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The Nine Pagan Virtues

Wisdom | Piety | Vision
Courage | Integrity | Perseverance
hospitality | Moderation | Fertility

Sources | Mythical Assessment | Quotes

The Nine Pagan Virtues of ADF can be divided in a multitude of ways. They might be thought of as "functional," with each Virtue relating to a function in the Dumezilian tripartite system, or they might be best described as parts of a myth.

A quick note: "Rta" is a word that appears a couple of times below. It is a Vedic Sanskrit word meaning "cosmic order," "cosmic law," or even "truth." Think of it as the "pattern of the universe" and you will have some idea about the meaning of the term.


DP Definition: "Good judgment, the ability to perceive people and situations correctly, deliberate about and decide on the correct response."
Dictionary Definition: "1. The ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting; insight. 2. Common sense; good judgement."

Wisdom is an intersection of knowing right and doing right. A wise person will perceive the cosmos as a whole, as a pattern, and choose the action which will be the most right within it. The decision of chosing an act by utilizing all the information available begins the path of acting within the rta.

As we grow in experience with the world, we grow in knowledge of how our decisions affect the cosmic patterns. In this way, great wisdom is founded in great knowledge. As we gaze into the cosmos in wonder, we see the heights great wisdom can attain.

As Druids, we must not only know what is right, but also act upon it, for only through decisive action can wisdom be realized.


DP Definition: "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."
Dictionary Definition: "2. A devout act, thought, or statement" Related: Pious: "1. Having or exhibiting religious reverence; earnestly compliant in the observance of religion; devout."

Piety is what you do. More than any other virtue this is a virtue of action. The bare minimum an ADF Dedicant should do to fulfill this virtue is observe the eight High Days, but I would argue that is not enough. Those exemplifying this virtue are likely to do far more than required, and they will do it well. This is a virtue of comeptence, rather than sincerity.

Piety is the act of participating in the *ghos-ti- relationship with the Kindreds. In more general terms, it it the act of engaging in reciprocity with the powers, to open the door and invite them to share in our hospitality.

While piety, particularly as defined in the DP and the dictionary, is purely action (indeed, "going through the motions" is the very definition of piety), I believe that there must be some element of faith or belief in the actions to make them "count." Depsite that, I also think that pious actions will lead to faith and belief over time, and they can reignite that fire within you during a crisis of faith.


DP Definition: "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."
Dictionary Definition: "1a. The faculty of sight; eyesight. 2. Unusual competence in discernment or perception; intelligent foresight."

Vision is about seeing the connections between things, rather than simply seeing the things themselves. While we can view the present situation, it is best to use our vision to see the past, and to understand the influences that brought us to the present. From there, we may understand the possible outcomes the future may have in store.

Vision involves both observing and understanding the many forces that act within and upon the cosmos. Vision begins first with seeing all things in the cosmos. Then, it is deepend as we see the cosmos in all things. Eventually, it involves seeing the way the worlds interact, and understanding how they are aligned, or how to best align them, both in the macrocosm and the microcosm. Most importantly, though, the truest expression of vision as a virtue is discerning our role in the cosmos, and understanding how to act in that role.


DP Definition: "The ability to act appropriately in the face of danger."
Dictionary Definition: "1. The state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession and resolution; bravery."

Courage is not acting without fear, but rather acting in spite of it. It is facing a fear and acting correctly despite the dangers ahead. It is probably best described as "doing what needs done." In the ancient world, the concept of courage meant winning fame (and through fame, immortality); today, we think of the pursuit of fame as infringing on the concept of courage.

In "doing what needed to be done," the ancient warrior could participate in the cosmic order, ensuring that the cosmos would continue through right action and staving off wrong action. The courage of the ancient warrior was always dependent on right action, and when the warrior ceased to do what was "right" by the Rta or his orlog, he fell from grace: losing the favour of his god, or being forced to work amazing tasks in order to come back into line with the Rta. "Courage" may be best described as working to remain in line with the cosmic order, and reasserting yourself as in line with that order when you fall from it.


DP Definition: "Honor; being trustworthy to oneself and to others, involving oath-keeping, honesty, fairness, respect, self-confidence."
Dictionary Definition: "1. Steadfast adherence to a strict ethical code. 2. The state of being unimpared; soundness. 3. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness."

