I’ve noticed we don’t get defined this way a lot. Pagans get defaulted to “mysterious” or “rebellious” or even “tech-savvy” but not “wholesome.” I think this is a real shame. Why? Because I’m a good, wholesome Pagan girl.
In fact, I think there are a lot of good, wholesome people out there who are not labeled as such because they don’t look like they walked out of the Disney Channel. But looking like Hannah Montana isn’t the criteria for wholesome. According to Merriam-Webster online “wholesome” means:
- promoting health or well-being of mind or spirit
- promoting health of body
- (a) sound in body, mind, or morals (b) having the simple health or vigor of normal domesticity
- (a) based on well-grounded fear : prudent <a wholesome respect for the law> (b) safe <“it wouldn’t be wholesome for you to go down there” — Mark Twain>
By every definition here, Paganism is quite wholesome.
Paganism promotes a healthy mind and spirit
Well, if you follow this blog I hope this one is obvious! For example, Paganism promotes a positive outlook on life, strong ties to the community, healthy relationships, personal growth, civic engagement, and thoughtful living. It helps practitioners deal with death. It give us a way to connect with our deeper selves. It’s a faith we can call on to bolster us in challenging times. Paganism helps me be a healthy person.
Pagansim promotes health of body
While I admit I’ve never met a Heathen who would turn down a drink, Paganism encourages responsibility along with our fun – not abstention, but moderation and good planning. Because of our recognized ties to nature, we are also taught to make thoughtful choices about food – both what we choose to eat and where it comes from. As Pagans we try to live in harmony with the cycles of nature. Our bodies are not temples, but they are our ride for this life-experience. It’s in our best interest to treat them well!
Paganism helps practitioners be Sound in Body, Mind, and Morals
Mind and body I’ve addressed above, so I’ll focus on morals. Paganism has a strong emphasis on self-discipline and taking responsibility for your actions. The Wiccan Rede: “An it harm none, do as you will” is the very essence of thoughtful, decent (i.e. moral) living. In order to ensure you are harming none, a person must think through their decisions carefully and consider the repercussions. Heathens (and most other Recon Pagans, though the terminology will differ) teach the same idea in a different way: to act in consideration of wyrd – the idea that we are each one piece in the web of humanity. The decisions we make and the way we choose to treat others cannot be done without consideration for the ripple effect.
Having the simple health or vigor of normal domesticity
This definition, I had to say, cracked me up. But it still resonates on a Pagan level. So much of what we do is hearth-and-home based. We have gods of the hearth that remind us that homemaking and family are sacred duties. We are encouraged to take pride in our housekeeping and cooking (Heathens are warned that Frau Perchta will come get us in the night if we don’t!).
Based on Well-Grounded Fear : Prudent
This one I had a harder time with. I have very little fear in my faith; fear certainly isn’t what’s driving my participation in Heathenry! But I do think Paganism encourages us to be prudent – to make thoughtful decisions. If instead of horror-movie fear, we look at the more well-grounded type of fear that (if we don’t get our act together) we’ll not do well on a test or not make a deadline at work, then following Pagan values like responsibility and discipline make it very prudent (and therefore wholesome) to be Pagan. As Heathens, we believe leaving behind a good name is one of the ultimate goals in life, and if we fear anything, it’s being forgotten – or worse, leaving a bad name. That’s why we find it prudent to make wise oaths and keep them, to overcome our fears and live valiantly, and to protect the wyrd of our community.
Paganism is absolutely safe. There is nothing dangerous or frightening about it. Now I could wax philosophical on you and say that any time a person is encouraged to think for themselves, life is no longer safe. I could say that diving deep into the waters of spirituality – any spirituality – is dangerous to your current way of thinking. But those are metaphysical musings (versus the practical musings I’m focused on here). There is nothing physically or psychologically dangerous about practicing Paganism.
People far too often look at the surface of things and make judgment calls about what lies beneath. If it’s outside a narrowly defined norm, it can’t be good for us… right? Because of this, the uphill battle to claim a deservedly wholesome image is not ours alone. Two of my dear friends are some of the most wholesome people I know – though I’m not sure they would describe themselves that way. They are caring, thoughtful, friendly people. Family types who raise their children with love and make every effort to provide solid foundations for their education, their health, and their social welfare. They are members of the community who patronize the arts and work hard at their jobs. He has a mohawk and a nose ring and she has red and blue dreadlocks and I once saw her make a shirt out of two scarves (she looked beautiful, too). They’re also atheists (although she’s the most gifted tarot reader I’ve ever met). But those last two sentences don’t matter when it comes to wholesome. My friends are healthy in mind and spirit, have solid morals, take care of their family and home, and are active in the community. If only more people would take after their wholesome example, the world would be a healthier place.
As a society, we need to take a good look at what wholesome means and shift our perception to label as wholesome the things that are healthy, not the things that look or sound similar to an old stereotype. Paganism, done right, is wholesome, and I strive to be a good, wholesome Pagan girl.
How about you? Do you think wholesome is considered the realm of one religion or one aesthetic? And if so, what do we need to do to reclaim it?
+ Featured Image: Motherhood and Apple Pie, by Scott Bauer (Should I point out that apple pie is not actually wholesome? Nah… )