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.

Dedicant Path ADF Virtues – Moderation

24 12 2013

ADF defines Moderation as “cultivating ones appetites so that one is neither a slave to them nor driven to ill health (mental or physical), through excess or deficiency.”

The dictionary defines it as –

1) Being within reasonable limits; not excessive or extreme

2) Not violent or subject to extremes; mild or calm; temperate.

3) a) of medium or average quantity or extent, b) of limited or average quality; mediocre.

4) Opposed to radical or extreme views or measures, especially in politics or religion.

In my view, the ADF definition of moderation doesn’t fully encompass the meaning of the term and the dictionary gives a better definition. It is about cultivating one’s appetites so you are not slaves to them or driven to ill health, but it is more. It is about being moderate in attitude and behaviour – calm not violent, moderate in views e.g in politics, and moderate in desires. Moderation is important in many areas of life. If one eats or drinks too much they will get diseases like diabetes, liver failure and heart disease. If they are too materialistic they will get into debt. If they work too much they may get ill from stress. Being excessive can lead to addictions – alcoholism, gambling problems and so on. Similarly eating too little can lead to malnutrition or anarexia and sleeping too little can lead to burnout. While we undoubtedly do need to increase certain things like healthy eating, on the whole, I think we suffer more as a civilisation from excess than we do from deficiency.

I think that western society is prone to excess in other areas of life too, like energy use. We are addicted to fossil fuels and consume them with no thought of the effects on the Earth Mother and other life forms. We buy lots of things brand new rather than reusing or recycling things, or making them ourselves, and then we create lots of waste. To be moderate means to walk lightly on the earth, to reduce our consumption, to live balanced. It means to live simply and minimally, spend money wisely, be frugal…and to live in voluntary poverty. Why do we buy so much new when we could buy almost everything we really need second hand or from a charity shop, saving money and the earth? Why do we take more than we really need to meet the basics in life? Moderation is vital to living in harmony with nature and saving it for future generations. It is vital to living in harmony with the self e.g for health. It is vital to avoiding the excesses that lead to dangerous and violent fundamentalism. Too often however, we judge moderation by the social expectations of society and I think that is wrong. Perhaps if we judged how moderate we were being by lives of the poor in Africa, we might get a better view of what it really means. To meet our basic needs, not all our wants. To not be greedy, gluttonous, lustful, slothful or engage in any of the other “seven deadly sins.” Importantly, moderation relates to other virtues too – it requires knowledge and the wisdom to apply it, and how can one share or be hospitable unless one lives moderately.

Various cultures around the world have held moderation to be a very important virtue. The ancient pagan Greeks and Romans held it in high esteem and called temperance a “cardinal virtue.” Epicurus in particular emphasised a life of simplicity and moderation, suggesting we concern ourselves with mental rather than physical pleasures, live a self sufficient life in the company of friends and engage regularly in philosophical pursuits. Aristotle thought that the virtues were at the mean between two extremes. And in the east, Taoism considers moderation to be one of its three Jewels for living in harmony with nature.

Frances Willard said “Temperance is moderation in the things that are good and total abstinence from the things that are foul.” I agree with him completely – it is very important to emphasise that moderation does not mean “everything in moderation” when it involves those things that are bad for us. For instance, science is discovering more and more evidence to suggest that the healthiest diet is a plant based, oil free, whole foods diet….pretty much a vegan diet that avoids all animal products. Some think its extreme to be a vegan because society doesn’t see it as normal, however if eating animal products is damaging our health and causing chronic diseases as the science is beginning to show – I think the moderate option, the option focused primarily on eating what is good for both the body and the earth, is surely switching to a plant based diet instead.

In conclusion, moderation is perhaps the most important virtue for us all to learn right now, its a virtue I regularly struggle to live by (especially when it comes to food) and it is one that takes a lot of practice. We must be self disciplined, work hard and, as the ADF definition says, “cultivate our appetites.” Unless we learn to do this, and learn soon, the effects on our own health, on the Earth Mother and on all life, will be disastrous.

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

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

Dr Fuhrman, Joel. Eat to Live: The amazing nutrient rich program for fast and sustained weight loss. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2003.