Return to an Old Book – And starting a new one — ¨Ancient Values for a Modern Age¨

So I have finally gotten back to working on the book ¨More Viking Rituals¨  with Tegan Hendrickson, and have started on the book ¨Ancient Values for a Modern Age.¨   I thought I´d post the first chapter:

Introduction

The 1970ś brought about an era of the revitalization of the religious beliefs of the Northern Europeans. The modern religious practices of Asatru, Theodism, Norse paganism, and many others strove to abandon the stereotypes of these religious practices brought on by various groups of the nineteenth century, and more recently Nazi Germany.
Abandoned were racist and sexist beliefs of these groups of the past in favor of a religious structure where men and women are judged by their deeds, not by their genetic makeup. At the core of this revolution were many groups, but in particular, the Odinic right.
In 1973 John Gibbs-Bailey and John Yeowell formed the Committee for the Restoration of the Odinic Rite and in the year prior to it, they encoded the Nine Noble Virtues. These virtues were an attempt to codify the lessons learned from the Poetic Edda, and in particular the Hávamál and Sigrdrífumál.
While many people have gone on to criticize the nine noble virtues as an oversimplification of what it means to follow the path of the north, I believe they serve a purpose. For those who are unfamiliar with the traditions, they serve as a good introduction on the basics of what it means to be ¨a heathen.¨ Even for those who have been following the traditions of the north for years, these nine simple words can remind us, as our lives become busy, about the path we intend to follow. Whenever I encounter a time where a decision is to be made, I ¨run down¨ the virtues to guide me in making this decision.
I also use this as I consider those who cross my path. They guide me in developing a relationship with them that can be mutually beneficial.
But the nine words, as simple as they seem, describe a complex lifestyle. As we consider each one, and its meaning, and perhaps even more importantly, how they relate to each other, we quickly realize how complicated following these beliefs can be.
I offer this book to those who choose to read the pages, as my insight into the last 20 years of experience I have had in following the heathen lifestyle. I hope they will guide you as you follow whatever path you may choose.
Courage
Truth
Honor
Fidelity
Discipline
Hospitality
Self Reliance
Industriousness
Perseverence

Courage
Is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear
– Mark Twain

As I approach the nine noble virtues, I try not to place any one virtue above another. However, as I look at courage, I realize that courage is the virtue that allows us to take the other virtues and act upon them. Maya Angelou stated that ¨Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can not practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.¨
So as we look at courage, we realize that courage is that which allows us to implement the other virtues.
Which raises us to the question of what is courage? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines courage as the ¨mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.¨     However, in todayś society, when we think of courage, we tend to think of it in terms of war and conflict. As I think of courage I think of our soldiers on the battlefield, and people who inject themselves into physically dangerous situations in order to ¨do what is right.¨ Even Socrates, when referring to courage said ¨He is a man of courage who does not run away, but remains at his post and fights against the enemy.¨
Unlike ancient society, the vast majority of us will never see physical conflict, except perhaps in our youth on the schoolyard. So despite the dictionary definition, in our minds we hold out courage to mean something that most of us will never encounter. But that does not mean that as individuals we cannot be courageous in our lives on a day to day basis.
As individuals we are faced with difficult choices on a day today basis. Sometimes the number of choices we have to make can seem overwhelming. Sometimes we find ourselves not making choices based upon what is right, but based upon what is expeditious, avoids conflict, or avoids emotional turmoil. Making choices based upon these values is not always courageous.
As we are faced with decisions we must ask ourself what is right, what honors our belief, and what honors our gods and goddesses, whoever they may be.
As we consider the virtue of courage, we should start internally. Benjamin Franklin said ¨Ḧow few there are who have courage enough to own their faults, or resolution enough to mend them.” The concept of courage must start internally with who we are, and what our limits are. Sometimes it can be extremely difficult for us to face our own limitations, our own biases, and our own situations in life and strive to improve them to benefit ourselves, and honor the gods.
In many respects Shakespeare´s phrase ¨to thine own self be true¨ is as much about courage as it is about truth, a virtue we will discuss later.
While being true yourself is important, we also want to be courageous with respect to the events that surround us. We want to react to events not in a manner of efficiency, but one that is ¨right¨ or brings honor to ourselves and our gods.
And having this courage is not always easy. I am reminded of a challenge that many people who consider themselves heathen have, the question of how ¨open¨ they are about their beliefs. I was faced with this exact issue in my own workplace. A co-worker came up to me and said ¨are you taking Good Friday off?¨ For me, I had not even considered the question, since its not a religious holiday for me. I said ¨no, I was not.¨ I figured that would be the end of it, but a few hours lathr, this same person approached me, and asked me ¨so what church do you go to?¨
Now the easy answer to that question would have been to tell them my local church, or that I was Christian, but did not attend church, or that I was agnostic. Any one of these in U.S., depending upon what region you are in, would be an answer that would not create conflict.
But, the ¨truthful¨ answer would be that I was a heathen, and celebrated a different set of holidays. As I considered this question, I asked myself ¨what is the appropriate answer to honor myself, who I am, and my gods.?¨ I realized that to not disclose I was a heathen was, to me, belittling myself, my choices, my faith, and my gods. So I answered ¨I am not Christian, I follow a tradition that honors the gods of northern Europe.” To say I was ¨heathen” would not have been meaningful to them, so I provided an answer that they would likely understand.
I then ¨sat back¨ and waited for the fur to fly. I was fortunate that this person just said oh, and went back to their desk. I did note that from that point forward they were considerably less friendly to me than they had been prior to the question.
What if this had been a supervisor, or the owner of the company? Would I have been so courageous? I can say that I am with my supervisor. They a Christian, but have friends that are pagan, and so they don´t have too many negative biases. They do have a few, but they are tolerable. Has the issue come up with the owner of the company? No, and I do not expect it to, but more on that later when it comes to the concept of truth.
The concept of courage does not exist just with respect to situations when we are directly confronted.  Courage also can exist in potential behavior that could cause conflict, or have other rammifications.  Take my religious beliefs as an example.  I wear a hammer amulet. Many heathens do.  But ask yourself, do you wear it underneath, or above your clothing?  If its underneath, ask yourself why? Are there other people around you that wear their religious symbols prominently displayed? For me it was one step further.  I have a ring with a hammer on it.  I wear it a lot.  If someone shakes my hand, they cannot miss it.  Do I have the courage to wear that ring when meeting with a customer?
So as we proceed through our daily activities, and our choices, we are constantly faced with questions of ¨am I doing this because its convenient, or am I doing this because its the right and corageous thing to do.¨
Now there are some points where excessive courage might results in acting courageously, but foolishly.  After all courage is just one of many virtues. The Havamal teaches us:

