Dedicant Path ADF Virtues – Wisdom

2 10 2013

ADF defines Wisdom as “good judgment, the ability to perceive people and situations correctly, deliberate about and decide on the correct response.”

The dictionary defines wisdom as –
1) The ability or result of an ability to think and act utilizing knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight.
2) Accumulated knowledge, erudition or enlightenment.
3) A wise saying or wise sayings or teachings.

In my opinion wisdom is the foundation of all virtues. How can someone know what is virtuous in a situation or judge between two contradictory virtues unless they have wisdom? The ancient Celts and Germanic tribes had many gods of wisdom and their mythologies include stories such as that of Fionn Mac Mumhail who ate Fintan the Salmon and became very wise or Odin who in the Havamal is said to have hung on Yggdrasil for nine days to receive the wisdom of the runes. These facts suggest that wisdom was highly valued by the ancients and they honoured those who were considered wise.

Many have offered definitions. Charles Spurgeon said that “wisdom is the right use of knowledge” while Aristotle said that it was knowing why things are a certain way, not just that they are. Socrates said wisdom begins in wonder, while Confucius said wisdom is learned through reflection, imitation and experience. I don’t think it’s an accident that when we think of the wise, we picture old philosophers sat teaching eager students how to live correctly. Philosophy means “love of wisdom” and it’s important to study philosophy to understand how to live wisely. Wisdom is about more than simply reasoning because it sometimes defies reason. It’s not just knowing what the right thing is to do, but also applying, and acting on, that knowledge. It’s a virtue because it’s an essential part of character building.

Being wise is something that takes many years to learn and, while as a young person I don’t like that fact, my own experience over the last several years points me to its truth. Experiences I’ve faced have taught me the value of wisdom, exposing my own naivety about life. When we’re young we think we know everything and will change the world, but ultimately we mature and realise our parents are right. I think I’m becoming wiser as I get a bit older but one needs to be of a significant age to receive such a worthy title as “wise”. I believe wisdom comes from accumulating a lifetime of experiences, mistakes and knowledge. It’s a continuum on which we’re always learning new lessons, gaining experiences and gradually getting wiser. While it’s possible to learn some wise sayings and apply them to our lives, most people develop wisdom through years of experience. To be wise, one needs to be humble, open to learning and exposed to many different viewpoints, but ultimately wisdom is about what works and therefore it’s rooted in traditions – the accumulated knowledge of generations.

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

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

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

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