Article ID: 3747
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 5,476
Times Read: 4,732
Author: Ginger Strivelli
Posted: December 8th. 2001
Times Viewed: 4,732
The "Rede" is a fine document, a good starting point for a 'code' of conduct, a great and rare uniting part of Paganism, as it is being followed, taught, learned and believed in by Pagans from various traditions all over the Planet... when so many of the practices, believes, Gods, and such parts of Pagan Religion vary too widely from group to group. Alas, what the "Rede" is not is "the Pagan Ten Commandments." It is often view as, held up as, and thought of, as such a 'carved-in-stone' ancient holy text... it just isn't.
It is not even an ancient text, but a very modern one... often credited to Doreen Valiente or more likely to Lady Gwen Thompson, or Lady Gwen's Grandmother, Adriana Porter, but in any case it is certainly less than 100 years or so old. Yet it is given the reference and 'weight' of an ancient document that was unearthed from under the Sphinx, or Stonehenge... .or copied down from a cave wall written in some dead language of our ancestors. It is in fact, like so much of 'modern Wicca/Witchcraft/Paganism', modern, and based on teachings and believes of certain individuals, not on the religious principles of say, the Ancient Egyptians, Hindus, Cherokee, Aztecs, Hawaiians, or Celts, or any of the original Pagans. They would not recognize it, nor certainly understand their modern peers adhering to it as if it was the dictate of one of the Gods' Themselves.
In this it has no more 'power' than any lovely poem by any of a dozen or more popular Pagan authors of the last century, or any of the (hopefully) countless ones that will come this century. It is simply a poem, and a 'code' written by some modern Witches for their particular covens use... somehow it morphed into "the Laws" of ALL Witches. I still meet people who think it is taken from some ancient monument, or sacred text. It amazes me how the poem seems to have taken on a mythic life of its own in its very few years.
Now, That bit of history being said, I think the Rede itself is a nice sentiment... Not my personal code of ethics, I prefer the older, truly ancient, and truly magical code of "karma." But The Rede is not a bad code, better than no code, for sure. But it does have a couple of flaws. Firstly, most people can only recall the 'short version, ' the "and ye harm none do as ye will" part. Alas, this is pretty vague, and pretty permissive for a 'code of conduct'... I as a mother, can't imagine telling my kids... Hey, y'all go do whatever you want to, as long as you don't actually hurt anyone." It totally overlooks right and wrong, morals, discipline, and manners. A lot of bad behaviors that really don't hurt anyone are in fact unlawful, immoral or both. One can't in good conscience go about doing whatever they personally wish, just as long as they spill no blood. It is irresponsible, shortsighted, and reckless, not to mention rather selfish. One's personal code of conduct, whatever it is for each person, should go a bit further, I think.
Even the long version (which varies somewhat depending on where you get it, whom you ask, and such, ) is less than complete in its rules, it still leaves basically all behavior up to each individual with only their own beliefs of what is best for the world, as their guide. Sad to say, but the truth is, few people can see past their own nose when it comes to right and wrong. A lot of people would think it was 'right' to shoot someone they disliked, or fire someone for being a certain religion, or race, or harass someone if 'they deserved it.' Many people often think they know what's best for others... saying they would make someone leave their husband, or quit their job, or seek treatment for an illness, all because 'it is what they really need.' The truth is, we as humans have great shortcomings when it comes to telling what is best for ourselves, much less best for others, or the world as a whole. Yet to a great degree the 'Rede' that so many Witches, Wiccans, and other Pagan traditions follow, gives us little guidance in the area of judging right from wrong, it tells us precious little in the way of how to behave, and centers mostly on 'free-will.' Free will, is of course a good thing... we are not Christian sheep to be herded about by thousands of 'thou shall not's" but we are not all-powerful, all-knowing Gods, to be given free reign, over the universe, either.
In some versions of the Rede, a lot of religious dogma, is at least included, in the absence of a true 'code of conduct.' It tells us things to do and when, magically. It tells of circles, moon sign, and what trees to use for what sorts of magic workings, and mentions the eight holidays.... all useful information, and a good place to put it, as so many study little of "Paganism" but that one document before declaring themselves, to be "Pagan/Witch/Wiccan/Druid/Shaman/etc." But alas, there are often differing opinions, on which trees to use for fertility... the Apple tree may indeed be used often, but the Hawaiians, used others, obviously. A tree used for healing in ancient Asia might have been used for other causes in ancient Africa. There is no hard and fast 'right' way to work magic, from which direction to start casting one's circle, from which direction to spin, when the moon is waning... no certain tree that is ALWAYS used for one certain potion. Magical practice varies greatly. So even the useful magical information in some of the Rede's longer versions can be rather confusing, if one happens to be of a different tradition, than the writers of the Rede were. There are in fact several "Rede's", some more useful in both information, and behavior management, than the others. But in all cases they lack the ancient and divine power that the mythical "Rede" is often wrongly assumed to carry.
The Rede is a piece of poetry written by modern Pagans, for their personal use, not a carved in stone, edict from the GODS, to be followed by ALL Pagans, ALL the time, and certainly not the ONLY rules one should follow in their personal behavior, unless they want to be very willful, selfish, and self-centered people. It is a sad truth that this document has been held up as 'our official code' of conduct. It reflects badly on us, within our own communities of traditions, and certainly without, in the greater community, when others look upon this document and think we are so willful and unrestrained in our selfishness. Nonetheless, it is a good thing that so many Pagans turn to this one document as a source as it at least gives our varied masses some sort of uniting point.
Alas, the Rede is a small step towards a real 'code of conduct.' It is more like a lovely poem, with a theme of behaving appropriately, it certainly does not go far enough to tell us how to do that, it only suggests we should try, and then gives us such a inflammatory... do as ye will, permission slip. We should all try to follow our own code of conduct. If some want to base theirs on the Rede, I hope at least they try expand on the Rede's simplex prescription for moral behavior and do more than just 'not harm, ' but instead go forth and do good, temper free-will with some morals and avoid all evil.
For further reading;
Various Versions of the "Rede." http://pagan.drak.net/sheathomas/alternate.html
Some interesting articles on the Rede and war, and other Pagan codes; the 9 noble virtues of the Norse, Karma, and such more ancient 'laws.' http://paganwiccan.about.com/library/weekly/aa091801a.htm
Another interesting take on the Rede http://www.starkindler.org/dianis/realrede.html
Location: Weaverville, North Carolina
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