Defining Heathen Culture
Further Thews which to help define Heathen morality but also to round out the Heathen culture include equality, strength, wisdom, open-handedness, and kinship.
Equality, often thought of as Evenhed, was a matter of fact and not something that was conscious or had to be fought for. There were differing roles that men and women held in society, and within families, but they were not considered above or below, better or worse, nor more or less important. Therefore respect was given and received for all roles that were performed and worth was accorded to a person for their actions and deeds.
Strength was and is a characteristic of one’s physical ability as well as one’s mental ability. Intellectual, spiritual, and physical capabilities are considered equally important and tied together to create one’s soul-might. Physical strength, as well as intellectual or spiritual strength could be considered as a unique quality at times, but only tied together would they create one’s one’s soul might, or strength of being. Our ancestors considered balance the way to this strength. This is why the greatest of warriors in their time was also capable of composing and reciting poetry, and why women whose skills in weaving or cooking could be exemplary, but be found fighting in battle with axe or sword when needed, as well as in storytelling healing, hunting, and caring for children. Physical and mental skills were woven together to create spiritual strength and this spiritual strength was admirable.
Wisdom can be defined as the quality of man or woman to bear good judgement. Being foolhardy, as in – one who rushes into battle without thought or foresight, someone who drinks too much alcohol so that he or she loses their wit, or someone who takes advantage of the hospitality of others, is not considered wise. Willingness to learn from mistakes, the seeking of wisdom, and accepting good counsel are all lessons in increasing one’s ability to bear good judgement.
While I’ve been studying The Troth’s Intro To Heathenry course, I’ve felt I understood most of what has been said and documented, until this – Open-Handedness. I believe it is relating to generosity, but not entirely. It seems to be relating to ‘not being stingy‘ more than ‘being generous.’ But I think it is suggesting that we consider, perhaps with wisdom, willingness to provide assistance to the community when there is need, similar to hospitality, but beyond one’s hearth.
The extended family were expected to care for themselves when able, and to care for one another when not able, in other words to provide kinship with one another. An excerpt from Icelandic law describes the hierarchy of responsibility:
A man must first maintain his mother. If he can manage more, then he must also maintain his father. If he can do better still, then he must maintain his children. If still better, then he must maintain his brothers and sisters. If better again, then he must maintain those people whose heir he is and those he has taken in against promise of inheritance. If yet better, he must maintain the freed man to whom he gave liberty.
If a man cannot maintain his mother and father, he must approach his nearest kinsman who has the means and offer to work as his slave in order to pay off the loan necessary to keep his mother and father alive.
As members of a larger society, our deeds form a part of its collective wyrd. Keep in mind that your individual actions will affect the greater heathen community as well. Political divisions in society outside of Asatru, don’t need to be divisive within our community. We have a structure in place to guide us and all that is necessary is that we weigh our decisions with the principles of morality that guide us. This is what it means to have troth and to be tru – it means to have faith in the culture that our ancestors developed over millennia. This is what it means to be Asatru, to be Heathen.
Volundarkvida and Fafnismal in The Poetic Edda:Stories of the Norse Gods and Heroes by Jackson Crawford, Hackett, 2015
A Practical Heathen’s Guide to Asatru by Patricia M. Lafayllve, Ch 12, Llewellyn, 2013
The Elder Troth by KveldúlfR Hagan Gundarsson, Lesson 5, The Troth, 1996
Teutonic Religion by Kveldulf Gundarsson, Ch 1, 7, 9, Llewellyn, 1993
Our Troth: History and Lore, Vol.2, The Troth, Ch 1, 2, 3, 5, 24-28, Booksurge, 2006