There has been quite a lot of discussion about these concepts in recent days, I've noticed. So, I thought I'd touch on those concepts a little. This is the material I teach folks in my Outer Court group, because the eternal question always comes up: "Does Traditional Craft believe in the Rede and the Three-Fold Law?"

The answer is "Yes, though not in the way you may think." Let me explain.

The Rede
Probably the most popular phrasing of this concept is contained in Doreen Valiente's work: "An it harm none, do what you will." Interesting, and simple. If it doesn't harm anyone, do what you like. It is permitted if no one comes to harm. Right?

Please note the fact that nowhere in that phrase is anything mentioned about acts that do cause harm. The Rede has nothing to say about such acts. All it talks about is the permissability of acts that cause no harm to anyone - it says they are explicitly permitted.

This is not a phrase intended to limit action. It is a phrase intended to free the witch from the silly limitations that the culture we grew up in imposed on us. Our culture - and in particular, the dominant religions - have imposed a huge slew of "Thou shalt nots" that we absorb growing up. The Rede, then, tells us to look critically at what is forbidden, and if it results in genuine harm to no one, then it is permitted to the witch.

Thus, the Rede frees, it does not constrict.

Where, then, are we told what we can't do? Nowhere. The witch is expected to be a responsible, well-trained adult magician capable of understanding the ramifications of her actions, occult and otherwise. The witch is expected to accept responsibility for everything he does, and to embrace whatever lumps he may have coming.

Being a witch means deciding that some of those "lumps" are worth taking. People love to tout out extreme situations, including murder and rape. Are spells punishing these permitted? Are they forbidden?

The Craft does not say. It says "You have to decide that." Physics tells us that for every action, there is a reaction, and the spiritual and energetic landscape is not exempt from this. Anyone who tells you otherwise has either not engaged in genuine magical Workings or has deliberately blinded themselves to the ripples that every one of our actions cause.

The Three-Fold Law
This is another often-misunderstood concept. There's lots of analogies and metaphors that can be used to best describe it, but I come from a theater background, so I'm going to use one of those.

Have you ever seen the spotlights used in theaters? Well, theater spotlights use things called gels, which are thin films of transparent colored material set into a frame that you can slide in front of the spotlight in order to change the color of the light. Need a blue spotlight? Just slide a blue gel in front of one of them, and you're good to go.

Sending energy into the world is like being a spotlight. Your intention, your mental state of being, your emotions at the time are all "gels" to the energy - they color it.

But now imagine what would happen if someone were to shine a flashlight back into the spotlight. Technically, the light coming through the gel and striking the spotlight would also be colored. That's our "three fold" law at work - what you receive from the world is just as colored by your frame of being as what you send out into the world. Angry people tend to perceive the world in a haze of anger, and depressed people see only the most morose things the world has to offer. It's the same thing.

So, does that energy come back three times as strong?! No, that's a simple one. It's "threefold" simply because as conscious occultists aware of our effects on the world, we can't help but be affected by such things on a physical, spiritual and mental level. Three-fold.

Thus, ultimately, we are forbidden nothing. But we have to make decisions based not on "thou shalt nots," but by figuring out if the potential repercussions - which are natural things, not some kind of vast karmic law - it just happens. And we know it happens, whether or not we have "pure intent" or whatever. Sometimes, it's worth it. Sometimes, it's not. But it's a mature decision that has to be made, and the only ones who can make it for us is us.

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I love your definition of the Threefold Law....thank you for sharing...very informative to me!!
There is an interesting legend among some Jewish mystics. According to the legend the original commandments were all thou shalts. Only after the prophet came down from the mountain and saw the ''idol worship'' were the tablets broken and the revision written. Thereby through MANS revision what was meant to bring freedom thus brought bondage. I belong to the school of thought that postulates that this time in history brought darkness where even the Jewish Gods had intended light.
My pleasure, folks. I'm glad it's been of some use. :)
very good post as usual Oak.
the 3 fold law is well explained. as i tell people smtimes, even if there wasnt a law like this, u can go by the proverb ' as u sow, so shall u reap' .. its like u get back what u gove to the world and everyone has to pay back for their own actions whether good or bad .
and everyone is their own judge in some ways.
good post buddy :)
I love your explanations of the Rede and Threefold Law. I agree with what you said and if you don't mind when someone asks, I think I'll use your explanation. It's the easiest to understand, very simple, but on the spot. Very good post :)

poeple today dont look at harming themselves goes along i the rede also we are to also think of ourselfs to .to let no one harm us even us.oru body we are not to harm but we all have that one vice no one is perfect.As for the three fold what you send out you get back yep I totally agree just not in the way most people look at it.most people think black and white or in straight forward terms its to so much that ,as a what a mintue is what Iam bout to worth what Iam going to get back .we are suppose to stop and think  thru every step of what we do thru and thru Life is what we make it and we oly have are selfs to blame when it doesnt turn out the way we want it if you have childern they look up to you for guidince and if you go down the wrong road so will the its a cycle in most cases. so me just going off the deep end   Blessed Be

Thanks for weighing in on the topic, folks, but I need to reiterate what the article above says: the Rede is not about "harm none." It isn't a directive telling you to do no harm.


We cannot pass through life without doing harm. It's not possible. The Rede makes no comment on actions that cause harm; it simply says that actions which DO NOT cause harm are permissible without a second thought.

I love this post, especially the take on the three-fold law. thank you so much for sharing!

Oak your are so true if we wet thru life tryig ot to harm we would be locked in a room with noone to see or talk to life is about choice we have to make them for the greater good  blessed be

Blessings Oak,

As always, informations shared with such honesty, brings greater understanding...Blessed Be MJ )O(

What an Excellent description of the three fold law!

Hello Oakthorne -


Thanks so much for posting this.


Another way of putting this is that the Rede is PERMISSIVE - It PERMITS any action that does not harm, but it is NOT PROHIBITIVE -- It does *NOT* PROHIBIT any action, even one that DOES Harm" -- it leaves that up to the practitioner to determine, based upon their own ethics, the situation, and the "prices" they are willing to pay. 


For more on this, please see the article "Wiccan Ethics and the Wiccan Rede" by Dianis Lucien (D. W. Piper) Copyright © 1994-2005, here:


Blessed Be - Gaia

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