I’m going to get introspective on y’all this year. More so than usual, I mean. I’ve been thinking a lot about ethics, about where they come from and how they relate to religion. To paganism, specifically. I started out thinking I could write about pagan ethics, but quickly realized just how easy it is to take a precept and make it mean different things. Not to mention, there are a lot of strands of paganism out there. So I settled on writing about me- about my ethics, just this one singular pagan’s ethics, and tracing them back to my understanding of their roots in my spiritual practices.
Let’s talk about beauty.
“Beauty” can mean a wide variety of things. I want to explore in particular the way that our perception of our own and other people’s beauty shapes how we treat ourselves and others. Ads and other media play a significant role on what is perceived as beautiful in the United States. For female bodies, standards of beauty skew toward big breasts, clear skin, and long wavy hair. For male bodies, muscular chests and arms and a bit of stubble are considered appealing. For everyone, light to white skin and slender bodies. Individual and sub-cultural ideals may differ, but these are the over-riding social “norms”.
Bodies are sacred.
When we perceive ourselves to be outside beauty norms, we often take punitive measures to correct that. Diets that leave us hungry, exercise that we don’t enjoy, and/or wearing covering clothing in high temperatures because “no one wants to see that (us)” are some examples. We talk down about ourselves, stop taking care of our bodies, and disassociate from them.
In short, our bodies become a thing we manage rather than a thing we are. Yet paganism holds that the physical world, from rocks to trees to stars to our flesh, is sacred. How would we change if we re-connect to our bodies as sacred? Perhaps the way we sleep, eat, touch, move, or make love would be different.
How we feel in our bodies must come first. Our physical and mental health should be a primary concern, far over cultural standards of beauty. Only once we are happy and healthy in our own bodies should we consider how we look. By honoring how we feel and what we can do in our bodies, we begin to re-centralize the body-temple.
All acts of love and pleasure are my Mysteries.
Again, I feel that cultural ideas of fun and pleasure- of what is supposed to be a reward of beauty- sometimes alarmingly over-write our personal knowledge. Partying and casual sex are acts of pleasure for some. So are quiet cuddles with a good friend or lazy making out or spending a day at the beach. By attending to what we truly find beautiful and pleasurable, particularly in the realm of sexuality, we honor the Divine in a uniquely pagan way.
Whatever you do comes three times back on you.
Beauty, especially beauty that conforms to social norms, can have a striking effect. We are more likely to respond positively to someone we perceive as beautiful. This can extend to going easy on someone, offering extra help, and other favorable treatment. Problems arise when the converse becomes true: when we become rigid, unhelpful, withdrawn, and negative toward someone we perceive as ugly. As pagans, we can view the Rule of Three as punitive or positive. We can see it as a measuring stick, a reminder that we are creating the world around us. I hope that we all want a world where we treat each other with kindness and respect, regardless of our differences.
Do you have more thoughts about pagan ethics and beauty? Share in the comments!