If you’re new to Wicca, you may hear a rumor in the online Pagan community that Wicca is a religion without rules. This isn’t exactly true. In the first lesson of the Maiden’s Circle Covenpath course, students are asked to read some common texts in the Pagan community known as The Ordains, as well as the Wiccan Rede and Witches Creed. These are sets of rules that Wiccans have used for guidance. Gerald Gardner, often called the “Father of Wicca,” first presented The Ordains to the public in the 1950s, and Doreen Valiente, well-known Wiccan priestess, gave us the Rede and Creed in the next two decades. For simplicity, I will refer to these collectively as the Laws.
While it is true that Wicca is an embracing and widely varied belief system that is constantly growing and evolving, these Laws have been accepted as the founding tenets for the religion. As such, they are included in the course’s introduction lesson. The lesson urges students to examine these rules and interpret them in a way that is best understood on a personal level. Students are asked to consider how they have or have not lived by these Laws and what each rule means to them.
Such a task, however, might lead to a slight panic when one realizes she doesn’t follow even half of these rules, especially some of the more archaic lines. At least, that was my response the first time I read the Ordains and the Rede. I followed that panic by trying to force every feasible rule into my life. You might imagine how overwhelming it was! I beat myself up every time I was less than pious. When that failed, I completely abandoned the Laws, waving them off as unnecessary. Doing that left me with a feeling of falseness, so I decided to take a few steps back and to re-examine these rules I’d long ago sought to understand while beta testing the course.
For a while, I just read them over and over. I thought about them in meditation and read them each time I opened my Book. I didn’t try to change my lifestyle or force myself to follow all the rules; I just read them. Over time, they began to sound different. With the Ordains, I’ve found myself incorporating most of the rules into my daily life without even noticing; and there are no feelings of guilt behind the rules I don’t follow. With the Rede, I’ve remembered history, lessons, and practices I had forgotten, concepts learned when I first began my Pagan studies over a decade ago. With the Creed, I’ve found guidance and a source of joy.
My experience this time around has been significantly less stressful, and I think that’s because I wasn’t actually trying to follow these rules when I set out. My goal was just to read them, to reacquaint myself with the words. In doing so, I’ve deepened my connection with Wicca and with the roots of my practice.
I don’t believe any set of rules should be adhered to with absolute obedience. And I think many in the Pagan community would agree. I think that contributes to the idea of Wicca being a lawless religion. But just because we aren’t a dogmatic religion, that doesn’t mean we don’t have guidelines. These Laws are a part of Wiccan history. I believe that anyone who chooses to follow a religion, no matter how eclectic their practice, should know the philosophies that helped that religion come to be.
Every Wiccan I’ve met does remember the main principle of the Laws. It is that principle that holds us together, that guides us, even when we know little else: to live our lives as we see fit, so long as we do not actively harm others. Many of us go further and take steps to try to alleviate the suffering of others, as we believe we’re all implicit in the unfortunate injustices of the world due to the makeup of modern society. We can’t cure the ills of society just yet, but we do what we can to share love and healing. That is what these Laws remind me of, and that is why they are important.
As always, with great blessings and endless love,
Lady Morgana Brighid HP MCCA
Am I just old-fashioned? What do the Laws mean to you, dear readers? How do they fit into your lives? Let me know what you think in the comments!
1. And ye harm none, do as ye will.
2. If you know the Rede is being broken, you must work strongly against it.
3. Watch, listen and withhold judgment; in debate may your silences be long, your thoughts clear and your words carefully chosen.
4. Never boast, or threaten, or speak evil of anyone.
5. Be truthful always, save when speaking would lead to a great harm.
6. Keep clean your body, your clothes, and your house.
7. Should you take a task upon yourself, work hard and well to accomplish it properly and in good time. Always do the best you can.
8. Do not haggle over the price of your ritual tools.
9. Witches know that there are no absolute truths.
10. Witches understand that the universe consists of perfect balance; therefore,
everything has an opposite.
11. Witches realize that for every action there is a reaction. (The Law of Three).
12. Witches know that we are all one, we are all connected.
13. Never lie to yourself for this is the ultimate act of deceit.
14. Witches understand that the ultimate act of spirituality is the act of positive creation through love.
15. Witches realize that the energy created through worship and rituals manifests as a circular stream of positive energy.
