In general, I’m not as smart as most ADF folks. I’m not an intellectual or a philosopher; I’m not even a liturgist. I’ve always thought of myself as a “hands-on” pagan, meaning I like to learn skills and history, rather than theories. It reads in the “Idiots Guide to Paganism” that “some pagans consider the pagan path a way of life instead of a religion”, which is precisely how I view my part in the web of ADF. And though I often find myself under the impression that the “intellectual” pagans are more important and special in ADF, I think both should be considered “fertile.”
Fertility, I guess simply put, is creation. Sure it’s great to talk about sex and the pride of being a fertile woman or couple, but creation is the act of creating more than just babies. Writing songs, painting a picture, even developing your mind and spirit is an act of fertility.
Many Native American tribes believe fertility is a form of purification. The sweat lodge itself is a fertility rite that symbolizes purification in the “womb”, and totem poles act as phallic symbols containing stories of the native peoples. They also hold rituals for fertile crops, and fertile herds of buffalo so that they may hunt and survive.
Obviously there are many ways of looking at fertility, fertility of the mind, fertility of the body, fertility of creation and consumption.
(Word Count: 235)
I’ve been sitting here trying to think of any issues I’ve had in my life with moderation. Besides diet (and who doesn’t), there really isn’t anything specific that I’ve dealt with when it comes to moderation. As odd as some people seem to react to it, I’ve never smoked a cigarette or even seen an illegal drug. Alcohol consumption is mild, and I have no addictions to anything (except checking e-mail, perhaps?).
However, moderation is a virtue that goes hand in hand with perseverance. Why? Perseverance is overcoming limitations, and moderation is creating them. The technicality is knowing which applies to the situation. Alcoholism, illegal drugs, mmorpg’s, all easily addicted to if not kept sane with moderation.
Moderation is the art of knowing yourself, being honest with yourself, and knowing your limits. We had a member in the Grove that struggled with moderation quite a bit; alcoholism to be more specific. It reached the point where several members were scared of him. It really took a lot of effort on his part, and even some failure, but he was able to work out a deal with himself on how to deal with his problem. His girlfriend took control of all of the money, there was no alcohol in the house, and he was to never walk into another bar for fear of unimaginable temptation.
Perhaps I do not understand addiction. I’ve never been addicted to anything before; I don’t really think I could allow myself to be. I’m too adamant about strength of mind and discipline. Perhaps this makes it hard for me to sympathize.
(Word Count: 265)
Our chief liturgist, Caryn, amuses me. She has a handful with her two boys, one of which is currently still living with her. As such, when he has friends over to stay the night, she takes this opportunity from the perspective that only Caryn can. She tells her son’s friends that “..it is customary of the old ways that, now since I have provided you the hospitality and a shelter to sleep, that in return, you provide me with a gift in return..” This of course leads to her having her lawn mowed, or a garden weeded, and any other tasks around the house that are perfect for young male labor.
On a more serious note, hospitality may not be the virtue that I practice the most, but it is by far the one I admire the most. My father is one of the most hospitable persons I know, for the sheer fact that he is known by our neighbors as the “Salem Bottom Angel” for all the help he provides. He is always there when someone needs to be shown how to sharpen a chain saw, when the old ladies across the street need help finding a tool, or when the Bergans leave for vacation and need someone to take care of their critters. It’s very admirable.
I’m dually impressed by members of ADF who set up the hospitality tents at Wellspring, or provide tents to people without during festivals, or open their home to guests in the area that need a place to stay or a ride from an airport. It is inspiring, and I only wish to offer the same amount of hospitality that I can.
Unfortunately this is a hard virtue for me, simply because I do not trust most of humanity. I don’t say that in terms of ADF or my Grove, but humanity as a whole. I am still hospitable, but I sometimes find my hospitality limited, pending the person in need. I’m not exactly sure how I will overcome that, but I will try.
(Word Count: 341)
I originally wrote this essay after much struggle, and after showing it to a DP mentor, had to scrap it completely. That alone showed me that perhaps my view of Perseverance is slightly skewed or confused.
Perseverance is the ability to overcome and pass through obstacles. That’s a simplified definition of it. While trying to relate perseverance to my own personal story, there is very little that doesn’t also relate to the virtue of courage. It seems I often relate the two virtues very closely, which could cause some confusion.
