A contribution to the Pagan Values event 2012
Up until this morning, I had never given my values and morals a thought. I’m ashamed to admit that I actually had to look up ‘values’, ‘ethics’ and ‘virtues’ in the dictionary to see what the difference was between them. And you know what I found: it’s not so much as what sets them apart, as that which makes them essentially the same thing. Virtues, ethics or values; they all have one thing in common, and that’s how a person’s principles or standards influence their behaviour. So how does being Pagan influence my behaviour? What effect do my beliefs have on how I go about my daily life?
I think every Pagan can recite the Wiccan Rede of, “do as thy will, so long as it harm none”. It is all we really have in the way of a universal ‘commandment’, and at surface value, it is a very simple one. But the truth is the Wiccan Rede goes much deeper. Those few simple words are about accountability- in this life there is only one person responsible for your actions and the affect you have on the world: you. I find as Pagans, we are more open to accepting that we are not flawless beings at the mercy of a higher power. We accept that if we’ve made a blunder, we must take responsibility and move towards correcting it. But how else do our core beliefs craft our Pagan Principles?
Paganism is most often described as a “nature worshipping religion”. In broad terms it means that we recognise the Divine in nature, we respect it, we revere it and we honour it. From that we can already see that we have one thing that, as Pagans, we value: life. But wait now, other religions also value life- what makes our valuing of life any different? Just look at the Catholics; they value life so much that they are vehemently pro-life when it comes to the matter of abortions. How are we different?
Simple; as Pagans we value freedom. Many Pagans today were raised in Christian families. Some of us, even though we were drawn to or practiced Paganism, had to repress our true nature, our true beliefs to keep the peace. And then there are some who endured much worse from their families and society because of their beliefs. However, we live in a country where our right to choose our religion is guaranteed by the Constitution. And as Pagans we value this freedom so much that we celebrate it specifically every year on Freedom Day. That is what sets us apart from the Catholics- yes we both value life, but as Pagans we honour an individual’s freedom to choose what is right for them.
So now we know three things about Pagan Principles- we value life and freedom, and we are governed by a code of personal responsibility. Now there must be more surely?
“R-E-S-P-E-C-T, I’ll tell you what it means to me…”, and I’m sure any Pagan, when confronted by an overzealous Christian, will tell them exactly what respect means to them. However one thing I have sadly noticed is that in the Pagan community respect seems to be a one-way bridge. It’s all good and well to want other religions and their adherents to respect your beliefs, but it goes both ways- you must respect theirs as well. I think this is indeed a Pagan Principle, but it is one that needs some work; especially by those who love to scream religious discrimination, but who themselves are also guilty of the same offense.
And that is another aspect of Paganism in general that one could be considered a ‘virtue’- work. Well, not work as in the daily grind to bring home the bacon, but work in the sense that, for the most part, we are always working to better ourselves spiritually. In Paganism there is no end point as your path is a spiritual evolution. And if you want to evolve, there’ll always something more to learn. One of the ways you can do this is by educating yourself: read up on your path and others, and don’t be afraid to explore what you read either. Ours is a path of growth and we acknowledge that such growth is only achieved by working at it.
And we still have much growth ahead of us. Yes, some of us may claim an unbroken line reaching back into ancient antiquity; but the blunt truth is that modern Paganism is still the new kid on the block when compared to other religions. That means we often face prejudice and just plain ridicule from the ignorant, the arrogant and the uninformed. I’ve noticed that this has had an effect on our community for the better- we are stronger because of it. Like a sword thrust into the fire again and again, we only come out stronger each time.
All these principles I see evidenced everyday within our community. We are strong; we are not trampled by the naysayers, by those who would stamp us out. We stand up for our freedom and the freedom of others; we know our rights and we are not afraid to fight for them. We know that our path is a journey; and it inspires us to push forward no matter what. We celebrate life; we don’t mourn our time on earthly planes but squeeze every drop out of it. We are Pagans, and how we make our way through life is up to us.