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Is the Wiccan Rede Ethical?

By Donald Michael Kraig

[Snip] Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill,
An it harm none do what ye will.

The source of the rede (rede is a Middle English term meaning “counsel” or “suggestion”) is highly questionable. Some date it back to Bible (Romans 13:10 can be interpreted as similar to the rede in concept), Saint Augustine of Hippo (“Love, and do what you will”), John Stuart Mill’s “Harm Principle,” French author Pierre Louÿs’ 1901 book, The Adventures of King Pausolus (“Do not harm your neighbor; this being well understood, do that which pleases you.”), or Aleister Crowley’s famous “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”

Perhaps it was derived directly from one of these, perhaps indirectly, or perhaps it was just the founders of modern Wicca expressing their libertarian views. Whatever the source, as related to Wicca it first appears in a speech by Doreen Valiente in 1964. Various versions of it, including ones that are much longer, have appeared over the past half century, but the essence remains those eight words: An (Middle English for “If”) it harm none, do what ye will.

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