This weeks lesson has us looking at the second of the Nine Virtues and furthering our understanding of their role in ADF and why they are held to be important. The virtue that we are looking at for this week is piety, something that on the surface may seem simple but I suspect is actually going to be a bit deep than it first seems.
We of course have readings from Our Own Druidry to complete for this task, however in addition there are several articles from the ADF site that are recommended to be read too, all of them written by Rev Dangler. However for some reason I can only find one of the articles. Hoping it is the gem of the three.
So the definition of piety from Our Own Druidry is as follows ‘Correct observance of ritual and social traditions, the maintenance of the agreements (both personal and societal) we humans have with the Gods and Spirits. Keeping the Old Ways, through ceremony and duty.’ and for comparisons sake the Oxford Online Dictionary defines piety as ‘The quality of being religious or reverent.’
I have to say that the ADF definition feels cold and academic to me, more like they are saying that if you complete this sequence of events in exactly the right amount with the precise actions and a pinch of showmanship that you are pious. There is nothing there about belief, about forging strong bonds with the Kindreds and the deeply moving experiences that these can bring. It almost sounds like an atheist could do ADF and have some kind of success, how can anything work without belief?
While I respect that there is duty in our path and that there are agreements that need to maintained, I feel that there would have to be a better way to phrase it. This isn’t a dry dusty religion like many branches of Christianity have become, it is a living breathing religion, practiced both in our homes and in our groves, and there needs to be a conviction of belief.
The thing that struck a chord with me in the Oxford definition was the word reverent, faith is somewhat about reverence, we are forging bonds with supernatural powers, Gods, Nature Spirits and the Ancestors, we ask them for blessings at ritual, heck we even make offerings to the Outdwellers. Reverence doesn’t mean we have to be scared of them, simply that we are respectful and fufil our part of the whole deal, bring them sacrifices and offerings at ritual or times of the year that are important to them. Now this does I guess tie into the whole duty and maintenance of agreements thing from Our Own Druidry. However I think reverence is a good word because you believe that what you are doing is important, you believe that the Kindreds are worth honoring and that you should take the duties seriously.
Of course piety is not something that can be easily encaptulated in a few words, how does one capture all that piety means to them in a sentance? Reverence, honor, belief and observation would have to make it’s way into my description of piety but even then there is that niggling feeling that it doesn’t cover it entirely.
I know a few people personally that I would consider pious, part of that is the fact that thier faith, observations, and little things they do to honor the Kindreds is worked into their daily life. They make regular offerings, they do daily observances, the maintain a permanent shrine and are always working on their relationship with the Kindreds because it is important to them, they believe that it is important too, it isn’t about showmanship or showing off to others, a lot of them don’t talk about what they do all the time but it is noticable to those of us who follow similar paths what they are doing.
So Rev. Dangler suggest that we explore our own view, are we pious? How? Do you need to be pious to understand piety? Well that is a tough one, I think piety is important, however I don’t think I have reached a point where I could describe myself as pious. I think I have a long way to go to be pious, I try to work things into my personal life, little observations and actions to show the Kindreds I care and am being reverant to them. However I also think there is more I could be doing. As for do you need to be pious to understand piety, well I suspect that is subjective. I think that you don’t need to be pious to understand the concept, however I also suspect that if you aren’t remotely pious you aren’t going to be in a position to understand exactly how important or why it is, it is going to be a more dry and academic understanding of the virtue.
If I had to choose between whether going through the motions was more important or putting your heart and soul into it I would have to go with the latter. I’m a great believer in actions speaking louder than words, however in this situation I think heart and soul driven observance is going to speak louder than a perfectly enacted ritual with lack of reverence. You have to show that it is important and that you care about what you are doing, and if that means that you are away from home and can’t do a precise ceremony with all the accoutrements doing what you can with what you have but working it like it is still just as important.
While I respect the intention of having piety as one of the Nine Virtues I do wonder if it is perfectly suited to a Neo-Pagan setting. I’ve met an awful lot of neo-pagans who are constantly doing spellwork with the intention of getting something out of it, they execute elaborate rituals with fancy set-ups but lack the faith to back it up. They don’t work on reverence, they don’t forge relationships with the dieties they invoke, I sometimes wonder if they even believe in them. I also wonder whether it could be a virtue that attracts a misguided attitude to Neo-Pagan religion, a metaphorical club that people whack each other over the head with, ‘You are not a real pagan, because you don’t do such and such.’ type situations. Just because we choose to observe something one way doesn’t mean it is the right way, or that other people are doing it wrong and piety could be a type of weapon for sparring with. I think ultimately it is better that it is one of the nine but I think it is a double edged sword.
Anyway that turned out to be a long rambly post, this is going to need to be perfected a lot before it can be an essay for the virtues. I think I need to reflect more on this virtue, I have a lot of conflicting ideas on it and struggle to find the words to say what I mean.