The Nine Virtues: Vision

May 7, 2016
Vi"sion (?), n. [OE. visioun, F. vision, fr. L. visio, from videre, visum, to see: akin to Gr. &?; to see, &?; I know, and E. wit. See Wit, v., and cf. Advice, Clairvoyant, Envy, Evident, Provide, Revise, Survey, View, Visage, Visit.]
4. Especially, that which is seen otherwise than by the ordinary sight, or the rational eye; a supernatural, prophetic, or imaginary sight; an apparition; a phantom; a specter; as, the visions of Isaiah.
The baseless fabric of this vision.
No dreams, but visions strange.
Sir P. Sidney.
5. Hence, something unreal or imaginary; a creation of fancy. 

Vi"sion*a*ry, n.; pl. Visionaries (&?;). 1. One whose imagination is disturbed; one who sees visions or phantoms.
2. One whose imagination overpowers his reason and controls his judgment; an unpractical schemer; one who builds castles in the air; a daydreamer.

Vision, contrary to wisdom and piety, actually seems a fairly straightforward virtue to understand, for me. Vision is the ability to see things both as they truly are and as they might be: a combination of what Terry Pratchett called “First Sight” (seeing the things that are really in front of you instead of the things you want to see) and the ability to imagine a better world and the path toward it. Vision requires wisdom; I can’t imagine one without the other. Seeing much doesn’t matter without being able to understand it, and wisdom requires that understanding be applied to reality, not to a convenient fiction. I’m not sure if I’m comfortable calling them two separate virtues, though; I’ll definitely be going back over this list when I’ve finished the DP to examine everything as a whole.

Who is visionary?

The most visionary people I know of are activists - people who have looked at the world the way it is, said, “That is not acceptable,” and dedicated themselves to working for change. Mikki Kendall, Andromeda Yelton, Nikki Haley, everybody running Black Lives Matter and SlutWalk and everyone who fought for gay marriage when no one thought there was a chance in hell that it would happen.

And - in another realm entirely - look, I get really emotional about the space program, and I’ve never entirely understood why, but I think now that it’s because it’s made up of pure distilled vision. We want to know what’s out there, we want to go there and see it ourselves, and it’s hard-to-impossible (but it keeps turning out to not be impossible) and people have sacrificed their lives to the human desire to know, to see, and to grow. To the dream that some day we could go further from home than our ancestors ever knew was possible. If that’s not visionary I don’t know what is.

Who is visionary in the lore?

Ah, and here’s Fionn again, who touched the Salmon of Wisdom and ever after made decisions by putting his thumb in his mouth to think. (That’s such a delightful image in so many ways.) But vision is particularly important in Irish mythology - seers and poets are practically the same thing, and poets are tremendously important. Manannan Mac Lir is the keeper of wells, a source of knowledge and foreseeing; I’m inclined to put Dian Cecht in the tradition of visionaries as well, for his solution to the problem of Nuada’s kingship.

When have I been visionary?

I feel like I’ve been doing nothing else this past year and more, attempting to find and make my place in the world. I’ve always had a difficult time figuring out what I actually want - I’m inclined to follow the path of least resistance and make myself happy within that. It’s worked, for the most part, but last December I walked face-first into something that would have made logical sense for my career and long-term goals and would have made me miserably unhappy. I have since been trying to figure out what to do instead of the logical thing, envisioning a future for myself that is not the usual or expected one. It’s exhausting work - but important, for myself and for the world generally, I think.

Your understanding of the virtue.

Vision is more than wisdom, but it has something in common with it: the ability to look at the way the world is and see it slightly differently. Where wisdom deals with things as they are, vision deals with things as they could be. True vision must be grounded in reality - it’s easy to dream up castles in the air, but much harder to build them. But it can’t be constrained by reality, because so often the things we think of as natural laws are nothing more than walls we’ve built up around ourselves. The visionary is able to see over the walls to what’s on the other side, and to know when they can be knocked down.

Hail the Queen of the May

May 5, 2016
I did my Bealtinne rite on Saturday morning, April 30th, since I was expecting guests at noon and knew I’d be too busy through the rest of the weekend to dedicate the proper energy to it. I used the Simple Rite I practiced with for a month after the disaster that was my Ostara ritual - which I did mean to write up, and I’m sorry, I’ll get to that eventually - with prayers and invocations taken from the single Irish Beltainne rite on the ADF website. (I really thought there’d be more.) I looked at using the Crane Breviary rite again, but it was a little too proto-Celtic for my tastes.

And this was the first time in a long time I’d done a really Irish-Celtic rite, and that was amazing. I’d forgotten a little, I suppose, that I got into doing ADF and the Dedicant Path in order to deepen the practice I’d already had, not to turn my practice Proto-Indo-European. Generic rites are well and good, but speaking to the gods and spirits I already knew was wonderful.

I tend to visualize the space beyond the open Gate as a stone circle - I know they’re pre-Celtic, but I also know they were considered magical places by the Celtic peoples, and I’d be surprised if they were never used as ritual sites. This time, at the center of the circle stood a tree in flower. I genuinely don’t know if they had dogwood in ancient Ireland, but that was the tree at the back of my grandmother’s porch that always said spring to me when it flowered.

The rite invokes Aine and Aengus Og as Queen and Consort of the Sidhe, something I’ve never tried before but which seems obvious now that I’ve done it. Bealtinne is the transition from winter into summer, after all, and transitions in particular belong to the Sidhe. The rite I was adapting also included the Bealtinne Fires, but I just couldn’t find a way to do that in a solitary rite without feeling silly, so I skipped it. I did decorate my Tree as a maypole, though - great fun, and a fitting offering to the Sidhe.

I used oil with lavender blossoms steeped in it for the offerings to the Gods, and that was where modern technology and apartment living went all wrong. I’ve been using incense charcoal and candles together for the Fire - using incense offerings most of the time, but oil every once in a while. I’d made the first offering and scraped off the charcoal to keep it burning for the rest of the rite, and the smoke that created set off my fire alarm. And of course my building has hardwired fire alarms, so I had to stop, turn on the fans and open the windows wide, and run down the hall to turn off the alarm before it set the whole building going. I swear I could feel Aengus Og laughing over my shoulder the whole time. So at least he didn’t mind his offering being delayed? It shook my focus a little bit, of course, but once I got the alarm turned off I was able to drop back into the rite without any trouble at all.

The omens I drew were all wands, perfect for a holiday of growth and energy - the Ten of Wands, for hard work almost done; the Two of Wands Reversed, for difficulty starting something; and the Queen of Wands, who could be no one but Aine, beautiful, powerful, sexual, passionate, energetic, and bountiful. One piece of work finishing, another one starting (even if the start might be a little rough), and the blessings of the Queen of May herself. It was a profoundly satisfying rite, heartening and fulfilling, and I’m excited for the summer months to come.