Dedicant Path ADF Virtues – Courage

26 12 2013

ADF defines Courage as “The ability to act appropriately in the face of danger.”

The dictionary defines it as –

1) The state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution; bravery.

I don’t agree with either of these definitions as I define courage as “feeling fear but doing it anyway.” To me, you cannot be courageous by not feeling nervous or scared of something. You can only show the virtue of courage when you consciously face that fear. It is being willing to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty and intimidation in order to do the right thing. It is being willing to stand up for the innocent or weak even when you know the crowd will laugh at you or hurt you. It is both physical courage in the face of pain or death, and moral courage in the face of popular opposition, shame or discouragement.

Like moderation, the ancient Greek and Roman pagans called courage or fortitude a “cardinal virtue.” Aristotle said it was the mean point between cowardice and foolhardiness. And it takes wisdom to know when to be courageous. The ancient Norse and Celtic peoples also highly valued courage, especially in their battles. They told myths of heroes like Beowulf who fought against enemies much stronger than them and prevailed. The Romans recorded how courageous the Celts were with quotes from Diodorus Siculus like “the women of the Gauls are not only like men in their great stature, but they are a match for them in courage as well.” It is obvious then that the ancient pagan people’s of Europe valued the virtue of courage highly.

In today’s world, we see soldiers as brave because they go into battle despite the risk of getting killed. We see those who stand up for their human rights e.g the right to religion, gay rights, campaigners for democracy e.t.c, as brave because they often risk imprisonment or death in countries that seek to deny these basic liberties. I think of heroes like Rosa Parks and Nelson Mandela, who’s courageous stands against oppression of black people helped revolutionise the way society treats them. And it’s not just the famous people. There are those who work in the emergency services like policemen and fire men who must be brave in their jobs every day. There is the young person who is being bullied at school yet turns up every day and tries to learn. There is the daughter who’s mother is suffering from a mental health issue but she does her best to look after her. I love the quote from Gandalf in the Hobbit as I believe it really explains courage well. He says “Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I have found that it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” Courage is not just about fighting battles and standing up to oppressive governments, its doing the small things in life because you know they are the right thing to do. And sometimes it is deliberately putting oneself in situations that are outside our comfort zones in order to challenge ourselves and grow as a person. Courage is just as important a virtue in today’s society as it was in the ancient pagan past. Like them we also tell stories, through our books and films, which emphasise the hero idea, the morally righteous one who must fight against the odds to overcome some enemy and save the world. Like them, we are all capable of being courageous and ADF were right to include it in their list of virtues.

ADF. Our Own Druidry: An Introduction to Ár nDraíocht Féin and the Druid Path. Tucson: ADF Publishing, 2009

American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Compnay, 2000.