- Understanding all levels of The Wiccan Creed / Rede.
The eight word phrase “An’ it harm none, do what ye will”, which was first publicly spoken by Doreen Valiente in 1964, was included in a long poem written by Gwen Thompson and published later by Earth Religion News in 1974 titled Rede of the Wiccae, and later included in Valiente’s The Witches Creed and published in 1978 in the book she wrote titled Witchcraft for Tomorrow, is commonly what individuals refer to as The Wiccan Rede and is generally referred to, if not literally definitely suggestively, as Wiccan Law. This is a fallacy. There is no Wiccan Law and honestly that phrase is more often than not misunderstood and misapplied. I say this not as my opinion, nor as my personal interpretation of The Rede. I state this as for what it is; reading the language used to gain understanding of what is being expressed by the speaker and author. So let’s take a closer look at the phrase that gets everyone so fired up:
“And (if) it harm none, (then) do what you will.”
- “It” refers to thoughts, words, actions, and behaviors.
- “Harm” as defined by Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary is physical or mental damage or injury.
- “None” means not any, not one, nobody, not any such thing or person, and no part.
- “Will” is understood to mean desire or wish.
So then the phrase that everyone quotes as The Reed would be interpreted as: And (if) your thoughts, words, actions, and behaviors that cause physical or mental damage to not one thing or nobody (then) do what you desire or wish; suggesting that any action an individual might take that causes no injury is acceptable and that this individual should do that action as much as they want and when they want because it causes no harm. This is not how the phrase is usually interpreted. It is usually shortened even further to “harm none”, which is not an accurate interpretation of what the phrase means.
“And it harm none, do what you will” and “Harm none”; do not mean the same thing regardless of what people think. There is a difference in meaning between the two statements. Harm none is a statement that demands that physical or mental damage or injury should be caused to not one or anybody, which in realistic terms is unattainable in the physical incarnation. This is not even an argument that is warranted because “Harm none” isn’t even what is written or was spoken about by Valiente in the first place.
The original statement does nothing to address any actions that might or will cause harm. It is not addressed in any way whatsoever, well, at least not in this phrase that I am discussing and this is because Wiccan has no Defining Scripture. It is a spirituality based on unverifiable personal gnosis in which each Wiccan claims personal responsibility for their own thoughts, words, actions, and behaviors and will base them on their own morals and values, which are established through the other tenets of Wicca (The Law of Return, The Eight Virtues, and The Witch’s Pyramid), which will be covered in other posts
There are other teachings within The Witches Creed that are easily distinguished and create a structure for our ritual practices and rites, as well as reference to other Wiccan beliefs.