Only a few weeks after my first book – Wicca: History, Belief, and Community in Modern Pagan Witchcraft – went on sale, a new publication of mine has just been popped through the letterbox. This time, it’s a research article that has been printed in volume 10, issue 2 of the academic journal Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press. Titled ““An’ it Harm None: Do What Ye Will”: A Historical Analysis of the Wiccan Rede”, the paper represents the first concerted attempt within an academic context to examine the Rede’s development during the 1940s-70s. As I explain in the article’s abstract:
In the 1950s, the English occultist Gerald Gardner (1884–1964) began propagating a magico-religious tradition now known as Gardnerian Witchcraft. At the foreground of a contemporary Pagan new religious movement that soon gained the name of “Wicca,” Gardner came to greatly influence the practices of hundreds of thousands of Wiccans across the Western world. Today, a common element of Wiccan belief is an ethical commandment known as the “Wiccan Rede”, usually articulated in a form akin to “an’ it harm none, do what ye will”, which seeks to guide practitioners in both magical and mundane affairs. But where did this Rede come from, and how did it develop? This research article seeks to answer those questions by undertaking a historical analysis of ethical beliefs within the early Wiccan movement. Examining Gardner's own evolving ethical beliefs with regards to the use of magic, it then examines how his initiate Doreen Valiente came to first proclaim the Rede at a prominent Pagan gathering in October 1964. It then analyzes the influence that the Thelemic Law of Aleister Crowley exerted on the wording of the Rede, before discussing its wider reception within the Wiccan movement and why practitioners of many rival traditions chose to reject it.
This latest issue of the journal does not appear to have been uploaded online to Project MUSE just yet, but keep an eye out here, where I hope that it should be appearing in the next few days!