Nine Virtues: Moderation

"Finding Balance". Image by Woodleywonderworks on Flickr (CC 2.0)

“Finding Balance”. Image by Woodleywonderworks on Flickr (CC 2.0)

ADF defines Moderation as “cultivating ones appetites so that one is neither a slave to them nor driven to ill health (mental or physical), through excess or deficiency.” The Cambridge online dictionary defines it as “the quality of doing something within reasonable limits”.

Moderation is a concept familiar to me from Buddhism, as the Buddha taught a “middle way” between the extremes of either hedonism or asceticism. The Pagan Greek philosophers Aristotle and Epicurus both taught that moderation was the key to happiness and virtue. While Epicureanism has become popularly associated with fine dining and luxury, Epicurus himself taught that one should enjoy the pleasures of life including food, drink and sex, but that one should do so moderately as excess can cause mental anxiety and physical illness.

For Aristotle, all virtues are a mid-point between two extremes, and it is this balanced middle that we should strive for in our lives. Thus, in his Nicomachean Ethics, he wrote: “with respect to the enjoyment of pleasures,temperance (or moderation)is a mean between the excess of intemperance and the deficiency of insensibility“.

In the Norse hearth culture, the Havamal provides many examples of Odin encouraging the virtue of moderation, especially with alcohol. Odin’s advice comes from personal experience, as in Stanza 14, where he says:

I got drunk,Far too drunk,
when feasting with wise Fjalar.
The best kind of feast is the one
that you can still remember the next morning.

Alyxander Folmer writes that “Unlike some other religious traditions, the Lore never tries to BAN alcohol, or imply that it’s consumption is inherently bad. Rather, most Germanic/Norse cultures placed an emphasis of discipline and self control. You could “eat, drink, and be merry”, but you were expected to be able to hold you liquor and know when to stop”.

Throughout the Havamal, this apparently simple lesson about drinking in moderation teaches us about the importance of moderation in general, in all aspects of life. Paganism is a sensual way of life that encourages us to enjoy life and see it as sacred, we should not abstain from pleasures or see them as sinful. However, moderation reminds us not to live lives of hedonism and excess, and to be in balance in all things.

References:

ADF. Our Own Druidry. ADF Publishing, 2009.

Aristotle. Nichomachean Ethics. [Online: retrieved from http://www.constitution.org/ari/ethic_02.htm#2.6 07/02/2016]

Dangler, Michael J. The ADF Dedicant Path Through the Wheel of the Year. Garanus, 2010.

Folmer, Alyxander. Hugin’s Heathen Hof. [Online: retrieved from http://www.heathenhof.com 07/02/2016]

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