Virtues and Vices of pre-Christian Europe

If the attitude of historical pagan literature were to be summed up with a couple of words, those words might be “vitality” and “optimism.” Again and again, we encounter scenes and displays of courage, heroism, perseverance, innovation, passion, and industriousness.

These qualities of vitality and optimism, and the corresponding belief in the joyousness and beauty of life, are truly the foundation of the pagan world view.

By our strength and will, we are to bring glory and honor to our gods, our family, our ancestors, and ourselves. The difficulties and challenges of life are but our means of bettering ourselves and our communities. The European spirit, the noble spirit, craves adversity – it is by our response to adversity that we become who we are destined to be. Paganism is a call to action!

At the same time, we find many examples of hospitality, generosity, and gift-giving. Family and community life are every bit as important, perhaps more important, than personal glory and fame. Indeed, one’s own success is always to the glory of the tribe and community!

The below list of virtues, and corresponding vices, are based largely on the Norse poem Hávamál, as it is one of the clearest statements of pre-Christian European ethics, but also pull from historical pagan literature generally, including Beowulf, The Song of the Nibelungs, and the writings of Homer. It is important to note that there is no “official” set of pagan virtues. Nevertheless, we believe this list is historically accurate and will be useful for self-reflection.


  1. Vitality, strength, optimism
    • Courage, joy, industriousness, perseverance, passion.
    • Vice: Enervation, cowardice, pessimism.
  2. Wisdom
    • Intelligence, self-awareness, knowledge, skill.
    • Vice: Rashness, ignorance, incompetence.
  3. Moderation
    • We should have control over our consumption of food and drink, and our emotions should not be our masters.
    • Vice: Drunkenness, gluttony, sentimentality.
  4. Sociability
    • Hospitality, generosity, friendship, love.
    • Vice: Selfishness.
  5. Piety
    • Vice: Faithlessness.

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