Piety: noun. – 1. The quality of being religious or reverent. 2. A belief or point of view that is accepted with unthinking conventional reverence.
Over the course of my studies in English through my undergraduate degree and two graduate degrees, I researched piety in Medieval Literature. My first focus was on Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” in Canterbury Tales. She claims piety in God and then later in herself. In these claims she uses both definitions of the term piety. She is reverent and religious but she also has a strong belief in the answer to her question, “What do women most desire?” The answer is sovereignty. She has a strong belief that women deserve the right to rule, which seem unconventional for the medieval period, but actually lines up with the laws pertaining to a woman widowed as the Wife of Bath was.
I continued to focus on the roles of women in medieval society and approached the topic of piety with Margery Kempe. In her hagiography, she went through the steps necessary towards becoming a medieval saint and to reclaim her virginity to become like the Virgin Mary. Her depth of piety carried her through absolving her marriage, repentance, and divine visions (which are a trope and necessity in becoming saintly). Through her piety, she traversed a patriarchal world to carve a niche as other medieval women and anchorites had done before her. She used the medieval woman’s rhetoric that claimed her voice in her piety, but gave credit elsewhere since to outright claim a perspective as a woman would have caused the male society to turn their backs on her writings. She, like Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, had deep religious beliefs but also a deep belief in her role as a woman in medieval society.
The concept of piety in the Pagan belief system is similar in function as how Margery Kempe experienced her religious experiences. She had visions due to her deep faith. As a Druid and seer, I have to incorporate a deep faith in the gods and myself in order to allow the visions and deity to enter into my rituals and be present in my life. I have to first have the belief that when I invite deities to my rituals that they are there to help me whether they arrive or not. I also need to have faith that if another deity arrives, there is a reason for their appearance and I need to pay attention. In addition to that faith, I need to have the faith that I can prophesy with accuracy and that what I see and hear are as real and tangible for me as a desk top is for my students. Therefore, I need piety in order to believe in the deities I follow and believe in the messages I receive as a seer during ritual and prophesying.