I mentioned in my previous essay that I didn’t have any inherit tales of perseverance. I feel strongly that living a good life takes perseverance all on its own, especially in this day and age. When every other virtue is stripped away from you, I think perseverance is one that you can still hold onto no matter what. You can crawl through whatever situations that continue to bombard you, and come out a better person for it.
(Word Count: 167)
Integrity covers so many different things, I think people get caught up in the moralistic portion of it. And while morals are a big part of integrity, they certainly aren’t the whole of what integrity should be about.
Integrity can also be comprised of “sticking to your guns” no matter the consequences. I can be a rather mouthy person when I want to be, and oftentimes I’ve been categorized as a bitch because of it, and rightly so. But I don’t compromise my integrity by hiding behind a mask of lies. On the same token, I am not beyond reasoning. I do my best to see both sides of every situation and then formulate my opinion, and stick with that opinion rather than try to appease. It does not place me in a popular light sometimes, but that’s a consequence I’m willing to live with, in order to keep the integrity of who I am, in tact.
Follow through, is another important aspect, being dependable. Being someone that your friends, your faith, your job, and your family can count on. No one wants the reputation of being untrustworthy, whether it’s with finances, or even helping a friend move. And no one should expect things to be handed to them on a silver platter. Integrity is being able to stand on your own two feet and take responsibility. If you can’t do that, then you’ve got nothing.
And yes, integrity is following your morals. I’ve written my own set of moral guidelines that follow both the warrior lifestyle and my own personal spirituality. Perhaps I will post them at another time. But in the mean time, I was met with a moral dilemma recently, when I was accidentally sent an extra product in an order of mine. I consulted with various communities of my peers, livejournal, myspace, etc, to figure out what I should do. Whether I should send the item back, whether I should keep it, whether I should call them.
I received two very different answers from the communities, which was actually surprising. The livejournal community, in not so little words, was very adamant that if I had kept the product, I would be compromising my integrity to the fullest degree. It was thievery, it was unmoral, and they would most certainly ALL call and return the item.
My personal journal and myspace all had very different views. They would have kept the item, and felt no remorse for doing so. It was a very big billion-dollar company, so they felt no obligation to return a piece of plastic that cost mere pennies.
I did keep the item, but I didn’t keep it in order to get back at a billion-dollar corporation, and I didn’t keep it out of greed. Whatever provoked the item to be sent to me is not something I could have changed, and I’m not going to question it. I used the item to replace what I was using previously, and instead donated my old one to a friend in need. In addition to that, I saved myself money, which is a plus because I devote my life to taking care of my fathers medical bills, and they will always come first.
Integrity? I still feel like it’s in tact.
(Word Count: 545)
I get told a lot that various things I’ve done are courageous. I’m not so sure “courageous” is the word for it, more like “out of necessity”, “bull-headedness” or plain old “stubbornness.”
I suppose the appropriate reasoning behind using the word courageous to define these acts, is doing something that you are hesitant or afraid to do. Something that could have a risky outcome, but the desire to do it anyway no matter the consequences, because it is what needs to be done. To simply “overcome.”
I think courage is one virtue that I had to learn on my own, it wasn’t something taught to me by my parents, I didn’t learn about it in school. In a sense, I feel we develop our own courage based on the environment in which we grew up as well as the choices we make once we get older. These can include decisions such as financial independence, finding a new job, or even confronting a bully in school.
To me, courage and perseverance go hand in hand at times. Many people when confronted with a time in their life that is difficult will simply roll over. It’s simply hard for me to respect that.
But others will accept the change with courage and fight to stay on top. These are people with a passion and courage that really motivates others.
So courage to me can also mean survival. Doing what is required to survive and hurdling all the obstacles in the process.
(Word Count: 249)
Vision is a virtue I don’t normally think about as often as the others, probably because to me it has so many different meanings.
Vision is the ability to be inspired, whether it’s by someone else’s actions or by my own determination. It is also the desire to do good and to live my life by a basic moral code. To use what time I have on the earth to make a difference. Vision also has importance within ritual because it allows you to interpret the omen sent by the Gods, to understand their will and purpose with you. Those who do not have the ability to see these visions are just wandering in the dark aimlessly.
