De vigtigste tekster til brug i asatroen

standard_edda

Normalt når man taler om kilder taler man om forskellige grupper af kilder, og så den metode og kildekritik der er etableret omkring de forskellige typer og grupper af kilder. Jeg vil her nøjes med at berøre enkelte elementer i den forbindelse og fokusere alene på hvilke skriftlige kilder der har haft størst betydning for mig. Det jeg her sigter på er, at gøre opmærksom på at det ikke kun er vigtigt, at finde frem til tolkninger af myter som lige siger en noget, det er også vigtigt at forholdet sig til hvordan man forstår og anvende de grupper af kilder man beskæftiger sig med.

Jeg mener en af de centrale dele af asatroen må være mytefortællingerne, herunder evnen til at forstå, nyfortolke og genfortælle dem. Da der er så mange forskellige aspekter man kunne fokusere på når man taler om kilder, vil jeg her begrænse mig til at se på kilder til mytologien, en anden vigtig gruppe af kilder er kilder til praksis, men det må blive en anden gang.

Normalt taler man om den ældre og yngre Edda som de vigtigste kildetekster til myterne, men ingen af delene findes. Der er en bog kaldet edda som man også senere har forsøgt at kalde den Yngre Edda. Denne bog bruger jeg gerne da det er en enestående guide til skjaldedigtningens kenninger, poetiske omskrivninger, som jeg mener er det kunstneriske element der knytter sig til mytologien som jeg finder mest betagende og udfordrende. Men edda består af flere forskellige dele og for mig er det de dele der direkte beskæftiger sig med skjaldedigtningen, nemlig afsnittende kaldet Det Digteriske Sprog og Verslisten, som jeg har fundet mest inspiration i.

Vigtigere for mig er dog selve de såkaldte eddadigte. Disse kaldes nogen gange Ældre Edda eller myte- og helte kvadene, men frem for at bruge disse kategorier vil jeg i stedet gengive min egen oversigt. Min grundlæggende pointe er, at man ikke skal lads sig fastlåse af de vante kategorier, der eksisterer for kildeteksterne, men i stedet se de enkelte digte i deres egen ret og i sammenhæng med andre digte baseret på kildekritik og indhold, frem for i sammenhæng med bestemte digte på baggrund af faste kategorier, som de mere eller mindre fortjent er blevet rammet ind i. Der er flere eddadigte som jeg ikke har brugt megen tid på, da de almindeligvis henregnes for at være af så sent ophav af deres indhold ganske enkelt ikke længere med rimelighed kan siges at være norrønt (og man skal jo prioritere sin tid). Hvilke digte dette måtte omfatte er der stor uenighed om. Men denne måde at sortere i materialet på finder jeg nødvendig at forholde sig til. Jeg antager almindeligvis edda digte som Solsangen, Odins Ravnegalder, Hyndlasangen, Groas Galder og Fjålsvid Kvadet som værende af meget sen dato.

Til gengæld er der en lang række eddakvad jeg har hentet inspiration i samtidig med at det fremstår som digte med reel rod i den norrøne digtgning. Jeg tænker her på:

Vølvens spådom (både i Codex Regius og Haugsbók varianterne)

Alvismål

Lokasenna

Hymiskvadet

Vafthrudnismal

Skirnirsfærd

Grimnirskvadet

Thrymskvadet

Kvadet om helgehundingsbane 1

Den Højes Tale (Hávamál)

Vølundskvadet

Vegtamskvadet

Grottisangen

Rigs Remse

Harbardskvadet

Sejergivers Tale (Sigrdrifumál)
I forlængelse af min interesse i Snorris afsnit om skjaldedigtningen er også skjaldedigte noget jeg mener man bør huske på blandt sine grundlæggende tekster. Følgende skjaldedigte er for mig de vigtigste og dem der har inspireret mig mest:

Høstlang, Husdrapa og Ragnarsdrapa, Spydsangen (Darraðarljóð), Torsdrapa og Ynglingatal.

Der findes naturligvis mange andre vigtige kilder til asatroen og til mytologien end lige de mytiske digte, men jeg henregner disse til en særlig vigtigt gruppe, da jeg som nævnt mener at mytefortællingerne må ligge i centralt for asatroen i dag. Hvordan de enkelte digte har inspireret mig kræver reelle artikler frem for et kort panelindlæg, men så kan man jo kigge i artiklerne her rundt om på Gladsheimr.

 

Ovenstående er naturligvis kun et kort krads i overfladen. For den der gerne vil bruge lidt tid på det anbefales følgende:

”Odin på kristent pergament – et teksthistorisk studie” af Annette Lassen. Museum Tusculanums Forlag. 2011.

”Kaptiler af nordens litteratur i oldtid og middelalder” af Preben Meulengracht Sørens. Aarhus Universitetsforlag, 2006.

 

Dertil vil jeg nævne en bog der netop har et ”blandet” tekstudvalg og derfor har brudt med den almindelige kategorisering og har derved været ganske inspirerende for mig i forhold til at se på tværs af kategorierne.

”Guder, helte og godtfolk – Eddadigte og islandske sagn” af Martin Larsen. Rosinante Paperbacks, 1991 (oprindeligt udgivet i 1954).

Sources for the religion of Asatru

Some may think this is the simplest of questions,  which are the sources we should consult in order to recreate the religion of Asatru? 2 very good texts have been preserved and these texts give a quite understandable overview of the dogma and religious convictions of the great religion of the North.  Apart from Both Edda’s nothing else is needed in order to reconstruct the religion of our ancestors. This is exactly what I believed when I first encountered Asatru as an 18-year-old, with a young head Tolkien-filled with tales of hobbits, orcs and elves.

