Fertility

As I sit down to write about the final virtue, fertility, I realize that it is perhaps my favorite, and not because of the implied sexuality.  When I think of fertility, I obviously think of sex and the resulting offspring, but I also think about food and art. The Oxford English Dictionary defines fertility as “ The quality of being fertile; fecundity, fruitfulness, productiveness.”   The Dedicant Manual describes fertility as the “bounty of mind, body, and spirit, involving creativity, production of objects, food, works of art, etc.”

I feel that fertility is very important and, while I don’t necessarily see that sexual fertility is a virtue, I feel that fertility of the mind should be something we strive for.  Fertility is my favorite virtue because of its association with creativity and art. When considering actions based on the virtues, as far as fertility is concerned, I can ask myself whether or not an activity is productive – is it fertile to my mind, body, or society as a large?  Am I learning from it?  This virtue could potentially help people moderate how much time they waste if they value productivity.

In my own hearth culture, that of Irish Paganism, I’ve come to understand that art is highly valued.  Music, fiber arts, metal works, and storytelling were among the most valued of pastimes.  As a fiber artist, I feel the influence of inspiration and creative fertility often.  I put these energies to use in the clothing and toys that I make.  As an English major, I appreciate the fertility of the writer’s mind.  As I start to garden and learn about permaculture and sustainable living, I see the value in agricultural fertility.  The tribe’s ability to feed itself is indeed important, and if we can find ways to do so, both productively and in harmony with nature, it would be a wonderful thing.

Many people frown on Neo-Paganism’s focus on fertility, and this is likely due to our community’s emphasis on and/or openness with sex.  In my college science classes, we learned about the population problem we are experiencing.  There are just too many people crawling around Mama Earth’s back.  While I am not one to condemn natural birth and the natural mating habits of humanity, and while I would emotionally love a biological child, I don’t think encouraging fertility is necessarily a smart thing in this day and age. Adoption may be one of the most eco-friendly practices at the moment.  I would suggest, as far as sexuality is concerned, that sensuality become a Pagan virtue rather than fertility of the body.   I will discuss this suggested virtue in my next essay.

~Grey Catling, 2008

 

Moderation

More people need to familiarize themselves with moderation, especially in the United States.  ADF defines moderation as “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.” The Oxford English Dictionary first states that, originally, moderation meant “the quality of being moderate in harshness or intensity; mildness, clemency” and that it later became known for “the quality of being moderate in conduct, opinion, etc.; avoidance of excess or extremes in behavior; temperateness, self-control, restraint.”  My understanding of moderation is that one should neither have nor be too much or too little of something.

Too much or too little of anything can be bad for a person.  Too much food will make a person obese and possibly diabetic, but too little will lead to anorexia and starvation.  Too much water will cause a person’s brain to swell, but too little will cause dehydration – and so on and so forth.  Moderation doesn’t only apply to things necessary for life but to recreation as well.  I think that my fiancé practices moderation with his games.  He plays video games but not to the expense of his family, friends, or grades. This is a wonderful thing considering how many people are addicted to video games.

Every person of every social standing should practice moderation.  Priests and academics should moderate the amount of time they spend in study and contemplation.  People need to have fun with friends and family, dabble with creativity, and relax.  Warriors should not over-exert themselves with exercise and aggressive activities.  A balance of physical exertion and relaxation is a must.  Producers also need to take time out of busily creating things to sit back and think.

As I said, the virtue of moderation should be adopted by more people, especially in America.  As I struggle to simplify my life and become more environmentally friendly, I look around me and see the same amount of excess despite the gas and food crisis occurring.  People seem to feel that they need so many silly things – a double whopper, a million kitchen appliances, the right brand name clothing, and bigger cars.  I don’t claim to be perfect, but I do feel that I’m making more strides than most, mostly because I feel that to be an environmentalist is to embrace moderation.  I know that I don’t need to eat as much as the typical American does, for instance, and so I’ve started to avoid fast food as much as possible and became a vegetarian.  At the same time, in the spirit of moderation, I try hard not to depress myself for the things that I cannot yet do because of time or money.

I’ve tried to adopt moderation into my spiritual life as well, in part because I feel that environmentalism is essential to Druidry.  I make sure to maintain a healthy balance of academic study as well as spirituality.  I feel that many Pagans lean too heavily in one direction, quite often in the spiritual direction to the expense of the academic.  Pagans who do that, I believe, can become too deluded, while Pagans who don’t practice meditation or magic as much may not be as spiritually grounded or practiced as those who are buried in books.

 

 

~Grey Catling, 2008

 

Hospitality

According to the Dedicant manual, to be hospitable is to be “a gracious host and an appreciative guest.”  Hospitality also involves “friendliness, humor, and the honoring of ‘a gift for a gift.’”  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a hospitable person as “given to generous and cordial reception of guests.”  I feel that these definitions aptly describe the virtue of hospitality, and I believe that the definition given by the Dedicant manual is better than that of the dictionary.  Hospitality should not just be reserved for a host.  Guests should also be giving and willing to help out, or at least give off a friendly disposition.

