In order to discuss the Wiccan Rede, let me recite it here for you before we begin the discussion.
Bide ye Wiccan laws ye must,
in perfect love and perfect trust.
Live and let live, fairly take and fairly give.
Form the circle thrice about, to keep all evil spirits out.
To bind ye spell every time, let ye spell be spake in rhyme.
Soft of eye, light of touch, speak ye little, listen much.
Deosil go by the waxing moon, singing out ye Witches’ Rune.
Widdershins go by the waning moon, chanting out ye Baneful Rune.
When the Lady’s moon is new, kiss your hand to her times two.
When the moon rides at her peak, then ye heart’s desire seek.
Heed the North wind’s mighty gale, lock the door and trim the sail.
When the wind comes from the South, love will kiss thee on the mouth.
When the wind blows from the West, departed souls may have no rest.
When the wind blows from the East, except the new and set the feast.
Nine woods in ye cauldron go, burn them fast and burn them slow.
Elder be ye Lady’s tree, burn it not or cursed ye’ll be.
When the wheel begins to turn, soon ye Beltaine fire’ll burn.
When the wheel hath turned to Yule, light the log the Horned One rules.
Heed ye flower, bush and tree, by the Lady blessed be.
Where the rippling waters flow, cast a stone and truth ye’ll know.
When ye have and hold a need, harken not to others greed.
With a fool no season spend, nor be counted as his friend.
Merry meet and merry part, bright the cheeks and warm the heart.
Mind ye threefold law ye should, three times bad and three times good.
When misfortune is anow, wear the blue star upon thy brow.
True in love ye must ever be, lest thy love be false to thee.
In these eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill,
‘An ye harm none, do what ye will.
(Published in the Green Egg magazine in 1975)
The Wiccan Rede is a poem. Being a poet myself, I know that the true meaning of any poem lies with the poet and as such, the reader will have to accept the fact that the interpretation that follows will be the interpretation of the Rede according to Lady Sirius.
Finding corroboration in books and on internet sites for my original interpretation has proven difficult, if not nearly impossible. Every second site on the Internet and the majority of books published do contain the Rede in one form or another, but I could find none analyzing the poem comprehensively. It appears that only the last two lines of the Rede is receiving attention and that extensive writings exist on these. Perhaps it is defensive, perhaps it is informative or perhaps it is the easy way out.
Still, it is an interesting – and in its own way -, beautiful poem and to Witches all over the world, of great importance. Who wrote it and when was it written? That is open to debate. I have seen the Wiccan Rede accredited to Lady Gwynne Thompson’s grandmother – A. Porter, but in analyzing the poem one gets the feeling that it comprises of bits and pieces put together by different authors at different times. There is also a small dispute as to when it was written. A poem from antiquity it is not and the academic analysis still continues to this day to determine if it is pre- or post 1954. None of this is really important. The importance of the poem lies in the message it contains and the guidance it provides to witches on many different areas in the Craft.
The language used is a little hard to understand and pseudo archaic. Instead of translating the poem stanza by stanza into understandable English (which by the way will not make the poem any clearer), I am going to offer the reader – where appropriate – with an interpretation instead, thus clarifying the message I believe it holds.
The first thing that struck me about the poem initially was that when I put the various stanzas together in a logical poem format instead of in a list format, the text took on a moon shape. It is not a perfect circle though, but appears to be more like the reflection you would see of a full moon on water. To me this is significant for two reasons. Firstly, the moon is associated with the Triple Goddess – Maiden, Mother, Crone. Secondly, the poem reflects on the ethics, conduct and worship of witches. Whether the shape that emerged was intended, only the original poet will know.
Rede, by the way, does not mean – as is often implied. The very first line of the poem instructs the Witch to abide by the Laws of the Witches, so perhaps that is where the confusion comes from. “Rede” is an archaic word meaning advice or explanation. So perhaps, the Witch’s Rede offers both. But on what? I personally believe that we do not have a view of the full picture. The poem offers advice and explanation of the Law. Which Law? There have been many written by many covens and institutions over the years. Assuming that Adrianna Porter wrote the Rede, it would be helpful to obtain the specific Laws she refers to for the sake of clarity.