If only it were that simple. Something quite peculiar is going on with those sources, they only recount one portion of the ancient religion. The texts mainly focus on the Aesir’s aspect of the religion. The Vanir are merely mentioned where they are needed to explain or support the actions of the Aesir.

These texts mainly focus on the eventual downfall of the universe, the gathering of warriors for the final battle. The more daily occupations of men remain outside scope.

The texts learn us much of the occupations of the nobles, the worshippers of the Aesir, but little is told on the earthlier occupations of normal men.

This is logical in the sense that the skalds who recited the verses of these sagas were connected to the world of the nobility. Even Snorri himself was a member of the upper class.

This doesn’t render these sources unusable. It merely means we have to keep this fact into mind when trying to reconstruct the original believe system.

Another thing that should be kept in mind is that the belief system we encounter has been highly structured by Snorri. He was a scholar with a Christian background, he structured his sources in a logical system and attempted to make a coherent story of a number of myths that were common knowledge. As such trying to describe the world from beginning to downfall. Without any doubt he was inspired by the logical organisation of the bible, genesis to Armageddon.
His structuring gives us some sort of suggested timeline. Since this way of thinking appeals to the structured modern mind, this representation of the divine timeline has clung on to our interpretation of the religion and can be found today in almost every work related to the Viking religion, from Peter Madsen to Marvels Thor.
In order to really understand the original religion, we mustn’t necessarily put this completely to the side, but we need to be conscientious that this structure might not have been equally well embedded in the original belief system and religious views of the ancients.

Thus, in order to get some understanding of the original belief system, we should also consult, what I would call the secondary sources. The Icelandic saga (apart from the Edda’s that is) provide many more clues to the original religion, and so do scholars as Saxo.
But we needed stop there. Many other more or less reliable though fragmentary sources remain. All of them permitting us to lift part of the mystery.
And perhaps there is an slight advantage I have as a non-Scandinavian Asatruar.  Apart from the Scandinavian sources multiple Anglo-Saxons and old German sources exist, admittedly they are far less complete then the sagas and more fragmentary, and many of them clearly show at least some traces of Christianisation, but for the attentive reader these documents offer a world of information. Just think of the Mersemburger zauberspruche, the widsith, beowulf.

Church records, annals of the lives of saints can also give some insights. Just look for the life of Bonifatius, and his visit to Forsiteland.
These texts provide a rare written source and with regards to our subject, mostly the texts of the archbishoprics of Hamburg and Bremen are relevant. These sources are however to be looked upon with the utmost prudence. Their main goal was to discredit the ancient religion, not to accurately describe it. A well-known discussion is that on the temple at Uppsala.  The descriptions of this temple (e.g. the golden chain) are so unlike the information we find in other texts that distrust is a justified attitude.
Another important issue is that many of these descriptions are post factum and may be highly influenced by the religion of the Balts and Slavs encountered during the Baltic crusades.
Another useable resource can be found in the many local myths and fairytales.  These documents offer insights into pagan thought patterns and the deities that have been forgotten in other sources such as the Idisi, the elves, the Vanir, the giants the dvaergae… .

Many good collections are available to the public. But when reading these documents one must always be very attentive to later additions that have nothing to do with the original pagan faith. Therefor it is important not to read the individual myth, but large collections of myths and to try and uncover the general themes and motives that are covered by these texts. For instance, the mythology on dolmens and dysser gives quite an insight into some of the believes with regards to afterlife. The motives of the brothers that fight or a single girl are references to the widespread Indo-European beliefs on the device twins and their sister etc.

In a sense these sources go further back then the primary texts and when combined with the Edda’s they offer a much more detailed picture of the beliefs of the Common people and the regional variances of those beliefs.

As I belief in a continuous religion tradition from the Bronze age to the Christianisation, these sources are also very important in order to retrieve information on the pre-”Wodanisation” of the Norse religion. A little explanation seems necessary.
We know that the advent of Woden as a deity can be situated in the time of the great migrations. The entire society was in turmoil and warlords gathered war bands. The participants in these war band were no longer limited to members of the same tribe. Instead of a society based on “national” or tribe related loyalties, society evolved to a system based on personal loyalties. This system would in the end evolve to the medieval feudal empires.
These war band leaders had to justify why they no longer clang on to the previous system of tribal loyalties. And they did so by introducing the new social order into religion. This was done in a comparable way to the way the Muslim faith is manipulated by war bands such as the Taliban or Boko Haram, Deash etc.
In a polytheistic religion the advent of new Gods can easily be accepted by the community, contrary to monotheistic beliefs. As such the advent of Woden wasn’t a religious revolution. In polytheism gods come and go, absorb each other and get absorbed. After all, why bother about names. Suppose you worship god A and your neighbour god B, but they share an important part of their competences, there is an important overlap so to say. Why shouldn’t you simply agree with your neighbour to use the same name.
We see this even today in the modern world. The German call god Gott, the French call him dieu, the Spanish have a dio etc.

