Virtue is the idea of doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong. Things considered to be virtues come in many forms; in some cases they are things to be pursued to the exclusion of other aspects, but within ADF there is a sense of virtues being a balance between extremes – Moderation, as I see it below, applies to them as well. Below I have attempted to elucidate on the virtues of ADF and what makes them virtuous courses of action. Each one includes discussion of the meaning, a classification into the Dumezilian three-function model as I understand them(Largely dividing things into the simplified groups of the first function priestly/magical class, second function warriors, and third function producers who I sometimes split into farmers and artisans.), examples from my Patron and/or Hearth Culture, and discussion of my own successes and failings at each.
Wisdom is a first function virtue describing the use of the intellect to discern courses of action and aspects of a situation. It is tactical, knowing which way to go to continue toward the desired end result. It is an intellectual virtue, but not necessarily rational; much wisdom comes from recognizing the fundamental irrationalities of life and human behavior. It is exercised via proper judgement and active cultivation of the ability to correctly anticipate the outcome of courses of action. Wisdom isn’t the same thing as intelligence.
Intelligence aids in finding solutions to a problem; wisdom aids in selecting the solution to take. As a first function virtue, wisdom is exhibited by the priests and magicians in their approach to life and guidance of others. Warriors, the second function, show wisdom via their plan of battle and how they react to changing situations. Producers show wisdom in the course of reacting to the unexpected in their work and also in the negotiations to secure supplies and sell their products. Freyja showed wisdom in having Hyndla give Ottar a special broth to improve his memory so that he would remember his lineage.
In my life, wisdom manifests in many ways. I best show wisdom when I am able to see a situation clearly and calmly – indeed, I feel like I struggle most with wisdom when I’m feeling emotional. This isn’t necessarily negative emotions, as joy can cloud wisdom as easily as anger. As Members’ Advocate, wisdom informs the approach I take in my interactions with members. The Kindreds guide wisdom in me by giving advice, both requested and otherwise, through divination, a sense during devotion, and sometimes just via inklings.
To me, wisdom is the care taken in acting, a sort of cultivated general knowledge. It can come with age and experience, but isn’t necessary from that. It is a general translation of world experience and understanding what results one is likely to get. I personally find it is often confused with intelligence; but the intellect is, to me, a narrowly focused thing, oriented toward problem solving, while wisdom is wide. In my thinking, the ends between which wisdom is a balance are foolishness, in which one will do anything, and hideboundness, where one always does the same thing.
Piety is about having the proper appreciation or respect (not the same as being serious) for the sacred, and making room in one’s life for the sacred.
Piety can be expressed in pre-demarcated spaces, but also can be found in innately holy spaces and times, like a grove in a pristine forest. It is about allowing one’s mind and self slip into sacred time and space. There can be an overindugence in piety, such that it essentially jades, resulting in the loss of the interplay between the sacred and the profane. Freyja expressed Piety via learning the rites of the Aesir and how to perform the appropriate sacrifices.
I express piety via celebrating the High Days and also my efforts to produce public celebrations of them. I also perform regular devotionals, pray, and continue my efforts to make sure part of every day has a portion of it set aside for appreciating the Kindreds. I find piety most difficult to express when I am busy, especially with work, or otherwise stressed – this is why I take such a view of it being about allowing oneself that sacred time. Still, I have always had a sense of the numinous in my life, and I see Piety as involved in the cultivation of that sense.
Piety is a virtue of the first function, relating rather directly to priestly work. Other functions exhibit piety via religious devotion as well, but have their own aspects. The second function, warriors, exhibit it by appropriate respect for the fallen in battle, their own as well as those from the opposing force. The third-function Producers exhibit it via acknowledging and participating in the sacred process of creation.
Vision is seeing the destination and being able to keep one’s eyes on that destination. It’s about cultivation of one’s sense of potential and the future. It is about the quality that makes one a visionary. To me, this is very external vision, not a form of prophesy; more about seeing what could be. Vision fits in to the concept of what ADF can become on an organizational/material level, but also feeds into the religious inner life by providing a gate to the future. It is possible to use Vision to guide understanding of vision in the religious/internal sense; but someone blind to the powers is not un-virtuous just because they can’t directly experience religious epiphanies. Vision and wisdom have similarities, however the latter is tactical while the former is strategic. Additionally, the latter is reactive, while the former is usually active.
