Chapter 9: Ethics and Politics
Introduction to Pagan Studies by Barbara Jane Davy
The author points out that there are various perspectives on the ethics and politics of practitioners. This will vary with the types of written work, forum and surveys. Interdisciplinary study is necessary to gain a nuanced understand. Pagan ethics are often critical of mainstream culture so Pagan ethics often have a political component. However Pagans tend to live their ethics especially in relation to sexuality, environmentalism and social justice rather than focusing on rule based ethics. Common ethical themes are in use of magic, in regards to feminists and cultural appropriation. All political orientations are found among Pagans though activist and radical stances are more apparent than conservative perspectives.
“Pagans tend to reject the idea of applying universal principles of ethics, preferring situational ethics that are responsive to contexts, and they often emphasize personal responsibility and the importance of thinking about the consequences of one’s actions.” Wiccan rede is a common ethical principle particularly with Wiccans and Witches. This ethic is typically applied in the use of spells because magical practitioners need to be responsible for their actions including unintended results. Threefold return is often associated with the Rede.
Cultural appropriation is a big one bandied about by those in indigenous traditions but especially by Native Americans. “Arguments against appropriation present ethnicities as natural, essential, stable categories, but ethnicity is socially constructed. Ethnic and cultural differences are real, but not absolute, and the biological basis of race is questionable.” Add to this issue are Americans who tend to be cultural “mutts” or people that believe reincarnation means that one’s current ethnicity is irrelevant. Appropriation is an unresolved issue. (And probably not resolvable.)
Feminist ethics are more integrated in Paganism as the vast majority of Pagans support gender equality. (In my opinion, most Pagans swing to far putting the Goddess above or to the exclusion of the God to “make-up” for mainstream patriarchy.) Author claims that more books are coming out that focus more on the masculine or male practitioner.
Next there is environmentalism consisting of acting in harmony with nature. (Many tend to forget that man is part of nature too.) Such awareness can inspire political awareness. “Daily life for Pagans is not mundane or profane as opposed to some more spiritual concern. Pagans integrate spirituality into their daily lives in their work and in their leisure…” but this also causes conflict because often mainstream jobs are not in sympathy with such actions. Many ethical considerations blend with mainstream others are more apparent in their appreciation for the human body and sexuality.
She goes on to discuss politics and Pagans but honestly it is making my eyes cross. Too many generalities, because in this area as with others there is not true consensus and I do not think the author makes this clear enough despite the promising beginning to the chapter.