Thus the new god Wodan, whether he was a development of an already existing small god or whether he was introduced by the Sarmatian was perfectly possible without disturbing the existing religion. The target group for this new deity wasn’t the same either as the original group of worshipper. The warrior bands could easily worship Woden whilst the farmers and tribesmen could continue to worship the older Vanir Gods and landvaetir whose worship goes way back to the bronze age. Slowly the two visions would have become interwoven and the Aesir found a solid foundation in the elder faith, ultimately overshadowing the elder beings but not really conflicting with them.
This wasn’t the case with the next divine being that would entry the scene. The white Christ. The Nordic religion would initially have accepted him as just another God to add to the pantheon, but since these Deity didn’t play by the same rules his only goal was to eradicate the other deities. but that is a story to be told elsewhere.

This continuity can be proven when we use the comparative method. Wherever the Indo-Europeans went, they took along their religion. We find the same motives in Greek, roman, Celtic and Norse religion, we find the same types of bronze age petroglyphs throughout entire Europe. Of course every subdivision of the great Indo-European family would have had its own developments. But in comparing their mythology, a great number of things can be learned on the original religion, and we can also try to explain the many unclear passages in mythology or the many vague characters we encounter in other text.

Our final source is archaeology. Archaeology can give us an explanation to the terminology used in the texts mentioned above. We know for example that religious activities took place in the great hall. The finds of guldguber confirm this. Recently piles of rocks have been found that might have been platforms whereupon religious ceremonies were performed etc.

In conclusion, we see that a variety of sources are at our disposal, but none of them can be taken literally, none of them can be looked upon as the truth. We need to compare and evaluate the intrinsic value of each of our sources, and of course this also implies that 2 persons evaluating the same source might come to different conclusions.
This doesn’t mean one of them must be wrong, not at all. Religion is constantly evolving, and in the course of only a few years a lot can change. Less than a century ago, Catholic masses were sung in Latin and most of those present didn’t understand what was said. In the early middle ages, to christians hell was a cold place. In Dantes time it was a blazing inferno. Purgatory has come and gone, etc.

 

Asatro og politik af Peter

Jeg mener religion er underlagt samfundets love, altså at man med religiøse argumenter ikke kan trumfe juridiske. Man bør altså ikke med religiøse krav kunne påberåbe sig særbehandling eller positiv forskelsbehandling. Helt lige så naturligt som religion heller ikke skal resultere i negativ forskelsbehandling. Det er et politisk princip om lighed for loven, som naturligvis påvirker den religiøse praksis og derved kan religion og politik ikke adskilles. Eksempelvis kan asatroende ikke påberåbe sig særlig privilegeret adgang til fortidsminder, eller stille særlige krav ophavsret omkring brugen af den nordiske mytologi. Mytologien og fortidsminderne er historisk fælleseje, som ingen religiøse følelser kan gøre krav på. Ligeledes står det politiske princip om ytringsfrihed over religiøse følelser. Også barnets tarv, som bør sikre, at et barn ikke bliver lemlæstet i en eller anden guds navn, står i mine øjne over hensynet til religiøse følelser. Ligeledes kan slaveri aldrig være acceptabelt, bare fordi en eller anden religiøs tekst siger, at det er acceptabelt. Dette betyder faktisk også, at man generelt kan sige, at jo mere moderat og pragmatisk man er i sin religiøse overbevisning, desto mindre vil det politiske påvirke én. Samtidig vil det være fanatiske og ekstremistiske religiøse folk, der oftere vil mærke konsekvensen af at være underordnet almene politiske principper for loven. Men jeg mener også, at loven netop ikke skal indrettes efter fanatikere og ekstremister. Fanatisme og fundamentalisme kan aldrig udvikle demokrati. Og loven skal være demokratisk, ligesom staten. Religiøs lovgivning er altid noget skidt. Eksempelvis sharia- og moselov kan aldrig blive et godt grundlag for en retsstat. Og ej heller kan Hávamál.

Når talen falder på asatro og politik tænker mange på politiske kontroverser internt i asatromiljøet. Så lad mig da bare nævne det også. Når der er nogen som helst kontrovers omkring politik og asatro skyldes det udelukkende fremmedfjendsk, racistisk eller nationalistisk brug af asatroen eller den nordiske mytologi. Der er de fjollede eksempler som Odins Soldater fra Finland, der bare godt kan lide de nordiske myters symboler og hele den nationalromantiske omgang lirumlarum til at stive sig af, når de patruljerer gaderne (http://www.information.dk/mofo/hvorfor-elsker-fascister-nordisk-mytologi?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=btn&utm_medium=social&utm_term=0_2ccbb7fa83-3fe5e64774-412176121%3Futm_medium%3Dsocial&utm_content%3Futm_medium=social&utm_content  ). Men selv om Odins Soldater ikke er asatro bliver man som asatroende slået i hartkorn med dem, og så må man jo igen og igen forklare den rette sammenhæng. Ærgerligt, men sådan er det. Så er der dem der reelt er asatroende som Asatru Folk Assembly Danmark (og moderorganisationen fra USA). Det giver naturligvis årsager til konflikter og det skal det da også. Disse asatroende ønsker brændende at opnå anerkendelse, og i mangel på dette, ønsker de i det mindste ikke at blive modsagt. Så det skal man jo ikke være med til.

Der er dem der mener, at bestemte politiske holdninger ikke hører hjemme i asatroen og at nogen med bestemte holdninger ikke er ”rigtige” asatroende. Dette er noget vås i en religion der er udogmatisk og derfor ikke har et skæl mellem rettro og vantro – hverken teologisk eller politisk. Alle der praktiserer asatroen er at regne for asatroende. Politisk enighed inden for en religion er i det hele taget en ret bizar forestilling. Og man bliver bare nød til at acceptere, at også asatroende kan være røve med ører:-)

A saga on Woden and Frea: Gambara and the Longbeards

The Vinils, increased in the islands of Scandinavia to such an extent that they could no longer live there together. Thus they divided themselves into three groups and drew lots.

