Heathen Virtues and My Life
I am a practicing neo-pagan. A neo-pagan is anyone who does not follow an Abrahamic faith or in some cases and situations the definition also includes Dharmic faiths. That means that they do not follow Christianity, Islam, or Judaism. The Dharmic faiths include Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and occasionally Shintoism.
My path is rather eclectic and so are my ethical and moral views on the world. One of the pagan religions that has deeply inspired me and my world view have been the Germanic faiths. These faiths include religions like Asatru, Odinism, Anglo-Saxon reconstruction, Heathenism, and or religions that follow the Gods outlined in the Poetic and Prose Eddas as well as the Icelandic Sagas and other forms of Nordic folklore.
The Gods in this pantheon would be Odin, Thor, Tyr, Loki, and many others. There are several sagas and Eddic tales that explore not only the myths, but the values or virtues of that culture. Some of these virtues have remained intact and others have become ignored. I do feel that these virtues have much to offer in today’s world and could help our society make some major changes.
The majority or rather the most popular and well known websites and texts on the subject of practical practicing of these religious practices have come up with a list of what they call the “Nine Nobel Virtues”. These virtues outline my basic ethical and moral guidelines. How I interpret them may be different from others, but I feel I am an ethical person as outlined in the Nine Nobel virtues.
The Nine Nobel Virtues are: Courage, Truth, Honor, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Industry, Self-Reliance, and Perseverance. Each of these virtues works together. In many ways if you are not working well on one virtue, the other virtues fall and fail a little as well.
Courage basically means having the strength to face the challenges given to you and to know when to ask for help. It also means trying over and over again when you have failed in order to succeed. Being courageous does not mean you don’t have any fear. It simply means that you act courageous when you are in the act of facing your fears.
Truth is basically self-evident. To me it simply means that you should always tell the truth and that means being true to yourself as well. In many ways it is about making sure your actions are honorable. You should not be making excuses for doing acts that you “know” are wrong.
Honor is something that can be difficult to explain. Honor goes hand in hand with respect. Honor means acknowledging that you respect a person’s actions and how they live their lives. Honor also means living your life the way you would like others to live and a life that you would see as respectful and honorable.
Fidelity is not something many people would think of as a virtue today. However I personally find that it is a very important virtue. Fidelity is loyalty. I take loyalty very seriously. When I give myself to a cause or an idea and it rises to an action I do what I can. Loyalty is staying true to your friends and your allies.
Discipline is one thing I think that many people in today’s societies are lacking. Discipline does not have to mean making people behave a specific way through punishment. Instead in terms of the Nine Nobel Virtues it means working hard to change a behavior, and shaping a behavior.
Hospitality is something people don’t often think about. In the ancient times when the tribal religions were being practiced, even if you had your own land, everything you did was also for your community. Today it is about helping out when at a friend’s place or when they are at your place offering drinks or snacks or things to make them be at home. It is about sharing what is yours with someone else.
Industriousness is basically spending your days working towards something. It means doing more than the minimum in order to get things done. It means giving your all and being productive. It also means taking time to play. Playing is how we explore new things and ideas and recharge our energies. It’s a balance between work and play making sure you get the most out of everything you do.
Self-Reliance is something I think every person needs to work on in some areas. It means being responsible for yourself and your actions. It means doing as much as you can by yourself and knowing when you need help to do something that you cannot do yourself. Self-Reliance also means that over time you will learn new skills to do what you can for yourself.
Perseverance is probably the most difficult virtue for me. This virtue is the one of keeping with something until the job is done. It means trying and trying over and over again. It also means knowing that you may need to start over with a new idea and begin from the start. It also means that if your project is futile and not worth the time and effort that you need to move on to something else. You don’t get credits for stupidity.
Aristotle believed that the best way for excellence was to be somewhere between a deficiency and an excess of any single virtue. That by following the middle path one will have reached peace and balance. This is more difficult than it seems in many cases. Out of the nine virtues there are several that I am closer to a deficiency on than others.
I am not as industrious as I could be. In many ways I am a sloth. There is so much time I have that is spent playing games online or just on my laptop that could be devoted to improving my skills, writing, housework, spiritual development, creativity, and the like that I feel quite wasteful in my time. Now as mentioned this virtue does apply to playing.
I have tried before to find ways to be more industrious in my “free time”. One of the ways that has been more effective than most has been to create a daily schedule or routine for me. This way my time is organized and things do get done. I feel that Aristotle would probably have told me that if that system had worked before, try it again, but maybe be a little more flexible with the time arrangement and the like.
There is really only one way that I am not as reliant as I could be. That to me is basically in the aspect of transportation and financial situations. I have used the excuse that the public transportation system in the city of South Portland sucks as an excuse for not going out and getting supplies and other things done that should be done. In reality I could use the bus more often than I do; it’s just not as convenient, which ties into my industriousness. The transportation ties into my employment or financial situation as well. There are ways for me to get employed and find transportation. I just have to get up off my ass to get the work done.
Aristotle would probably have told me to be willing to get help to achieve my goals. For example if I am having trouble getting to some of the offices, even with public transportation use the options I have available to me in order to get what needs to be done done. I am still being responsible for myself and my actions as I need to ask for the help and make sure that both them and I work together and get the task accomplished.
Several years ago I would have stated that my courage needed to be worked on, but these things have been worked on with my fiance’ and myself as they were intimate issues. I just need to work on continuing to face those issues with him as we continue on our paths together.
There are other areas that my courage could be improved. One way is being afraid to ask people for things like rides and the like. The other could be facing my fear of my ideas being rejected by publishers and the like (see discipline below). I just need to try hard.
Aristotle would tell me that I just need to send out my ideas. He would probably tell me how his mentor Plato was taught by Socrates whose ideas were widely rejected, yet still maintained some value. He would tell me that rejection is not always a failure, but an opportunity to reach a different set of ears or eyes as the case may be.
Discipline is one virtue that I will admit I lack. I am disciplined in some ways, but in others I am not and it is clearly visible. In one way is that I do not always remember to keep up my religious and spiritual studies. I am working towards one day ultimately being a priestess and member of the clergy. This also goes for my witchcraft (which is both a religion and a craft) as well.
For many years I have tried to keep up a steady study schedule with activities and actions done. I may keep to it for a few months, but then my interest may switch to something else which I start to study. In turn I stop forming the habit and lose my focus on the original study at hand.
In Aristotle’s eyes the solution would be simple. If I get distracted by other ideas and subjects to study, add them to a list and get to them after the current topic has been explored. In this way I will be able to continue my current studies, but make notes of other things that fascinate me. This is something I have actually done before.
Perseverance is the last virtue that I need to work on. I am a writer; or rather I would like to be. Writing is a hobby of mine that comes naturally. I have been told that I should get published. Many times I have started to write a book and then after getting several chapters in, will read what has been written and delete all of it, not enjoying how it sounded at all. Instead I should have taken a break from the project and then gone back to it letting the book write itself.
It is quite likely that Aristotle would tell me to keep with the project and maybe start with smaller stories and books and work up to novels and long non-fiction books. He would probably say how his works started out as single lectures that were actually a series of lectures that were tied together. In time they were bound together as a book for reference. So the work in small bits part would be the best approach for me.
All in all I think I am a just person. Some people may have other views on where I am lacking in my virtues. Others may say that my life does not reflect any of these values at all.
In reality I am doing my best. These values have only been added into my life with in the last five years. They are still new to me. I work hard and have become the best person I can be at this point in my life. Can I still grow, and is there more to learn? Absolutely, but for now I am where I should be.