Posts Tagged ‘virtue’

(Catching up on the Pagan Blog Project – it’s been a rough two weeks in the Swamp, so I’m a bit behind. I’ll be trying to get caught up to the G’s this week, so you’ll be seeing several posts, hopefully!)

Fertility is one of the virtues of ADF, and you can read my original essay on the subject here. It’s something I am directly trying to increase in my life (not in the “making babies” way but in the “fertility of mind and spirit” way), especially in my career.

This is a very fertile time of year, even here in the Swamp, where things are starting to heat up and it’s now too late to plant vegetables that aren’t okra or hot peppers. I didn’t put in a garden this year (I ran out of time to get the bed prepared), but I am working on fertility in other parts of my life. Career wise, I am looking for new opportunities for growth and change, as what I’m currently doing for my job isn’t what I want to do for the rest of my life. In ADF, I’m trying to turn more attention to fertility of mind, as I work on leading my study group and progressing on the IP. (Right now it is a very scattered effort; I have one or two questions answered in several different courses, since I haven’t had time to really prepare well for any one course all at once.)

These two things are, of course, related – both are ways I’m trying to bring the energy of fertility and rebirth into my life, whether it be as a spiritual practice or as a part of my mundane job.

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From Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary:

Fertility: The quality or state of being fertile.

Fertile:1  a : producing or bearing fruit in great quantities : productive
b : characterized by great resourcefulness of thought or imagination : inventive <a fertile mind>
2  a (1) : capable of sustaining abundant plant growth <fertile soil> (2) : affording abundant possibilities for growth or development <damp bathrooms are fertile ground for fungi — Consumer Reports> <a fertile area for research>
b : capable of growing or developing <a fertile egg>
c (1) : capable of producing fruit (2) of an anther : containing pollen (3) : developing spores or spore-bearing organs
d : capable of breeding or reproducing

From Our Own Druidry (83)

Bounty of mind, body, and spirit, involving creativity, production of objects, food, works of art, etc., an appreciation of the physical, sensual, nurturing

(Note: As with Hospitality, I used the dictionary definition of Fertile, as Fertility was self-defining.)

I really like the first part of the ADF definition of Fertility: “Bounty of mind, body, and spirit.” Fertility is the act of creation, whether that be to create things, art, ideas, food, or babies. While babies are certainly a part of fertility, this virtue is so much more than just procreation (which is, of course, not something all Druids will be interested in!). Bringing an idea from germination to fruition is as fertile an act as planting a seed and growing it into a vegetable plant from which you harvest tomatoes. Much like with the creation of babies, fertility also includes caring for those ideas as they grow and change, as they influence and are influenced by others. This is a virtue that anyone can value and nourish, regardless of their desire (or lack thereof) to have children.

This virtue also has an element of appreciating our connection to the Earth herself. We are physical beings, and fertility is an aspect of that physicality that is valuable and desirable. Our spirits are not disembodied things, nurtured only by thoughts – we have bodies too, and are fully of the Earth. We are to appreciate our physical forms, and the world that we perceive through our senses.

Fertility, as a virtue, keeps us constantly moving forward into new things. If we value fertility, and fertile minds, we will nurture that in each other, and ADF will be richer for the community of creators that it contains. Of course, nobody can be constantly fertile all the time; moderation applies even here, and fallow periods are normal in between periods of great productivity. But fertility is the path forward. If vision is what lights and shows us the path forward, fertility is the virtue that will get us there.

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From Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary:

Moderate: 1 a : avoiding extremes of behavior or expression : observing reasonable limits <a moderate drinker>
b : calm, temperate
2 a : tending toward the mean or average amount or dimension
b : having average or less than average quality : mediocre
3 : professing or characterized by political or social beliefs that are not extreme
4 : limited in scope or effect

From Our Own Druidry (83)

Cultivating one’s appetites so that one is neither a slave to them nor driven to ill health (mental or physical), through excess or deficiency

Again here I’ve used the definition of “moderate” because “moderation” was self defining (“The state of being moderate”), and I found I got more traction and useful definition from the root word.

