Pagan Values… What does that even mean?

I learned recently that June is designated as the annual Pagan Values month in the blogosphere. It’s relatively new, having been started in June of 2009 but I’m excited to see what comes of it now and in the future.

I think the idea of Pagan Values is a good one, but just like anything else in Paganism, we won’t all agree on everything. There is no core set of beliefs that can be defined as Pagan. We don’t have universally accepted scripture. (Of course, I don’t think any religion or belief has universally accepted scripture. If they did, there wouldn’t be conflicts over the interpretation of it. That’s actually a good thing… if only folks would realize it is and go on from there.)

Some Pagan traditions place Enlightenment in their list of values. Some say, Love. Others say Protection of the planet/animals/etc. Some Pagans say we have the responsibility to hex wrong-doers and others say such things are forbidden. Some hunt and some are hard-core vegetarian/vegan. Some take on the warrior’s code and others choose the path of the pacifist, yet each of these are equally defining their spirituality as Pagan. So, in reality, is there even such a thing as “Pagan Values”?

One of the first topics of discussion that I go through my students with is values and ethics and one of the biggest tasks put before them is to come up with a definition and description of their own. I ask them what they believe, how strongly they believe in it, what are they willing to compromise, and what are they not willing to compromise. This is partly so that I get a solid idea of where they are coming from for the sake of our continued acquaintance. But even more than that, it’s the first assignment that gives them insight into learning about themselves, what makes them tick, and what they believe and why.

It’s not my job to tell people what to believe. I have my own ethics, morals, and values and for the most part, they seem to be in line with what is put out there in the general Pagan community as well as society as a whole. I will share mine if asked and I will definitely share mine with students so that they can decide if I’m the right teacher for them based on what they know or believe (or think they know or believe) but each person is responsible ultimately for their own values. It’s because I have this opinion that the generalized topic of “Pagan Values” seemed like such an interesting concept.

Pagans pride themselves on autonomy and individuality. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to meet up with others who share similar thoughts and beliefs, but even then, we tend to remain very isolated, at least I do. I lurk on message boards. I study, listen, and pay very close attention to everything I see happening and what my intuition tells me about my environment, either real or in cyberspace. Of all my years studying and practicing Witchcraft, comparatively few include being involved with a group. Most of what I did and most of what I do, even though I have students and the beginnings of a new coven forming, is solitary experience.

I enjoy community, but I’m very picky about what community is. I’m aware that can come across as haughty, arrogant, or judgmental, but it’s true. I’m not looking to open up my coven to just anyone. I’m not looking to share the egregore and experience with others who aren’t sure it’s what they want themselves and who I’m not sure should be in it. What I have is special, private, and personally sacred. It’s not for the general public. It doesn’t mean that it’s any better or worse than what someone can find elsewhere with other Pagans or in self-study. But it does mean that it’s mine to share or not share as I choose.

So, I’ve given examples of what I value and I think that is the definition of My Values and since I’m a Pagan, I put these forth as Pagan Values.

  • Self-reliance
  • Self-responsibility
  • Self-knowledge
  • Independence
  • Wisdom
  • Confidence
  • Discernment
  • Courage

I also value intelligence, honesty, integrity, understanding, compassion, and honor.

These are the goals I set for myself and the standards I hold myself to. These are the qualities I expect in those I closely associate with and students I see as passing on my knowledge and experience to. I’m not perfect and I slip up sometimes, stumbling here and there, but I think that on the whole, I do a pretty damned good job of keeping up with things on here. Mostly it’s because I recognize that they are there and I’ve vowed that these will be my standards of character and I take vows and oaths very seriously.

I also left off some things that others might have on their personal list of values. I did so because I tried to list things I believe are universally applicable from my point of view; qualities such as Respect or some others are not. There are people I simply don’t respect and feel no call towards giving respect to, typically it’s those people who don’t hold to what I do value that fail to earn respect from me. I also don’t Love everyone. I don’t automatically dislike or hate someone simply because I don’t love them. I think I’m like most people and have a huge amount of neutral indifference to the general population. Love is reserved for family and friends. Compassion and Honor pick up the slack left by me not loving everyone and I’m okay with that.

So values still remain a very personalized thing based on our experiences. I’ll be doing more writing about this in future blog posts – I have the entire month of June to try and cover this topic, you know. I think it will take at least that long too.

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