Vision is a first function virtue seeing as it relates to the use of the intellect to look forward. Warriors look to the end of the battle, campaign, or in a general sense the objective of the actions. For artisans, it comes in when thinking about the finished product; farmers in pondering the harvest. Some examples of Vision from my hearth culture include Freyja’s envisionment of the power the Brisingamen necklace would grant – possibly an aspect to hold onto during the required payment. Another example would be Odin’s singular vision regarding preparation for Ragnarok.
For me, personally, I think that Vision is an interesting term for this virtue. At first, it seems inobvious; yet, other words such as “imagination” and “forethought” lack the same fullness of meaning. I’ve felt most visionary when trying to improve Hemlock Vales Protogrove’s operations; yet Hemlock Vales is sometimes the source of my greatest struggles with vision. As Members’ Advocate, I exercise vision by looking for ways to improve ADF as well as seeking ways to help future Members’ Advocates be better equipped to perform the job.
Courage isn’t about being fearless; it is about facing fear and continuing to act in an appropriate and proportionate manner. Per the DP manual, extremes can be seen as cowardice versus rashness. Courage is about willingness to take a course of action in spite of fear. Courage cannot disregard fear, but must accept it; it must recognize the reasons behind the fear (via Wisdom) in addition to accepting one’s limitations. Beyond links to Wisdom, Courage also ties into Vision (imagining the result if fear is mastered or given in to).
Courage is a second function virtue relating directly to warriors dealing with threats known and unknown. It isn’t always about willingness to fight; sometimes fighting is rash, or even cowardly, and Courage is needed then, too. The first function uses Courage to overcome their worries about not being able to make proper effort to please the Kindreds, as well as for expression of a needed but unpopular viewpoint. When it comes to the third function producers, Farmers can confront those consuming their herd or plants without permission, while artisans can face their own fear of failure. Freyja certainly expressed courage when becoming a hostage of the Aesir to secure the end of hostilities between the Aesir and Vanir.
I have expressed Courage in various ways inside and outside of ADF. The very first Trillium I attended involved a fair bit of trepidation for me, meeting many people who I respected from their writings. Perhaps the most significant such moment was performing a Praise Offering I had finally solidified in writing only three hours prior before an audience of Serious ADF Members (I am attempting to convey how big a deal I felt it at the time). I was shaking with nervousness, but I went first and saw the offering through. Even still, I struggle with my fears that this DP is not good enough, and if uncertainty in other areas of my life will affect my ability to pursue my spiritual leanings properly.
A more personal example would be my phobia regarding spiders. A cowardly reaction to a spider would be whimpering and withdrawing from the area; rashness involves flailing wildly. It took courage to slowly overcome most of my fear, though they can still surprise me on occasion; where once I was a twitching mess around spiders, now I can take them outside and even touch them… though I haven’t tested myself with a tarantula yet.
Integrity is personal wholeness, doing what one says and saying what one means. It is a sort of honesty in words and actions. It involves constancy and being true to oneself. It is the virtue most directly tied to keeping oaths and vows, holding the value of one’s word, and speaks to harmony with others.
Integrity is a second function virtue; it serves to unify the warrior within himself and with his band. For the first function priests, it speaks to private devotion alongside public devotion (not being hypocritical). For producers, it speaks to moral business dealings, and being above-board. This is not to say it requires being non-profit, just ethical in the making of money. Freyja remained true to herself when she refused to marry Thrym in trade for Thor’s hammer.
I exercise integrity in a number of ways. As a manager at my workplace, I feel I must always speak directly; unlike how other managers have handled problem employees, if I tell someone they have a month to shape up before an evaluation, they have a month rather than a variable delay before being fired. If I say I will do a praise offering or brewing rite, I make sure I do it, even when the offering is difficult to find (or, for that brewing rite, the honey). As Members’ Advocate, integrity involves holding to the requirements of the position even when it is painful and would be easier to speak my mind directly to all. I additionally believe in answering questions truthfully even when the answer can be painful. One old example dates back to when I was in 7th grade gym class. We were trying to do push-ups on basketballs, and I was unable to do so. Afterward, the gym teacher asked if there were any wimps who couldn’t do even one push-up on a basketball. I hadn’t done so, so I raised my hand. He responded, “Well Art, I admire your honesty.” Still, there is a certain element of integrity in honesty to myself I struggle with on occasion. Also, like some others, I have made an oath that does somtimes feel a bit tight – to never again be late to a rite I am leading without good reason.
