When we Frosts founded the Church of Wicca in 1968, there were two symbols we might have used to represent Wicca. They were
(a) the ankh, the Egyptian symbol of life; and
(b) the Pentagram with its five points; members of the community presented it both the traditional way up on two of its points, and upside down resting precariously on one point.
Since ancient times the number five has been regarded as both holy and lucky. It is a sign of completeness: the four elements plus Spirit, as well as a mnemonic (look it up) to recall some of the basic tenets of the Craft. In our own representation we add Deity at the center, leading to 6. Of course 6 is another holy number and serves in Judaism, represented by the hexagram.
Because of the widespread use of the Pentagram we wanted to be somehow different, so we decided on the ankh. At the British Museum in London Gavin saw an ankh that was very ancient: one with downswept arms. It resembles an oval balanced on an arrow and it clearly symbolizes male and female conjoined, offering an excellent depiction of life and of freedom.
The ankh is one of the most ancient Egyptian amuletic symbols. It was retained by the Egyptians even after they converted to Christianity and stopped using the various hieroglyphic inscriptions that had appeared on earlier amulets. Thus we find that the oldest ankh with the downswept arms was replaced with an ankh displaying a hard straight crosspiece which was said to be a sign of Jesus with arms outstretched blessing the multitude … or on the cross.
In this straight-armed form the ankh appears in all sorts of Coptic monuments. It can be found woven into textiles and stamped on the side of pots.
We decided that the ankh would be a good symbol for the Church, and we gratefully use it to this day, though with downswept arms, not the later straight-armed version.
Along with the ankh we decided to incorporate the old guideline stemming from the French tradition: Faitez-vous çe que vous voulez, si çe ne nuit pas. In the form we used, we translated it first as An it harm none, do what you will, adding a footnote: the none includes yourself. This is the same rule that was carved into the door lintel at Medmenham Abbey, where the Hellfire Club met to dress up as priests and nuns and to do naughty things.
Now the question became: Should we not have updated the archaic language of the Rede, substituting today’s if for yesterday’s an? Each time we quoted the Rede, we had to explain that an was not and. Everyone from journalists to office help seemed to get it wrong and to need their heads pried open for new information. In only one usage does an linger on today: that is in the comic strip known as Snuffy Smith. Recall his usage: if’n. That ‘n is the last trace of an.
So in the end, yes, we scraped an off our shoe and used if instead.
Anyway, what about harming someone? Let us suggest this course of action: If you commit an act in all innocence, but learn later that someone has been harmed by it, seek to make restitution. With the passage of time, restitution may not be possible. In such a case, learn from your increased understanding, and release the guilt. Don’t sentence yourself to carry an 800-pound bag of guilt on your shoulders for the rest of this incarnation because of an unconsidered action.
A personal word from Yvonne on all this: As a recovering Baptist, I gratefully affirm that my awareness of the Craft and my commitment to it have healed my life.