Tag Archives: pagan values month

#paganvalues Values Change

It’s the last day of Pagan Values Month, and while I didn’t manage to post something every day, I posted enough that this became my core writing project for the month.  While I would argue that all Pagan blogging is somehow Pagan values blogging, it is nice to stop, focus and really think about your values at least once a year. Especially since, if you’re alive and paying attention, your values will change.

I do not keep all the same values I brought with me into Wicca back in the mid 1990s. I now see benefits to being mainstream, because some of that is closure to my true self. I publicly admitted that I hate camping, and can love nature while honoring that evolution, nature’s own steward, has ushered me into a sensible cave (apartment.) As I’ve lived to see the world change, and I will live to see it change even more, I have adjusted many of my values to those changes.

  • I value courtesy, because it provides a common language when we are unsure whether we have common ground.
  • I value honor, because keeping promises and contracts is the only certainty we can have about the human condition and the social contract. I may take twenty years or more to keep my promises, but I do fulfill them the moment I get an opportunity.
  • I value continuous education, because the world does not stop changing, and as long as I live here, it’s my job to learn about it. It’s better than running on the assumption you can get AIDS from a toilet seat, or that people of a different color have a naturally lower IQ. (Both are false.)
  • I value self-care, because the one life I am charged with the responsibility to tend to from start to finish is my own.
  • I value friendships formed in sincerity and authenticity. It doesn’t matter how or where they form, only that they are about people being their real selves together for mutual enjoyment and support.

Hopefully next year I can delve deeper into some of the topics I just made brief notes on. Perhaps my views will have mellowed and changed. I can only know then.

In the meantime, it’s a great chance to read up on what other bloggers have posted. You can keep up on the event throughout the year by checking the Pagan Values Blogject page.

 

#paganvalues War (unavoidable political discussion)

As a Christian teenager, I did practice pacifism. The lesson I learned? Pacifism is for the popular and secure. I was neither. The worst time in your life to be a pacifist is in your teens, especially if you’re a girl. Violence is an absolute last resort after all other avenues are exhausted, and it is, like grabbing the fire extinguisher off the wall, for emergency use only. People still especially object to women standing up for themselves in this way; as men and women slowly discover the benefits of genuine social equality, this will change.

So in Wicca, where “harm none” is upheld as the salient value, it may seem strange to some that while I do not support war, any war, for any reason, I do support the basic right and need of my Wiccan and other Pagan fellows to go to war, to serve in the military, and to bear arms. I’m a fan of the first and second amendments. I am not, however, a fan of people who want to carry on about how many guns they own. It just tells me that that person has some really tiny junk. (Women included.)

It’s worth pointing out that the majority of military service men and women identify as Christian. “Thou shalt not kill,” does not get raised in their arguments often, either. The Bible here and there does say a few specific things about doing what you must to protect home and family; I believe that neopagan thinking may well fall along a similar line.

#paganvaluesmonth Free Will

There are still a ton of topics left uncovered by me this year, along with a few basic ways I might provide information in hopes of facilitating the blogging process for my fellow bloggers.  I am very much a US American in my acculturation, and this means I have the unfortunate tendency to either think “I can’t” (thankfully, this is rare these days) or “I’m going to DOITALLATONCE!” which is not just unrealistic, but can unchecked turn into a method of burning myself out until it really is a de facto “I can’t.”

I am working hard on moderating these qualities. My greatest challenge is finishing a work, and after that, sustaining the sorts of projects that are intended to be ongoing. In the efforts of caring for myself and my personal energy, I have learned that consciously only doing a little bit at a time takes me farther, faster than trying to apply massive effort and then just resting.  I will hopefully remember to refer back to this when I put up a “tips for Pagan Values bloggers” post after this one.

In the meantime, I consider this a value that goes well with my philosophies of opposition to domination and control: free will. Just as domination and control have some small grey areas ((self-defense has a hierarchy of response in my mind with domination magic as one of the last resorts)) outside the sexual arena, so does the influence of free will.

