Saturday, June 11, 2011

3rd Annual Pagan Values Month

I was delighted to find out that June is (in addition to Queer Pride month) Pagan Values month, a time when we bloggers and podcasters can hash out just what it is we stand for and help the world understand what we are all about. I will be joining the ranks of (hopefully) many other bloggers making a statement of what I believe.

I want to start here by saying that "Pagan" is not necessarily a term that I personally identify with- I identify as a Witch. But I use "Pagan" as a catch-all umbrella term to lump lots of people together who are natural allies. They are minority, non-Abrahamic religions that include many earth-centered (or not!), magick working (or not!), and polytheistic (or not!) folks. Some are animists, some are pantheists, and some (mysteriously) don't really work with gods at all. Not all categories apply to all folks falling under the umbrella- hence my ambivalence about the term as applied to me. But being a great lover of community, bridge-building, and organizing to make the world a better place, I embrace the term as one of political expedience, coalition-building, and cultural shorthand.

So given that caveat, let's get to the task at hand, shall we? What do I believe and how does that inform my values?

1. The gods are real. To quote Raven Kaldera in his fab essay, "On Being a Neo-Pagan Fundamentalist": "The first, and most important tenet, is that a Neo-Pagan fundamentalist actually believes in the existence of every single deity that s/he worships. Deities are not merely theoretical archetypes, nor vague energy forms that can be ordered about by the human mind, nor merely parts of our own deep selves. They do not depend on human attention and worship to exist, although the lack of it may weaken their connection to the world. They have their own lives and personalities when we are not interacting with them, and yes, they are more powerful than we are." I work with many god/desses and "believe" in them all. When Christians ask me if I believe in God, I usually say, "Yes- but which one are you talking about specifically?" I believe in the god that their Bible speaks of, I just don't like that one very much and do not work with him. Which leads me to #2:

2. I myself am a god and am equal to other gods. You heard me. I am divine in my own right and when I worship a god, it is not prostrating myself and submitting myself. I kneel before a god in reverence the same way I kneel before a lover. I worship them as I would a lover as well. The reason I don't much like the Christian god or want to work with him is he seems to demand submission of life force from his followers and monogamy (the whole "no other gods before me" jazz), two things I don't approve of for myself. I am a hard polytheist, don't submit my life force to any one or any thing, and not very monogamous. Your mileage may vary.

3. Magic(k) is real- so are other realms that we don't always see and so are other non-corporeal beings. The world is not a rational place, no matter how convenient a reality that would be for us. There is Mystery and Paradox and I am comfortable with that.

4. Many paths lead to the same place. I have gladly gone to Jewish Renewal Shabbat services, Sufi Zhikrs, and worship at Unitarian churches. I have chanted and broken bread with Hare Krishnas and tantrics. I have sat in Buddhist meditation centers and listened to dharma talks. As long as a religion is open to me and my beliefs, I am open and happy to explore them. They all hold truths. No one has a monopoly on ethical behavior and the "one true way" is a lie- which leads me to #5:

5. Diversity is good. Genderful, sexual, and racial diversity! Different ages, physical abilities, mental abilities, ethnicities, points of view, and religions! All these differences are fascinating, delightful, make the world interesting place and are virtues. The fact that there are political minorities left out of decision making or denied the same rights as others is unethical and anti-religious. Which leads me to #6:

6. Religion that divides us or inspires hate is not religion. It deserves no audience. As I said in an earlier post on this blog, "Simply put, a theology that preaches disconnection from others, regardless of the reason, is not a real religion- it is simply hate speech wrapped up in a corrupt theology. You heard me. Yes, I said that. I am calling recent statements by the pope and Mormon deacons unreligious.

Religion, at its core, is an idea of wholeness- from creation to destruction and everything in between. It encompasses all of humanity and indeed all of creation. A church that does not embrace all living things as equals, one that sees some people as more inherently virtuous than others is not a religious institution. When done properly, religion cannot be used as an instrument of hate. When it is, calling it religion is a misnomer."

7. Community is something we need, crave, and should be actively building, not ripping down. I am weary of "Witch wars" and pagan drama. I hate factions within my other communities, too. We have more in common than not, and we need one another, like it or not. I am curmudgeonly and misanthropic at times, but I value community and tribe and family and recognize its place. Anyone who works to divide us (through malicious speech, violence, covert actions, or otherwise) is acting against their on interests. I try and avoid people like that, all the while acting to ameliorate their damage to the greater good. which leads me to #8:

8. Compassion is at the center of religious thought. "Passion" literally means "to suffer" (think passion of the Christ for those unfamiliar with this definition), and "compassion" means to "suffer with others", in other words, to feel others' pain.

The Buddhists, when they talk of life as suffering, are correct. (That is not to say that life is misery and woe and that there is no beauty. Far from it- that particular take on the word "suffering" is incorrect and a modern spin for our comfort-driven society.) We all suffer to live- and we cause others' suffering while we live and to continue our own lives (at the expense of others). Does this fact mean we cannot be compassionate? No. It means it is our duty to feel the others' pain and offer it up as a sacred offering.

From a Kabbalistic standpoint, compassion is located at the Tiphareth sephirot- the very center of the Tree of Life. It is that way for a very specific reason. It is at the heart of not only everyday spiritual practice, but mystical practice as well. All paths leads to and from this place/state of being.

As a Witch, I believe that when you have compassion, you suffer with others, then you offer it up (I personally offer it to my patroness- it is her favorite flavor.).

Now, many times compassion is confused with pity or allowing others to continually make mistakes. Let me make this clear- compassion for others is not what Victor Anderson called "coddling weakness", rather- it often takes the form of a swift kick in the pants (what many Buddhists call ruthless compassion or fierce compassion). But Victor also wisely added that we need to "respect one another's frailties" as well. We cannot become indifferent to others, if we do- we risk becoming disconnected from one another and God Herself. Disconnection breaks the web of life.

These are a few of the things I believe as a Witch and will teach my son. What are your "pagan values"?


  1. Thank you so much for this post. I'm currently trying to define mine as this is my first "Pagan Values Month" as a pagan. Brightest Blessings!

  2. Thank you for this post. I heard about Pagan Values Month a few days ago, but wasn't really interested in blogging about anything for it. Your post inspired me, and I'm planning a few posts in the future.

    I linked to your blog here.


  3. I don't know if you were quoting something (or several things) here, but there are so many good quotes in this article I thought I'd throw my favorite onto the fire....

    "True magick is neither black nor white. It's both, because Nature is both - loving and cruel, all at the same time. The only good or bad is in the heart of the witch. Nature keeps a balance on its own."

  4. @Jennifer: I like it! It reminds me of what Victor Anderson said: "White Magic is poetry. Black Magic is anything that works."

  5. Wow, this is great and challenging to what masquerades as the status quo. Thank you for this list, it forces me to think!

  6. Excellent post, thank you. So clear and succinct. I love number six... hate deserves no audience, in any packaging be it religious, tribal or political. Awesome post :)


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