In retrospect, I wasn’t a very hospitable person when I was younger.  I didn’t like to share my toys or my food with my family and, while I had friends over, I wasn’t very good at making sure that they were comfortable.  It wasn’t until I grew older that I finally understood the value of hospitality, probably through meeting someone who was just as inhospitable as myself.

My mother is one of the most hospitable people I know and I think her virtue has finally reached me.  I grew into someone who realized that people want to feel welcomed and appreciated.  In a community, it is important for everyone to chip in and do their part.  I can understand why this would be a Druidic virtue because the Celts, who were a tribal people, depended on hospitality to keep their communities running smoothly.  After having read a few books on Celtic history, I’ve come to understand that the Celtic Kings, at least in Ireland, were expected to be hospitable to their people in exchange for the tribe’s continued agricultural support.

Along with the Celts, I know that the Greeks also valued hospitality.  An example of this can be found in the story of the famous Argonaut, Jason.  He helped an old woman to cross a river and she happened to be the Goddess Hera in disguise.  The Greeks believed that anyone could be a God incognito and so hospitality to strangers was of upmost concern.  We can modernize this idea.  Even if we don’t believe that someone is actually a God or Goddess in disguise, we can still recognize the person in question as a fellow creature of the Earth, commiserate with his or her wants and needs, and do our best to treat him or her as we would want to be treated.

~Grey Catling, 2008

 

Perseverance

The virtue of perseverance is certainly helpful to have when undergoing the Dedicant Program!  The Dedicant Manual describes perseverance as the drive and “motivation to pursue goals even when that pursuit becomes difficult.” The definition on dictionary.com is roughly the same in more or less words.

Perseverance is important in order to achieve one’s goals.  Everything worth getting requires a certain amount of work whether the goal is to obtain a college degree, maintain a happy marriage, or bake a loaf of bread.  It is both the energy that you exert to reach your desires and the attitude you hold in regards to it. I also believe that the ability to persevere is dependent upon a person’s ability to visualize or think futuristically and in the long term. I think perseverance has a well-earned home among the other virtues of ADF.

I think that I possess this virtue.  I have many hobbies and make a point to always complete my projects.  I’m also able to persevere through the challenges of college life, whether they are academic, emotional, or financial and I think my ability to do so has something to do with my futuristic thinking, my desire to improve upon myself, and the knowledge that I will be better for having completed the tasks.

When I think of examples of perseverance in regards to my hearth culture, I automatically think of Cú Chulain, the hero of Ireland.  Though I only have a novice’s understanding of his exploits, he never gave up his quests, even when faced with terrible obstacles.  For example, despite the difficulties, he manages to cross the perilous bridge to Scathach’s fortress in order to receive training.  The God Lugh also displayed perseverance before the gate of the Tuatha de Danann when he presented every skill he was capable of until he was finally admitted into Nuada’s court.

~Grey Catling, 2008

 

Integrity

Integrity is a very important virtue in my life.  The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary explains that to have integrity is to have a “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.”  The Dedicant Manual describes a person with integrity as having honor, trustworthiness, honesty, fairness, respect, and self-confidence (15).  These definitions are helpful in understanding the full scope of what it means to have integrity.

It is important for a person to possess a sense of integrity.  Without it, a person’s identity is likely to be diffused and inconsistent.  A person with a sense of integrity knows who they are and what they stand for.  For the most part, integrity requires a moral code, such as the acceptance of the Nine Virtues of Druidry as a guideline, or the acceptance of the Ten Commandments as rules to live by.  I am pleased that the dictionary also included “artistic value” because artists such as myself have standards to live up to that we set and strive to meet.  This is also a type of integrity.

You can find examples of integrity in lore.  I have read multiple times that the Celts and many Indo European people detested oath breakers.  It was perhaps one of the worst “sins” one could commit and so you find most ancient heroes have a deep sense of integrity and personal loyalty.  For example, Sir Gawain of Arthurian Legend sticks to his moral code (after some temptation and with the help of a magic belt) and keeps his promise to the Green Knight, meeting him in battle despite the high likelihood of failure.  To have run away out of cowardice would have been against Gawain’s personal code.

In regards to oath breakers, I think it’s especially important to maintain integrity when dealing with the Gods.  If you cannot be honest with them, then who else can you be honest with?

