A Circle of six Wiccans trained in Western philosophy discuss the Wiccan Rede in an attempt to understand it better. Is it ever possible to do no harm? Who or what should not be harmed? Does it matter that we may not be able to foresee all of the consequences of our actions, including the harm they may cause? And for that matter, does the Rede really direct Wiccans to avoid harming others? A philosophical investigation into one of the key tenets of Wicca.
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This book is excellent. It’s made me think long and hard on the Wiccan Rede. There are several ways to interpret it that I’ve never thought of
Disappointed, but OK
I wish there were more books on the various liturgies of pagan religions and what they mean to their adherents. I found this book on iBooks and gladly grabbed it to read. Sadly, it didn’t fulfill my hopes.
First of all, it is written as a dialogue between some members of a Wiccan tradition which is left unnamed. This is fine - there are still plenty of people more comfortable in the broom closet than out of it. But by not naming the tradition, it makes it more difficult to get information on their basic beliefs (which vary from group to group and even coven to coven within a tradition) and what they accept as their liturgy.
Second, on a positive note, they don’t claim to be making a final judgement on the meaning of the Rede. I was glad to see this made explicit in the short introduction, because if I had a nickel for every discussion around a campfire concerning the Rede I’d be set for lunch money. Liturgy often reveals itself more and more over time as the celebrants evolve and their lives change.
Thirdly, this book needs a response essay all on its own. The short version, though, is that like so many many pagans, they get caught up in the wrong word when reading the Rede. “An it harm non, do as ye will, and that shall be the whole of the law” is the version they’re using, and it’s one I’ve heard before. The most common one is “Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill: An it harm none, do what you will.” I don’t see these as appreciably different when looking at the Rede as a form of advice on behavior.
But the dialogue here focuses on the word “harm,” which is really easy to do. In my experience, the critical word in the Rede is “Will” - the application of inner strength and power to achieve an end. Where this book gets caught up in talking about doing harm (going all the way to breathing harming bacteria), what the Rede seems to me to refer to is doing magic. It’s a warning to carefully consider and consult with others of the Wise before applying Will to an issue, so that the least amount of harm is done with no harm being preferred.
Because they spend so much time discussing the harm aspect, there is nothing else really covered. Only in the last few pages do they start discussing it in the context of the Laws of the Craft, which aren’t really much detailed.
I had high hopes for this, and I do encourage newcomers to Wicca to read it, and any other pagans who want to understand some of the liturgy in British Traditional Wicca at the least. But they’re right: This is not the final word on the Rede. It’s not even close.
Three of five stars.