Friday, March 4, 2016

The Tribe

When the word TRIBE is mentioned many people, at least in the USA, seem to automatically think of the Native American tribes.  Some make think of the African tribes while a few may think of the indigenous tribes along the Amazon River fighting to save their home and environment from industrial encroachment.  But how many folks think of ancient Rome and tribal issues at the same time?  

Yes, Rome was made up of tribes (Tribius).  In ancient Roman tradition, Romulus created the first three tribes.  Many years later, a fellow named Servius Tullius established thirty new tribes that became known as the Comita Tributa.  All citizens belonged to a tribe and membership had its benefits.  

A citizen (member of any one of the tribes) was entitled to vote for magistrates and religious officials.  During the period of the Republic, there were certain judicial questions, referendums, and resolutions given over to the Comita Tributa (every citizen member of every tribe had the right to vote) for a ballot decision.  Unfortunately, during the period of Empire, the Comita Tributa lost most of its functions.  However, tribal enrollment was still an important feature of Roman citizenship.  But Rome was not the only European civilization to be made up of tribes.  The Germanic peoples had many.  

In Northwestern Europe, there were the Marcomanni, the Alamanni, the Franks, the Angles, the Jutes, and the Saxons.  In the Northeast, there were the Vandals, Gepids, Ostrogoths, and Visigoths.  And in the south, there were the Lombards and Burgundians.  These were the major tribes of later years; there were many more.  Students of history should recall Arminius, and how he rallied several Germanic tribes to defeat the Romans at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest.  And readers of the Eddas should remember the trick Frigga played on Wodan concerning the Lombards.  If interested, the history of the Saxons and Franks makes for good reading, if for nothing more than to see how smaller tribes were absorbed into a larger "confederation."  So, how and what makes a tribe?

First and foremost, a tribe is a social group that has a family as its starting point.  The family grows by extension - marriage (probably not as we understand marriage today) between families was, many centuries ago, a good starting point.  These unions included extended family and close friends; kinship.  In short order, we have  clan.  And several clans bound together by common purpose makes a tribe.  Admittedly, this is very simplistic.  But what else is there concerning tribes?  Quite a bit.

Tribes are not just a gaggle of people.  They share the same customs, beliefs (religious and social), goals, interests, and language.  Tribal members are bound together by some form of kinship, common ancestry, oath, and gift exchange.  And it is not unusual for a person from the outside, who has, over a period of time, exhibited an affinity with a tribe to be adopted by said tribe as one of their own (this was as true yesterday as it is is today).  In our post modern world, tribalism could answer some questions.

Modern tribalism or neotribalism as the sociologists refer to it, theorizes that we humans have evolved to the point where tribal living makes more sense as a viable alternative than mass society.  Here are their reasons.

Collected data over the past forty plus years shows frequent economic disruptions on the personal level contribute to the general breakdown of the current mass social structure.  An example of this is wages not keeping up with the cost of everything else.  Another is the uncertainty of employment and constant retraining for work that is not just uninteresting but paying less for more effort.   In our modern world many people spend the same time unemployed as they do employed.  And then we have many working two part time jobs to make ends meet.  Once upon a time in America, the last thing a hard working person had to concern himself with was his/her employment - if the job would be there tomorrow.

Mass media, this includes social media and the 24 hour news cycle, pushes people away from human needs.  Humans need family, friends, and community, in a true physical sense - something you can reach out and touch; it is difficult to get a warm and fuzzy feeling when you try to hug your computer and/or smart phone.  Mass media  does its best to convince  people that everyone can be an island onto himself/herself.  And what to think, buy, read, eat, drink, etc.  Think plain vanilla, mono-culture.  This is patently false.  Humans need other humans and relate better when they hold similar views, period.  Tribal relationships can give people what they need.

Asatru, the reconstructed folkway/religion of Northern Europe, is best expressed in tribal settings, commonly known as Kindreds.  Asatruars, sometimes called Heathens, may be members of a national organization like the Asatru Folk Assembly or the Troth but many find greater satisfaction as members of Kindreds.  Because - all that a tribal setting can offer can be had in the more local, regional group.   They are united in shared beliefs, customs, and goals - they can reach out and physically touch and support each  other.  These folks give a warm and fuzzy feeling to each other, something an on-line group cannot.  And to believe that some kind of on-line cyber group can replace a real, flesh and blood physical group is not just silly but foolhardy.

Finding life empty and almost lifeless?  Maybe you need to find a Tribe.  Or at the very least, give Asatru, the native folkway/religion/worldview of Northern Europe a look.

                                                      Copyright @2016 Terry Unger


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