Long Rede | What is the Rede?

This is from the Book of Shadows I was given to copy. All of the bits were numbered, just as they are here. I have heard a great deal of debate about the "authenticity" of these, too. All I know for sure is that I have encountered this in several different traditions.

These laws were set up during the Burning Times. Although most are not needed now, they serve to remind us of what it was like to be a Witch in those days.

The Lady forfend that they ever be needed again!


The One Hundred and Sixty-One Laws

1. The law was made and ordained of old. 2. The law was made for the Wicca to advise and help in their troubles. 3. The Wicca should give due worship to the Gods and obey their will, which they ordain, for it was made for the good of the Wicca, as the worship of the Wicca is good for the Gods. For the Gods love the Brethren of the Wicca. 4. As a man loveth a woman by mastering her, 5. so the Wicca should love the Gods by being mastered by them. 6. And it is necessary that the Circle, which is the temple of the Gods, should be duly cast and purified, that it may be a fit place for the Gods to enter. 7. And the Wicca should be properly prepared and purified to enter into the presence of the Gods, 8. as has been taught of old. 9. For in this way only may man have a commune with the Gods. 10. With love and worship in their hearts, they shall raise power from their bodies, to give power to the Gods. 11. For the Gods cannot help man without the help of man.

12. And the High Priestess shall rule her coven as the representative of the Goddess. 13. And the High Priest shall support her as the representative of the God. 14. And the High Priestess shall choose whom she will, be he of sufficient rank to be her High Priest. 15. For as the God Himself kissed Her feet in the five-fold salute, laying His power at the feet of the Goddess, because of Her youth and beauty, Her sweetness and kindness, Her wisdom and justice, Her humility and gentleness and generosity. 16. So He resigned all His power to Her. 17. But the High Priestess should ever mind that all power comes from Him 18. It is only lent, to be used wisely and justly. 19. And the greatest virtue of a High Priestess be that she recognize that youth is necessary to the representative of the Goddess. 20. So she will gracefully retire in favor of a younger woman, should the Coven so decide in Council. 21. For the true High Priestess realizes that gracefully surrendering pride of place is one of the greatest virtues. 22. And that thereby she return to that pride of place in another life, with greater power and beauty.

23. In the old days, when Witchdom extended far, we were free and worshipped in all the greatest temples, but in these unhappy times, we must celebrate our Sacred Mysteries in secret. 24. So be it ordained by ______ that none but the Wicca may see our Mysteries, for our enemies are many, and torture loosens the tongues of men. 25. So be it ordained by ______ that no Coven shall know where the next Coven bide, or who its members be save only the Priest and Priestess and the Messenger. 26. And there shall be no communications between them save only by the Messenger of the Gods or the Summoner. 27. And only if it be safe may the Covens meet in some safe place for the Great Festivals. 28. And while there, none shall say whence they come, nor give their true names. 29. To this end, that if any be tortured, in their agony, they may not tell if they do not know. 30. So be it ordained by ______ , that no one shall tell anyone, not of the Craft, who be of the Wicca, or give any names, or whence they bide, or in any tell anything which can betray any of us to our foes. 31. Nor may he tell where the Covendom be 32. Or the Covenstead. 33. Or where the meetings be. 34. And if any break these laws, even under torture, the curse of the Goddess shall be upon them, so they may never be reborn on Earth, and may they remain where they belong, in the Hell of the Christians.

