Saturday, May 30, 2009

Heathenism is Not Anti-Christianity ; Anti-Christianity is Not Heathenism!

Insta-Heathenism for the Shallow : Identify every quality you believe constitutes Christianity, and then Subtract it from your practice. Identify Love, Mercy, Decency, Brotherhood, Frith with Christianity --- after all, no tradition on the planet ever cherished these values before Christianity came around --- and then Eliminate those qualities from your practice.

Now, take all of your unexamined Resentment in life, all of that unlivedness within you that lacks identification and rages inchoately, and utilize this as your key to decipher the Eddas, making sure that any time you notice anything seeming even slightly "Christian" in your eyes, that you edit that out as an obvious "Christian interpolation".

I sincerely hope that my sarcasm is dripping enough, because it will take something acidic to get through the thick heads of numbskulls who have come to heathenism because they need to hate, and want a tradition that will affirm their resentment in life.

Go straight to the trolls, where you belong. If your introduction to heathenism is adolescent rage channeled through screeching guitars and heavy metal lyrics of destruction and violence, you have been sorely misled. That is troll-music. It's summoned up jotunn-fury within you, and now you think you can come in and hijack a heritage. Go home to your troll-folk.

A real heathen isn't motivated by rage generated from resentment. A true heathen passionately pursues her life so that all of her powers are released and woven into the world with artistry and impeccability. Seeking and reaching fulfillment, the heathen grasps everything that is good, and from there, knows what to defend.

Those who are motivated by wanting to destroy what others have are caught up in envy. This is not a desirable quality in the Northern Tradition. Those who take glee in strife, and whose blood-lust comes to the fore when they see or hear of people fighting show their wolf-ears. And the more noise you make, the more the rest of us know to stay as far away from you as possible.

If you haven't grasped the good, you have no idea what you are fighting for, and you are a menace. Stop glorifying in destruction and get your act together. Turn down the amp, put your sword down, and figure out what is generating so much resentment in your life, and begin pursuing your passion with all that lust you were misdirecting into hatred and rage.

You may have some anger at the way your family or community turned Christianity into a form of mind control, sex negativity, and repudiation of the natural, and that is understandable. But it is highly unlikely, unless you have been the victim of some very specific abuse, that any Christians have ever come and burned down "your" villages and "your" people, and even if you know for certain from deep genealogical study that some Christians in the past did such things to your own ancestors, it is still a simple fact that Christians living in the present have never done these things to you. But yes, granted, there is a historical wergild that still must be paid for crimes all over the planet, but guess what? There's nary a tradition on the planet that is innocent of some kind of abuse. We heal and move on.

A deep study of animal behavior demonstrates that qualities such as love, kindness, mercy, and mutualism are deeply woven into our animal matrices, and are an inextricable part of the fabric of our natures. It is true that there are other impulses entangled in there as well, such as aggression and lust. But one thing is certain : the heathen path is the path of finding wholeness. We have to find a way of bringing all of our nature together in such a way that we may grasp as much good as possible. It is an alchemical challenge to blend all of these diverse and conflictual impulses together into a harmonious whole, and it's a never-settled question which every moment of dynamic reality calls us out to answer.

There are healthy ways of expressing anger, there are healthy ways of expressing lust, there are healthy ways of manifesting selfishness, and one of the great gifts the Gods give us are lessons in how to channel these mighty powers into whole ways of being that do not sunder us from the most loving and benevolent sides of ourselves.

If you identify love and benevolence with Christianity, and then attempt to eliminate these as values from your religious and life practice, and then dress this in Eddic clothing, you have not achieved a practice of heathenry. You have become a mean and grim person putting on costumes and dreaming up fantasies of hate ; or, nauseous with the emptiness of this pretense, you vainly reach for reality by attempting to transform the resentment-bred fantasy into reality by actually promoting or enacting violence and destruction. This is not heathenism.

"But I -- But I wanted to get away from Christianity!" Why? Why did you want to get away from Christianity? Did you think that this was all going to be a cake-walk, an easy path into an ancient way where you would have to do no self-examination? Do you think that this path exists simply to satisfy your needs to separate from Christianity? Have you mistakenly come to believe that heathenism constitutes some form of Norse satanism where evil gets affirmed by grim thought-forms dressed in the bad drag of the Gods?

Don't come in and try to turn this into some kind of anti-Christian practice. It's a non-Christian practice, a pre-Christian practice, which means that in its wholeness it includes all kinds of values that Christians have championed, and we're not so shallow and knee-jerk that we will cast out all that is good simply because it has something in common with another tradition that you hate! Work through your resentment and come back into sanity.

Look yourself squarely in the mirror. Do some work. Ask yourself whether your behaviors and your fantasies are more troll-like, or deserving of Holy Gods. And not to be harsh, but if you are that resentful about life, there is a good chance that it has to do with personal cowardice on your part, cowardice that has nothing to do with picking up a gun or picking up a sword, but fighting the real battles in your life, which are always the scariest, and most often have little to nothing to do with violence at all, but simply standing up for yourself and living your truth.

Live your truth. In all its wholeness. With all of its goodness. If you are unwhole, don't seek out violence : heal yourself! Don't turn your ancestors into caricatures because your life lacks excitement and you need the compensation of hyper-masculine Conan the Barbarian fantasies. Sure, many of our ancestors fought wars! Were all of them worthy? Hell, no! Were all of them wise? Hell, no! Were some of them necessary? Unfortunately, yes! And there, they fought valiantly. But you work from unwholeness when you begin with the hole in your life, and try to wrap your ancestors around that hole. Heal the hole and become whole first!

We are not Antichrists. In fact, we can help Christianity to deeply heal, if it will listen to the wholeness and naturalness we have to offer, because Christianity, as a Pharisaic Zoroastrian heresy, is in fact a cousin-faith, refracted through various nations, Platonisms, and so forth, but has become shrill and lost the groundedness a tribal religion can offer. We bring back the earth, we offer Mary her stolen sexuality, we remove the hysteria from demon-hunting and restore things to the grounded place of resisting everyday giants. We marry the Old and New Testaments so that law and love are restored to frith, and we reinvigorate the mythic vision that sees through the literal and puts poetic inspiration as foremost in the powers and priorities of our souls. These are gifts we offer to Christians who would take it. And if they will not, it is no skin off our back, because we have plenty of good to share amongst ourselves.

Where we get fierce is where someone tries to threaten or impede that good. But guess what? Christianity's rejects are not our responsibility, either, so if you come as an outlaw from those territories, we advise you to either get your act together and become a whole person capable of contributing good to the heathen community, or to go back to your Christianity and heal what you need to, but don't smuggle in your resentments here and rob our poetry in the image of the unwholeness fostered within you by a foreign tradition.

We've got good here. We know how to share it with those who are worthy, and we know how to defend it from those who are trollish, and we've got the strong arm of Thor protecting our laughter, and warding our hoe-downs from those who would try to steal it away in the night. We've got so much love, and we've got so much wisdom to impart, but we don't give it away to nidings, no matter what label you slap on yourself, no matter what poems you try to wrap yourself in, no matter how much you snarl your teeth. Wolves are welcome to join the barrens ; in here, we've got strong love many Christians might envy.

Anti-Miscegenation is a Betrayal of Freya

Anti-miscegenation is the notion that people of different backgrounds and traditions shouldn't mix and come together in unions of love. It reflects a fear that the Other will pollute rather than enrich one's Own. It is a deeply anti-sexual doctrine inasmuch as any honest biological assessment of sexuality will conclude that it is the very weaving together of difference that constitutes sexuality's essence and bounty.

Anti-miscegenation is a betrayal of Frey and Freya, Gods of Love and Nuptials. We all know that love as a natural force does not observe national or cultural boundaries, but travels widely. Gylfaginning 35 : Freyja á mörg nöfn, en sú er sök til þess, at hon gaf sér ýmis heiti, er hon fór með ókunnum þjóðum at leita Óðs, "Freyja has many names, which is due to the fact that she gave herself diverse names when she fared amongst unknown peoples to search for Odr."

Love searched for the Poetic Soul that could embrace her and be her husband amongst ókunnum þjóðum, "unknown tribes, nations, and peoples", and in the process she was called by various names. This is a statement of the first order of symbolic significance. Gylfaginning 24 : Hon er nákvæmust mönnum til á at heita, "She is attentive and favourable to those people who call upon her."

When Freya brings Ottr (Odr) to Hyndla to have his genealogy reckoned, Hyndla names Humans, Elves, Vanir, Aesir, and Giants as his kin, while in Skirnismal 18, he says that he is neither of the Alfar nor the Aesir nor the Vanir, because as can be seen from Hyndla's genealogy, he is all of these and therefore belongs exclusively to none of them. The poetic soul partakes of all races. Freya marries the most hybridized mutt of them all!

Of Freyr (in his heiti of Fricco), Adam of Bremen says, pacem voluptatemque largiens mortalibus, "peace and pleasure he lavishly gives to mortals", ie. all humans, and that sacrifice is offered to him si nuptiae celebrandae sunt, "if they are celebrating a wedding". It would be apropo here to remember that Freyr's most celebrated myth in the Poetic Edda involves not just a bridewinning, but a bridewinning for him of a foreign maiden of another race living in a far-away place amongst his own people's enemies! Love crosses boundaries, whether those boundaries be geographic, nationalistic, or military.

"Natural dispersal has been frequent, long-distance, and beneficial (Axelrod 1959; Clark 1988; Clark et al. 1989; Crow et al. 1988; Darlington 1957; Darwin 1948; Davis 1983; Davis 1988; Elias 1994; Elliott-Fisk 1988; Gleason & Cronquist 1964; Kuc 1995; Menard 1974; Munz & Keck 1959; Neill 1969; Orban 1995; Paus 1995; Peglar et al. 1989; Simpson 1942; Thornton 1971). Dispersal is essential to maintaining biodiversity, and has been a powerful driving force of evolution." (Theodoropoulos, D. 2003. Invasion of the aliens! Science or pseudoscience? Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of Botanic Gardens and Arboreta, Boston, June 2003)

"Natural dispersal", meaning crosspollination across boundaries and spread of seed into new territories, has been "frequent", "long-distance", and "beneficial". As harbingers of fertility, pollination is a central concern of Frey and Freya, and here we learn that pollination frequently crosses boundaries and is good for biodiversity.

The Ingwaz rune graphically represents the process of hybridization and crosspollination and has been compared to the DNA helix :

The crisscrossing of different lineages in allogamy ("marriage of different strains") is visualized in this rune, precisely as we find in the genealogy of Ottar. Furthermore, this kind of weaving is alluded to in the frequent epithet of women as freoðu-webbe, "frith-weavers", who by marrying into other lineages, sometimes of folk considered hostile, began to weave them into kinship and therefore the peace and love guaranteed to kin. A full kindred is, of course, already fully woven into each other, and it takes time to weave kinship into a frayed fabric, or even two cloths without any seam at all, but the point to underline here is the vision of marriage as a way of weaving frith and kinship between two different tribes.

Attitudes of anti-miscegenation, therefore, interfere with the vital function of marriage in the first place, which besides bringing joy to the couple, is to weave different tribes and clans together, most especially, of course, when they have children, who will therefore have dual heritage, and must find their own ways of honoring these traditions. Assisting them in this worth-giving is Saga, who weaves together the stories of the forebears, and how their deeds brought them together.

Of course, the beautiful thing about Saga is that her sweep goes well beyond kinship, and is community-wide, speaking to how each community's deeds get woven together into a fabric consisting of those smaller webs of kinship in their interactions and conflicts with each other.

Now if the soul of a folk is found in its poetry and lore, as the great Volk-philosopher Johann Herder declared, then that leads to a complex, dynamic, and dialectical conception of the folk as a process that grows through folkloric activity. In other words, that soul is not static, but ever growing, contending, and transforming through its own folkloric processes, as it ever discovers anew its own songs and rhythms.

The process of saga we have just discussed describes these folkloric activities and processes, and begins with "saga", "saying". Let us clarify this further. Whenever people meet up, regardless of their difference in backgrounds, they try to find a way to talk with each other. In talking, they share their stories. As people share stories with each other, their conception of the world changes and expands, and thus, even the way they tell their own story transforms, because it now takes place within a larger context.

