Druid Ethics

One of the responses to my Daily Devotions post raised the issue of being guided through the day by your ethics (thanks Bish for the prompt there!). What are druid ethics? Are they simply the ethics held by individual druids, or are there going to be values held in common? I’m tempted to say it’s usually going to be a bit of both. Perhaps the defining quality of druid ethics is that we collectively think we should be ethical, and we take individual responsibility for figuring out what that means, one moment to the next.

Where the common ground lies, is in the things we value. Environmental protection, peace, good relationship, community, beauty, truth, and justice are all things that druids prize. So ethical behaviour, is behaviour that supports those ideas and manifests them in the world. Where it gets complicated, is in how we understand ‘best’. A good example of this lies around food. Some druids are vegans because their ethical stance demands a life that does not feed upon the lives of animals. Some druids are vegetarians because that best reflects their ethics and beliefs. However, other druids prioritise local sourcing, or producing their own food in which case they may be omnivorous. It can be argued that mixed farming is more sustainable than only growing plants. In England, we have moors and meadows that have evolved alongside thousands of years of animal husbandry. To step away from that would be to damage a whole eco system. There are no simple, clear, right answers. There are however plenty of answers we can agree on – food waste is abominable. Over packaging is not a good thing. We should not be paying slave wages to producers in developing countries. Artisan foodmakers are preferable to big factories turning out insipid and banal edible foodstuffs. Whatever our precise ethics, the druidry underpinning it will push us towards trying to find sustainable, fair, healthy, creative ways of feeding ourselves and our tribes.

We can apply the same ideas to any aspect of our lives. How we shop, how we travel, how we speak to those around us, how express our emotions, what we expect of others, how we run our households, raise our children, interact with our neighbours. Every moment is an opportunity to explore and express our ethics. Which calls for high levels of awareness. For me the most interesting issues arise around conflict and error. When everything runs smoothly, it’s easy to express your ethical intentions. But what happens when you misjudge? Or when your strongly held ethical convictions do not sit at all well with the strongly held ethical position of the next druid (that food example being a classic). You can be passionate without being a fundamentalist. You can argue and discuss without attacking another person. If we are serious about peace as an ideal, then what we do around our other beliefs must be guided by this at all times.

For me, what enables this most, is doubt. Of all the values I hold as a druid, doubt is perhaps the one that serves me best. I am never oversure about anything. I do not believe I have any kind of monopoly on truth, or wisdom. I know what my own experiences have taught me, but I don’t imagine that will all hold true for all people in all situations. There’s always the possibility for something else. I hold my doubt very closely. And with it, I am open to hearing what other people think. I am willing to be proved wrong, to be talked round, or shown a different perspective. That doesn’t mean my position is infinitely malleable or that I have no opinions of my own. More that I recognise everything I hold as opinion. I’m conscious that this century’s indisputable ‘fact’ is next century’s laughable mistake. I do what I can from the position of what I know, very aware that I can be wrong, and that situations change, and that nothing is certain. Most ethical positions seem to be based on a certainty of knowing what is best, not only for yourself, but for everything else. The more work I do with my own doubt, the more I appreciate what it has to teach me. I can’t say it’s the best way of exploring, but at the moment I think it’s a very powerful tool to have in your hands.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

3 responses to “Druid Ethics

  • athelia143

    Excellent article (as always!) What of ethics in the larger scale of modern Druids? The first thing I always look at is definition. Do we even have the right definition for certain words? Are we hung up on a topic because of a definition that may be different from what others define something as? (That is usually the case, from my own experience)

    For starters: Many people seem to confuse ethics with morals or laws of virtue which then lead to concerns about repression, condemnation and punishment a la other religious entities that will not be named here. That is one of the biggest hangups that I see whenever this topic comes up. Then the arguments start…

    Ethics are not something that can be forced or dictated to another, in my opinion, because they are simply one’s own personal ‘code of conduct’ in any given situation. What would you do in a certain situation? The answer you give is part of your own ethics.

    That is all it is: “What would you do if…?”

    No one can take one’s ethics away, nor can they impose ethics upon someone. One’s personal ethics are always at his or her discretion. They can be changed. There can be exceptions… because a person is the ultimate decider of what his/her ethics are.

    We all have certain values and ways of being. We have certain things we would do in a heartbeat and certain things we would never, ever do…unless there was a significant factor involved that would cause one to do something else. This is what I mean by “your personal ethics are always at your discretion”.

    The concept of ethics, to me, is very simple: We make choices based on our personal code of ethics and we must be prepared to take responsibility for the choices we freely make. We also need to respect that others have their own sets of ethics as well and sometimes they clash.

    Over the years, I have seen so many groups form to try and come up with an overarching declaration of values or a declaration of ethics. A lot of discussion is generated. A lot of debate is done and I’m a sure a lot of learning is done along the way, which is good in itself.

    I know my stance on certain subjects and I have developed a very strong personal set of ethics. I truly believe that it is important to regularly review where we stand with regard to our own personal ethics or our ethical stance as a group.

    How do we work with others whose ethics differ? I think it’s a question of respect for others’ opinions and ethics for starters and then “picking our battles”. As an INTJ type of personality, I can look at things from a variety of different views and I thrive on that diversity. There are some things that I just cannot tolerate and many things that I can agree to disagree with. I am always open to new schools of thought and ideas and sometimes, I may even go with it if it makes sense enough and I like it. If not, well, I’ve learned something new and my life has been enriched by the experience.

    By “picking my battles”, I look at the issue that’s on the table and ask myself how this affects my ethical stance and my life in general. Is this just a debate that has no lasting effect on my life or is this person doing something that could directly and possibly negatively affect me or those I love? Most times, the ethical clashes I encounter are ideological and are not really worth fretting over at the end of the day, so I agree to disagree and thank the individual for helping me to take a good hard look at my own ethical stance and strengthen it.

    If it goes beyond ideology and directly affects me, my situation or my loved ones, then I do something about it whether it means rejecting the idea outright or taking some kind of action (even if it means just closing the door or walking away – it doesn’t always have to be a fight). At the very worst, I am prepared to fight for what I feel is ethically right. Fortunately, those situations are rare.

    For the most part, an ethical dilemma is an opportunity to enrich my life experience, learn something new and grow as a person. At its most intense, it is an opportunity for me to take “right action” if needed. Some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in life and some of the things that have made me a better person have involved ethical clashes.

    Any encounter with another person and their set of ethics and values is always an opportunity to grow, in my opinion.

    To each his own ethic and to us the wisdom to know, honour and respect our own ethics.

    Just my thoughts.

    Athelia /|\

  • Project plastic: paganisme, ethiek, en plasticgebruik | Roos denkt...

    […] 380-381.; Nimue Brown, “Druid Ethics,” geraadpleegd op 4 mei 2016 via: https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/druid-ethics/. [14] York, Pagan Ethics, 381-383.; Joanna van der Hoeven, “Druid Ethics,” geraadpleegd op 4 […]

  • Project plastic: paganisme, ethiek, en plasticgebruik - Roos denkt...

    […] 380-381.; Nimue Brown, “Druid Ethics,” geraadpleegd op 4 mei 2016 via: https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/druid-ethics/. [14] York, Pagan Ethics, 381-383.; Joanna van der Hoeven, “Druid Ethics,” geraadpleegd op 4 […]

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