The Nine Virtues

I. The Nine Virtues

Wisdom: The Dedicant Handbook defines wisdom as follows:  “Good judgment, the ability to perceive people and situations correctly, deliberate about and decide on the correct response.” defines Wisdom as “the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.  Scholarly knowledge or learning.  Wise sayings or teachings; precepts. A wise act or saying.”

My view of wisdom is that it is a characterization of having the discernment to make good judgments and then either advising or acting out on those judgments.  Wisdom is having a well of information and knowledge and then having the judgment of knowing how to use the power of that knowledge judiciously.  Now some can use wisdom for ill and unethical means, a “good judgment” is relative.  Good for whom?  What we ask for here, however, is specifically for a definition in the light of a moral compass pointing to moral excellence, doing what is ethically good.  Also by this definition, wisdom and intelligence are not the same thing as many are apt to confuse.  I see this quite often in my profession.  I know several highly intelligent, book smart and learned people who routinely spout a plethora of information without the discernment of how much they’re scaring the patient with all those 50 cent words.  One of the surgeons I work with, now there is a wise man, Dr. Craig Wong.  He’s as well educated as the other doctors I have worked with, and an excellent surgeon.  In fact, he teaches other doctors how to be surgeons.  But when he is with a patient, he looks them in the eye, kindly, and speaks on their level.  He judges and discerns the comfort level of that patient, how much of their condition he can reveal without burying them out of reach of hope, for he knows that hope is a strong factor in healing.  The spirit can overcome a great deal as long as it can nourish itself on hope.  Some are more comfortable knowing all the biological details.  For other patients, cancer is a harsh enough word and they don’t need the details of osteonecrosis.  Still other people need all the details but using wisdom, Dr. Wong sees just how many bites they can chew on, a little at a time so they are not overwhelmed by what hand is being dealt them by whatever has brought them to our surgical clinic.  He is a good doctor in that he treats not only a disease, but he treats the patient as more than just a vehicle of that disease, and it is by his wisdom that he can discern what level he will be able to relate all that must be done to care for our patient wholly, caring for his or her body, and for the spirit that dwells within them.

Now do I see myself as wise?  Hardly.  Do I see myself as wiser than I had been in my youth?  Definitely.  It is a virtue that must be exercised, practiced daily.  I have been especially conscious of this of late.  You see of all the areas in my life, my need for the virtue of wisdom is most prevalent in my profession. I am a surgical assistant. I have had a very soul-rending year, but despite my personal pain, I must remind myself that the world cares little for my pain; my patients come to me to help them, not the other way around.  It is they whose pain must be cared for.  I must take care with the words I use, and sometimes even more so, the measure and tone of the words I am saying.  When a patient gets irrational or angry, is it wisdom to react to them as though it is a personal attack?  No.  Wisdom is discerning whether they are naturally ill natured, or if instead they are acting-out a reaction to their own fears and pain.  It is part of treating the patient wholly, with wisdom and discernment.  Wisdom is judging their needs and acting correctly and in the best interest of the patient.

I actually have a little trick to help me with this virtue. There have been days where I have been so sunk into despair over my own personal upheaval that I needed something to keep me snapped out of that pain, to remind me to be there for my patients and not for myself, a reminder like that little string in the story tied to the finger.  I have a very long silver chain I wear especially when I am working chair-side with patients.  Suspended on that chain is a spiral basket and within that spiral basket is a polished Citrine stone.  As I walk and move about the clinic, tending to patients, passing instruments during surgeries to the doctor, it bounces against my solar plexus under my scrub top.  I feel it all day long, bounce, bounce, bounce, tapping my solar plexus and reminding me, I am here for –their- pain, not mine.  Be kind, be pious, be wise. Have integrity and courage.  Be good to the patients.  Be good to my co-workers.  Do not take out my own pain on others.  Be a step above and serve, not with cool professionalism but serve those around me warmly and with kindness.

Finally, to be truly wise, I think one must realize that no one can ever be always and completely wise.  It is a never ending course that must be continually learned, a skill that must be continually be trained.  Wisdom is a virtue that I must continually culture and exercise, for the care of those around me, and for me and my own personal growth.

Piety: The Dedicant Handbook defines Piety as: 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. defines Piety as follows:  Reverence for God or devout fulfillment of religious obligations: a prayer of piety; The quality or state of being pious: saintly piety;   Dutiful respect or regard for parents, homeland, etc. filial piety;   A pious act, remark, belief, or the like: the pieties and sacrifices of an austere life. Synonyms include:   respect, veneration, awe; Godliness, devotion, devoutness, sanctity, holiness.