For me, moderation is the antithesis of “black and white” thinking. In a logic class I took once, we were instructed always to look for a third option, and then a fourth and fifth, when presented with an all or nothing proposition. This helps prevent logical fallacies, but it also helps prevent destructive behavior through obsession (either with excess or deficiency). Looking for the third option doesn’t necessarily mean a middle road (though often that is the case), but can simply mean avoiding the obstacle altogether, or finding a creative and unusual solution to a problem. I’ve explored this a little further in my post Adventures in Polytheism, for those curious.

It is a means of self-care and self-respect as well, to know one’s limits (both physical and mental), and to know how to use those limits but still function with respect to others. Much like hospitality, moderation will frequently run in with other people. The warrior virtues of integrity, courage, and perseverance will come in handy when cultivating moderation (to help you know and stick to your limits and your own sense of balance), and moderation can temper and balance those same warrior virtues (to keep you from running too far with any one idea). For me personally, moderation is the virtue that helps me know when I’ve pushed too far beyond what I can handle mentally, and to know when to balance self care with my desire to please others.

I find this an interesting choice to be included in the nine “primary” virtues of Druidry. While I certainly agree that it is a virtuous thing to cultivate moderation, I think it speaks to the nature of ADF as a group to seek a middle way – to accept both solitary and group work, to cultivate the intellectual mind and the intuitive mind, to be modern Neopagans but to take our cues from ancient cultures. Moderation is about balance, and it is, I think, included in the list in order to balance out some of the more polarizing of the virtues.

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From Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary:

Hospitality: : hospitable treatment, reception, or disposition

1 a : given to generous and cordial reception of guests
b : promising or suggesting generous and cordial welcome
c : offering a pleasant or sustaining environment
2 : readily receptive : open <hospitable to new ideas>

From Our Own Druidry (83)

Acting as both a gracious host and an appreciative guest, involving benevolence, friendliness, humor, and the honoring of “a gift for a gift”

(Note: I chose to use the dictionary definition of “Hospitable” as the definition of “Hospitality” was rather slim and circularly defining, and I found the definitions of Hospitable to be more in line with the way this virtue is actually practiced in ADF and in my life.)

In this, the first of the “producer class” virtues, I think we start to see the other virtues come to light as part of an active society. Where integrity and courage are virtues you define as actions you take yourself, hospitality requires interaction with others – a fundamental part of Druidry, whether you interact online or in person.

This is a virtue I try actively to cultivate, as I think it is often forgotten in our modern culture. I appreciate being cared for as a guest, and I enjoy caring for my guests. A gracious host provides for their guest, and an appreciative guest brings a token to show their appreciation, and maybe offers to help with the dishes. The relationship we have is one of mutual honor and respect, and I think it is an extremely important virtue for the internet-inclined Druid. It is so very easy to forget to be hospitable, to forget to be gracious and appreciative of others, especially those who create friendly spaces online (like blogs and forums) and take the time to moderate and run them. This virtue goes a long way towards keeping the peace, even amidst disagreements, if mutual respect is maintained.

I do not, however, think that this virtue should be seen as “becoming a doormat” – one can be a gracious host or an appreciative guest while still maintaining one’s individual opinions and living according to one’s own integrity. In fact, it could be seen as an act of courage to maintain a disagreement while still honoring that you are a guest (or a host) and should behave accordingly. One can still say “please” and “thank you” while having a debate about the nature of something or other.

In terms of ADF’s basis in the *ghos-ti relationship, hospitality is the virtue that stems directly from *ghos-ti. It defines not only our interactions with each other, but our interactions with the Earth and our interactions with the Kindreds, whereby we accept and expect to be treated accordingly to our own offerings. It is a bit like the relationship that you have between friends, where you might keep a loose running tab of whose turn it is to pick up dinner, but you are both contributing to the relationship, and it is one of balance, commonality, and respect.

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From Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary:

 : continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition : the action or condition or an instance of persevering : steadfastness

From Our Own Druidry (82)

Drive; the motivation to pursue goals even when that pursuit becomes difficult

This is a virtue that I struggle with sometimes. Many things in my life have come easily (like academic study) and so when I am met with a challenge that I can’t think my way through, solve by thinking, or quickly figure out, I tend to get frustrated and give up. I also struggle with mental illness that can make motivation a very fickle trait. I am working more toward both of these definitions, though I especially like the word “steadfastness” as a synonym. This isn’t about completing tasks, or even (or especially) about succeeding at them – it’s about sticking with things, even when they get tough or annoying or boring, because you know that they have value. As a virtue of Druidry, it’s about getting your butt on a cushion and meditating, even when you don’t feel much like it, or even when you’re anxious or worried or distracted, because you have decided this path has value, and so you’re going to do it.

