Pagan Values: “Why?”

Dear Pagani,

So in hunting around the ‘net yesterday, and seeing if anyone else was getting an early start on the Pagan Values blog carnival, I surfed on over to Hecate’s blog.

That’s how I found her excellent post “Pagan Values?“, the first of two excellent postings on the matter there~by the by, to quote her first post  in portion…

Sia alerts me to the fact that a blogger has declared June to be Blog About Pagan Values Month.

In June the sun is at it’s height in the Northern Hemisphere and nearly hidden from view in the Southern Hemisphere. Midsummer and Yule, festivals of fire and of light.

Let us then use our hearts and minds and words, invoking the fires of inspiration; let us write of the virtues and ethics and morals and values we have found in our Pagan paths, let us share how we carry these precious things forward in our own lives and out into the world.

Hmmm. Why? Because the sun is high? I may have missed something.”

And, at first, I thought she had.  Then I read the rest of her post and was gladdened to see that (as is often the case with her) she hadn’t missed much of anything.  She does raise a central question…

“Why?”

Well, first off, to quote the very beginning of my original post on the matter…

“Dear Pagani,

I have decided that I am tired at how some factions within other spiritual and faith traditions talk and act as if they have a monopoly on values and virtue and ethics.

Therefore I am issuing a call and a challenge to my fellow Pagan netizens…”

So on one level Hecate had missed something in that my intro hadn’t been passed along… these things happen.  Given my previous post on the values and virtues I have discovered within Witchcraft, you can see how it might really bother me to see folks on the Fundamentalist Right speak and act as if they had a monopoly on decency morality and virtue, and that everyone else was just a bunch of evil amoral sluts.

Then too, there is the fact that I sometimes feel like there are those in the Pagan movement who really haven’t done more than scratch the surface of Paganism and Heathenry in some respects.  As Hecate also observes in her first Pagan Values Month  post…

“One thing I like about Pagans is that we don’t proselytize. And, honestly, if you’ve spent any time among Pagans you know that (1) no two Pagans agree about anything, hell, most of us disagree with our own selves half the time, and (2) there are as few Pagans living the Wiccan Rede or any other form of Pagan Values as there are xians living the command to “Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself.” In fact, for a lot of Pagans, their religion consists of buying new-agey stuff in stores that reek of incense instead of buying makeup in the mall. I’ve known Pagans who are not-nice-people. “Witch wars” describes an actual phenomenon.”

This is all true.  There are plenty of folks in our communities who talk about being Pagan and who participate in (and even lead) rituals and events and organizations who do not seem to have incorporated the values and ideals espoused in the various traditions (and Traditions) into their daily lives and behaviors.  We need to start having more public community wide and Pagan interfaith discussions of our values and virtues and ideals!

We need to show and be able to explain to some of those outside of Paganism, to help them understand that, as a matter of fact, many Pagans are quite good, honorable, and virtuous people.  In this way we will be able to find friends and allies as we seek, quite naturally, to participate in the spiritual and political and social and cultural  fabrics of our lager regional and national communities.

We need to start having these discussions because we have, especially in the last 20-30 years or so, grown quite rapidly from relatively remote groups and small tribes into an ever more interconnected series of tribes.

Paganism is a religious, spiritual, and social movement made up of several overlapping and intertwined religious and regional communities.  These smaller communities are begining to coalesce into larger national and international communities.

It seems to me that for the  many different Pagan faiths and paths there is overall theme of individual and group development into being a better person(s) (personal growth and perhaps enlightenment, although it is not necessarily phrased as such) by practicing certain rites, and developing our relationships with the Divine (or the essence of All That Is) and with the Spirits of the World Around Us (Elements and Land Spirits), and living certain intertwining and overlapping virtues and values.

We end up building our relationships with others in our own regional  and faith communities as we live those virtues and values and practice our rites and ways.

Eventually, personal growth and development, both within ourselves and in our relationship to our Deities, leads us quite naturally into engagement with other branches of Paganism.   Then, from there, as we seek to live our paths and our values in our everyday lives we are led into engagement with the rest of Society.

Our movement is growing up into a community, and that is the main reason why we need to start having some serious and adult conversations about who we are and what our individual Paganisms, and Paganism overall, is all about!

Peace,

Pax

International Pagan Values Blogging Month: update!