We thus see that through the very process of sharing and speaking, something dynamic enters into the folk process. It has been observed in many situations that when different peoples begin to dialogue, one result of this is what is known as "syncretism", which is a blending of different beliefs. This can happen more consciously or unconsciously, deliberately or simply as a result of coming through a transformative encounter. It can result in an amalgamation, or merely a new set of allusions and references which enrich one's world.

From an Odinic standpoint of dialectic dynamism, a clash occurs whereby one gains from the conflict. Struggle ensues, and one is called upon to be loyal to one's tradition not through taking a static stance, but by not abandoning the tradition and instead daring to see it with new eyes that have been given by the encounter itself. When played with skill and poetic power, the encounter with the strange renews the old ways.

This is why it is Odr who is always out wandering on strange ways, because we are certainly not meant to abandon our own tradition for the wholesale adoption of foreign ways, but rather, to reach down into the very forges of our imagination to rediscover the source of our own tales and song at their very root, and from there to spin out new shoots and sprigs of quickened life that flourish the forest of folklore, the learning of the people as they grow and learn and interact.

As time goes on, the forest of allusions grows thicker and thicker, and one can indeed get lost in the forest, but this is simply the enriching of the loric ecosystem which thrives on poetic diversity. We always have to begin from where we are. This is something that even Herder emphasized : we cannot live another age. It is our own age which we have to live. It is our own age which delivers to us our folk, and that is found in our own concrete experience.

The folk, therefore, is not some idealized, never-changing essence to which one must conform. The folk are our people, found in the process of our own life as we live the forces that flow through us, forces which connect us to others. We discover our folk through the wyrd that weaves us. They are the people we love, the people we meet, the people with whom we share stories, the people whose worlds and concerns intersect and interact with ours, and become part of our field of reference in ripples and ripples of allusiveness.

No one can dispute, at least from within a Teutonic context, that a folk is defined by its frith. In other words, we are those who have been brought together by love. It is love which binds us and keeps us. This of course takes place on the literal level of kinship, as it is through biological processes of love that children are woven into kindreds, but friendship is equally emphasized in the lore, and one might add, interestingly, that in Havamal, Odin actually emphasizes friendship far more often than kinship. This is not because he takes friendship as more important than kinship, but rather that kinship was the background taken for granted against which he wanted to emphasize friendship. And his discussions of friendship take place within the context of visiting customs amongst those who travel widely. Odin's tale is not one of isolation and paranoid protection of one's tradition, which betrays a mindset of anxiety and fear, but rather great confidence and courage, which goes out into the world with gusto seeking love and friendship. In this process, one takes proper precautions as a matter of course in the dangerous wide, wide world, but Odin never betrays any anxiousness about losing his own essence through the vast seeking of encounters.

Freya is the one who teaches us who our folk are. Her place is called Folkvang, the "meadow of the folk". She teaches a people who they are through the connections she inspires. It's A Small World is a beautiful ride, a vision of celebration of diversity and the plurality of cultures, but ultimately, it is a museum, and life is dynamic spirit in action that finds its essence through its transformations, not through hiding away and lashing out with paranoia against "infection" or "pollution" from foreign streams of tradition. The boldness of our forefathers said rather, we can swallow up those foreign streams of tradition, drink them like mead, get intoxicated, and in that state of expanded awareness, compose poems which will still speak the heart of who we are. Because who we are is constantly growing and expanding. Yes, that growth must take place within the complex balances of natural law or orlog, but nevertheless, the Viking Age was not the same as the Pre-Viking Age, which was not the same as the Bronze Age, and so forth. It's A Small World never shows us what happens at the boundaries between cultures. It doesn't show us the goatherd in leiderhosen falling in love with the African arrayed in leopardskin, which we know happens all the time in our modern world, not because our modern world is "decadent", but because there is free travel and liberty, and liberty always expands the domain of love. The folk-cultures in It's A Small World are quarantined, imprisoned in a glass menagerie where they are condemned to always play out the same movements and repeat the same gestures and words. They are animatronic robots. Our Gods don't want us to be animatronic robots.

I am enriched by having Rastafarian friends, Blackfoot friends, Yoruba friends, intelligent and loving Christian friends, Atheist friends, Wiccan friends, Jewish friends. I am enriched by having family and lovers from all corners of the globe. This is my heritage ; these are my folk! We share. We share metaphors and struggles and reach deep understandings beneath the surface symbols, understandings that tap the actual flows of life themselves, flows which bubble up and enrich the symbols, creating creative crises that call for new visionings and revisionings.

I don't live in It's A Small World ; I live in America! America, that rich, bold, flawed experiment, that wondrous influx of peoples and ways, whose folk-soul is sung by Whitman and Sandburg, whose breasts are large and capable of breathing in many and multiple songs, and breathe out the broad, rich textures of American folklore ever entangling and rustling. My folk are not the folk of frightened worms burying themselves into the soil to protect themselves from the hordes of the Other, who tremble shaking songs of isolation and preservation, but daring braves who run out to meet the hordes in ecstatic, tribal self-recognition! I do not identify with the foolish whitebread heimsk who never venture out and who obviously need to leave their inbred ghettos of insecurity. I do not live in those catacombs, I do not consort with those troglodytes, they are not my folk!

I enjoy dialogue with different traditions! I do not want to burn down churches. I want to visit the meadhalls of a thousand traditions, call upon their hospitality, share our stories, make them uncomfortable with my truth and be discomforted by their truth, unto the seething dynamo of wod which brings me inspiration and makes my poetry richer! I do not wish to meet them with the sword, but with the pen, with the tongue! And do not banish the erotic undertones of that last reference, for we will sing songs of love together too! I am not tied to some museum-piece, my tradition is not a prison which locksteps me into premade metaphors. All of those are surface forms which speak to a certain pathway of formation. The tradition is not the forms ; the tradition is the formation-process! Grasp the deeper and generate the former!

No one, no one, is going to tell me who I may love and who I may not. No one is going to tell me how I ought to grow through the encounter of love. That is between me and Freya, and it is to her divine, immanent strength and wisdom, and not hollow, paranoid nationalisms of the 19th and wicked 20th centuries --- ideologies which have attempted to abscond and encoil the old ways like a serpent, claiming them as their own but without any solid grounding --- that I will defer. Anti-miscegenation is a betrayal of Freya!

all translations copyright 2009 by Siegfried Goodfellow

Saturday, May 23, 2009

confusion with beauty wrapped in chaos

is believing
it could all make sense
lost the promise
of beauty
in the confusion
for it has always
been a farce
and never any sense
never any sense
with beauty
wrapped in chaos
and love fleetingly lighting up
the night
and Odin told you
it might be a nightmare
at times
so enjoy the ride
beauty in the confusion
Freya dances in dark morning flowers
night's black cloak flapping in the wind
before dawn
She gives freely
no guarantees
and every God says,
Drink Deeply
exquisite beauty in the swirling
patterns of this mead-
called wondrous world
called world-history-
and the dynamic engine of wod
drives on
like blitzkrieg whirlwind
and God
what is happening in the Chaos
because that's
how Odin
likes to think.
we call it storm
he calls it
even when all was darkness
he still swirled
and worlding stirred in
with beauty
wrapped in chaos
my Punk Rock Gods
my Gothic Gods
swirling about the dance floor
we all know what it's like
to be outcasts
we all know what it's like
to be barbarians
we all know what it's like
to want something more
I am a tree reaching up
up into the heavens
and my roots stretch down
just as deep.
never made sense
but stunned me
with beauty
wrapped in chaos.
and what sense it makes
Odin only knows
and sometimes whispers
into drunken poet's ears
knowing they'll hardly remember --
chuckling old man --
in the morning.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Heathenism is Choosing Dignity over Degeneration

Heathenism advocates strong, no-nonsense treatment of others, not to promote some stance of being "hard", but to preserve what is good by combating the Axe Age principle that people often shit on those who are best to them. In a hard age ruled by Giantish principles that might makes right, those who are not hard are often interpreted to be weak, and good is rewarded with ill. We need good in the world, but under these conditions, it is unsustainable if one is to put up with continual disappointment and poor treatment, which are erosive.

Healthy relationships can only grow out of a soil of mutual respect. Without þyrma, reverence, dignity, regard, respect due to one another, things can only degenerate. The heathen knows that far too many things are already in a state of degeneration to tolerate the cultivation of even more degeneration. If þyrma invokes the "I-Thou" relationships of the Golden Age, in the Axe Age, heathens dance with the playful paradox of "I-Thou with a Fist", the fist a sign of defiance, not a threat of violence per se. We always have the option to show someone the door. Even friends, if they slip and get sloppy, behaving in accord with the customs of degenerate times rather than the high-minded standards of those who truly respect each other, ought to be shown the door until such time as they can return a little contrite and ready to deal fairly. Sometimes "time out"s are needed.

No-nonsense cultivates clean, vibrant, dignified boundaries, and ought not to be confused with callousness. It is a simple radiation of the statement, "I respect myself", and that in order for us to relate, that is an unvoidable axiom whose violation will not be tolerated.

We heathens don't want to be "nice". In fact, we abhor "nice" behavior, because it is fake, insincere, masking behavior that can cover a variety of hidden motivations, including a lack of commitment to self-dignity. No, we prefer courtesy based on confidence, and kindness based on strength.

The difficulty is that sometimes a cause calls for sacrifice. One always wants to minimize the role of sacrifice, but one must also acknowledge where it is necessary and learn, painfully, to give up that which can no longer be held, and to do it, hopefully, with a sense of grace, and giving back what was given. Sometimes you have to throw the fish back into the water, and go back to fishing. This is a necessary attitude because being no-nonsense does not guarantee good results. You can't go into it with the expectation of victory, but rather the acknowledgement that demanding dignity in a degenerating relationship may end the relationship, and one is left lonely. But one always wants to avoid slavishness, no matter how well-rewarded slavishness may be, because the one reward that cannot be given to slavish behavior si the simple pleasure of looking in the mirror and liking the person you see there. That comes with honor and dignity.

The world is out of control. That's not all bad, because control can be over-esteemed, but we hope that the world's process is in the Gods' hands and not the Giants'. That, unfortunately, is often not the case in a world of free will where men are free to choose the higher or lower road, and often choose the very lowest. You're going to face some very difficult, painfully personal situations, because you will meet many people who shimmer with a wondrous and sparkling potential that can't help but charm you, and yet the sad fact is that in an age of degeneration, surrounded by all the bad influences, many people choose the worse rather than the better, and let slip that potential so mighty within them. When the voices of ogres shout about one, it is difficult to listen to the soft but firm voice of the fylgia urging good behavior and the pursuit of that potential which one was given. A gift should not be treated with such contempt!

In part, heathenism is simply about cultivating a relationship of honor, dignity, and frith with the fylgia, the personal dis assigned to us who carries our nature and our potential. One can only imagine a culture, these days, that cultivates this relationship, because the rule of this world these days seems to be quite the opposite, where we are almost trained in disrespecting that voice. "Conscience" is not a good enough word, because it is abstract and partial, but at least it begins to mark the territory a little bit. It's not just "conscience", but conscientiousness about the evolutionary imperative, and a dedication to unfolding that which is within one. Ethics here is the art of unfolding the self in such a way that you have the option to like who you are. Good self-relations are important because contempt for others often begins with contempt for self. Even those who seem "egotistical" often have abhorrent behavior towards their own fylgia, which whispers to us not out of a moralistic, preachy place, but the gentle insistence that we "can do better", and to a genuine heathen, this is not a nag, but a dare and a challenge that summons our dignity and our panache to stand tall and take on the challenge. The prospect to do better brings pleasure.

High-minding words in an age of degeneration. But heathenism is about choosing dignity over degeneration. And that can be a hard path. Yet it is full of rewards those who fall into degeneration can never, ever know. At least not until they pick themselves up, get their shit together, and begin behaving well, and treating themselves and others with the respect that is requisite for good, rewarding relations in the world.

Do Not Be Parochial In Your Patriotism :

"Main Entry: pa·ro·chi·al

Pronunciation: \pə-ˈrō-kē-əl\

Function: adjective

....Confined or restricted as if within the borders of a parish : limited in range or scope (as to a narrow area or region)"

Many look to their ancestors and try to place bounds around them. A nation, a separated tradition. They wish to separate themselves.

