Thinking on Virtues

Over on Facebook, for a time I was under a small deluge of questions from a handful of folks. I did my best to answer their questions, just not in a ton of detail. But then, one of them asked me the following series of questions…

What virtues do you see in Paganism? In Druidry? In Polytheism?

…and I realized I had what amounts to this blog post on my hands. However, before I get going, let me add a few points. I am not a spokesperson for any Pagan, Druid or Polytheist group or movement. Nor do I want to be. I am a solo Pagan, Druid and Polytheist. My approach to all three of those areas is my own. I have no High Priest or High Priestess, nor do I have any students or fellow members of my group. It is just me and me alone. And while my answers and commentary have been influenced to one degree or another by others, what I describe herein can only be described as my own, singular approach. With that out of the way, let’s take a shot at what I see as an extremely meaty topic.

Common Ground

The best place to start is in locating what I call “common ground”; what others might describe as terminology and definitions. My experience has been that without this first step, the chance of misconception and misunderstanding is far greater, especially in a one-way forum such as a blog post or a podcast recording.

Describing and defining the concept of what a virtue is, seems to be the best first step to take. In his Mount Haemus lecture, Dr. Brendan Myers states ‘…virtues are qualities of character necessary to sustain a certain kind of virtue.’ (1) The Merriam Webster online dictionary provides several definitions, but two stood out for me (2):

  • conformity to a standard of right morality
  • a commendable quality or trait merit

Working from these two perspectives, for me, it is obvious to note that this is going to step into an area I consider to be a really difficult minefield to traverse: individual morality. I do not find morality a difficult place to consider. Rather, I find it fraught with the dangers of imposing one individual’s values on to another. Much of this tends to roll down the rabbit trail of causes and proclamations I have little use for, such as the “Pagan Enough” battle cry of the last five to seven years in the wider online environment. I am certainly not going to try and paste my moral judgments on to the wider Pagan world. Or am I about to?

Thinking Out Loud

::big sigh:: As I sit here and write this, I realize that I am about to scamper across a line I dread crossing. When I am asked for what I believe are the virtues that define three very broad groups that I identify with – Druidry, Paganism and Polytheism – I realize the corner I am being backed into. As an individual, I careful craft my own statements of what I feel are aspects of each of these areas of identification with the caveat that I cannot and will not speak on the behalf of anyone else. And while I am trying to emphasis just that, I do comprehend that carving out which virtues I feel are a defining aspect of these is doing just that: providing declarative statements of what moral perspectives are “right” and “wrong” in relation to these groups. So, hopefully, like Hilts in “The Great Escape“, I can scamper to the wire fence and retrieve my baseball without the guards in either tower noticing and shooting me.

My Chosen Virtues

For me, separating Druidry, Paganism, and Polytheism from one another to choose specific virtues for each is a choice of folly. Pulling all three apart from one another removes the aspects of the other two from the third and takes away the meaning of the sum as it relates to me. So, I will refrain from doing so. Plus, since this is essentially a list of virtues that relate to how I incorporate each one of these identification points into my own daily life, separating them would mean trying to compartmentalize myself, an exercise I have found to have no meaning or value for my personal Spiritual practice. And while I do practice compartmentalization to some degree with my work and private life, even that has met with mixed and somewhat disastrous results. So let’s leave these three intertwined in a manner where each are essentially a single entity within my own life.

The first virtue I would place on the board is integrity. That includes a lot of other aspect, including a few others that will make my list as well. I will go into that in a bit more detail in the very end. Integrity is an important quality to me. This one aspect is the glue that holds all the others together. Integrity relates to my adherence to the moral code that I have. That moral code is fed from what I gather and experience from Druidry, Polytheism and Paganism, as well as a few other sources. But my integrity in adhering to that code that is constantly being evaluated and formulated in my life is a primary color in the painting of my life. Without that adherence, my moral, ethical code has little to no meaning.

Honesty, loyalty, acceptance, accountability, charity, hospitality, compassion, modesty, restraint, tact, and wonder. Add integrity to that, and you have my complete list. That should be it. So then, thanks for reading!

Well, I realize that I do not get off that lightly. I will dig a little deeper into each one of these. But again, I caution you:  this is my list. This is not meant for anyone else, except me. If these are virtues for your Spirituality and life, so be it. If any of these are not in your list, I am not saying that any of these must be. You get to do you.

Honesty, obviously it’s the perspective of being truthful in dealing with others, but there is also the aspect of being sincere in how the truth gets delivered. Which brings in the concept of being compassionate. Knowing how the truth can be hurtful, and trying to soften the blow, but still deliver the wounding aspect of the truth. Added to that mix are modesty, restraint and tact. I am, too a very big fault, modest about my part in anything. Teamwork has always been a big necessity for me. As Senator Clinton once, infamously, proclaimed in a book title, it takes a village. In nearly everything I do, I have a role and typically, there are the roles of others that are necessary in achieving an end-goal. The next two, restraint and tact, I try my best to work towards, but don’t always achieve. I am known to charge in, wade hip deep into a task or battle, and let it consume me on every level. As an example, when I first started learning how to retrieve data from the college’s old command-line interface, I would literally dream about the coding techniques I was learning. In that aspect, I needed to utilize some restraint. Tact, well I am known for being fairly blunt about my feelings on topics, even toe the point of being a little too forceful with my descriptive language with no regard for people around me. Another of the virtues that I need to learn to work with more often.

