The Nine Virtues

WISDOM ESSAY

“Good judgment, the ability to perceive people and situations correctly, deliberate about and decide on the correct response.” -Our Own Druidry, ADF

“Wisdom (noun): 1. the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight. 2. scholarly knowledge or learning: the wisdom of the schools. 3. wise sayings or teachings; precepts. 4. a wise act or saying.” -dictionary.com

I define wisdom as both a perspective of insight gained through learning, doing, and being, and skill in using that perspective to guide compassionate, just decisions and deepen authentic relationships. I do not agree with the dictionary.com definition that wisdom is a state so much as a practice. I do not think that it can be related primarily to knowledge either, although it includes knowledge refined through doing and being in the world, experiencing consequences and shaping choices to be in line with the consequences you desire. A “correct” response may not always be good by the lights of anyone other than the responder, however. Thus, I include the caveat that wise decisions are also compassionate, just, and relationship-building rather than relationship-destroying. Given that ADF does not seek to impose virtues on its members, it would likely not be appropriate to impose so many specific qualifiers on what is or is not wise. However, for myself, this definition is like a map showing street names instead of just major highways; it’s greater specificity gives me clear guidance.

Wisdom is also a virtue that can be developed through actions and experiences. This reminds us that we not only can grow but are responsible to do so. It encourages us to seek out not only learning from books and observation but experiential challenges and newness that develop our insight. The realms in which we seek these experiences can support the growth of our other virtues. For example, by seeking experiences in the spiritual realm, our piety can develop, or in the social realm, our hospitality. Similarly, by gaining experiences in these other areas, we can gain additional wisdom as well and it becomes a cycle. This also indicates that virtues in each of Dumezil’s Triads supports virtue across all of them; this makes intuitive sense to me as this is how societies are meant to function at their best, with each group supporting the best outcomes in the others. Thus, I see wisdom as an appropriate and important virtue for a meaningful life and one that I try to actively seek.

PIETY ESSAY

“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.” -Our Own Druidry

“Piety (noun): reverence for God or devout fulfillment of religious obligations; the quality or state of being pious; dutiful respect or regard for parents, homeland, etc.; a pious act, belief, remark, or the like.” -dictionary.com

Piety is the keeping of commitments to self, others, and the Kindreds through active work to fulfill them and through refraining from doing things that harm them in some meaningful way. My understanding of piety largely overlaps with that of ADF but is broader, perhaps. It is certainly broader than dictionary.com, which encompasses only specifically religious obligations. While these are obviously part of piety, failure to fulfill non-religious obligations is still impious. This is because traditions and mutual obligations are fundamental to community and to the interchange between communities. My (and arguably our) cosmology embraces a balance between primeval chaos and civilized order. Thus, oaths and obligations not specifically religious in nature nonetheless become a part of piety as they underlie the upholding of order in the Worlds.

This is not to say that obligations and oaths will not at times be in conflict, because they will. Indeed, sometimes the most appropriate thing to do will even require the breaking of an oath or the fostering of chaos. Part of piety then is also taking responsibility for understanding many layers and types of obligation and for weighing them in any given situation to determine where right action lies. Another part is thinking deeply about any oath before it is taken such that it remains meaningful and yet does not result in obviously untenable obligations. As a rather humorous example, I flatly refused to promise to “obey” in my marriage vows because there is simply no way I am going to keep that oath. Indeed, I have never promised obedience as I cannot abdicate responsibility for my choices in that way.

I also think that including non-religious obligations recognizes the fact that much of our spiritual growth comes from engagement in specifically non-religious contexts. My spiritual growth and connection to the Kindreds is as affected by my work-a-day doing and being as it is to my engagement in specifically religious activities. Of course, including piety as a virtue is also very appropriate in a religious context in which orthopraxy is valued over orthodoxy. Ultimately, I do think piety is a virtue that can shape our lives in meaningful ways if used as part of a holistic worldview.