 

 

~Grey Catling, 2008

 

Courage

Courage is a trait that many people don’t easily see in themselves.  It is usually something found in specific people like firemen or soldiers.  Courage is the virtue that urges the fireman and soldier to put his or her life on the line to save another in the face of danger.  Danger seems to play a large role in what it means to be courageous.  The Dedicant Handbook defines courage as “the ability to act appropriately in the face of danger.”  The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as “the state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger with self-possession, confidence, and resolution…”

There has to be adversity to overcome in order to possess courage, however the danger doesn’t always have to be physical.   Sometimes the danger is simply isolation, alienation, or persecution.  Standing up for what you believe in only to be regarded as an outcast is just as much an act of bravery as plunging into a burning building to save another.

When I think of modern people who possess courage, I think of firemen, war protesters, and anyone who stands up against oppression.  When considering courageous figures from my hearth culture, I automatically think of Lugh because he ignores his orders to stay away from The Second Battle of Mag Tuired and, instead, takes his weapons and confronts the enemy.  I also think of Boudicca, the warrior queen who led her people against Roman invaders after having been raped by some.

The reason for warriors to have courage should be obvious.  Druids and other spiritual and philosophical leaders need courage to pursue their beliefs.  In our age, this is especially true.  Anyone who practices a minority religion must have courage even to do the simplest of things like wear a religious necklace.  Similar things could be said of producers who infuse their art with their own individuality.  Many modern artists like to express their spiritual or political beliefs within their art and such expression could be met with controversy.  For other producers, like farmers, using certain farm equipment or transitioning to experimental, sustainable methods could require courage.

Courage is an important virtue to have.  Without it, little progress would be made because it takes bravery to stand up to the status quo.  To be a modern Pagan often requires courage and we should all embrace it whether or not we identify with the warrior class.

 

 

~Grey Catling, 2008

 

Vision

I believe vision is an important attribute.  It moves people to make significant changes in the world and inspires people to create.  ADF defines vision as “the ability to broaden one’s perspective to have a greater understanding of our place/role in the cosmos, relating to the past, present, and future.”  It is a good definition.  Meanwhile, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines vision as “unusual competence in discernment or perception; intelligent foresight.”  This definition is more exclusive in that it limits vision to a few, linking it to intelligence or wisdom.  I think that the dictionary definition adds on nicely to ADF’s version.  After reading both, I have decided that a person of true vision is someone who seeks to improve upon the world for all, not just for him or herself, while seriously considering history and what impact the vision will have on the future.  A person of vision relies upon wisdom and intelligence to express that vision and bring it into existence, thus we have an overlap of virtues.

There have been many people of vision.  Some have been able to grasp at the future, and ancient cultures took them very seriously.  There are many such people in Irish legend, such as the prophetess Fedelma who brings an ominous fortune to Queen Maev.  The Queen takes the vision seriously and decides not to ride into battle, but returns home instead to think on what she saw and heard.

The ability to see the future is only one form of vision, however.  Some people see a possible future that is better than the present, if only hypothetically, and go about making waves in order to bring their future into being.  Martin Luther King Jr. comes to mind when considering people of vision.  He moved hundreds of people to march and protest so that the next generation could live in better civil harmony with improved rights.  His dream may not have been fully recognized to this day, but the future is certainly better because of his vision.

Vision can be present in all facets of society as well.  Warriors need vision in order to have an ideal to strive in battle.  Spiritual and academic leaders also need a goal to work towards.  Producers need the ability to visualize the future in order to thoroughly think through their gardening, weaving, or other art.

I feel that I have a certain amount of vision.  I try my best to think things through in regards to my health and the environment.  This way of thinking has lead me to become a vegetarian and growing environmentalist.  I also feel that it takes vision, as well as perseverance, to see my art projects through to completion.  I need to have a picture, however fixed in my mind, before I can sit down and draft a pattern.

~Grey Catling, 2008

 

Piety

Piety is almost a foreign word these days.  Most people I know do not consider themselves pious to anything or anyone.  According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, piety is “Religious devotion and reverence to God.”  In other words, piety is to maintain a relationship with deity.  The definition implies that one also believes in the deity.  I like this definition, although it seems to differ slightly from that of the dedicant handbook, which describes piety as “correct observance of ritual and social traditions, the maintenance of the agreements (both personal and societal) we humans have with the Gods and Spirits.  Keeping the old Ways, through ceremony and Duty” [sic].

I think ritual and ceremony are both very important, but another important ingredient is missing: that of belief!  By just believing in and loving a God, you are devoted to him or her, and you revere him or her.  This belief is often the motivation for ritual and ceremony.  For example, I know several agnostic and atheistic people.  They find it difficult to believe in any deity and, therefore, don’t feel right even trying to connect through ritual.  They ask, “What is the point if I don’t believe?”   Thus I feel that the two definitions are less than adequate on their own, but very useful when viewed together.  Each part of the definition needs the other to create what I truly feel to be piety.

