The Wiccan Rede has been the subject of much debate for a long time. Not only is the debate about when the Rede was first included in Wicca, but also what exactly is meant by "Harm None".
The Wiccan Rede is a piece of poetry that is often condensed down to the last line: "An it harm none, do what you will." The Rede is seen by most as very similar to the Golden Rule, a belief that is found in nearly every religion. Harm None. Is it possible to have a religion that is only bound by one rule? I like to think so.
It is obvious that these two words don't necessarily mean the same thing to everyone. I think it's important to realize that there is more than one way to view the Rede. "Harm" is defined as "physical or mental damage" and to this we can add "psychic damage" as well.
Some people refer to the Rede as a rule, a law, or even a commandment. But most others see it as more of a guideline and you must use the best of your ability given the circumstances. So few things are truly black and white in life and you should remember that when applying the Rede.
The Rede does not command us to "harm none". It tells us that any action that will harm none is acceptable. And what about actions that do cause harm?
Harm in Self Defense - Can you harm someone in order to protect yourself or loved ones?
Harm to Yourself - Should you abstain from things that could be considered harmful to yourself such as smoking, drinking, suicide, etc.
Non-Physical Harm - Do words count? Would the Rede prohibit mean remarks and insulting behavior?
Consentual Harm - Does injury to a willing person count as harm such as boxing, bondage or rough sex.
Harm to Belongings - What about doing harm to property? Is knocking over your neighbors trash can doing harm to your neighbor?
Our desire to "Harm None" must be tempered with common sense. These are just a few examples of areas you should consider when deciding where to draw the line of "Harm None". You may agree with or disagree with all the points mentioned, and that is just fine. How you choose to live by the Rede is your decision.
Witches do not believe that true morality consists of observing a list of thou-shalt-nots. Their morality can be summed up in one sentence, "Do what you will, so long as it harms none." This does not mean, however, that witches are pacifists. They say that to allow wrong to flourish unchecked is not 'harming none'. On the contrary, it is harming everybody.1
To view the full rede click here.
 Doreen Valiente, An ABC of Witchcraft Past & Present, 1973, page 55