Imbolc is a celebration of the Celtic Goddess Brighid.  For this reason, the holiday was always a strange one for me before coming to Druidry.  When I first started out on the path of Paganism, I considered myself Wiccan and tried my best to form relationships with Greek and Egyptian deities.  I was reluctant to delve into Celtic mythology because of the strange names.  (What an ignorant and lazy youth I was!)  As a result, the Wiccan adoption of Imbolc was foreign for me.  I knew little of Brighid and it felt wrong to celebrate a Celtic holiday while applying it to different cultures, different religions, and different Gods all together.  Imbolc wouldn’t make sense to me until I grew up a little and finally heard the call of the Irish Gods – in particular Brighid.

Now Imbolc is a holiday I look forward to.  It is my lady’s special day; a day when I can dote upon her and thank her for all that she does for me through a large ritual.

Brighid is interesting in that she is both a Goddess and a Saint.  Celtic Christians adopted her as a saintly figure, thus preserving many of her traditions.  Being a Pagan, I am most interested in her as a Goddess but I appreciate the glimpses of ancient lore provided to us through the writings of Christian monks.  She shows up in every Celtic nation, albeit with a different but similar name (Freeman 47).  To the Irish, she is a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann.  She is the daughter of the Dagda (47), wife of Bres, and mother of Ruadan (Cath Maie Tuired). She is “a goddess of healing, midwifery, blacksmithing, poetry and fire” (Myers 46).  There are also references to her acting as a Goddess of “dying, weaving, and brewing,” and to her protection over farm animals (Freeman 47).  Considering these, I think of her as a patroness of art and creativity.

Her festival, which falls on February 1st (Freeman 46), celebrates the first lactation of sheep as they give birth to lambs (46).  Thus Imbolc is a time of renewal and birth.  In addition to the milk, Brighid’s association with fire probably played a vital role in her rituals.  Flame keepers in Kildare guarded and tended to a sacred flame in her honor.  Supposedly, this particular cult was for women only (Freeman 49).  The tradition, after having been stopped by the Church for years, was rekindled and there are numerous flame keeping circles today (50).  Many flame keepers, such as myself, pay special attention to their patroness on Imbolc.

There are numerous traditions surrounding Imbolc, many having to do with fertility and healing.  Some people made brìdeag (little Bride) dolls in honor of her.  There was a whole ceremony associated with it, as the doll was brought into the house, welcomed, and placed in a special bed (Freeman 55-56).  It was also believed that the Goddess herself travelled through the land on her holiday.  It was believed that she blessed her people and the farm animals. Some would put out a rag, believing that she would touch and fill it with healing powers.  The next morning, it was believed to have been transformed into the brat Bríde (Brighid’s mantle).  It was thought that the mantle would aid in labor of both humans and animals (Freeman 63).   People also crafted Brigit’s crosses out of rushes and hung them in their homes for protection (64). In addition to these traditions, the more practical ritual of churning butter was said to have taken place on Imbolc thus linking Brighid, again, to dairy animals (63).  Many people still follow these traditions today.

Imbolc is a special holiday to me now that I’ve started to form a close bond with Brighid and my Celtic ancestors.  I hope to one day practice some of the old traditions in my own house with my own family.  In such an industrialized society where farm animals are too often treated like machines rather than sentient beings, I feel that, even if someone doesn’t feel a connection to Brighid, they can still take the day to remember where their dairy products come from.  When I was a young Wiccan, I seemed to have missed this crucial point.  If I have children, I would like to set aside Imbolc as a time to honor Brighid and her beloved livestock.  I can see us making dolls, mantles, or crosses, and perhaps making butter, eating cheese, and meditating on rebirth and where our food comes from.  As usual, the holidays should remind us of our ties with the land because, unfortunately, we often forget.


How I Celebrated in 2008

On February 3rd, 2008, I lead an Imbolc ritual for the Mohawk Valley Pagan Network.  I was really nervous about leading, especially as the majority of the Pagan alliance is Wiccan.  Most have not had any prior experience with ADF liturgy.  In the end, only six other people came.  I was kind of relieved to lead in front of a smaller group of people.  As they chatted, I set up.  The ritual was held in a member’s house in Utica, NY, but was open to anyone who happened to search for us.