Let’s see, that leaves loyalty, acceptance, accountability, charity, hospitality, and wonder. In regards to loyalty and acceptance, I am loyal to those closest to me, unless I am shown that my choice in that loyalty was done poorly. That usually shows in the form of acceptance. I honestly could give a hang about what makes a person a person. Their gender choice means nothing to me. Who they choose to love or how many also means nothing to me. As long as they are honest with themselves and with others about their choices, none of the rest matters. I also understand the need for second and third chances. Not everyone is perfect, most assuredly not me. People screw up all the time. They make bad choices. Bad things happen and they react unwisely. Stuff happens. I am not willing to flush a person down the drain. My trust will be shaken and lessened in some instances, but my loyalty will still be there – just not nearly as strong as it was.

As for charity, well I am one of those folks that is willing to help out in whatever way I can – provided that I can get there in time. Most Pagan folk are an hour or more in any direction from me, which is where most of my friends and family (non-DNA related) are as well. I cannot always get there, but when I can – I’m always willing to roll up my sleeves and help out. No questions asked, no payment required. Though its always nice to get a hug for the effort. Hospitality, I have found this to be an integral part of what I believe. People, in my opinion, should always feel welcomed – like they have always been a part of what they are participating in, even if it is the first fifteen minutes they have ever been there. I will add a slight caveat though – charity and hospitality do have limits as well. If everything is a one-way street, that can be ok in the beginning, but sooner or later, one has to follow all that one with some giving of their own. Even something as simple as taking out the trash in a home where you have been provided a long-term space to be safe can go a long way to avoid wearing out that welcome. Which rolls a touch into the arena of accountability. No one else is responsible for the actions that I do or the words that I say or write. For me, a touch of self-responsibility can go a long, long way. Just saying.

I kept wonder for last. This, for me, is one of those traits that I hope I never lose my connection with. Wonder leads to curiosity which will bring you to the dual paths of learning and knowledge. I do not know everything. Not would I try to pretend that I do. However, I get completely excited – and sometimes flustered – when something completely different shows up in my daily Path. Often times, it is just a small piece of information that I glean from another process or way of doing things, such as a ritual technique or even some obscure magickal working. A few times, it has been an encounter with a Spirit or a God or Goddess I was not readily aware of. or even a piece of history of our wide world that I only had vague understandings of. Even those little tidbits; those small chewy morsels, can captivate me for hours on end. I sincerely hope this is a virtue that I never let go of because it is the one that really provides those adrenalized moments that I truly cherish.

Coming to a Close

As I noted before, all of these virtues; these characteristics of personality, morality, ethical behavior – these all overlap to a great deal with one another. Packaged together, these become a deeper understanding of who I am, what I value, and how I observe the world around me. But these generalized concepts will not let you know the real me. That doesn’t come with taking these generalized perspectives and trying to cultivate an individual from all of that. The true measure of that comes from sitting down and talking with me. But all of this should give you a better understanding of me. Hopefully, it helps you to find a common thread or some common ground with who I am – from a generalized point of view. And yes, I see these virtues, and many, many others encompassed in Druidry, Paganism and Polytheism. If only for the fact that I hold these virtues to be the truest revelation of my daily life traits, and I am a Druid, a Pagan, and a Polytheist. Not a single one of these traits will define every single individual who identifies themselves in those three groups. But there will be a large contingent that identifies with each one. Hopefully, all of that answers the question…

Lastly, I wanted to share the location where I am using the following definitions from. These help put a form to what I am saying about each virtue, but is not a complete definition of each one in my mind. That might take quite a few more blog posts for me to try and cover that. Definitely food for that. The below definitions can be found at: “List of the Virtues” (3):

  • Integrity: Moral soundness; Integrity is consistency of values and actions. Unbroken completeness with nothing lacking.
  • Honesty,: Truthful; sincere; not lying or cheating.
  • Loyalty: steadfast in allegiance to one’s homeland, government, or sovereign. Faithful to a person, ideal, custom, cause, or duty.
  • Acceptance: To consider circumstances, especially those that can not be changed, as satisfactory.
  • Accountability: The quality or state of being accountable; especially: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.
  • Charity: Generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering. Aid given to those in need.
  • Hospitality: Not on the list of virtues at the site. Definition from Merriam-Webster.  ‘the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.’ (4)
  • Compassion: Sympathetic awareness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.
  • Modesty: Freedom from vanity or conceit. Not inclined to boast.
  • Restraint: Holding Back.
  • Tact: Consideration in dealing with others and avoiding giving offense.
  • Wonder: The feeling aroused by something strange and surprising.

References

  1. Myers, Dr. Brendan. “How Beautiful Are They: Some Thoughts on Ethics in Celtic & European Mythology.The Mount Haemus Lectures, Vol. II, Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, 2016, p.13.
  2. “Virtue.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 26 Aug. 2018.
  3. “List of the Virtues.” VirtueScience, 25 Aug. 2018. https://www.virtuescience.com/virtuelist.html
  4. “Hospitality.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 26 Aug. 2018.
    Just After Sunrise - Glacier National Park
    Here I am walking back from a vantage point, where I tried to get a picture of the morning sunrise. I had the wrong lens for the shot – so the picture did not come out the way I had hoped.

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