The Wiccan Rede

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One of the most often quoted "laws of Wicca," a variation of the Wiccan Rede appeared in the writings of Gerald Gardner, and is still used by many magical practitioners today.

Did You Know?

  • The Wiccan Rede is merely a guideline; there is no universal set of rules or ethical standards for today's Pagans, so not all Pagans follow the Wiccan Rede. 
  • An early version of the Rede was made famous by Doreen Valiente in the early 1960s.
  • In the 1970s, Lady Gwen Thompson published her version of the Rede in the Green Egg, a Pagan magazine; she credited her grandmother, Adriana Porter, with the original work. 

A similar rule, or guideline, can be found in the work of Aleister Crowley around the turn of the century, in which he advised his readers, "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the Law, love under Will." Crowley admitted he was influenced by a much older text, St. Augustine’s Homilies on the First Epistle of St. John.

One version of the Wiccan Rede was made famous by Doreen Valiente in the early 1960s, and in 1974 a lengthier version, by Lady Gwen Thompson, was published in the Green Egg, a Pagan magazine. Thompson credited her grandmother, Adriana Porter, with the original work. Although there is no scholarly evidence for this claim, the work remains one of the most popular writings in Wicca today.

It's important to acknowledge, in any discussion about the Rede that this is simply a guideline. There is no universal set of rules or ethical standards for today's Pagans, so it is unreasonable to assume that every Pagan you meet is going to follow the Wiccan Rede. After all, not all Pagans are Wiccans, and among even those who are Wiccan, there is a good deal of room for interpretation. Although most Pagan belief systems do have some sort of rules, there is a significant amount of variance from one path to the other.

Sable Aradia, at Patheos, has a wonderful article on the Rede and its many interpretations. She says,

"I would argue that “doing no harm, ever” is simply not possible in a belief system that accepts death as a part of life. Have you ever eaten a steak? That cow died and you ate it. How about a celery stick (for all you vegans out there?) Yep, dead celery too. Have you ever been faced with a moral dilemma? [There are] a few small, everyday issues you might have been faced with that will require you to cause some harm somewhere, no matter what you choose."
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Lady Gwen Thompson's version of the Wiccan Rede reads as follows:

The Rede of the Wiccae

Being known as the counsel of the Wise Ones:
Bide the Wiccan laws ye must,
in perfect love and perfect trust.
Live and let live, fairly take and fairly give.
Cast the Circle thrice about
to keep the evil spirits out.

To bind the spell every time,
let the spell be spake in rhyme.
Soft of eye and light of touch,
speak little, listen much.
Deosil go by the waxing Moon,
sing and dance the Wiccan rune.
Widdershins go when the moon doth wane,
and the Werewolf howls by the dread Wolfsbane.

When the Lady's Moon is new,
kiss thy hand to Her times two.
When the Moon rides at Her peak
then your heart's desire seek.
Heed the Northwind's mighty gale;
lock the door and drop the sail.

When the wind comes from the South,
love will kiss thee on the mouth.
When the wind blows from the East,
expect the new and set the feast.
When the West wind blows o'er thee,
departed spirits restless be.

Nine woods in the Cauldron go,
burn them quick a' burn them slow.
Elder be ye Lady's tree;
burn it not or cursed ye'll be.
When the Wheel begins to turn,
let the Beltane fires burn.
When the Wheel has turned at Yule,
light the log and let Pan rule.

Heed ye flower bush and tree,
by the Lady Bless'd Be.
Where the rippling waters go
cast a stone and truth ye'll know.
When find that ye have need,
hearken not to others' greed.
With the fool no season spend
or be counted as his friend.

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.
When misfortune is enow,
wear the Blue Star on thy brow.
True in love ever be
unless thy lover's false to thee.
Eight words ye Wiccan Rede fulfill:
An' it harm none, do what ye will.

Jason Mankey at Raise the Horns/Patheos says,

There are parts of Thompson’s Rede which might be genuinely old. In The Rede of the Wiccae authors Robert Mathiesen and Theitic dissect every line of the long Rede and come up with some startling conclusions. Several of the rhymed couplets appear in other places, most notably in several collections of 19th Century Folklore. Even more amazingly there are several instances where the archaic language used in parts of the Rede actually follows old English grammar rules. What this suggests... is that Thompson’s version of the Rede had two different authors, perhaps both Porter and Thompson herself.
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Your Citation
Wigington, Patti. "The Wiccan Rede." Learn Religions, Sep. 10, 2021, Wigington, Patti. (2021, September 10). The Wiccan Rede. Retrieved from Wigington, Patti. "The Wiccan Rede." Learn Religions. (accessed June 2, 2023).