Dear Pagani,

So in a small blogside of postings recently folks have started the International Pagan Values Blogging a little early!  I am doing my best to make sure the various entries get onto the MetaPagan feed (which has been acting up recently, so go back and check it later if it seems to be on the fritz!), so go ahead and check things out there, or feel free to go through to the Pagan Values Blogging posts here and check the commentator’s blogs for new articles!

Also, since it took me a while to figure out how to isolate her posts for inclusion in the MataPagan feed, and since the google-based gadget that coalates the feeds is acting up, go check out Anne Johnson’s Pagan Values posts over at the Gods are Bored reminding us that (among other things) Humor is always a Pagan value!

Peace,

Pax

The Ethical and Virtuous Witch

Dear Pagani,

I am a Witch, of the type popularly called Wiccan.  In my case this means religious and British Traditional Witchcraft inspired Neo-Pagan Religious Witchcraft.  I came to this path, and later fell off of it for a while, nearly 17 years ago. This essay is my attempt to discuss the core values, ethics, and virtues I have found within the path and faith of Witchcraft.

I can only speak for myself, as a Witch, especially a Solitary one.  These are what I have found, your mileage may vary!

After having studied Witchcraft for a few years and Invoking the Divinities, seeking Them through Ritual and Gnosis.  I prayed and read and studied what I could find at the time… I wanted more, I felt the need to dig deeper.

So the first thing I did was take a good look at The Rede.

Now anytime one talks about ethics or values in the Neo-Pagan Witchcraft world, especially from the Wiccan or Wicca inspired end of the spectrum; the topic of the Rede comes up.

“An ye harm none, do what thou will.”

The Rede is almost always (and in my oh, so humble opinion incorrectly) cited as the only rule, ethical statement, or religious law of Witchcraft. While I disagree with the only part, I would say that examining the Rede, and really thinking about it, is central to understanding the philosophy of Witchcraft.  So let’s take a look, shall we?

First let’s focus on the word Harm…

“HARM (noun): Physical or mental damage.”

Nouns are words that name a person, place, thing, quality, or action. Eliminating the person and place we have Harm describing a thing, quality, or action. This would seem to say that Harm is something that is done by one party or group to another. To do something, to do anything in fact, you need intent. So while you may not always succeed at it, if you strive to do no harm to yourself or others you are practicing the Rede.

Now let’s look at the word “An” in “An ye harm none, do what you will”. An, is the archaic form of “If” so a more modern wording would be…

“If you harm none, do what you will.”

“If” is darned important.  “IF” means that we have the choice to do harm, to ourselves and to others, but that we must face the consequences of our actions.

If… So what if you harm someone, with intent? Since Witches don’t believe in the Devil, we can’t say “the Devil made me do it?” or “It was because I was a sinner!” or “It’s not my fault because I was acting under medication for my sinus infection”.

In fact Witches and a lot, if sadly not all, of our fellow Pagans believe very strongly in personal responsibility as a part of their life paths.  We choose our actions, and we are capable of choosing our reactions, so we are always responsible for what we do and the choices we make.

Harming “none,” also includes oneself. This is a key ingredient in my decision making process… Is it more harmful to myself to allow this situation to continue, than any harm X, Y, or Z might encounter as a result of my decision?  The thing is to be a Witch you must be willing to strive to do no harm. There may come times in life where you have a choice and no matter what you chose someone will be harmed by your actions, but in most cases you have a choice open to you to NOT harm anyone or yourself.

So that takes care of the “Harming None” aspect of the Rede, what about “Do what thou will.”?

This is another area worthy of some examination.   Are you thinking about will as in doing whatever you want?  That’s ok, as far as it goes, but we can dig deeper!  Like a lot of Witches, I look at the Rede’s similarity to certain Thelemic ideas and consider the will discussed in the Rede as being True Will.  Will, with a capital “W”, as being an ongoing effort to live from moment to moment a path of action in perfect harmony with Nature or the Universe; to seek ones ultimate Destiny.

So another wording of the Rede might be…

“Strive to do no harm, and seek a path of harmony towards your destiny”

This is a little more complicated, and adult, than just doing whatever you want; even if you are trying to mind the consequences!

Now the next thing a lot of folks seem to think about, in connection with the Rede, and with the topic of virtues and ethics in Witchcraft, is the Three-fold Law

“What you do comes back to you Threefold!”

