An it harm none do what you will at first glance seems to be an invitation for any kind of behavior. However, this founding concept for most nature based religions is not as simplistic as it first appears. Paganism has two leading ethical principles, the Wiccan Rede and the law of return. According to Marion Green in A Witch Alone “An it harm none, do what ye will. None in this case implies everyone and everything! An in old English means In order that and will is your soul’s own true will, not the whim of the moment.” (pg 41) In other words - In order that no harm comes to anything or anyone do what your soul’s own true desires. The law of return basically means that whatever energy you put out it will come back to you, three, ten or a hundred fold depending on what path you follow. As with other religions, this is interpreted in a variety of ways. The law of return, which is a western version of karma expounds personal responsibility. According to Rabinovitch and MacDonald in An Ye Harm None there are two central concepts on morality “1) that there are causes for and reasons why something happens and 2) that every action you take will have effects.” (page 5) In its simplest form the rede is the guide for making life choices. The law of return is the penalty or prize for any action taken.
In any discussion concerning Pagan morality and justice it is difficult to pin down the one overriding belief the entire community has. Paganism, Witchcraft, and the other nature-based belief systems are very individualistic, which is part of their appeal. This means that those practicing these systems have to determine their own ethical and moral beliefs based on the minimal guidance found in whatever path they choose to follow.
There's a cycle in the Pagan blogosphere that needs to be interrupted. This or that public figure of Paganism stumbles, mildly or majorly, anything from making an offensive statement to doing something seriously unethical and even illegal. More than half the time, I think to myself "Who is this person, and why should I care?" But one by one, many take it upon themselves to step up and denounce or defend to demonstrate their upholding of ethics, Real Paganism(tm) or Loyalty and Respect for Our Elders (tm) Then we get upset about which "sides" our favorite bloggers, authors, festival presenters have taken, or not taken and there's another wave of backlash. I admit to taking part in this, but this last couple times I hesitated. What impact does my speaking or writing on this have? Is this person accountable to me? Do they follow the same value system as me? Do they represent my tradition or organization? Can I have a face to face conversation with them?
I often put more thought into my writing than my speech. I try to talk quickly to get in all the words I want to and end up sounder more foolish as a result. The Druidic virtue of eloquence is certainly one I need to work on! I know my Wiccan compatriots have a saying about "Speak ye little, listen much" and the title of this blog post refers to the Witches' Pyramid, To Know, To Will, and To Keep Silent. I guess To Speak falls under To Will- it's not my pyramid, so y'all might have to explain it to me.
I often see the words “label” and “identity” used interchangeably, but to me they have rather different connotations. A label is something society thrusts on you, to organize information- keep track of possible discrimination, to access services and accommodations or medical treatment in the case of disabilities and medical conditions. It’s something that you don’t have a lot of choice over.
An identity by contrast may be chosen, or it is a choice to make a label one’s own. It is a way to connect with other people in a community. There are also some that I find are kind of in the middle- as in “I identify as X, but it’s easier to access community and explain things if I use label Y”
Do ut des means “I give so that you may give.” It is one of the defining points of Roman polytheism, and it is the most important. It is in these 3 Latin words that we can lay out how the Romans viewed their Gods. It is in these 3 Latin words that we can lay out a different approach than what we likely grew up with in regard to relationships with the Gods and society as a whole.
Ask someone in the Pagan community about Roman polytheism and you will regularly hear that it was contractual to the point of lifelessness. Actually, ask a lot of Roman polytheists the same, and they will repeat that statement as well, preferring to take the outdated tone of early scholars of the Roman religion, who regularly were Christian and carrying on a long tradition of upholding their perceived superiority through biased writing and opinion.
Welcome to Ahimsa Grove, which is meant to be a site of information, inspiration, and reflection about the intersections between veganism and paganism. I hope that readers will not only be those who are currently self-identifying as both vegan and pagan. I want to share information and ideas with others who may be vegan but not pagan, or vice versa. I welcome the ideas of others, as well. I ask only that all ideas be given respectfully and in good faith, and in keeping with the ideal of “perfect love & perfect trust.”
Another ideal that many pagans, often specifically Wiccans, aspire to is the concept of “harming none.” This is often known as “The Wicca or Witches’ Rede (meaning advice or council). It is an ethic at the core of veganism, as well. It is called “ahimsa,” which also means “harm none.” Ahimsa is a term within Sanskrit rooted traditions including Hinduism and Buddhism.