I am not interested in separating myself.

To me, getting back to the roots of indigeneity through my ancestors is a way to connect to all of humankind. It is about deep connection with all other peoples trying to live the Ways of Mother Earth, and not some excuse for nationalisms and separatisms. In fact, to be perfectly honest, separatisms disgust me.

To me, tribe is about community and human-scale living within a localism that makes sense. It is not about my tribe versus your tribe versus his tribe versus her tribe. That is nauseating and boring.

To me, exploring my roots is not about finding out what is totally unique about the Teutonic tradition so I can hold it against every other tradition, and separate myself on that basis. It is, rather, to find a way to enter into the universal song through the specific harmonies and poems of my ancestors. In the process, yes, that universal song sung through Teutonic tongue has a flavor all its own, zesty, lively, filled with gusto and inspiration, but it is one inflection of a much larger story.

I hope that as all the bad scholarship of the past gets updated by those in the present, and revisioned, we can stop focusing on our differences, and begin looking through the stained-glass windows of each of our tribes at the play of light that shines through them, and remember that we are all children of Mother Earth.

Sometimes a tradition doesn't have to name something explicitly in order for it to be present implicitly. Sometimes an explicit mention is a sign of forgetting rather than integration, and a mention is a battle against amnesia. But those who have not forgotten may not need to mention at all.

The Brotherhood of Humanity is not something explicitly mentioned in Teutonic lore. Nor is the statement that the rest of Nature constitutes, as the Lakota say, "All My Relations". But it is there.

Tacitus tells us in Germania 45, Matrem deum venerantur. Insigne superstitionis formas aprorum gestant, "They worship the Mother of the Gods. They bear the emblem or mark of this superstition in the form of a wild boar." In Germania 40, he says, quod in commune Nerthum, id est Terram matrem, colunt, "They worship in common Nerthus, who is Mother Earth".

Since the Mother of the Gods has the emblem of a boar, and the boar is the emblem of Freya, who is Frigga/Nerthus/Jord's daughter, we can assume that the Mother of the Gods is Frigg, who is the wife of the All-Father and thus the All-Mother. As Odin is the Father of the the Gods, Frigg is the Mother of the Gods.

Tacitus' readers would have known the reference he was making when he said that they worshiped Matrem deum. They would have known that these tribes worshipped a Goddess very similar to Cybele, an earth mother who was worshipped with ecstatic, korybantic pageants.

Frigg calls all living things of the earth to herself, and they obey, for she is the Earth Mother. In folktales, the Earth Mother is considered the Mother of the Elves as well. Frigg is the Mother of the Aesir and Vanir.

If we have one mother, we are all brothers. All of us. All of life. All of life. We might call our fellow creatures eardsibb, "earth-siblings".

Heimdall came and taught our leaders and wise-men runes. This refers to language, and it also refers to mysteries. Through particular tongues, we learn mysteries. But this does not exhaust their mystery. These are not the only tongues through which they can be gleaned. We know the runes have traveled long roads amongst all of mankind, as Sigrdrifumal explains. They were scattered along with the mead everywhere.

A þeód, a tribe, nation, or people, is defined by its ge-þeóde, its language, its idiom. This is clear in the very language. It is language and not blood that defines a people. Within a people or nation there will be many clans, each clan or kindred related by blood, but the nation as a whole is not defined by kinship but by a shared language and idiom, a way of speaking about things.

The word ge-þeódan means "to translate", to express the language of one people in terms of the language of another people. What is interesting here is that the word derivatively also means to "join", "connect", "associate", "adjust", and "unite". There is unity that comes in translating concepts and expressions from one people to another. And in order to translate, you must connect yourself, associate with the new mindstate, thought-travel outside the parochial, adjusting yourself to the new idiom.

Since our tribal experiences are at least partially translatable, it is not our different tribes that separate us. We become separate when you war upon my loved ones, when you aggress upon us, when you try to impose your ways upon us. Everyone gets to have their own ways. An Old English poem says, "As many customs as there are peoples".

Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the story of Freya's husband. In the poem Widsith are described some of the many voyages of Odr, the mythic and heroic representation of the poetic aspirant in each of us. From this poem, we know that Odr was se þe monna mæst mægþa ofer eorþan, folca geondferde, "the man who had most traveled over the earth, faring throughout the folk".

Swa ic geondferde fela fremdra londa geond ginne grund. Godes ond yfles þær ic cunnade cnosle bidæled, freomægum feor folgade wide, "So I fared through many foreign lands, throughout the wide and spacious earth. Good and evil there I experienced free from kinsmen, far from my dear ones, offering my services far and wide."

Mid Scottum ic wæs ond mid Peohtum ond mid Scridefinnum ... Mid Israhelum ic wæs ond mid Exsyringum, mid Ebreum ond mid Indeum ond mid Egyptum. Mid Moidum ic wæs ond mid Persum ond mid Myrgingum, "I was amongst the Irish and amongst the Picts and amongst the Finns. I was amongst the Israelites and amongst the Assyrians and amongst the Hebrews and amongst the Indians and amongst the Egyptians. I was amongst the Medes and amongst the Persians and amongst the Myrgings." Ic wæs mid Hunum ond mid Hreðgotum, mid Sweom ond mid Geatum ond mid Suþdenum, "I was amongst the Huns and amongst the Glorious Goths, amongst the Swedes and the Geats and the South-Danes." Mid Froncum ic wæs ond mid Frysum ond mid Frumtingum, "I was amongst the Franks and amongst the Frisians and amongst the Frumtings." There is not, in fact, a single tribe in the world known at that time that is not listed.

Wherever he went, sohte ic a gesiþa þa selestan, "I sought the most excellent and generous fellow-travellers."

Swa scriþende gesceapum hweorfað gleomen gumena geond grunda fela, þearfe secgað, þoncword sprecaþ, simle suð oþþe norð sumne gemetað gydda gleawne, geofum unhneawne, se þe fore duguþe wile dom aræran, eorlscipe æfnan, "Thus, wandering, glee-men (poets and song-smiths) roam about as they are destined throughout many lands of men, speaking up for the needy and declaring what is useful, speaking words of thanks, forever south or north meeting some common sense and wisdom recited in song, not stingy with gifts, who for the sake of honor and excellence wants to raise up the lawful judgement of the people, to demonstrate earl-ship (nobility)." He says, Sceal þeodna gehwylc þeawum lifgan, "Every leader of a people must live in adherence to the rules of right conduct (or the custom of good manners, or the traditional morals of service)." The leader sets the example with his or her good habits, setting the bar for others at a high level to reach for in their customs. Leaders should live exemplary lives.

Wherever you go throughout the whole, wide earth, you're going to find both good and evil, and you'll be able to find excellent and generous companions if you seek them out. Those with a poetic spirit are wyrded to wander throughout the many lands of humankind. They should give thanks where it is warranted, and speak up for those who are in dire straits. No matter where you go, you're always going to find some who know verses and tales filled with wisdom and common sense. You'll also find some who are generous, who demonstrate nobility, and who wish to establish righteous judgement for the people for the sake of both honor and excellence. No matter where you go, north or south.

These are the lessons Odr learned when he traveled throughout all the lands and nations of humankind. That he did so is in itself a powerful message and legacy : the poetic soul may be found in all nations, and where you can find it, you will find it singing songs of wisdom, thanksgiving, and common sense, speaking up for the poor, and establishing fair and honorable judgements for the folk. oþþæt eal scæceð,leoht ond lif somod; lof se gewyrceð,hafað under heofonum heahfæstne dom, "Until (or "even when") all departs, light and life together, he who has earned praise (from these merits) has under the heavens the most lofty and lasting of judgements." Heahfæstne, "the most enduring" of judgements is the one passed on the dead ; those, of whatever nation, who achieve praise through acts of nobility and excellence, shall have that praise endure forever. A noble and generous, broad and tolerant sentiment. No mention of special religious or ethnic qualifications. Whomever carries out these good deeds of excellence, to such a person is guaranteed everlasting confirmation of the praise they have or should have received in life.

If this is so, without need for religious or ethnic qualification, then how much we each have to learn from all peoples. Every human has the gift of odr. The imaginative, poetic soul unites us all, even though it expresses itself in different forms of song the world over. Humanity is humanity no matter where you are. You will always find a mixture of good and evil, but if you look, you should always be able to find good and generous companions. You should be able to find, peering into the many exotic imaginative forms of folk literature throughout the world, songs of wisdom to bring you inspiration, provoke thought, and set you out on your own quests. The wisdom you glean you can bring back home to benefit your own folk.

My nation or tribe consists of my tunge-sibb, my speech-brothers who speak my language and know my idiom, but there is no human being, nor any living wight, who is not my eard-sibb, earth-brother, for we are all descendants of Ask and Embla, no matter what names are given to that primordial couple, and that we are meant to remember our common ancestry and primal unity is assured by the fact that Mannaz, "humanity", is one of the runes, the primal mysteries. The Icelandic Rune Poem says that Maðr es moldar auki, "Men are the offspring of the earth." That makes us all brothers. Our very word game comes from the word gaman, and means joy, pleasure, mirth, and sport. Geman means "to care for" and "give regard to", while ge-man or ge-mana itself literally is the intensive form of "man" and means "fellowship", "intercourse", "exchange".

The brothers of the earth are meant to care for each other, respect each other, find mirth and joy in each other, play together, and exchange fellowship. How do we know this? Because of what Voluspa 45 has to say about the most terrible state of affairs in the Axe-Age that presages the coming of Ragnarok : man engi maðr öðrum þyrma, "No man shows respect or mercy to other men." Þyrma is a strong legal and religious term that has the connotation of dealing reverently with another. Why deal reverently with another? Because all people contain the gifts of the Gods within them : ond, spirit, odr, soulful imagination, and la and litr, blood and the shape of the Gods. Divine gifts, and those carrying them, ought to be treated reverently. This does not mean, obviously, bowing down and worshipping others. It means not taking their life flippantly.

Ethnic separatism and ethnic division are products of Loki and Gullveig, not the Gods. Atta ek jöfrum, en aldri sættak, "I set leaders of nations at each other's throats, and never helped them find peace", Loki brags. Heid seið hon hugleikin, "bewitches by deluding and confusing the hearts" of illrar þeódar, "nations gone bad". Since she was the cause of fólkvíg fyrst í heimi, "the first war between peoples in the world", she must have confused the hearts of nations gone bad in the same way Loki brags, by emphasizing factions and divisions. That is not the wish of the Gods. Odin says, Maðr er manns gaman, "Man is the joy of men", in other words : Humans were meant to share the joys of fellowship with each other.

The Teutonic rite of passage into adulthood is the going out into the world to seek one's fortune. Havamal is the guide to that ritual outgoing, where one invokes the laws of hospitality to lodge and learn about others. Here it is not one's wealth or class which makes the biggest difference, but one's ability to relate to others as fellow human beings. The viking levels the playing field between the poor and the rich. Havamal 10, Byrði betri berr-at maðr brautu at en sé mannvit mikit;

auði betra þykkir þat í ókunnum stað; slíkt er válaðs vera, "A better burden a man cannot carry on the road than mighty street-smarts about human nature ; better than riches is thought that in unknown steads ; such is the comfort of the destitute in his sojourns." (Vera can mean "comfort" or "sojourn", and probably means both in this context.) Mannvit, "understanding of humanity". That these sojourns were meant to expose one to the fellowship of more than one's tribe is guaranteed not only by the fact that Odr himself travelled widely, but more importantly, that the law of hospitality which governs the going out into the world is said by Tacitus to apply to all mortalium, "mortal men", and Notum ignotumque quantum ad ius hospitis nemo discernit, "Nobody distinguishes between acquaintances and strangers when it comes to this law of hospitality." (Germania 21).

We become mature by shedding our parochiality. This does not mean that we lose our affection for our homeland, or our patriotism towards our own language-fellows and kinsmen. It means there's a lot to learn in connecting with different peoples, and it helps us grow up.

After all, doesn't he who limits his intercourse to those solely of his own tribe prove himself to be a heimsk, which is to say, "a foolish homebody"? Brethren of the Earth, awaken.

