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