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Pagan Values, Pagan Morals

Please excuse the delay of our intended post on the supernatural. That will come next month. However, due to the Pagan Values Blogject event this month, I have decided to weigh in on the topic.

I have previously touched this matter in some of my previous Arkadian Anvil posts: Better than Belief, Evil, Ethics and Freedom, and God’s Boredom or Why we are not Enlightened. . .

But today I wish to look directly at the idea of values through the lens of ethics and morality. . .

If we want to discuss Pagan values first we need go back to a much older mode of thought. To do that we need to first separate Ethics from Morals.

Ethics are those prescriptions that forbid or require action which we have arrived at through reason and experience. The negatives of not hurting, not killing, not stealing, not cheating, etc. fit here. Likewise are the positives of being kind, altruism, civic duty, mutual support. These matters we can workout for ourselves from thought and observation. We don’t need a God to tell us that these are the right things for us to do.

Morality, often confused with Ethics, is religious. For a Jew, it is immoral to eat pork. I enjoy my bacon. Christians are not allowed to worship any other God than theirs. Pagans can worship who they please. Muslims are to pray five times per day. I must make offerings at the Dark of the Moon. We don’t have to behave the same way to be moral. Each of us need to behave in the manner told to us by our religious obligations. A proper understanding of this, along the separation of Church and State, would eliminate many conflicts in the Law. Ethics are what we agree upon. Morals are the other things we do to embody our religions.

One of the ways this manifests in traditional religions is through taking on commitments to do or to avoid. The Irish called it a geis, the Tibetians a damsig, Indians, samaya, Masons an obligation, or generally a vow, or an oath. As part of the entry into a religious practice, or in ancient times even civic office, one would swear to do or no do certain practices. Failure in this would incur significant penalties or losses, which can often be repaired by further rites and practices. For instance an ancient Irish King had a geis laid upon him at his coronation to only travel a certain way about the Hill of Tara. In the tale of his fall, the failure to do this was one of the things that lead to his death.

As a priest of Hermes there are a set of commitments I’ve made to Hermes as part of my practice. These are my moral, that is, religious obligations that I maintain along with my connection to Him.

1. When out in the World, always to have writing tools on my person.
Hermes is the scribe and herald. Bearing the tools of that office is in keeping with His nature and function, which as His priest, I emulate.

2. Never to lie, cheat, or steal, unless at war.
Hermes is most skilled in stealing, cheating and lying. We who work His way are ever tempted to use these powers to make our way easier, but we must maintain our integrity as humans and treat our fellows with respect. The Gods, while wholly good are not-dual, Their blessings are also Their curses and so we bear the responsibility to use those powers for good in our lives.

3. Make offerings to Hermes at every Dark of the Moon.
This is the active maintenance of His cult which establishes and maintains His blessings in the World, in the region of the Temple and in lives of those connected to Him. (I do this for Hekate too, and have without fail since January 1992.)

4. Bless all travelers in the name and sign of Hermes. )O+
The first duty of the Priesthood is to bless, and Hermes blesses especially the Traveler, the Venturer, the Merchant, all commerce and communications for success, safety and happy return. We who establish connection with Him and maintain His presence bless with His power.

These four obligations I keep are part of my priesthood in service to Hermes. These are my morals, leastwise regarding Him. Other Gods require other things from me. As for treating folks right, reason, experience, and contemplating the effect of my actions continually teach me how to be better to those around me. I am still learning.

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Sam Webster is a Pagan Mage, one of the very few who is also a Master of Divinity, and is also currently a Doctoral candidate in History at the University of Bristol, UK, under Prof. Ronald Hutton. He is an initiate of Wiccan, Druidic, Buddhist, Hindu and Masonic traditions and an Adept of the Golden Dawn founding the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn  in 2001. His work has been published in a number of journals such as Green Egg and Gnosis, and 2010 saw his first book, Tantric Thelema, establishing the publishing house Concrescent Press. Sam lives in the San Francisco East Bay and serves the Pagan community principally as a priest of Hermes.


  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys Thursday, 13 June 2013

    Thank you for your insights. I enjoyed this piece.

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