All translations copyright 2009 by Siegfried Goodfellow

Working Within A Community

Working within a community means listening to the voices. It doesn't mean conformity to them, but it means taking them into account and consideration, weaving them into your own thoughts, and responding to them. Working within a tradition expands the range of the community to the ancestors, to the voices that have become before us, recorded in oral history, in written history, and even through prophetic insights, insights that can be gained through sitting-out, meditating, and feeling the ancestors speak up through the rocks, through the earth, and through the bones.

It's a whole different way of thinking than just thinking in terms of how you, as an individual, think about things, and it's also very different than just being a people-pleaser and capitulating to the average of what everyone else. It means to go deep, to be polyvocal, to really be listening to the many voices of worth and responding to them, out of respect, out of a desire to not be aggressive and impose one's own way, but to be present to the many different ways that make up a community, and acknowledge those different ways.

Even in the midst of critique, to be fair, and have good faith towards those voices spoken in good faith that are different than our own. Where positions and practices have a leaning towards ill, or a potential for ill, we can speak of that, but we still must be rigorous with ourselves to be fair, and to have good faith towards those positions, by imagining ourselves within them, and then imagine the best within them. Then from that position, of imagining ourselves within the best of the voices within the community that we are critiquing, being able to assess from an internal standpoint what the gap is between the best within that particular position and what's actually being posited.

This fairness to a large degree is really what Baldur represents --- being true to the whole breadth of the community, not imagining through the eyes of slander and through the eyes of pain, but with good credit, extending benefit of the doubt. Many imagine that Baldur is a kind of weak, bleeding heart. It's not a matter of being a bleeding heart. Baldur's boldness is about being broad-hearted, and that's strong!

In a heathen context, tradition is not about having to find a precise precedent for everything, in which everything is rule-bound, and you have to be able to point to a precise rule that allows you to do anything. That's a legalistically-regulated via positiva. Heathenism here is more like a via-negativa ; there are a few things you shouldn't do, and as long as you observe those, you are free to do as you wish. In that regard, religion is a matrix of practices and principles, and a ritual context that gathers all of the different recipes that can be made from that large and ample menu.

The Terrible Clock of Degeneration

Time runs on, tick-tock-terrible, the clock of degeneration, treatment of person by person in dehumanizing rhetoric; a world which once near universally wept tears for the loss of fairness and clemency now shrugs at massacres or even mocks. When ends this sorcery of strife and division driven by ill powers now-near mass-worshipped in thousands of masquerades, other gods or causes masks for Hrimnir's children's mischief? Witness the pitiless brag : "Var ek á Vallandi ok vígum fylgðak, atta ek jöfrum, en aldri sættak;" (Hárbarðsljóð 24), "I was in the land of slaughter and supporting warfare, egging on warriors to fight, and never reconciling them." Loki is proud of his incitements to strife,and takes glee from those he can divide so that they are never reconciled. But this follows from his basic philosophy : "Þat hafr eik, er af annarri skefr, of sik er hverr í slíku." (Hárbarðsljóð 22), "An oak has that which is scraped off another, so it is every man for himself." Since an oak can stand in for a person, he's basically shrugging and saying, "One man's loss is another man's gain," invoking a zero-sum approach where for one person to prosper, another must be stripped and robbed. He wills a world where it's every man for himself, instead of men working together. Thor tells him, "Illum huga launaðir þú þá góðar gjafar," (Hárbarðsljóð 21), "You repaid good gifts with a wicked heart." This seems abominable to him. Of course! Thor is fighting for the good of the world!

Atta ek jöfrum, en aldri sættak can also mean "I set kings-of-nations at each other's throats, and never made peace amongst them." The strife between nations has been egged on by Loki. These are words the wise ought ponder when they consider all the ethnic strife in the world.

Jöll ok áfu færi ek ása sonum, ok blend ek þeim svá meini mjöð, (Lokasenna 3) "I bring strife and quarrels to the sons of the Aesir, and so I blend harm into their mead." Eldir confirms that Loki brings hrópi ok rógi, "slander and strife". The Gods in this poem are in sumbl, the sacred round of toasts meant to lock together their luck in solidarity, and to blend their hearts together in good will with powerful, even magical, words of blessing. For Loki to enter in and mix strife into these draughts of wisdom and unity is like walking into a church, insulting everyone with foul and vulgar language, and then trying to stir up old factions against each other. In other words, it's one of the most wicked and spiteful things one could imagine : here, where things are most holy, here where quarrels are to be put aside and reconciled so hearts may come together, he wills division and slander. Bragi accuses Loki of ásum öfund of gjaldir (Lokasenna 12), "repaying the Gods with hateful envy and malice." Just as Thor had said to him, "You repay good gifts with a wicked heart."

If Loki has the nerve to attempt this kind of malice and stirring-of-envy amongst the holy Gods, in their most sacred of rituals, imagine what he may accomplish amongst men, who are not as strong nor wholesome as the Gods!

In Lokasenna 15, Loki has interesting words for Bragi, almost an ill-spell : vega þú gakk, ef þú vreiðr séir, hyggsk vætr hvatr fyrir, "Come on and fight, if thou art wrathful, an active man does not hesitate." So it seems on its face, but Loki also speaks truth here, as hyggsk vætr hvatr fyrir can also mean, "a rash man does not think ahead." Think not of the consequences ; go ahead and fight if you're angry! One almost thinks of Emperor Palpatine from the Star Wars trilogy here : "Your anger has made you powerful! Strike me down!" Loki doesn't want us to think of the consequences, but to follow our anger into whatever kind of slaughter and warfare it leads.

Idunn, who brings rejuvenation to those who have grown weary with age, and is the harbinger of Spring's Return, says in Lokasenna 18, vilk-at ek at it vreiðir vegizk, "I do not will wrathful fighting". It is against her nature and her powers. If we would be young, we would not follow anger into useless slaughter and conflict.

Loki believes that Mother Earth is dead. dauð, hygg ek, at þín móðir sé (Hárbarðsljóð 4), "dead, believe I, is thy mother", he says to Thor, whose mother is Jord. Thor says (next verse) that that hverjum þykkir mest at vita, "is against what every person can sense with their own eyes." Totally contrary to what everyone knows. Most people know this isn't true. The earth sprouts and gives forth ; of course she is alive! Yet Loki has no faith in the living earth, and thinks of her as a dead rock.

While Thor counts up his deeds of worth, destroying giants who had brought great winters, and saving mankind from being overrun with monsters, Loki brags about such things as "fimm vetr alla í ey þeiri, er Algrœn heitir; vega vér þar knáttum ok val fella, margs at freista, mans at kosta," (Hárbarðsljóð 16), Spending "five years on that island called "All Green" (ie., earth), where we were able to smite and slaughter, trying many and tempting men." Var ek með Fjölvari, "I was there with Full-of-Foreboding", a clear heiti for Angrboda, who forebodes ill. Mans at kosta can also mean "fall in love", which would indicate that the two of them fell in love as they were tempting many and causing strife and slaughter, an admittedly beautiful romantic beginning. Since Angrboda and Loki had the three monsters together, here is the context out of which they were born : strife, slaughter, and men falling to temptation.

Thor knows who Loki is talking about, and what came out of that love affair, and so he asks, Hversu snúnuðu yðr konur yðrar? "And how did your woman reward you?"

In Hárbarðsljóð 18, Loki answers, þær ór sandi síma undu, ok ór dali djúpum grund of grófu; "They wove cords (or rope) out of sand, and dug the ground out of the deep dales." Weaving a cord out of sand, which lies upon the sea-shore, may very well be his way of saying that they birthed Jormungandr at this time, who as a sea-serpent might very well be described as a rope of the seashore. As far as digging the ground down into the deep dales (which in itself alludes to Surt's deep dales), this is probably a reference to Gróttasongr 11 and 12, where Fenja and Menja boast, fœrðum sjalfar setberg ór stað. Veltum grjóti of garð risa, svá at fold fyrir fór skjalfandi; svá slöngðum vit snúðga-steini, höfga-halli, at halir tóku, "We removed the sitting-rock ourselves out of where it stood. We wheeled the millstone over the courtyard of the giants, so that the entire earth shook ; so we slung the stone-of-profit [although in this context, it can also have the connotation of "the twirling stone", referring both to its motion as they hurled it, as well as the fact that the mill-stone was turned about], the heavy, enormous stone, so men might catch it." These mountain-giant maids had dug the mill-stone of the World Mill out of its posts, and rolled it along the ground so the world was shaken by terrible earthquakes, and then hurled the stone so that it landed on top of men. Such an impact would leave a terrific crater, which may also be alluded to by the Loki's reference to digging the ground into the deep dales themselves. In any case, they would have to have dug deep to get underneath the millstone enough to hurl it as they did.

Loki brags, varð ek þeim einn öllum efri at ráðum, (Hárbarðsljóð 18) "I alone was the foremost in advising them" in these ill-deeds. Loki takes responsibility for the birth of the Midgard Serpent (as we already know), and also for earthquakes which shook the earth in the great Ice Age. This is ironic, as when he is finally bound, he shall then as well be the cause of great quakes. Loki then brags that afterwards, he slept with all seven giant-maidens who had brought this ill-deed about, as if to celebrate. He is proud of the fact that he has slept with unwise and burdensome women, when he states, ironically, Sparkar áttu vér konur, ef oss at spökum yrði; horskar áttu vér konur, ef oss hollar væri (Ibid); "Lively women we would have had, if our words had been gentle ; wise women we would have had, if we had been wholesome and faithful." But Loki isn't too concerned with being hollar, wholesome and faithful, now is he? So he settled for ill women of ill deeds.

Then he brags of vélta þær frá verum (Hárbarðsljóð 20), "wiling women from their husbands", a crime which Voluspa rewards with the places of punishment in Niflhel. Couples might consensually agree to whatever their hearts desired, but to intentionally seek to break up a household was to declare oneself an enemy to kindred.

But whence is the end of all this? Let us have Freya, the Goddess of Love, speak words of blessing and insight here. Freya says to Loki, in Lokasenna 31, Flá er þér tunga,hygg ek at þér fremr myni ógott of gala; reiðir ro þér æsir ok ásynjur, hryggr muntu heim fara, "Fraudulent is thy tongue, and I think that henceforth it shall enchant for you songs of misfortune ; the Gods and Goddesses are wrathful with you, mourning shall you fare home." In other words, in the end, all of your slander and strife is only going to bring you misfortune. It will rebound on you. Likewise, she says to Gullveig, "Orðheill þín skal engu ráða, þóttú, brúðr jötuns bölvi heitir," (Hyndluljóð 50), "Your omens shall guide nothing, Giant's Bride, although you threaten misfortune." Orðheill þín skal engu ráða can also mean, "Your curses shall come to naught." This is important, as Hyndla (the "bitch") has just prophesied Ragnarok, Hyr sé ek brenna, en hauðr loga, "Fire see I burning, and earth ablaze." Freya, Goddess of Love, is not worried. What does she know that we do not? As the ástaguð, the Goddess of Affection and Love, á hana er gott at heita til ásta, "whom it is good to call upon for love", she must have faith that in the end, love conquers all.

What powerful faith! When we look upon the world, with all its ethnic strife and endless oppression and slaughter, it is easy to grow cynical and take on the eyes of Angrboda, who is only able to see things burning, and come to live one's life by fear, and the greed which says, 'Well, if it's all going to end in flames, one might as well take everything one can now." The cynicism which says, "Every man for himself." Loki and Heid provide colorful, poignant, and humorous object-lessons on how not to behave.

But this is a traditional spirituality that steps out of the path of the world-age ruled by Loki and Angrboda, and does not look to them as guides. It looks to the Gods, who represent Wholesomeness and Goodness. And Love. Love is a powerful unifying force.

Do not think that the Love Freya brings is entirely sexual. It is not. Ásta is the deep love kin feel for each other, and yes, that can include the love husband and wife share, but it is also the love a mother has for her children, the love one has for close relatives, the affection you feel for a good father.

