Friday, October 21, 2005

The Wiccan Rede and Taking Care of Ourselves

One thing that I have spent much time thinking about since I started this blog is regarding the meaning and the impact of the Wicca Rede "And it harm none, do what you will." From what I have been reading, most people vaguely define the Rede as "as long as you don't cause harm to anyone, everything will be okay and you can go about your way." But it seems that most people do not include themselves in that equation.

One of the problems with the Wiccan Rede is that not many people define what "harm" is. I've seen it talked about as not hurting anyone. And by that, I am thinking that they mean physical and emotional harm to others. But what is "harm?" Harm can be either physical, mental, or emotional in nature. It can also mean harm that you cause to another and harm that you cause to yourself.

Much of harm we can do to ourselves usually shows up in the form of general health. Do we smoke, eat too much or too little, exercise to little, get enough sleep? All this can effect our well being, yet most people do not seem to take this into accouunt when talking about the Rede.

On September 30th, I was watching ABC news and they were talking about the health epidemic of kids, both in the US and in England. I think that this broadcast hit the point I am trying to make, and that is that most people do not take care of themselves today and seem not to care all that much. Much of the focus of this broadcast followed Jamie Oliver through his crusade of changing school lunches in England. Jamie Oliver said something along the lines of kids who are in grade school today are the 1st generation that will not live as long as their parents. He was saying this in regards to what the kids were eating in their schools.

So how can we start taking better care of ourselves and therefore bring our bodies back into balance so that we can function as we were meant to? I think we need to learn to listen to what our bodies are telling us while we eat and move. I also think we have to start paying more attention to the "normal" aches and pains. We can't ignore these pains, because this is an opportune time to fix something that has gone wrong with our bodies.

Now, I am talking about two different issues within this post - The Wiccan Rede and then I sidetracked to health. I have been sitting on this post for a little over a week trying to figure out what I want to say with it. I realized what I was trying to say when I read Daven's take on the Rede. I would have to say that I agree with him - the Rede is not adequate for today's Pagan. There needs to be a new way to express Pagan ethics without being too vague and simplistic.


Miranda said...

I've been seeing this issue raised a lot recently - hell, I even touched on it myself in a larger context here. It is something we all need to be thinking about, whether in terms of how it applies, if it applies at all, or what it actually means. We harm things every day, from our bodies slaughtering a bazillion microbes to stepping on bugs we don't even see to any number of things we might do totally unaware - not to mention the things we do with awareness, whether our intentions are good or ill. I can't think of any moral absolute that can be universally applied in living a life out in the world; there are always exceptions, always complications.

Paganism seems to be in large part about non-absolutism, so what is Wicca doing with such a bald one as its central ethical tenet, and what do the rest of us out here in the trenches have to say in response to it? "It's wrong" is one thing, but where do we go from there if that's the case? I'm glad to see those questions being faced with sincerity; it's long overdue.

Catherine Vocalist said...

Brilliant post!

Shawn Anthony said...

This is a very interesting question ... I'm not so familiar with the Wiccan Rede but I would tend to think that a lot of activity that "does no harm to others" can still be very detrimental to oneself. So, I tend to think the Rede as one of many possible guidelines, that shouldn't really be separated from each other during the decision process. Multiple questions may have to be asked before the decision is made.

A Minor said...

I find it bizarre that a line from a poem, of unknown author, has been turned into an ethical law. Firstly, how do we know the poet had any credibility at all? Secondly, its pretty obvious from the rest of the poem that the poet was using words to make couplets rhyme so the line is unlikely to have literal meaning. Thirdly, language evolves as does our interpretation of it so its unlikely we even understand what the line meant way back when. There is an interesting article comparing the wiccan rede with the ethics of reciprocity of other religions at

Sojourner said...

Thanks for all of your comments!

Inga - Thanks for the link. I will check it out.