The priest of that temple, Drew Jacob, also keeps a blog: Rogue Priest. I’ve been perusing it over the past few days and I’m impressed. He talks about very old Pagan ideals in a fresh way. Two things he talks about are Fame and The Heroic Life, which are very related concepts.
The Heroic Life was something that was expected of people. You were expected to be the best person you could be and improve your community, your country and the world. You were expected to hone your craft and take on bold tasks. How else did some of the most amazing feats of the ancient world come about? By people daring to do great things!
Of course fame is a large part of this. While the word fame has negative connotations nowadays, mainly due to talentless people seeking fame for fame’s sake, the idea of your reputation and name outliving you is an important one. The Roman concept of dignitas has similar equivalents in other ancient cultures. It’s said Caesar crossed the Rubicon in order to preserve his dignitas, his good repute, his legacy. Your reputation is a thing to cultivate diligently and earnestly, so that your skill, character and good works are remembered. In some ancient cultures an ancestor with great dignitas were revered and worshiped even by those not related to them. For instance, Julius Caesar was deified after death.
In order to achieve fame, good repute and esteem, you have to live up to your values and ideals. You have to accomplish bold deeds and you have to be willing to interact with people on a regular basis. Drew Jacob’s outline of The Heroic Life is a very good outline for how to achieve dignitas:
- Everyone has a purpose in life. There is something you’re good at, that you love doing–something that gives your life meaning. Know what that thing is, and pursue it.
- If you don’t know your purpose, you should travel. Travel changes the mind and it also introduces you to exponentially more possibilities than staying put. If you don’t yet have a passion in life, go on a journey. You might meet the love of your life, find a master worth learning a craft from, or simply find a culture that fills you with inspiration.
- Ideals, not rules. I find ideals far more useful than rules. Rules are a poor substitute for a moral compass, and they don’t require critical thinking. So choose your values, your ideals. Maybe Respect? Bravery? Peace? You get to choose, but choose. And then stick by them.
- You can do amazing things. Has anyone ever said something that stopped you in your tracks? Have you ever seen a master at work–a musician, a martial artist, anything–doing something better or faster than you thought possible? It’s almost supernatural. But you can cultivate those amazing moments. You can become so good at something, and so full of knowledge, that it’s uncanny.
Good repute comes from doing things that benefit someone other than yourself. Sure, Caesar was concerned about the loss of his own dignitas when he crossed the Rubicon, but he also knew if Pompey prosecuted him the men who fought under him weren’t likely to be rewarded properly for their service. While his actions were self-serving, that doesn’t mean he didn’t have his troops and his country in mind when he marched on Rome. That’s why the people of Rome loved him: he cultivated his personal reputation by seeking to improve the reputation of those who shared his ideals and love for Rome. His dignitas served Rome’s dignitas.
The heroes of the past didn’t work alone, but within the reciprocity of their communities. Even the great Cú Chulainn gained his fame and reputation in service to Ulster.
It’s this concept of community that also fascinates me about Drew Jacob. He doesn’t identify as Pagan, but as an Irish polytheist. His community has separated itself to some degree from the greater Pagan community, and in their own quiet way have accomplished a purpose-built, community-funded temple. It’s just one example of the amazing things happening by “Pagans” who refuse to identify with the greater Pagan movement. I admit I have found the denial of the Pagan label frustrating in the past, but now I’m curious about what I can learn from these folks building traditions out on the liminal edges of our movement.
Be sure to visit and peruse Drew Jacob’s blog: Rogue Priest!