The unPagan Ethics Committee

Occasionally, I get a message from someone that asks how they should “look” as a Pagan. Or, a little more often, there tends to be an empirical statement given by someone (or even a statement misunderstood by others as empirical in nature) that states that Pagans “must be” this or “must do” that. Failure to do so, strips one of their Pagan status and mythical Pagan union card immediately. That usually sparks a huge fight between the fundamentalist attitudes within Paganism, and things wind up going down the well-worn and littered trail of “being Pagan enough.”

All of that is quite silly though. There is no Pagan union card, and if there, I am not sure I would be willing to pay the yearly dues. There is no certain way that any Pagan needs to dress or a hairstyle that every Pagan should wear. If there were, my balding self would be in deep trouble. I might even need to get a wig waiver. And honestly, people can talk or write as much as they want about the empirical rules of what constitutes a Pagan and what doesn’t. Pagans have as much Free Will to do as they please as anyone else on the planet.

Certainly, if you belong to a certain magickal tradition, path or order, there are some rules you will need to follow. That’s part of being a member in that group. It may mean that you follow certain protocols in casting a circle or handling parts of a ritual. It may mean that you have to dress in certain types of robes when doing magickal workings. It may mean that you have to undergo certain training and ordeals to be admitted to certain levels of the group. But none of that means that every single Pagan or magickal worker would have to do the same.

I am a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. This February, I will attend an Imbolc Retreat in south central Texas that is put on by an Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) group. They certainly do rituals a lot different from what I have learned in OBOD, and the rituals that I do as a solo Pagan are even different from what I have learned in OBOD. Those differences are readily visible to me. But none of those differences makes any of the approaches any less or greater within Paganism. For me, they are merely different facets of the same gem.

If there is one element that seems to be the same between the various members of the wide umbrella known as Paganism, it is a healthy respect and love for Nature. And while it may seem cliche’, that one aligned aspect is enough for me to see the “sameness” (is that even a word?) that encompasses the Pagan umbrella. And sincerely, there is no litmus test to determine if one is greater than fifty percent Pagan. Nor should there be.

See, in my mind, a litmus test to determine if one is “Pagan Enough” smacks of the Red Scare of the 1950s, when people were dragged before the unAmerican Activities Committee in Congress and had to defend themselves against the charge of being a communist. I honestly do not want to even tread down a road that is paved with this style of dirt. Besides, it places people on a Path where they have to create a public personae to showcase how “Pagan” they are. If you really want to know how “Pagan” you are – search your own heart. Those of you who feel that you still don’t know, my advice is to sit down and meditate a while on it. If it still doesn’t come to you then – set it aside for today, and come back to it an a day or two. If it still hasn’t come to you, rinse and repeat until you find that answer. Because being Pagan is knowing that you are Pagan – not how you dress, what political party you ascribe to, what magickal order you belong to, or if you are practicing solo or not. Its in your heart. And when its there, you will know.

And the only unPagan Ethics Committee you need to submit your findings to has a single member – you. Anyone stating otherwise is looking for a way to have power over you. As Sarah tells the Goblin King in “Labyrinth”:

You have no power over me.

Remember that. It will serve you well.

–T /|\


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