Since it was an Imbolc ritual, the deity of honor was Brighid.  I brought a doll that I had made to represent Brighid.  She stands on my altar as a statue.  Also on the altar was a representation of the Bile, a large cauldron with some water, a candle, a small cauldron to collect matches, a pitcher of oil, and a pitcher of water.  I placed a special bowl in the south for the outsiders.

The ritual itself went smoothly!  I’d been going over it all day and meditating so that I would calm down.  The process was worth it.  I was amazed at how poised I was in front of everyone.  I felt like a real priestess – like a real Druid.  I credit the smoothness, in part, to the pre-ritual briefing I did.  I sat everyone down and explained the purpose of the ritual.  I went through the format and handed out some parts.  We sang through the chants as well.  I explained that offerings would be made at a specific time and that I would invite everyone to come forward with a gift for Brighid.  I ended the briefing by asking if anyone had questions.

Everyone was enthusiastic about participating.  My boyfriend, who is usually quite happy just to stand and listen, made offerings to the Nature Spirits.  It meant a lot to me.  When we got to the section for offerings to be made, I was pleasantly surprised at how many people had brought gifts!  One woman read a poem about a fairy.  Another gave a word of love.  A third gave milk and coins.  I gave a doll I had made for Brighid.

There was one small mistake in the ritual, but no one seemed to realize it.  I had meant to do the Two Powers meditation before calling the Kindreds, but I got a bit absent-minded and had to do it after to avoid ruining the flow of the ritual.  I don’t think it mattered that much, in retrospect.  The Kindreds were honored, after all.   I also omitted drawing an omen.  In the ritual briefing, I explained the tradition, but also confessed that I don’t feel proficient enough with any divination tools to perform this part of the ritual.  I decided that if the house erupted in flames, it would be obvious that the Kindreds were upset with something!  I would, however, like to practice with a divination method so that I can incorporate it into future rituals.

After the ritual, we gathered in the dining room to share food and chat-chat.  Everyone was pleased with the rite.  This was a huge relief to me.  There was a sense that I had crossed an important threshold in the Pagan community – I had led a public, albeit small, ritual.  I’m sure it will be the first of many.


Winter Solstice

When the stores begin to play holiday music and plaster their shelves with red and green ornaments, I can’t help but get excited.  Of course I have to admit that the sensation is very much a carry-over from my Christian upbringing, but having learned a bit about the background of Christmas and the Winter Solstice, I realize that there are several similarities and, through converting, I didn’t lose much!

There isn’t any definitive proof that the Winter Solstice was celebrated by the early Celts, however the Germanic tribes did celebrate something (Ellison 155).  Snorri Sturluson described some of the Germanic festivities in which sacrifices were made for “an easy winter” on the holiday of Winter Nights, and that sacrifices for a good crop the following year were made at Yule (Hutton 7).  Ronald Hutton inserts, however, that Sturluson may not be the best source. The Romans also celebrated a holiday around this time of year called Saturnalia.  This holiday was sacred to Saturn and was supposed to be the most popular feast of Rome (Hutton 2).  “Shops, schools, and lawcourts were closed, gambling in public was allowed, and there was general noisy rejoicing.  Presents,  especially – candles, symbols of light – were exchanged,” Ronald Hutton explains (3).  To Wiccans and many NeoPagans, who have embraced the name “Yule”, the Winter Solstice celebrates the “rebirth of the sun” as the divine child (Ellison 156).  This compares nicely to the Christian holiday of Christmas in which the birth of Jesus, a divine child, is celebrated.

Many Christmas traditions come from a Pagan background.  The Saxons are said to have introduced the Yule log and Christmas tree.  Ellison asserts that “there is no evidence that the Celts adopted this custom directly from the Saxons but it has come down to current NeoPagan practices through the English” (158).  The custom of decorating with evergreens is also old.  For example, the Romans brought greens into the temples for the celebration of Satrunalia (Hutton 2).

Within my own household, my fiancé and I have decided to use some Germanic traditions in our celebration of the Winter Solstice.  While I’m focusing on an Irish hearth culture, I also have Germanic blood and so I often find that observing the Winter Solstice is a nod to that aspect of my ancestry.  We like to set up a Yule tree and decorate a Yule log.  At  the present we don’t have a fireplace and so the Yule log is never burnt, however its symbolism is powerful enough that we include it in our festivities.    We also exchange presents.  Recently, we’ve been trying to simplify our holiday celebration.  We both feel that Christmas has been too commercialized.  Celebrating the Winter Solstice, we’ve been able to get in touch with our ancestry and learn about the simple gifts they gave.  I try to make some of my gifts, and we both try to give only a limited number of things to each other.  The gifts feel more significant that way.  We’ve also stopped sending paper cards.  We’ve realized that most people just throw them away and it seems wasteful.  Instead, we use the internet to send messages of good cheer during the Yule season and try our best to be nature-friendly.