My view of Piety may be a bit skewed from my fellow worshiper.  For a while my former sense of piety included a feeling of unworthiness and inadequacies, it is a sense that I find rampant in a lot of my friends that follow Dualism faiths that believe in that war between Good and Evil. I bought into that war, myself for a time.  It no longer has any truth for me, and I no longer have any doubts about it.  And with the changing of my truths, come the changing of my definition of Piety.  I respect and am in awe of my Gods, but I no longer feel like dirt beneath their feet.  I revere them, but am unafraid of them.  I respect them, but now I also respect myself.  Of all the synonyms listed above, I think the strongest that holds truth to me is for a definitive word on piety is “devotion”.  I am thoroughly devoted, and practice that devotion daily.  Piety is not practicing by rote like a habit; it is practicing and owning that faith of one’s Gods and Goddesses within one’s heart and spirit.  It is mine.  It is my devotion, my prayers, upholding to the Truths that my Gods would expect me to hold myself too out of respect for their wishes, my reverence for Their plan for myself and those around me.  Upholding and living that quality that is demanded by my Gods. For me it is not “Do As Thou Wilt and Harm Ye None.”  That is too selfish.  Nor is it “do good deeds in exchange for forgiveness.”  There should be no bartering. It is Do as the Goddess Wills of Me, not in exchange of any favors, not for a ticket to salvation, not to accrue any future gifts.  It is simply Be, Do, Act, Respect and Hold dear…Speak of Them, have joy in Them, uphold Their truths and honor Their Nature. Being Pious is the act, of doing these things, the actions reflecting these things for the sake of and the reverence of our Gods and that bond between us.

Vision: The Dedicant Handbook defines Vision as, “The ability to broaden one’s perspective to have a greater understanding of our place/roll in the cosmos, relating to the past, present, and future. has a much broader definition:   the act or power of sensing with the eyes; sight;   the act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be: prophetic vision; the vision of an entrepreneur;   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;  something seen or otherwise perceived during such an experience: The vision revealed its message;  a vivid, imaginative conception or anticipation: visions of wealth and glory;  something seen; an object of sight;   a scene, person, etc., of extraordinary beauty: The sky was a vision of red and pink.

How does Vision apply to me and my personal practice?  I read something interesting from a book “Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right from Wrong” by William Kilpatrick.  There’s a chapter on “Vision and Virtue,” but the one sentence I find most relevant from within it is …there is a connection between virtue and vision. One has to see correctly before one can act correctly.”

Vision in the context of our Virtues is the ability to envision, visualizing an effect from a cause, to pre-perceive what occurrence will result with one’s words or actions.  With vision, ethical and moral judgment can be better achieved when taking a moment before putting one’s foot in their mouths, taking a moment to visualize the result of a hurtful word or action, or to sense what better words to choose and would be better received by the one you are centering your vision at the moment on.  I see Vision as going hand in hand with Wisdom.  Wisdom is the ability of taking all the data you have available and using good judgment to act upon it, but gathering that data in the first place to use that wisdom requires Vision.  You have to envision the data, gather it up, SEE it in your mind and organize it, see a situation for what it is before you can know how best to fix it, how to reinforce it or how to dissolve it.

This is specifically how Tarot works for me.  Whether it is an accurate tool of divination is not really important to me though I have found it to be quite accurate.  More importantly, those cards that appear in readings, in the order in which they appear, how the meanings of individual cards relate to the corresponding aspect of the reason, past, present, environment, etc, it paints a picture of a situation that can be visualized in the mind, analyzed, meditated upon and helps one make a better informed decision on how to act upon it with wisdom, all because the tarot helped visualize the question at hand.  Before wisdom can be used on what is the best action for that perceived situation, it must first be perceived, it must be envisioned. That is what the virtue of vision is.

Courage: The Dedicant Handbook defines Courage as follows: “The ability to act appropriately in the face of danger.” defines Courage as the following:  the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery;   Obsolete;   The heart as the source of emotion;   having the courage of one’s convictions, to act in accordance with one’s beliefs, esp. in spite of criticism.

I can’t say that I disagree with that definition.  As Druids and neo-Pagans, it takes courage to stand on our convictions as a minority against the majority belief systems who would choose to criticize us rather than co-exist.  It takes even more courage to not only stand for our beliefs, but to live those beliefs and take on the lifestyle rather than hide what we are.

For me, courage can come in two forms, single acts of bravery where courage is the spark that fuels that single act of extraordinary bravery, or courage can be an ongoing effort  and it is the latter that I apply to this Virtue.  The Virtue of Courage is to keep going, keep plugging away, to not only act and live in accordance with your beliefs but to not give up, not give in, not let go.  Courage is the fuel that feeds strength in perseverance and it is nurtured in hope. With courage we are strong enough to go on.  With courage we are strong enough to stand, sometimes alone against criticism, adversaries, and hard-knocks in life.

