August 20, 2015 § Leave a comment
Frith is a tricky subject, its one that comes up often on heathe blogs, forums, and podcast’s; often it is covered in the most basic outlines. Frith is a familial bond, it’s the basis of the heathen family unit, it is a blood bond(extended to adopted family, which to my mind is blood). So what is it beyond the basic level, surely something so important, something so often discussed has layers and nuance that are rarely touched on. While my co-hosts unpacked this tonight on the show, I’m on vacation so I’ll do it here.
Frith is a natural bond, I’d even after argue its an evolutionary development. The frith bond is something that ensures that the bloodline is posted on and protected. It is an unmitigated call to arms in protection of your kin. That evolutionary drive to protect those that are “us” is formalized in frith. Frith also serves to protect, promote, and propagate orthopraxy, it serves to be the factor that pushes us towards what works over what we wish to work.
Frith was driven out, by necessity, of heathen culture by Christianity, but it died hard and like so much of heathenry forever altered the face of that religion. Most of us carry some Christian baggage, I say most because there may be heathens with baggage from other religions, and will label people as toxic and attempt to throw off the frith bond with those people. Meanwhile we, often flippantly, extend the comforts of kinship to those that are not of our people. I have friends who I consider clan, but that position is hard earned and even the does not, cannot, put them on the same level as my kin. That foundation of, “this is family they come first”, has never left us on a visceral level, which is good, it means we can begin to rebuild formal frith despite our baggage.
In our world frith places an uneven burden on us, many of us will have competing claims on frith, and unclear obligations due to frith and will go through the painful realization that our families are not rebuilding this with us, and may in fact take advantage of our efforts. For some of us, myself included in that number, the concept of frith runs head long into our law code, and then we see the test of the thing. The call of frith is, to my mind, bigger and more important than the limits of modern law. However modern law, like all law, is the law of the fist. Thus when frith and law run head on, we have a conflict, one we must navigate carefully. We have an obligation to protect and back up our kin, even from the consequences of their actions, as is seen time and again in the lore, folk tales and history of our various folk. Yet in the modern world standing against the forces of law, only endangers the clan, it is a battle we cannot win, against forces unaccustomed to frith law. So what is the heathen to do? Do we stand with, aid and abet a kinsman who has violated the rule of law? I maintain that we do, until that stand threatens the good of the clan. When the force of law would endanger the whole of the clan, then frith, in my opinion, would dictate that the offending party turn themselves over in order to mitigate damage to, and shelter, their folk.
While breaking the law is a broad category, there are many laws on the books, the issue that seems to give most modern heathens the most trouble is what to do about family members who harm other family members. What does the frith bond do to protect the family against those within it who are abusers, molesters, and otherwise predatory? Is this occasion to break frith with that person, or have they broken the frith? First this isn’t an issue tracked statistically by the ancient heathens, we don’t know if they had struggles with these issues, that is a discussion for another time. The framework laid out does seem to offer us some insight though. First I would argue that an individual, either the aggressor or “you”, cannot break frith. The individual can transgress frith, can violate it, but never break it. We see that in the lore, the sagas, and other sources, heinous activities were typically not cause for the breaking frith. They were tragic violations, that is undisputed, but not a “break.” Instead it is my conclusion that breaking frith is a process similar to outlawry. That is the family, lead by the head (matriarch, patriarch, elders, what have you) would take the place of the Chieftain, Lord, King, or Jarl and make a decision to sever frith and cast out the individual who had so grievously violated the frith bond. The individual so cast out, would be without clan, without ancestors, completely alone and severed from the familial luck. In essence, the offender would be dead. I have even heard of cases where when such a decision was made a funeral for the outcast was held, and they were seen as dead. For any decision made in this manner the separation should be complete, and total the obligation that frith places on individuals within the family would require them to honor this decision. Obviously that is not a decision to be made lightly, nor one that an individual can make without the backing of the rest of the can. If there is a chance at reunification, well the repairing of the frith bond would be cause for celebration, it would however require a form of reparation, and again would not be a decision that an individual could make without the backing of the clan.
So what if the clan isn’t willing to make that decision and you are left with a kinsman who is dangerous to the folk? Well there is a thing I have come to accept, and I will quote it here:
That which is right, is not always honorable.