A man does not bear
A burden on the road
then is great commonsense;

This particular stanza goes on to talk about drinking, but it applies to all our life choices.  Take my above situation.  Lets assume I know my boss is an extremely conservative Christian, and my belief structure might interfere with my ability to work there.  If I am fired, or my evaluations go poorly, I may not be able to feed myself, or my people in my household.  If this happens I have acted in a fashion that is detrimental to both hospitality, and to self-reliance.
I was raised in a Methodist household, and my grandfather was a Methodist minister.  When I was in confirmamtion class, our minister said ẗhat the key to our (now their) beliefs was ¨moderation in all things.¨  If we keep this in mind, that we are followers of not just one virtue, but of several, and sometimes these virtues can come into conflict.  Later in the book I will talk about this conflict.
Now a friend of mine actually has put a spin on this.  Heś a very even tempered and moderate person.  However, on occasion heś been known to drink more than a little bit, and there are other circumstances where his typical moderation falls by the wayside in favor of more extreme behavior.  I had the opportunity to ask him as to whether he felt he was being unvirtuous during these times, and responded ¨one should have moderation in all things, including moderation, there are times where it is appropriate not to moderate oneself.¨ Good wisdom, assuming we are good judges of what times it is appropriate ¨not to be moderate.¨
When we first incorporate courage into our decision making process it can be challenging.   For most of us, as weŕe making decisions we don´t take this into consideration. However, acting courageously becomes less challenging with time. When commenting on courage, Eleanor Roosevelt said:
¨You gain strength, courage, and confidence by ever experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.   You are able to say to yourself ´I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.´
The first time we make the courageous choice, rather than the expeditious one, we typically have a lot of fear on the rammifications.   However, with time, as we repeatedly make courageous choices, and react to the results, we become less resistant  to making those choices.   In some respects, a lack of courage many times leads to the maintenance of the status quo. Dale Carnegie stated:
¨Inaction breeds doubt and fear, Action builds confidence and courage.¨
Perhaps Mr. Carnegie has put the cart before the horse.   Maybe it would be better to say ¨Doubt and fear breed inaction.  Courage builds confidence and stimulates action.
Considering courage, we should also realize that courage is an agent of change.   A friend of mine has said that it is the nature of man to avoid change, that we prefer to maintain the status quo.   Many times, though not always, acting courageously involves changing this status quo. If we act courageously, we have an impact on the universe we live in.   Aristotle stated that without courage, you will never accomplish anything in this world.
As heathens, one of our common goals is to make a difference in the world we live in. We, as heathens, have a desire to not just live, but to have an impact on our environment, and those around us. In pagan communities, heathens are often describe as individuals of actions, and this action is directly born out of courage.
While courage is an internal emotion, it has a direct effect on those around us, and ultimately it effects our reputation.   Later in this book we will discuss honor, which is, in this authors eyes, has an external aspect to it which is a combination of all the virtues.   Acting courageously consistently can also have an impact on reputation as well.
Ernest Hemmingway once said that courage is grace under pressure.  I would argue that actually courage creates the appearance of grace under pressure, and that appearance effects our reputation.   As I speak with people who regularly act courageously, its not that they no longer have fear, its that they do not allow that fear to manifest externally.   Its kind of like that duck on the pond.   On the surface he appears to be placid, but you look in the water, and he is paddling furiously, almost chaotically
So we´ve stressed courage, and we´ve stressed action, but what has not been discussed is purpose.   As heathens we do not just ´act´  our actions should exist with purpose.   The Havamal states that ¨Speak useful words or be silent.”  This should be true of our actions, and our courage as well.   Action without purpose is chaos.  Having courage without purpose is foolish.   As we consider acting courageously, we should always do so in a context of having purpose.

