The Wiccan Rede: A Historical Journey

Part 4: Rede Timeline

by John J. Coughlin

Below is a quick timeline for various sources, inspirations, or appearances of the Rede or related events. Although I have a rather extensive library, I am sure I am missing some early books and newsletters that may help fill in the gaps. I consider this paper a "work in progress" and encourage you to contact me at jcoughlin (at) waningmoon.com if you have any information to share. Please keep in mind, however, that I need to be able to confirm the sources to ensure accuracy although I also welcome first hand experiences, if only to lead me to new material.

Note: First Publication dates given for all books unless otherwise noted.

Date Source Quote/Notes
1534 Francois Rabelais' novel Gargantua "DO AS THOU WILT because men that are free, of gentle birth, well bred and at home in civilized company possess a natural instinct that inclines them to virtue and saves them from vice. This instinct they name their honor."
(Crowley's Inspiration)
1901 Pierre Louÿs's The Adventures of King Pausole (English version in 1919) I. Do no wrong to thy neighbor.
II. Observing this, do as thou pleasest.
(Gardner’s Inspiration)
1904 Crowley’s The Book of the Law "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law."
(Possible influence on Gardner and others familiar with O.T.O. or Crowley)
1946 (various sources) Adriana Porter, who is said to have written the version of the Rede printed in 1975 in Green Egg, dies.
1952-1953 Doreen Valiente's The Rebirth of Witchcraft Doreen Valiente meets (1952) and is initiated (1953) by Gardner. (If Valiente did not write Rede, any sources could possibly predate this time.)
1956 Gerald Gardner’s The Meaning of Witchcraft "[Witches] are inclined to the morality of the legendary Good King Pausol, "Do what you like so long as you harm no one".
(This is the first book on "modern" witchcraft to site the ethics of witchcraft.)
1957-1961 The Old Laws, Gerald Gardner's Gardnerian (public) Book of Shadows: (Section D.1 ) "And for long we have obeyed this law, 'Harm none'"
(Reflect general consensus that Witches did not tend to have a desire to cause harm.)
1964 (various sources) Gerald Gardner dies.
1964 Doreen Valiente Speech "Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfil, An' it harm none, do what ye will."
(First time Rede as we know it today mentioned publicly?)
1964 Pentagram newsletter published by Gerard Noel in UK "Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfil,
An' it harm none, do what ye will."
1965 Justine Glass' Witchcraft, The Sixth Sense "The Wiccan Rede (i.e. Counsel or advice of the Wise Ones) is: 'An ye harm no one, do what ye will.'"
Note wording is different.
(First book I have found to mention the Rede)
circa 1965-66 The Waxing Moon newsletter published by Joseph B. Wilson in USA Joseph Wilson clearly remembers reprinting Valiente's words in The Waxing Moon but he could not give an exact date as sadly his archive had been lost several years ago.
1969 and 1971 Hanz Holzer's The Truth About Witchcraft Mentioned Doreen Valiente’s 1964 Speech and quotes the Rede.
"Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfil, An' it harm none, do what ye will."
(Although this book is now out of print and lost popularity as Wicca became more publicly known, this was the first book to give insight into the various types of modern witches at a time when this information was not widely available, and peaked much interest in the public.)
Circa 1970/71 Alex Sander's lecture on the Book of Shadows "the motto of Wicca: 'An it harm none - do what ye will."(This could have influenced early Alexandrians and possibly others)
1971 Stewart Farrar's What Witches Do The last chapter of the book (excluding the appendices) ends as follows:
"So I end as the Book of Shadows begins:
Eight words the Wiccan rede fulfill:
An it harm none, do what you will."
1973 Doreen Valiente's An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present "[Witches'] morality can be summed up in one sentence, 'Do what you will, so long as it harms none.'"
1973 Dr. Leo Louis Martello, Witchcraft: The Old Religion "Witch credo 'And ye harm none do what thou wilt'"
(Mentions the "credo" was published in a student newspaper, The Villanovan, in 1972)
1975 Lady Gwen Thompson, Green Egg magazine, Vol. III. No. 69 (Ostara 1975) Last line of her Rede Of The Wiccae:
"26. Eight words ye Wiccan Rede fulfill - An' it harm none, Do what ye will."
(This was the most visible appearance of the Rede to date.)
1978 Doreen Valiente’s Witchcraft for Tomorrow "Eight Words the Wiccan Rede fulfil: An it harm none, do what ye will. This can be expressed in more modern English as follows: Eight words the Witches' Creed fulfil: If it harms none, do what you will."
Longer poem, the Witches' Creed also introduced.
(First book by a well established Witch to print the Rede?)

Part 5: Conclusion

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© 2001-2010, John J. Coughlin. This text may be disseminated freely for educational purposes provided it includes proper credit containing a link back to waningmoon.com.

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