35. Let each High Priestess govern her Coven with justice and love, with the help and advice of the High Priest and the Elders, always heeding the advice of the Messenger of the Gods, if he comes. 36. She will heed all complaints of all brothers and strive to settle all differences among them. 37. But it must be recognized that there will always be people who will ever strive to force others to do as they will. 38. These are not necessarily evil. 39. And they oft have good ideas and such ideas should be talked over in Council. 40. But if they will not agree with their brothers, or if they say: 41. "I will not work under this High Priestess." 42. It hath ever been the Old Law, to be convenient for the Brethren to avoid disputes. 43. Any of the Third may claim to found a new Coven because they bide over a league from the Covenstead or are about to do so. 44. Anyone living within the Covendom and wishing to form a new Coven shall tell the Elders of their intention and on the instant avoid their dwelling and remove to a new Covendom. 45. Members of the old Coven may join the new Coven when it is formed, but if they do, they must utterly avoid the old Coven. 46. The Elders of the old and new Covens should meet in peace and brotherly love to decide the new boundaries. 47. Those of the Craft who live outside both Covendoms may join either but not both. 48. Though all may, if the Elders agree, meet for the Great Festivals, if it be truly in peace and brotherly love. 49. But splitting the Coven off means strife, so for this reason these Laws were made of old, and may the curse of the Goddess be on any who disregard them. So be it ardained.

50. If you would keep a book, let it be in your own hand of write; let brothers and sisters copy what they will, but never let the book out of your hands, and never keep the writings of another. 51. For if it be found in their hand of write, they may be taken and arraigned. 52. Let each guard his own writings and destroy them whenever danger threatens. 53. Learn as much as you can by heart, and when danger is past, rewrite your book an it be safe. 54. For this reason, if any die, destroy their book, an they have not been able to. 55. For an it be found, 'tis clear proof against them. 56. And our oppressors know well: "Ye may not be a Witch alone." 57. So all their kin and friends be in danger of torture. 58. So destroy everything not necessary.

59. If your book be found on you, 'tis clear proof against you alone. You may be arraigned. 60. Keep all thoughts of the Craft from your mind. 61. If the torture be too great to bear, say; "I will confess. I cannot bear the torture. What do you wish me to say?" 62. If they try to make you talk of the Brotherhood, do not. 63. But if they try to make you speak of impossibilities such as flying through the air, consorting with the Christian Devil, or sacrificing children or eating men's flesh. 64. To obtain relief from the torture, say: "I had an evil dream, I was beside myself; I was crazed". 65. Not all magistrates are bad; if there be any excuse, they may show mercy. 66. If you confessed ought, deny it afterwards. Say you babbled under torture; say you knew not what you said. 67. If you are condemned, fear not. 68. The Brotherhood is powerful and will help you to escape if you stand steadfast. But if you betray ought, there is no hope for you in this life or that to come. 69. Be sure, if steadfast you go to the pyre, drugs will reach you, you will feel naught. You but go to death and what lies beyond, the ecstacy of the Goddess.

70. To avoid discovery, let the working tools be as ordinary things that any may have in their hands. 71. Let the Pentacles be of wax so that they may be broken at once, or melted. 72. Have no sword unless your rank allows it. 73. Have no names or signs on anything. 74. Write the names or signs on them in ink immediately before consecrating them, and wash it off immediately afterwards. 75. Let the color of the hilts tell which is which. 76. Do not engrave them lest they cause discovery.

77. Ever remember, ye are the "Hidden Children of the Goddess", so never do anything to disgrace them or Her. 78. Never boast, never threaten, never say you would wish ill of anyone. 79. If any person, not in the Magick Circle, speak of the Craft, say: "Speak not to me of such, it frightens me. 'Tis evil luck to speak of it." 80. For this reason: The Christians have their spies everywhere. They speak as if they were well affected of us, as if they would come to our meetings, saying; "My mother used to go to worship the Old Ones. I would I could go myself." 81. To such as these, ever deny all knowledge. 82. But to others, ever say: "Tis foolish men talk of Witches flying through the air. To do so they must be light as thistledown. And men say that Witches all be bleary-eyed old crones, so what pleasure can there be at a Witch meeting such as folks talk on?" 83. And say: "Many wise men now say there be no such creatures." 84. Ever make it a jest and in some future time, perhaps, the persecution may die and we may worship our Gods in safety again. 85. Let us all pray for that happy day. 86. May the blessings of the Goddess and the God be on all those who keep these laws which are ardained by ____.