When the lots were cast and a third of the Vinils had to leave their homeland and seek new lives abroad, they were led by two brothers Ibor and Ayo, energetic young men. Their mother, whose name was Gambara, was an intelligent and clever woman, whose wise counsel they heeded in time of need.

In their search for a country where they might settle they came to the region called Schoringen, and remained there several years.

The Vandals, a rugged and warlike people, lived nearby. They heard of their arrival and sent messengers to them, proclaiming that the Vinils either would have to pay tribute to the Vandals or face them in battle.

Ibor and Ayo sought counsel from their mother Gambara, and they all agreed that it would be better to fight for their freedom than to contaminate it with tribute, and they communicated this to the Vandals. Now the Vinils were brave and powerful warriors, but they were few in number.

The Vandals approached Wodan, beseeching from him victory over the Vinils. The god answered: “I will grant victory to the first ones I see at sunrise.”

Gambara, on the other hand, approached Frea, Wodan’s wife, and beseeched from her victory for the Vinils. Frea responded with the advice that the Vinil women should untie their hair and arrange it across their face like a beard, and that they should thus accompany their men in the early morning to the window from which Wodan customarily looked out.

They did as they were advised, and at sunrise, Wodan, upon looking out, shouted: “Who are these Longbeards?”

Frea replied: “To the ones you give a name, you must also give victory.” And thus Wodan gave them the victory, and from that time forth the Vinils have been called Longbeards (Langobards).

Ultimately they founded a permanent settlement in Italy.

woman-571715_1280

Frea is her to be understood as Frigg (since in Diaconos text she is describes as the wiife of  Woden (Odin). This is also a clear indication that the “split” between Freja and Frigg was a later evolution in the Nordic Mythology

The Challenge of Thor by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Challenge of Thor
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I AM the God Thor,
I am the War God,
I am the Thunderer!
Here in my Northland,
My fastness and fortress,
Reign I forever!

Here amid icebergs
Rule I the nations;
This is my hammer,
Miölner the mighty;
Giants and sorcerers
Cannot withstand it!

These are the gauntlets
Wherewith I wield it,
And hurl it afar off;
This is my girdle;
Whenever I brace it,
Strength is redoubled!

The light thou beholdest
Stream through the heavens,
In flashes of crimson,
Is but my red beard
Blown by the night-wind,
Affrighting the nations!
Jove is my brother;
Mine eyes are the lightning;
The wheels of my chariot
Roll in the thunder,
The blows of my hammer
Ring in the earthquake!

Force rules the world still,
Has ruled it, shall rule it;
Meekness is weakness,
Strength is triumphant,
Over the whole earth
Still is it Thor’s-Day!

Thou art a God too,
O Galilean!
And thus singled-handed
Unto the combat,
Gauntlet or Gospel,
Here I defy thee!

Notes:

Source: “The Saga of King Olaf” from “The Musician’s Tale” from “Tales of a Wayside Inn.”

Asatru and politics

Earlier this month, pope Francis declared that Donald Trump wasn’t a Christian, because of his harsh political position to the immigrant problem. In response Trump exclaimed that he was a very good Christian indeed, and that it was he who would prevent the further weathering of the good old Christian principles in the United States.
Who is correct, which one is a Christian, and which one isn’t.
Liberal Muslims claim that ISIS has nothing to do with the Muslim faith, since Islam demands respect for all human beings. The self-proclaimed Caliphate on the other hand claims that it is the moral duty of all Muslims to destroy the non-believers as well as those that do not adhere to their own ruthless and rough interpretation of the faith.

What these 2 examples show is the ancient contradiction is societies between the left wing of a society or belief system and the right wing. The right wing claims to defend the basic and fundamental truths their society stands for, and the left wing claims that in doing so the right wing destroyed the very values their faith stands for.

The same contradiction is quite evident in Asatru. Our religion keeps on being haunted by the shadows of the atrocities of the second world war, the European collective feeling of guilt. The fact that one of the main architects of the third Reich, Himmler, was greatly influenced by Germanic mysticism doesn’t do much good to this dilemma.
We could go as far as declare that those events had nothing to do with Asatru -and I’ve seen this in many books-, but by doing so, aren’t we putting ourselves in the position of the Muslims and ISIS. Shouldn’t we just accept that certain believers in the old Gods did dreadful things, and in the same time proclaim that we do believe in the same Gods, but not in the same vision on society? And, let us never forget that many of the main supporters of the Reich declared themselves to be firmly believing Christians.

To get back to what the pope said, I personally believe he is wrong in his quite explicit statement. Donald Trump is indeed a Christian, believes in the same basic Christian principles and God, and firmly believes he is acting in the best interests of his faith, just as the pope does. What the pope should have done, is point out that the Christianity proclaimed by Trump isn’t the Christianity he as Pope likes to see develop.
In the same way, we as Asatruar, should try to avoid to negate the fact that right wing and left, (and not to forget centre) oriented believers do fundamentally share the same basic set of beliefs. There is no need to discuss, based upon any political vision, who is a righteous ‘Asatru-believer’ and who is not. Each of them has made his or her own assessment of the situation they encounter, based upon the same set of values. They merely come to a different conclusion, mainly because the weight they attribute to certain values shifts in function of their own situation. Thus in my opinion, Asatruar can freely and without (much) limitations choose between right or left wing in politics, without risking to be called an untrue Asatru believer. Religion offers a set of values, adaptable to each and everyone, not forcing anyone in any corner of society.

