Year of Frith

The Asatru Community has declared that 2020 is The Year of Frith. As a representative of TAC, I have decided to embrace this and delve into what frith truly means. Suffice to say there are almost as many opinions as to what frith means as there are people trying to explain it. There is not an easy way to describe the full concept – there is not a single word that conveys the message of frith. It seems that frith is some combination of peace, love, security, joy, delight, gentleness, loyalty, trust, affection, reciprocity, and mutual selflessness. None of those words fully express the meaning…they have to come together to be frith. Some may see this and say…nope that’s completely wrong and some will agree. Such is modern Heathenry.

One word that I think comes closest to defining frith in one word is interdependence. Interdependence recognizes that I cannot do the things alone, that you cannot do the things alone, but together we can do the things. It is not I, and it is not YOU, it is WE. Frith is synergy; the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts.

Frith is an active aspect of life. It must be maintained and nurtured; we have to be intentional in keeping the frith. This means that it is not unconditional love, frith can be broken, and isn’t given freely. We have to work on our frithships not take them for granted. You are not owed frith, you earn frith. You earn it by giving it. This doesn’t mean everyone should be given frith. It begins by coming together and finding the commonalities that unite you with the others. Frith isn’t given to those who harm those you have frith with.

In the ancient times we are told that frith was something that was found only among closely connected people, by blood and marriage typically (insert obligatory inner/outer yard discussion). That may have been true way back in the way back, but today frith has evolved. I don’t mean just the word has come to mean something different, I mean that how we see the connections has evolved. We no longer have to rely on our family for survival. We can, and should, exit any toxic relationship. The idea that we have to defend our family no matter what they have done – to us or in general – is no longer valid. Society today has more resources and family is no longer the sole provider of safety. This isn’t a dig on the family unit. I truly believe that we must do what can be done to repair and support the family connection; family should be a strong and healthy foundation in life.

However, we are not trapped in a relationship that is not fixable. In those ancient times frith was inviolable, to break frith was among the very worst crimes one could commit. We can look to the sagas – Gudrun’s brothers killed her husband. She truly loved that man, but she could not avenge him because the frith bond of family would not allow her harm her brothers. We are not in those times. Frith means something different now.

While researching I came across a blogsite that I think has come up with a great summation of what frith looks like in our modern times. The Longship defines frith: “A mutual agreement to avoid causing each other physical, emotional, and mental harm; and to avoid negatively affecting each other’s honor, worth, and luck.”

Faith Informed Lifestyle

The latest offering from the amazing duo over at Frithcast challenged their listeners to consider how our lifestyle informs our faith and how faith informs our lifestyle. If you have not heard of this podcast you have missed quite a lot. Suzanne Martin and Kate Coldwind are a pair of intelligent and articulate ladies who share their virtual campfire every fortnight with any who wish to join. Suzanne is a Heathen Gythia (in jeans) and Kate is a coffee powered Romanesque Druidry thing. They discuss things of a Heathen nature influenced by the Norse Pagan Myth-cycle.

In episode 73 they discuss lifestyle of a modern Heathen using the common (and popular) social media meme that shows an isolated cabin in the woods asking if you would give up something that seems be important to modern society (internet for example), or for a huge sum of money, to live in this cabin. The comparison comes in the form that most modern-day Heathens live a spiritually solitary life – like the cabin – isolated and dependent on their own resources. Which is also why a Heathen is likely to quite adamantly and emphatically like, share, retweet…whatever social media term you find yourself using for spreading memes. We are likely to desire the lifestyle portrayed by this scene…for reasons. Anyway, listen to the Frithcast. Bring your own marshmallows and cold knees, the ladies will provide warmth for your knees and great company and stories!

To consider how my lifestyle informs my faith, and/or how my faith informs my lifestyle, I believe I would have to define my faith. Something I have been trying to do for the better part of a decade. I don’t know that I truly have a faith. I see the gods and goddesses as more of a description of an idea; some concept that either was hard to explain or just was beyond human understanding. Some would call me a soft polytheist. I do believe that the gods and goddesses are real – all gods and goddesses not just the ones who are most familiar to me. I don’t believe that Odin is a physical being, but I do believe that the “spirit” of Odin can manifest in a physical way. So, I cannot say that I have a faith.

Yet I do believe that there is some type of metaphysical memory, or something like that, that exists in all of us. This could be the soul that many think of. I believe this is a form of energy. Energy, as far as we can understand physics at this point, can neither be created or destroyed, only transferred. What is has always been and always will be. Since energy can not be created there must exist a finite amount, therefore new life (new to this realm of existence) must be brought by some of that energy. This would give us our ancestral memory, or instincts; that which we know to be true but have no way to prove or justify. This is called hamingja and is part of ørlög and wyrd. I am not getting any further into these in this post – that is not the aim of this post.