87. If the Craft have any appanage, (land granted by a sovereign ) let all guard it, and help to keep it clear and good for the Craft. 88. And let all justly guard all monies of the Craft. 89. But if any brother truly wrought it, 'tis right they have their pay, an it be just. And this be not taking money for the Art, but for good and honest work. 90. And ever the Christians say, "The labourer is worthy of hire," but if any brother work willingly for the good of the Craft without pay, tis to their greatest honour. So be it ardained by ______ and _______.

91. If there be any quarrels or disputes among the Brethren, the High Priestess shall straightly convene the Elders and inquire into the matter and they shall hear both sides, first alone, then together. 92. And they shall decide jointly, not favoring the one side or the other. 93. Ever recognizing there be people who cannot work under others. 94. But at the same time there be some people who cannot rule justly. 95. To those who ever must be chief, there is one answer. 96. Void the Coven or such another one or make a Coven of your own, taking with you those who will go. 97. To those who cannot, justly the answer be, "Those who cannot bear your rule will leave you." 98. For none may come to meeting with those whom they are at variance. 99. So, an either cannot agree, "Get hence, for the Craft must ever survive!" So be it ardained by ______ and ______.

100. In the olden days, when we had power, we could use the Art against any who ill-treated the Brotherhood. But in these evil days, we must not do so! For our enemies have devised a burning pit of everlasting fire, into which they say their god casteth all the people who worship him, except it be the very few who are released by their priest's spells and masses; and this be chiefly by giving monies and rich gifts to receive his favour, for their God is ever in need of money. 101. But as our Gods need our aid to make fertility for man and crops, so is the god of the Christians ever in need of man's help to search out and destroy us. Their priests ever tell them that any who get our help are damned to this hell forever, so men be made mad with the terror of it. 102. But they make men believe that they may escape this hell if they give victims to the tormentors. So for this reason, all be forever spying, thinking, "An I catch but one of the Wicca, I will escape this fiery pit." 103. So for this reason, we have our hidels, and men searching long and not finding say; "There be none, or if there be, they be in a far country." 104. But when one of our oppressors dies, or even be sick, ever they cry, "This be Witches' malice!" and the hunt is up again, and though they slay ten of their own to one of ours, still they care not. They have countless thousands. 105. While we are few indeed. So be it ardained by _____ and ______. 106. That none shall use the Art in any way to do ill to any. 107. However much they injure us - harm none - and now times many believe we exist not. 108. That this law shall ever continue to help us in our plight. No one, however great an injury or injustice they receive, may use the Art in any way to do ill or harm any. But they may, after great consultations with all, use the Art to restrain Christians from harming the Brothers but only to let or constrain them. 109. To this end; men will say: "Such an one is a mighty searcher out and a persecutor of old women when they desire to be Witches, and none that hath done him harm, so it be proof they cannot, or more truly there be none." 110. For all know full well, that many folk have died because someone had a grudge against them, or were persecuted because they had none to bribe the searchers and many have died because they were scolding old women. So much so that men now say that "only old women be Witches." 111. And this be to our advantage, and turns suspicion away from us. 112. In England and Scotland, tis now many a year since a Witch has died the death. But misuse of the power might raise the persecution again. 113. So never break this Law, however much you are tempted, and never consent to it being broken in the least. 114. If you know it is being broken, you must work strongly against it. 115. And any High Priestess or High Priest who consents to its breach must immediately be deposed. "For tis the blood of the Brethren they endanger."

116. Do good, an it be safe and only if it be safe. 117. And strictly keep to the Old Law. 118. Never accept money for the use of the Art. For money ever smeareth the taker. "Tis sorcerers and conjurers and priests of the Christians who ever accept money for the use of the Arts." 119. And they sell pardons to let men escape from their sins. 120. Be not as these. If you accept no money, you will be free from temptation to use the Art for evil courses.