Some Witches maintain that this is a core value or belief, other Witches look upon it and go

“Meh, Newton said it better!”

There is some variation of the Golden Rule or the Ethic of Reciprocity in most of the world Faiths.  While I respect the idea of the Rule of Three, as it is also known, I just can’t see myself grounding my actions and values in a system where I am fearing punishment or seeking reward.  That just seems somehow childish to me.

So I moved out from the Rede and the Rule of Three, in my own explorations  trying to figure out how to actively live as a Witch and carry my faith with me into the world.  Then I began to really look at Doreen Valiente’s Charge of the Goddess.

A few passages especially stood out…

“For mine is the Spirit of Ecstasy, and mine as well is joy on Earth, and Love Unto All Beings is My Law.”

“Keep pure your highest ideal; strive ever towards it; let nothing stop you or turn you aside.”

“Therefore let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, and mirth and reverence within you.”

These are the things the First Goddess of my heart demands of me.  I remember being so shocked that none of the books I had read talked about the implicit instruction aspect of the Charge of the Goddess.

“Love unto all beings is my Law.”

This passage was the first that sort of hit my in the face when I started really looking at the Charge for moral and ethical guidance.  It is the only place in this sacred piece of poetry and inspiration where The Goddess lays down Her Law… not a recommendation, not a suggestion, Her Law.

The thing is, Love, is complicated!

Love for your family, and friends, and beloved.  Love for your neighbors, your co-workers, and your acquaintances.  Love for the people who cut you off in traffic, love for the scary and possibly schizophrenic homeless guy you walk by on your way to work.  Love for all beings, no matter how violent or vile their actions or pasts…

Now loving someone doesn’t require us t unconditionally or blindly love them and it doesn’t require us to to accept their immoral or unethical behaviors.  As long as it is truly rooted in love, we can practice Tough Love in those cases.

Then too there are those people in the world and in our regional and religious communities who have committed crimes; sometimes horrible and “unforgivable” crimes like murder or rape or worse.

Please Note: I use the quotes because it is easy to forget, especially if we or someone we love has been victimized in the past, that unless the person we are faced with actually victimized us then it is not our place to forgive them.  Only their own victims can possibly do that!

However, if they have served their debt to society, and seek to live a moral and ethical and sane and healthy life now, then all I can do is to be cautious and watchful in my Love for them; because She demands I find within myself, and act with, Love for them!

Like I said, Love, is complicated.  The Law of the Goddess is not unlike the goal or practice of Metta or Loving Kindness of the Buddhists.

So, to paraphrase, again…

“Live a life of Love,” She says do good things, and act with balance and wisdom! She says…

Striving to find Love for all beings, and striving to identify and live out and act upon our Highest Ideals.

You know though, I am still still struggling to identify and articulate my highest ideals; heck that was one of the motivations for starting the International Pagan Values Blogging month blog carnival in the first place!  For me, my ideals are wrapped up within the Rede, and The Law of The Goddess, and the U.S. Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence, and many other sources and inspirations.

Then too, as someone who is barely making ends meet, and who is desperately seeking for a second job or one full-time job, a lot of my sense of actively working for my highest ideals; well, it feels on hold.

I do try to do good in the world where I can.  Writing and speaking out in favor of Gay Civil Rights, and Pagan Community.  I participate in workplace giving with a few dollars of each paycheck going to some charitable causes.  I tell myself that I will do more as I am able, but a lot of times that feels nowhere near enough.

So, for now, I try to hold to my ideals as best I can and pray to the Gods for guidance and good things for myself and my family and for the opportunity to act upon my ever evolving Highest Ideals.

It’s not like I, as a Witch, don’t have some guidelines in how to act…

“Therefore let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, and mirth and reverence within you.”

These 8 virtues or qualities are what the Goddess wishes me to try and embody, each and every day.   They are a part of the plan the Goddess has laid out for us, Her Witches.

I have copied down the dictionary definitions of those 8 goals/ideals/virtues, I have sought out quotes about them that strike the same chords in my soul as the Charge does, I meditate and contemplate the meanings of the words and how others have related to them trying to puzzle out my own relationship to them.   I have in this very blog tried to articulate what some of the virtues mean to me, and rambled a bit about striving towards my highest ideals, and of love unto all beings.