Integrity is the state of being "whole" in all ways. It is the state of being of sound and strong body, being a part of the community, and being part of the cosmos in general.

The aspects of integrity that affect the physical include maintaining your body so that it can be whole: watching what you eat, exercising regularly, and keeping your body clean and free of infection are all important to maintaining integrity.

Being integral to the community means participating in the world in a way that benefits others. ADF's focus on community service in Groves is a good example of how we work within the community to advance integrity.

Integrity with the cosmos is a maintainence of agreements and relationships. By keeping our word, the cosmos maintains its structure. By keeping the observances of piety, the cosmos is re-created again and again. By sacrificing, we maintain the very fabric of the cosmos.


DP Definition: "Drive; the motivation to pursue goals even when that pursuit becomes difficult."
Dictionary Definition: "1. Steady persistence in adhering to a course of action, a belief, or a purpose; steadfastness."

Perseverance assumes adversity: one does not persevere in the face of leisure, sweetness and light. It is "sticking to one's guns," "holding ground," and a variety of other military clichés. Most important, though, perseverance is motivation manifesting.

We are all motivated to do things. When adversity attempts to obstruct our path, it is perseverance that pushes us through to our end goals, to see our motivations manifest.

This virtue means something deeper, cosmologically. Rather than simple devotion to an idea or course of action, it is the active maintainance of what is right, what follows the orlog or the Rta of the world. The cosmos perseveres; as a microcosm of the cosmos, so must we, in order to play our part in the Rta. We persevere, along with the cosmos, when we make sacrifice as the Rta requires.


DP Definition: "Acting as both a gracious host and an appreciative guest, involving benevolence, friendliness, humor, and the honouring of "a gift for a gift.""
Dictionary Definition: "1. Cordial and generous reception of or disposition toward guests."

ADF ritual is centered around our understanding of hospitality in the Indo-European world. It rests on the idea of *ghos-ti-, which is a Proto-Indo-European word that exmplifies the idea of reciprocity and the guest-host relationship within an IE cosmos. What we do in ritual informs what we do in our mundane lives, as well, and we seek to exemplify this reciprocal ideal in all our relationships.

Hospitality has two sides: the good host and the gracious guest. A good host ensures that his guest is appropriately treated, and the gracious guest ensures the he does not overburden the host. Both guest and host are responsible for the maintainence of the relationship.

There is also the concept of "a gift for a gift," where we seek to give to the Kindreds so that we may open a relationship in which they may reciprocate (not in the knowledge that they will reciprocate, but in the hope). Our interactions with the Kindreds are based on the idea that "the same hands that reach out to give also reach out to receive."¹


DP Definition: "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."
Dictionary Definition: Moderate: "1. Being within reasonable limits; not excessive or extreme. 3a. Of medium or average quality or extent. 4. opposed to radical or extreme views or measures, esp. in politics or religion."

Moderation involves understanding both limits and necessity, and knowing how to balance our needs so that they always met, but never over-indulged. It is self-discipline and an understanding joy in things that are perfectly ordinary.

The key to avoiding laziness and burnout, moderation does not rush, nor does it take too long. Indeed, it is "short stories and long laughs," and "fast enough to get there, slow enough to see."² Moderation is not the same for all people, and we cannot judge what "moderate" might be for others.

While all this sounds very much like acedia, it is not; moderation is the rock upon which all other things may be built: reliabilty, understanding, and trust are formed where moderation is present. Moderation is fertile soil for Groves and individuals to grow, and reliably making offerings to the Kindreds makes them more receptive to our requests.


DP Definition: "Bounty of mind, body and spirit, involving creativity, production of objects, food, works of art, etc., an appreciation of the physical, sensual, nurturing."
Dictionary Definition: "1. The condition, quality, or degree of being fertile. 2. The birthrate of a population." Related: Fertile: "1. Biology a. Capable of initiating, sustaining, or supporting reproduction. b. Capable of growing and developing; able to mature. 3. Bearing or producing crops or vegitation abundantly; fruitful. 5. Highly or continuously productive; prolific. 6. Physics Capable of producing fissionable material."

