Harm None

Before I begin, I want to emphasize that not all Pagans are Wiccan, and therefore not all Pagans follow Wiccan teachings (which include the Rede).

To further muddy the waters, not all Wiccans view the Rede in the same way or follow it to the same extent.

First of all, what is the Rede? The Wiccan Rede is actually a longer piece of poetry, but it is often condensed down to the last line: "An it harm none, do what you will."

That is also often shrunk further to simply "Harm None". It's a simple idea, but one that can have deeply reaching consequences, depending on your interpretation.

Is it possible to have a religion that is only bound by one rule? Well, we like to think so, but many people who follow Judeo-Christian religions find it difficult to grasp.

The Rede has been the subject of much debate on and off in discussion rooms, and it is obvious that these two little words don't necessarily mean the same thing to everyone. So I thought I would offer up some ideas and thoughts on the Rede that might get you thinking. I think it's important to realize that there is more than one way to view the Rede.

Some people refer to the Rede as a rule, a law, or even a commandment. But others see it as more of a guideline to be applied to the best of your ability given the circumstances. The guideline viewpoint may be seen as wishy-washy to some, but it does offer more flexibility when making decisions in life. So few things are truly black and white, and you should remember that when applying the Rede.

Now the meat of it. What does "Harm None" even mean? Well, you probably already have a pretty clear idea what that means, but you shouldn't assume that your interpretation is the only one. Here are some variations on this that might make you stop and think for a moment about how you see "Harm None":

Vegetarianism - Does the killing animals to eat count as harm to them? 

Harm to Yourself - Should Wiccans abstain from any practice that could be considered harmful to themselves (smoking, dangerous sports, suicide)

Harm in Self Defence - Can you harm someone in order to protect yourself?

Non-Physical Harm - Do words count? Would the Rede prohibit mean remarks and insulting behaviour?

Harm to Belongings - What about doing harm to property? Is kicking over your neighbour's mailbox considered harm to the neighbour?

Consensual Harm - Does injury to a willing person count as harm (boxing, bondage or rough sex)

These are just a few examples of areas some people consider to be 'gray areas' when deciding where to draw the line of "Harm None". You may agree with or disagree with all the points I've mentioned, and that is just fine. How you choose to live by the Rede is your decision.

Another facet of this discussion, is whether the Rede is instructing us to "harm none" or not. That is a topic for another article.


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