You may find yourself in a situation where you cannot honor the frith bond, and that is bad. You may have to do the “right thing” and excise kin from your life in order to protect yourself, or someone else. That is simply a fact of life. It does not matter how right, understandable or otherwise “good” the decision is, it is dishonorable. You have violated frith, and that is bad, even if it was good. It should be seen as a tragic choice, and not something to be celebrated.
I’ve kind of run out of things to say, I wish I had been able to discuss this live on the podcast, but alas vacation calls.
August 13, 2015 § Leave a comment
Heathens hoard reputation like christians horde converts, and what better way to build reputation than the internet. This space is perfect for sharing ideas, and pushing your own ideals. When we use this tool to build reputation, and bring honor to our people, that delete button is quite tempting, did a forum deride you for sharing your “woo?” just delete the post and revel in your new found cleanliness. Too many comments deleted, people starting to recognize you as “that guy”? Delete your profile and start fresh! No need to temper your attitude, there is no accountability on the internet. As a heathen I view reputation as the most important thing that can be gathered from ‘outsiders’, reputation is the key that opens new doors, the introduction that grants respect on a first meeting, it is the way you make your people known. Your reputation is not just a reflection of you, but also of those people you come from. It is my assertion that a heathen should eschew anonymity in favor of reputation.
I am not saying that you need to reveal your real name to the internet, nor am I saying that you should open your real identity to those you don’t know well. That poses risks that are ultimately not beneficial to you or your tribe. Rather I am saying that if you are a user of social media site, like Reddit, FaceBook, or Tumblr you should own your words. Over the past 19 years of internet use I have said some supremely stupid things, and each of those things have contributed in some way to my reputation on the various sites I exist on. The metamorphosis that I have undergone is there for people to see, and I am proud of who I am. My posting history is verification of who I was, and who I have become.
I am sure that it sounds ludicrous to many to take one’s internet reputation seriously; however for much of the heathen world the internet is the only place where an individual has interactions with heathens outside of their own tribe (or indeed with any heathens). This is how we know one another, my interactions with the users of reddit and facebook have shown me people who by reputation I know that I can trust to some degree, and others i would not trust to any degree. I am able to make this distinction because these these people have developed a reputation, one that I have seen. Thus when one of them pops up in real life I can say to my people, “I know of this mann, they are of good reputation.” Through me my people know which heathens are racists, which are hippies, and which are wearing a hammer because it is edgey. They know these reputations because I know these reputations.
There are benefits to building an online reputation, usefull ones at that. We know that there are groups that thrive on the reputation of being ass holes, this allows them to filter society in such a way that those who stick around end up getting along as they share enough stubbornness and heartiness to power through the inevitable shouting matches. The flip side of that coin are the groups that tend to be much more polite to one another, and garner relationships with the… softer side of heathenry. These groups end up building individuals with reputations, who in turn build relationships, and these relationships begin to shape ideas, which are then taken back to the diaspora, and this in turn furthers the ideas and culture of one’s people. This dispersal of ideas allows for the growth of your tribes reputation, as they come in contact with the other tribes in their area their reputation will precede them because of your work.
On top of building and propagating your tribes reputation, you will also see that by spreading your own reputation you are creating greater opportunity for yourself. Boasting and pride are virtues for most heathens, they are also great tools for social progression and mobility. By building a reputation for being one of sound character, strong work ethic, and sound mind you have a foundation upon which success, by whichever metric you use to measure it, can be built. Success, academic, monetary, social, etc… is something that we as heathens also use to better, and build our folk. That isn’t to say that one must have a PHD, make six figures, and hold public office, to be a good heathen, merely that a good heathen uses their reputation and their work to benefit their people. Social media provides an ability to not only build this reputation but also to share it with the various circles you exist within, sites like LinkdIn and About.me allow you to share your works with not only employers, but also colleagues, contemporaries, and strangers. We have an opportunity that the elder heathens could not have visualized, nor would they have recognized it, we should be leveraging this.
