Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pagan Values?

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.

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.

But if you put a gun to my head, I'd say that most modern Pagans value the Earth, the body, matter, the connection between all-that-is. (As soon as I'd say that, someone could produce half a dozen examples that disprove what I'd said.) Cock the gun, and I'd say that Pagans tend to value women, women's bodies, the divine feminine, Gaia, the Goddess. Push the barrel a bit into the gentle flesh of my temple, and I'd say that lots of Pagans value ecstatic experience. In fact, for quite a few of what I'd call "festival Pagans," the connection that comes from drumming, fire, dancing, drugs, and sex at the 8 Sabbats IS their experience of Paganism and what they value most about it. And that's v. cool. I'll take that over hating on gays and beating little children in Irish orphanages.

There are, of course, the values of the ancient Pagans, and some modern Pagans look there for guidance. Good start, if one then edits out slavery, human sacrifice, etc.

But, in the end, all that I can say is what I value about Paganism. I value the sacrality of matter, bodies, blood, hymen, placenta, semen, cunt juice, bone, phlem, and shit. I value the thing that happens when I see photosynthesis happening. I value a mythopoetic explanation of the world that complements my scientific understanding of the same. I value the ability to part the veils, the chance to ground daily, the glimpse of what it could be like to live in a world where the king and the land are one. I value flow and fire, the ability to be silent and how the last light over the dark west went while morning at the brown brink eastward springs and the holy ghost over the bent world broods with warm breast and with, ah! bright wings. I value the Spiral Dance. I value poetry. I value the dark. I value the shadow. I value my willingness to let the infinite touch the buckle of my spine and I value the place where change can happen. I value being in touch with things that scare a lot of people and I value valuing that which many devalue. I value the way that boundaries dissolve at orgasm and I value the way that sun feels on skin. I value the way that a living oyster becomes a part of me when I eat it, thereby melding with dinosaur, Hatshepsut, a woman giving birth in Pompeii, and with Sappho, and the way that I will become part of the soil under the lilac bushes when I die.

What do you value?

Picture here.

Bonus points if you can id the two poems I've quoted.


nanoboy said...

I am curious about something. In the Socratic dialogue Euthyphro, Socrates catches Euthyphro in a logical fallacy. Euthyphro is a good guy, as he's acting as a witness against his father who murdered a slave. In discussing the morality of his situation, he must decide whether something is pious (or moral, for our purposes) because the gods approve of it, or whether it is approved by the gods, because it is pious.

He doesn't know in the end and heads off to court. Now, Socrates was a monotheist (a crime in Athens.) However, regardless of the number of gods, any religion needs to grapple with this issue. Did the gods make morality, or do the gods honor morality, because it is constant? I am curious of the response to this question by modern pagans.

Aquila ka Hecate said...

Good question.
I've come across any number of Christians who claim something is moral because their God says it is.
In the bible, every act of outrage, every murder, every sacrifice of children, is deemed moral because Yahweh ordered it or approved of it. I deduce from this that Christians (and probably all other Abrahamic faiths) belive that a thing is moral because it issued from their God.
I tend, as a Pagan, to take the other side. It is moral if it affirms Life, even when it involves death. Simplified, ya.
And since there is no part of me that is not of the Gos, they must approve my morality beacuse it is moral.

Terri in Joburg

Thers said...

I loved the look on my 9-Year-Old's face when he slid safely into third and everyone cheered.

My son cool.

clymela said...

I love the freedom from the Christianity which i was raised in. Took me years to see that the creed was just words and that the real freedom is found in individuals-that kindness, truthfulness, courage are never found in groups but in individuals.

Anne Johnson said...

I value the author of this website and her wisdom.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

Socrates was not a monotheist. There is absolutely not one shred of evidence that he was any such thing. He worshipped Apollo, prayed to Pan, and took the advice of his own personal Daemon. His most famous student, Plato, established a center of learning called the Academy, where there were shrines to Eros, Prometheus, Athena, Heracles and Hermes.

The Euthyphro, like many of Plato's dialogs is "aporetic", which means that it asks good questions and examines many possible answers, but reaches no conclusions.

The Apology, the first Book of the Republic, and the Gorgias present a more clear cut case for Pagan ethics - and those all turn out to agree with the Wiccan Rede: An it harm none, do as ye will.

nanoboy said...

I'm not going to researching in depth, but here's an excerpt from wikipedia regarding Socrates' religious beliefs: "Some controversy also exists about claims of Socrates exempting himself from the homosexual customs of Ancient Greece and not believing in the Olympian gods to the point of being monotheistic or if this was an attempt by later medieval scholars to reconcile him with the morals of the era. However, it is still commonly taught and held with little exception that Socrates is the founder of modern Western philosophy, to the point that philosophers before him are referred to as pre-Socratic."

I remember when I had an ethics class, it was briefly presented to us that Socrates was a monotheist. I think that if he was, it was likely only so, because he liked to be ornery. Or, he may have gone back and forth throughout his life.

At any rate, I look forward to reading about Pagan values and morality in the coming month. Being a deist myself, I like to see how a religion with a lot of old and a lot of new comes to grips with these questions about life and ethics.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

The religious views of Socrates are not really a mystery at all. We know of at least 15 historically attested people who were his students, including three of the most famous writers in all of classical antiquity, Euripides, Plato, and Xenophon. All of the testimony from everyone associated with Socrates is that he was a pious Pagan who revered the traditional Gods that other Athenians worshipped. He just did so in a more philosophical way, and that always makes some people nervous. No one can quote a single sentence from any of the many people who wrote about Socrates, including his detractors (such as the playwright Aristophanes) that suggests in any way that Socrates was a monotheist.

Socrates is very relevant to the whole subject of Pagan values and Pagan ethics, so I think it is important to include him as "one of us", ie, not a monotheist.

Anonymous said...

Hello Hecate,

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

At first I was a little concerned you had, but as I read the rest of your post I knew you hadn't.

For the record though, in my original posting proposing this little blog carnival this...

"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…"

...preceded the call/declaration of mine that you quote.

Thank you by the way for your blog. Your words have enlivened my thoughts, and you are one of the blogger's whose work inspired me to try my hand at writing again, Thank you!