Dedicant Path ADF Virtues – Integrity

27 12 2013

ADF defines Integrity as “honour, being trustworthy to oneself and to others, involving oath-keeping, honesty, fairness, respect, self confidence.”

The dictionary defines it as

1) The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles

2) The state of being whole and undivided.

I think both these definitions encompass aspects of what Integrity means but neither one is enough on its own. Integrity is about telling the truth, standing up for strong moral principles, keeping your word, being reliable and not favouring some above others but treating all people with respect. It means being very careful with our words – not lying, flattering or exaggerating but instead saying exactly what we mean. It means knowing what’s right and sticking to it. It means not cheating, but instead playing by the rules and being fair. Ultimately it means being someone that others can trust. Trust is vital in all relationships, including with the Kindreds, and it is vital to the success of community. It also means being true to yourself, not compromising your principles or convictions for wealth, power or social prestige. It means being honest with yourself, knowing both your strengths and weaknesses and accepting yourself.

Integrity can also be used in the sense of something being “whole and undivided.” We can talk of structural integrity of a building, or integrity of an ecosystem or community. Integrity must include all these things – not just being whole in oneself, but looking after and protecting the integrity of an ecoystem or a community. Ensuring balance and harmony within yourself, the community and the natural world. It means an acknowledgement of interconnectedness and interdependence – what the ancient Norse called “Wyrd” – what one person does, what happens to one aspect of something, effects everyone and everything else…both now and in the future. We must therefore be concerned not only with our own integrity, our health and moral standing, but also the integrity of our communities and the environment in which we live.

In the book “The Druids”, the author states “From the Old Irish texts one gathers that the Druids were concerned, above all things, with Truth and preached….the Truth against the world.” It is seen as the sustaining power of creation and has magical power. There is also the tale of Cormac, who is given a magical cup by Manannan Mac Lir which breaks when lies are told over it, but fixes itself when truths are told over it. In ancient Norse cultures, making an oath was considered something sacred as can be evidenced by people swearing oaths on an arm ring of Thor. Taking a misleading oath in the name of the gods would be “breaking faith with them.” These examples show the importance of integrity to the ancient Celtic and Germanic people’s and illustrate why it is important for us as Druids today.

Finally, Integrity is about truth. It is about wanting to find the truth, not jumping to judgements, spreading rumours or believing things without evidence. It is about constantly being open to learn new things in the search for truth, even when that truth is something we don’t necessarily like. Within ADF, it means doing the serious work of research to discover exactly what was believed and practiced in ancient cultures and then building our religion upon that, not claiming our ancestors practiced things we have no evidence for. Trust, Truth, Wholeness – these are what integrity means.

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

Davidson, H. R Ellis, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. London: Penguin Books, 1964.

Ellis, Peter Berresford. A Brief History of the Druids. London: Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2002

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged. HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003.

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 – Hospitality

23 12 2013

ADF defines Hospitality as “acting as both a gracious host and an appreciative guest, involving benevolence, friendliness, humour and the honouring of a ‘a gift for a gift.'”

The dictionary defines it as

1) Kindness in welcoming strangers or guests

2) Receptiveness.

Hospitality involves many things. Just as the ADF definition says – it is acting as a gracious host or appreciative guest, it is honouring a gift for a gift, it is benevolence and friendliness. But in my opinion it is more. It includes welcoming the stranger, it means being generous and compassionate, sharing what you have with others, especially those in need. And to me it is that word – sharing, which I use to define hospitality. Indo-European cultures used the word *ghosti which is the root of both guest and host. It was a very important concept for them, as can be seen in a variety of ways from their myths. In Irish myths the king Bres loses his authority when he is satirised against by the poet Cairpre for his lack of hospitality. Later in a poem in the Dindsenchas, Lugh offers Bres a poisonous drink and Bres, who is under an obligation not to refuse hospitality, drinks it and dies. In his book, the Real Middle Earth, the author quotes Tacitus’ writings on the Germanic tribes. He reports that they “regarded is as bad to turn anyone away” and “to close the door against any human being is a crime.” In fact, hospitality was very important to everyone in the ancient world. In a time of no welfare state, travelers and the poor relied on the hospitality of others, there was a sense of honour in being able to share your prosperity, and exile was the ultimate punishment as it was unlikely you would survive long in the wild. It was also said that gods and ancestors would often visit people to test their hospitality.

Hospitality is a sacred obligation, a duty. It is the foundation for building relationships, whether with people, the gods and spirits or with the land. When we talk of virtues like generosity and compassion, they can seem quite abstract, but hospitality brings things back down to earth and shows clearly how to be a virtuous person – welcoming someone into your home for a meal, providing a seat, giving them a cup or tea e.t.c. It means to make your guest feel welcome and offer them the best you have. It can also include helping the homeless, fostering a child, supporting immigrants or giving offerings in ritual. Guests too have reciprocal obligations – to be a good guest, to say thank you, maybe to bring a bottle of wine to share. Yule exemplifies hospitality brilliantly – giving gifts to each other, enjoying meals together and visiting family. By viewing hospitality as a virtue, we make sharing a meal into a sacred act, and extend our religious practice into all areas of our lives. In my own life, one way I try to practice hospitality is by having parties on the eight high days, inviting friends and providing food.

