Posts filed under ‘Self-Care Virtues’
Of all the Nine Noble Virtues, the one that I most wanted to re-write/re-frame from a disability-inclusive perspective was self-reliance. Even from a historical view-point, it does not really make sense. A tribe or village or household had to rely on itself but an individual did not have to be completely self-reliant unless they were utangard– cast out from society and left on their own. This “virtue” seems to be more of an influence from extreme individualist capitalism than ancient Norse culture.
The Greek Delphic Maxim of “Know Yourself” also comes to mind. From what I understand this is often seen as “know your limitations, know that you’re human, mortal, imperfect”. This sort of idea is a lot more emphasized in Christianity, but in European polytheist traditions we often go to the opposite extreme of proving how awesomely heroic we can be, how many mystical, magical powers we can develop and so forth.
Self-advocacy is a movement among people with disabilities, particularly developmental/intellectual disabilities. Self-advocacy means explaining your disability or health condition to others, and advocating for accommodations, equipment or other considerations that you need. When growing up as a child with a disability, parents and others do advocacy for them (well hopefully they do!) but as a child gets older, he/she/zie needs to learn to effectively self-advocate for themselves. Non-disabled people do self-advocacy as well- a pregnant woman might ask for accommodations in her working conditions, a left-handed student might ask for a left-handed desk, and so forth.
Being a self-advocate is different from being a disability rights activist, because it is only asking for getting your own needs met, and not trying to change broader social structures to make society accessible to all. However, being an effective self-advocate can be a great step towards becoming an activist.
History of the Self-Advocacy Movement– Interesting that it started in Sweden!
The pursuit of beauty and elegance in thought, form and speech. (Vanic Virtue)
Text of image: Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do. MAKE GOOD ART
– Neil Gaiman
I think of this one more as a “value”- a concept that’s important, rather than a virtue, because to me that implies an ideal to live up to. I was reminded of this one while reading a post by a Christian friend- The Absence of Self-Care in the Church by Kati Hammar. She talked about how she felt selfish in her church in even taking simple pleasures like painting her nails, because she felt she was supposed to be thinking of others at all times. “One of the most hurtful things someone ever told me was, “You don’t have real problems. You aren’t precious. Children in Africa are precious and they have real problems.”
This is one of the reasons I don’t feel comfortable in churches anymore. For the most part, self-care and mental health are subjects that are stigmatized or even forbidden in some circles.”
Reading that made me feel really sad. Kati is such a sweet, thoughtful young woman, any church or community of any sort should be happy to have her. (Virtual hug!) Anyway, back to beauty. It sounds like a petty luxury at first- beauty. A luxury for wealthy, non-disabled, “sane” neurotypical people.
But take a step back from the great false idol that is the commercial beauty industry. One thing you notice about anthropology, is you study the world’s cultures and you find anywhere, in every society no matter how so-called “primitive” or focused on basic survival that culture is, they make art and music. They create beauty. Look at prisons and jails. Even prisoners of war and people on death row will create art with whatever materials they have available- even if they’re not allowed to, and the art they create is taken and destroyed. Why? Out of boredom, or to create trouble, prison guards might assume at first- but also to demonstrate their humanity. To express a voice that is silenced. Mentally ill people are also terribly dehumanized and silenced, and often end up in prisons and jails, sometimes because they have nowhere else to go.
Related Virtues: Creativity, Eloquence, Confidence, Dignity
Note: Beauty is also one of the 8 virtues mentioned in the Wiccan Charge of the Goddess.
Practices for Cultivating Beauty:
Follow Neil Gaiman’s advice- Make Art/Music/Write etc. I’m leaving out the “good” part, because who’s to judge what is good art or bad? Just make something, have fun with it, and don’t worry about how good it is. Stay away from people who discourage your creativity, and stifle your inner critic. Remember the prisoner artists- you don’t necessarily have to spend a bunch of money on art supplies. I would also count cooking and baking in ways you consider fun, rather than ordinary “oh, I have to cook dinner”, better yet invite over a friend!
Embrace Your Inner and Outer Beauty
Look in the mirror- think about what your good qualities are, and speak them aloud “I am kind, smart, beautiful, wise” etc.
Take a bath, add some bubbles or bath salts, enjoy yourself, put on some soft music, later put on lotion, makeup if you want, fun accessories and clothing that is comfortable and adds to your beauty. Feel free to step outside gender norms and experiment with different clothes/make-up if you feel comfortable doing so!
Offbeat Bride– even if you’re not planning a wedding, this has a lot of fun ideas for fashion, (including many frugal ideas) entertaining for people who don’t fit the conventions of the wedding industry- GLBTQ folks, goths, geeks etc.
The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron (and sequels)
Ms. Cameron is a successful writer, who once believed that she “had” to drink in order to write, but came up with this self-help plan to help her learn to be creative without drinking. To follow this program, you make a contract with the “Great Creator” but this can be any deity you associate with creativity (I’m thinking Brighid!) , or perhaps an artsy ancestor like Frida Kahlo.
Play With Your Food– a book to help you create beauty and have fun
Pinterest board– with fun food visuals
Even-mood: Harmonious and balanced thought and action; tranquility, calm, serenity
One of the Vanic Virtues, Even-Mood struck me as being the most obvious self-care virtue. Tranquility and serenity tend to get more of an emphasis in Eastern philosophies, such as Buddhism and Hinduism- indeed many practices such as meditation can be useful in dealing with mood disorders. We also find similar ideas in Greek Stoic philosophy. We think of Celtic and Germanic peoples as mostly valuing passion, might and anger in battle, but they understood the wisdom of keeping a cool temper.
I have seen analogs to Even-mood in other lists of virtues.
