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                                   WITH THESE EIGHT WORDS 
                                  THE WICCAN REDE FULFILL:
                             "AN IT HARM NONE, DO WHAT YE WILL."
                           Copyright 08/17/92 by Servants Of The Elder Gods, Rocky Mountain 
                                                                 Coven and James C. Taylor
                  OVERVIEW.  The purpose of this paper is to look at the Wiccan Rede, at
           the  types  of conduct  it excludes,  and at  the  type of  conduct it
           requires.  We will begin with a detailed examination of the wording of
           the Rede itself, which presents as "pseudo-archaic" but actually makes
           excellent  use of the specific meanings of several archaic words which
           have no real equivalents in contemporary English.  We will then take a
           look at the two sections  of the Rede, and see why they  are presented
           in their proper order  as written.   Finally, we will examine  various
           uses of  magick and see how--and if--they adequately measure up to the
           standard of the Rede.
           THE VOCABULARY  OF  THE WICCAN  REDE.   As mentioned  above, the  Rede
           appears to be presented in a pseudo-archaic or "phony ancient" form of
           English.   Is  this  simply harmless  foolishness,  or is  there  some
           excellent reason for  the vocabulary selected?   Let's take a  look at
           the Rede, word by word.
           AN:       This  word  is commonly  mistranslated as  "IF", which  is a
                     significant error.  The word "AN" is more  accurately trans-
                     lated "JUST SO LONG AS".
           IT:       This  pronoun refers to whatever it is that you are thinking
                     of doing.
           HARM:     This refers to anything which either you or any other person
                     involved or affected  by "it" would regard  as loss, damage,
                     pain,  discomfort,  injustice, invasiveness,  or prevention,
                     relative  to the  situation existing  before "it"  was done.
                     Anything which goes against another person's free will, even
                     if it intends them good, would constitute serious harm.
           NONE:     This  ought to be  self-explanatory.   "None" is  an all-ex-
                     clusive  word.   If you harm  anyone or  anything, including
                     yourself, including a small rock in Trenton, New Jersey, you
                     have harmed "some", not "none".
           DO:       To perform whatever working is contemplated by "IT", above.
           WHAT:     The meaning here is "Whatever", and refers forward.
           YE:       The  archaic PLURAL form of  "you".  The  current word "you"
                     denotes both  the singular and the plural;  the archaic word
                     "YE" is always plural.  We shall see, later on, that this is
                     no accident.
           WILL:     To will something is to exercise your intellectual decision-
                     making power  to determine  the course of  action which  you
                     feel to be  the best.   "Will" has little  or nothing to  do
                     with "wish" or  "want" or "desire".  It is  not an emotional
                     inclination or feeling.   It is the employment of  reason to
                     make a decision based upon your best judgment.
           A.   SECTION ONE: "AN IT HARM NONE".
                Why does the Wiccan  Rede not say, "Do  what ye will, an it  harm
                none"?  There is a reason  why the "An it harm none"  comes first
                in the Rede,  and that reason  is that "An  it harm none"  is in-
                tended to come  first in your own thinking, as  a Wiccan initiate
                and practitioner.   If you or any Wiccan begins  with "Do what ye
                will", I  assure you  that you, like  the Fundamentalists  before
                you,  will find a way to excuse  and even to justify anything you
                take it into  your head to do!  Knowing  this about human nature,
                the Lady  inspired the Rede to be written  as it is, with the "An
                it harm none" to come first.
                The Wiccan Rede's "An  it harm none"  has parallels in many  dis-
                ciplines.   Perhaps the most significant parallel is found in the
                Hippocratic Oath  taken by every  physician before  s/he is  cer-
                tified to practice.  The first part of the Hippocratic Oath binds
                the physician "First, to do no harm."  It is  sobering to realize
                that  magical ethics,  as set forth  in the  Wiccan Rede,  are or
                should  be so  similar to  medical ethics, an  issue with  such a
                powerful effect on so many lives.
                When we read of a physician who  has violated his medical ethics,
                we  read this  with outrage  toward him  and with  empathy toward
                those patients who suffered inadequate care because the physician
                violated his  ethics.  It is more sobering to realize that future
                generations will  regard violations  of magickal ethics  with the
                same degree of outrage, and rightly so.