In Upstate NY, we don’t always have a lot of snow around the Winter Solstice.  It’s a good time of year to gather evergreens for decorating because we don’t have to trudge through several feet of snow and the evergreens aren’t so wet when brought in.  I look forward to having a family one day, and possibly a grove, and making it a tradition to decorate the tree and bring in evergreens on or right before the festival.  I would also like to continue our simplified gift-giving.  The Winter Solstice is a holiday of togetherness and should act as a reminder that we can survive the dark times of winter through hard work and simplicity.  All the same, fun should be had by all to ensure that we don’t get cabin fever and to remind everyone that there is light after the darkness.


How I Celebrated in 2007

I attended the Yule celebration at Muin Mound on December 15th, 2007.  The ritual happened to take place on my birthday and so it felt extra significant to me.

The ritual was conducted indoors and was lead by our Senior Druid, Dennis.  A lovely ritual space was set up and included a representation of the tree, a candle for the sacred flame, a cauldron filled with water, and an offering bowl.  The ritual took on a Welsh character as we honored Cerridwen and her servant, Gwion Bach, who would receive the knowledge of her cauldron.  The ritual went very well, and it seemed especially fitting that we were receiving snow on this night.  Several attendees remarked that we were finally experiencing a “real December.”   It felt special to be warm inside, celebrating the cycle of the year, comforted by the fact that we had a feast following the ritual.

I felt that it was time for me to volunteer to do something during the ritual.  I offered to honor the Earth, so at the appropriate time I sprinkled the offering around the ritual space while chanting, “May the Earth not open up and swallow us.”  I was proud to have finally done something.

I did not have anything to offer, and I felt bad because it was my birthday and I should have, in retrospect, given something to thank the Kindreds for my life.  I shall remember to do this in the coming year, I hope.  An omen was taken, and while I remember it being positive, I do not remember exactly what it was.

Afterwards, we feasted and exchanged gifts.  Ron received a collection of Adirondack photography.  I received a Gnostic DVD on sex.  It was an amusing gift exchange and a fun Yule celebration to be sure!



What is Samhain?

Samhain is one of my favorite holidays.  Even when I was little and it was still Halloween to me, it was such fun.  Dressing up was my favorite part.  Little did I know I was taking part in an ancient tradition. 

Historically, Samhain is one of four Celtic holidays and was probably equivalent to a Celtic New Year (Mac an tSaoir).  It falls on the eve of November 1st and is nowadays traditionally celebrated as Halloween on October 31st.   The celebration is associated with fire, the end of the harvest season, certain mythological events, and the dead.  In Irish Gaelic, Samhain is the name for November and translates to “summer’s end.” The communal fires were extinguished and then relit (Mac an tSaoir). The final crops were harvested and preparations for the winter were underway.  Any crops left on the vine after the 1st of November were considered to have been tainted by the Pooka and were not to be eaten (Mac an tSaoir).  The herds were brought back from their summer fields for the winter.  The sick or weaker cows were slain for consumption and preservation.  The healthy cattle were driven through the bonfires to instill protection and health (Mac an tSaoir).

On Samhain, the veil between the worlds is said to be thin.  I feel this is a reference to the cloak of Manannan Mac Lir.  In Irish mythology, he uses his cloak to separate Fand, his wife, from Cú Chulainn.  Symbolically speaking, Manannan separates the Otherworld from the mortal world.  On Samhain, the veil is thin and creatures from the Otherworld, including the dead, can return to the mortal world for a visit.  In regards to the Gods in Ireland, Samhain was the time when the Dagda mated with the Sovereignty Goddess, the Morrigan, to ensure the victory of the Tuatha de Danann over the Fomorians.  Samhain was also associated with the Cailleach, a hag-like Goddess with the power of cold and ice (Mac an tSaoir).  She is said to conquer the land until summer returns with Beltaine or, in some myths, Imbolc.