Have the courage to say no.  Have the courage to face the truth.   Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic key to living your life with integrity.
– W. Clement Stone

Courage
Is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear
– Mark Twain

As I approach the nine noble virtues, I try not to place any one virtue above another. However, as I look at courage, I realize that courage is the virtue that allows us to take the other virtues and act upon them. Maya Angelou stated that ¨Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can not practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.¨
So as we look at courage, we realize that courage is that which allows us to implement the other virtues.
Which raises us to the question of what is courage? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines courage as the ¨mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.¨     However, in todayś society, when we think of courage, we tend to think of it in terms of war and conflict. As I think of courage I think of our soldiers on the battlefield, and people who inject themselves into physically dangerous situations in order to ¨do what is right.¨ Even Socrates, when referring to courage said ¨He is a man of courage who does not run away, but remains at his post and fights against the enemy.¨
Unlike ancient society, the vast majority of us will never see physical conflict, except perhaps in our youth on the schoolyard. So despite the dictionary definition, in our minds we hold out courage to mean something that most of us will never encounter. But that does not mean that as individuals we cannot be courageous in our lives on a day to day basis.
As individuals we are faced with difficult choices on a day today basis. Sometimes the number of choices we have to make can seem overwhelming. Sometimes we find ourselves not making choices based upon what is right, but based upon what is expeditious, avoids conflict, or avoids emotional turmoil. Making choices based upon these values is not always courageous.
As we are faced with decisions we must ask ourself what is right, what honors our belief, and what honors our gods and goddesses, whoever they may be.
As we consider the virtue of courage, we should start internally. Benjamin Franklin said ¨Ḧow few there are who have courage enough to own their faults, or resolution enough to mend them.” The concept of courage must start internally with who we are, and what our limits are. Sometimes it can be extremely difficult for us to face our own limitations, our own biases, and our own situations in life and strive to improve them to benefit ourselves, and honor the gods.
In many respects Shakespeare´s phrase ¨to thine own self be true¨ is as much about courage as it is about truth, a virtue we will discuss later.
While being true yourself is important, we also want to be courageous with respect to the events that surround us. We want to react to events not in a manner of efficiency, but one that is ¨right¨ or brings honor to ourselves and our gods.
And having this courage is not always easy. I am reminded of a challenge that many people who consider themselves heathen have, the question of how ¨open¨ they are about their beliefs. I was faced with this exact issue in my own workplace. A co-worker came up to me and said ¨are you taking Good Friday off?¨ For me, I had not even considered the question, since its not a religious holiday for me. I said ¨no, I was not.¨ I figured that would be the end of it, but a few hours lathr, this same person approached me, and asked me ¨so what church do you go to?¨
Now the easy answer to that question would have been to tell them my local church, or that I was Christian, but did not attend church, or that I was agnostic. Any one of these in U.S., depending upon what region you are in, would be an answer that would not create conflict.
But, the ¨truthful¨ answer would be that I was a heathen, and celebrated a different set of holidays. As I considered this question, I asked myself ¨what is the appropriate answer to honor myself, who I am, and my gods.?¨ I realized that to not disclose I was a heathen was, to me, belittling myself, my choices, my faith, and my gods. So I answered ¨I am not Christian, I follow a tradition that honors the gods of northern Europe.” To say I was ¨heathen” would not have been meaningful to them, so I provided an answer that they would likely understand.
I then ¨sat back¨ and waited for the fur to fly. I was fortunate that this person just said oh, and went back to their desk. I did note that from that point forward they were considerably less friendly to me than they had been prior to the question.
What if this had been a supervisor, or the owner of the company? Would I have been so courageous? I can say that I am with my supervisor. They a Christian, but have friends that are pagan, and so they don´t have too many negative biases. They do have a few, but they are tolerable. Has the issue come up with the owner of the company? No, and I do not expect it to, but more on that later when it comes to the concept of truth.
The concept of courage does not exist just with respect to situations when we are directly confronted.  Courage also can exist in potential behavior that could cause conflict, or have other rammifications.  Take my religious beliefs as an example.  I wear a hammer amulet. Many heathens do.  But ask yourself, do you wear it underneath, or above your clothing?  If its underneath, ask yourself why? Are there other people around you that wear their religious symbols prominently displayed? For me it was one step further.  I have a ring with a hammer on it.  I wear it a lot.  If someone shakes my hand, they cannot miss it.  Do I have the courage to wear that ring when meeting with a customer?
So as we proceed through our daily activities, and our choices, we are constantly faced with questions of ¨am I doing this because its convenient, or am I doing this because its the right and corageous thing to do.¨
Now there are some points where excessive courage might results in acting courageously, but foolishly.  After all courage is just one of many virtues. The Havamal teaches us:

