Your browser does not support script
TWV Presents...

Articles/Essays From Pagans

[Show all]

Views: 16,477,965

April 13th. 2014 ...

Magick and Consequences: My Experience with Sigils

Don't Talk Yourself Out of Trying Something New!

Being a Worrisome Witch

What to Do When the Spell/Ritual Flops

April 6th. 2014 ...

The Elements and the Quarters

Dark Moon Scry: Aries 2014

How the Wheel of the Year Works “Down Under”

13 Keys: The Understanding of Binah

March 30th. 2014 ...

Manifesting the Dream: On Religious Organizations, Pagan Abbeys and our Order

True Meaning of Community

Thoughts on Unverified Personal Gnosis

My Beautiful Grove- A Matter Of Perspective

March 23rd. 2014 ...

Spirituality and Social Change

The First Step to Anywhere!

March 16th. 2014 ...

From Christian to Pagan (Part I)

Nature And The Celtic Tree Calendar

The Teeth in the Darkness

March 9th. 2014 ...

Healing the Witch Within

Incarcerated Witches

Discovering Wicca as a Young Child

March Pisces Energy: Pre-natal Memories and Standing Upright

March 2nd. 2014 ...

Lessons of Ostara: Six Ways to Move Forward

The Wiccan Priest - The Misunderstood Role

Which is Which? Am I a Warlock or a Witch?

The Secret Teaching: Selected Aspects

February 23rd. 2014 ...

Wicca or Traditional Witchcraft: Some Differences

Everything is Not Under Your Control: Making Sense of the Senseless

The Wonders and Gifts of Paganism and Community

What Makes Us What We Are

February 16th. 2014 ...

The Stones of Fear: Anxiety Relief

Death, Grief, and Psychopomp Work in Shamanic Healing

Spiritual Traveler: Form To Essence

Alternative Medicine – What Is It?

February 9th. 2014 ...

Words of Power!

The Allure of Glamour in the Apocolypse

Lunar Insight Planetary Preponderances: Year of the Horse, Imbolc and Mercury Grazings

February 2nd. 2014 ...

The Magick of Jewelry and Metals

Building a Magick Mirror

The Golden Bough: a Study Guide (Part 2)

January 26th. 2014 ...

Love of Self: The Hardest Thing To Do

The Golden Bough as a Seminal Work in the Neo Pagan Movement (Part 1)

13 Keys: The Mercy of Chesed

Lightworking In The Screen Age: Staying Connected

January 19th. 2014 ...

Open Letter to the Goddess

A Southern Girl's Guide to Hospitality

Social Conventions and the Pagan World

Reclaiming Independence

January 12th. 2014 ...

Never Once Was There a An Athame Near My Chalice: My Very Sheltered Occultist Upbringing

One Wiccan's Journey Through Depression

January 5th. 2014 ...

Religion vs Practice: Defining Witchcraft in a Modern Age

Traditional Apprenticeships: Training in the Modern Pagan Abbey

2014's Magickal Magnificent Manifestations!

Lunar Insight Moon Musings, Planetary Preponderances: Wise and Wild

December 29th. 2013 ...

My Top Ten Favorite Cauldrons (Part 3)

13 Keys: The Might of Geburah

Beyond The Season of Greed

December 22nd. 2013 ...

My Top Ten Favorite Cauldrons (Part 2)

December 15th. 2013 ...

The Hex Murder of 1928

My Top Ten Favorite Cauldrons (Part 1)

Lady of the Forest Mist (A Story of the Woods)

Lunar Insight Moon Musings: Hunting, Fires and Parting Shots

December 8th. 2013 ...

Help and Thoughts for Pagans New to the Journey

Using Your Wand in Reverse

The Cry of the Soul

Leaving a Group - Part 2: Leaving, Healing and Moving Forward

December 1st. 2013 ...

The Tarot as a Tool for Raising Consciousness

A Pragmatic Look at Neo Paganism

Leaving a Pagan Group – Part 1: To Leave or to Stay?

November 24th. 2013 ...

The Groovy Aquarian Christ: Jesus From a Pagan Perspective

The Pagan and the Papacy

November 17th. 2013 ...

