Most forms of modern Paganism have little to nothing to say in regards to morality, and don't really lay down any sort of laws or rules regarding how followers should behave. Our religions are based on a desire to know great truths about our universe, and to celebrate those truths as they are expressed through the natural cycles and processes around us. That is why our holidays generally coincide with celestial events and the passing of seasons. Morality is generally considered a societal issue, and while different traditions and beliefs will influence the moral decisions of those who subscribe to them, very few Pagans would say that their moral and ethical choices are made with regards to what their gods wish of them. There are exceptions, of course. Most Wiccan paths take very seriously the Wiccan Rede (An It Harm None, Do What You Will) but "harm" is quite subjective. Followers of Asatru (Norse Neo-Paganism) have the Nine Noble Virtues, but virtues such as Courage and Discipline, while important, can be said to be fulfilled by any number of actions in a given situation. Ultimately, the gods have generally left it up to us to figure out how to live together peacefully, and how to determine what is a good and proper life and what is not. Nevertheless, the culture that has formed around the modern day Pagan movement has allowed certain expectations to creep in. Gender roles are observed to varying degrees, but more often than not, there is a very clear distinction between the masculine and feminine "spheres." Fertility is considered a great virtue in women, and the birth of babies into the Pagan community is a HUGE cause for celebration. There may be a sense of validation there, in being able to pass on our relatively new (though influenced by ancient sources) traditions to a younger generation, since most of us converted later in life from other faiths. But, for whatever reason, the ability to bring forth new life is often considered one of the highest callings, the ultimate emulation of the Goddess as life-giver to all.
Though I know I shouldn't feel this way, I sometimes feel like a "bad Pagan," and even a "bad Woman," because I am reproductively challenged. Without going into a long story on my health, suffice it to say that getting pregnant will not be an easy road for me, if indeed, it ever happens at all. Intellectually, I know that I am not defined by my womb or it's contents, and that I am fulfilling my roles as wife, daughter, hearthkeeper, friend, caregiver, and HUMAN BEING quite well even without the added title of Mommy. I also know that my husband (hereafter referred to in this blog as "the Hubby") and I are both huge supporters of adoption (my own mother was adopted by my grandparents at the age of 2) and may very well adopt one day ourselves, regardless of whether or not we have any biological children. Still, there are times when this tiny voice deep in the back of my head starts to needle at me, telling me that I am not a real woman, that I am a failure, because it is so hard for me to do something that is supposed to just come naturally. There are 7 billion people on this planet, getting pregnant obviously isn't all that hard!
When this annoying voice begins to grow louder, and I find my self-esteem taking a dive, I try to take a few moments and separate the culture from the faith, and what other people say my worth is from what I know it to be. I contemplate the lessons of Athena, greek goddess of Wisdom and the Arts. She shows how to use the talents we have, how to embrace our abilities and use them for the benefit of ourselves and others. Her constant companion is Nike, the personification of Victory. With wisdom and self-knowledge, one will always be victorious. With intelligence and understanding of who we are, we can defeat the forces of doubt and fear. Those quiet moments when I sit in meditation and Athena comes to me, I am reassured that, no matter what I am not or don't have, I am still a well-rounded, important individual with a unique mind and heart that can contribute to this world.