“Rede” is a Middle English term that means to give counsel, advise, interpret, or explain. In a more archaic sense it also means to give an account or tell a story.
There are many versions of the Witches Rede and many choose to write their own based on the original version. The full witches rede is quite long, but the most quoted phrase is:
"Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill – an it harm none, do what ye will"
And the basis of the threefold law is:
"Ever mind the Rule of Three. Three times what thou gives returns to thee. This lesson well, thou must learn, thy only gets what thou dost earn."
This essentially says that whatever you do will come back to you with three times the power. Do good, and it will be revisited upon you with good things, but do evil, and you will suffer three times worse.
There are several different schools of thought on the Rule of Three and the Rede. Some Wiccans and Pagans will tell you in no uncertain terms that it’s rubbish, and that it is not a law at all, but just a guideline used to keep people on the straight and narrow. Other groups swear by it.
No one likes the idea of Pagans and Witches running around flinging curses and hexes about, so the Law of Three is actually quite effective in making people stop and think before they act. Quite simply, it’s the concept of cause and effect. When crafting a spell, any competent Witch is going to stop and think about the end results of the working. If the possible ramifications of one’s actions are likely to be negative, that hopefully would make us stop and re-think.
Although the Law of Three & the Rede sound prohibitive, many Wiccans see them instead as a useful standard to live by. It allows you to set boundaries for yourself by stopping to think about whether you are prepared to accept the consequences, whether they are good or bad for your deeds in the magickal and mundane.
Ultimately, whether you accept the Law of Three or the Rede as cosmic morality injunctions or simply a part of life’s instruction manual, it is up to you to govern your own behaviour, both mundane and magical. Accept personal responsibility, and always think before you act.
I personally would never send out a direct curse, I do live by the rede & the threefold law ... to a point. You still have a right to protect yourself and your family from pain, hurt and down right evil. It would be stupid to stand by and watch someone you love get hurt because you were worried about karma. There are ways to deal with it.
So does this mean you just have to sit there and watch someone be ill-treated or manipulated? No, I don't believe it does, and I don’t. Does it mean if someone is attacking you, psychically or physically, that you just have to leave yourself undefended? No, I don't believe it does, and I don't.
There are acceptable ways of dealing with these problems. If someone is known to be acting with evil intent and harming others, one method to prevent them doing further harm is known as 'binding'. The object of this spell is to render their evil actions ineffectual. The spell is against the deed, not the doer. This gives the doer the opportunity to change.
As for revenge? I believe the universe will take care of the rest. And I whole heartedly believe that the universe will, I have seen it happen. I had a particularly nasty experience with so called friends a few years ago. One person in particular caused an awful lot of grief for myself and my close friends. I did a spell to rid my life of negative energies and fill it with positive ones (it thankfully worked beautifully in fact even more so than I expected) I wasn't specific, but I also asked at the same time that the universe deal with the person in question and their actions as the universe saw fit. It did, that person definitely ‘reaped what they had sowed’ and I did not have to put myself in the situation of sending out a curse.
Ultimately I believe it is up to the individual to judge how they wish to live their lives. I choose to live by the rede and the threefold law as a guideline, and I believe they are good guidelines, but they are not inflexible!
I like this version of the rede found on the net (author unknown)
Bide the Wiccan Laws we must
In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust.
Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfil:
"and ye harm none, do what ye will."
LEST IN THY SELF-DEFENSE IT BE,
Ever mind the rule of three.
Follow this with mind and heart,
and merry ye meet
and merry ye part.
I'm a witch...I don't curse or hex...but don't mess with me, coz the universe is on my side ;-)
Image by Philip Straub