Over the last several days I have read many articles about Big Name Pagans (BNPs) behaving badly. There are a number of intelligent, thought-provoking, and powerful comments on each specific situation so I will not rehash that detailed material here on my blog. What I do feel compelled to broadly discuss (more like rant and rave about) here is the related and disturbing tendency of some Pagan individuals (whether they be BNPs, local leaders, elders, or just plain Jane Witch) to behave in ethically questionable or downright reprehensible ways, and then claim that the gods, spirits, or other divinities have encouraged, fostered, and approved said shitty behavior.
Not only do these individuals have weak ethics (i.e. principles of conduct that necessitate considering and valuing others), but they also lack a sense of personal responsibility for their behavior. Frankly, it takes courage to live a set of ethical principles that honor self and others, and to take responsibility for one’s actions.
You have to be bold to step up and say “Yes, I did that and I am sorry; it wasn’t my intention to hurt you. How can I make amends?” Honestly, it is far easier to say, “Yes, I did that. Wow, are you really going to stand there and yell at me about the negative impact of my irresponsible/thoughtless/insert-fuckedupness-here behavior? LOL. So stupid. No, I’m not sorry. Screw you! Hekate loves me; she is proud of my profound personality flaws and character deficits, so much so that she actually gave me the spell (or other proclaimed license for maleficence) that undid you. Hail Hekate!”…
No, Jane Witch, that is your shit, yours! Folks like Jane Witch demonstrate a lack of courage to own their bad behavior. They insert a deity name into some spotty reasoning or sketchy ethical principles and call it good. Ethics is about respecting self and our relationship with people, deities, places, spirits, ideas, cultures, the dead, environments, identities, insert about a gillion equally important things and beings here. Bringing mayhem or chaos to someone else’s life – and then denying, minimizing, or psychopathicly justifying it – is not okay. Each of us is responsible for ourselves: the good, the bad, and the ugly. And we are responsible for the consequences of our actions.
If one chooses to be irresponsible, ethically-challenged, and cowardly don’t go blaming the gods for what are ultimately one’s own personal decisions about how to (mis)treat and interact with others. There are hundreds of ways to behave badly (e.g. insulting, invalidating, mistreating, shaming, blaming, manipulating, coercing, intimidating, violating, covertly/overtly aggressing, etc.) and of course there are a *few* select situations in which a *particular* bad behavior or two is allowed (e.g. feel free to bend the truth or psych out a deadly abuser in order to get far away and never look back) but those situations must be carefully identified and navigated…and even then the Witch has to own her behavior and the related consequences – good or bad. End of sentence.
Contemporary polytheistic ethics can be hard because we work with a variety of deities who have different ethical expectations and prescriptions among them. However, hard divine ethical expectations do not give one license to have no ethical convictions, or to stretch ethical principles beyond recognition in the name of a deity. Let’s look to our deities’ home cultures for guidance on what behaviors a particular deity may have frowned upon, or celebrated and let’s look at the ethical expectations of our own cultural context as well! Human beings have basic codes of courtesy, decency, and right-ness, many of which actually transcend religious lines. We are all personally responsible for figuring out what those are and honoring them. The harmony of our relationships and the integrity of our own souls kinda depends on it.
Ethical expectations for human beings among other human beings do not change drastically or matter significantly less just because you claim Dread Goddess Hekate or Silver-Crowned Artemis told you that you could violate a person’s agency, rights, or personal space, or energetic space, etc.
The gods are not an ethical/personal responsibility bypass mechanism!!
This is a little different than what I normally write about, but I needed to get this off my chest in light of recent events in the Pagan news. Okay, I am done ranting now…I think.