To the Celts, death was not something to be feared.  They believed in an Otherworld where life continued in some way (Mac an tSaoir).  The ancestors were honored and even depended upon.  On Samhain, homes were opened wide so that the ancestors could return.  Offerings of food and drink were left for the dead, and the ancestors were entertained with music, dance, and games (Mac an tSaoir).

Some of our modern Halloween traditions derive directly from Samhain.  Jack-o-Lanterns were once carved turnips.  These were believed to be protective charms (Mac an tSaoir). Our custom of dressing in costumes comes from Samhain existing as a time of misrule.  It was a time between time, a transition between the summer and the winter, and so chaos ruled the night.  Along with the dancing and games, some people cross-dressed.

Other cultures were celebrating the coming of winter or the dead around October as well.  According to the Ásatrú Alliance, winter begins on the “[Saturday] between the 11th and 17th” and is a celebration of the harvest and the fertility spirits responsible for the bounty received.  The celebration especially honors Freya.  Libations and offerings are given to her and her female followers, the Disir.  The Greeks celebrated a holiday called Thesmophoria that was associated with the grieving Demeter.  According to the Britannica Online Encyclopedia, it was celebrated by married women who underwent chastity and purification ceremonies throughout the duration of the festival.  Thesmophoria involved throwing pigs into a chasm where they were killed by snakes.  The remains were brought up by the women to be used as a fertilizer for the fields.  The whole ritual seems to be about agriculture, as with the Celtic and Germanic tribes, and the dead due to Persephone, Demeter’s daughter, becoming the queen of the dead in Greek mythology.

Following an Irish hearth culture, I’ve embraced Samhain.  Although I continue to carve jack-o-lanterns and dress in costumes, I’ve added the tradition of making a meal for my ancestors.  I also do a ritual each Samhain to both acknowledge the ancestors, and honor the Dagda and the Morrigan.  Following the rituals are feasts to celebrate the bounty of the summer.  In the future, I hope to incorporate some food preservation into my Samhain celebrations so that I not only celebrate the end of summer, but prepare for and anticipate the coming of winter.

It should be easy for me to continue celebrating Samhain each year and incorporate the traditions into my family.  Although my fiancé is not Pagan, he adores Samhain and looks forward to it as much as I do.  I’m sure the joy will be infused into our children.  I hope to carve pumpkins and turnips with them, enjoy the harvest, dress in costume, and honor the dead with them as a family.

How I Celebrated in 2007

This holiday was spent with my boyfriend, Ron.  We couldn’t go to Muin Mound to celebrate, so we had a little celebration at my home.  The night started with us visiting some relatives. We then carved turnips rather than pumpkins to connect to our Irish ancestors and their Samhain traditions.  I then gathered material for the ritual.

We celebrated Samhain on October 31, 2007.  The ritual began at 8:00 pm and was held in my bedroom as it was becoming quite cold outside and we didn’t have warm clothing out. Next year, I would like to be better prepared so that we can worship out of doors.  My room is cramped and the ferrets we keep in there are sometimes noisy, but they are nature spirits so their presence can’t be too bad!

I lead the rite, and it went well, I think.  I use the ritual formula suggested by ADF and Skip Ellison, but may take things a bit out of order, or I omit things that are unnecessary for a two-person ritual.  For instance, we didn’t do a processional.  We also didn’t chant as neither of us are great singers and are therefore uncomfortable.  We instead began with a two powers meditation.  I’ve found it very relaxing and mood inducing.  Once we were done, I called to the gatekeeper, Manannan Mac Lir.  After offering him some Guinness, I opened the gates and called to the Kindreds.  I realize, now, that I did not make offerings to the fire, well, and tree.  I should probably do that in my next ritual.

The deities honored were An Dagda and the Morrigan.  I took the opportunity to tell the story of their mating on this occasion.  I think my boyfriend enjoyed that element. Following the praise of the Gods, we partook in a very simple toast and boast before thanking the Kindreds and closing the gates.  No omens were taken as I do not yet feel comfortable doing so.

I thought the ritual went well.  My confidence grows each time I lead one.  I no longer feel embarrassed.  I wasn’t as rigid either and allowed for a bit of fun.  I believe that the Gods should be treated with respect, but they do have a sense of humor.  I think my boyfriend also appreciated that as it allowed him to enjoy the ritual as a fun activity rather than a chore.  I think the gaiety of the ritual was also partly because of An Dagda.  I believe him to be a humorous deity who likes to have fun with his tribe.

