Category Archives: Ethics

Heathen Virtues and My Life

Nine Nobel Virtues

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.

Review: The Heart of the Initiate

The Heart of the Initiate

The Heart of the Initiate is a wonderful book. This book was created by Victor and Cora Anderson for their students and those interested in the Feri tradition of witchcraft. The forward states:

“THIS BOOK IS A VALENTINE from Victor and Cora Anderson to you. For those of us who are their initiates, the Andersons live on through the many personal recordings and letters we held close and treasure. We’re grateful for this great opportunity to share rare insights into the Anderson’s teachings, and offer you an imitation of what it was like to be their student.”

It is clear that the Andersons wanted their teachings to be preserved and shared. That they wanted more people to understand and know what their tradition was and is all about. The proof is in the quote mentioned above. For this reason the book was created which allows seekers like me and students of Feri to see what the actual founders and high masters said about the tradition and their teachings.

Due to the nature of this book there are not chapters. The book reads like correspondences which is what they are. There are a few sections in which various teachings are written about in letter or essay form, but not your traditional chapters and sections style.

The first section of the book is called Some Pictish views on the old religion. Here we learn about some origins of the practices and how the religion is different from others. It talks about the origins and how sex is sacred. There is a little bit on basically all aspects of the Craft in this section written by Victor.

The second section of the book is called Commentaries. In this section there are a few specific articles on points important to the specific Feri tradition of witchcraft as they teach it. Topics include Raising power to divinity, Sexual Initiation, Sexual ethics, Training and Initiation, The Consort, The Guardians, The morning prayer, Possession, and Salvation. All of these concepts are teachings important in the Feri tradition to some extent and these basic articles express how they work and what they mean.

The third section of the book is the most informative section of the book. Here there are glimpses at some of the rites and materials actually presented to their students. There are exercises and explanations given. The letters are written by Victor and Cora presented to us as they responded to their students. The only thing missing in this section would be the letters from the students to their teachers so the context makes more sense.

The very last section of the book is important for seekers like myself. In many books on traditional witchcraft there is an exercise to switch from a Christian path to a Traditional witchcraft path which involves the reciting of the Lord Prayer backwards. Here Victor describes yet another prayer that can be used which is essentially a modified version of the Lords prayer for seekers trying to be open to new paths and teachings.

Review: The Spiral Dance

The Spiral DanceThe book The Spiral Dance is considered a classic in modern witchcraft literature.  The author Starhawk put this book out at a time when there was little to no information published publicly on Witchcraft and people were starving for information.  In the 35 years since the original release of The Spiral Dance many more books have been put on the market, but the Spiral Dance remains on the top of many recommended reading lists.

The one down side to this book is that it does focus heavily on the feminist movement and feminism.  At the time the book was written the author was heavily involved in the feminist movement and feminist spirituality, so it makes sense that this book would reflect those interests and activities.  This book is one of the reasons that religious witchcraft is considered to be “women’s religion”.  The theme and focus throughout the book is the use of witchcraft and Goddess spirituality to reclaim women’s rights and women’s power.

The subtext to the title “The Spiral Dance” reads :”A rebirth of the ancient religion of the Great Goddess”.  The text is a very apt description for the information that you find within the book.  When you combine the focus on the Great Goddess with the feminist movement at the time you have a book that covers feminist witchcraft and feminist spirituality and why its important for the world we live in.

Now Starhawk does talk about why feminist spirituality like the Goddess movement is important to men and what Men can get out of the practice of witchcraft.  So while the book is geared towards women and feminist spirituality, there are benefits described for Men and practices of Male witches discussed.  The overall tone though is geared towards women and women’s mysteries.

This book is 13 chapters long.  Each chapter has a specific lesson that expands on the information in the previous chapter.  Within several of the chapters are easy to do exercises and meditations.  These meditations and exercises are provided so that a solitary witch or someone seeking witchcraft can learn practices that will allow them to become witches in their own right.

Each chapter starts out with a ritual or a description of the practices found within the chapter to illustrate the lessons and information found within the chapter.  Some of these stories are fictional and some of them are from experiences within the authors own coven settings.  These personal experience illustrations form some of the most powerful aspects of the book allowing the reader to see what sort of experiences they may have in their own work while not telling them explicitly that these will be your experiences as well.

The first chapter completely discusses witchcraft as a Goddess focused religion.  Here is where we first learn the concept of a Great Goddess and of feminist spirituality.  The author also goes into the history of witchcraft and what exactly witchcraft is as a religion and a practice.  Its a basic starting point illustrating the misconceptions and issues many people have with witchcraft.