Instead of a faith what I have is a strong curiosity for the culture, the society, of the ancient Nordic people. This I learn through many forms. The Sagas, the Eddas – Voluspa and Havamal primarily. I don’t see these as religious texts. Yes, they are stories about or by the gods and goddesses. The Havamal is the known as “Words from the High One” (this would be Odin). I do not believe that Odin wrote the words in the Havamal. I do believe that the concept of Odin inspired the words, but most likely no one person wrote the Havamal, but rather it is a collection of “You know what Odin would say” type of folk tales.

The concept that resonated the most with me from my studies of the ancient Nordic people is that of community. Family, clan, tribe…in that order…were important to these ancestors because their lives quite literally depended on being a member of their communities. Winter is harsh in the northern lands, and it is long (compared to what I know from Kansas and Arkansas). Having the support of a community was about survival during the hardest of times. Family was the first in order of importance. Kin – blood family and those who were accepted as blood family – came first. You were protected by and you protected your family. The clan came after. By clan I mean your family outside of the immediate kin. This might be your wife’s siblings or your brother’s in laws. Those connected to your family but not quite kin. Then the tribe. The tribe is all the kinships and clans who lived together – this would be the whole village perhaps.

The concept of Gebō – reciprocity – is part of this community. The belief that you have obligations to your community because your community has given to you. At the basic level you have obligations to your family for the life you have. The literal blood and being but also the material side – your Fehu (wealth). The community you live in offers many things that would be difficult, if not impossible, for you do on your own. The dangers of the wilds were a true threat in those ancient times. You were expected to become individually skilled so that you could best contribute to the community.

Honing a trade skill wasn’t meant to be for personal profit. It was meant to used to help your community grow, to be stronger and wealthier. The better you could make your family, the better your hamingja became to pass on. This is the concept that informs my lifestyle the most. I do what I do for my family. I go to work and have increased my personal worth to my employer to provide the best life for my family. This, in turn, helps to improve my community. The concept of reciprocity is being lost. We have many individuals who are improving their own lot but are not doing it for their community.

My next step is to become a teacher. Yes, as in public school teacher. I plan to apply for a Master of Science in Education (MSE) with a focus on guidance counseling in the fall. I feel this is a good next step in giving back to my community…whatever or wherever community that is.

Contemplating Naudiz

On November 4, 2019 my daily rune draw was Naudiz, reversed. The message I was given is:

“Today think about how necessity has shaped your life. Was there a time when you did something because you absolutely had to? Also, think of times you came to endings in your life because you were blocked or restricted.

What have you learned about limitations and necessity from these experiences? How can you use that wisdom now?”

Let me start this by saying that everything I do, and have done, is by choice. Before you start with the whataboutisms, I will acquiesce to the inability of children to truly make choices. There are two things that a person has no choice in – birth and death. Aside from things everything is a choice. I have not always seen the choice in the matter and some choices are made based on not wanting the alternative more than not wanting the choice I make, but the choice is mine none the less. For example, I go to work because I do not want the life that I would have if I did not get the rewards from choosing to work. I want to provide for myself and my family. I have not always made the best choices in this aspect of my life, but I have made the best of the choices I have made.

Some choices I have made without understanding the consequences until much later. Some choices were made without even considering the consequences – like those made in anger. The choice was still made, and it absolutely was a choice. Choices are not always made consciously, though it is typically better when they are. Understanding that I always have two choices in every situation is empowering. The two choices are always between doing or not doing something. There are elements that determine which is the right choice, but I must remember that all situations can be broken down to one of those two choices. It is also important to not get discouraged when I do make a wrong choice. Choices can only be made by considering the available information, the known factors of any situation.

Choices in life are finite. There is only a certain amount of choices I will be have my lifetime. The Norns weave the fabric and the choices are presented. Once a choice is made it can not be unmade and all the options for that choice are also consumed. There is not a possible way to go back and make the other choices again. There may come a time when a similar choice will be presented, but it is not the same as it was the first time.

There will come a day when the choices run out; when I make my last choice. That day, place, and time is set. It cannot be changed; it is not a choice I can make or even affect. Well, that is not exactly true. I can affect the day/place/time my life ends by the choices I make through out my life. There is a number of possible ends but with each choice I make the possible endings are eliminated until only one remains.