The truth is though that these are things I think and pray upon on a daily basis,… now.

“Mother Celestial, and Father Divine,

Let me walk in Beauty and Strength,

Exhibiting Power and Compassion,

With both Honor and Humility,

Let me always remember Mirth as well as Reverence,

That I might be worthy of Thy Perfect Love and Perfect Trust,

And that of those in whose hearts you dwell.

Blessed be, so mote it be”

Originally I did that work studying definitions and contemplating meanings and looking at what others had said or thought about these qualities of character; and then, somehow, I sort of set it aside.   I got distracted from the important matters and guidelines of spirit by the pressures of everyday life, and by giving in to some of my more self-destructive impulses.  It has been a long and winding, educational and rough and yet not entirely unpleasant road back to living my Witchcraft on a regular basis; I am still working on it, and suspect I shall be doing so for the rest of this lifetime.

I have failed to live these ideals in the past, sometimes grievously, but I keep trying… one of the definitions of Strength relates to perseverance…and persevere I do!  Each day I pray my prayer, sometime it comes out more like a memorized recitation than a heartfelt speaking and sharing with the Deities, so I will repeat it… sometimes mantra-like until I feel I have truly thought about each of the virtues and what they mean to me and have had a moment of connection to Them as I contemplated these Virtues I am ordered to embody.

She wants so much from me!  I can get intimidated sometimes thinking about it, yet when I offered myself  to Them they accepted me.  So I persevere and I struggle and I keep going,

And still I struggle, Beauty and Strength, and by extension Health are  issues for me lately.  Well, Beauty is always something I have struggled to find in looking at myself, and to find myself worthy of striving for.  But Strength and health are things I have let slip in the last couple of years.  She expects more of my, and through Her love I have learned to start expecting more of myself.

As I write this I am realizing that one of the key things, for me, about the values and virtues I have found within Witchcraft is that they are things each of us must work with.  Whether you are a Solitary or in a Coven, no one else is responsible for your Grace, your Gnosis, your encounters with the Numinous Divine.

Each of us must look to the values and ethics and ideals and morals we find in our many Pagan Paths.  We must not only study and contemplate them, we must wrestle with them daily as we try to live them and as we carry them with us into the world where we will act in accordance with them.

Peace, and Love, always Love,

Pax

Notes on the Journey May 28th, 2009 9:21am

So I changed jobs at the theme-park I am now a part-time line production cook at a different restaurant thant he one I worked previously.  This job, a new position for me and one that represents growth and opportunity for me, requires open availability… so I have already turned in my two weeks notice at the retail part-time job.

This is my last week at the retail job, and I am scheduled a grand total of one shift at the restaurant next week!

I am trying to stay calm and remember to breath, I’ve been stuggling to meditate and just to stay calm.

~Pax, realizes he hasn’t prayed on it~

So, now, I have prayed upon it.  I feel better, and a little less like indulging in panic or self-pity.  It’s also not like I don’t have some job searching resources in place, or some ~few~ conections in the greater Orlando area.  I have already started a new round of application filing, and resume polishing.  Then too there is my writing, which while it isn’t raking in the dough, yet (he interjected hopefully), it is feeding my soul.

I need to be a bit harsher with myself in establishing a daily practice… I also need to establish a schedule of my online time so that I am spending at least as much time online searching for jobs and ways to improve my situation as I am working on my writing or blogs or reading, or playing the occasional browser game.  Heck, I need to get off-line and work on my resume and re-read some of my job search and career planning guides from School.

You know…

I am learning ( or re-learning) to turn to my faith and spiritual practices in times of trouble or turmoil, these things can sustain me as can my relationship with the Gods.  I think this is one of the hazards of being a solitary Pagan is that we can get derailed from our sacred relationships and the nourishment that spiritual practices provide and as solitaries we don’t always have the religious or spiritual peers to pull the metaphorical Cher/Moonstruck face-slap “SNAP OUT OF IT!” maneuver…

In other news, I am working on some essays for the Pagan Values Blogging as well as doing some pre-writing on a major overhaul of my Pagan Community Building page…. a longish essay discussing different aspects Pagan community and how one can seek out, experience, and participate in it.

What Sia said!