Hopefully to best communicate my perspective, I want to lay down the following suppositions, concepts, and/or ideals. Unfortunately, I don’t think I have the time to explore this as in-depth as I’d like, so I will lay this down as a rough outline for an in-depth discussion, possibly next year:

  • Free will is actually a pillar of belief that can and does connect Christianity and Paganism. I’m willing to venture that most Christians believe in free will, and that most Pagans do as well. Although evolutionary biology/psychology are used as the Pagan version of the Christian concept of pre-destination, a the core of our ethical and moral decisions and discussions revolve almost entirely around the strong belief that we do have a choice about our choices. ((This fails to explain why those that believe in predestination evangelize anyway. I think they just want more people to make babies and thus church members with.))
  • Free will is sacrosanct. It is the center of the soul and mind, and is precious and private in the same way that we consider our genitals.
  • At the core of our beings, we always have a choice. Depending on the situation, we may not have choices we are happy to make. Even in the throes of drunkenness or on a high, we have a choice about our actions.
  • The core spiritual struggle to do moral right comes in the negotiation between what other humans want from us, and what our core will/connection to the Divine or free will most want. This is what sane Muslims mean when they speak of jihad. While to them it is struggle to do right in the eyes of God, to Pagans this conflict is the struggle to moderate between the demands of the overculture and the struggle to honor our own sense of what’s right.

Free will on the surface appears a pure topic. People should have the freedom at least to think what they want to think. But just as “harm none” can actually lead to immobility when applied the wrong way, free will can also lead either to immobility or worse, to just handing yourself over, if you misunderstand it.

Every single human being that interacts with other human beings is in a negotiation for his or her free will all the time. This isn’t because we are all consciously at war for domination. Certainly, some of us are, but for the most part the behavior is at least unconscious if not unintentional. It’s the pressure many Pagans know by loved ones who want us to convert to their religions and thus relieve the pressure of having their assumptions challenged by our very presence; it’s the lady at the supermarket trying to persuade you to buy her brand of frozen food; it’s the politician that knocks on your door in a handshake campaign; it’s even your neighbor calling you to ask you to keep the noise down after 10 pm.

These aren’t all bad things, these aren’t all good things. What these are are negotiations, part of the billions of lifetime transactions that over and over define the lines between your will and the will of those who live around you. In fact, it’s the absolute core of all ethical decisions and discussions: it’s all about what actions you decide to take.

Sometimes, people will try to even get you to think differently. The Greek and Roman art of rhetoric, a long-honored tradition that defines the US and other legal systems, is built around changing the minds of the people. When we practice persuasion or manipulate emotions for any reason, we are essentially tapping into the free will of others.

While manipulation is spectacularly rotten, it is also extremely common, so common that many people can no longer distinguish between persuasion – an appeal to a person’s highest ideals to change a thought or feeling – and manipulation, which is a provoking of emotions to prompt a specific response or result.

A short example

Most of the ethical discussions around magic actually do boil down to free will. We witches worry a lot about whose mind we might change and how, sometimes to the point where we over-confuse what we do.

For instance, in binding magic: I’ve read the argument that when you bind a thief from robbing your home, you are “thwarting the thief’s free will.”

Absolutely not.

The thief will still want to rob you. If you’ve performed the binding properly, he/she will simply find him/herself unable to succeed at robbing you. I seriously doubt I will get bad karma from sending out energy that gives the thief a flat tire as s/he is driving out to my home to grab my stereo.

Now, if I’d bewitched the robber to lose interest in robbing me, yes, that might be more effective – but I’ve also then screwed with his/her free will. I’ve also stolen from the thief an opportunity to grow/change by changing his/her mind about robbing me.

If I chose to be nice and not perform a binding, I’d have dishonored myself – and by that, I mean, did a poor job of caring for the life I’ve been charged to take care of the entire time I’m on this earth – and then there would be the karma of having my stuff stolen, and the feeling of violation resulting from poor self-care. Please do not take this to mean I think ALL people should bind thieves. For non-magical people, the basic effort of locking a door is sufficient to honor the self and the home. This scenario would also be one where I somehow saw the theft coming: unexpected actions by others are one of the many prices and challenges of life.

 

 

#paganvalues the Overculture and the Subculture

If I had to choose a single cause to dedicate myself to within Wicca or even in greater Paganism, it would be establishing cultural legitimacy. What I mean is that I really want to see “Oh, you’re Wiccan?” to be just as much of a not-big-deal to non-extremists as Judaism and Christianity. There are some camps already on their way there – ABC Family has added throw away lines about the mail lady practicing Wicca, and on the show Greek, a sorority girl commented that “I think one of the pledges is a Wiccan.” ((Yes, I am a grown woman without children who watches these shows. I must offset my copious reading of very thick books with viewable fluff.)) It’s a good sign: someone writing TV scripts knows we’re real, and at least does not feel threatened. It’s an improvement even over Felicity, where her vaguely threatening but ultimately loyal roomie went off to Witch Camp. ((Witch Camp is a real event.))

#paganvalues Feminism

Not all Pagans practice feminism. Some are distinctly opposed to it. I am not one of those people. I think feminism is very necessary to this day, and it is a value that has informed my religious decisions over the years. I do not go into graphic details, but it’s hard to tell what’s triggering for abuse survivors, so this is behind a heavier than usual cut.

