none,’ which means … ‘those things/actions that do no harm,’ followed by ‘do as you will.’ … This statement ‘do those things that do no harm as you will’ does not speak to those actions that do harm. Those things are covered in the rest of the religion.”
This is how I believe the Rede is meant to be interpreted. It advises me what I should do, not what I shouldn’t do. I have my other Wiccan beliefs such as The Law of Return, to help me determine what my course of action should be when something I plan to do will cause harm. Frankly I believe that it is naïve to think that an individual is able to live life in this physical manifestation without causing harm to anything ever. We live in a realm of contrast. We experience joy and suffering so it is inevitable that we will cause unintentional harm. What we do about that is where our Wiccan beliefs guide us to fulfill our True Will.
The Rede does not contradict nature. The Rede is not impractical. The Rede is not flawed when applied to real life situations in the mundane world. It is guidance to live a life filled with joy and happiness. It encourages us to fulfill our Will as often as we like with regard to whether it causes others joy or harm and if we find it causes harm then we are urged to look to our spiritual beliefs and understandings to determine what our course of action should be. This will differ from Wiccan to Wiccan. That is practical since each of us have created for ourselves a unique reality from our individual perspective. We are encouraged to think before acting and to take responsibility for our actions.