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Patti Wigington

Pagan Ethics: Is it Really All About You?

By May 12, 2007

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So there I am, hanging out in Barnes & Noble, browsing the shelves of the New Age section, and from the other side of the shelf I overhear a couple of girls chatting about Wicca and Paganism. One apparently considered herself The Expert, and her friend was The Newbie. The Expert was nattering away about how much she loved being Wiccan, because it allowed her to do pretty much anything she wanted as long as she didn’t hurt anyone. Evidently this was “like, way better than when I was Christian and had to follow all those rules."

I couldn’t help myself. I snorked out loud. Thank goodness I’d already finished my double-caramel mocha latte, because if I’d had a mouthful of coffee at that moment it would have ended up all over the book I was perusing at the time. Really, it took every ounce of inner strength I had not to peek over the shelves and announce, “You’re very silly.”

Anyway, it got me thinking. Is Wicca really an excuse to just “do what feels good”? As a religion with no organized structure to speak of, how do we know the difference between acceptable behavior and Things That Are Not Okay? Sure, we have basic guidelines like “Harm None” and that whole “Karma’s a Bummer” concept, but why are people interpreting “Do what thou wilt” as license for a magical free-for-all?

I’ve been at Pagan gatherings where people justify antisocial or dangerous activities by saying, “If it feels good, it’s okay.” That’s not Wicca. That’s irresponsibility. It’s also reflective of a general unwillingness to think about the consequences of our actions. Ultimately, we’re all in charge of our own set of rules and ethics. We have to set a standard for ourselves, and then hold ourselves to those expectations. If we simply go on doing anything we please without taking any personal responsibility for our actions, then what have we accomplished? Nothing, except to shortchange ourselves about what our spiritual path really is.

For more information on Pagan and Wiccan Ethics, read Wiccan Ethics and the Wiccan Rede and The Threefold Law.
June 3, 2007 at 12:24 pm
(1) Kat says:

BRAVO! This put a smile on my face because it is so true!

June 8, 2007 at 10:22 am
(2) Scolaí says:

This issue recently came up for me during Beltane. It seems that the Steward for our study group had “done some research” and decided that Beltane was historically a time when people would forego any promises of fidelity and vows of marriage and just willy-nilly screw anyone who felt like inclination.

We learned of her “research” after the fact. He opinion is that sex and paganism just go hand in hand. If you’re a pagan, loose sex is an expected part of the lifestyle, and during Beltane you can run off with someone who is not your spouse. We kindly informed her that while such behavior may have been true 2500+ years ago, it is certainly not applicable to us here in the USA in 2007.

There’s currently some tension in the local group due to events that unfolded during Beltane. My wife and I hold to fairly traditional views of marriage; we have pretty liberal views about sexuality, but aren’t even close to what was implied by the Steward at Beltane.

Thanks for posting this article.

June 13, 2007 at 4:04 pm
(3) Oroborous says:

“An it harm none” is an ideal. In order to work toward that ideal, requires complete honesty with yourself about your actions, and recognizing the repercussions of those actions in your own sphere and beyond.

Like many spiritual guidelines it can be used to justify any action you want to do. “I do not support the killing of innocents in Iraq, and our military is supported by my taxes, therefore I will not pay my taxes.” That is a justification, and absolves you from personal responsibility of being part of society.

Most religions put morality in black and white. The Rede is an exception, but balances it with the 3 Fold Law. Morality is not black and white. Your own path should be an intensely personal journey marked by the experiences of your life.

Laws are an extension of a GROUP consciousness necessary for a productive society to exist. They should not be justified by moral values, are merely personal choices.

January 6, 2009 at 3:27 pm
(4) jokarius says:

The great forgotten rule of common sense applies.

I was having the conversation with my fiance’s mother about what the three fold law means and what Wicca is, I basically explained it like this:
Wicca is about community, the community of life, of nature, and of existence. True I do not have a heaven or hell but what I do is directly reflected within the community surrounding me. be it good or ill it is always reflected. When I die I will rest and return back into the same community of existence, that has been shaped by my past actions. We make our own “heaven and hell” every day.

Course this is a little much for most teens to understand lol

February 9, 2009 at 10:29 am
(5) wicked says:

Wow – a like thinker. I have been saying that we make our own heaven or hell on earth for so many years – I can’t remember…..

October 22, 2009 at 11:23 am
(6) brett m perlman says:

I a a pagan and i see myself to be a highly moral and ethical person. I have seen many pagans who seem to think that being a pagan mean having less morals. Many say ” I dont have to do that, thats the christian laws and their beliefs.”

What the translates to is many believe that they are beyond any law or standards at all. Many pagans for I have seen are drug heads and pedophiles for example.

It would seem like this is because many do not comprehend what pagan beliefs actually are. If one wishes to harm no one would they forsake their children to go to drugs, or disrespect others rights to breath by polluting their air by cigarette smoke.

I have been ridiculed in some chat rooms by some pagans in the past for telling them they were wrong to try and seduce teen age children. Almost everyone in the room turned against me and told me those were outdated christian ideas.

I have asked others to tone down foul langauge because children might be present and was told this ” quit throwing your christian ideals on our lifestyle”. I find this intersting as I have been a pagan most of my life.

It confuses me that so many just see the do what thou will , but so few see the harm no one part.

i am curious on your thoughts on this because you seem to be an educated and knowlageble person.

thankyou kindly.

June 6, 2011 at 9:10 pm
(7) jizzabelle says:

with all this talk about “what’s right” or “what can or can’t you do” or “what rules to follow” or “gee I’m a pagan, pagans do this … wink wink” you all sound just as stupid and confused as the christians are. “may have been true 2500+ years ago, it is certainly not applicable to us here in the USA in 2007″??? hey you can make up whatever you want, including calling yourself a pagan. just don’t lay that on a real one without expecting to get laughed at, because you can’t make up rules for everybody.

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