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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Pagan virtues

Big Questions


How long have you been pagan? Five years? Twenty-five? All your life?

Time, then, for some big questions.

Has your paganism made you a better person?

Has your paganism challenged you to grow?

Has your paganism bettered the lives of those around you?

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Mark, you're my hero.
  • Mark Green
    Mark Green says #
    Absolutely, it has. It has confirmed my values and strengthened them. Deepened my love for the Earth and Cosmos. Sustained my act

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 Old Home Sour Cream, Pure | Dairy | Priceless Foods

Sour cream keeps for a long time, but this particular batch—filmed over with a scum of red goo—is clearly well past its Use By date.

Normally, I would take it out back and scrape the contents into the compost; then I would wash the plastic container and put it into the recycling. But I'm busy making breakfast and suddenly the extra work seems more than I want to do. I replace the lid and, feeling a pang of guilt, put it into the garbage.

I'm a pagan. I reuse, repurpose, and recycle religiously, and I mean that literally. In the general way of things, I generate very little garbage, throwing out maybe one bag of garbage every couple/three weeks: mostly dental floss (the commercial stuff is all plasticized) and non-recyclable plastic (like the bags that leaf spinach comes in). I feel a little stab, seeing the eminently-recyclable plastic sour cream container in amongst the spinach bags, but I steel myself and turn back to my breakfast-making.

I don't get far in my preparations, though, standing at the chopping board in a miasma of guilt as pungent as a fart. I heave a sigh, retrieve the sour cream, and take it out back to the heap. Life would be so much easier if we had no values.

Many come to the Old Ways from shame cultures, seeking an escape from the internalized guilt that poisons their natal societal air.

Well, I've got some bad news for you: only sociopaths feel no guilt. When it comes to guilt, pagans feel our share; we're just differently guilty. Perhaps the very best to be said is that when pagans feel guilt, it's because we've broken our own rules, not someone else's.

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Recent comment in this post - Show all comments
  • Katie
    Katie says #
    This is so very familiar. Been there. Had that guilt wrench looking at a glass jar filled with old, moldy salsa, too liquidy to p


First of all, you've really got to love the name: Olympiódorus, “Gift of the Olympian (or Olympians).” Gods, what a name to give your kid. Was this child loved, or what?

The Late Classical neo-Platonist philosopher Olympiodorus (c. 495–570)—known as the Younger to distinguish him from a famous older namesake—was the last pagan to head the School of Alexandria. A number of his writings survive, from which we can tell that he was a deep thinker indeed.

Thinking pagans have long organized their ethical thought around the virtues. (“An it harm none, do what thou wilt” is all very well so far as it goes, but—apart from telling you what not to do—it offers little, if any, guidance on what to do, on how to live well, or—maybe more importantly—on how to interact with others.) The virtues, though, give us ideals to which we can aspire. The Rede is lazy ethics: it doesn't offer much in the way of motivation to better, or surpass, oneself. The virtues, though, do. One can—and should—always become better, more virtuous.

Who can number the virtues? Certainly not me. But I can name some among the Many: Courage. Generosity. Love. Hospitality. Truth. Piety. Loyalty. Beauty. Temperance. (If “Temperance” rubs your fur the wrong way, think “Balance” instead.) Excellence. Responsibility. Duty. Honor. Wisdom.

Well, according to our friend, the well-loved Olympiodorus, the virtues all reciprocally imply one other. Though fully itself, each virtue contains all the others. There's Courage, which is Courage of Courage (Winston Churchill once said that Courage is the chiefest of virtues because it makes all the others possible), but there's also Beauty of Courage, Generosity of Courage, Hospitality of Courage, etc. It's a deep thought, staggering in implication.

Our man takes it further. As the virtues reciprocally imply one another, he says, so too do the gods. Each of the gods implies all the others.

Each of the gods implies all the others. Within each of the gods, all the others are contained. Ye gods. This isn't three-dimensional chess. This is nine-dimensional chess.

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 About This Site | Red Thread Broken


Hey Boss Warlock:

What does the Lore say about suffering?


Once two witches were taken. “Deny the Horned,” they told them.

