One of the undercurrents I have read about elsewhere is “whose” values these are, most notably from the Witch Kitty:
Have I adopted different values as a result of being Pagan? Not really. Instead, Paganism held me to solidify and understand my values and how those values fit into the context of my community – both Pagan and secular.Granted, Kitty and I most likely have very different spiritual paths — I am a Hellenist and she seems like more of a generic Witch/Pagan. Ideas like this exist elsewhere, though, and it’s something that goes with the entire philosophy that I am working to adopt (which is already starting to lower my stress levels). Over the course of the month, others have also questioned whether we are all just reaching for pagan and polytheistic texts that affirm, but never challenge, our preconceived notions about human conduct and divine interactions.
All of us posting during the Pagan Values Event come from very unique places, and most of us have spent the month writing from an authoritative standpoint about ideas we think that all of us should share. David Salisbury wrote about animal rights from an activist vegan perspective, saying
I believe that Pagans can be some of the best stewards for the Earth. Our connection with our environment (both seen and unseen) is a uniqueness rivaled by few other paths. Because of this, we have a responsibility to ourselves and our surroundings to be the best guardians of the planet and the creatures within that we can be. Because of our access to information and our blessed array of choices, we have the chance to truly practice compassion for all.On the Hellenic Polytheistic Community Facebook group, we had a discussion about how valuing the Earth fits in with our religious perspectives, with the founder of Kyklos Apollon, Todd Jackson, arguing that Hellenism is not Earth-based because worshipping the physical vehicle for the goddess Gê/Gaia means that we get lost in the representation of her instead of looking right at her — even if we worship the nymphai, the potamoi, and other divinities, it's about them, not the planet.
Like it or not, having somewhat similar outlooks on religion does not mean that two people have to share political or social ideologies as well. That stinks of One True Wayism, the idea that the specific ideologies adopted by a particular group are the only way to approach an issue. Values that seem common sense to me — marriage equality, women’s reproductive freedom, or even environmentalism — are still foreign to some people in our communities. Likewise, deeply-held convictions regarding the President’s “socialism” or whatever leave me completely baffled and wondering if the other person is even speaking the same language.
For example, Salisbury mentioned giving up eating animals. Animals have consciousnesses. They feel emotions, and while I can’t vouch for mental complexity, many species probably plan actions and are capable of some (albeit nonhuman) reasoning. On the other hand, everything on this world — every blade of grass, deep-sea worm, or stately maple — comes from the same genetic stock that we do. Since then, life has sectioned itself off into a variety of different roles. It’s only easy to kill plants for food because we branched off from them so early on. It’s harder for us to feel compassion for them than for a species that shares more physical features in common with us, such as a cow or turkey. I respect his opinion, and I definitely agree that raising animals for slaughter in the quantities we do is insane, but the other arguments do not really resonate with me as an audience due to my different worldview. If I ever were to adopt vegetarianism or veganism, I would do so because I joined up with the Orphic or Pythagorean Hellenists, but for now I’ll stick to buying my meat from the local farmer’s market.
The same goes for what Todd mentioned. I do regard the physical world as sacred. It doesn't matter whether it's an image of Gê or Gê herself. I wouldn’t profane an image in a temple, and the planet isn’t any different. Philosophically speaking, I believe that connecting with physical images and symbols can actually bring people into a sort of resonance with the divinities connected to them.
It all comes down to everyone developing opinions and testing them against the world. We are all seeing shadows reflected on the cave wall, and living according to our values helps us refine and change them to meet the outcomes of our observations. We need to spend some time every once in a while at the white board communicating ourselves to the rest of the group so our values are heard.
But living them and thinking about them goes way beyond Pagan Values Month. It goes beyond associating with a homogeneous ideological group. We need to experience different people and stretch our comfort zones. We need to apply our values to new situations.
The values and ethics communicated in the ancient Greek and Roman texts are so basic and so human. I have tried to give a sense of that over Pagan Values Month this year. In an era when every voice wants us to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to one ideology or another, reading, reflecting, and acting according to what we find in the ancients grounds us in our commonalities. This, in turn, will help us move away from our differences and refocus on the core of our practice: the Blessed Ones, the Makares — the Gods.