In Plains indian traditions (Cheyenne, Lakota), once a young boy has reached a point where he is ready to become a man, he is sent on what is called a Vision Quest. Many days in the wilderness without food (only water), he is sent there to find his vision that will help determine his course in life through this next rite of passage. The Vision Quest forces you to answer questions about who you are, what do you have to give, to learn about who you are and the path that has been set before you.
I’ve had many strong visions over the last few years that have helped guide me and my decisions. My totem, the red-tailed hawk, is a prominent visitor and vision and constantly reminds me to stay on my path and remember my vision when things seem hopeless and chaotic. The Great Horned Owl that came into my life earlier this year as a messenger from my patron Athena was a reminder that she is in my life always, through the good and the bad. It was even more symbolic to me when the owl came into my life, since it is the to the red-tailed hawk, as night is to day. They share the same territories, one is a night hunter while the other is day. They are the yin and the yang of my life, the balance that keeps me stable, so I am able to follow my vision.
(Word Count: 362)
Piety is probably the most difficult virtue for me to adhere to. Not because I don’t want to, and not because it isn’t important to me, because it is. I have this issue of short-term memory loss that really gets to me sometimes, and I have so many things bogging my mind down right now that it’s hard for me concentrate or stay on track. There’s a lot of mornings I forget to eat, let alone worship. It’s not healthy, and it is a part of my lifestyle that I am determined to change.
“I asked God and Goddess to take away my pain.
They said, No. It is not for us to take away your pain, but for you to give it up.
I asked God and Goddess to make my handicapped child whole.
They said, No. Her spirit is whole, her body was only temporary.
I asked God and Goddess to grant me patience.
They said, No. Patience is a by product of tribulations; It isn’t granted, it is learned.
I asked God and Goddess to give me happiness
They said, No. We give you blessings. Happiness is up to you.
I asked God and Goddess to spare me pain.
They said, No. Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares and brings you closer to Us.
I asked God and Goddess to make my spirit grow.
They said, No. You must grow on your own, but We will prune you to make you fruitful.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
God and Goddess said, No. We will give you life so that you may enjoy all things.
I ask God and Goddess to help me LOVE others, as much as They love me.
They said…Ahhhh, Finally you have the idea.”
To me, piety is not just a time frame integrated into your regular routine, like morning prayers, Sunday church, Lughnasadh Ritual. It’s your actions and thoughts even outside of your regular routine, to live your life in worship. When my father and I go hunting in the fall and winter, thanking the spirit of the deer we’ve killed for meat to last us through the cold and winter months. When we’ve cut down a Yule tree, offering to plant another in its place to thank the spirit for coming into our home and sharing time with us to celebrate the holiday. When I’ve struggled through a rough period in my life, thanking the shining ones for the experience and knowledge learned.
So to me, piety is more of a way of life than something to orchestrated into your schedule.
(Word Count: 233 without the poem)
The wisest person I know is my father. He received very bad grades in school, struggles with his spelling, knows all there is to know about farming and old trucks, and has a deep appreciation for native american lore. But how does all of this make him wise?
Many Native American tribes traditionally give their elders a great deal of respect, unlike a good portion of modern society. You do not speak unless invited to when in the presence of an elder. They were considered the wise men of the tribe, and all were expected to speak softly around them. Not just because of their age, but because of their knowledge, as an older person with no knowledge, was not considered an elder.
So to me wisdom deals a lot with experience, and the knowledge gained through experience over the years. Though I don’t believe it should be limited to your age, as I also feel I have gained a great deal of wisdom through my trials and tribulations.
Folks can go to school, get their 6 year degrees and consider themselves legally geniuses, but what real knowledge about life and the world have they gained in doing so? What challenges have they gone through that have forced them to think as a person. What are they able to teach the next generation about life?
My spiritual path teaches me that my father is wise because he is able to discern right and wrong, accept and adapt to the changes of the modern world, and still hold on to his traditions and values, passing them onto me and eventually any children I have. It is important for modern traditions and people of my generation to understand that our parents and grandparents are not just people to eventually lock away in a nursing home to be forgotten about. They lived through an entire different world and environment, as we are living now. Wisdom to me is the realization that we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors, and eventually the next generation will stand on ours.