The Gods eject Loki from their sacred ceremony of unity, the sumbl. It is wise to not blend your luck with slanderers and strife-bearers. We do not have to join in the degeneration all around us. It is likely, yes, that many will continue to fall to temptation and degeneration, and feed the Wolf and the Serpent with their malicious deeds and slaughter, thus allowing them to grow bigger and bigger, and so one has to be careful in the Axe Age. And yet, despite that probability, such a future is by no means inevitable, for every deed of ours may feed the Holy Powers or the Powers of Muspell, those who spoil courage with fear and cynicism, and if enough people place deeds inspired by love and faith in love on the scales --- and a warrior may be devoted to love if he is a true warrior, indeed, if he or she is not to be a marauder --- we do not know that it may not make a difference. And that is a worthy gamble. Shouldn't we as heathens dare to make worthy gambles?

all translations copyright 2009 by Siegfried Goodfellow

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Some Christian Teachings From A Heathen Perspective

I would like to examine Jesus' ethical mandates from a heathen perspective that may provide a more grounded and moderate context, allowing us to turn them from extremisms into potentially useful guidelines, if used intelligently. It is, in fact, a worthy heathen project to reexamine Judaeo-Christian teachings from a heathen perspective, because heathenism always deals with things as they are, as they actually exist, and in our culture, we are steeped in Judaeo-Christian myths, and it can be helpful to reexamine these everyday myths and teachings from the unique perspective that heathenism gives. Indeed, for us to examine many of the myths, both religious and secular, that circulate in our society, is entirely appropriate from a heathen perspective, where all of the myths in society would be examined and looked at with a heathen eye to see where the Gods were present in them, and where the Gods were speaking through them, and what lessons could be drawn upon. It may sound foreign to ask where heathen Gods are working through foreign teachings, but it would not have been foreign to our ancestors who looked for wisdom whereever it could be found, and in that way demonstrated their broad tolerance and their love of wisdom in whatever form it may have come.

When Jesus says to sell all of one's movable possessions, and to give to the destitute, he's not speaking about just the poor, about people who have low income. The Greek word is ptochos, which means those who have become absolutely destitute.

If we invoke the heathen principle of scale, of social scale, we may understand that Jesus is speaking to each community, to each neighborhood, each kith. It is not saying that you have to take care of the destitute everywhere in the world, but rather that each kingdom, each neighborhood, each community should take care of its own destitute, so we're keeping things on a human scale. You aren't being required to take care of everyone, but rather that the community should be taking care of its own.

The principle that the community should be taking care of its own is a very old tribal notion that has been demonstrated by anthropologists many time to be consistent with the so-called "gentile" or clan organization of heathens everywhere. Indeed, this was also the principle of the ancient Israelites, and the fiery exhortations of the Old Testament prophets were often directed at those people who had forgotten the clan principles of mutual aid, and neglected to care for the widows and orphans. So if we think about this as speaking at the tribal level, at the community level, it may make more sense than thinking about having to care for the whole world.

Now, in this context, the idea of selling all one's goods to take care of the destitute -- Jesus here from a heathen perspective may be using a little bit of exaggeration to strike home a point, and that is, that it is a complete and utter shame that a community would even have destitute people. The fact that destitution exists at all is evidence of how far from the spirit of common charity and clan mutual-aid people have gotten. Certainly there may be people who are poor, who don't have a lot of money. That's not the Greek word that is used. The Greek word that is used is ptochos, absolute destitution, those who have been reduced to begging. Something has gone wrong with the entire system systematically if you have large numbers of destitute people. He's saying, in those circumstances, if that's the case, sell all of your goods and give to the destitute. Do everything you can to raise the destitute up from their destitute position, because it is a complete and utter shame, a stain, that they are even there. Something has gone tremendously wrong.

Now there may be an element here of a shaming custom. We must remember that the Irish have for a long time had a shaming custom of fasting upon someone's doorstep who had injured one, to shame them before the community into changing their behavior. Now if we think here that the king, or the leader of the community, was responsible for taking care of the common welfare, then if people indeed gave up and sold everything they owned in order to give to the destitute, this would constitute a shaming of the king or the leader. And the more rich and noble they were, the more of a shame it would be. Selling all their goods to help the destitute out would demonstrate the utter poverty and bankruptcy of the governmental policies of the leader or leaders.

The intent, then, would not be for everyone to impoverish themselves, but for a critical mass of people to engage in a kind of shaming ritual, which would spur the king or council to change their policies, to make sure that everyone's rights were being secured and that there weren't destitute, while at the same time distributing some help to those who were destitute. Again, we hold to the heathen principle of hof or moderation if we see this within the context of a single community rather than having to care about the destitute everywhere in the world.

Now that Jesus could not have intended for everyone to sell everything they had is implied in the very structure of what he asks his immediate disciples to do. He basically urges them to live like the ancient Greek Cynics who lived as beggars, and he tells them to sell everything they have, give it to the poor, and then to travel from town to town invoking the laws of hospitality, staying with those who would render hospitality, and sharing good news with them in exchange for temporary room and board as well as fellowship, and moving on, ad infinitum. The idea of skalds, poets, or priests to be engaged in visiting customs is quite in accord with heathenism. But it implies, of course, that there are a class of people who have kept their property, who have kept their food stores, who have kept their houses intact. Again, we must point out that when Jesus says "sell all your goods", it does seem apparent from the Greek that he is referring to Feoh, to chattel, to movable goods, and not necessarily to odal, or family homelands. Indeed, given how much Esau in the Bible was criticized for giving up his entire heritage for a bowl of lentils, it seems unlikely that Jesus would have advised people to give up their homelands, their very family property and heritage, which it was the job of the Jubilee custom to restore to each family.

There's another way to look at Jesus' statement about selling all that one owns and giving it to the poor, and that is to look at it through Essene eyes. Now the Essenes were a group of religious folk living in monastic communities in Israel who were widely known, and it's been argued over whether Jesus was an Essene or wasn't an Essene, but really, that doesn't matter, because if Jesus was a real, historical figure of that time, then he would have been steeped in a context rich with knowledge of the Essenes, in which case his language could properly be interpreted in that light ; and if Jesus was not a real historical figure but was in fact a mythical mascot who was created by a community of Jews and Gentiles living in the area who were in resistance to the Empire, and through their literate skills aimed at a synthesis between the Old Testament prophetic ideas of clan solidarity and the pagan figure of the resurrecting God of the Spring, they, too, being a community concerned with justice, and living in the area, would have called upon, and been familiar with the Essene ideas. So either way, the Essene context is an extremely strong attractor for interpreting the words of Jesus.

Now within the Essene context, they always refer to themselves as the poor. Now why did they do that? They did that because they themselves had given up all property individually, and had amalgamated it into their union, into their community, in which they then gained usufruct rights. They maintained their user rights, but it was the community as a whole that actually owned things. Through this, everyone was enriched, because the common pot was full of the riches everyone had given up, and was available to help anyone who needed it in the community. So selling everything you had to give it to the poor meant joining this kind of voluntary union and mutual-aid insurance policy, which is a very different thing than giving everything away to random strangers. It's a whole different way of organizing the community itself, in which the community can feed itself.

We come to the issue of scale again when we consider Jesus' missionary policies. Firstly, we find that he recommends his disciples to become like the old wandering philosophers and give up their possessions, and he tells them to go to towns, and then later on he tells them to go to the ethnos, the tribal peoples, the tribes of the entire world, and actually the word used there is kosmos, a Greek word which is basically coeval with the Empire. Whereever there is Empire, whereever the fundamental rights have been overthrown through tyranny, go town to town, tribe to tribe, and teach the good news.

Since Jesus himself says I have not come to abrogate the old customary laws or the prophets, but to fulfill them, we may assume that this was the philosophy behind the missionary work as well. Thus, the good news or message which would have been brought from town to town, and then from tribe to tribe, would have been : restore the old customs which have become corrupted through time and through Empire. This renewal from within is, of course, very different than the imperialistically imposed missionaries that have characterized, with great misfortune, the history of the Christian Church. The good news is, restore your old customs so that no one is destitute, so that you can take care of your own, and that, in the end, is a very heathen notion.

For most people, take care of your own in your own communities, and leave it at that, but for those who have a more noble sense, wanting to take on more responsibility, go out, stay in people's homes through hospitality, and teach the good news.

In other words, each community is responsible for itself, but those who want to go above and beyond the call of duty, who feel a certain pull of higher responsibility, may visit neighboring communities and remind them to take care of their own. So if the world is filled with the destitute, if the world is filled with peoples who have forgotten the old ways of caring for each other, then go as an ambassador of this good news, of the freedom, peace, and prosperity that Frodi brings, and deliver it to the nations so that they might, from within, liberate themselves. A very different concept than anything we're familiar with. But ultimately, a very Dionysian one, and quite in accord with Frodi's "conquests" of all the known world with restoration of rights and peace in that great age known as Frodi's Frith.

Heathen Considerations On Charity

Hjalp heitir eitt, en þat þér hjalpa mun við sökum ok sorgum ok sútum görvöllum. (Havamal 146) “Help is the name of the first, for that will help thee against harm and sorrow and prepare you against grief and sickness.”

Help is the very first of the rune-songs meant to help out humankind. This underlines the importance Odin gives to us helping each other out. Many have pointed out that the first rune in the rune-set is Feoh, and have thus suggested the implication that help may be rendered through money or resources. This brings us squarely into the realm of charity, but we ought to remember that help comes in many forms, not just money, and that in Havamal, Odin repeatedly advises everyone to provision and prepare themselves in a spirit of self-reliance.

I was at the bookstore the other day, and ran across Peter Singer's The Life You Can Save: Acting Now To End World Poverty. I think such questions are immensely important, and besides, Singer has won a good name for himself as an ethical philosopher with his important book Animal Liberation, and so I wanted to see what he had to say. I flipped through the book, and a particular section caught my eye, where he said something to the effect of, and I'm paraphrasing here, "If everyone were to give $200 a year, we could effectively end world poverty". This was a bold if inspiring claim, and so I thought, I should check this out more. Rather than buy the book then, I decided I would see what he had to say about it online later when I got home. I like the idea of giving $200 a year, because it seemed a reasonable amount one might ask from people, and I like things that combine ambition and pragmatism.

Later on, I was able to find an article online in The New York Times Magazine ( entitled "The Singer Solution To World Poverty", where he discusses his ideas in greater depth. There he reveals that $ 200 can save a starving child's life in a third world country. That felt good ; yes, if everyone contributed that much per year, we could indeed save a lot of children. But as Singer points out, not "everyone" is going to give, and so he suggests that those of us who are willing ought to give more. Well, ok, but how much more? Singer actually goes so far as to suggest that every household ought to calculate its minimum needs, and then donate everything in their income that exceeds that. I was stunned. Can he be serious? The implication was that any enjoyments above pure necessity made one actually culpable for those children's deaths, and this felt to me like a hard rule. Granted, Singer actually "allows" us in his calculations our homes and bare necessities, but it was the closest thing I'd read in a long time to the Galilean's advice to "sell everything you have and give it to the poor."

Jesus, in Luke 18 : 22, says, ἔτι ἕν σοι λείπει· πάντα ὅσα ἔχεις πώλησον καὶ διάδος πτωχοῖς, "Yet lackest thou one thing : sell all that thou hast (ἔχω echō : to hold in the hand, chattels, Feoh. No indication of Odal) and distribute it amongst the destitute (πτωχός ptōchos, beggars, the homeless)," and commands in Matthew 19 : 21, ὕπαγε πώλησόν σου τὰ ὑπάρχοντα καὶ δὸς πτωχοῖς, "Go, sell what you have (ὑπάρχοντα hyparchonta, often translated as "goods" or "wealth", and still within Feoh's orbit), and give to the destitute," and again in Luke 12 : 33 exhorts, Πωλήσατε τὰ ὑπάρχοντα ὑμῶν καὶ δότε ἐλεημοσύνην, "Sell your goods (ὑπάρχοντα hyparchonta) and give alms (ἐλεημοσύνη eleēmosynē, mercy, pity, alms, charity.)

Now if I'm correct and Jesus is referring here to Feoh, chattels, and not Odal, the home and family lands, then contrary to the extremely harsh and strict command this has generally been interpreted to be, Jesus is not advising that people sell their houses and lands, but only their movable goods. Here Singer's position and the Galilean's are very close, except that Singer doesn't advise that one is obligated to sell πάντα, panta, "all" of one's goods --- just those above bare necessity.