A very “hot” example is the present immigration crisis, I have talked to many people and Asatruar on that subject in the last months. On one side of the spectrum you have the people who are oriented to the left side. They refer to our old customs of hospitality and claim our old ways demand we welcome immigrants. They claim that in remaining true to our fundamental values in stressful situations we prove that our values are true and firm, and this is certainly a valuable point to be made. On the right hand side of the spectrum you have those that claim that in admitting too many of these immigrant in our society, we are destroying or at least diluting our own values, and that in the end this could even result in the final destruction of the values that are so dearly held by the left wing (a.o. hospitality). This also is a valuable argument. In fact, both are defending the same very basic values, but they have made another assessment of the situation. Left wing adherents generally focus more on the individual needs of the immigrants, whereas right wing adherents feel the needs of the community outweigh the needs of the individuals. Yet they still defend the same basic ideas. Who is right, who is wrong? None of them is right, none of them is wrong, they are just part of the wide spectrum of opinions that all together constitute the whole truth of society.

Thus the question isn’t whether right wing should consider left wingers to be untrue believers or the opposite, the question is whether modern society, which has been and still is being formed by the commonly shared values of both, can accept certain points of view.
And this is where it -scientifically- becomes interesting, since society is constantly forming and the boundaries of the accepted are constantly shifting. I am quite sure a Viking of the 8th century considers us to be weaklings, yet not because of our religious views. He would be far more culture-shocked by the softening of our ways in comparison to his age.
Until a few hundred years ago, the church had no problem forcibly converting adherents to other religions to their own so-called true faith, and they certainly would have opposed to immigration of large groups of Muslims into the western world. The present pope proclaims exactly the opposite.
Less than 40 years ago, adultery in Belgium was punishable by imprisonment (although this punishment was rarely executed) and even today the subject of equal gender marriages is quite controversial in Southern and Eastern Europe. Whereas North and Western Europe consider this to be one of their basic values. The idea of complete equality between men and women only emerged in the 70’ies through the eighties and is now considered as the very basics of our modern society. Thus we mustn’t be amazed that many elderly people still cling to their old role pattern.

Society is divers, and any religion that wishes to survive in this society must be equally diverse, since it is this diversity that will ensure its adaptability and future survival.
As such I have a personally quite allergic to statement such as “with those people, you can’t talk at all because do not understand that value X is supreme. “ The only thing such a statement proves is that the person uttering it isn’t ready to be talked to. It is my experience that most normal people can be talked with, it is merely the truly brainwashed fanatics that cannot be reasoned with. Most people just want to belong to…. . A social experiment I recall in this context (unfortunately I can’t recall its source) was conducted in the late nineties in Germany. Sociologists stated talking to skin heads and found that most of them could be reasoned with and in truth didn’t really care to much for the harsh visions of their “group”, yet they claimed to adhere to these visions and lived up to them because they wanted to belong.
And that is the main, and as far as I am concerned principal value of Asatru, community, the belonging to, the sense of a common set of values centred around the beliefs of our ancestors. The fact that we centre around those ancestral beliefs is part of our wish to belong to that history and to create a community across these ages. Another important element is the thing of equals. The principle that everyone’s opinion has the same value and everyone has the right of speech, although limited to the laws convened upon by that community. The extend of the community isn’t fixed, each Asatruar and Asatru organisation has the right to determine this for itself, spanning the whole human race, or limited to the dozen participants of a kindred. And I would like to remind you that the concept of the thing presupposes different opinions on society, if not no thing would be needed
As such almost all layers of politics can appeal to Asatruar, without any one of them rightfully claiming the others false believers. Only such extremities that go against our very basic values cannot be accepted. What these are is a question to be answered differently in every era and time by its own right. What we now consider barbaric was quite common until recently and who knows what will be thought of our ways within some decades.

What am I? right-winged or left winged, or centre, I am none of those, I have some very explicit views on certain subjects, some of them can be considered to be explicitly right others extremely left. Some float in between. I guess I am a bridge builder. In my view, the important thing is never to stop listening and questioning both others and yourself, and to realise the relativity of all things human.
If one thing can be learned of the myth of Ragnarok, it is that all things, even the most firmly founded come to an end eventually, whether it be right winged or left winged.

A Troll’s Meeting with Tor, from Halland

Two miles south of the town of Varberg lies Höråsen (Mountain of Flax),where the events in many Troll-tales happened. On the North side is a place called Tvååker (doublefield) where lies Trollstugan (the Troll house).
There the Troll Hagen lived with his wife Ula-Hula. The couple was not the best of friends but still had two children, Lilla-Pippel and Rangel. A dark autumn night, Tor was out driving with a tremendous noise. Lightning struck and thunder rolled so that Ula-Hula couldn’t sleep. Hagen slept well though, and his wife got angry.
“You may talk big, but you are just as cowardly as all men when something really happens! Why do you lie there and refuse to do something? It would be better if you smashed that oaf Tor’s head in. But for that you are no good. To let him disturb others’ sleep because of your cowardice is the only thing you can do!
Hagen had heard enough, so he rose from his bed and went up to the mountaintop, with a big rock in his hand. In the flash of a lightning bolt he saw Tor clearly. He took aim and he threw the rock right at Tor. But Tor heard the rock coming and threw his hammer at it, and the rock was split in two. And still today you can visit the place, and see for yourself the rock that Tor split in half with his mighty hammer.

