Îanoi, which in a more literal sense means from Îanos “right, just, correct”, essentially in this case “things that are right or correct”. For the purposes of the Bessus Nouiogalation (that is “Custom of the New Galatîs”, plural form of “Galatis”) it also encompasses the term “virtues”. The understanding of virtues is important so that we have a guide to live our lives in a way that helps us be better people. In turn this helps us be better members of our communities.
So why codify something like virtues? The answer to which is simple, they give us something to refer to when we lose our way. The Dêuoi (Gods) fulfill Their actions perfectly. But They are Dêuoi. We are Donion (human). We aren’t perfect in our actions. No one is, and that’s okay. Every now and again, it doesn’t hurt to remember modern Galatis virtues, inspired by those of the ancient Gauls. As they will help re-center ourselves and keep us in accordance with what is right.
The way we will break this down is by looking at what was thought to be the three laws the Druides (singular: Druið, pronounced “Dru-its”) taught. As you may guess, it translates to Druid. Though with the last law, we’ve been able to apply a more general interpretation to it. As our understanding of that one has changed. You’ll understand when you see it. We will list one law at a time, and there will be four virtues assigned to each to help us live up to each law.
They were originally recorded by Diogenes Laertius’s “Vitæ”, introductory verse 5:
Basic law of the Druids given to us by Diogenes Laertius, “Vitæ”, intro., 5
I. The gods must be worshipped.
II. No evil done.
III. Exercise bravery.
Now, we must be aware with the third law that there are multiple interpretations of it. And this is but one translation proffered. Another mentioned “manly behaviour”, but even to the Gauls, there’s no reason to assume they only attributed these qualities to men. We must remember that these laws were recorded from someone who wasn’t a Gaul. After all Onomaris was certainly courageous leading her people to the east. Regardless, if one is in a situation that requires bravery, bravery is a component of honour.
As such, in Bessus Nouiogalation — an independent and modern Gaulish inspired custom — we have similar laws. Developed from our interactions with the Gaulish Polytheist Community of which we are a part, and dialogue with members of our specific tradition. They are called the Trirextoues Bessous. The Three Laws of the Custom. They are as follows:
I. Dugie Dêuoi – “Honor the Dêuoi (Gods)”
II. Gneie ne drucos – “Do no evil”
III. Biue eni decê – “Live in honor”
With these laws establishment there are twelve virtues, and four each help us align ourselves with these laws. So we will visit each law and discuss relevant virtues that can guide us. It should go without saying that there are more than twelve good qualities that can be exercised as virtues. However, many will relate to the ones discussed.
Let us start with the first law:
Dugie Dêuoi – Honour the Dêuoi (Gods)
- Erissiâ (piety). Piety is important because by seeking and acting on honoring the Dêuoi, we bring ourselves closer to Them. In doing so, it helps us learn all other right actions. Not every pious person is otherwise virtuous. However, they’re arguably not pious. As part of piety is not simply regular worship, but learning the virtues each deity has to teach.
- Uâriâ (duty). The Dêuoi fulfill Their duties perfectly. Of course, we do not always fulfill our duties perfectly. It’s part of being human. Though as doniâ (humans), we don’t let imperfection stop us from acting. And so it’s important to remind ourselves to act on the duties we agree too. Just as the Dêuoi would.
- Uissus (wisdom/knowledge). To be wise is to have knowledge of the teachings of the Dêuoi. As well as how to put them into action. The Druids of the past were exalted for their wisdom, but you don’t have to be one to learn the lessons of the Dêuoi and the world. Nor to act upon them. As wisdom is not passive, but active.
- Îanolabâ (right speech). Something particularly relevant to the Gauls. As Ogmios, what the Romans said their northern neighbours called Hercules. However, (and you can read the account here) Ogmios was shown as older, as opposed to the younger Hercules. The reason why is that the Gauls in particular valued eloquence, as speech can bind wills more effectively than strength.
Let us now look at the second law:
Gneie ne drucos – Do no evil
- Trougocaradon (compassion). Compassion is one of the most essential ways to ensure we do good instead of evil. How we respond to the suffering of others, and that we are aware of their pain is one of the most integral parts of the human condition.
- Oigetocâriâ (hospitality). This is a key one. Through being hospitable, we forge connections and bonds with others, strengthening our communities. Both in person and online, as guest and host relations still apply. An example of Gaulish hospitality can be shown in ‘Library of History‘, from Diodorus Siculus (5.28):
“They invite strangers to their feasts, and do not inquire until after the meal who they are and of what things they stand in need.”
- Raton (generosity). Until recently, people weren’t celebrated for being greedy. As one who is miserly is denying resources to the community. Sharing and generosity remind us that we are all interconnected. Without the goods or services others offer, a society cannot function. By being greedy in our personal lives, we cannot make friends. Generosity goes beyond material wealth, and includes company, kind words, a listening ear. Many qualities we associate with good people even today.
- Uîros (truth). This is a more complex concept than simply “not lying”. As sometimes, in rare cases, lying is a course of action that serves truth. An example would be lying to protect someone from violence and harm if the assailant was looking for them. To live in truth is to be truthful to one’s actions and be authentic. It is to act in a way that fosters honesty, justice, fairness, and virtue.
Onto the third law:
Biue eni decê – Live in honour
- Decos (honour). We’ll get the obvious out of the way first. Honour ties into many other virtues as it is based on how well you live up to all of the other virtues. Thus, reputation ties directly into this as well. Your honour is measured by your integrity and virtue.
- Uîroioniâ (justice). To be honourable is to also be just. To exercise fairness in our decisions and actions. It also requires the knowledge of making decisions in a just manner. As acting I’m a fair and just ways is important, so is speaking out when justice is being violated. And that takes a little of the next virtue.
- Galâ (bravery). To be brave is another thing that isn’t always easily understood. It is not fearlessness. Bravery is doing something in spite of fear. And bravery is living up to the virtues even when it is inconvenient or when everyone around you disregards them. It’s also about having the fortitude to admit a mistake or flaw, as well as face consequences for one’s wrongdoings.
An example of Gauls (also called Celts in the Classical world) is illustrated in Phillip Freeman’s ‘the Philosopher and the Druids‘ (Kindle edition) speaks of the account Alexander the Great’s general Ptolemy on the matter of Gaulish bravery:
“But the leader of the Celtic band soberly looked Alexander in the eye and said, “Nothing. We honor the friendship of a man like you more than anything in the world, but we are afraid of nothing at all. Except,” he added with a grin, “that the sky might fall down on our heads!”
- Burriâ (pride). In the “over culture” we’re often taught that this is not a virtue. However, pride is not synonymous with arrogance. Being proud of one’s deeds is virtuous and can inspire others to also be virtuous. Whereas arrogance is for the self and doesn’t benefit anyone else. Pride also is about fostering a sense of self worth, and in turn recognising the worth of others. When in line with the other virtues, pride can help foster a sense of community and commitment to the common good.
As all traditions have ethical and moral codes, so do we. We’re confident that these virtues are a reasonable approach to right actions that combines ancient inspiration with modern sensibilities. There are many other virtues that could be listed but almost all of them are related to those listed in some way.
When thinking of what to do in a situation, try to remember the Îanoi!