All of one's goods? All of one's goods above bare necessity? I see no indication that Singer is making any distinction whatsoever between "necessary comforts" and "unnecessary luxuries". Sure, if you have an ipod already, you probably don't need for yourself another one on top of it simply because it's a cool, new color. Our own ancestors critiqued people getting trapped by excessive comfort and luxury (one can find many such examples by heroes in Saxo), and greed, which is excessive material desire, is most definitely critiqued. But greed is desire for more than one's share, what goes beyond good proportion and necessary comforts. And what is necessary may differ from person to person. A scholar may genuinely have a need, to fulfill his or her wyrd, for many books, and if the intent is to benefit his or her community with the work, does this not also have an element of service*? Certainly Odin wants us to expand our minds, and Frey and Freya don't seem to mind us enjoying ourselves in good proportion, and Njord welcomes a good hoard of wealth for one's family to enjoy.

But there is no doubt that we are warned against greed, against excessive materialistic hoarding that divides the community. But Singer's strict tone was raising some troubling questions for me. Particularly the idea that it is not just laudable for me to help people on the other side of the world, but that I have an obligation to do so that is so stringent that I am culpable for their fate and fortune if I do not.

I wanted to think about this from a heathen perspective, and provocative statements provide just that kind of stirring that Odin wants us to riddle and struggle through to reach enlightenment, so I was willing to throw myself into the dilemma and ask some important, nagging questions. Are we culpable for the fates of people on the other side of the world whom we have never met? Are we allowed no material comforts of our own? Must we give everything beyond pure necessities away to the unfortunate? Are we obligated to go out of our way in yielding help? What is the heathen perspective on charity?

When we begin to examine the question of charity from a heathen perspective, we have to start on the right foot. In all things, Odin advises us to have manvitts, street-smarts, common sense. "No better burden" can we carry, in fact. Common sense suggests that we exercise wariness, examine (freista) things carefully, and utilize hóf or moderation when we are considering any proposition or venture, no matter what it might be. This must be our beginning point. No matter where we are venturing, we must keep our eyes about us, because we never know where unfriendly traps may or snags may lie. Gáttir allar áðr gangi fram um skoðask skyli, um skyggnast skyli, því at óvíst er at vita hvar óvinir sitja á fleti fyrir, (Havamal 1) "One should look around and examine all doorways before going forward, because you never know for sure where unfriends sit on the benches." On its face, Havamal 1 is speaking literally about people who are not friends, but deeper it is speaking about the possibility of unfriendly ambushes. Before taking on any venture, examine it very, very closely and look around, because there are ideological traps that can become embedded in ways of thinking by those with whom one would not necessarily become friends.

So we begin from this standpoint, from this axiomatic orientation, that we are going to exercise common sense, street-smarts, a measure of moderation, and careful examination of any propositions put before us.

The question of charity is the question of care for the community. There is no doubt that ancient heathen society cared about the community. The entire purpose of the Assembly or Thing is to decide on matters of import in the community, and to ensure that no one's rights are being stepped on. At the local Assembly were representatives from all the families who lived in the area, so this was not a concern that was confined to one's own kin. It was a concern that stretched out to one's kith. The Anglo-Saxon cýþþ referred to one's native country and homeland. More fundamentally, it means those people who are known through actual acquaintance, as it comes from cunnan, to know. It is those people who are manifest before your eyes in your actual affairs in going about the world. This is made plain by the inflected word cýðere, which literally means a "witness". These two parameters help us properly define and delimit kith : on the one hand, those of one's homeland, on the other hand, those one may witness, even as a bystander or spectator, in the midst of one's everyday life. This confines kith to a regional or neighborhood basis, and gives us an idea of the scale of social circles or kingdoms in ancient times.

At the Assembly, we come to discuss matters of concern for one's kith, with one's kith. Matters of administration and rights, fairness and neighborliness were brought up, and people were expected to stay informed about these things, and to be involved in community matters. There is no doubt that the vel-ferð ("well-doing") or welfare of the community was one of the issues. It was definitely something leaders were supposed to attend to, as we know that in worst-case scenarios, kings could be killed for not maintaining peace and prosperity within the kingdom. This is very clear in Ynglingasaga.

Ynglingasaga 15 : Dómaldi ... Á hans dögum gerðist í Svíþjóð sultur og seyra ...Þá áttu höfðingjar ráðagerð sína og kom það ásamt með þeim að hallærið mundi standa af Dómalda konungi þeirra og það með að þeir skyldu honum blóta til árs sér, "Domaldi ... in his days starvation and sour, foul famine were prepared in Sweden ... Then all the head men took counsel amongst themselves and all agreed together that the declining-seasons (famine, downward turn in fruitfulness and abundance) had been caused by Domaldi their king and that they must sacrifice him to obtain good harvests." There was dearth in the land afflicting many, and everyone came together in counsel out of concern for this, and it was determined that the king was responsible, and must pay the ultimate penalty, being given to the Gods because obviously he hadn't been doing their duty to them. Snorri uses very specific words here. The famine and starvation had been gerðist, "made", "prepared", "created" in Domaldi's days. This wasn't a chance happening. It was something that could have been prevented through good administration. The Irish Potato Famine comes to mind. If more varieties of potatos had been encouraged for cultivation, no one disease could have wiped out all crops, but far more significantly, and beyond this, even had most of the potatoes died off as they did, it was political policies that set the groundwork for the starvation that followed, which easily could have been prevented. We read Ynglingasaga 15 with naive eyes if we think our ancestors here were being merely superstitious and engaging in magical thinking without also seeing that there was a definitive political condemnation happening here as well. The verse from Þjóðólfur's Ynglingital that Snorri quotes clarifies this : og landher á lífs vanan dreyrug vopn Dómalda bar, þá er árgjörn Jóta dólgi Svía kind um sóa skyldi, "and the land-warriors, in the hope of saving their lives, carried Domaldi to be bloodied by their weapons, when, yearning for abundance, the Swedish kin were obligated to sacrifice the foe of the Jotnar (often translated "Jutes", but in old heathen poetry, often equivalent to jotnar)." The king was supposed to be the foe of the giants who brought barrenness and cold with them, not their friend! They were forced (skyldi) to destroy him á lífs vanan, in the hopes of saving their lives! This was how much they yearned for fruitfulness to return. It is clear that the general welfare was a key concern of the Assemblies, and that the king was supposed to design good policies to facilitate this.

We have another example of this in Ynglingasaga 43 : að landið fékk eigi borið. Gerðist þar hallæri mikið og sultur. Kenndu þeir það konungi sínum, svo sem Svíar eru vanir að kenna konungi bæði ár og hallæri, "...the land could neither suffer nor bear them. A mighty famine and starvation was created. They attributed this to their king, as the Swedes were accusomted to attribute to their king the bettering of abundance and good seasons or famine." Ólafur konungur var lítill blótmaður. Það líkaði Svíum illa og þótti þaðan mundu standa hallærið. Drógu Svíar þá her saman, gerðu för að Ólafi konungi og tóku hús á honum og brenndu hann inni og gáfu hann Óðni og blétu honum til árs sér, "King Olaf was a paltry giver-of-feasts. The Swedes liked that ill and thought that that was the reason for the famine. The Swedes then drew together an army and made an expedition upon King Olaf and seized him in his house and burned him in it and gave him to Odin and sacrificed him to obtain good seasons." Afterwards, however, Þeir er vitrari voru af Svíum fundu þá að það olli hallærinu að mannfólkið var meira en landið mætti bera en konungur hafði engu um valdið, "Those who were wisest amongst the Swedes found that all of the famine was caused by more menfolk than the land could bear and that the king had not been responsible for this." He had not valdið "wielded" this, this had not been due to his policies. This is an important qualification here. The prior assumption had been that due to the king's policies, things had gone badly, and thus he was held responsible. However, it was vindicated when the wisest in Sweden determined through investigation that the carrying-capacity of the land had been violated. Thus we learn that the Swedes were concerned about carrying-capacity as well as royal policies that affected abundance in the land.

These examples suffice to show that the general welfare was in fact the concern of the the people collectively, as a matter of policy and administration, indicating that collectively the people were expected to attend to such matters, which makes the most sense, because if you handle things well on the level of general policy, good welfare in general will be the result. Furthermore, it is silly to hold individuals responsible for poor welfare which is the result of bad policies, unless they were directly responsible for those policies themselves. The general rule seems to be, collectively, in council follow that rede or good rule and advice that fosters a good economy that takes care of the general welfare such that there is neither famine nor starvation. This doesn't mean that everyone has to have equal fortunes, but general policy should not result in such bad administration and rules that allow people to be starving in the streets.

When we examine the behavior of the folk in these stories from Ynglingasaga, we have to realize that they are behaving in accordance with traditional expectations about the king's duties. The king was expected to help out those in need by drawing upon his funds, which came from four different sources : voluntary, regular contributions from the folk, a dividend from wergild fines in criminal cases, tribute from thralls working on his demesne, and any funds won in warfare, whether through direct seizure of enemy assets, or rewards from allies. This is made very clear in Tacitus' Germania :

Germania 15 : Mos est civitatibus ultro ac viritim conferre principibus vel armentorum vel frugum, quod pro honore acceptum etiam necessitatibus subvenit, "It is the custom of the community to voluntarily and individually bring together to their leader herds and crops, which is accepted as a mark of honor and also to assist in their needs."

Germania 12 : Pars multae regi vel civitati, pars ipsi, qui vindicatur, vel propinquis eius exsolvitur, "Part of the fine is paid to the king or community, part to he who has won the case or the relatives."

Germania 25 : Frumenti modum dominus aut pecoris aut vestis ut colono iniungit, et servus hactenus paret, "The lord requires of him as a tenant-farmer a measure of grain, cattle, or cloth, and to this extent does the thrall submit." Suam quisque sedem, suos penates regit, "Each has his own habitation or settlement, and each rule their own household." (Although here we must make the note that suos penates regit can also mean, "Each are guided by their own household gods", in other words, their hamingja.)

Germania 14 : Materia munificentiae per bella et raptus, "The means for this bountifulness and liberality is through warfare and forfeiture."

The king's hall especially was meant to be a refuge of hospitality (as Robin Hood puts it, a habitation for the oppressed, where they may receive peace and rest), and a king who abused the sacred law of hospitality became a niding. In Grimnisal, the king Geirrod, seduced by false rumors, abuses a stranger who comes to his hall for hospitality, and Odin declares that through this criminal deed which Tacitus calls a nefas, a violation of divine law, the king has forfeited the help of Odin, all of the Einherjar, and his own disir as well. miklu ertu hnugginn,er þú ert mínu gengi, öllum Einherjum ok Óðins hylli (Grimnisal 51), "Greatly are you brought down, when thou art departed of all the Einherjar's and my, Odin's, grace and favour." Úfar ro dísir (Grimnisal 53), "Hostile are your disir". Odin is being very clear here : the law of hospitality is so sacred that the king who abuses it will not find a place amongst the Einheriar or Odin, nor even amongst his own family disir, who prepare homes for their kin in the sunny plains of Holy Hel, which means the only place remaining is that place reserved for nidings, cowardly, sadistic monsters, which is Niflhel.

Frigg accuses Geirrod of being a "meat-niding" who torments his guests by depriving them of food. Frigg segir: "Hann er matníðingr sá, at hann kvelr gesti sína, ef honum þykkja of margir koma." "Frigg said, "He is a meat-niding, who torments his own guests if he thinks that too many have arrived." The text comments that it was inn mesti hégómi, "the greatest slander" to declare that a konungr væri eigi matgóðr, "king was not good in sharing out meals". But not only was this king not good in sharing out meals, but he actually would torture guests by letting them starve and pine away. Konungr lét hann pína ... ok setja milli elda tveggja, "The king let him pine (be punished/tortured) and set him between two fires" where the guest was burned. The guest complains, Átta nætr sat ek milli elda hér, svá at mér manngi mat né bauð (Grimnisal 2), "Eight nights I have sat here between the fires, yet no one has offered me any food." Indeed King Geirrod is a matníðingr, and since Odin is the guest here who has come to test this claim, Geirrod will be deprived of both his kingship and his life, as even his own sword turns against him and kills him. Odin exclaims, Fjölð ek þér sagðak, en þú fátt of mant (Grimnisal 52), "Much have I told thou, but little hast thou remembered," implying that Odin shared much wisdom, the most important of which was the treatment of guests.