Which Witch? Philosophical and Psychological Roots of Wicca

For Love of the God

A Threat to Religious Liberties?

November 10th. 2013 ...

Where did Aleister Crowley’s Influence on Wicca Go?

Thoughts on the Threefold Law/Law of Return

The Celtic Tree Calendar

Nine Creeds: A Statement and Explanation of My Beliefs

November 3rd. 2013 ...

The Mundane/Spiritual Mirror: What Does it Say About Your Life?

October 27th. 2013 ...

Thoughts On a Miley-Cyrus/ Robin-Thicke Society

Pagan Religious Communities in your Area: Connecting With and Creating Them

NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.

Article Specs

Article ID: 11948

VoxAcct: 335670

Section: words

Age Group: Adult

Days Up: 2,379

Times Read: 3,769

RSS Views: 34,285
The Rede of the Wiccae and Lore-Text in Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’

Author: Zan Fraser
Posted: October 14th. 2007
Times Viewed: 3,769

In their book The Rede of the Wiccae (Olympian Press, 2005), Robert Mathiesen and Theitic examine the twenty-six rhyming couplets (presented collectively as The Rede of the Wiccae) published in the mid-1970s by Lady Gwen Thompson as inherited from her grandmother Adriana Porter.

The analysis of these two learned scholars is that The Rede is the product of two authors.

One appears to have composed seven of the twenty-six couplets, at a time after the publication of Gerald Gardner’s Witchcraft Today, which seems to have influenced them.

The other nineteen reflect (as the writers say on Page 77) “traditional lore and lore-texts that were once the common property of the folk.”

“Lore-text” is identified on Page 58 as an outcome of oral culture- some traditional folk-knowledge or lore transmitted through memorization and repetition in a (relatively) fixed form. Lore-texts may include proverbs, weather-sayings (“Red at night! Sailors’ delight! Red in the morning- sailors take warning!”) and such like.

The fifth couplet of the Rede, for instance (“Soft of eye an light of touch- speak little, listen much”), serves as a good piece of folk-advice in general, and has not really so much to do with Wicca, except for the fact that we can all think of coven-mates and such like that we wish would “speak little- listen much” a bit better than they do.

On Page 63, Mathiesen and Theitic cite other traditional lore-texts, including Isobel Gowdie’s famous “Horse and hattock” charm (which is found elsewhere in folklore).

Part of the undeniable un-canniness of the rhyming couplets of the Rede (and of traditional lore-texts in general) is their metrical form- Mathiesen and Theitic note that the majority of the lines exist in what they identify as regular meter and what fans of Mr. Shakespeare understand as iambic meter. An “iamb” is a sequence of two beats, the first punctuated: Boom boom.

Sentences are constructed by stringing iambs together; Shakespeare’s most formal speech comes to us in iambic pentameter, meaning each sentence is built of five iambs, producing ten beats that alternate between punctuated, unpunctuated, punctuated, unpunctuated.

Mathiesen and Theitic observe that the preferred form for magical lore-texts is the seven syllable-line. (They point out that each line of the First Verse of the Cauldron Speech “beats out” to seven syllables: “Eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog- Double, double, toil and trouble, Fire burn and cauldron bubble.”)

It should be remembered that Shakespeare is writing the Scottish Play (that must not be Named, like the V-guy in Harry Potter ) at a time quite soon after the ascension of the anti-witch King James; therefore he kind of doesn’t have any choice in his depiction of Witches- hence the indulgence in stereotypical anti-Witch propaganda. (“Toil and trouble!”)

If we eliminate from the Speech the disagreeable words, we are left with three Witches essentially chanting in what soon becomes a hypnotic, tranced-out state- punctuated at the end of every verse by a pleasing rhyming couplet.

(The “toil and trouble” is the only part that makes the couplet difficult for us. “Double, double” is actually a pretty common witch-refrain, presumably meant to stir up mystical or esoteric energies.

Observation of the burning fire should be familiar to anyone who has ever attended a fire circle and a bubbling cauldron serves as a symbolic instrument for excited energies.