Perseverance is the virtue of continuing to move forward even when there are obstacles and unexpected detours. If Vision is the intellectual conception of the goal, Perseverance is physical repeated action / forward motion towards that goal. Not persevering enough is colloquially referred to as being a quitter. Persevering too hard is usually known as obstinacy, as there are occasions upon which nothing remains to persevere towards.
Perseverance is a second function virtue focusing on the Warriors’ need to continue when the odds are not in their favor (i.e. the battle is not going ideally, or, for more experienced warriors, well). The first function exercises perseverance by continuing with devotionals and other active forms of worship / religious activity even during spiritual “dry spells.” Within the third function, Farmers can be said to persevere through bad weather, and bad years of harvest, while Artisans persevere through difficulties in accomplishing their work. Freya persevered to acquire the Brisingamen necklace.
Perseverance in my life has a variable role. As Members’ Advocate I persevere by continuing to do my duties even when I don’t feel like it for reasons both inside and outside of ADF. I find it hardest to persevere when I am suffering from self-doubt or when I am bored. Self-doubt cropped up in my pursuit of these virtue essays, in fact. When I have a hard time I call upon my strength of will, knowledge of what is expected of me, and my desire to see it through. When I am having difficulty in persevering, sometimes the Godden encourage, but on rare occasions they give me a “kick in the butt” – a reminder of what I’ve been given and the standards I’ve set for myself.
(Note: I wouldn’t say that directly asking for kicks in the butt is a good idea, though, as I have understood the word fear applied as a term to describe one’s relation with the divine.)
Hospitality can be defined as “the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.” From an ADF standpoint, it also includes the role of the guest or stranger in proper accord with those giving them shelter. Why this was important to the Indo- Europeans is obvious; caught outside the safe zone of habitation, people were at the mercies of the wild. (Indeed, to this day the Scandinavian countries retain a sense of the rights of a traveler to live off the land.) By valuing good treatment even of enemies, it is hoped one will get good treatment from one’s enemies.
Hospitality is a third function virtue, one of producing of the home and hearth for those travellers. Still, the priestly first function exhibits Hospitality in their own way through their offerings to the Gods and holding of rites for everyone. The second function Warriors exhibit Hospitality via the treatment of prisoners and even the regard champions of armies sometimes had for each other, as hospitality binds enemies perhaps even more than friends. Hospitality threads very directly into the Norse hearth culture via the various halls and tales of banquets – and the reception a less-than- welcome guest was given in Lokasenna.
Hospitality is fairly important to me. I see it as matter of being ready for guests even when one does not expect them; of helping out when visiting others; of being a Helpful Stranger rather than an aloof one. Being a host prepared for guests can take many forms; sometimes it is easier to meet individual dietary requirements outside one’s home, and the unexpected guest may find some time is needed to prepare them a bed for the night. Being a good guest is a matter of offering to help out, avoiding imposing when possible, and striving to always be aware that other people may organize their home differently. One simple example of hospitality is how I always carry jumper cables in my car; this not only allows me to do my part if I ask someone’s help in being hospitable, but also allows me to give those whose batteries have died a little bit of help. As Members’ Advocate, I perceive the entire positionas being about providing hospitality to the membership from ADF itself.
Moderation is about balance and proper proportion. It is self-control and self-discipline, but it is also self-indulgence and self-release. I feel that moderation is about dynamic equilibrium. In dynamic equilibrium, a system is undergoing constant change, but the balance remains the same. I have long felt the the comment about eating cake at a party in the Dedicant Manual (ADF, 15) misses the point. For most people, if one has practiced proper moderation, one should be able to eat a single slice of cake at a party; that’s where the dynamic aspect comes in. Proper practice of moderation enables all the other virtues because the virtues are means, not extremes – and this aspect is the reason for my view of moderation as dynamic equilibrium. For if held immoderately, moderation can become asceticism or excess, or twisted into self-denial.