Public policy, then, as guarded and advised by the king, certainly cannot violate the law of hospitality, which Odin lays out very clearly in the beginning strophes of Havamal, and as I have pointed out before, this charity is quite similar to the sine qua non that Jesus gives for Christians in Matthew 25 : 35. A guest ought to be given Elds .... ok ... Matar ok váða ...Vatns..., þerru ok þjóðlaðar, góðs of æðis ... orðs ok endrþögu (Havamal 3, 4) "A place by the fire and food and clothing, water, a towel and a hearty welcome from the folk, good manners, conversation and deep silence." Warmth, food, dry clothes, water and a towel, a hearty welcome, and good conversation, with good manners leaving the guest to his or her silence when needed. Germania 21, Quemcumque mortalium arcere tecto nefas habetur, "It is considered a violation of divine law to turn away any human from the protection of one's roof." Mortalium, any mortal, not just someone of one's own folk. To underline this, Tacitus says, Notum ignotumque quantum ad ius hospitis nemo discernit, "Nobody distinguishes between friends and strangers when it comes to this law of hospitality."

Such hospitality was required of all, but most especially the king. For most people, pro fortuna quisque apparatis epulis excipit...cum defecere (Germania 21), "provided food according to their wealth and were relieved when it ran short". At this time, they would be escorted to the next house where they would receive hospitality. According to Anglo-Saxon custom, this was a three day stay. Odin comments on this in Havamal 35, saying, Ganga skal, skal-a gestr vera ey í einum stað; ljúfur verðr leiðr, ef lengi sitr annars fletjum á, "A guest shall go forth, and should not be always in one stead ; the beloved becomes loathsome if he sits too long at another's benches." On the other hand, the king was expected to have greater resources.

But public policy is not confined to the law of hospitality which is required of everyone. The laws are also meant to serve other purposes, which Caesar defines quite well in his Gallic War, 6.22. The laws of the community are designed to ne latos fines parare studeant, potentioresque humiliores possessionibus expellant, "to prevent the strong and powerful from expelling the weak and poor from their property and possessions," ne qua oriatur pecuniae cupiditas, qua ex re factiones dissenssionesque nascuntur, "to prevent greed and usury of money and property to arise, for from this cause factions and discord are born", and finally ut animi aequitate plebem contineant, cum suas quisque opes cum potentissimis aequari videat, "to secure to the common people a spirit of justice and equity, since everyone can see that his own resources and wealth are equal to that of the strong and powerful." To sum up, protection of the rights of the weak against the strong, to prevent the social fragmentation that usury and greed wreak, and to secure the common folk equity, so that their own resources are equal to those who are more powerful.

This is a high standard of social justice, and it was effected through the jubilee-like custom amongst the Germanic folk of regular redistribution of agrarian land. On the tribal lands, at least in these pre-Roman and ur-Germanic times, every clan had its own land for habitations, in which families would build homes with yards, but these clan-lands were surrounded by arable lands, common pastures, and woodlots, which were themselves surrounded by great stretches of heath between neighboring tribes. The woodlots and pastures were held in common, with traditional rules regulating usage so they would not be over-harvested, and the arable lands were divided into strips that were annually assigned by lot. In this way, the variability of fertility amongst different areas of land would be distributed evenly amongst the folk. The idea was that if every family had its own land, and an equal access to the resources with which they could produce wealth, there would be general contentment and good welfare, despite minor differences and variations in wealth. Tacitus indicates that both the jarls and the thralls, the high and the low, were raised in the same environment ; while their wealth did differ, obviously, it was mainly the difference in honor, glory, responsibility, and privileges that were prominent.

When law secures the general welfare through enlightened and customary policies of social justice, there will seldom be a need for charity, because each man will be enabled to provide for himself. Charity is then extended to those who are having a difficult time or experiencing misfortune. The idea of permanent classes of unfortunates would have been foreign (for even thralls were assigned their own house and farmlands), and only the result of really bad administration and protection of rights. The reaction of the folk in Ynglingasaga to the famine that had been "prepared" was to attack the king, who should have been administering customary welfare policies. The focus of social welfare is tribal law and not individual charity.

This begs the question of what an individual's ethical obligation is in response to need. While everyone in a community collectively ought to see to the general welfare, what should be our response to need as individuals? Here Odin has some words of advice. Mikit eitt skal-a manni gefa; oft kaupir sér í litlu lof, með halfum hleif ok með höllu keri fékk ek mér félaga. (Havamal 52.) “A man does not have to give much ; often praise is bought for a little, with a half a loaf and with a tipped horn I have gotten me fellowship.” Lof, praise, may also be translated as "allowance" and more significantly, "good report". "Praise" here is not the best translation as it implies that one gives simply to get accolades from the individual who has received the gift, but "good report" demonstrates that there is acclaim and honor to be had from the community when they hear of someone who is giving. Skal-a, a man is "not obliged" to give much, which on the one hand sets a bound of expectation or moral obligation, but lof, laudability provides the other bound. There is obviously some expectation to demonstrate generosity in our affairs, as generosity is one of the most highly praised of Northern values, and indeed, to be expected most from the king ; but on the other hand, that an action may be laudable means it goes a little beyond expectation. In these matters, one should steer a middle course between the minimum expected and being laudable.

In Havamal 135, Odin advises, get þú váluðum vel, "treat well the beggars and destitute, those who have experienced woe". Those who are truly unfortunate should be treated well. However, discernment is still advised. Odin also says, Þagalt ok hugalt skyldi þjóðans barn ok vígdjarft vera (Havamal 15), "Discreet and carefully-charitable should every child of a tribal leader be, and daring in a fight." The key word here is hugalt, which has a meaning of "kind", "charitable", "attentive to the needs of others", but also "mindful", "attentive", "cautious", "contemplative", "meditative", and even further, "amiable" and "heartful". It is to be thoughtful in both senses of the word : to exercise consideration for the needs of others, but also to think things through carefully. It describes discerning giving. Friendly, kind charity exercised with discernment and caution.

A modern example will suffice. Should you give a handout to anyone who asks you for change? Of course, being hugalt, heartful, only you can decide in that moment, but also being careful and discerning (hugalt), you may want to ask whether the person in front of you is in genuine need or whether they are going to use your handout for drugs which will only reinforce their bad situation. Yes, we should be considerate towards the needs of others, but we should also exercise some street-smarts (manvitts). And we needn't impoverish ourselves in the giving ; Mikit eitt skal-a manni gefa, "a man is not obligated to give much". Sharing a little food and drink may suffice for the community to take notice of you as a caring person. Many people today exercise this quite literally, not giving change to someone in need, but offering to take them to get something to eat and drink at a nearby fast food establishment. This is definitely exercising that blend of caring and cautiousness advised by the Havamal.

I can find nowhere any obligation for a person or community to take care of the entire world. This would be not only patronizing, but aggressive in tone, and ancient heathens didn't like aggressive people who pushed their ways onto others. We do have a single mythic example of King Frodi bringing peace, prosperity, and lawfulness to the entire known world, but the mythic context of this must be assimilated in order to be understood. The entire purpose of this tremendous campaign was to free people in order that they might run their own affairs free of tyrants and thieves, who had universally taken over in a time of crisis. The mythological context is an invasion of giants, who, bringing barrenness with them as they always do, had invaded the lands of Midgard as the strong arms of tyrannical kings, most especially King Ermanerich, that infamous and widely hated king of old who received the worst insult a king could, being called "wolfish", which was the farthest attitude the king was supposed to show towards his people.

Moreover, Frodi's "conquest" of the many lands of the world to bring them fruitfulness and peace may be compared to the similar "conquests" of Osiris and Dionysos, which constitute legendary explanations for the spread of their worship and the arts they warded over : cultivation, tending of fruit, green harvests, etc. Frodi is the title of Freyr, and so the myth tells us that when Freyr rules, there is peace, prosperity, and security. Boiled down to its essence, freedom brings peace, prosperity, and security.

In Wyrd Megin Thew, I demonstrated that this Frodi-saga exposited in Book Five of Saxo Grammaticus' History of the Danes is coeval in the mythic epic with the Robin Hood legends, which demonstrate a hero of disenfranchised yeomen helping them recover their freedom and odal-rights from tyrants and their henchmen through a kind of grassroots guerilla warfare conducted from the safety of the forests. Robin and Frodi here are doubles, as the English people carried with them the legends found in similar but varied form in Denmark.

Robin is fighting for those classes who have been subject to systematic injustice by those who should have been the very guardians of common rights. In John Major's Historia Majoris Britanniae of 1521, we learn that Robin "spoiled of their goods those only that were wealthy. They took the life of no man, unless he either attacked them or offered resistance in defence of his property ... He would allow no woman to suffer injustice, nor would he spoil the poor, but rather enriched them from the plunder taken from the abbots." (Stephen Knight / Thomas Ohlgren, trs.) As we shall see, Major's take here is slightly inaccurate, because Robin is not attacking those who offer resistance in defence of property that belongs to them, but precisely property which does not belong to them which they have forcefully expropriated. In the Gest of Robyn Hode (c. 1400), Robin says, "But loke ye do no husbonde harme, / That tilleth with his ploughe. / No more ye shall no gode yeman / That walketh by grene wode shawe, / Ne no knyght ne no squyer / That wol be a gode felawe. / These bisshoppes and these archebishoppes, / Ye shall them bete and bynde ; / The hye sherif of Notyngham, / Hym holde ye in your mynde./ ... Be he erle, or ani baron, / Abbot, or ani knyght, / Bringhe hym to lodge to me ; / His dyner shall be dight," "But look that you do no harm to a peasant farmer who tills with his plough, nor a good yeoman (an odal-holder) that walks by the green wood forest, nor any knight or squire who would prove a good fellow (to us). These bishops and archbishops you shall beat and bind, and the high Sheriff of Nottingham, hold him too in your mind (for this treatment). Be he an earl or a baron, an abbot or a night, bring him to stay with me, and his dinner shall be ready." In this fight, Robin has the wide support from the populace. In the ballad Robin Hood and the Bishop, Robin appeals for help from an old wife in a little house by the forest, and she says, "If thou be Robin Hood ... / As thou doth seem to be, / I'le for thee provide, and thee I will hide, / From the Bishop and his company."

His goodness to the poor is widely attested. In the Gest he says, Of my good he shall have some,/ Yf he be a pore man. "Of my good he shall have some, if he be a poor man." To a knight who said, I holpe a pore yeman, / With wronge was put behynde, "I helped a poor yeoman who was downgraded through the violation of his rights", Robin replied, What man that helpeth a good yeman, / His frende than wyll I be, "What man helps a good yeoman, his friend I will be." In The Downfall of Robert, Earle of Huntington, the articles or rules of Robin's order of merry men are read aloud, which include, "...[Y]ou never shall the poore man wrong, Nor spare a priest, a usurer, or a clarke. ... Lastly, you shall defend with all your power, Maids, widowes, orphantss, and distressed men." The mention of maids and widows indicates that he was very supportive of women's rights. All wemen werschepyd he, "He honored all women," says the ballad Robin Hood and the Potter, in the lingo of the time where "werschepyd" meant "honor". The extent of this honor should be underlined by the fact that the connotation "worshipped" cannot be excised from this reading either. Like Frodi, who recognized and established into law the right for brides to choose their own husbands, in the ballad Robin Hood and Allin a Dale, Robin says, "The bride she shall chuse her own dear."

Later in The Downfall, a poor, old man who has been bereft of all good in the world seeks Robin Hood out in the forest because he has become renowned as "the poore mans patron". In the ballad Robin Hood's Golden Prize, amongst the oaths to join the order are, "The last oath you shall take, it is this, / Be charitable to the poor...". In the ballad A True Tale of Robin Hood, Robin's men are said to be "Feared of the rich, loved of the poore...".

The statement in the Gest is critical to understanding the situation here. In Saxo's telling, Frodi is fighting tyrants who have stolen from the people and defrauded them of their rights. (In Thidreks Saga, which is contemporary with Saxo's tale, we find under King Ermanerich's reign giants plundering people's farms and stealing goods from them.) In the Gest we find that Robin is helping out yeomen who have been impoverished and downgraded through the violation of their rights. Yeomen are those who held an odal estate, working farmlands that had been held in the family for generations. By being deprived of these homelands, they were disenfranchized and made poor. The middle-class, the carls, are being driven into thralldom by official thieves who lawlessly deprive them of their rights and prosperity. In the ballad Robin Hood's Fishing (Child Ballad # 148), Robin says, "And, with this gold, for the opprest / An habitation I will build, / Where they shall live in peace and rest.’" We are dealing with a situation of widespread oppression which Robin intends to correct by building for the oppressed a peaceful "habitation". This means not only housing, but more importantly, the restoration of the law of the land.

