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Archive for the ‘virtues’ Category

I love having company over.  I so rarely get to see the people I consider my tribe, so it was a real treat to have friends visit.  We had a lot of fun in Alex Bay and Watertown, but we mostly stayed home for chatting, snacking, and playing copious amounts of games.  If only there had been more time for more fun.

Having guests is always a test of virtue.  I try my best and take pride in being a hospitable hostess.  I love to cook fresh meals and share my drink.  Hospitality aside, my piety to the Kindreds is also tested.

They are never far from my mind to begin with, and I pray a lot – especially before eating and while traveling.  Yet when people share my home, my routine is always a bit disrupted.  (Truthfully, it already was thanks to my infernal, cough-inducing allergies…)  My devotionals are shortened because I need to be a good hostess and it is too loud for me to meditate.  I am proud of myself for getting up and doing my full, formal ritual yesterday, but even that was not as usual because of my need to assist my guests.  I felt self-conscious chanting, as well.  I found myself whispering the songs.  It was not a very powerful ritual but I am glad to have done it.  I like showing the Kindreds that I care, and I think they understand the strained ritual when I so rarely entertain.

I believe that ritual, trance, and meditation aren’t the only ways that we show honor to the Kindreds.  When we find joy with our tribe, treat others with love and respect, and celebrate life – even in a non-religious context – the Kindreds are there.  Strengthening bonds with the tribe is just as important as ritual on my Druidic path.

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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Sensuality

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.

Dictionary.com 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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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