Ben Jonson, in his play The Masque of Queens, has his Witches chant, “Rubble, rubble” at one point- possibly in imitation of thunder. If one replaced “toil and trouble” with “rubble, rubble, ” one could utilize the most famous witch-couplet in the world as a circle-charm: “Double, double, rubble, rubble- fire burn and cauldron bubble.”)

In the Cauldron Speech and at the top of Act I (scene iii), Shakespeare clearly satisfies the currently fashionable anti-witch social stance. Various things suggest that he wants his audience to think of the Three in a different manner, however.

The story of the Scottish King is very ancient- so ancient that it pre-dates the Jacobean malignant hag-stereotype, as Shakespeare’s audience would have been aware. The story, being Scots in origin, must count as Celtic- the Witches perform a Witches’ Magickal Rite by chanting in rhyming iambic verse while they circle the exceptionally Celtic pagan symbol of a cauldron.

Early versions of the story describe the Three much in the manner of Rhiannon or Morrighan- as Celtic magic-women, three-formed. Shakespeare (for some reason) makes a point to describe them in his text as the Weird Sisters- that is, as the Anglo-Saxon Goddesses of Destiny otherwise known as the Norns. (The Folio spells their name as both “Weyward” and “Weyard.”) All of this suggests a conception of Pagan Divinity.

Another indication that Shakespeare does not mean us to take too seriously the sick comedy of Jacobean hags that opens the Third Scene of Act I is that he essentially starts the scene over again, at the Scottish Guy’s approach.

The Weyard Sisters, who have been amusing themselves plotting revenge upon a “rump-fed ronyon, ” focus themselves for the witchy matter at hand of Uttering Sibylline Prophecies, that the Scottish Guy might know his future.

Accordingly, they chant out a seven-beat-line lore-text that I call the Wyrrd Sisters’ Charm.

The Wyrrd Sisters, hand in hand,
Posters of the sea and land,
Thus do go about! About!
Thrice to thine and thrice to mine
And thrice again to make up nine!
Peace! The charm’s wound up.

Each line consists of seven beats- except for the second-to-last, which stretches out to eight- before the charm is interrupted with “Peace!” Four lines of seven beats yields twenty-eight beats. If you add the eight beats of the next line, you will have thirty-six: 3+6=9.

Someone very carefully composed this charm, which is of a nature with other examples of lore-text charms. Mathiesen and Theitic in fact reference it on Page 75, although they do so as an example of the use of a triple circle as magic-working technique. Far more intriguing to my mind is that the fact that the Charm is an example of lore-text- lore-text that is artfully constructed and lore-text that seems to describe energy-raising.

This is a matter that I discuss much more fully in my book A Briefe Historie of Wytches, alongside other period dramatic examples of witches raising energy in the course of Elizabethan/Jacobean theater.

However- what does the Wyrrd Sisters Charm do, we ask. It describes a scenario- it imagines the Wyrrd Sisters dancing hand-in-hand and about, about- dancing out one series of triple circles, then reversing direction and dancing out another series, then one more series back the first way. Then they stop with the observation that the charm’s wound up.

The fascinating thing is that the Charm describes so well what is a very familiar situation to every Neo-Pagan who has ever participated in a fire circle or a drum circle- that of becoming deliberately excited, so excited that the energies start to rise up. Our only text for the Scottish Play being the Folio (the collection published by Shakespeare’s fellow actors after the Great Bard’s death), we may affix the Folio’s publication date of 1623 to the Charm.

Like Mathiesen and Theitic examining Lady Gwen’s couplets, we must ask- who wrote the Charm? My guess is Shakespeare himself, who seems to have found witchcraft in general to be a very interesting thing, as he refers to it a great deal.

I don’t think the Bard of Avon counts as a Closet Witch or as a secret Practitioner of the Ancient Arts for this- he simply lived in an age that was very interested in witchcraft and magic. Elizabeth openly employed the wizard Dr. Dee; many other playwrights produced “Witch Plays, ” implying box-office interest.

Reginald Scot published his book urging tolerance for supposed witches in the 1580s and (Burning Times notwithstanding) England clearly enjoyed thriving communities of cunning-folk.