One cannot build their tribes reputation, nor their own, if one has embraced the anonymity of the internet. You cannot build a reputation if you delete your words, you cannot share your work if you won’t own your words. A heathen knows when to be quiet, and when to take pride in their work and words, if you are deleting your words perhaps you should learn when to be quiet and learn.
July 10, 2015 § Leave a comment
Just a brief update Episode 1 of heathen talk is up…
What is heathen Talk you ask? Well Heathen Talk is a new podcast built for heathens.
This is the inaugural episode, stop by tell us what you think, we are putting together a channel just for the podcast, we will also be up on libsyn, Itunes, and maybe even get a wordpress just for the show.
Listen here: https://youtu.be/yhftTFYx4qE
July 3, 2015 § Leave a comment
A while back I posted about my potted potted Vé, I was very excited, I worked hard on it, it had god poles, an altar stone, and greenery (including a small apple cutting that had no hope); I was also wrong. Not wrong to be excited about having something that expressed my beliefs, or even wrong to have an altar, but wrong that it was a Vé.
Why was I wrong? Well a Vé is a piece of land that is set aside for the gods and the wights, it is a place where man goes to worship those things. It is a wild place, a place to visit but not inhabit. These properties are not things one can encapsulate within a pot, or anywhere else in your home. They are too big, too important, and too… well sacred. I didn’t seek to contain these things out of arrogance, but ignorance is not much of an excuse when attempting to pot the divine. The Vé is a very important piece of historical praxis for heathens, complete with rules, attestations in saga’s, and even some interesting historical implications. Things within the Vé become the property of the gods of that space, and the space was inviolable. A man who committed murder in a Vé broke two laws, violated the sanctity and had his own life forfeit, it was one of the few murders that truly was a crime against society. Something so important to the community cannot be contained inside a ceramic pot.
Why am I glad I was wrong? A Vé is a wild place, purposefully so. It is a place that is quite literally NOT for me, it is a place where the divine plays host, and I am but a guest. It is a place where forces bigger and more powerful than myself reside, things that though they bear me no ill will, could crush me simply by being in the same space. On top of this, the holy is not something one imprisons in their home. Your home is supposed to be a safe place for you and your kin, a place for mann*. It isn’t that we quake in fear over the wild or divine, it is that it has it’s place and we have ours, and when we respect that the world has more order. By attempting to create a Vé inside I was inviting the wild in, I was restricting things bigger than myself, and I was doing it with the innocent naivete of a child. We aren’t meant to maintain such naivety, we are meant to grow. Hopefully my lesson learned is now yours as well.
*Old English for “human of either sex.”
June 11, 2015 § Leave a comment
Interesting read. What are you thoughts?
When it comes to reconstructing the Anglo-Saxon pantheon , I’m ever wary of merely copying and pasting from the Norse sources. It’s not that I don’t think there was overlap, it’s just that I think cultural differences as well as the differences in time period should be carefully considered. The simple fact that Frīge was split into two distinct goddesses during the Viking Age is a good indication that changes DID occur, so it would be wise to approach the Norse subject matter with caution when we reconstruct the earlier Anglo-Saxon religion.
One ‘god’ that appears to be venerated by many Anglo-Saxon Heathens in modern times is Hāma. Swain Wodening refers to him in a few of his books as the Anglo-Saxon version of Heimdallr. The EaldrĪce Hæðengyld also lists Hāma among gods ‘we know by legends and folklore’. Whether they believe him to be the English variant of…
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June 5, 2015 § Leave a comment
Baggage: Just make it right…
I have been kicking this one around for a few days, trying to find the best way to say what I need to say. Hopefully it turns out useful.
What is baggage to a heathen? Baggage refers to the left over thoughts, practices, ideological bases, and worldview that we gathered from growing up in a culture influenced by the dominant religion(evangelical christianity in most of America, more traditional christianity for europe, and Mormonism for Utah and parts of Idaho). We all have it, though it comes in varrying degrees, there is no getting around that. Some of it can be useful, growing up in the church can prepare the mind to think theologically, it can also prepare us for setting up and maintaining communities(church potluck anyone?). A lot of it, however, is useless enough that we should get rid of it just to make room for more heathen ways of thought. Some of that baggage is more insidious and cause some of us to end up with a diluted form of heathenry.
