Where Our Virtues Came From, What They Really Mean, And Where They Might Be Taking Us

Using ancient heroic epics and sagas like Beowulf, the Illiad and Odyssey, the Eddas, the Tain Bo Cuailnge, and the works of the Renaissance and Romanticism, Shakespeare, Tolkien, and J.K. Rowling, this book explains the world-view that gave birth to our virtues.

The Celts, the old Norse and Germanic people, the Greeks of the time of Homer and Hesiod, and other ancient heroic societies are popularly believed to be tribal warrior cultures, where the light of civilisation had not yet dawned. In fact this is far from the case. Many of our own most fundamental ideas about politics, justice, friendship, true love, the good life, and especially the notion of Virtue itself, come from their world. To them, Virtue had nothing to do with purity, nor modesty, nor God-given laws, nor sin and guilt, nor with any Sunday-school pretentiousness. Rather, it originally meant 'excellence' and 'greatness of soul'. It was tied to more assertive qualities like strength and courage, and to social qualities like friendship. It was also connected to spiritual principles like the nature of the soul, the hope for immortality, and even the pursuit of happiness itself. In that world-view, life involves inevitable confrontations with inexplicable events like fortune, nature, other people, and death itself. However, the good life itself becomes possible when we face them and respond to them.


Paperback: 240 pages.

Published by O Books

Release Date: 25 July 2008.

ISBN: 9781846941153

Purchase online from:

Better World Books

Barnes & Noble





Direct from the publisher

The book can also be ordered from any bookstore in the English-speaking world.


Some endorsements:

"This is one of the most important books you can read. 'The Other Side of Virtue' explores territory that is vitally important to understand at this critical time in our history. Reading it will deepen your soul. It might seem strange to recommend cheating when discussing a book on virtues and ethics, but let me say this: this is one of the most important books you can read, but if you doubt this, turn to the very last two pages of the book and read the final passage marked 'The Messenger'. Better still, start at the beginning and let the book deepen your soul and broaden your understanding."

Philip Carr-Gomm
author of "Sacred Places"
and Chosen Chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids

"The Other Side of Virtue is a bold reviving of the deepest ethics of past heroic societies, of spirited people living in a world of ultimate immensities, crafting lives of intrinsic value and meaning. This is a book full of fascinating insights and well worth the interest of readers concerned with the ethical dilemmas of the modern world. It is filled with arresting insights, unexpected turns of analysis, and the kind of rich analytic context that will more than repay the efforts made by its readers. It has given me much to think about, and much to re-think."

Gus DiZerega
Professor of Political Science, St. Lawrence University,
author of Pagans and Christians and Of Fish and Men

"Another beautiful, intelligent and accessible text from Myers, this book is informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, not just exploring ancient notions of virtue, but finding their place with sharp validity in today's world. It leaves the reader feeling exquisitely drenched in European heritage and its traditions, from Aristotle to Harry Potter, and with a poignant sense of the very real personal responsibility. An important text and well worth reading."


Emma Restall Orr,
Head of The Druid Network,
author of Living with Honour: A Pagan Ethics and Living Druidry

"The Other Side of Virtue is very much a stimulating work designed to initiate deep personal examination concerning the reader's definition of virtue, and to open a debate about how the concept of virtue functions in today's society and culture. It is highly recommended, and may be of particular use for study groups and circles looking for a guide to help work through the idea of Pagan-specific concepts of ethics, virtues, and values."


Arin Murphy-Hiscock,
Author of Power Spellcraft for Life, Solitary Wicca for Life, and The Way of the Green Witch


Table of Contents

Overture: Storytelling and Fire

First Movement: Gathering the Fragments

1 - 81. Fragments, proverbs, and aphorisms.

Second Movement: The Heroic

82. Heroic Societies
83. Fortune
84. Friendship
85. Honour
86. How to be a Heroic Chieftain
87. Courage, Trust, and Hope
88. Magic
89. The Last Chance
90. Heroic Women
91. Ordinary People
92. Atonement
93. Apotheosis

Third Movement: The Civilized

94. High Classical Society
95. Reason
96. "By Nature A Social Animal"
97. Courage (Again!)
98. Prudence
99. Temperance
100. Justice
101. The Great Soul

Fourth Movement: Virtue Through the Ages

102. Renaissance Humanism
103. Renaissance Art
104. Machiavelli
105. Shakespeare
106. Romanticism
107. Nietzsche
108. Heroic Virtue in The Shire
109. Heroic Virtue at Hogwart's School

Fifth Movement: The Calling of the Immensity

110. The Ancient Problem
111. Time
112. Greatness
113. Authority
114. The Earth
115. Other People
116. Death
117. The Threshold
118. Crossing the Threshold
119. Spirit
120. Wonder
121. Humanity
122. Integrity
123. "Terrible Things, But Great"
124. The Worthwhile Life
125. The Messenger


Related Links


  • Interview with Jason Pitzl-Waters, on The Wild Hunt blog

  • Interview with Cheryl Lynn Bradley of TarotCanada.org

  • Review by Chas Clifton, editor of editor of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studes.

  • Review by Bryn Colvin, The Druid Network.

  • Videos on YouTube: About OSV, and Reading from Chapter 5.

    More links to reviews, recordings of public presentations, and other news, will be added here as they come in!


  • Thank you!