Whereas asking for something without giving in return can devalue the asker and become begging, the concept of a gift for a gift, which is inherent in the ideal of hospitality, turns these transactions into an opportunity to build friendship, trust and kinship. Stanza 42 of The Norse Havamal in the Poetic Edda says “To his friend a man should bear him as friend, and gift for gift bestow” emphasising the importance of giving a ‘gift for a gift.’ In ADF it is considered a foundational theme for practice and worship.

It is important to remember that Hospitality also extends to the land. After all, when we are in nature, we are guests of the spirits of the land. Caring for the land is how we show we are good guests. Not only that, but it has been given to us as a gift by previous generations. And we must also remember that ultimately all land and wealth has come to us as a gift from the Earth Mother. It is not ours to hoard, but to share generously with others, as she shares generously with us.

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

Bates, Brian. The Real Middle Earth: Magic and Mystery in the Dark Ages. London: Pan Macmillan Ltd, 2003

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged. HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003.

The Poetic Edda, edited and translated by Olive Bray, London: Printed for the Viking Club, 1908.

Third Book Report – Indo European Studies

12 10 2013

Mallory, J.P. In Search of the IndoEuropeans. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, 1989.

This book considers the history and roots of the Indo-European languages. It is a search for the original homeland and peoples from which this family of languages, now spoken by over half the world, came. The central thesis of the book is that the first Indo-Europeans lived in the Ponti-Caspian region in south Ukraine between 4500 and 2500BCE. From there they spread out east into Iran and India and west into the Balkans and North-Central Europe. The author looks at the linguistic and archaeological evidence available to him in the late 1980’s to come to a fascinating conclusion that the world was completely changed by the actions of this pastoral nomadic community through their ingenuity in using the horse and wheel.

Chapter one begins by looking at the key figures and history of Indo European studies since the 18th century, explaining the linguistic similarities between many different languages and the theoretical models of development put forward by various scholars. The next two chapters look at the development of Indo-European cultures in Asia and Europe. He concludes that the evidence shows they were an intrusive people that mixed in with local populations. Chapter four was the most interesting chapter for me. The author looks at Proto-Indo-European culture, primarily from linguistic evidence as he believes there are major problems with just looking at archaeological evidence. The linguistic evidence suggests that they lived in a diverse environment, had an economy built primarily on stock-breeding and had invented the wheel, pottery, dairy products, ploughs, boats, weaponry and, most importantly, domesticated the horse. Their social organisation appears to have been male dominated and may have had a king or clan leader. In the next chapter, he looks at Indo European religion and focuses a lot on Dumezil’s theory of Tripartition ie that society was split into three functions – priest-kings, warriors and herder-cultivators. He especially considers how it relates to mythology. The author also considers the role animals, and particularly the horse, may have played in their religion.

The problem of where the Indo-European homeland might be is investigated in chapter six. Mallory points out the similarities with the Finno-Ugric languages and the important role this plays in helping to locate the homeland. He then looks at the internal linguistic evidence, linguistic palaeontology and archaeology to come to the conclusion that the homeland was in the Pontic-Caspian region – the Kurgan steppe and forest steppe of southern Ukraine. He also considers other theories about the location of the homeland e.g Renfrew’s theory of an origin in South east Europe but persuasively tears it apart. In Chapter seven, the author looks at the archaeology of the Proto-Indo-Europeans and finds a close match with the Eneolithic cultures of the Pontic area e.g the Yamnaya culture. Finally, he explores the Indo-European expansions in chapter eight. He starts with the expansion into Asia, followed by the Balkans and then South West Europe. He looks at the arguments for expansion into the Caucasus but concludes that there is not enough evidence. He argues persuasively for the Asian and Balkan migrations but, after reviewing the evidence for different expansions into central and northern Europe via the Corded Ware culture, he finds that there is no enough evidence to satisfactorily prove it at this time. He finishes by looking at how languages expand and suggests that it was primarily through the migration of small groups into different areas as well as changing social and environmental factors that proved most advantageous to the spread of the Indo-European language.

I learned a lot about the book, including how well established the Indo-European theory is despite the fact that it still has big holes. I enjoyed finding out more about Dumezil’s theory of Tripartition in more detail as well as what the culture of the Proto-Indo-Europeans was like. I was disappointed to discover that there was no archaeological links between the Pontic-Caspian area and Central & Northern Europe as it calls into question the links between the Proto-Indo-Europeans and my own country – the United Kingdom. However, this does show that the author was being honest and not trying to twist the evidence to fit his own theories. Consequently he has sparked an interest in me to research more recent scholarship to see if any advances have been made in this area. I liked the fact that he always pointed out assumptions or where there was a lack of evidence or debate within the linguistic and archaeological communities. My biggest criticism has to be the lack of large scale maps and in different time periods so that I could orient myself and understand how the smaller maps related to the larger world.

Overall this was a much more interesting book than I thought it would be, even if I found it hard going at times. I learned a lot and am inspired to research the topic further. I would definitely recommend the book to anyone interested in ancient cultures or ancestry. However, I’m not sure that it will influence my own practice other than to emphasise the importance of the tripartite system to a Druidic worldview.