So, life is pointless and there is no purpose, right? Wrong. The purpose of life in this realm, this existence, is to increase our hamingja, our ancestral luck or fortune. I can not not live my values. Whatever I do, what I spend time on, are my values. What I can choose is what those values are. I can define the values I want to live.

I have never done anything out of necessity, though some choices I have made have been necessary.

Honor

“Respect is what you give to others. Honor is what you give to yourself” – Being Caballero

 

Respect is for others, but it is also for yourself. Honor is respecting yourself; showing yourself respect by living your values. Honor is also how we respect those who gave us what we have – life. We respect the ancestors by living with honor.

Honor can be very subjective and can be defined in so many ways. Not everyone will see honor in my way, nor will I see honor is the same way as others. Honor is an internally regulated code of behavior. We are judged by the accepted code the culture or society that we live in. Reputation is how those around us measure their opinion of our honor. We have little control of our reputation; we can only control how we live. If we live with honor our reputation should take care of itself.

That said, if my reputation is not something I am proud of I need to step back and re-access my behavior. Do I live my honor code? Are my values inline with societal values? Are societal values worthy of my adopting? If the societal values I am being judged by are not worthy of my adopting, then I need to understand this and live my truth. I do not need to worry about those values. If the values I am judged by are worthy and I am not proud of my reputation in that culture there are three reasons; three things that I can look at.

  • I am not living or behaving honorably
  • Someone is intentionally trying to harm my reputation
  • I am using the incorrect metric to measure my honor

There is little I can do about someone intentionally trying to harm my reputation. I can not control what they do. I can only live my truth and behave with honor. If my reputation is not repaired or sustained by my living my truth, then I am likely not living within the correct culture. That is something I can control. I can change the culture I am living in. I can do this by either influencing a change in the surrounding culture or removing myself to a place where the culture is more in line with my truth.

Hospitality and Frith

Hospitality and Frith9NV - Self Reliance

For the month of July, I posted daily on the topic of the Nine Noble Virtue of Hospitality in the TAC regional Facebook group dedicated to the South-Central Region. Some of you may know, but most of you probably do not, that I am the regional Lead Ambassador for the South-Central Region of The Asatru Community. TAC is a non-profit, international organization that supports a grass root movement to build Heathen communities all over the globe. We are dedicated to educating on and promoting the religion and lifestyle based on the belief system of the ancient Germanic people. That is really a whole other post.

While making these posts, and my subsequent studies on the subject, I had a slight paradigm shift. I had once believed that Frith and Hospitality were interchangeable. I discovered how wrong I was. Though they are interrelated, they are not interchangeable. We all know what hospitality means, or at least the concept of hospitality. In the ancient times there was a different understanding of hospitality. The host had a responsibility to provide shelter, food and protection. Hotels were not a thing and inns were very rare and far apart. Travelers relied on the generosity of the homesteads they came upon for respite from the weather. The host was obligated to offer hospitality to these travelers.

This is a small look at the concept of hospitality. The concept revolves around the idea of responsibility of reciprocation. No person exists in a vacuum, everyone needs something from someone else. Community was the center of the life. Kin, Kindred (extended family), and tribe – in that order – was very important. Community, in this use, refers to all three segments of life. An individual is part of the community of Kinship (family – blood and chosen), the Kinship is part of the community of Kindred, and the tribe was a community of Kindreds joined together for the purpose of survival. Individualism was also important because individuals who were encouraged to do their best in what they did were better for the community, they made the community stronger. Everyone did their part, the concepts we know today of right and wrong are based on that idea of community. Right, or good, meant to do what was best for the community. Wrong, or evil, was that which harmed the community. This is where reciprocity comes in. Everyone owed the community a debt to what was right; what was good.

Frith is the natural result of a community in which all the members understand their responsibility of reciprocity. Many believe that Frith is synonymous with peace but that is a very small part of what Frith is. True Frith is only possible between people who are connected, who have a strong connection. I believe this can be formed online if both people are honest, but typically it is only possible when the people are bonded. The concept of Frith revolves in the idea of Inner Yard (Innagarð) and Outer Yard (Utangarð).

Your Inner Yard are those closest to you. Eric Sjerven describes this in three segments. Think of a homestead. In the center is the house, those who live in that house with you are your closest, most intimate inner yard. These are the people that you would drop anything, get out of bed and drive across the country to help them when they call. This is your Kin. Just outside of the house, on the porch or deck – maybe in the mother-in-law house out back – is your Kindred. Those who will help in most cases, but not at the expense of your Kin. You wouldn’t skip work, but you would give up weekend plans to help them move. Outside of that, but still inside the fence, is your tribe. These people you probably would not even answer the phone if they called in the wee hours and if you did you would offer to send someone to help them but not get up and go yourself. They are still in your inner yard…but just barely.