The best way to fight baggage, in my own very important opinion, is to be able to recognize it for what it is and to have the tools to change it. This is what lead me to write this, new heathens often lack the ability to spot baggage, and usually the tools to change it.
The statement: “I did something wrong, how do I ask the gods to forgive me.”
The baggage: Sin, we are all familiar with the word, and the meaning of it. Where we tend to get fuzzy is what it means in the two competing theologies here. In christianity everything you do that is a “sin” is literally a transgression against Yahweh, thus in order to make it right you must ask him for forgiveness. In fact because your sin is a transgression against Yahweh, and he forgives you, other christians are also required to forgive you in order to be in line with Yahweh’s will. New heathens bring this with them, they read that Odin has his ravens “spying” on us, and that Heimdallr sees everything, and they make the natural assumption that they are watching, judging, and condemning everything we do wrong.
Heathen stance: Our gods aren’t babysitters, they aren’t out to condemn you, or to coddle you. They exist as our betters, and are caring for the workings of this universe, they do not have time to care if you shoplifted from safeway. Not only that if you stole a stick of gum from safeway, told Janey’s parents that she Is sleeping around, or broke Jim Bob’s window on that sick double wide, you didn’t transgress against the gods. You “sinned” against safeway, Janey, and Jim Bob, honor dictates that you seek to make it right for them. We don’t have a forgive and forget mentality in heathenry, no really, go get your copy of the saga’s, the eddas, or whatever you are using as your “heathen Bible”(more on that in a bit), now find me a place where someone is forgiven with no effort to redress a grievance. It doesn’t happen. This means that you need to go to safeway, Janey, and Jim Bob and actively **do** something to make it right, replace Jim Bob’s window, pay Safeway or work it off(if’ they will let you), and for Janey, well good luck figuring out what will make that one better, but that is what it takes.
TL:DR Instead of seeking forgiveness, make it right. Do something for the person you wronged. Pay back your debt to them.
The Statement: “But the Havamal says…” or “Well the definition of x is actually…”
The baggage: Because a thing says a thing, it really means that thing. That is a really really obtuse way of saying that because we understand a definition or can read a sentence we can understand it. This baggage is a bit more difficult to understand, and it has it’s roots in the catholic reformation. When the Church began to make doctrine more and more accessible to the average parishioner it lead to an essential dumbing down of theology. Don’t believe me? It’s still happening today, from the complicated and wordy latin and greek, to the more accessible german, to King James, and on down to the modern NIV bibles, you can watch meaning leach out as the language gets more simplistic. This means that every Tom, Dick, and Harry who picks up the book thinks they know what it means, and thus doesn’t spend any time looking for old cultural cues. The same has carried over to heathenry, we look at the various translations of the Lore and think we understand it. When in reality we aren’t even really scratching the surface.
Heathen Stance: Culture is the key. We are fighting nearly a thousand years of cultural sublimation, we literally lack the language to have an innate understanding of our mythology. This is why we call heathenry the “Religion of Homework.” So before you go and crack open the Edda’s, or the Saga’s, or even much of the low lore, and go searching for existential truth, first you need to some mental lifting. If you can’t get into a heathen worldview before you start mining the ancestors words for wisdom, you will misinterpret it, and you will learn false lessons from it. It isn’t the fault of the author, it is just a product of our time. Maybe future generations of heathens won’t have to work as hard to get it.
TL;DR: Without an understanding of the culture the lessons from the lore, or even the meanings of the words we use in heathenry is going to be lost on you.
The statement: “Don’t worry about it brother…” & “Hey we are all brothers under Odin…”
The baggage: This one is pretty easy to nail down, hell I am barely going to touch it. This comes straight from christianity, it is directly pulled from their doctrine. They view themselves as all the children of God, and all simultaneously being cared for by him. This served a few purposes, it broke down traditional bonds, as Jesus said “I am here to set son against father…”, and it then replaced them with new expanded bonds. This worked well for christianity, and effectively destroyed much of the pre-christian family culture of heathen europe.
Heathen stance: I litterally cannot put it any better than it was here: Don’t Call Me Brother seriously go check that out.
I am sure there is more to say on the subject of baggage. I may get to that eventually, but for now I have said what I set out to say.