Dear Pagani,

prop8

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sia Vogel,

By the powers invested in me as a Witch and a Queen (but not a Witchqueen cause that’s different) I hereby declare that you, officially Rock!

Much Love and Humor and Thanks,

Pax

~~~~

So kids, for a fun and productive June arts and crafts project for your blogs and websites how about fomenting a social revolution?  Here’s how!

1. Right click on the image above and choose “Save Image As” to save it to your Computer.

2. Upload it to your blog or website as a virtual protest sign!

3.  If this cause moves you, and you’d like to take action, check out the Join The Impact blog and click on the link below!

Fight the H8 in Your State
Peace, and Humor and Civil Rights for All,
Pax

Why bring up Pagan Values, Virtues or Ethics?

So I have issued a call and challenge

And many Paganfolk have chosen to answer this little call of mine and take up the challenge of writing about Pagan Values.  None of whom I have had the privilege of meeting, yet, many of whom I have read and been an admirer and student of their words and ideas.  I have also been blessed to meet some entirely new acquaintances through this little idea of mine.

I seem to have struck a chord with folks, some of whom have already started the blogging event early, and I am glad!

For one thing it’s nice to learn I’m not the only person to feel this way, for another…

We Pagans as ~a movement, and withing our regional and religious communities~  need to have these conversations and to think about these things, and having written essays and texts that we can turn back to, and to wrestle with and sometimes question the ideas displayed therein.   We need to have some serious conversations within our faiths and between our many different faiths and spiritual and philosophical paths within this budding community of ours.

We also need to be able to show and to discuss with people from other paths and faiths that we Pagans are actually not at all what they have been told we are.  We are a people who care, who love, who keep to our word, who strive to follow an ethical way of living our lives in accordance with the ways of our ancestors and with our different spiritual paths.

We need to not only discuss our values, our morals, and the virtues and ethics that shape them, and us; we need as a movement, as communities, to start discussing in a larger scale how do we wish to carry thes values forward in our own lives?  What actions shall we take in our daily lives to act in accord to these guiding principles?  What values have the first generation of modern Pagans raised in our spiritualities grown up with?  What are we teaching the next generation of modern Pagans?

What do you think?

Remembering the Honored Dead

Dear Pagani,

Today is, in the United States, Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May (May 25 in 2009). Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. men and women who died while in the military service. First enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War (it is celebrated near the day of reunification after the civil war), it was expanded after World War I to include American casualties of any war or military action.” ~from the Wikipedia article, accessed 5/25/2009

I also look upon this day and find it somehow strangely fitting that it is near Walpurgisnacht, and its traditions of lighting bonfires to ward of wandering ghosts, that we in the U.S. remember and honor our Fallen Soldiers.

I have many thoughts ranging through my mind about this holiday, this Holy Day.

Today I remember my nations fallen soldiers, and more.  I remember the fallen soldiers of the Revolutionary War, who fought to make our Nation.

I remember the Confederate War Dead; I may disagree with much of what they fought for ( see some of histories complexities here, and here), I cannot deny that their sacrifice helped to create the United States I know today.

While I do not agree with how my Nation has treated the Native American Peoples, I choose to honor all of the fallen dead of the Little Big Horn, and all of our other “Indian” wars; their sacrifices too, have shaped my Nation.

Perhaps I shall observe a moment of silence at 3pm my local time, a custom I had not known about until reading the Wikipedia entry!  Tonight I shall pour libations and make offerings of incense unto Hecate, and the Honored Dead.

The customs I hadn’t known about, perhaps because none of my relatives has died in a war in living memory, these are bothering me… shouldn’t the meaning of this day be a part of the fabric of my culture?  It is strange to see how far from honoring the U.S. War dead we’ve come, sometimes, in regards to memorial day.  Businesses are closed but it seems so much more an occasion for a three-day party week-end and lots of crass sales.  On the other hand, is this better than simply being lost to the flow of history, as Pearl Harbor Day has largely been?  My father tells me that there were observations on December 7th for years afterward… now though I sometimes think I would be hard pressed to find folks who knew its significance, it seems to barely get a mention.

Let us remember!     Let us come together as Kindreds and Covens and Groves, let us come together across religions as Pagans honoring the spirits and memories of those who have given their lives for our nations continuing struggle towards that more perfect union!

Peace,

Pax