Harm None and the Rede?
Article ID: 14557
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: July 31st. 2011
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The rede is a very important thing to me and most other Wiccans I know, and some other branches of Paganism. However I feel that this important piece is highly misunderstood by a lot of the community. I have seen it again and again so I thought that I would maybe try to clear up a few important points that I have found.
Please read the whole thing before you judge my above statement, I understand that some of you might disagree with the points I am about to make and I respect your different views and opinions even if I do not personally agree. You can feel free to think what you think but I have not heard my view put out there in the past so I feel that I must do it now.
‘Harm none.’ What do these two words imply? To harm nothing would be to not exist. To live is to cause harm and death so that the cycle of life can go around. There are microorganisms in the air that when you breathe you kill them. Every time you eat you are causing harm, if you eat meat then someone had to end the life of your meal and even if you don’t eat meat then you are still causing harm to the plant you are eating, for it too was a living organism.
Anything you say can harm another human, even if you tell your religion to a loved one who is against it then you are harming them in some way. If someone attacks you then you would you use what you could to survive or let him or her do what they will because you refuse to cause harm on them? The latter option is impractical, unsafe, and if you chose it you probably would not be mentally all right even if you did live through it.
I do not know why people can think that they truly follow this code in life when it is clearly out of the questions in some situations. However is it even a code?
People who claim to ‘harm none’ do so usually by following the rede thinking that this is what the rede says. However the rede I have found and follow says, ‘An ye harm none, do what ye will.’ The two words mentioned earlier are by no means the only part of the rede as it consists of all eight words. If the eight words were there then it would stand to reason that all of them would share an equal importance.
As mentioned above, I have a very hard time excepting that the only two words in the rede that are important is ‘harm none’ because then the rest of the rede would not be there at all. This is not a short story either where words just get thrown in even if they have little to no meaning within the context of the larger story. This is one sentence that every word has to be perfectly chosen and placed in order to make the meaning get across in such a short amount of space.
In modern language this translates into, ‘if you harm none then you may do as you will.’
Note again it does not say only ‘harm none.’ The ‘if you, ’ or ‘an ye, ’ implies the choice. Such as if a mother said to their child, ‘if you eat your dinner then you may have your chocolate cake.’ If you do something then you will get a sort of reward in return. I know that this is not the basis of Wicca, or Paganism in general, but it is the best example I can come up with for trying to get across my point. So now that we have established what the first four words mean lets move on to the next four.
‘Do what ye will.’ Now this part I feel is much more straightforward than the first four words. It is well known that in Paganism there is no dogma that you MUST follow and there are no rules that direct your behavior. We do not condemn as some monotheistic religions do, threatening with hell fires and the like. However as this alone would make sense, the Pagan paths to not look for this type of behavior as you have to have some structure (what that structure is depends on the particular path that you choose to follow) . But you should also realize that this is also not quite what the rede is telling us. The last part is that we have to take the two parts discussed so far and add them together.
Now there is another common misunderstanding of what it says at this point. I would like you to realize now that if the rede meant to say that you could do whatever you want as long as what you do doesn’t do harm then it would have been worded much differently. It would read, ‘Do what ye will, if ye harm none.’ Think again of the parent and child, this situation would say something along the lines of ‘you can only play in the park if you don’t use the sandbox.’ And yet again this is not how the rede is read.
What it is saying, however, is that if what you are doing causes no harm then you can do it freely. It is not commending the action of causing harm but implying that you may not do harm lightly, with no purpose. Harm is inevitable and the rede I lives by tells me that a logical reason, such as surviving or happiness or well being, is necessary if one decides that they need to cause harm. Harm should not be done without reason however it is inevitable.
This is the rede I live by, ‘An ye harm none, do what ye will.’
Now again this is just how I view the rede and it may be interpreted differently. I will respect other views on it but I would like to say that some things are plain impossible for humans to accomplish.
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