After the main ritual, we put a plate of food out for the ancestors.  This was hard for the rest of my family to understand, but it was important to me to honor my ancestors.  More than any year past, I feel very connected to them.  Samhain was a great occasion to express my gratitude to them and my hope that our relationship will continue to grow.



Upon examining the virtue of fertility, I came to the conclusion that fertility should not always be a virtue of modern Pagans in regards to our bodies.  Instead, I believe that modern Pagans should adopt sensuality as a virtue as far as sex is concerned.  Sensuality can and should be applied to other areas of our lives as well and should always be considered with other virtues before making life decisions. defines” sensuality” as “unrestrained indulgence in sensual pleasures” and even “lewdness.”  “Sensual” is defined as anything “pertaining to, inclined to, or preoccupied with the gratification of the senses or appetites.”  In other words, to be sensual is to be concerned with pleasure, and thus the virtue of sensuality is to seek out pleasure.  Although one could be tempted to take it to the extreme, the other virtues are in place to help us balance our lives.

In regards to sex, I think sensuality is more important than fertility in our modern world because not everyone can have children, there is a population problem, and sometimes the Gods just have other plans.  By making fertility a virtue of the mind, land, and the body, ADF could put pressure on some people, making them think that they should really try to have children.  Even if that is not ADF’s goal or intention, there are some people who are not able to have biological children who may be sensitive to the use of fertility as a virtue.  Homosexual couples and infertile men and women can be put off by the Pagan culture’s embrace of fertility.  I know several such people who feel alienated by the Pagan community because of this.  In addition to this fact, the population of the world is too high.  While I would never condemn a family who was able to conceive naturally (a child is a blessing, after all, and who am I to argue with the plans of the Gods?), I think the Druidic community, with its emphasis on environmentalism, should embrace adoption as an alternative.  I am also not arguing that people should stop trying to conceive naturally.  There is a very strong part of my soul that would love a biological child, and I commiserate with others who would love one of their own.  I just don’t think modern Paganism should be so pushy and “in your face” about fertility of the body.

Sensuality is a far better virtue when it comes to sex.  Now that sexuality and sexual expression are increasingly acceptable within most developed nations, it is okay for people to experiment and practice kinky acts.  As Pagans gather to gyrate and celebrate the joy of union, they often do so in the name of fertility.  While that’s fine and good for the fields, I think what’s really being celebrated is how good sex feels!

When thinking about sensuality, the virtues of piety and integrity should always be considered.  I like to think of piety as a sort of loyalty when it comes to other humans.  Is the sensual act you want to commit something that would be unfaithful to your partner?  If yes, you should probably reconsider and first discuss the options with your partner.  Integrity should also be of concern.  Your partner may want to try a sensual act, but if it is against your sense of integrity, you shouldn’t have to do it, even on the off-chance that it will feel good.  Only when all partners are ready and in consensus should acts of sensuality be considered acceptable.

Compared to wisdom, sensuality is more about the body than the mind.  All the same, we should be thoughtful of the repercussions of sensuality.  We need to refer to our wisdom and our sense of moderation so that we don’t have too many sexual partners and compromise our health, so that we don’t eat too much tasty food, and so that we don’t spend all day just reading or listening to music.  Sensuality must be moderated in order for it to be safe and continually enjoyable.

Courage can help a person become more sensual.  Sensuality is important in developing relationships and, often, one or both people are a bit afraid of developing any sort of intimacy.  Courage is needed to get past that stage.  Once an intimate stage is reached, hospitality should occur and both partners should cater to each other.

I’m not arguing that sensuality should be cut off from fertility.  A couple that does indeed want to conceive should not forgo the sensual sex.  A couple engaged in sensual acts should not forget about the possibility of fertility!  As always, the virtues are intermingled.  Sensuality can and should be a part of the fertility of the mind as well.  If you are a creative person, you obviously want your creations to be pleasing to yourself and to others.  The senses need to be pleased in order for a creative endeavor to succeed.   Artists also need perseverance when wanting to create a sensual piece of work as well as the courage to undertake the task.

While I’m not arguing for fertility to be replaced as a virtue, I do think that sensuality should also be considered.  What fertility means to modern Pagans needs to be reevaluated.  Sensuality fits nicely into the virtues as it reflects the human need to express oneself and experience the world through the senses.

~Grey Catling, 2008



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



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



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



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 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 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 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