The Outer Yard contains all other people. While this does include the evil, terrible monsters, it is also the everyday people you see but know their names. There are good and honest people outside of your yard, you just have no connection to them. These people won’t have your phone number to call you late at night, or any other time.

Along with Frith come Grith. Grith is a manufactured peace that is limited and specific. Grith is set up for people that would be in each other’s outer yard to guarantee the safety of the united group. A safe space if you will. This would have been set up to facilitate things like an Allthing or on sacred ground. In modern times we find a version in Facebook groups and other social media where there are rules of conduct. We also see this in certain public places – like a grocery store. Grith has established rules and known consequences.

For further information:

We are Our Deeds by Eric Wodening

Also check Eric “Word-Weaver” Sjerven’s YouTube channel

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0znFFrIeSyIMJFZ4m9smkQ

Courage

June 6, 1944 Normandy, France. There was a momentous display of courage, one that 75 years later we still look at it in awe. We still owe so much to those young men who sacrificed “their today for our tomorrow”. Make no mistake, there was courage out the wazoo on that beach. Mostly men under the age of 20 storming a beach that was heavily fortified by a very strong military presence. If you believe that they weren’t scared, you are disillusioned or stupid. They didn’t act on lack of fear, they acted despite the fear. They acted because their duty that day was more important than the fear they had. I don’t know anyone who would argue that those men were courageous. This is an example of an extreme display of courage, but it is a display of a specific type of courage that most people will never have to face – in part because of those thousands of young warriors did what they did.

That specific example is an important consideration to make when thinking about courage. There other types of courage, types that we face every day. Most of these incidents do not have the same level of physical danger, or any real physical danger in most cases. This should not, and does not lessen the act of courage, nor should it be compared or judged against the type of courage displayed on that day in 1944. The type of courage I will be discussing is the courage it takes to stand up, speak up, to be who you are called to be. The courage to do the right thing.

courage-is-the-most-important 

This quote resonated with me the first time I read it. So astute, so simple, so true.

The first virtue on most lists you will find of the Nine Noble Virtues (9NV) is courage. This is intentional, I believe. Courage is the foundation of all the other virtues. Courage is critical to living a Principle Centered Life. Without courage to act on the correct behaviors there is no action. Living a Principle Centered Life requires action…you can’t just fake it until you make it – you have to do it; you have to live it. You must own it.

Going against the status quo is not the easy path. It order to accomplish something you have never accomplished you have to do things you have never done. This take on the famous quote by an unknown speaker/author demonstrates a truth that is timeless. Courage is the principle that is the natural law that governs the actions required to step out and do what you have not done before. Most people do not accomplish great things, most don’t even accomplish minor things of importance. This is because people do not have the courage to truly want something different, they are content in with their bread and circuses.

For many people it is easy to make the connection with courage and going against the grain when we are talking about things like starting a business or running a marathon. Again, make no mistake those acts are displays of courage. Do you consider it an act of courage to face the unaccepting world when you are born with a difference from the majority? Is it courageous when the young black woman works to become a fortune 500 CEO? Absolutely! How about when the Autistic boy wants to become a doctor (yes, I stole that one!) Of course, that is courage.

So, when the guy at work introduces you to his husband understand that is courage. Wait, what? Why is it an act of courage for him to introduce you to his husband? When I introduce you to my wife, I would not consider that an act of courage. I have no fear of rejection. This is a normal thing for most people. We need to get to a place where those two men are as accepted as me and my wife. When you find out that Samantha used to be Samuel, that should not be a source of shock, it should be as acceptable as when Judy bought new boobies because she wanted to be a D cup, or when Frank got a nose job. All these examples are people choosing to match their bodies to their identity. Please do not think I am marginalizing any of these choices. I understand the decision to have sexual reassignment surgery is not the same thing as getting bigger tits. I am only bringing it down to the root for a common denominator.

You know what is also courageous? Accepting people for who they are without judging them based on your own paradigm. Remember that golden rule we all learned as children? Well, surprise, it is outdated. The platinum rule is the new, better rule. Instead of treating people how you would want to be treated try treating them how they want to be treated. This requires empathy and understanding other people…this means you have to get to know them. Which, you guessed it, requires courage.