I think, wishing some sort of magickal rite with which to initiate things with the Scottish Guy- Shakespeare counted out and composed a little Charm for the Weyard Sisters to chant. Of course he cannot help but reflect the folklore of his time- and so his Charm becomes a lore-text that speaks to us from across the ages and that implicitly describes to us what Shakespeare’s time understood as “witchcraft.”

William Shakespeare wrote a lore-text charm sometime prior to 1623. This charm describes witches performing magickal witchcraft by dancing in circles- until the moment when their charm is wound up.

This seems to me to describe nothing so well as raising energy. But that would imply that in 1623 they understood “witchcraft” as involving raising energy.


Zan Fraser

Location: New York City, New York


Other Articles: Zan Fraser has posted 22 additional articles- View them?

Other Listings: To view ALL of my listings: Click HERE

Email Zan Fraser... (Yes! I have opted to receive invites to Pagan events, groups, and commercial sales)

To send a private message to Zan Fraser ...

Pagan Essays

Pagan Web
8,000 Links

Pagan Groups
Local Covens etc.

80,000 Profiles

Home - TWV Logos - Email US - Privacy
News and Information

Chapters: Pagan/Heathen Basics - Pagan BOOKS - Traditions, Paths & Religions - Popular Pagan Holidays - TV & Movies - Cats of the Craft - Festival Reviews - Festival Tips - White Pages (Resources) - Issues/Concerns - West Memphis 3 - Witch Hunts - Pagan Protection Tips - Healing Planet Earth

Your Voices: Adult Essays - Young Pagan Essays - Pagan Perspectives (On Hold) - WitchWars: Fire in the Craft - Gay Pagan - Pagan Parenting - Military - Pagan Passages

Pagan Music: Pagan Musicians - Bardic Circle at WitchVox - Free Music from TWV

Vox Central: About TWV - Wren: Words, Wrants and Wramblings - Guest Rants - Past Surveys - A Quest for Unity

Weekly Updates: Click HERE for an index of our weekly updates for the past 6 years

W.O.T.W. - World-Wide Networking

Your Town: A Link to YOUR Area Page (The largest listing of Witches, Pagans, Heathens and Wiccans on the Planet)

VoxLinks: The Pagan Web: 8,000 Listings

Your Witchvox Account: Log in Now - Create New Account - Request New Password - Log in Problems

Personal Listings: Pagan Clergy in Your Town - Adult Pagans - Young Pagans - Military Pagans

Events: Circles, Gatherings, Workshops & Festivals

Covens/Groups/Orgs: Local Groups Main Page

Other LOCAL Resources: Local Shops - Regional Sites - Local Notices - Global/National Notices - Local Skills & Services - Local Egroups - Political Freedom Fighters

Pagan Shopping: Online Shops Index - Original Crafters Sites - Auction Sites - Pagan Wholesalers - Pagan Local Shops

Web Site Content (including: text - graphics - html - look & feel)
Copyright 1997-2014 The Witches' Voice Inc. All rights reserved
Note: Authors & Artists retain the copyright for their work(s) on this website.
Unauthorized reproduction without prior permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Website structure, evolution and php coding by Fritz Jung on a Macintosh G5.

Any and all personal political opinions expressed in the public listing sections (including, but not restricted to, personals, events, groups, shops, Wren’s Nest, etc.) are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinion of The Witches’ Voice, Inc. TWV is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization.

Sponsorship: Visit the Witches' Voice Sponsor Page for info on how you
can help support this Community Resource. Donations ARE Tax Deductible.
The Witches' Voice carries a 501(c)(3) certificate and a Federal Tax ID.

Mail Us: The Witches' Voice Inc., P.O. Box 341018, Tampa, Florida 33694-1018 U.S.A.
Witches, Pagans
of The World

Search Articles

 Current Topic
 Editorial Guide

NOTE: The essay on this page contains the writings and opinions of the listed author(s) and is not necessarily shared or endorsed by the Witches' Voice inc.

The Witches' Voice does not verify or attest to the historical accuracy contained in the content of this essay.

All WitchVox essays contain a valid email address, feel free to send your comments, thoughts or concerns directly to the listed author(s).