- Moderation (ADF) a very broad virtue applied in this case to emotional balance
- Foruste (Irish)- Forusta (modern ‘forasta’). “Well-grounded, sedate, composed”. The noun is ‘forus’ (modern ‘foras’) which originally means “established base”. The idea is “calm, composed” — also “sensible”
- Steadfastness (as discussed by Swain Wodening here) seems more about being steady in ones beliefs/principles, which is not what I’m talking about. Still keeping steady in ones typical beliefs, versus changing them frequently could be a sign of good mental health (so long as those beliefs are healthy!)
- Gratitude- I haven’t seen this specifically on any virtue lists, though it was one of the “Wiccan Graces” suggested by Dianne Sylvan. (This is one book on Wicca I do find very useful and insightful to non-Wiccan Pagans) I have found for myself cultivating a sense of gratitude gives me a sense of tranquility when I am feeling frustrated with other aspects of my life, I focus on the parts of my life I am grateful for.
Practices for Cultivating Even-Mood:
Serenity Prayer– originally by theologian Reinhold Neibuhr and popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous
God(s), grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
This simple prayer is easily adapted to address any deity/deities you prefer, plus it has bonus virtues! There is a longer version that is more specifically Christian in theology which may be harder to adapt for polytheist uses.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
I like these next couple lines, but I’m unsure about the “accepting hardship” part, because it could be used by some to justify a “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, “everything happens for a reason” type philosophy that I think is unhelpful and unhealthy. However it can also just be a simple acceptance that life is hard sometimes, your mileage may vary.
Practice 2: Gratitude Exercises
These are examples of psychological exercises you can do to contemplate gratitude. Just be careful to not use this to convince yourself to be “grateful” for things like “love” from abusive family members (and “help” from them that comes with unfair strings attached!) Be grateful for things that are genuinely helping you! There are loads of gratitude articles online, these are just a couple that popped up, written by a psychologist.
10 Benefits of Practicing Gratitude, 10 Ways to Practice Gratitude I noticed the second article mentioned “3 blessings” exercise, this reminds me a lot of Irish triads! See if you can find some positive proverbs and sayings you can recite to yourself, your God(s) or supportive friends/family members. Or write them down and hang them on your wall, or put them on a screensaver on your computer.
Practice 3: Physical Activity
Physical exercise is great for mental health, just going for a walk, bike ride etc. Keep it modest and simple at first! Of course different people have different physical abilities, issues of pain, mobility so what activity you can choose may be limited. I also recommend yoga, tai chi, and some types of martial arts also can help with managing one’s emotions (though please make sure extreme mood issues are under control first!)
Caelesti’s Note: this is part of a series discussing Celtic/Germanic virtues (and possibly other cultures if I get to them) for people who are trying to manage mental health issues, it may also be helpful for those dealing with addiction and chronic health conditions and disabilities in general. I am not a mental health professional, nothing here should be taken as medical advice. It is beyond the scope of these posts to do in-depth research about What is Truly and Authentically Attested in the Lore, I am mostly interested in what is useful in promoting self-care, and in general seems in keeping with Celtic/Germanic cultural worldviews.
Over the years I’ve studied European polytheistic religions, and their modern revivals, I’ve seen many different views of ethics- generally focused on lists of virtues that have been presented. Sometimes they can be seen as “one-size fits all” when they are very much subject to interpretation. I’ve realized that we all need to tailor our philosophies and practices to the current situation we are in, mine currently is trying to take care of mental health issues and prepare for seeking employment again, once I am more balanced. I am not trying to promote an easy way out, a “pick and choose” morality that is most convenient. I am still considering this in terms of how these virtues fit into their original cultural worldviews as well as how they fit into our own. One thing to keep in mind, is that the texts we have were all written for elite noble warriors, by poets trying to flatter their lords to earn their keep, or by Christian monks with their own perspective. Throughout most of human history, the vast majority of people were just trying to survive on subsistence farming and herding. They were not literate, and they were not socially important so their stories are not written down. They might’ve enjoyed listening to stories around the fire of brave heroes fighting giants and dragons, but they could relate more to their own stories of how Uncle Thorvald fought off that bandit many winters ago, or how Aunt Sigrid somehow managed to feed all of her children after a bad harvest. And how their fellow villagers banded together to help all of them survive.
We have those stories too, but sometimes we are too ashamed to tell them, because our culture tells us that we are always supposed to be able to help ourselves, and that is the same message we get from interpretations of Celtic and Germanic cultural values that leave out the “it takes a village/tribe/family” part and seem to have a modern bias. Consider that the Nine Norse Virtues were written by the Asatru Folk Assembly in the 1970’s United States, and while they did take inspiration from the Havamal and other Norse texts, I suspect there was a modern socio-political reaction to love/freedom/peace/anything goes hippie philosophy that was common at the time, as well as a reaction against Christianity. (Similarly as with Anton LeVey’s Church of Satan!) Also in the wake of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, many white Americans were trying to figure out who they were, culturally since their cultural and political dominance had been challenged, what it meant to be “white” had changed. Europeans also faced this as they watched colonies in Africa and other lands fight for independence. Sometimes this was taken in the wrong direction, certainly the case with AFA. We are still struggling to figure that out.
Celtic Virtues by Alexei Kondratiev, Celtic Reconstructionist
An Irish Mythic Model for Celtic Virtues by Erin Johnson
Nine Noble Virtues of Asatru by John Yeowell & John Stubbs-Bailey of AFA, adopted by many other Asatru/Heathen orgs since then
Vanic Virtues (unsure of origin)
Six-Fold Goal from Edred Thorsson’s A Book of Troth
Books: The Other Side of Virtue by Brendan Myers