From Sällsamheter i Halland, by Mats Bramström

A folkstory of Gotland: Tor’s Journey to Östergarnsholm:


One night the owner of Hvidfelder farm laid in his bed asleep. He waited for the net he had sat out to fill up with fish. Then the door opened gently and Tor came in. The Hvidfeller-farmer woke up and sat bewildered in his bed. He was always brave and cool, but this was something you didn’t see everyday! Tor noticed his bewilderment, greeted him calmly and started to talk to him about the fishing. Soon the tension had gone, and Tor asked the farmer to row him over to Östergarnsholm.
“No”, said the farmer, “the wind is getting worse and you can’t steer and row at the same time.” “You just steer, so shall I row,” answered Tor. And so they went to Östergarnsholm, and even though the farmer had been there many times before, he never made the journey faster. When they reached land, Tor said that Hvidfeller should row out a bit in the water “for safety reasons” and wait there. Then Tor walked up the hill and suddenly he met a great Giant. That meeting became a violent battle, but in the end the Giant got such a blow that he fell unconcious to the ground. Before he lay still however, he managed to kick Tor on his leg, but Tor didn’t notice. Then the Hvidfeller-farmer rowed ashore to pick Tor up, and when he jumped into the boat he said: “Did you see who won?” “Yes”, said the Hvidfeller, “but I also saw who got the last kick! “You just wait,” said Tor, and he went right up to the fallen Giant and beat him to death!When they were back home, Tor thanked the farmer for all his help,but said that he had nothing with which to pay him. But he would not go unrewarded. Tor left the beach and disappeared up to Torsburg. But next morning,the Hvidfeller found all his nets in the best of shape, ready to use, and he got plenty of fish what day.

Asatro og ære

Ære som man kender det fra ære- og skam-samfund, som det bl.a. fremstilles i islandske sagaer, og som fungerer som forbillede for nogen, findes ikke længere i Norden, et tankesæt hvor en mands gode navn og rygte var vigtigere end alt andet.

Når folk i dag taler om ære kan det let høres hvor forvirrede meninger der er omkring begrebet. Nogen taler eksempelvis om rockerære. Men det der kaldes rockerære er ikke andet end et gement regelsæt for en bande af niddinger, der grundlæggende ikke ejer ære, og derfor skal holdes fra at falde hinanden i ryggen i ét væk gennem et system af latente voldstrusler. I forlængelse af dette er der også opstået en såkaldt bandeære. Men igen er der ikke nogen reel ære i det, idet en såkaldt bandeære fokuserer på at opretholde en falsk respekt gennem intimidering, ikke vinde sig et hæderfuldt ry gennem hæderfulde handlinger. Ære er her degenereret til begrebet respekt, som noget man kræver ind af andre, og ikke noget man giver. Denne adfærd blandt rockere og andre bandemedlemmer findes faktisk også i de islandske sagaer hos de såkaldte bersærkere, der uddelte dummebøder efter at have provokeret folk til holmgang. De optræder da også som voldspsykopater i sagaerne og dem er der ingen der savner.

Gennem indvandring fra Mellemøsten har man også stiftet bekendtskab med en ære der kaldes familieære, men som er relateret til den såkaldte æresvold. Dette er rettet mod at skabe et udadvendt ærefuldt billede af familien, men dette er rent udadvendt og derfor tilsidesættes den hengivenhed og loyalitet internt i familien som er nødvendigt, og herved bliver æren en ren potemkinkulisse, en falsk æreløs kulisse.

Optræder der så overhovedet reel ære noget sted i samfundet i dag? Man taler om at ”bevare sin ære” hvis man undgår en ydmygelse og som udgangspunkt er ære noget vi i dag mener hver enkelt har i kraft af at være et ukrænkeligt individ, og derfor ikke noget man skal handle for at opnå. I dag handler ære mest af alt om at føle sig anerkend og at føle man har ret til fuld selvudfoldelse, en meget egocentrisk tilgang til æren. Ære findes i dag også i begrebet æreskrænkelser. Normalt er det nærmest forkætret at henvise til sin ære, det virker fjollet og banalt i et samfund, der frem for ære og skam baserer sig på bekendelse og tilgivelse. Men begrebet kan dukke op i forbindelse med de såkaldte ærekrænkelser. Men igen er det en ære man har som udgangspunkt, og så er der nogen der beklikker den. Så det er ikke lige til at identificere et klassisk æresbegreb der stadigvæk er aktivt i dag.

 

Ære er i gammel tid blevet kaldt forskellige ting.

Sœmð: ærefuld, højtestimeret, korrekt

Virðing: ophøjethed, værdighed

Sómi: ære, takt

Som vist ovenfor er der ikke nogen af disse ord, der egentligt passer på de moderne anvendelser af æresbegrebet. De ældre ord ser ud til at have en anden logik omkring æren, en logik der både sigter på at man i høj grad tager alvorligt hvad andre tænker, og samtidig kobler æren til det at blive husket. Med andre ord ryet og mindet. Det er en erkendelse af, at der i æren ligger en forståelse for det der er større end en selv, de fællesskaber man indgår i, det samfund man er en del af, som et vilkår for ens handlinger. Æren handler om hvordan vi spejler vores kvaliteter i dem vi omgiver os med, ikke noget man bærer inden i sig selv for at retfærdiggøre vredeshandlinger. Æren handler også om at kunne opføre sig korrekt, at kunne udføre de rette handlinger i bestemte sociale situationer, samt være i stand til at handle i forhold til en større sammenhæng end en selv og ens egen situation. Det må siges at være en våd klud i ansigtet på den i dag så utroligt populære doktrin om, at man da kan være ligeglad med, hvad andre tænker, bare man selv føler, at det man gør, er det rigtige for én selv. Den traditionelle fremstår nærmest som det stikmodsatte af en sådan tankegang.

