The Wiccan Rede is one of the only other standard religious documents in Wicca’s arsenal. However, it takes an entirely different approach than the Charge of the Goddess. The Wiccan Rede is much more concerned with what you should be doing – it’s not a devotional. So how do you interpret this document? And how does it incorporate into your personal practice?
The History of the Wiccan Rede
The original eight words – the last eight words of the poem below – were spoken publicly by Doreen Valiente in 1964. The phrase is remarkably simple, and echoes the “Golden Rule”, although we think it goes a little farther:
Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill, An it harm none do what ye will.
Ten years later, the full form of the Wiccan Rede – often referred to as “the Long Wiccan Rede” was published in Green Egg magazine by Lady Gwen Thompson. She attributed the poem to her grandmother, although historians have questioned that claim. Regardless of origin, the Long Rede is an excellent piece of literature with roots in a colorful spiritual tradition.
The Structure of the Poem
The Wiccan Rede poem has a simple structure consisting of 26 rhyming couples, for 52 total lines. The lines serve as instruction: on morals, on behaviors, and on specific practices during sabbats and esbats (Wiccan holidays).
Because the Rede was published under somewhat mysterious circumstances, it is essentially in the public domain, and so, many people have remixed, expanded upon, and made art itself from the Rede’s words. It’s a shame that the poem was never properly claimed by its author so that we could give respect where it was due.
Is The Wiccan Rede A Set Of Rules I Have To Follow?
No, I don’t think so. I think of the Wiccan Rede as an ideal, not a strict set of rules. “Do what you will” implies that you may do anything you’d like, but there are some caveats to doing so. It’s important to remember that this is an ideal – it is not meant to be used as a measuring stick. Measuring yourself constantly is a symptom of shame-based religions and has no place in Wicca.
Although it’s a document that was likely written in the 1900s, it’s written with enough ancient flare to feel mysterious and fun. For example, couplet 24 says, “When misfortune is enow, wear the blue star on your brow.” This is a vexing verse for some of us. Do we literally wear a blue star on our forehead? What does “enow” even mean? For years, I thought it meant “impending” – apparently it’s an archaic word meaning “enough.” So when we’re ready to tap out, we’ll put the blue star on our brow?
Because of the poem’s complexity, it makes great reflection and meditation fodder. I was kidding in the paragraph above – but deeper reflections on that verse bring me a sense of purpose and comfort. When misfortune is all around us, wear a symbol of your faith. Connect with your faith. Cry out and place your cares on the universe. Let go of control so that you can find your way through the chaos.
How Can I Read It?
Good news! It’s right here. I’ve got a plain text version down below, perfect for screen readers or copy/pasting into your own Book of Shadows. And I’ve got a pretty, printable PDF version for you to hang on your wall if you so desire. Whatever floats your boat!
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ORIGINAL / PLAIN TEXT: The Wiccan Rede
Being known as the counsel of the Wise Ones:
1. Bide the Wiccan Laws ye must In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust.
2. Live an’ let live – Fairly take an’ fairly give.
3. Cast the Circle thrice about, To keep all evil spirits out.
4. To bind the spell every time – Let the spell be spake in rhyme.
5. Soft of eye an’ light of touch – Speak little, listen much.
6. Deosil go by the waxing Moon – Sing and dance the Wiccan rune.
7. Widdershins go when the Moon doth wane, An’ the Werewolf howls by the
8. When the Lady’s Moon is new, Kiss thy hand to Her times two.
9. When the Moon rides at Her peak Then your heart’s desire seek.
10. Heed the Northwind’s mighty gale – Lock the door and drop the sail.
11. When the wind comes from the South, Love will kiss thee on the mouth.
12. When the wind blows from the East, Expect the new and set the feast.
13. When the West wind blows o’er thee, Departed spirits restless be.
14. Nine woods in the Cauldron go – Burn them quick an’ burn them slow.
15. Elder be ye Lady’s tree – Burn it not or cursed ye’ll be.
16. When the Wheel begins to turn – Let the Beltane fires burn.
17. When the Wheel has turned a Yule, Light the Log an’ let Pan rule.
18. Heed ye flower bush an’ tree – By the Lady Blessed Be.
19. Where the rippling waters go Cast a stone an’ truth ye’ll know.
20. When ye have need, Hearken not to others greed.
21. With the fool no season spend Or be counted as his friend.
22. Merry meet an’ merry part – Bright the cheeks an’ warm the heart.
23. Mind the Threefold Law ye should – Three times bad an’ three times good.
24. When misfortune is enow, Wear the Blue Star on thy brow.
25. True in love ever be Unless thy lover’s false to thee.
26. Eight words ye Wiccan Rede fulfill – An’ it harm none, Do what ye will.