Fertility is not the beginning of creation, the moment an idea is conceived nor an egg fertilized; rather, it is the maintainence of life, the encouragement of growth, and the cultivating of talent. The ability to create is not fertility, but the ability to maintain what has been created truly is.

To begin a journey is no great feat: many journeys have been started before. It is the maintainence of that journey, the continuation and development of it that are great feats. So too with fertility: fertility cannot be found in orphaned artistic projects, fields sown but never watered, or a fire unfed. Fertility is the perseverance of the spark through the darkness, the harvest brought in from the fields, and the child adopted and loved.


All dictionary quotes from The American Heritage College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, ©2002

Thoughts on moderation are informed by Assumption Abbey

¹ - Ceisiwr Serith, A Book of Pagan Prayer

² - Jimmy Buffett, "Barometer Soup"

A short mythological assessment

The Virtues can play out in the myth of Esus:

  1. Esus represents wisdom, perseverance, and moderation because he is the one who prunes the tree, who ensures that it grows straight and true.
  2. Trigaranus (the three cranes) are vision, integrity, and hospitality because they have a unique perspective, offer guidance and harbor lost souls, and are not afraid to speak the truth.
  3. Tarvos (the bull) is piety, courage, and fertility because the bull sacrifice is a pious act, the bull is a direct aspect of the fertility of the land and the folk, and Tarvos embodies courage.

Virtues Quotes


"Consider your origins: you were not made that you might live as brutes, but so as to follow virtue and knowledge." - Dante, The Divine Comedy

"Virtue shuns ease as a companion. It demands a rough and thorny patch." -Montaigne


"It is the province of knowledge to speak and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen." -Oliver Wendell Holmes

"We don't receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us." -Marcel Proust (1871 - 1922)


There seems to be some curious connection between piety and poor rhymes." -Oscar Wilde

"We are plated with piety, not alloyed with it." - Austin O'Malley (United Irish leader, 1760-1854)

"It is rash to intrude upon the piety of others: both the depth and the grace of it elude the stranger." -George Santayana (1863-1952)


"For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;
    -Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "Locksley Hall"

"The true voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes; in seeing the universe through the eyes of another, one hundred others—in seeing the hundred universes that each of them sees." -Marcel Proust (1871 - 1922), "Remembrance of Things Past"

"Never stop asking to be made to see. Seeing is the biggest thing in the world." - Florence Allshorn (1887-1950)


"Courage disdains fame, and wins it." -inscription on the monument to Periclean citizen-warriors at Yale

"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain." - "Litany Against Fear," Frank Herbert, Dune


"Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful." -Samuel Johnson


"Perseverance, dear my lord,
Keeps honour bright: to have done, is to hang
Quite out of fashion, like a rust mail
In monumental mockery.
   -Shakespeare, "Troilus and Cressida"


Hospitality, n. The virtue which induces us to feed and lodge certain persons who are not in need of food and lodging." -Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

"Without food quick on the platter
Without fresh milk for a calf to grow on
Without lodging for a man when night prevails
Without sweetness for men of art—such is (the like) of Bres.
No longer does Bres have prosperity.

"With his friend a man     should be friends ever
   and pay back gift for gift;
laughter for laughter     he learns to give
   and lying for lies.
      -Havamal, 42

"Here's more advice     about the man
   whose intentions you don't trust:
laugh when he does,     let your words dissemble,
   give back gift for gift
      -Havamal, 46

"Don't mock a guest,     and never make fun
   of a man you meet on the road!
      -Havamal, 132

"Scoff not at guests     nor to the gate chase them,
   But relieve the lonely and wretched
      -Havamal 135

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer says "how grievous and unkind a thing it is, when a man hath prepared a rich feast, decked his table with all kind of provision, so that there lacketh nothing but the guests to sit down; and yet they who are called (without any cause) most unthankfully refuse to come."


"To many, total abstinence is easier than perfect moderation." -St. Augustine

"Sail the main course, sail it in a simple, sturdy craft.
Keep her well stocked with short stories and long laughs;
Fast enough to get there, but slow enough to see,
Moderation seems to be the key!
    -Jimmy Buffett, "Barometer Soup"


"The turtle lives 'twixt plated decks
Which practically conceal its sex.
I think it clever of the turtle
In such a fix to be so fertile.
-Ogden Nash, "The Turtle"


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