In some ways, perseverance can even make a task easier – there is some level of value in something truly fought for, something you really have to put your blood sweat and tears into. I made a lot of very good grades in college, but the A I earned in my second semester of Latin is one of the grades I am most proud of, because I poured my entire being into that class, with a professor who averaged two A’s a semester. I knew it would be tough, but I knew I wanted that A, and I was going to work for it even when I felt like stabbing myself in the eyeball with a pencil because of the complicated translations. Without that drive, I would easily have settled for a lower grade.

I think Wisdom needs to temper Perseverance as well. Much like anything, it is good to know when you should stick it out and try to finish something, and when you should count your losses and move on. It is both “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” and “Choose the hill you’re going to die on” – choosing the things that are most important to you, and then really sticking to them, with integrity and courage.

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From Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary:

1 : firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility
2 : an unimpaired condition : soundness
3 : the quality or state of being complete or undivided : completeness

From Our Own Druidry (82)

Honor; being trustworthy to oneself and to others, involving oathkeeping, honesty, fairness, respect, self-confidence.

For me, this is probably the most important virtue of the lot – it’s the one from which all the others branch out. Integrity is a core tenet of how I try to live my life, and it’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to. I generally dislike the term “honor”, as it’s too easy for that word to be abused to mean “what society thinks you should do for the better of society”. This isn’t to say that integrity isn’t often influenced by societal norms, but that in the end, integrity is a condition of the self. It encompasses all three parts of the dictionary definition. True integrity is incorruptible (it doesn’t waver under pressure); it is conditionally sound (it is consistent within itself); and it is complete and undivided (it encompasses all aspects of life).

Of course, that’s an impossible standard for any human to live up to, but I think it’s a goal worth striving for. To me, integrity is my willingness to make a decision about what I think is right (which includes elements of the virtue of Wisdom, and also of Vision), to stick up for it when it is challenged (Courage and Perseverance), and ultimately to increase my ability to interact with fairness towards others (Hospitality and Moderation). It includes uncompromising honesty – something I strive for, even when it might have negative consequences.

For example, I was recently selected for municipal court jury duty, but I put the summons somewhere where it got shuffled into the paperwork on my desk and I flat out didn’t show up on the day I was called. Instead of making up some excuse about why I couldn’t be there (when I finally remembered about it two weeks later), I told the court administrator the truth. She was understanding, and I was given a new day to show up for jury service. But I was prepared to be told I needed to pay a hefty fine for that mistake. Still, I would rather have told the truth than lied about it (as I was encouraged to do by my coworkers).

That’s a good example of my trying to live up to integrity – but my still being “closeted” about being Pagan can sometimes cause me to not live up to this virtue, or at least, to not live up to it fully. I don’t lie about my religious beliefs, but I definitely dodge the question, and I give off the impression (knowingly) of still being Christian to my extremely Christian family (and to my workplace). This does bother me, but I don’t yet have the courage (or the desire to cause damage to my family or create weirdness at my job) to change that, so I live with an aspect of my life that doesn’t live up to this virtue as well.

Nothing bothers me more than people who are cruel in the name of honesty, however, which is why this virtue is also about fairness, and wisdom, and courage, and vision, and even (to some extent) moderation. It’s the virtue that the whole system hinges on, in my view. I’m not always very good at keeping to it, when things get very tough, but this is one of the most important virtues for me.

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A challenging week, but a good one for meditation and prayer. I spent a lot of time at my altar this week, lighting candles and incense. It was trying, especially being so far away from things that are happening, and having no real recourse but to watch and wait (in horror).

As much as I appreciate our ability to know so much about the world we live in, I’m still not sure that 24-hour instant by instant news is really good for us as humans. We’re not wired to experience that kind of anxiety and stress, especially about things we have no ability to impact. It’s certainly not good for my sanity, even with the extra grounding and prayer.

I also had a pretty substantial conversation with a friend this week about the DP, and it was challenging in a good way. Not challenging as in “hard”, but challenging as in “made me think”. Especially about where I’m going and what I intend to do as I travel this Druid path. I think I will probably be re-incorporating some elements of witchcraft back into my path eventually, since there are things I really miss that don’t conflict with ADF and that I think are good skills for me to continue to have as a magic worker.