VISION ESSAY

 “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.” -Our Own Druidry

“Vision (noun): 1. the act or power of sensing with the eyes; sight; 2. the act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be; prophetic vision, the vision of an entrepreneur; 3. an experience in which a personage, thing, or event appears vividly or credibly to the mind, although not actually present, often under the influence of a divine or other agency; a heavenly messenger appearing in a vision; 4. something seen or otherwise perceived during such an experience; the vision revealed its message; 5. a vivid, imaginative conception or anticipation; visions of wealth and glory; 6. something seen; an object of sight; 7. a scene, person, etc. of extraordinary beauty; the sky was a vision of red and pink; 8. computer vision; (verb, used with object) 9. to envision, or picture mentally; she tried to vision herself in a past century.” -dictionary.com

Vision is to me an ability, an object, and an action. I agree with the Our Own Druidry definition that it is an ability to broaden perspective in relation to the wider cosmos and the context of the past, present, and future. I believe that it might be beneficial to make explicit that vision encompasses also the role and place of a family, a community, an organization, and even a species. I think that a failure of vision underlies many of the horrors we humans visit on each other and the current slow collapse our society and our environment. To me, vision is also a process, an ongoing action, of seeking understanding through divination, engagement in the worlds, and communion with the Kindreds to create a path for the self, family, community into the future that is grounded in the past and responsive in the present. That path, a divination or trance journey, the choices we make, the way we define who we are and what we are about- these are all part of vision as a noun, an object that we can take out and look at and put into words or pictures or song.

Vision is something we all have although we may not all have the awareness, inclination, or skill with communication to articulate what that vision is. Self-concept is one of the most basic forms of vision, and it is one groups share. It is who we think we were, who we are, and who we want to be; the distance between these things is significant factor in our self-esteem. Groups have a self-concept and a self-esteem as well. It is for this reason that vision is to me a vital virtue. It provides context and guidance for who we were, are, and want to grow to be. It is what leads someone to seek spiritual connection or embark on the Dedicant Path or Clergy Training. There would be no ADF or Groves without vision, even if not every Grove necessarily elaborates their vision the same way not every person does. Making vision as a virtue explicit highlights the need to seek awareness and articulate a vision of self, society, and context, as a dynamic process across and within these levels.

 COURAGE ESSAY

 “The ability to act appropriately in the face of danger.” -Our Own Druidry

“Courage (noun): 1. the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain., without fear; bravery;  2. obsolete: the heart as the source of emotion; 3. idiom: to have the courage of one’s convictions, to act in accordance of one’s beliefs, especially in spite if criticism.” -dictionary.com

Our Own Druidry defines courage as the ability act appropriately in the face of danger. I appreciate not including stipulations like “without fear”, as I do not believe that courage exists in the absence of fear so much as in the face of it. I do think that the expanded definition of dictionary.com as being in the face of “difficulty, danger, or pain” is useful. Often, danger is conceived of very narrowly in terms of bodily harm but the potential for loss, emotional struggle, physical or mental illness, etc can often be as or more significant. My definition of courage is continuing in the direction of your values regardless of the potential cost. It is strongly related to perseverance but implies continuing on despite obstacles in the face of negative consequences. Courage may imply violence but it can be more courageous to act appropriately while eschewing violence as a response. Many human rights movements have been effective largely because they had the courage to fight without violence, thus avoiding the narrative of “violent other” the opposing side might otherwise use. That is not to say that courage does not or cannot include violence, but it is violence used appropriately in context that is neither harsher than needed nor insufficient for the job at hand.

The current social order is slowly failing and climate change and economic hardship are worsening. Courage is especially important with these changes, the courage of our convictions, and the courage to build communities rather than hiding away in an “I have mine” attitude. Safety, to say nothing of integrity, may require boldness, and taking risks to do what it is right. Indeed, many of us require courage on a daily basis to face the things the world and our lives throw at us, from social justice issues to advocating for basic needs to rampant violence in our homes, schools, and other venues of daily life. Exploring our own psyches and the other worlds as part of spiritual growth likewise requires continuing in the face of potential pain and loss, of our old self if nothing else. Courage is truly a vital part of right action. Indeed, often our fear can tell us we are truly moving in the right direction.

INTEGRITY ESSAY

 “Honor; being trustworthy to oneself and to others, involving oath-keeping, honesty, fairness, respect, self-confidence.” -Our Own Druidry

“Integrity (noun): 1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty; 2. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire; 3. a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition: the integrity of a ship’s hull.” -dictionary.com

Our Own Druidry defines integrity in ways largely related to trust- to being worthy of the trust of others by keeping oaths, treating others in balanced and respectful ways, and speaking truthfully and to being able to trust our self. I do not disagree with this but think it is essential to include the dictionary.com aspect of soundness and wholeness; it is evocative of an essential quality of integration being required for integrity. We must know all of ourselves and define within the context of that knowledge, and of our obligations to others, what constitutes right actions and ways of being in the world. In this way, we are all of a piece, so to speak, guided by values that are true to ourselves and thus able to carry out our obligations with our whole self.

