Pagan Ethics

I have been wrestling with the direction I wanted to take this post for awhile now. Of course within Wicca there is the final line in the Wiccan Rede: “An if it harm none, do as you will,” but where does that leave most of us? Ethics seems to be mixed with the Law of the land. For example, if you steal a cow from your neighbor to feed your family, it is illegal to steal the cow, but is it ethical? You are feeding your family, sustaining life for those you love, but you are being dishonest and taking what is not yours.

This discussion of Ethical vs. Legal was presented in my Ethics course today. It provoked me to think, is there an ethical code that is accepted by most or all Pagan community members? Sure, it’s a great concept to do what you want, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone, but then the cow argument can be discredited. If the cow owner were wealthy and the cow was meaningless to him, then it is not harming him or his family. It is a Robin Hood type situation, but is it right to do so? Are ethics subjective to situation? or in reality, should they be solidified?

When we teach our children right and wrong we don’t specifically tell them, “This is ethical. If ‘A’ happens, then you respond with ‘B'” No, we simply lead by example. We tell the truth, keep our promises, return what we borrow, ask before taking an item, play nice. Kindergarten ideas and lessons really do follow us throughout life. There is a poem by Robert Fulghum that expresses this idea. It is presented below.

“Most of what I really need
To know about how to live
And what to do and how to be
I learned in kindergarten.
Wisdom was not at the top
Of the graduate school mountain,
But there in the sandpile at Sunday school.

These are the things I learned:

Share everything.
Play fair.
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life –
Learn some and think some
And draw and paint and sing and dance
And play and work everyday some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world,
Watch out for traffic,
Hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder.”

In truth, every faith can learn something from this. Don’t steal, don’t kill, don’t hurt those around us. Treat others how you want to be treated.

Ethical conduct is a serious discussion that needs to be brought forth by Pagans. As much as we wish to say we don’t want organized religion, Paganism is an organized, ritual-based faith. We have steps on worship and instruction on how to worship our deities, we may be void of a book, but that does not mean we can operate however we want. We are a faith based in love and gratitude, we are not vengeful, we are not spiteful, we forgive (we don’t always forget), we don’t get even, that’s karma’s job, we give love and receive love, it is time to make our ethical choices known. We are not without structure, we are the epitome of structure. Let’s publish our love, let’s be known as a force of purity.

Love to all!

Blessed be!


4 responses to “Pagan Ethics

  1. For Paganism as a whole no I don’t think their is a unified set of ethical conduct. There are certain agreed upon things but they are the same things our society as a whole agrees upon (don’t murder except in self defense etc.). You’re right specific traditions have their own ethics but they don’t always agree. The Wiccan rule of Harm None definitely does not agree with the ethics any of the Northern European Reconstructionalist faiths like Asatru.

    I have to disagree on your statement of Paganism being organized because on a whole we don’t have steps or instruction on how to worship. Not ones that are universal. Each person’s individual path likely has those rules but they don’t all agree with each other. I actually was just discussing that specific issue on my own blog yesterday.

    I think overall all Pagans could agree on a very simple code of ethics but as I said I think they will mirror the same ethics that are agreed upon by our society.

    • Velody,

      I loved all of your comments, they were truthful and poignant.

      I should have mentioned the differences between faiths. I was being selfish an applied this blog to only my faith with a dabble of the Wiccan rede. That was foolish on my part.

      You are very right, when the idea of ethics is applied to the umbrella term “Pagan,” then there will be loads of differences.
      My faith is very organized because when it comes to ritual and formal prayer we have a structure, but you are correct many faiths have a free flowing and strictly “where the wind blows” mentality which is beautiful. My faith does harbor the same sentiments, but we also find structure in ritual.

      Thank you for your comments. You made me think and I was wrong to not discuss the inter-pagan faiths and relationships in accordance to ethics.

      I’m headed to your blog now to read your posts!
      Have a light filled day, my friend 🙂

      • That’s the difficulty of using the term pagan we often think if it from our own frame of reference. I myself sit on the edge of the pagan label currently but have been in many different places under it through the years. It causes me to generally think of it in the broadest term.

        Maybe we need to speak of them in larger chunks that hold similar ethics and practicies like Wicca & the Eclectic traditions, the Reconstructionists, the folk traditions/witchcraft, the ceremonial magicians, etc.

      • I have found that there are two ways of using the term Pagan. There is the umbrella term which encompasses faiths that are not under the Judeo-Christian classification. This includes Druidism, Wicca, Santanism, Ecclectic Paganism, and many more. Then there are those who call themselves Pagan. This would be those, most of the time, who have a tradition that has been passed down, or they practice God and Goddess worship like our ancestors. This would those faiths which are classified as “neopagan.”

        I classify myself as Pagan in the sense of a person of the land. I derive my beliefs from my family and ancestral practices. My faith is monk-like in a sense. We have a strong emphasis on prayer and fasting. We rarely resort to practicing magick unless in dire need, or for protection if we feel it necessary.

        Paganism is such a vast world full of beautiful faiths and traditions. My faith is just a thread in the huge tapestry that is Paganism.

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