121. All may use the Art for their own advantage, or for the advantage of the Craft, only if you are sure you harm none. 122. But ever let the Coven debate this at length. Only if all be satisfied that none be harmed may the Art be used. 123. If it is not possible to achieve your ends one way, perchance the aim may be achieved by acting in a different way, so as to harm none. May the curse of the Goddess be on any who break this Law. So be it ardained by _______ and _______.

124. Tis judged lawful if any of the Craft need a house or land and none will sell, to incline the owner's mind so as to be willing to sell, providing it harm it not in any way and the full price is paid, without haggling. 125. Never bargain or cheapen anything you buy by the Art. So be it ordained by ________ and ________.

126. Tis the Old Law and most important of all laws that no one may do anything which will endanger any of the Craft, or bring them into contact with the law of the land, or any of our persecutors. 127. In any dispute between the Brethren, no one may invoke any laws but those of the Craft. 128. Or any tribunal but that of the Priestess, Priest and the Elders.

129. It is not forbidden to say as Christians do: "There be Witchcraft in the land." because our oppressors of old make it heresy not to believe in Witchcraft, and so a crime to deny it, which thereby puts you under suspicion. 130. But ever say, "I know not of it here, perchance there may be, but afar off - I know not where." 131. But ever speak of those as old crones, consorting with the Fiend and riding through the air. 132. And ever say: "But how may many ride the air an they be not light as thistledown?" 133. But the curse of the Goddess be on any who cast suspicion on any of the Brotherhood. 134. Or who speaks of any real meeting place where any abide.

135. Let the Craft keep books with the names of all herbs which are good and all cures so all may learn. 136. But keep another book with all the Bills and Apices, and let only the Elders and other trustworthy people have this knowledge. So be it ardained by ______ and _______. (Bills are probably laws, and "apice" is the plural of "apex".) 137. And may the blessings of the Gods be on all who keep these Laws and the curse of both the God and the Goddess be on all who break them.

138. Remember the Art is the secret of the Gods and only may be used in earnest and never for show or vainglory. 139. Magicians and Christians may taunt us saying: "You have no power. Show us your power. Do magic before our eyes. Then only will we believe." seeking to cause us to betray our Art before them. 140. Heed them not. For the Art is holy and may only be used in need. And the curse of the Gods be on any who break this Law. So be it ardained by _______ and _______.

141. It ever be the way with women and with men also, that they ever seek new love. 142. Nor should we reprove them for this. 143. But it may be found to the disadvantage of the Craft. 144. As, so many times it has happened that a High Priest or High Priestess impelled by love, hath departed with their love, that is, they have left the Coven. 145. Now, if a High Priestess wishes to resign, she may do so in full Coven. 146. And this resignation is valid. 147. But if they should run off without resigning who may know if they may not return in a few months? 148. So the Law is this: If a High Priestess leaves her Coven, she be taken back and all be as before. 149. Meanwhile, if she has a deputy, that deputy shall act as High Priestess for as long as the High Priestess is away. 150. If she returns not at the end of a year and a day, then shall the Coven elect a new High Priestess. 151. Unless there be a good reason to the contrary. 152. The person who has done the work, should reap the benefit of the reward, maiden and deputy of the High Priestess.

153. It hath been found that practicing the Art doth cause a fondness between aspiriant and tutor, and it is the cause of better results if this be so. 154. And if for any reason, this be undesirable, it can easily be avoided, by both persons from the onset firmly resolving in their minds to be as brother and sister or parent and child. 155. And it is for this reason that a man may be taught only by a woman and a woman by a man, and that woman and woman and man and man should never attempt these practices together. So be it ardained by _______ and _______.

156. Order and discipline must be kept. 157. A High Priestess may and should punish all faults. 158. To this end: All the Craft must receive their correction willingly. 159. All properly prepared, the culprit should be told his fault, and his sentence pronounced. 160. Punishment should be followed by something amusing. 161. The culprit must acknowledge the justice of the punishment by kissing the hand of the High Priestess on receiving sentence, and again thanking for punishment received. So be it ardained by ______ and _______.


Here end the Laws. Blessed Be!

Long Rede | What is the Rede?