16. Witches should never close their minds to knowledge.
17. Never practice a magickal system that you don’t fully understand.
18. Do not set a price on your magickal work.
19. A Witch uses the magickal circle as a physical and non-physical representation of a temple on the earth plane.
20. Witches use the energies around them to assist in raising power.
21. Witches use common sense and do not share their mysteries with fools.
22. A Witch who knowingly breaks the Law (Ordains) will not be permitted to
incarnate on Earth again.
The Wiccan Rede
(Full Version By Doreen Valiente)
Bide the Wiccan Redes ye must, In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust; Live ye must and let to live, Fairly take and fairly give; Form the Circle thrice about, To keep unwelcome spirits out; Bind fast the spell every time, Let the words be spoke in rhyme.
Soft of eye and light of touch, Speak ye little, listen much; Deosil go by waxing moon, Sing and dance the Witches’ Rune; Widdershins go by waning moon, Chant ye then a baleful tune; When the Lady’s moon is new, Kiss hand to her times two; When the moon rides at peak, Heart’s desire then ye seek.
Heed the North wind’s mighty gale, Lock the door & trim the sail; When the wind comes from the South, Love will kiss them on the mouth;
When the wind blows from the West, departed souls have no rest; When the wind blows from the East, Expect the new and set the feast.
Nine woods in the cauldron go, Burn them quick, burn them slow; Elder be the Lady’s tree, Burn it not or curs’d ye’ll be; When the wind begins to turn, Soon Beltane fires will burn; When the wheel has turned to Yule, light the log, the Horned One rules.
Heed the flower, bush or tree By the Lady blessed be’ When the rippling waters flow cast a stone – the truth you’ll know; When ye have & hold a need, Hearken not to others’ greed; With a fool no seasons spend, Or be counted as his friend.
Merry meet and merry part Bright the cheeks, warm the heart; Mind the threefold law ye should, Three times bad and three times good; Whene’er misfortune is enow, Wear the star upon your brow; True in troth ever ye be Lest thy love prove false to thee.
‘Tis by the sun that life be won, And by the moon that change be done; If ye would clear the path to will, Make certain the mind be still; What good be tools without Inner Light ? What good be magic without wisdom-sight ? Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill – An it harm none, do what ye will.
The Witches Creed
Hear now the word of the witches,
The secrets we hid in the night,
When dark was our destiny’s pathway,
That now we bring forth into light.
Mysterious Water and Fire,
The Earth and the wide-ranging Air,
By hidden quintessence we know them,
And we will keep silent and dare.
The birth and rebirth of all Nature,
The passing of Winter and Spring,
We share with the life universal,
Rejoice in the magical ring.
Four times in the year the Great Sabbat
Returns, and the witches are seen
At Lammas and Candlemas dancing,
On May Eve and old Hallowe’en.
When day-time and night-time are equal,
When sun is at greatest and least,
The four Lesser Sabbats are summoned,
Again Witches gather in feast.
Thirteen silver moons in a year are,
Thirteen is the coven’s array.
Thirteen times at Esbat make merry,
For each golden year and a day.
The power has passed down the ages,
Each time between woman and man,
Each century unto the other,
Ere time and the ages began.
When drawn is the magickal circle,
By sword or athame of power,
Its compass between two worlds lies,
In the land of the shades of that hour.
Our world has no right to know it.
And the world beyond will tell naught.
The oldest of Gods are invoked there,
The Great Work of magic is wrought.
For two are the mystical pillars,
That stand at the gate of the shrine,
And two are the powers of Nature,
The forms and the forces divine.
The dark and the light in succession,
The opposites each unto each,
Shown forth as a God and a Goddess:
Of this did our ancestors teach.
By night he’s the wild winds rider,
The Horn’d One, the Lord of the Shades.
By day he’s the King of the Woodland,
The dweller in green forest glades.
She is youthful or old as she pleases,
She sails the torn clouds on her barque,
The bright silver Lady of Midnight,
The crone who weaves spells in the dark.
The master and mistress of magic,
They dwell in the deeps of the mind,
Immortal and ever-renewing,
With power to free or to bind.
So drink the good wine to the Old Gods,
And Dance and make love in their praise,
Till Elphame’s fair land shall receive us
In peace at the end of our days.
And Do What You Will be the challenge,
So be it in Love that harms none,
For this is the only commandment.
By Magick of old, be it done!