Pages and pages are dedicated in Saxo's exposition to the delineation of the laws that Frodi had to set down to correct these wrongs, and they set up strong penalties for this kind of embezzlement, theft, and fraud, restored odal rights through ensuring that forefathers were properly buried in the barrows from which odal rights were counted up, and reaffirmed the laws of hospitality that provided the normal level of charity for those in need. These included a law very similar to the custom in Alaska whereby people leave their cabins stocked in wintertime even when they are away so that if a passerby is hungry, they can come in and won't starve. However, they are not expected to eat their hosts out of house and home, and are entitled to take a meal's worth and no more.

Freyr is by his very nature a "grassroots" figure, and his revolutionary warfare is conducted through the proliferation of guilds dedicated to mutual aid. I have demonstrated elsewhere ( the military structure of the Calusari and other Morris-men type groups, which gives some festal texture to the nature of Frodi's armies. Thus, these guilds formed in each of these countries through rights of freedom of association (whether recognized or no), sustained themselves in wild areas through a combination of hunting, support from the larger populace, and posse comitatus style forfeiture of assets wrongfully expropriated by leaders from the people, and returning a good share to the folk themselves. The goal here is not so much "overturning" of the social order per se, as it is the overturning of a social order gone awry in order to restore the proper social order, which functions through lawful protection of rights and freedoms. The picture painted by Thidrek's Saga, the Robin Hood ballads, and Book Five of Saxo clearly demonstrates that the jarl-class has completely reneged on their obligations to defend the rights of the people, and indeed have invited in giants! For this treason they may be rightfully sacrificed, as we have seen with kings in Ynglingasaga, and the vacated noble titles may be given, as Frodi does, to those who fought to restore rights, and many of those were thralls whose bravery in defending the nation won themselves an earldom!

Frodi's grassroots uprisings speak to conditions where odal rights have been overturned, creating widespread poverty, and where usury has been introduced. Notice the rules of Robin's order mandated against the sparing of usurers, and here we might recall Germania 26 : Faenus agitare et in usuras extendere ignotum, "Pursuing usury and enlarging their increase through interest is unknown amongst them." Someone had introduced the uncustomary practice of usury, and this had to be stopped. One might notice that in the same set of rules, Robin's merry men are advised against sparing priests and clerics, and this leaves open the question of what they had done. Here, however, the gap is filled in once again by Saxo, who lets us know that during the time that Odin was exiled, Loki tricked people into thinking he had seized the godhood and required multiple sacrifices and offerings from them.

Mitothyn ... ipse fingendae divinitatis arripuit barbarasque mentes novis erroris tenebris circumfusas praestigiarum fama ad caerimonias suo nomini persolvendas adduxit. Hic deorum iram aut numinum violationem confusis permixtisque sacrificiis expiari negabat ideoque iis vota communiter nuncupari prohibebat, discreta superum cuique libamenta constituens.

"Mitothyn... himself made out to the barbarians that he had seized divine status, and surrounded their minds with dark ignorance, and new, extraordinary errors, persuading them through his infamous tricks to pay for ceremonies in his name, and taught that they must expiate these gods who were angry at the violation of their divine will through the blending and mixing of sacrifices, and therefore he prohibited and forbade them to call on them in common, establishing separate offerings to each of the Gods."

Religion, which was supposed to tie the community together, was being used to exact tribute and fleece the common person through the threat of divine wrath. The expensive indulgences, offered to expiate people's sins, that Martin Luther combatted, comes to mind.

We must also remember that the jarl class was the godi class ; in other words, their very nobility stemmed from the fact that they led the sacrifices which brought the whole community together in holiness. If they have overturned good and fair religion, they have forfeited their honors of nobility.

The great impoverishment of Ermanerich's time was brought about through expropriation of the odal rights along with the redistribution-customs that accompanied them, the introduction of usurious loans, and the introduction of exploitative and taxing religious practices. In other words, kings and jarls had become nidings, and themselves had overturned the customary and righteous social order through their acts of nidinghood. One might wonder whether either etymologically or homonymically "Nottingham" was once Niding-ham, which would make Robin's traditional foe the Shire Reeve of the Habitation of Nidings. In any case, it fits.

Under these circumstances of widespread political injustice, Frodi leads armies that travel from Scotland to England, England to Norway, Norway to Germany, Germany to Russia, liberating the folk from tyrants, robbers, and jotnar. It was not here a matter of providing charity, but rallying a fight for freedom.

Here we must look to what Tacitus has to tell us about the comitati or bands of adventurers amongst the Germani to see what customs would hold here.

Germania 14 : Si civitas, in qua orti sunt, longa pace et otio torpeat, plerique nobilium adulescentium petunt ultro eas nationes, quae tum bellum aliquod gerunt, quia et ingrata genti quies et facilius inter ancipitia clarescunt magnumque comitatum non nisi vi belloque tueare; exigunt enim principis sui liberalitate illum bellatorem equum, illam cruentam victricemque frameam, "If the communities in which they were born stagnate for too long in peace and quiet, a good many of the noble youth voluntarily aim to advance to nations who are carrying on war with someone, because rest is unpleasant to these people, and they may readily become famous through perils and danger in battle, and their huge retinues cannot be upheld except through force and warfare."

Germania 13 : Nec solum in sua gente cuique, sed apud finitimas quoque civitates id nomen, ea gloria est, "Nor is it only amongst their own people, but also amongst neighboring communities that they have their name and fame", which again implies that retinues were filled with bold youths from neighboring communities where adventure had stagnated.

When their own communities were at peace, some of the youth from the jarl class would volunteer their services to nations that were in the midst of conflict, but not only to win the glory that this help would bring, but to receive rewards as well. Thus a band of adventurers might receive help from neighboring tribesmen who wished to advance their own status.

At the advent of our first significant account of the Germani, in Caesar's Gallic Wars, we find the King of the Suebi tribe, Ariovistus (whose name, significantly with our theme of kings and hospitality, means "he who feeds the warriors"), in this precise position. Ariovistus was invited over by some Gallic tribes who had been involved in strife with their tribal neighbors. When we look at the whole picture, the resulting composite yields us the information that Ariovistus' men had been promised wide swathes of land in exchange for their help, but once they had rendered their aid, the Gallic tribes treacherously turned on them and attacked. Ariovistus' troops defeated them in battle, and claimed beyond the land they had already been promised, even more in recompense for the treacherous attack, and imposes tribute on those prisoners of war who were spared, securing hostages from them to insure payment of tribute. The Gallic tribes in response call upon Caesar's help, who demands that Ariovistus return the hostages, but Ariovistus refuses, telling Caesar he has no rights nor authority in this part of the world. He asks Caesar how he would like it if Ariovistus came and told the Romans how they should live their lives, and points out that according to the law of nations and the customs of war, they had won their rights to land and tribute fair and square, having been attacked and defeating their attackers.

This is prologue to provide context for Germanic customs of volunteering. Anyone might volunteer as a foreign mercenary adventurer who could win fame for helping other people out. The most famous example of this, of course, is Beowulf, who comes with his retainers to Denmark to help King Hrothgar against the foe who is devastating his hall and lands. This picture from Beowulf lets us see how Frodi's "wars" were conducted : revolutionary guilds formed in each country, supplemented by volunteer mercenaries from neighboring states.

To sum up, in the one loric example that can be found of extending liberality to the entire world beyond one's own kith and kingdom, this is neither obligatory nor is it mainly monetary at all, but rather voluntary and mercenary. One expected to be well-rewarded to help others win their freedom, for freedom is both expensive and worthwhile. It is freedom-fighting and not charity per se which was needed in this situation, because all laws and rights had been overturned, which must necessarily result in a general condition of poverty and dearth.

Each kingdom is expected to take care of its own, and if it loses its sovereignty through coup d'etat by a corrupted aristocracy, the people themselves must form guilds to protect their freedoms and expropriate what has been unrightfully taken from them. If the guilds of such a nation require aid, they may call upon voluntary mercenaries who are more than happy to provide help in exchange for good rewards when victory has been won.

Thus, within the kingdom, the Law Assembly and its King ought to ensure good policies that secure the general welfare, and vagaries of misfortune amongst one's kith ought to be met with careful but heartful giving, and hospitality ought to be extended to anyone who comes knocking on one's door, provided they behave with good and guestly manners,and do not overstay their welcome. As an individual, one is not required to give a lot, just some food and drink, which alone is laudatory. Of course, if one wants to go beyond that, as long as one doesn't bankrupt oneself or the resources for one's family's future, that could be laudatory as well, but hardly expected. The greatest help one can give a nation that has been systematically impoverished through poor public policy is to support their freedom fighters, so that the bad policy can be corrected and good welfare restored. If one wants to give a little here, one may, and if one wishes to win some fame and fortune, one can always volunteer for expeditions of liberation, as asked for by other communities.

Help comes in many forms, as we stated when this essay began. We are called upon to help those in our community without impoverishing ourselves, and we are called upon to use our rights of enfranchisement, of jury duty, and of bearing arms to defend the common law of the land which ensures the general welfare. Asking folks to impoverish themselves to help out those impoverished by bad or criminal welfare policies is illogical. Individuals ought to attend to individual woe when it is before them or when it knocks on their door, while it is the community at large that ought to tend to systematic troubles.

We must exercise both common sense and discernment when it comes to lending help. Stubborn folly and misfortune are not the same things. Those who habitually fail to be resourceful, and to prepare provisions for themselves in times of trouble, are not the same as victims of misfortune. This does not mean that we may not help them at all, but those who are victims of their own folly may be treated differently from those who are truly victims of misfortune outside their own control. Here we really ought to take to heart Ynglingasaga 43 : Þeir er vitrari voru af Svíum fundu þá að það olli hallærinu að mannfólkið var meira en landið mætti bera, "Those who were wisest amongst the Swedes found that all of the famine was caused by more menfolk than the land could bear". Attention to the carrying-capacity of the land is extremely important, and a part of being a responsible member of the community. The king Olaf Geirstadaalf tells his people, "Long has peace reigned in this kingdom and good harvests, but the population is now greater than the land can bear. ... A plague will come to the country from the east and cause many deaths." (quoted in Viktor Rydberg, au., William P. Reaves, tr., Investigations into Germanic Mythology, Vol. II, Part 2, iUniverse, New York, 2004, p. 66.) William Burke evinces an old English law that forbade marriage to anyone under a certain level of income, because marriage was an institution to provide for children, and without a certain minimum level of income and resources, children would not be able to be provided for, and would tax the resources of the royal welfare. Analogues to this English law can be found amongst the Scandinavians as well. Everyone must take population and carrying capacity very seriously, and one important way to help people is to remind them that the foremost duty of any would-be parent is to assess whether the resources exist (both materially and emotionally) to provide for that child. The old English and Scandinavian laws just referred to provide examples of the common law providing public policy that supports habits of self-reliance and appropriate population adjustment to carrying capacity of the land. Such habits ought to become customs. Self-reliance means that the first form of help is self-help ; then, if we cannot provide due to misfortune, we may call upon others and even the community itself for forms of mutual aid.

There is a middle ground between greed and martyrdom in the heathen way. There is a path of good proportion that followed rigorously can lead to good for many, and with vigilance, perhaps all. The heathen way calls upon us to give, but in good measure, and with thoughts of the happiness of our own families as well as the rest of our community. For those unfortunates outside our communities, we may lend aid from time to time out of the goodness of our hearts ("peace and goodwill towards men" is an authentic Yuletide ethic), but mainly we wish them well and may, if we are of a bold and heroic nature, lend them aid in restoring the freedom and rights of the land that will allow them to prosper.

After all, we are not to be our brother's father. We are called upon to help, and the heathen path offers good advice on how to do this well.

* For example, it took me six solid hours of work to produce this essay.

all translations (Greek, Latin, Icelandic, Old English) copyright 2009 by Siegfried Goodfellow