As a beginning Craft student, I loved the Rede. My tradition uses a long version, not just the 8 words, and to this day, I think it's a beautiful poem. Most of us are familiar with "Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill, an it harm none, do what ye will." But what is harm?
At first, it's easy to think that we can follow this simple rule, bouncing happily through life, not harming folks. We're all about the love, right? Perfect love and perfect trust. Pass the chalice, y'all! But as our studies go deeper and our lives wind on, we encounter situations that aren't so cut and dried. If we take our Wiccan studies seriously, we develop a skill set that demands a high level of personal responsibility. Whether you're versed in making magickal teas and potions or you study the ancient art of incantation (bear with me, I'm a Trad witch, so Wicca includes magic for me...I realize it doesn't for some), or you're a green Wiccan with an awesome garden, you know stuff, and knowledge is power. Then there's the mundane world, in which we walk with our Craft and non-Craft brethren on a daily basis. Can we honestly say that we can live without harming anyone or anything? I don't know about you, but my teas kill flu viruses, and killing is harm. I step on ants occasionally. I have eaten things that used to live and breathe. I've cut people off in traffic and been a general meanie.
Regardless of whether we embrace the veracity of the Three-Fold Law, which some Wiccans don't include in their lexicons, there's the simple question of whether we can honestly say that we're square with ourselves in the ethics department.
I recently got a super-size dose of this in the form of a real threat from another person. I met a fellow writer through happenstance, and being a social person, I agreed to meet him at a local restaurant where we talked about writing for a couple of hours. He told me about his book and I told him about the magazines for which I had written. We had a couple beers, some onion rings, and laughed a lot. It was great! Great until, having told this person I was married and monogamous, he started texting me with sexually explicit messages. When I told him to stop, he got nasty. Imagine my chagrin when he said to me that I didn't have his real name and I "couldn't stop him" if he wanted to harrass me. Having seen "Fatal Attraction," I began to sweat.
I had the texts and tried to do a "reverse look up" on the guy to no avail. As a former social worker, I knew how to get a harrassment order, but the police told me to hire a lawyer (cha-ching!) because I'd need to subpoena the records to find out the guy's identity in order to press charges. So you know what I did? Without a moment's hesitation, I made a poppet and performed a binding spell.
I found that, for all my spouting about "harming none," when it came down to it, I had no problem using my Wiccan skill set to keep myself safe. After the jar was safely buried and my heart rate returned to normal, I puzzled over a nice pint of chocolate ice cream. Hmmm, I said to myself. Is it really harm to keep someone from harming me? After all, the spell did seek to interfere with someone's free will....
The conclusion to which I came, whether it's a rationalization or not, is that we do indeed have the right to keep someone from harming us through magical means. Or, at least, I feel that I do, personally. Will I take a karmic hit for it? Possibly. But you know what? The creep never texted me again.