Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Virtues Essay: Fertility

  • The quality of being fertile; productiveness.
                                                                  --Oxford American English Dictionary 

Tell a coworker that you (a pagan) are writing a short essay about fertility and there's a good chance they conjure up images of ancient goddess statues with swollen breasts and hips, or even of a pair of rabbits resting in a green meadow with their infinite number of offspring.

Yes, fertility, at its most basic level, speaks of reproduction and fecundity. In our modern society when one wishes for fertility it is typically associated with the desire to have children.  Among our ancestors this element of fertility was paramount, as the success of the family was dependent upon the unit (historically, bigger was usually better).  Those cultures involved in the raising of livestock also understand how important fertility was to the health and future of their flock as well.  To reproduce abundantly, to be fruitful, was essential.

But there is another side to fertility that is often overlooked.  Dig deeper and you will find that fertility is, in fact, an energizing of the latent; a spilling forth of stored potential. Even though water is essential for crops to grow, in the Slavic pantheon the goddess Mokosz has sway over grain, not Piorun who brings the rain.  Mokosz sets in motion the dynamic processes which lead to new life, tipping the balance of energy in each seed towards growth, just as she prepares and nurtures a woman's womb for pregnancy.  Typically labeled  a "fertility goddess," Mokosz is also associated with spinning and weaving which, at first glance, seems to fit because of its identification as a "womanly art."  However, to one who works with fibers this relationship speaks of more:  a pile of wool is nothing but potential - with the proper techniques and a fertile imagination it may become many things. 

The same is true of all the creative arts:  carpentry, writing, metalsmithing, cooking and so on - each end product began as a seed of the mind, an idea only, formless yet full of potential.  Only through the fertility of the mind is its potential set in motion and its being brought in to this world.

                         "Your heart is full of fertile seeds, waiting to sprout."  --Morihei Ueshiba

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Virtues Essay: Hospitality


The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.

                                                                              --Oxford American English Dictionary

Hospitality is at the center of many modern druidic practices.  Pulling from a tradition of hospitality that can be traced back to the Proto-Indo-European *ghosti, hospitality is, at its core, a formal recognition of relationships of reciprocity. 

This obligation to reciprocity, to giving and receiving, serves as a framework for how we should structure our lives.  There are virtually no confines to how we should manifest our hospitality.  We should give of ourselves not only to friends and family, but to strangers and other less familiar persons.  We should be patient and share our time with those of sympathetic hearts and minds, but also with those who may be perceived in more adversarial roles.  We should be gracious in our receiving of gifts offered by others, just as we expect our beneficiaries to appreciate that which we put forth.

Our acts of hospitality are not limited to this plane, as this obligation to reciprocity applies to our relationships with all the Kindred as well.  For the Kindred are real and deserve the same respectful and meaningful exchanges we offer to those made of flesh and blood. We can only ask for their blessings if we have first offered them our own heartfelt gifts. 

In fact, it is these acts of hospitality, the never-ending spiral of these reciprocal exchanges both physical and spiritual, that forms a type of back bone, or axis mundi, of our world. Mutually beneficial exchanges keep order in form and turn away the chaos (represented by hatred, hunger or perhaps fear).  Hospitality ties us all together and places our fates in a common pool.

                                       "There is no hospitality like understanding." --Vanna Bonta