One issue I have with other religions is that they are like that annoying relative that everyone seems to have who begins most conversations with, “You know what your problem is?” and then proceeds to tell you how you should live your life. All the major religions tell you what your problem is (like you were born sinful) and then how they can solve it if you follow their rules. Paganism, and specifically Druidry, is not like that. We celebrate life, this life, and an individual is responsible for creating their own flourishing life, called eudaimonia in Ancient Greek. How do we do that? By achieving excellence in our interactions with the Gods, the Ancestors, the Nature Spirits, and our fellow humans. Excellence in this sense is the best, the highest good, the most perfect form of a person, thing, or activity. In Greek this is called arête.
This is the motto of Black Bear Grove and our parent organization Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF). ADF doesn’t have a list of commandments or laws to follow; we have a core of nine virtues to aspire to in order to achieve excellence and the flourishing life. Brendan Myers in his book “The Other Side of Virtue” defines virtue as “the ancient idea that excellence in human affairs is the foundation of ethics, spirituality, self-knowledge, and especially the worthwhile life.” ADF’s nine virtues are (with basic definitions from Dictionay.com):
Piety: 1. reverence for God [Note the monotheistic bias even in a dictionary] or devout fulfillment of religious obligations; 2. dutiful respect or regard for parents, homeland, etc.
Courage: 1. the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; 2. bravery.
Perseverance: 1. steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement; 2. Theology. continuance in a state of grace to the end, leading to eternal salvation.
Wisdom: 1. the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.
Hospitality: 1. the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers; 2. the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.
Vision: 1. the act or power of sensing with the eyes; sight; 2. the act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be; 3. 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; 4. something seen or otherwise perceived during such an experience; 5. a vivid, imaginative conception or anticipation.
Moderation: 1. the quality of being moderate; restraint; avoidance of extremes or excess; temperance.
Fertility: the state or quality of being fertile, which means 1. bearing, producing, or capable of producing vegetation, crops, etc., abundantly; prolific: 2. fertile soil; bearing or capable of bearing offspring; 3. abundantly productive:
Integrity: 1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty; the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished; 3. a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition.
These virtues were learned in the ancient world through stories of Gods and Heroes. I will explore each of the nine virtues through the stories of our Indo-European ancestors, mainly from the Greek as that is what I am most familiar with. It is a requirement of the ADF Dedicant’s Path to discuss the nine virtues and I will be quoting from the Dedicant Path submissions of Black Bear Grove members along with my personal observations. Together we will follow the path to excellence and the flourishing, worthwhile life.
–Koronis, Black Bear Grove, ADF