Moderation is a “third function virtue,” as it can been seen in the proper running of a productive enterprise as well as in the intake of food. The first function practices moderation in a specific way by setting aside time for all of life’s aspects. The second function practices moderation through the balance of training, as well as knowing when to stop pursuing a foe. Heimdall exhibited moderation when he transformed himself into a seal and waited, patiently, for Loki to show up with Brisingamen, also in the form of a seal.
In my own life, moderation plays a definite role. One thing I have learned is that there are many foods I enjoy eating – but the quantity makes a difference the next day! Additionally, it informs my efforts at exercise, given my comparatively sedentary job – this can, of course, be seen as an area of continued improvement. As Members’ Advocate, moderation is something I practice in my efforts, so as to neither burn out nor slack off.
Fertility envelopes the creative impulse in many forms, ranging from sensuality to the production of work. Not mere industriousness, fertility asks for creativity in addition to output; quantity is covered by fertility, but so is quality. An understanding of how fertility can be “sensual”, or, to be direct, sexual, without directly requiring reproduction is in order. Fertility manages this by honoring creativity – the same creativity that many have exemplified from sexual or romantic inspiration even when it fails to produce offspring. Fertility encompasses more than the obvious; as a virtue of tilling the soil, it can be practiced by providing appropriate support to others’ creative efforts. Fertility enables the other virtues through emphasizing living as something to be enjoyed, not as a burden. For as a burden, the other virtues are liable to degrade to mere rules. Still, fertility and moderation each inform the other, in the aspect of virtues as well as in the aspect of natural population cycles.
Fertility is a third function virtue, tied intimately to production. Still, the first function practices fertility in an additional way by providing an additional outlet for the creative expression of life – and including the sexual aspects of the Kindreds. Warriors practice fertility via the telling of tales, and the training of others – for the cultivation of health promotes fertility. Freyja and Freyr, as Vanic deities, directly promote varied sorts of fertility in their aspects relating to production of the land, production of money, and lusty desires!
Fertility is perhaps my favorite of the virtues, though this is an unusual thing among ADF members. I will admit that I have a sensual, sybaritic view on life. I practice fertility by being creative, and encouraging others’ creativity and enjoyment of life – with proper moderation, of course. At the same time, my own fertile aspects can be
There are, of course, many possible virtues to contrast. A particular set of interest, given my following the Norse Hearth Culture, are the Nine Noble Virtues. There are a few variants; for ease I have selected one of the more agreeable common variants, a list set down by members of the Odinic Rite: courage, truth, honor, fidelity, discipline, hospitality, self-reliance, industriousness, and perseverance. Of these, three are found in the ADF identified virtues and six are different. Some I disagree with vehemently; most I feel are already adequately contained within the set of 9 produced by ADF. In writing this I was surprised by the degree to which my interpretations of the world when dissected into the 9 already intermeshed. Therefore, I have not chosen to include any additional virtues as separate essays, but I did want to comment briefly on my thoughts on the six that were different.
Truth, as a virtue, implies that it’s always possible to know the truth. This causes problems with second hand knowledge and suggests that there is a single truth rather than the multiple possibilities ADF generally accepts. I feel the useful aspects of “truth’” are covered by wisdom and integrity.
Honor speaks in a general sense to holding to a moral code. In ADF, it is covered most directly by Integrity with some aspects in Piety. I believe ADF chose Integrity because Integrity speaks more to actually having character while Honor carries overtones of one’s public image as well. Additionally, Honor has connotations of inflexibility, an inflexibility that ironically is sometimes bendable like legal manners.
Fidelity is about loyalty and remaining true to what one has said one will true. In ADF, fidelity seems subsumed into piety, integrity, and perseverance.
Discipline relates to devotion of practice and development of self control. In ADF discipline can be seen as overlapping the areas of vision, perseverance, and moderation.
Self-reliance is about being able to take care of things by oneself without need for others. Again, there are elements of vision, perseverance, and wisdom. But there is an additional independent aspect, while I suspect ADF favors a more interdependent view.
Industriousness is working hard in productive activity. In ADF, the virtues that cover it would be Fertility with aspects of Moderation. I believe ADF chose fertility because industriousness is about the product rather than the process. Hard work is good, but working better is wiser than working harder.