One refused, and went steadfast to the gallows. Seeing her faithfulness, many took heart and were made resolute to resist. In this way did the Craft survive, and the Red Thread go unbroken.

The other denied the Horned with her lips, but in her heart she remained firm. She lived to a ripe old age, teaching the Old Ways all her days, and in this way did the Craft survive, and the Red Thread go unbroken.

Both suffered. Which did better?


Life is full of pain. So Boss Warlock is wont to say, with no little irony, in the face of inconveniences and minor obstacles, meaning: It could be worse.

(For this he was once accused of closet Buddhism. “No need to get insulting,” said Boss Warlock.)

As lovers of life, we pagans do what we may to ease suffering. “Kill cleanly,” says the law of the hunt, meaning: When you must cause suffering, cause as little as may be. To relieve the suffering of another is an act of generosity, and worthy of the great of heart.

As pagans, we live by the virtues. Winston Churchill once said that of all the virtues, the chiefest is Courage, because Courage makes all the others possible.

So when we meet with suffering, we do our best to do so courageously, and better it be if we can make that suffering serve some larger purpose. While we may, we thole: endure. When suffering becomes unendurable, we make, if need be, an end. To end suffering is always virtuous.

This is our people's way.

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Guilty as charged.

Yes, I do occasionally post on non-pagan topics—Justin Trudeau's butt, for example.

(But is Justin Trudeau's butt a non-pagan topic? ”If you want to understand the gods,” said Socrates, “look at excellence.” ) Yes, I do occasionally get grief about it, mainly from myself.

Please find attached my pathetic collection of excuses, many of them mutually-contradictory.

You can draw your own conclusions.


Just because it doesn't have a pentagram on it, doesn't mean it isn't pagan.

I like to think that I'm writing about the Deep Paganism. Just because it doesn't look pagan on the surface, doesn't necessarily mean that there's no pagan there.

To the pagan, all things are pagan.

Sunsets, recycling, milk. Stupas, church architecture, the Qur'an. Beads, shoveling snow, men's bodies.

To the pagan eye, there's pagan everywhere.

Maintaining a healthy paganism means having outside interests.

To the Deeply Pagan, our paganism touches on everything that we do, think, and say.

Still, the healthiest relationships are always the ones in which all parties involved keep up their outside interests.

I may be a Paganism Bore, but so long as I can maintain interest in at least some non-pagan topics, I'm not completely hopeless.

Well, so I like to tell myself. You be the judge.

It's a test.

Aha! You think this is non-pagan? Look more deeply, my friend!

Everybody needs a break now and then.

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The Cowardly Lion's Wizard Of Oz Costume Was Made Out Of What?

Is it wrong to do something wrong for the sake of a greater right?

Gods help me, I've come to believe that sometimes—sometimes—it is. That's what moral courage is all about.

I could have done it. I could have and, if I had, I honestly believe that things would have been the better for the deed.

But I failed the test. I ducked the burden of doing the wrong, of taking it upon myself to make that sacrifice. In so doing, I did a greater wrong by choosing the lesser right.

In general, I think of myself as a pretty courageous person. Sissy boys don't grow up to be happy, functional adults if they're not among the bravest of the brave.

But this was something different: a test of moral courage that, in the end, I failed.

It's too late to do anything now. If there's any consolation at all, it's that I'll know better next time—if ever there is one. That's why I'm telling you this. For what it's worth, here's my witch's counsel, one to another: for the sake of the greater good, sometimes it's better to make the sacrifice and do what's wrong.

No, I'm not going to tell you what it was; that's mine to me. By shirking one burden, though, I've taken on another, maybe greater, burden: the knowledge that I could possibly have made a difference, and chose not to.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
How's Your Honor?

The Virtues* are central to most Old Pagan systems of ethics, and chief among them is Honor.**

How's yours?


What do others say about you?

What do those that know you well say about you?

What do those that know you less than well say about you?

How good is your word?

If you say you'll do something, do you follow through?

If you take an oath, do you keep it?

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    "Honor is longer than life." (James Stephens)
  • Murphy Pizza
    Murphy Pizza says #

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