It’s easy for me to think of people who are/were pious.  Mother Theresa was pious to her God.  While recent evidence points to feelings of disconnect, she believed in her God and worked for him by carrying out his message of love by offering care to those in need of it.  She gave up her secular life for her beliefs, whether she was secure in her religion or not.  Mother Theresa is an example of orthopraxic piety, meaning that she was devoted to her religious practice and not necessarily her belief.  My mother has always been very pious.  She doesn’t prescribe to any religion per se, but does believe in a greater power.  She doesn’t have many rituals but she fervently believes in something wonderful and powerful.  She often prays silently to this being – a simple ritual that sprung out of belief.

I think I’m a very pious person.  I remember and acknowledge the Gods and spirits often.  I pray to them in the morning, I thank them for my meals, and I thank them at night, among other times.  I sometimes ask them for help, but I most frequently express gratitude.  I usually do this silently or in private.  I sometimes feel like those are the best times between myself and the Gods.  I’m not putting on a show for anyone else – it’s just us.  I feel that I can be more myself with them under such conditions.

I think that thoughts and actions can be pious, but only if there is belief behind them.  I think intent is a powerful thing.  Certain Gods may be very happy with offerings of ale, but if you don’t know why you’re offering it, or if you don’t really believe the Gods like or want it – what’s the point?  The Gods are as good as forgotten.

This topic reminds me of the character Easter from Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.  Easter is a rich and healthy Goddess living in modern America because people still use rabbits and eggs on her feast day.  Although mortals still celebrate spring around Ostara, Mr. Wednesday (Odin) points out that most people don’t even know who she is when they celebrate Easter. She sadly agrees, acknowledging that she has been forgotten.  Thus actions are good, but they are only truly good when there is belief behind them.

That isn’t to say that the actions are less meaningful and could be replaced or eliminated all together.  I personally feel that the Gods love it when attention is paid to them.  They want us to know their histories and mythologies. They want us to understand the types of offerings they would love, and the social traditions connected to them.  I think that’s what is meant by a “maintenance of agreement” with the Gods and spirits.  We research and/or remember what it is that they love – what is meaningful and valuable to the Gods.  We give them those offerings of physical actions to say to them that we remember and love them, and that we respect them.  I sometimes think of the Gods as powerful, spiritual lovers.  A lover isn’t going to stick around if he or she doesn’t feel fulfilled and paid attention to.  In addition to the love you feel, you also have to give your time to him or her, as well as gifts to show affection and remembrance.  Relationships are two sided and take work.  But just as roses on Valentine’s Day don’t make up for a year without romance between two lovers, a person attending/performing one ritual per year does not make them pious. It takes work, dedication, and understanding as well as love and belief.

~Grey Catling, 2008

 

Wisdom

Researching the definition of the word “wisdom” in a dictionary can prove to be tricky.  It is a complex word, described by many synonyms and related adjectives.  According to selfknowledge.com, to be wise is to have knowledge as well as the intelligence to aptly apply this knowledge.  When I think of wisdom, I automatically compare it to intelligence.  Wisdom and intelligence are related but different.  Anyone can gain intelligence through teachers and books but wisdom is gained through experience.  Wisdom is related to common sense and the ability to take what one knows in order to apply it in the best ways.

I can think of many people who were wise, but my late grandmother stands out.  In the short time I knew her, she was always giving away knowledge that she learned in a life of poverty and military service as a nurse.  She knew how to read faces, and taught me to trust my own instincts about people first and foremost.  In a sense, she was teaching me some simple “street smarts” – a form of wisdom.  At the same time, she was always willing to admit a fault of hers.  I think wise people are able to admit when they are wrong.

I don’t think I am very wise.  I feel that I am too young to be considered so.  I feel that I have a lot of book smarts, but I have yet to garner enough experience in order to develop much wisdom.   Then again, perhaps I am wise to admit that?

I think that wisdom can exhibit itself in anyone of any social status.  The intelligentsias of society are generally considered to be wise, and in many ways they are.  Sometimes, they are also absent-minded and more concerned with academic intelligence rather than worldly experience.  The warriors of a society should also have their own set of wisdom.  Warfare and its experiences will undoubtedly imprint certain lessons into a person that they will use later in life. The producers also need a type of wisdom – wisdom of the natural world to produce resources and to know when they’ve harvested enough; wisdom in regards to a skill and its purpose; and even some economical wisdom. These different types of wisdom are gained through experience.

I think the definition I found on an on-line dictionary and the definition given in the dedicant handbook match fairly well.  The dedicant handbook states that wisdom is “good judgment, the ability to perceive people and situations correctly, [to] deliberate about and decide the correct response”.  Good judgment is basically common sense, as is the ability to perceive people and situations.  The ability to deliberate about and decide what the correct response would be is a combination of common sense, the ability to apply knowledge, and experience.  They are both good definitions that, together, aptly describe what it means to be wise.

By Grey Catsidhe 2008