#paganvalues The Apology, and its receipt

There’s always a fuzzy point where my own values come in: they are not necessarily Pagan values, but they are values that belong to my person. I am a Pagan, and I express those values. Just as politics and religion may not separate so easily, neither do my personal and religious values – after all, just as some people can’t distinguish between their political and religious inclinations, others can’t quite distinguish between the religious and the personal. I am Pagan. Are these my values because I am Pagan? Perhaps. Am I Pagan because of my values? That may well be the stronger argument. I did not change my emotional beliefs very much at all upon my religious conversion; what changed was my understanding of history and science. (Evolution was never a point of contention when I was Christian, and most certainly not now.)  After 16 + years practicing Wicca, the line has gotten so fuzzy it might classify as a new form of penicillin.

One of those values in action that may be personal and may in some way be Pagan revolves around the apology. Here, I need to acknowledge the source: a friend recently posted to her Livejournal about apologizing to someone she felt she treated poorly. (I have no idea whether or not she treated him as she felt she did.) I said that I thought it was a classy thing to do – and I wondered why so many people, even when they do know they did something that caused real harm, refuse to apologize. I have been genuinely mystified by this for years.

Another poster did explain it to me. To paraphrase, “Whenever you apologize, you risk hearing a litany from the other person of how much you suck.”

This was illuminating for me.  Especially since it seems that we are rapidly losing protocol for delivering apologies, and if what this person said is true (and I think it probably is) the protocol for accepting apologies may well have disappeared completely.

#paganvalues The fine art of courteous living

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I generally don’t miss Indiana. The near-caste system mentality of the town I lived in guaranteed I never made an authentic connection to anyone, and while I know living anywhere else in Indiana would have produced different, happier results for me, we lived where we lived and my happiness and health was not a factor in that decision. As it is now, when I’m approached by people from my childhood via Facebook (they are why I hate Facebook), it’s strange, distorting, slightly nauseating: these beings that were never really friends want me to be interested in their children, their litany of health problems, the trivia of their daily lives. Even the interests I share put me off when they express them: I want them to keep their hands the hell off gardening and Doctor Who.

Mostly I ignore the overtures these days. A friend request without a note gets ignored. Yet there is one way to work around my resistance: an act of courtesy. One woman who was my first experience with female competitive syndrome and betrayal got through because she acknowledged my father’s death when I was at a weak moment. ((I still think she’s sniffing for when my family’s property goes up for sale.))  A few got through just because we at least made motions of friendship, and never did anything intentionally cruel to each other, or had made some effort to stay in touch during college. For the most part, the tribe of my birthplace consists of the persons most foreign to me in the world, and associating with them or even witnessing their lives through the filter of Facebook actually disgusts me.

Yet, paradoxically, these people harbor a few cultural habits, gestures of daily interchange, that I quite miss. Minnesotans did not do the following at all when I first moved here, and still don’t most of the time. These actions are small, simple, create a temporary sense of community – and when I do them in this state, I often get strange, suspicious reactions.

The two gestures from my Hoosier history I miss the most?

Waving “thanks” at stop signs, and putting a groceries divider down for the person behind you.

#paganvalues the Social Contract: Our rights over others, and theirs over us

One of the knottiest areas of human interaction involves a game I’ve come to think of as “where’s the line?”  At what point do you strike the perfect balance between respecting the freedom of others to make their own decisions, and defining your own boundaries so that you can live harmoniously with the inevitable differences that surround you?

The whole of politics from petty office gossip to elections that end in violent coups tell the story of this struggle. Who has the power? Who has what right to tell me what to do? Without someone to say “do this?” what crucial things, like road repair, might never get done? Without the basic right to say “no,” I risk having situations where my body, soul, health and anything that passes for property winds up for grabs. At the same time, others have the basic right to insist on a fair exchange of energy themselves: I can’t just go driving off with your car, take the stuff in your shop without paying for it, or do things to your body without your explicit consent.

The whole “free will” perspective of Wicca itself runs into limits that make this difficult because of the authoritative structures of some traditions/covens. While personal sovereignty is an ethic to discuss on its own right now what I’m discussing is social contract. This is the world beyond coven, or family, or partner: what agreements are we bound to keep, and what are we, on a social level, owed?

#paganvalues the truth about consequences

While others are exploring Pagan ideals in terms of Pagan values month, I think my Writer Self  is leading me to “how those values work in action,” or at least “what complications arise from those values.” A lot of my posts, from looking over them, do talk about my ideals, yes, but focus on human behavior, how people react to these values, and at times how people consciously or unwittingly ask for others to compromise their values.