I still have this lingering feeling that I don’t know really where I’m headed, and that’s a bit unnerving. I certainly have the goal to complete the DP – but I don’t really know if that goal is in order to truly transform myself into a practicing Druid (which I’d argue I probably already am), or just as something I’m doing to learn as much as I can from and then move on to something else. My friend (hi Yngvi!) argues that this is an element of the virtue of Vision, and I can’t say I disagree with him. It’s a question both of “what path am I actually on right now” and “where do I want to be going”? I may revisit that essay as I work on this, but the answer to both questions right now is “I don’t know”.

Maybe I need to focus my meditations on THAT this week, now that crisis management mode is dwindling down.

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From Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary:

1 : the quality or state of being pious: as
a : fidelity to natural obligations (as to parents)
b : dutifulness in religion : devoutness

2: an act inspired by piety
3: a conventional belief or standard : orthodoxy

From Our Own Druidry (82)

Piety: Correct observance of ritual and societal traditions; the maintenance of the agreements, (both personal and social), we humans have with the Gods and Spirits. Keeping the Old Ways, through ceremony and duty.

I see piety as being about more than just observance of rituals and obligations or duties. While I like Our Own Druidry‘s addition of maintaining agreements, I think it’s as much about maintaining agreements with ourselves as it is with the Gods and Spirits. Obviously there are different kinds of piety – ritual piety versus felial piety, and really even the *ghosti relationship is a form of piety.

These all combine together to mean something like ‘responsibility toward those with whom we have agreements and relationships’.

Obviously keeping the high days is important to piety, but so is keeping a mentality of Druidry in day to day life. Not every day will have the obligations of a high day, but we are still in relationship with the Gods and Spirits, even when we’re going about our daily businesses. To me, true piety comes from finding ways to be true to those agreements in the course of maintaining and living life. Keeping up a daily (or just “frequent”) devotional practice is a good step, as is making regular offerings to the local land spirits at my home. When I forget to do those things, I’m letting myself down as well as those with whom I’m maintaining relationships. Those relationships nourish me as much as they provide nourishment to the Gods and Spirits, thus piety encompasses multiple levels of responsibility – to self, to others, and to Gods and Spirits.

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From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:


a : accumulated philosophic or scientific learning : knowledge
b : ability to discern inner qualities and relationships : insight
c : good sense : judgment
d : generally accepted belief <challenges what has become accepted wisdom among many historians — Robert Darnton>

2: a wise attitude, belief, or course of action
3: the teachings of the ancient wise men

From Our Own Druidry (82):

Wisdom: Good judgment, the ability to perceive people and situations correctly, deliberate about, and decide on the correct response

I directly disagree with the first definition of Wisdom from the dictionary, at least as it functions as a virtue. Perhaps it is presumptuous of me, but I see wisdom as distinct from knowledge – though knowledge is certainly necessary to make wise choices, it’s not knowledge itself. The two have very different functions. Knowledge functions to inform, where wisdom functions to discern; knowledge is knowing what to say, and wisdom is knowing how to say it, and whether or not to say it at all.

Perhaps this comes from my experience with roleplaying games, where Wisdom and Intelligence are counted as two separate abilities, and you can be very strong in one without necessarily being strong in the other. I agree with that division, and believe that the ability to understand the truth of a situation can be enhanced by knowledge about it (or knowledge about similar situations), but that ultimately the virtue of wisdom lies in perceiving the immediate truth. As a result, I rather like the definition from Our Own Druidry – particularly the bit about perceiving people and situations correctly. It takes a great deal of wisdom to see the truth in a situation, and to discern what is real and what is not. Many times wisdom is seen in the final outcome of a situation – it looks farther ahead than the immediate part or challenge and strives to see the whole in its entirety.

Practicing wisdom is something I see as crucial to any religious undertaking, especially one as complex as Our Druidry. When working with complex systems and a variety of myths and Gods, it’s important to step back and remember the whole. Also, as a Druid, I seek to embody wisdom in my relationships with others, helping them make wise choices whenever I can (though it is often easier to be wise about someone else’s problems than your own). Applying a discerning, wise eye to my own life is more difficult, and why I strongly agree with practicing wisdom as part of my Druidry.

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