Pagan Values

First, I have to apologize to all you whose comments were held up for days–the blog used to alert me when comments came in and then stopped, and I’ve been teaching 12-hour days and didn’t get a chance to check it. We’re still getting it up and running, but I hope that won’t happen again.

June was Pagan Values Month in the blogosphere, and I’ve been wanting to write something about Pagan Values all month.. Okay, I have noticed that it’s now July, but my core values haven’t changed much in the last two days. How about yours?
My friend Donald has written a series on Pagan Values:

and so have many others–see where it begins at:
James “Twosnakes” Stovall asked me to comment on the question:
“What’s the most important ethical issue facing Pagans today?”
His blog is at
I wrote him:

“The greatest ethical problem at the moment, I think, for those of us who believe the earth is sacred is how to respond to climate change, to the immense potential loss of life and biodiversity it represents, to the personal and social challenges it poses. How do we both live with personal integrity and also help to galvanize a more effective public response? How do we make people aware of the urgency without plunging them into cynicism and despair? What sacrifices are we truly called to make, and how do we formulate a truly pagan response, that avoids falling into quasi-Christian moralism, that lets us continue to value pleasure, joy and beauty, that seeks to create abundance, regeneration and healing?”

I’m in the midst of teaching one of our Earth Activist Trainings–a rather grueling schedule as we’re working basically from nine in the morning until ten at night, and it does conflict with a girl’s blogging time! But it’s making me think a lot about how we frame these issues around climate change and ecology, as we teach solutions to our students. Earth Activist Training is a permaculture course, and permaculture is an ecological design system that is very solution oriented and upbeat, downright cheery in the face of doom. We’re always looking at how things fit together and support one another.

It’s very easy when we talk about environmental matters to fall into a kind of environmental moralism. A lot of our solutions involve exhorting people to be good, to give up things, to make sacrifices. We make people feel guilty and wrong. Well, maybe we should feel guilty and wrong for destroying the planet, and when we’re grubbing for flaccid, dying roots in the melting tundra in small, starving bands escaping the suffocating heat of the lower latitudes, we’ll wish we’d made greater sacrifices–but exhorting people to be good has limited effectiveness. And maybe a bit of it, just a bit–is a holdover of patriarchal religious conditioning, that pleasure is suspect and goodness involves austerity. I wonder what an ecological movement might look like that truly embraced Pagan values–that pleasure is good, the body is sacred, life should be full of beauty and delight, that all of life is alive and speaking and communicating and inviting us to join in the song? If we said, “Come join us in a world that is alive with enchantment, throw off the shackles of the poisonous world and the chains of production and run wild, eat fabulous food, have ecstatic sex, swim naked in clean-running rivers, restore the life and health of the world?”

Tuesday we heard a powerful presentation from the Beehive Collective,, a group that does amazing, complex graphics on giant posters about key political issues. They live collectively here in Maine but travel to tell stories and present their work all over the world. They’ve been working on the issue of mountain-top renewal and coal. James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate change scientists, says that stopping coal is 85% of addressing climate change. As for ‘clean’ coal—take a look at the 400 mountaintops in Appalachia that have been leveled, at the buried streams, at the dams of toxic tailings, at those flooded towns in Tennessee—and then define ‘clean’!

At any rate, on their research tour in Appalachia, they met at one point with an executive from the coal company. Among other things, he told them “Coal keeps the lights on—and the dark is scary.”

One of the Pagan Values I hold is to embrace the dark. We don’t identify dark with evil and light with good, but see light and dark as parts of the balance. The dark of the womb, the dark of fertile earth, the dark of the night sky all hold mystery, creativity, life.

Not that I don’t love electric light to read by, my computer and even the occasional movie of TV night. But I wonder—is our fear of the dark—which is connected to our fear of the wild, of the body, of nature, our fear of mortality and our denigration of the women’s bodies which bring us into this mortal life, our oppression of people whose skins are dark and our disdain for those who work with their hands in dark earth—is that connected to the denial and the disconnect that is letting us continue to destroy the very systems that sustain our lives?

So—Pagan values: the great erotic, passionate, wild love for life, that embraces dark and light and the whole cycle of birth, growth, death, decay and regeneration.

And dinner—which is about to happen!

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