Sometimes, integrity, may result in an oath conflicting with an ethical principle or moral value. When we have an oath or obligation that is not one we would have chosen freely or that is in conflict, our self-awareness can aid us in simultaneously behaving within our ethics and meeting our obligations. By taking the time to develop a true understanding of our morals and ethics based in an understanding of our whole self, we can better know the nuances of our own ethical systems. Thus, integrity is an active process. It is not simply NOT violating oaths or telling untruths but also proactively getting to know the self and developing our character and ethical understanding so that we are able to handle conflicting obligations and even our own failings as a whole person, fairly, respectfully, and with confidence.

PERSEVERANCE ESSAY

“Drive; the motivation to pursue goals even when that pursuit becomes difficult.” -Our Own Druidry

“Perseverance (noun): 1. a steady persistence in a course of action, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. 2. continuance in a state of grace to the end, leading to eternal salvation.” -dictionary.com

Our Own Druidry focuses on motivation in the definition of perseverance; while it is likely that this is meant to encompass continued action as well as continued motivation, as a psychological professional, drive states and actions are not the same thing. Thus, I appreciate the definition of dictionary.com that explicitly references persisting in actions as well as in states. I think that we often in modern culture perceive moods and motivational states as inherent parts of actions, but true perseverance means continuing even without that motivation, even when the desire to persist or to achieve that goal is itself gone, and all that remains is the action itself and the knowledge that it is right or good or valuable or just to complete it. I can persist even without a drive to do so, without any desire or motivation, just as I can have a drive to achieve a goal but not engage in appropriate actions to do so.

Moreover, I think the definition is highly influenced by our very Western American culture in which goals are inherently good things and we should be working to achieve them. Goals are simply sign posts, markers on the path. We like goals as human beings because they show that we are moving and we have an innate drive to life, or, at least, away from stagnation. I realize my personal theoretical orientation is showing some here, but goals are ultimately just the checkboxes of life. It is values that guide our lives and by which we eventually judge ourselves. I can check off a million boxes, accomplish a million goals, but if they were not ultimately meaningful to me then my perseverance becomes mere stubbornness. I am not one to argue that persistence is valuable for its own sake; rather, it finds value in moving us toward meaning and right action. Thus, I would define perseverance as continuing to engage in right, just, or otherwise meaningful actions regardless of difficulties in circumstance, motivation, mood, or other aspects.

HOSPITALITY ESSAY

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

“Hospitality (noun): 1. the friendly reception and treatment of guests and strangers; 2. the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.” -dictionary.com

There is a proto-Indo-European world I learned since becoming part of ADF that has shaped all of my understanding of hospitality, and that is *ghosti, a word that provided the root for both guest and host. The Our Own Druidry definition seems to encompass this very well, and to resonate well with my understanding of the term. Hospitality involves reciprocal relationships, not of keeping tallies of what is owed and what is given, but of open, honest and sincere giving, materially, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. What constitutes appropriate hospitality depends on the specific relationship in question, and is set by the participants of that relationship. Hospitality does not require a lack of boundaries, and being a poor guest or recipient of hospitality is as much a violation as being a poor host. Indeed, it was this realization that got me to address my discomfort with receiving gifts and compliments as the unwillingness to receive with appreciation is as rude as the unwillingness to give would be.

I am, I think, generally very good at giving hospitality. I am at heart deeply influenced by my two Southern grannies and value giving love, affection, and care, bringing smiles and hope, through hugs, fresh homemade food, a warm place out of life’s storms, and a listening ear. While I am introverted enough to desperately need time alone, turned inward, and without excess stimulation, I nonetheless love hosting guests. However, I struggle to allow myself to be hosted or even to be gifted with someone’s time and attention. I need to work in this virtue on not only trusting others to give freely and set appropriate boundaries around that, but also in my own value as someone deserving of those gifts. I see this in my spiritual relationships as well, and a constant questioning of why They would want ME, of all people, given my many flaws and poor choices. I do believe that this is a vital virtue in my spiritual path, one that should influence my relationship with the Earth, my fellow humans, and all beings, corporeal or otherwise. Indeed, the Core Order blessing or gifting cycle embodies this form of right relationship, and I find that this makes intuitive sense to me.

