Values are important. They provide us a framework in which people interact with each other and demonstrate respect. In today’s society we’ve come to a stage where “convenience” often times serves as a substitute what’s good, both for ourselves, and for our society. This society of convenience has brought us to a point where we have to myopically regulate ourselves, instead of providing guidelines, and trusting individuals to do what is best.
Many Asatruar have developed a solution to resolving this problem of myopic control of behavior. Asatruar acknowledge the existence of right and wrong actions, and have developed a series of philosophical “concepts” that guides us on a path of a greater good, for ourselves, and for our society. Asatruar believe that the human heart and mind is essentially good, and by guiding ourselves with these concepts, we’ll live happy and productive lives.
While there are certainly disputes between Asatruar regarding specific philosophies, they have a common thread, in that they guide our interaction with each other.
The philosophies (referred to as Virtues) of the Odinic Rite strike an excellent balance of being complete, but not myopic.
The Odin Rite “Nine Noble Virtues” are:
Courage is an almost universal value to Asatruar.
In today’s society, even with the military conflicts we have, the vast majority of us never face the “battle for ones life” like we typically associate with courage. Few of us are asked to run into a burning building to save another, or to charge on a battlefield.
However, courage extends beyond the typical acts of valour we clasically think of. Courage extends to action in our everyday lives. From acknowledging to the public our religious beliefs, to doing what is right despite it being unpopular, all of us our faced with events that call upon us to act with courage.
Courage, in many respects, provides us a foundation for the rest of our values. For without the courage to act upon our values, the remaining values become meaningless. We must have the courage to act upon our other values, despite the difficulty or popularity as a result.
In the words of Maya Angelou:
One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential.
Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency.
We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.
Truth is difficult. Especially in today’s society. We’ve grown extremely accustomed to those little white lies that make life extremely simple. We often find ourselves in a position where we don’t speak our minds plainly in order to make life easier. But y speaking plainly, and with honesty, we enhance our own reputation, and our own sense of honor. Truth is also critical in any society that doesn’t wish to myopically legislate itself.
Asatruar are constantly striving to be as honest as they possible can, both with others, and with ourselves, and this isn’t always an easy thing to do.
In the words of Clarence Darrow:
Chase after the truth like all hell and you'll free yourself,
even though you never touch its coattails.
In many respects, honor is a result of following all the other virtues. If anything comes out in the Eddas and Sagas it is that without honor we are nothing.
Honor extends beyond ones reputation. Honor is an internal force that manifests itself in such a fashion as to create ones reputation. A person with honor demonstrates a sense of inner peace that is obvious to others. It’s an internal state of being that tells us that what we’re doing is correct.
Or, to put it another way, “Reputation is what others say about you, honor is what you know to be true about yourself.”
Today’s society has reduced the term Fidelity to just marital relationships. However fidelity has a much greater reach that being true to ones marital partner. Fidelity stretches to being faithful just not to our marital partners, but to our beliefs, and our promises our vows. As an Asatrurar we should remain faithful to our relationships, whatever their nature, fulfill our obligations under our vows, and be true to our gods. Fidelity creates a sacred bond between to individuals, or between ourselves and our gods. We must be honest and true to others to strengthen these bonds.
In today’s society we have grown to a point where much of our behavior is not governed by our own sense of right and wrong, but through a series of complex laws that compel us, through threats of punishment into to doing what is perceived to be what is morally correct. Asatruar believe that the best way for society to act is to develop a society where one’s own sense of self discipline governs activity. With individuals “self regulating” themselves, we are not forced to pass law after law to govern how members of society act amongst each other.
Self Discpline in many respects connect with the other virtues as well, from courage to fidelity, Discipline is the result of keeping to our other values. In addition to the traditional affirmative actions we often times associate with values, many times there are points where we must act with restraint, or not act at all despite our desire to, in order to follow the path of a given virtue. Self Discipline is exactly that. Putting oneself in a position where one acts when appropriate, and has restraint when necessary.
In the words of
Hospitality is one of the strongest core values at the heart of any civilization. This was particularly true for ancient northern Europeans, where environmental conditions were difficult. The concept of hospitality is a common theme throughout civilizations where the environment can be problematic.
In a community/folk religion such as our own, it is the virtue that upholds our social fabric. In ancient times it was essential that when a traveler went into the world he could find some sort of shelter and welcome for the night. In modern times it is just as essential that a traveler find friendship and safety.
Even in today’s society, we need to treat each other with respect and act together for the good of our community as a whole.
Part of hospitality is treating other people with respect and dignity. Many of our Gods are known to wander the world and stop in at people’s houses, testing their hospitality and generosity. The virtue of hospitality means seeing people as if they were all individuals with self-respect and importance.
This has profound implications for social action in our religion. Our response to societal problems such as poverty is in many ways our modern reaction to this ancient virtue.
The Vikings were vital people. They lived each day to its fullest and didn’t wring their hands in doubt or hesitation.
The achieving of goals comes through work, sometimes hard work. Without action, nothing happens. Asatruar believe that being an active vital member of society builds to create a great whole. This action can be in our daily work, with our religious practices, or in our relationships.
As Asatruar we should offer a good example as people who add to whatever we’re involved in, rather than take from it. We should be the ones who always seem to be able to get things done. When people think of Asatru, they should think of people who are competent and who offer something to the world.
Traditionally, we have always honored the ability of a man or woman who can “stand on their own” and not constantly rely upon others to help them in their day to day lives. Many of our other virtues cannot function without self-reliance. For example, hospitality cannot function if people are not responsible enough to exercise discipline and take care of themselves. Hospitality should be extend to those that strive and fail or need assistance, not for the idle who simply won’t take care of themselves.
If we wish the Gods to offer us their blessings and gifts, we must make ourselves worthy of them–and the Gods are most pleased with someone who stands on their own two feet.
This is one of the reasons for the Asatru “rule” that we do not kneel to the Gods during our ceremonies. By standing we acknowledge our relationship as striving and fulfilled people looking for comradeship and a relationship, rather than in a subservient relationship. It takes very little for a God to attract a follower, if worship simply means getting on the gravy train.
On the other side of this is self-reliance in the sense of Henry David Thoreau, who advocated a simple lifestyle that freed one from the temptations of materialism. Again, here we are able to live as we wish with those things that are truly important. Religious people from all faiths have found that adjusting ones material desires to match one’s ability to meet them leaves one open for a closer relationship with deity and a more fulfilling life.
Often today we have become much too dependent on other people for our own good. As individuals we look to the government or to others to solve our problems, and as a society we borrow billions from our descendants to pay for today’s excesses. It is not unreasonable to rely upon our friends or our government, however there’s a point where it becomes too much for our government and friends to bear, and is an over indulgence in another’s hospitality.
The world is an imperfect place, and nothing comes easy. In this imperfect world there are no free lunches or easy accomplishments. If we truly wish to build a community that people will hold up as an example of what committed people can do, then we must persevere through the process. We must be willing to continue on when we are pushed back.
We must also persevere when we fail. Failure can bring us lessons that allow us to move forward, during our next activity. We should not just continue when the going is easy, we must also continue when the going is difficult, because the rewards will be great.