The ADF Dedicant Handbook defines Fertility as: “Bounty of mind, body and spirit, involving creativity, production of objects, food, works of art etc., an appreciation of the physical, sensual, nurturing”. The online dictionary defines it as “the quality of being able to produce young or fruit”.
As a child-free individual the idea of Fertility as a virtue at first didn’t sit right with me. As an environmentalist, I see overpopulation as one of the largest causes of pollution, deforestation, and resource and habitat destruction on the planet. The last thing we need is another religion which, like Catholicism or the “Quiverfull” movement, encourages its followers to “be fruitful and multiply” by having too many children for our Mother Earth to support.
However, in ADF terms, the virtue of Fertility is not linked simply, or even necessarily, to biology. We can also speak of a fertile land, or a fertile mind, growing crops and ideas and creativity. Fertility is the act of creation, bringing something from germination to full growth, whether that something is offspring, a plant, or an idea of project (like the Dedicant Path itself).
It is interesting to note that in one of the alternative lists of virtues in the Dedicant Handbook, by ADF Druid Ian Corrigan, the place of Fertility is taken instead by Sensuality, which Corrigan describes by saying: “We affirm that feasting, music and sensual delight are virtues”. If we look to Sensuality as a virtue as well as/instead of Fertility, we see that Paganism is a way of life that delights in this world and its joys, rather than encouraging asceticism, penitence or escape from reality.
Whether understood as Fertility or Sensuality, this final virtue reminds us to appreciate our connection to the bountiful, creative Earth and the inspiration it brings to our Druidry.
ADF. Our Own Druidry. ADF Publishing, 2009.
Dangler, Michael J. The Dedicant Path through the Wheel of the Year. Garanus, 2010.