Deja Broom: The Rede and Flogging the Equine Carcass
"DEJA BROOM" denotes a blog repost from my old site. Feel free to read anew, or refresh your memory to re-live the ranty goodness. Otherwise, skip this repeat and await more modern mayhem.
I don't want to make this into yet another full blown beating of an already dead horse (hence the blog title), but comments I've heard lately make me think perhaps a gentle note concerning the Rede was in order.
First, not all pagans, nor all witches for that matter, acknowledge or follow the Rede.
Second, the Rede was not invented by Gerald Gardner. The version that Gardner used in his work is pretty widely accepted to have been derived from a few different sources, not the least of which came from Gardner's interactions with Aleister Crowley and the O.T.O.
What Gardner was passed by his initiators --- and yes, Virginia, Gardner had initiators, he did NOT invent this thing called "Wicca" --- was a skeletal system of beliefs, practices and rituals. Like other burgeoning occultists of his time, Gardner had often sought out and traded information with other practitioners, using his best judgment to reconcile the information he gleaned to from others against any then-known historic evidence in order to corroborate and supplement the set of practices, rites and ideas he had been given to work with.
This was not any mindless grabbing of whatever came across Gardner's path, as some of the more fluffy variety of eclectics do today. No sir!
Gardner took vast amounts of reference notes, had intellectual dialogs in person with other occult contemporaries and wrote many, many letters to others not within his immediate scope of travel. Most of these letters are not available or currently accessible to the general pagan populace, but as an initiate, I assure you they do exist.
Getting back to the Rede discussion...
Third, the Rede has often been cited and misconstrued in modern parlance (post the neo-Wicca explosion starting in the mid 1980s) as a morality tool or censuring of conduct. This is not the way the Rede was meant or intended as it was presented by Gardner to his students. That the meaning of the Rede has been altered into something used to "scare" practitioners into following a certain ethics standard or group of social mores is a recent affectation. The way the Rede is oft recited and defined today shows some meandering away from the original meaning and interpretation that Gardner had intended it for his students and downline initiates.
This, I believe, to be primarily due to the way the Rede and other elements of what had been material intended for a limited, properly trained and oathbound audience were subsequently modified and co-opted by the masses, being (re-)defined by folks who had...ahem..."come to such information through illicit means" by stealing such information from Gardner's work.
The Rede, like other documents collected and written by Gardner and his various HPS kindred were originally only supposed to be privy to oathbound initiates. As such, often the written material had accompanying oral lore and teachings that would be passed from teachers to students that would clarify, and further explain, the written items.
So when this material, that had once been the sole intellectual property of those who were duly trained in the way Gardner himself was trained, found exposure through...ahem….inappropriately published sources….the written material alone did not fully convey the whole picture.
However, because these now public voices and published authors were not exposed to these elements via the usual training from which they ...ahem..."borrowed"... the information, these people were not privy to the way the material was intended to be dispersed as part of the closed Tradition. They only saw what was "written" by Gardner and did not also receive the oral lore which accompanies the written and which would have further explained and defined the Rede in the way Gardner meant it to be understood by his students.
This left the door open for the publishers and plagiarizing authors to offer up their own opinions on what they felt was the meaning behind a pretty vaguely written sentence. Essentially, in so doing, they were taking Gardner's idea out of its original full context of the teaching, using only an abbreviated version and then changing it with their own theoretical understanding of the abbreviation.
It was like they got a recipe for a cake with a few ingredients missing and then attempted to pass of their lop-sided, inedible finished product to everyone as the same delicious cake with buttercream frosting as if they had indeed used all ingredients.
Add to this the passage of time (try like 50+ years worth) and the actions of "the telephone game" which can slightly alter things just by permutations upon permutations of individual interpretation....and you get the watered down, off-the-mark way you hear the Rede rattled off the cuff by a lot of folks today ---- that the Rede means "You're allowed to do absolutely anything you feel like but in doing so cause no harm to anything or anyone, ever!" ….as if this is hard and fast dogma.
A veritably impossible task if ever I've heard one! No wonder some witches think it is a bunch of horse-pucks!
Fourth, the real meaning of the Rede is not “You have carte blanche to do whatever you want so long as you don’t hurt anyone or anything.” That is logically impossible anyway. Anytime you affect a change, you alter the status quo and in doing so, you’re essentially hurting something that was accustomed to the status quo.
Nor should the Rede be taken as a dire warning about having your “karma” go up or down on some cosmic akashic tally sheet of the Gods. It is a euphemism all about being mindful of, and taking personal responsibility for, your words, your actions, your deeds and your witchery. The accountability for same is not necessarily three-fold (another euphemism) but you’d better believe that when you will and enact a change, something will also enact a change in, for, or to you. Gee, sounds a lot like quantum physics and natural law, doesn’t it?
Hmmm, maybe some folks need a visit to the hard science section of the book store along with the usual jaunt down the New Age aisle, eh?
Now let's send this poor horse back out to its pasture in the Summerlands, shall we?