As an end note I want to make it perfectly clear. There are people who should not be accepted. Toxic, harmful, dangerous people are who I am talking about. You should never accept toxicity from anyone (this includes yourself). Those who physically or mentally are dangerous to you should not be accepted, ever. Racist, bigots, and those who refuse to accept the differences in others are also not welcomed. It doesn’t need said but I will anyway; pedophiles are not acceptable. I understand that pedophilia may be their true sexual orientation, but consent requires a person mature/capable enough of understanding what they are consenting to. We must protect those who not capable of defending themselves.

From the words of the Allfather: When evil comes to you do not keep quiet or let your enemy find peace. (Havamal 126 – TAC study version)

Verðandi

The cycle of life is something that has perplexed man for as long as man has existed. The concept, the mythology, of the Ancestors discusses a complex idea of how this works. They used an analogy of the great ash tree, Yggdrasil – the tree that connects the nine worlds. Yggdrasil is rooted in the Well of Wyrd (Urd or Destiny) and acts as a conduit to all life in all the nine worlds. Connecting everything back to the Well which describes the fate of all living beings. The three Norns – Urd, Verðandi, and Skuld – write, also seen as weaving, the fate of all living beings. The three sisters are often associated with a linear time line – Past, Present, Future – but the Ancestors seen this as a much more complex concept. Time is cyclical not linear. The present, Verðandi, can influence the past and absolutely influences the future.

Norns 2

Urd is the oldest of the three sisters, and the most powerful and most worked with. She is the controller of history. That which once was, or what has already become. We work with her when we read a history book, when we explore our family tree, whenever we look to the past. Urd was once the sole Norn who controlled all three aspects of time/life. Therefore, she can influence, have dominance over, her sisters. That which once was, that which has become, is a powerful influence over that which is (now). Indeed, we build the foundation of our life on the past, on that which was that made us who we are now.

Skuld is the youngest of the sisters. She is what should be, what shall be – necessity and obligation. She is also the Norn who marks and cuts the transitions in our lives. The births and deaths (including our own birth and death). She is seen as the youngest because she has yet to happen, yet the foundation is already set. She exists because there is a “what once was”; because there is a past and because there is a that which is now. There are always consequences for our actions, for our choices, Skuld is the controller of those consequences.

Verðandi, that which is now – the present, is the Norn which I try to do the most work with. Understanding the here and now is important in my life. It is the present in which I have the most influence, where my influence has the largest effect. What I do today, while influenced by that which was, is how I direct my future. I know how to influence my future. The Ancestors believed that Verðandi has influence over Urd. I don’t fully understand this, and I have little desire to work with the magics, which is how I understand that the present can affect the past. I, instead, choose to learn the past so that I can understand how to work with Verðandi to create a path to the future I desire.

I do not believe that we have absolute freedom in our choices, but I also do not believe that the future is stationary. Ørlög is the name given to the concept which describes fate of a person. Ørlög is the combination of luck and fate and is cumulative through our ancestry. Yes, this means that what our father and his father…and so on…did influences the choices that we have now. This is not to blame our parents, our ancestors, for our problems today. We still have the responsibility to make the best choices and to grow and make the best life we can. What this means is that choices our ancestors made influences the choices available to us. For example: If the parents move the family to a new town, state or country, the child has no choice but to move with the parents. No real choice anyway. Once relocated the choices of that child is affected – restricted – by their environment. As simple as the friends they can hang out with – they no longer can spend as much time with their friends “back home”. They can now choose to make new friends, or have no friends, or try to maintain a long-distance relationship with their friends. Their choices have been limited, reduced. This is an extremely simple example of ørlög, but the concept of ørlög is not the focus of this post so I am not going into full detail, only to set the stage so to speak. There are some places where this concept is better developed. If you would like to read more try here or here.

The point is this: we start life with a specific number of choices. A finite number, choices that are set by Skuld based on Wyrd. As we grow and begin making choices – even before making our own choices our parents make choices for us – every choice we make sets us on a path to a specific end. That end is not absolute, it is one possibility of many. Each choice we make, or allow to be made for us, reduces the choices available. We can never return to the exact place we were when we make a choice. We can only learn from bad choices, own the choice and reset ourselves. Making a different choice, even if the same choice we could have made is presented to us it is not the same as it once was. It cannot be because we made that choice already. By influencing the present, working with Verdandi, we can direct that path. So, I choose to work with the Norn of the here and now.

This choice has lead me to the life I try to convey in my postings here. Has led me to study the 7 Habits which led me to examine the correlation to the 9 Noble Virtues. This leads me to developing a principle centered life, centered on the 9NV. Working with Verdandi, working within the area of my influence, I can create the future I want to create. This will influence my ørlög and will affect the ørlög of my children and future generations. It is my duty, my obligation, to do this.