The second chapter goes into the worldview of witchcraft.  Every religion has a way of viewing the world.  Here we re provided with a creation myth for the birth of the God and Goddess within this version of witchcraft as well as the essence of the Great Goddess.  Here we are given the concept of the soul/spirit as well as the concepts of energy working and the view on the cosmos.

The third chapter talks about covens.  Here we learn about the common structure of religious witchcraft and the way that this structure functions.  The author illustrates both same sex covens as well as mixed gender covens and why coven structures work.  The comparisson between covens and traditional religious structures provide ways for seekers and students to understand the functional differences between a church and a coven.

The fourth chapter discusses sacred space.  One key component in witchcraft rituals is the creation of sacred space.  This chapter provides several different ways of working this ritual as well as reasons behind the creation of sacred space.

The fifth chapter is all about the Goddess.  This religious witchcraft tradition is Duotheistic meaning it focuses on the worship of a Goddess and a God.  In this chapter we are introduced to the Goddess and her roles within the religion.  We learn how to call her and how both men and women can relate to her.

The sixth chapter is all about the God.  While the Goddess is the focus in the feminist version of witchcraft that the Spiral Dance teaches, the God is still important.  This chapter illustrates the relationship between the Goddess and God and how they need each other and work together to be one.

The seventh chapter is all about the use of symbols within magic.  Magic works through the use of symbols and directing energy related to those symbols.  This chapter in the book has several different spells to try as well as exercises to develop your own understanding of symbols and your own association with symbols.

The eighth chapter is all about the Cone of power.  This particular chapter focuses on Coven based workings, but the concepts of raising and directing energy in the shape of a cone is applicable to the solitary student.  Here we understand what it means in witchcraft when the concept of energy direction and manipulation is discussed.

The ninth chapter is about trance work.  The basic definition of magic given early in the book is the idea and the ability to change ones concious state at will.  This chapter explores the use of trance and the reason why trance work is part of witchcraft.  Basic meditation and trance concepts are addressed here and there are several different exercises within the chapter for trance work and meditation work.

The tenth chapter of the book focuses on initiation.  Solitary witches who read this book will not get as much out of this chapter as a witch who is working for initiation within a coven or specific tradition.  This chapter describes what it means to be initiated and provides a coven based initiation ritual as a sample.

The eleventh chapter in the book focuses on esbats or moon based rituals.  Within witchcraft the moon is sacred and is revered as a symbol of the Goddess.  Moon rituals are typically in many cases working rituals while sabbat rituals are more worship based.  Moon rituals can be based on the full or new moons or other moon phases, though full and new are the most common.

The twelfth chapter in the book focuses on the wheel of the year or the sabbats and holiday celebrations of this tradition of witchcraft.  Here the author provides sample rituals for ideas as to how to honor the sabbats as well as providing information on the lore and meanings behind the sabbats.

The final chapter of this book is focused on developing religion.  Here the author explains the issues that can arrive when religions become based on dogma and established practices and don’t change.  The author explains what exactly witchcraft as a religion is and how it has to continue to change and evolve in this modern world.  Here we learn the dangers of thinking in strict absolute terms as well as in dualistic terms.

Despite the age, this book is useful.  Its a good book for establishing witchcraft as a religion and explaining why religious witchcraft is so different than traditional religions.  The book covers the basics and provides enough information that a solitary seeker man or women can start their own practice and create their own relationship with the God, Goddess, and the Great Goddess.

Pagan Blog Project: E is for Ethics the rede and the Nine Nobel Virtues

This week we are going to discuss Ethics on my blog. Now many people believe that the only witch ethic out there is the Rede which states “An it harm none do what you will”. This is not true. There are many paths and traditions which all have their own unique ethical content and practices. The rede of Wicca is only one out of many ethical paths and choices out there.

I do not follow the Wiccan Rede. The rede to me is great advice. I use the rede to basically look at my actions and my beliefs. The rede isn’t a law or guidance. The word rede means advice. Its a set of words meant to advise you of your actions. The rede then doesn’t prohibit harm at all. The rede to me then is a guide to actions. The rede does permit actions that wont harm others. It doesn’t prohibit those actions. It says if it doesn’t harm any one go ahead an do it. It doesn’t say never harm anyone.

My ethics are a bit different. I use the rede to think about my actions before I take them. This is my ethical practice. If I can accept the consequences of my actions and if I can live with any effects they have than I will perform the act. If I can’t accept or am not comfortable with even one of the possible consequences of my actions I will not follow that path of action. I also look at the consequences of inaction. Sometimes not acting can be worse than performing an action.

For me I look at magical works as another tool in my pocket for dealing with challenges and situations that arise in day to day life. If I can use a spell to aid a friend or family manner in some fashion I am going to. If some one threatens my family or loved ones I will use magic for a tool if I feel it is worth it. I believe in using any and all tools I have to making my goals come true.