           B.   SECTION TWO:  "DO WHAT YE WILL."
                Even  without the first  part of the  Rede, "Do what  ye will" is
                most certainly not a blanket permission to do whatever you desire
                to do.   As one Wiccan High  Priestess has observed, "Power  cor-
                rupts,  and absolute power corrupts absolutely."  Seems like I've
                heard that before,  but it's certainly  true when you're  talking
                about  using real  magick to  accomplish real  goals in  the real
                When  we realize the kinds  and orders of  results, both expected
                and unexpected,  both  knowable and  unknowable, which  eventuate
                from almost every human action, it would seem the better part  of
                both valor and wisdom to never do anything at all, especially not
                anything which is  done with  spiritual power guided  by no  more
                than  human wisdom!    Unfortunately, to  do  nothing is  also  a
                choice, and the results of inaction are often  far worse than the
                results  of even ill-considered action.   This is  why the second
                half of the Rede demands that we make a decision and act upon it,
                as  well as conforming that  decision to the  requirement that it
                harm none. 
           THE STANDARD OF  THE REDE.  Please note that  the Wiccan Rede contains
           no loop-holes whatsoever.  The Rede does  not say, "An it harm none to
           the best  of your knowledge."  The Rede also  does not say "An it harm
           none  to the  best of  your ability  to discern  whether it  will harm
           The  Wiccan Rede  does not say  these things,  or anything  similar to
           them.  It simply  says "An it harm NONE, do what ye will."  This means
           that  YOU, once  you have committed  to live  by the  Wiccan Rede, are
           committed  to be solely and totally responsible for any harm resulting
           Paul  Seymour's forthcoming  book begins  with some  strong cautionary
           notes concerning the use of  magick.  One of the examples he  gives is
           particularly tragic, and concerns  a young man who worked a simple and
           apparently  harmless "money spell".   The spell worked,  and the young
           man got his money--he inherited it, when his  parents were both killed
           in an accident shortly after he worked the spell. 
           Paul does not say in his book if this young man was a Wiccan initiate.
           If he was, then in addition to his sorrow and loss, he has had to live
           with  the fact  that, by the  standard of  the Rede,  he is ultimately
           responsible for the death of his parents.
           When you  commit to live according  to the Wiccan Rede,  you commit to
           conform  your entire life, not  just the magickal,  mystical and reli-
           gious aspects  of it, to  the standard set  by the Rede.   Never again
           will you be able to act impulsively or without considering the results
           of what you do.  Never again will  you be able to act or even speak in
           thoughtless irritation or anger.   Instead, you will come  to consider
           the  implications of every word you speak, and of every routine action
           you do.  For  it is not just by  magick that we can harm  ourselves or
           others; everything we do, and everything  we say, has the potential to
           help or harm others, and to help or harm ourselves.
           It is also  important to note that  the Rede sets up  a standard which
           prevents us  from harming ourselves  as well as others.   Other relig-
           ions, including Christianity, regard it as virtuous to suffer harm for
           the sake  of another, even to  die so that another  person might live.
           The Wiccan Rede does not permit this.   You are to harm none, and this
           means that you  are not to harm  yourself, even for the  sake of doing
           good for someone else.
           To some, this may seem like  a selfish standard.  But think about  it.
           Would you wish to benefit by someone else's injury or death? Of course
           not!  If you did derive some benefit, such as an inheritance, from the
           death of another person, would  you feel good about this?   Well, some
           people might, but  probably you would not.  Therefore, in a very  real
           sense, you yourself are harmed by a benefit you derive from the injury
           or death of another.  True, the  harm is emotional, but it is entirely
           Wicca  recognizes that human beings  are social creatures.   What does
           harm  to one, does harm  to all in varying degrees.   Therefore, it is
           imperative that each person strive to harm no one, himself  or herself
           Finally, it  is significant to note  that word "ye" in  the statement,
           "Do what YE will."  This  is the ancient plural form of "you",  and it
           means  that your individual will is assumed  to be in accord with some
           other will, instead of acting entirely on its own.
           What is this other will which, together with yours, comprises the "ye"
           in the Rede?   Well, if you are working  in a coven, it could  well be
           the combined  will of the members  of the coven.   But this  would not
           apply to those who are working on their own, and it is not the highest
           or best meaning, even for those working in coven. 
           How does one act, so as to be  certain to harm none?  Not by  refusing
           to act, since inaction is itself a decision, and often causes far more
           harm than even rash action.  Not by delaying action until the time for
           it  is past, because that is the same as inaction.  And not by relying
           solely upon your own human wisdom, either.
           The best way to act, so as to be certain to harm none, is to call upon
           the Goddess and/or the  God, and to  hand to Them  the power you  have
           raised, together with the situation you have raised  the power to deal
           with, and say, "You are holy, good, and wise, and know how to use this
           power to help and not harm.  Do Your  will in this situation.  That is
           my will, that Your will be done."  And thus the Rede is fulfilled: For
           the "ye" who will are yourself and Them-selves, who are good, and love
           humanity, and who always act for the highest good of all.

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