MODERATION ESSAY

“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.” -Our Own Druidry

“Moderation (noun): 1. the quality of being moderate; restraint; avoidance of extremes or excess; temperance; 2. the act of moderating; 3. moderations, British, the first public examinations at Oxford University for the B.A. degree in mathematics or in classics; 4. (idioms) in moderation, without excess, moderately, temperately.” -dictionary.com

This virtue reminds me of a quote from Lazarus Long, a creation of Robert Heinlein’s, that I first read at maybe 12 years old: “Everything in excess! Moderation is for monks.” I have no issue with the definition of moderation in either Our Own Druidry or on dictionary.com. I started writing this essay to argue that I was not sure that moderation is necessary to a vital, healthy, virtuous life but in so doing I changed my own mind. I am a person of deep passions and what I do, I do with my whole self. I believe that what we do, what we feel, our engagement with life, should be deep and immersive. Life is rage and celebration, beauty and terror, and those form the warp and weft of a glorious tapestry. I have no wish to dull the colors of my weaving, nor to seek some illusory balance point.

That being said, I do not advocate excess for its own sake, either, so much as immersion, a willingness to be in and of the glorious messiness that is life. I worry that moderation s a virtue may promote monkishness- which is fine for someone for whom that life has intrinsic value. Then I consider the exact definition Our Own Druidry uses- of setting boundaries in engagement with appetites such that they do not impinge upon healthy mental and physical functioning- and I realize how vital that is. This is not about a lack of indulgence and immersion but a deliberate choice to set healthy boundaries. When I consider the experiential, and often ecstatic, nature of our religious practice and the fine line there is between that and insanity, I think that even our spiritual and interpersonal relationships fall into the nuances of appetites around which boundaries must be set. Some of us choose to be monks, some of us to be mystics, but mental and physical hygiene are vital to healthy living for us all and boundaries in the form of moderating our engagement with and the personal power we allow anything or anyone to have are part of that.

FERTILITY ESSAY

“Bounty of mind, body and spirit, involving creativity, production of objects, food, works of art, etc., an appreciation of the physical, sensual, nurturing” -Our Own Druidry

“Fertility (noun): 1. the state or quality of being fertile; 2. Biology: the ability to produce offspring, the power of reproduction; 3. the birthrate of a population; 4. (of soil) the capacity to provide nutrients in proper amounts for plant growth when other factors are favorable.” -dictionary.com

When I first saw this virtue, I had a visceral reaction to it, as my husband and I have been trying unsuccessfully to conceive for 3 years now. I knew that I would need to pay particular attention to this topic; that which pushes our buttons is often deeply important. Fertility generally elicits the common definitions such as those on dictionary.com: heavily biological and related to reproduction or nurturance. It is this last part in which nuance is often ignored. I like the Our Own Druidry definition, and once I read it, it soothed my sorrow, reminding me of the many bounties Paul and I do enjoy, and the many “children” of myself that I have made and shared, including our relationship itself and the gifts that relationships allows us to give others. Our marriage IS fertile; it is a source of constant nurturance, renewal, and growth for us both. We are able to go out into the world and share our selves with others in turn because of that, and to foster their growth, for me in a very literal sense as a psychological professional. I create as well the occasional poem, drawing, textile object, or painting, as well as research. I teach professional development and undergraduate research and statistics classes to foster that same fertility of mind and skills in others. There are many ways I enjoy a “bounty of mind… and spirit.”
I struggle with “an appreciation of the physical, sensual” parts of myself and life. I am distant from my body and physical experiences, living largely in my head and heart. In the recent past, even my feelings of love and compassion were experienced intellectually more than anything. In recent years, I have opened myself increasingly to fertility of the heart, allowing myself to be vulnerable, to share my love and express my compassion freely. I have found, however, that to truly engage in my spiritual path and growth, I must also embrace the sensual and my own physical being and needs. Sovereignty of self includes all aspects, and creates fertile ground for growth, relationship, and a meaningful life. It is through these many forms of fertility that we create what we offer in the *ghosti relationships central to our spirituality.

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