Friday, June 1, 2012

The many interpretations of the Rede

The beauty of the different forms of Paganism is that the beliefs are open to interpretation by the individual. Disagreeing doesn't make the believer wrong. Unfortunately, it also leaves us open to interpretations from those who don't follow Pagan ways. The Wiccan Rede is a prime example of a belief that means one thing to the Pagans that follow it and something else entirely to many monotheistic followers. The long version of the Rede talks of ways to celebrate nature and its many cycles. Here are a few lines to illustrate:

Deosil go by the waxing moon, chanting out the joyful tune.
Widdershins go when the moon doth wane,
and the werewolf howls by the dread wolfsbane.

When the Lady's moon is new, kiss the hand to Her times two.
When the moon rides at Her peak then your heart's desire seek.

Though most of the discussion about the Rede come from the final line, eight small words that inspire a not-so-small debate.

If it harms none, do what you will.

For many Christians, this is interpreted to mean that we have free reign to do whatever we want regardless of what others think. I recently came across an article at that at first glance, and in the interest of religious tolerance, talked of how the line compares to the Golden Rule of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you". Though that tolerance only lasted for so long. The author came to the conclusion that where the Golden Rule was an active choice to treat others well, the Rede only says not to harm. We supposedly have no obligation to others.

"The act of merely doing whatever you please, but making sure
you don't hurt anyone in the process, is certainly not a negative concept in itself.
But it also doesn't spur anyone to do unselfish deeds for others."

What this author fails to recognize is that inaction that cause harms is no different than actions that harm. If I see someone in need and know I can help, but choose to do nothing, that is harm as well. Harming none encompasses so much more than choosing not to do something harmful. Though we don't need a rule or law to tell us this. Everyone with a compassionate heart, regardless of their faith, recognizes that we should treat everyone and everything with respect.