Integrity: The Dedicant Handbook defines integrity as “Honor; being trustworthy to oneself and to others, involving oath-keeping, honesty, respect, self confidence.” defines integrity as:  adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty; the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire;   a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition; the integrity of a ship’s hull.

What I think is even perhaps more helpful in the definition is this word’s antonym…dishonesty, because nothing can fracture a person’s integrity like dishonesty.  The “Wheel Through The Year” suggests we think on people we have known that are examples of integrity and yet I can find so many that completely lack it.  Oath’s mean so little in our era, ethics, being trustworthy.  How can anyone expect to live up to the other virtues without this one, especially the virtue of Piety?  How can anyone look to their gods and goddesses knowingly not striving for this Virtue?  How can true friends and lovers look each other in the eye with lies and deceit behind those eyes?  And yet it is done so callously in this world.  Perhaps I am biased, but I have been hurt more by the lack of integrity in this world than by any other trait and along with the failing of having integrity by people I have loved.  Without integrity, there can be no trust, and without trust, there can be no true, deep-lasting love, in my personal opinion.  The widespread lack of moral and ethical character in this world is at the root of corporate mishandling, misappropriations and ill treatment of the workers of our country.  The lack of integrity towards the oath of marriages by spouses in turn destroys the integrity of the vessel of that marriage and leaves the bond and trust between them to seep out the cracks.  Integrity is the glue that holds it all together, cements and strengthens the bonds between employee/employer relations, in spousal relations, and between our relationships without our Gods/esses.  There cannot be any wholeness, soundness and strength to any foundation without the cement of Integrity.  With integrity there is a foundation of trust upon which loyalty and devotion can be built upon it.  Without integrity, when the foundation of any relationship be it business or of the heart, when that foundation is marbled with lies, dishonesty and unethical treatment, the “wholeness” of the relationship is built on a foundation of sand and very likely will crumble. Integrity is not only the “wholeness” and “soundness” of the vessel that is any type of relationship, it is the very glue that holds it together and gives it strength.

Perseverance: “Our Own Druidry” defines this virtue as the following:  “Drive; the motivation to pursue goals even when the pursuit becomes difficult.” defines perseverance as the following:  steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., esp. in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement; Theology; Continuation in a state of grace to the end, leading to eternal salvation.

What does perseverance mean to me?  It means the very thing that makes me the “granddaughter of Louise.”  In every generation of my ancestors, one of us is given the middle name of Louise or a variation of it.  Mine is Liusadh. We are a strong, persevering clan of women, the Louise’s.    It means being steadfast and stubborn about not giving up or giving in on a course or action or belief that we hold to be true.  Of the nine virtues, this is the one above all others that I have very little difficulty with.  I may have to struggle and fight to hold on to other virtues, but Perseverance is quite honestly one of my own personal strengths.  When I believe and hold something to be true, I sink my teeth into it, I will my backbone to the task and I never…give…up.  Regardless of the rocky road, regardless of the pain, be it physical, spiritual or mental, if my will is determined to a course, then I stay true to that course. My perseverance and faith is what has helped keep me going and continuing on with one shaky faltering step after the other through troubled times, willing myself to continue through till those steps become stronger and surer footed.  I persevere, I continue, I survive.  That strength of perseverance is how I know I will continue on, through this life, from this life, and I will without any doubt whatsoever continue on to the beyond and back again if for no other reason than to be the hand that pulls another spirit up when they are in need.

Hospitality: The Dedicant Handbook defines hospitality as follows: “Acting as both a gracious host and an appreciative guest, involving benevolence, friendliness, humor, and the honoring of “a gift for a gift.” defines hospitality as:  the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers; the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly generous way.

This is an important virtue in ADF as it is an important concept and integral part of ADF style ritual.  I’ve given thought to this, but also to how it relates to the mundane world.  In my profession, it is also an important and integral part of how we run our surgical practice.  Our nickname for it is “WaF” also known as “Warm and Fuzzy.”  Why do patients come to us over other oral surgery clinics?  What makes us over and above in our reputation as the best in our area?  It’s our hospitality.  We are ‘warm and fuzzy” to our patients.  It’s the way we make our patients feel.  We treat them like welcomed guests, dear friends and family, taking special care in showing our appreciation of them, taking extra measures to make sure they are comfortable with warm blankets, something to munch on if their blood sugar is low, easing their fears, taking interest in their personal lives.  Our patients are not mere bodies that walk through that door; they are people we develop caring relationships with.  In return, quite often, they thank us with plates of brownies, gifts of bonsai trees, cookies, and fruit baskets.  Never in my life have I worked anywhere, where I have seen so many gifts of appreciation and letters of thanks from patients or clientele.  Why are we so special to our patients?  It is the hospitality we give to our patients.  We do more than a service or perform a task.  Anyone with the right education, skills and training can do that.  We do more.  We make the special effort and we honor our patients.  And quite often, we are rewarded with kind words, patients going out of their way to write letters, to bake a pie.  It’s just incredible.

