Spirituality into Action: Finding My Pagan Values

by Sarah Twichell

Values are a bridge. They connect our spiritual practice to our actions in the world, helping us to discern what to do in big and small ways. While they are often called upon in political debates and named in the kinds of issues that polarize our society, they’re also active in our lives. When we live in accordance with our values, we feel we are acting with integrity; when we are confused about what to do, they’re a compass that can help us figure it out.

Because paganism is so firmly rooted in individual experiences of the sacred, it can be hard to identify anything we might have in common. But I think there may be a few things, and in that spirit, I offer up a few of my pagan values, as a starting point for a discussion.

Walking lightly on the Earth
My first devotional relationship was not with a god or spirit, but with the Earth itself, whose body literally supports me every moment of every day. I honor the cycles of the Earth through ritual, through my garden and cooking, and with my magic. I honor the body of the Earth by striving to live sustainably: by eating food from the area where I live, by recycling and reusing to reduce trash, by trying to avoid plastic and reduce energy consumption. Of course, there are a thousand ways to do this, and it’s often difficult to know how to even start, but for me, the important thing is to keep moving in the right direction.

Celebrating interdependence
One of the things I am most awed by in the natural world is the complex relationships between its parts. Our lives are intertwined with the lives of everything around us, from the microbes in our dirt to the animals in our neighborhoods to the air flowing in the jet stream. When I distance myself from these things or reduce my understanding of them to the mechnical, the world no longer calls on my compassion. When I nurture and celebrate those connections, on the other hand, I build the kind of network of relationships that sustains all of its members.

Honoring each other
If the sacred is in the world, as most pagans believe, it is in each of us. If that is so, there is no place in the world for racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, or discrimination based on physical ability, body type, gender, religion, choice of clothing… we could go on and on. Of course, it is also true that all of us harbor the seeds of discrimination, not because we are bad people, but because these seeds are ingrained in the culture we live in. It is my job, I believe, to search for those seeds in myself, to apologize when they cause me to treat someone badly or to speak offensively, and to be as much of an ally as I can to people who suffer more directly than I do from these forms of discrimination.

Honoring our passions
If we carry the spark of the sacred within us, the way it gets from us into the world is through our passion. It’s so easy to write these passions off as impractical or unworthy — or to write ourselves off as selfish, undeserving, or doomed to starve on the street. To me, understanding my passion as a manifestation of the sacredness of the world lets me trust myself and my desires more deeply, and helps me see the beauty in other people’s passion as well.

I could go on and on with this list, but I’m curious to hear from you! How does your spiritual practice lead to your values? How do those values show up in your life?

(photo by fetopher, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license)

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2 thoughts on “Spirituality into Action: Finding My Pagan Values

  1. Sarah, that was beautifully expressed- especially the part about our (pagan) experience being very individual yet there is much we share in common. I have tried for many years to live with the kind of integrity you mention; sometimes I realize that I have integrated things so well, like recycling,that I am not conscious of “doing” it. Other things I am still very deliberate about. For example, being a naturally gregarious (some would say chatty!) person, I try to shape what can be an annoying habit into something more gracious. I stay aware that every person I interact with deserves courtesy and respect. This can mean that a busy cashier just gets a “Thank you very much” with eye contact, but the night shift woman at Dunkin' Donuts who is “going through stuff” gets me to stop and listen for five minutes.
    I am also, admittedly slowly, giving things away. I was inspired by the movie “Blessings”, about Tibetan (female)monks and how simply they live. While I do not aspire to that degree of spareness, it has made me mindful of how much “stuff” I have.
    It is great to have your voice speak to this, hope we hear more!
    Sue Arthen

  2. The seeds of discrimination began with simple survival. Prejudice gave us the ability to “prejudge” new people animals foods or areas that provided a certain degree of protection when we were weak or vulnerable. Today that old survival mechanism is much less necessary, as we have a very strongly structured society to protect us. Oddly we were the type of people our tribes depended upon to evaluate the new. Those walking this path still are among the most sane in demanding that discrimination, sexism and other such foolishness end. We realise that all is the divine; every, person, animal, blade of grass and drop of water. I cannot conceive of any system of magik that denies this and works. Does telepathy work because one is more powerful than another or is it because one is actually a part of all others?

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