Hvad kan man bruge denne ære til i dag kunne man spørge. Man kan brugen den til at erkende, at man som menneske og borger har ansvar for andet og mere end sig selv. At der er et ansvar, der rækker ud over ens egen situation og egne behov. Det kunne være ansvar for miljøet, det kunne være et ansvar for lokalsamfundet, det kunne være ens ansvar for at kunne forsørge sig selv og sin familie. Det vil være en æressag at opføre sig ansvarligt. En anden måde den traditionelle opfattelse af ære kunne bidrage med noget værdifuldt i dag kunne være i forbindelse med den såkaldte jantelov. Janteloven, der ikke er spor dansk, men udryk for et alment provinsielt mindreværdskompleks som kan findes i alle kulturer, rummer et selvsyn, der er lige så selvdestruktivt som kulturrelativistisk selvhad. Et opgør med en sådan provinsmentalitet vil kunne styrke viljen til at stå ved de reelle værdier man rent faktisk bygger sine fælleskaber på og vil kunne modvirke den frygt mange møder anderledes tænkende med.

Der er altså gode grunde til ikke sådan bare at forkaste æresbegrebet som noget fjollet og gammeldags. Tværtimod kunne netop inspiration fra det gammeldags være meget relevant for os moderne mennesker. Og specifikt for asatroen finder æren altså sin vej til det moderne menneske gennem etikken knyttet til ryet og mindet. Og en god påmindelse til os, at attituden om, at vi som asatroende bare skal gøre og sige som vi føler det er rigtigt for os, og så ikke tage os af hvad andre tænker, er adfærd uden rod i dette.

Asatru and Honour

It is my firm belief that Asatru’s moral never worked with the concepts of right and wrong, and I hope to prove that in this paper. Asatru focused on the concepts of just and unjust. A just action was honourable, an unjust action was dishonorable.

Right and wrong as we use them today are Christian concepts. The start from a dual world view, typical for all semitic monotheistic religion. In the beginning you had the just god, who created man, yet the evil spirit of Satan destroyed the perfectness of this creation by introducing evil, typically by seducing woman into trespassing upon a forbidden terrain. This vision also justified and in some religions still justifies the unequal treatement of man and woman. The reasoning being that since woman was easily seduced by the evil one, she by nature is more easily temped by the dark side and must be kept at bay by man, the more properly oriented member of humanity.

None of these distinctions exited in the original European religions. Good and evil weren’t the basis of their moral believes, and as I have discussed in an earlier contribution, the conception of the value of women wasn’t less then that of man, although a certain separation of tasks did exist. Yet in this distinction of tasks never was included the notion of male superiority. Women could trade, even go to war and gather a warband, recent research seems to suggest that a significant number of the warriors in a viking warband were women.

As modern westerners we are used to think in the lines of the Christian vision, since this line of though has governed our ethics for more then a milennium. So it will take some adaptation in order to find out what this original vision implied. Adapting this ancient vision to our new modern world will also take some thought since our world is based on an elaborate set of rules and certain actions considered honorable by our ancestors will no longer be tolerated, just think of the concept of blood wrath.

So just what now was considered just and what wasn’t? Just was any action that supported previously taken engagements or ties. I explicitly add the latter, since some ties where not to be chosen nor of a contractual nature, such as the natural family bonds. But this doesn’t suffice to give any given action a just character. In order to be just, the action was to be made public and not be hidden. You were free to resort to ruse or lists in order to achieve your goals, but once you had achieved your goal, you had to openly claim your actions to the world and as such also to your enemies., enabling them to take honorable (just) countermeasures. You had the obligation to offer them the option of retaliation, you had to offer them the possibility to act justly themselves.

More then that, to act justly was considered a moral obligation, the family and surroundings of the one you had hurt with your just actions were obliged to seek retribution (which was also considered just). There was no obligation to retaliate immediately, a very clever revenge, carefully prepared was held in much higher esteem the the wrath taken in the heath of the moment, since the latter might very well cost you your own life. And then what was the value of your revenge? A very fine example of these principles is given in the saga of Ragnar Lodbrok, and more specifically his death and the revenge taken on king Aella by Ivan the legless ( In most English texts he is referred to as the boneless, but I considerer this to be a mistake, the saga rather seems to state he doesn’t have legs. He did clearly have bones as is made clear by his actions in battle and his strong sword arm).

When Ragnar dies in the snakepit, he claims “the piglets will avenge the boar”. This is a first reference to the moral obligation of his sons to avenge him. After his death, Aella does the honorable thing and sends envoys to the sons of Ragnar Lodbrok in order to announce them he has been the cause of Ragnars death.

The majority of the sons wishes to avenge their father immediately, with a direct attack on King Aella, thus trying to avenge the wrong that has been caused to their family.
Only Ivar retains his calm attitude and refuses to aid his brothers in their rashness. It would seem he is not set upon a harsh revenge and doesn’t feel much like taking up his moral obligations. But in reality he plans the revenge of himself and his brothers with great care.
He refuses to aid his brothers in a wild attack which might cost them dearly, and instead he asks financial retribution of king Aella, and he claims land to build a city. The king agrees if Ivar vows never to take weapons against him. Ivar stated his revenge is accomplished and satisfied.
The story continues as his brothers feel themselves betrayed by Ivar, since they wanted immediate retribution. Has Ivan treated his kin unjust in refusing them their revenge?