Now I mentioned using magic as a way to protect and help my family in defensive actions. This is true. I believe in the right to strike back and or the right to defend myself and my family. If someone is gossiping about me or my family I may use a spell to get them to stop the gossip. However I will never strike first. I will only use magic to attack some one if they have done something to me first.

For me its important to protect and care for my loved ones. For me that is part of my honor. Honor is a high ethical consideration for me. If some one has disrespected my family and friends then they have earned what comes their way. I would prefer to use means like shields, mirror spells, and bindings before moving to a curse or a hex. Each situation is different so each working would be different.

I like to think that I am an ethical person. I live on the whole mostly by society rules. I care for myself and I work hard to keep my home clean. I treat other people with respect unless otherwise shown. I am nice to people and I help those I can in need. These are all things I do to try and live an honorable and good life.

Honor and respect are more important to me than ethics actually. That may be because Germanic pagans actually have a series of virtues that they use as their ethical code of conduct. This ethical code of conduct has inspired me in my life. Following those virtues is one of the ways Germanic paganism has influenced my life and my path.

Now that I have discussed the rede and how I don’t follow it and how I am honorable I am going to actually discuss the nine noble virtues. These virtues as I have mentioned form the basis of my ethical practices and considerations. They are for me sometimes difficult to follow, but they are important to me and to my Gods. So I do my best to follow them.

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.

For me in my life courage is facing emotionally difficult situations and dealing with them as they arise. This also means for me working through some difficult issues in my past to see past the pain and to face all emotions related to some of those situations. Courage is not being fearless for me. Courage is facing your fears even when you are scared and coming through the situation on the other side.

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. Truth here is also in stating what you remember about situations when asked and not exaggerating them. Its sticking to facts and not perspectives.

As a witch I need to be true to myself. In being true to myself I need to accept all aspects of myself and my personality. Some of these aspects I don’t like. I use courage to face them and work with them. Being true to myself is also knowing where my heart really lies. Its also in knowing what my real desires are and what my true dreams and goals in this life are.

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.

In my life I am honorable by keeping my word. I am honorable by respecting the wishes of other people. I am also honorable in that I keep work to protect my loved ones. I live honorably by being respectful of others. I may not always agree with someone but if I can respect their views I can honor them by respectfully disagreeing with them.

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.

I am loyal to my friends. When I say I am loyal to my friends I mean I am to the best of my ability there for them when they need me. I am loyal to my friends by not sharing information they give me on subjects. I also show them loyalty by helping them. In some cases it may mean supporting them in situations you don’t want to deal with, but you help them out because they are friends and or family and that is what you do for friends and family.

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. Discipline here is also about steady practice and continuing behaviors.

In my life I am actually actively working on cultivating discipline. This is one area I have lacked. When I have had difficulties on something I have taken a break rather than work through it. Discipline for me also means keeping a steady schedule with practices and keeping up steady routines in spiritual work. If I start to lag or forget one day discipline is starting back up again the next day.

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.

There are many ways I work with and include Hospitality in my life. When I go over to any of my families houses for the Holidays I always bring something of my own. This is a contribution to the event allowing my host or hostess to not have to do all the work. I also pick up after myself when I am over there. I offer any guests food and drink when they enter my home. Its also about offering to get something for my fiance’ if I am out getting a drink or something.

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.

Industriousness for me is working on my blogs. Its working on my small business. Industriousness is also about managing my time. By managing my time when I do housework I am able to make sure I can get housework done as well as any business work or other work I wanted to get done that day. Industriousness is about having a productive day. Though occasionally having a day to just relax is industrious as we can not always work or always play. A balance is needed.

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.

I like to consider myself to be a very self reliant person. I do what I can on my own. I don’t drive so I work hard to try and arrange rides with buses, taxis, and family or friends as needed. I work and buy most of my own fun items like game systems or even books. I don’t like asking for things. I do my best to do what I can on my own with what I have for a living situation and transportation situation. One way I work on self reliance is I pay all of my own bills. I also put money towards the house but I pay the bills in my name with my own money.

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.

This for me goes hand in hand with discipline. I have had difficulties with math in the past. I used perseverance and was able to learn the math and pass the classes. I just didn’t give up. There are many things that are difficult for me to do. Learning them and working on them for me takes a lot of patience and perseverance. By working on this skill I can become better at dealing with frustrations and I can ultimately end up completing goals and accomplish my dreams.

Now you see that there are ways of being a witch and living and ethical life that is not limited to the rede. One can work offensive or baneful magic and have it be an ethical and moral choice. It all depends on what your virtues and your values are. In the end so long as I am respectful of others, treat others as I want to be treated, and do my best to embody what I hold as a virtue I feel I live not only ethical but also honorable.

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