It is the same idea with our ghosti relationship in ADF.  We give of ourselves.  It is not really a sacrifice as I see it, but rather a gift of caring, gift of love to our Matrons and Patrons, doing more than a rite but giving of the gift, showing our appreciation, and in return, we receive the gift of blessings.

Moderation: The ADF Dedicant manual 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. defines Moderation as :  the quality of being moderate; restraint; avoidance of extremes or excesses; temperance;  the act of moderating;  moderations.  British, The first public examinations at Oxford University for the B.A. degree in mathematics or in classics.  In moderation, without excess; moderately; temperately: to drink in moderation.

Moderation is actually an essential virtue, I believe, for one’s well being and health.  Think of all those studies that say “this” causes cancer and “that” causes heart disease, etc.  A great many of those studies come about by cramming an excessive consumption, an excessively repeated action, or excessive contact with a substance to an unnaturally multiplied degree to accelerate the effect.  The key to moderation is to find the level that is not unnaturally multiplied or concentrated to the point of causing ill harm to one’s body or mind or to that of another’s.  It’s a part of finding balance in all things.  Of the necessary things in life, what level is too little and what level is excessive? Something to bear in mind is that one person’s balanced level of moderation can be an excess in another.  We are all individuals with different requirements for what is healthy.  An easy example is food.  My mate is 5’11’ and weighs 180 pounds.  I am 5’2’ and 118 pounds.  If I were to eat a dinner’s plate full for what as his frame requires, well that is an extreme for me.  It would not be eating moderately for what would be my healthy requirement.  I’d quickly become obese.  So to keep myself eating moderately, I use smaller plates, and smaller portions.  My value for moderation is different than his.  A little wine is good for a person, and for me, it’s a great medication to take to relax at the end of a hard day.  A lot of wine on a few occasions to blow off steam or to celebrate something can be a part of that balance if it’s not done in excessive bouts over a period of time…few is the key over the performance of this act many times over the same amount of time.  Is a particular thing good for me now, or shall I reserve it for use later?  For me, moderation is all about balance and budgeting.

Fertility: The ADF Dedicant manual defines Fertility as: Bounty of mind, body and spirit involving creativity and industry, an appreciation of the physical and sensual, nurturing these qualities in others. defines fertility as:  the state or quality of being fertile; Biology. The ability to produce offspring; the power of reproduction: the amazing fertility of rabbits; the birthrate of a population;  (of soil) the capacity to supply nutrients in proper amounts of plant growth when other factors are favorable.

While I agree generally with both these definitions, I don’t agree with “nurturing these qualities in others.”  As a virtue of fertility, perhaps, but I don’t agree in the terms of it being a definition of fertility in itself.    Fertility is a type of energy in my own definition.  It involves the spark of creative energy to produce and create.  The result of creative energy is when an acorn becomes an oak, two cells become a living being, and inspiration becomes a reality.  A combination of events may be required to set the soil, the womb to receive, the mind to muster an idea, but there is a spark of energy, a spark of creation/creativity that energizes it all and gives the plant, the womb, the mind the magic that hits the “start” button and the creation begins to take fruit, to grow, to mature from an idea to work of art.  This is the pinnacle of what Beltane is to me.  Where Samhain opens a gateway to the Sidhe and what some think of as death as it is the home of our ancestors who have passed from this existence to the next one, Beltane on the other hand, opens up a gateway to the realm of birth and creation, where the creation energy lives, where we can touch fertility and pull a greater strength from it in the Spring to give more creative energy to what we are pushing from a “could be” to a “becoming.”

Now as a virtue, this is where I’d agree with the nurturing quality in the ADF’s definition.  It’s important for us to nurture this spark of creation within ourselves and encourage it in others.  To create growth prevents stagnation.  It’s important to keep the body, mind and spirit moving forward, growing, because when any given thing becomes stagnant, the next in the process of that decline is morbidity. The Mother and Father Gods created life, created us.  As Druids it’s part of our work to be hands of our Gods in encouraging the spark they gifted our world with, to take that spark of energy and apply it towards positive goals, and to help others find their own access to that energy of fertility.


~ by Spider Lily on August 29, 2010.

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