Author's Note: In order to Avoid a possible issue with the original image, I took down the original post and re-posted with a "better" picture. Thank you for your understanding. Terry Unger.
Our elder ancestors held to a code of behavior that was as special as it was unique; the survival of family, clan, and tribe depended it it. There is a common thread that runs through that code, and in modern English we call it Frith. Unfortunately today we still have many referring to Frith simply as peace. It is more than that.
I will not attempt an exhausting definition/explanation on the meaning of Frith; that would take a small book. But I will attempt a very brief thumbnail sketch. It could be said that Frith demanded intensive cooperation.
Yes, intensive cooperation because mere survival of family/clan/tribe depended on it - I cannot emphasis this enough. Tribal members cooperated/helped one another plant, harvest, and butcher livestock. And, pasture land for that livestock was shared. Tribes developed customs and thew (laws) that all lived under and obeyed. Frith then, became the Innangard (civil society) and the Innangard was Frith in living action. Frith/Innangard provided freedom from strife and violence, business growth, family security, and allowed for friendship among tribal members to develop. When someone within the Innangard broke Frith, they broke thew or custom. Their action earned them a visit (or a life long visit depending on the crime) to the Untangard - the out-lands or the badlands where all outlaws belong. In other words, they were cast out of civil society. That said, let us remember that our elders were also known for their generosity and hospitality.
When a stranger came into their midst, Frith was automatically extended to that person or persons. Long before the Viking Age, the Germanic tribes on the continent were engaged in heavy trading via sea and land routes with other peoples. Whether at home or abroad, our elder kin may have thought that the strangers dressed and spoke weirdly and even their beliefs a bit odd. But, our elders believed that these strangers belonged to an Innangard in their homeland and therefore extended their tribal Frith to them. This Frith was extended as long as the strangers kept Frith; there is not an ounce of anything to prove the contrary. So, what about today?
The Asatru/Heathen revival is still in its' infancy. And in my opinion, maybe a "big tent" approach is necessary. We have, on a daily basis, people leaving Christianity or something like Wicca to find their Northern roots; this should be celebrated as a good thing. But we have those who like to treat the newbies poorly.
There never was a "pan-Germanic religion" just like there never was a pan-mother goddess religion. Our ancestors practice of what we think of religion varied from region to region. Sorry, it just did. But the similarities outnumbered the differences. When a person went from one region to the next, he found the similarities and put up with the differences. As a strong reconstructionist, I am avidly aware of these similarities and differences. Jamming up newcomers to Heathenry with Orthodoxy is wrong when Orthopraxy should be stressed.
As stated, we are in the infancy of reviving our Elder Heathenry by trying to reconstruct the past into a modern mode. But yet, there are those who insist that the past was a shame culture and it should continue in the present. These folks have no problem "shaming" newbies on line when they make mistakes. In my opinion, this shit may have its' proper moment, but this is the 21st century. If we continue to piss off the newbies, they may just go off and become good Buddhists. Where is the Frith?
In my opinion, a "big tent" approach can work only and if only Frith is extended in the same manner as in the elder heathen days; differences were respected and similarities were embraced. Or we could follow, dare I say it, the progressive path of Christianity.
Christianity has been on the books for just over 2,000 years and it is not in any sort of Frith. Since day one, there was bickering and backstabbing over who is "right," over what is the true "religion." After an abysmal amount of bloodshed, this infighting still goes on to this day. Many Protestants do not like Roman Catholics, and many Orthodox Catholics do not like Roman Catholics, and many Roman Catholics do not like so many more. Their excommunications are still in place and their declarations of anathemas still exist. Don't buy into the recent media blitz of all those nice pictures; it is hard to find any resemblance of Frith among the various Christian divisions. For Asatruar/ Heathens, this in not an acceptable model.
Yes, this is the 21st century, but reconstructing the Elder Heathenry can succeed. It is my opinion that a "big tent" approach and applying Frith as our ancestors did will work. We know many of the "basics;" these will form the "similarities" that our tribes will interpret. And the differences, we tolerate, in a Frithfull manner. Let us not forget that our ancestors did not have a "central" religious authority; family, clan, and tribe was the mainstay and can work very well for us today. Newbies need to be instructed, not shamed. Unless, of course you think Buddhism is best for them.
Copyright @2016 Terry Unger