Eight Virtues Of The Craft
One of the sovereign touchstones of Wicca, one which is rarely disputed or quibbled over – whatever other differences may exist between camps – is the Charge of the Goddess. Along with the Rede and the Law of Threefold Return, it is as close as Wicca comes to a universal sacred text.
We are not a “revealed” religion, in that we do not adhere to a sacred text or texts said to have been dictated to the faithful by the reigning Deity of the religion. However, we do recognize the phenomenon of Drawing Down, or invoking Deity into a willing and receptive individual, that Deity might more intimately manifest and participate in our rites, and speak through the chosen vessel, if Deity is so moved. If we believe in this, then it follows – in my mind at least – that Deity may choose, at times, to communicate certain Truths spontaneously through members of the faith (or simply through the average Joe, as I believe occurred in the case of Bill Wilson and the basic texts of Alcoholics Anonymous). So I, for one, believe that the Charge of the Goddess is in fact the word of the Goddess, transmitted through the willing and capable instrument of Ms. Valiente, and it deserves careful consideration by those dedicated to this path.
As I do every so often, I am currently overhauling and “buffing up” my routine of prayer and meditation. The practice of a “lovingkindness” meditation has once again been brought to my attention, and I have re-instituted that as part of my meditative practice. But this time around, something rather marvelous has happened. Now, it might seem a bit of a “Duh!” to some of you, but to me it was one of those things that was hiding in plain sight for a long time, and only today was it made clear to me.
In brief, the lovingkindness meditation is – as far as I know – of Buddhist origins, and consists of repeating a mantra of virtues and gifts that one wishes bestowed on oneself, others and, ultimately, the entire world. For instance, one starts by chanting: “May I be joyful, gentle, calm and loving.” Once this has taken root, one expands this, to, say, one’s family: “May my family be joyful, gentle, calm and loving.” When one has worked up to it, one opens the heart and spirit to the totality of our little blue-green marble, chanting: “May all beings in the world be joyful, gentle, calm and loving.”
As with so much of the Buddhist canon – simple, elegant and powerful.
When I incorporate techniques from other paths into my (nominally Wiccan) practice of the Craft, I always try to amend them in some way, to make them more relevant to my experience as a Witch or Warlock. So as I drove to work today, I cast my mind into the aether, searching for virtues and gifts that I might use in my lovingkindness meditation that were a bit more, well, Crafty.
And a soft, contralto voice whispered in my ear: “And therefore let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.”
I almost drove into a bridge abutment…
As soon as I got the old Subaru back on the road, I had to try it out, whispering to myself: “May I be beautiful and strong, powerful and compassionate, honorable and humble, mirthful and reverent…” Wowzers! I got the chills. Needless to say, I had found the “Crafty” terms for my lovingkindness meditation that I was seeking. But in considering those virtues and gifts for the remainder of my commute, I realized that I had also opened a door to a broader possibility.
One of the things I have always admired about Asatru is the “Nine Noble Virtues,” a list of values that one may use as touchstones for living an exemplary life. Many folks I know in the Craft have adopted them, or a version of them (much to the annoyance of certain Asatruar), but I have always thought that we should have “our own,” (although there is certainly nothing wrong with nor lacking in the NNV as they stand).
It struck me this morning, of course, that the blessings wished upon us by the Goddess in Her Charge were a perfect source for the “Virtues of the Craft!” They may not be a comprehensive list of values that one needs to live, love and thrive in one’s life, but they are obviously points worthy of focus, consideration and cultivation, or the Goddess wouldn’t have mentioned them!
Let’s look briefly at each of these:
Beauty: Not necessarily physical beauty, of course, but the appreciation and expression of balance, wholeness and harmony. Accepting each moment for what it is, and realizing the inherent beauty in the interplay of light and dark, pleasure and pain, life and death. In the individual, embracing and expressing the beauty and authenticity of one’s True Self and True Will.
Strength: Not merely physical strength or even “energetic” strength, such as chi or ond, but also strength of Will, belief, conviction and ethics. The strength to do and say the right thing, even in the face of severe consequences. The strength to be gentle, loving and calm in the face of tragedy, fear and aggression.
Power: A little out of order, as far as I’m concerned, because to me power is the synthesis and interplay of all the other virtues. But we’ll leave it where the Goddess put it!
Compassion: True and mature love for oneself and others, including our non-human brothers and sisters and the “inanimate” manifestations of Gaea. The deep sharing of another’s pain, the desire to relieve it and the willingness to put that desire into action.
Honor: “Say what you mean, mean what you say, do what you say you are going to do.” We often hear that “A Witch’s word is her bond.” Upholding that bond is honor. Being honest with oneself and others is honor. Living up to our commitments is honor. Living by the Rede, the Law of Return or whatever ethical system you embrace is honor. As the Asatruar say, “Reputation is what others say about you. Honor is what you know to be true about yourself.”
Humility: Being “right sized.” Humility is very much misunderstood in the West, and has been warped into a kind of neurotic and obligatory self-abasement by the misapplication of Abrahamic philosophy. Toxic or false humility – “Oh, it’s really nothing. I have no real talent for art!” – is a slap in the face of the God and Goddess who gave us our gifts! True humility is recognizing both our strengths and our weaknesses, and working to cultivate the former and transform the latter. True humility, I have often been told, is looking someone in the eye when they give you a compliment and simply saying, “Thank you.”
Mirth: “Rule 62: Don’t take yourself so seriously.” Mirth isn’t just about getting a case of “the giggles” in the middle of a ritual, nor about singing bawdy filksongs around a festival fire (although these are certainly aspects of mirth). Mirth is about finding and joining in the sheer joy of living, of laughing out loud at the way trees dance in the wind or guffawing at oneself when you realize you have just invoked “the Grateful Dead” instead of “the Mighty Dead.” It’s about realizing that The Joke is on everybody, not just on you, and that it’s a wonderful, blissful, eternal Joke, not a nasty one.
Reverence: Love, awe, respect and veneration for Life, the Gods and ourselves. Gratitude for all the gifts we have been given, and the heartfelt willingness to pass those gifts on to others.
These then, are my nominees for the “Eight Virtues of the Craft;” the short list, if you will. There are obviously other virtues and values that are important in living a decent and fulfilling life in the service of the Lord and Lady, but I can’t help but think, once again, that She wouldn’t have pointed these particular virtues out if She didn’t want us to consider them carefully. I shall be doing that very thing in the days to come.
May you always be beautiful and strong, powerful and compassionate, honorable and humble, mirthful and reverent.