At first sight he has, but being the most intelligent of them all, he has understood that Aella can only be beaten by a clever ruse. Thus, as soon as he has established his city, he starts to convince other lords not to support Aella should the latter be attacked by his brothers. Then he sends a message to his brothers stating that the time is ripe for their revenge, however he adds that he himself is bound by the oath he has given king Aella, he cannot take arms against him.

In the end Aella is heavily defeated with limited losses to the brothers, since half of his lords won’t come to his support. After Aella’s defeat Ivar continues to subject England and thus gains even greater honor and wealth.

In this entire affair Ivar has thus acted justly and honorably. He has taken rightfull revenge himself, has honored his promise to Aella and offered his brothers their own possibility for revenge, in the whole scheme, increasing his own wealth, and never breaking his bonds of kin and fealthy.

Whereas I have stressed hereabove that honor and justness were identically this isn’t entirely true.
Some just actions are honorable, but in order for an action to be honorable they are first of all required to be just. Suppose someone murdered your father, and the bloke who did it were far to mighty for you to taken open revenge on him. You can only muster a fraction of his forces. Thus you decide to take revenge in burning down his farm with all in it at night. Of course you must not forget to proclaim this action openly thereafter. You have acted justly, but not very honorably. Your honor might increase however, if you allowed all women and children to leave the building before it is utterly destroyed. If one of the woman in the home (as does Gudrun in the Siegfriedsaga) would therafter refuse to leave her spouse and in doing so chooses death, she acts justly and very honorably as well in her own right. A very good example is found in Njalls saga. Old Njall is given the opportunity to leave the burning house. He refuses and says “I am an old man unable to revenge my sons, and I will not live in disgrace” . This is a fine example of honorable conduct of both the assailants and the assailed.


Another portion of dishonerable deeds are the stupid and rash deeds. You were just in attacking single handed the army of you opponent in order to get revenge, but was that a honorable deed?

It is clear that this system of feuds can not endure in a more structured society, such as a medieval kingdom. I threatens to permanently destabilise society since the cycle of revenge has no end.
Thus the Germanic and later Viking kings try to structure this system into a less violent system of recovering their honor. You act justly and honorably when you bring the one who offended you before the courts and the court condemns the offender to pay you a financial retribution. This also assures that differences in numbers are far less important and that weaker families still can acquire justice. This was a major setback in the original system, wherein lesser families had to endure injustices made by larger and mightier families.
Justice is also no longer assured by individual action, but by the decision taken by the king and his representatives. Not respecting this decision is considered a dishonor and will again lead to you being brought before a court, this time for having offended the king.
Although honor still played an important role in the original system we also notice that this inevitably must lead to less emphasis on honor in the justice system .The fact that this legal mutation coincided with the advent of a new religion with a different set ofv alues greatly supported the demise of honor is and its replacement by the concepts of good and evil.
Honor became at first restricted to either the strictly moral sphere in the sense of personal honor, or to the sphere of pure fighting men, who still have the prerogative to settle their differences in a joust. In the later evolution, we also see that the concept of honor gets largely ritualised (e.g. Slapping each other with a gauntlet )
In the mean while we see that the concepts of good and evil completely replaced those of honor and dishonor. This evolution was greatly supported by the central power since the became the guardians of the good and used this prerogative as a mean to bring the entire justice system in their regal prerogatives. Slowly this lead to the creation of public prosecutors and official courts.

Seeking justice as an individual meant going to the administration of the royal court, formulating you complaints and then trusting upon the kings actions in order to find and punish the one that had harmed you.
The state prosecutes, condemns and punished, and imposes a retribution on the misbehaved . The state also determines that the retribution you get is to be considered just, not only by the person convicted, but also by the victim and the rest of society. Honor no longer was part of the process.

In a modern society we must accept that our honor is served by the legal systems that form the backbone of our society. If we feel our honor has been (seriously) injured we can only rectify this dishonor by addressing the state. If we are not content with the decision made by the state, we must satisfy our honor using the legal procedures provided by the same system, that is why something as appeal exists.

Honor as such can still be sought after, but merely in those areas of life that are left untouched by the state, in friendships and personal relationship. Yet it is clear that if we are being treated dishonorably by another we cannot satisfy this anymore by physical action. Rather in our age, honor is assured in the way you bear th burden of being dishonored. Keeping your head high, breaking all bands and not giving in unless the other one had offered you an apology etc.
Another important thing is to acknowledge that there is no such thing as good and evil. Realise that every society determines what it considers acceptable and what is doesn’t according to its own place and age. Only 50 years ago homosexuality was punishable in most western countries. Up until the seventies in most western legal systems states woman were still to be obedient to their husbands. All of this has changed, a husband that beats up his wife after she has cheated on him is no longer considered to be protecting his honor, on the contrary he is considered to be acting very dishonorable.
Thus it is important as a modern heathen to realise that there is no eternal right or wrong, and that even the concepts of honor and dishonor can be coloured in differently in different times and places.
This is a quite threatening realisation since it proves that every moral system is build on swampy marshland. But it is also reassuring for those considering that the systems mistreats them. Since it gives them hope the rules can be saved in the future. In the end it is this hope for improvement that forms the basics of a modern democracy.