A man does not bear
A burden on the road
then is great commonsense;

This particular stanza goes on to talk about drinking, but it applies to all our life choices.  Take my above situation.  Lets assume I know my boss is an extremely conservative Christian, and my belief structure might interfere with my ability to work there.  If I am fired, or my evaluations go poorly, I may not be able to feed myself, or my people in my household.  If this happens I have acted in a fashion that is detrimental to both hospitality, and to self-reliance.
I was raised in a Methodist household, and my grandfather was a Methodist minister.  When I was in confirmamtion class, our minister said ẗhat the key to our (now their) beliefs was ¨moderation in all things.¨  If we keep this in mind, that we are followers of not just one virtue, but of several, and sometimes these virtues can come into conflict.  Later in the book I will talk about this conflict.
Now a friend of mine actually has put a spin on this.  Heś a very even tempered and moderate person.  However, on occasion heś been known to drink more than a little bit, and there are other circumstances where his typical moderation falls by the wayside in favor of more extreme behavior.  I had the opportunity to ask him as to whether he felt he was being unvirtuous during these times, and responded ¨one should have moderation in all things, including moderation, there are times where it is appropriate not to moderate oneself.¨ Good wisdom, assuming we are good judges of what times it is appropriate ¨not to be moderate.¨
When we first incorporate courage into our decision making process it can be challenging.   For most of us, as weŕe making decisions we don´t take this into consideration. However, acting courageously becomes less challenging with time. When commenting on courage, Eleanor Roosevelt said:
¨You gain strength, courage, and confidence by ever experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.   You are able to say to yourself ´I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.´
The first time we make the courageous choice, rather than the expeditious one, we typically have a lot of fear on the rammifications.   However, with time, as we repeatedly make courageous choices, and react to the results, we become less resistant  to making those choices.   In some respects, a lack of courage many times leads to the maintenance of the status quo. Dale Carnegie stated:
¨Inaction breeds doubt and fear, Action builds confidence and courage.¨
Perhaps Mr. Carnegie has put the cart before the horse.   Maybe it would be better to say ¨Doubt and fear breed inaction.  Courage builds confidence and stimulates action.
Considering courage, we should also realize that courage is an agent of change.   A friend of mine has said that it is the nature of man to avoid change, that we prefer to maintain the status quo.   Many times, though not always, acting courageously involves changing this status quo. If we act courageously, we have an impact on the universe we live in.   Aristotle stated that without courage, you will never accomplish anything in this world.
As heathens, one of our common goals is to make a difference in the world we live in. We, as heathens, have a desire to not just live, but to have an impact on our environment, and those around us. In pagan communities, heathens are often describe as individuals of actions, and this action is directly born out of courage.
While courage is an internal emotion, it has a direct effect on those around us, and ultimately it effects our reputation.   Later in this book we will discuss honor, which is, in this authors eyes, has an external aspect to it which is a combination of all the virtues.   Acting courageously consistently can also have an impact on reputation as well.
Ernest Hemmingway once said that courage is grace under pressure.  I would argue that actually courage creates the appearance of grace under pressure, and that appearance effects our reputation.   As I speak with people who regularly act courageously, its not that they no longer have fear, its that they do not allow that fear to manifest externally.   Its kind of like that duck on the pond.   On the surface he appears to be placid, but you look in the water, and he is paddling furiously, almost chaotically
So we´ve stressed courage, and we´ve stressed action, but what has not been discussed is purpose.   As heathens we do not just ´act´  our actions should exist with purpose.   The Havamal states that ¨Speak useful words or be silent.”  This should be true of our actions, and our courage as well.   Action without purpose is chaos.  Having courage without purpose is foolish.   As we consider acting courageously, we should always do so in a context of having purpose.

Have the courage to say no.  Have the courage to face the truth.   Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic key to living your life with integrity.
– W. Clement Stone

This entry was posted in News. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*