The Asatru moral code of conduct is known as the Nine Noble Virtues of Asatru. The Nine Noble Virtues represent the distilled wisdom and ancient Germanic moral code gleaned from various ancient sources including the Poetic Edda (particularly the Hávamál), the Icelandic Sagas and Germanic folklore. To live as one of the True folk, you should lead your life in accordance with the Nine Noble Virtues.
Interpretations of these virtues range from person to person, and from Kindred to Kindred. The following represent some of our opinions on how the virtues should be interpreted
The ancient Heathens held these certain virtues to be spiritual law.
These were not at all the only moral values of the ancient Heathens, but perhaps the most highly regarded. The ancient tribal laws began as custom and tradition, and these laws constituted those customs and traditions.
Before anyone can even think of approaching the Gods & Goddesses of Asatru, they should first make sure they know these spiritual laws well and consistently strive towards them.
THE NINE NOBLE VIRTUES:
8. Self Reliance
These virtues were kept to enhance these aspects of being & qualities of the soul:
is the feeling of inner value and worth from which one knows that one is noble of being, and the desire to show respect for this quality when it is found in the world. Of all the Virtues, this one is often the hardest to define, as each person’s interpretation of this is different. It could translate as “self-image”, or “self-esteem”, and is important to recognize that this will be different from person to person.
The Eddic poem “Sayings of the High One” contains the stanza: “Cattle die, kinsmen die, one day you yourself shall die, but the reputation of the dead never dies.” Think of your honour as your worth in the community. Are you known as a fine, upstanding member of the folk? Do people come to you for advice, and trust your word when it is given? Or do they avoid you, and always look for confirmation of something you tell them? The answer may be a good indication of how your honour is viewed by others.
Our honour is our worth, without worth, we are nothing. Without honour, we are doomed to the darkest expanses of Hellheim; without worth, we do not further our folk, kin, or ourselves, but instead hold back that evolution for which we strive. Our deeds attest to our honour, and our works prove our worth- we must strive to maintain and further our honour and worth as individuals and as a folk overall. We must strive to be, and ultimately prove to be worthy of our place beside the Irminsul! Our deeds, both foul and fair outlive us, and carry the burden or glory of our Beings- we cannot allow ourselves to accrue the baggage of shame or disgrace that our children and their children would subsequently bear!
A bonny fire is a blessing to man,
and eke the sight of the sun,
his hearty health, if he holds it well,
and to live one’s life without shame.
All undone is no one, though at death’s door he lie:
some with good sons are blessed,
and some with kinsmen, or with coffers full,
and some with deeds well-done.
is the willingness to be honest and to say what one knows to be true and right. It is often better to not say anything at all if one cannot be honest. But likewise, when one does say something, it is best to be truthful and speak what one sees, not what others would like to hear. But we also have a warning on the concept of Truth, and that is that whilst we should endeavor to speak the truth at all times, do not be fooled into speaking the truth when others lie to you.
The Havamal councils us to respond to lies with lies. Tell the truth, even when there could be painful consequences. The consequences for lying are often more harmful than the quick pain of telling the truth and getting the situation over with. Courage fosters truth, and truth furthers courage- we must be incessant in striving for that which is right, what we know to be right, and what we know to be true. Truth is the underlying principle of holy realization, and ultimately that which steels us in our courage! Without truth, we have no fundamental realization on any significant level, nor the courage or will to achieve and evolve, relegating our very Being to nothing more than a farcical play.
Our ancient ancestors valued truthful speech and honest deeds. This was shown by their strong avoidance of lies (unless lied to) and of oath breaking. In a society where a man’s word was better than a contract, honesty was a necessity. Directly tied to truth is modesty, or rather a tendency not to exaggerate one’s own feats. This may seem in opposition to the Elder Heathens’ heroic boasting, but one must understand that the boasting such as in Beowulf was more a proclamation of feats done by one’s self and one’s forbears, and not the idle bragging of unaccomplished men. As “It isn’t bragging if you can do it.” Ritual boasting followed a set pattern of naming the feats of one’s gods, one’s forbears, and one’s self before making an oath to do a great deed. This was done at the ritual sumbel and before combat. In a society where one might have to prove one’s word by risking his life, there was no room for the idle boasts.
counsel you second; swear no oath
But what you mean to abide by:
A halter awaits the word breaker,
Villainous is the wolf-of-vows.
is the bravery to do what is right at all times. This can be likened to being brave enough to live by the Nine Noble Virtues. But as always, what one person believes is right, may not be what another sees as right. Courage is more than just martial courage, especially in our modern times. True courage can mean the willingness to be a whistle-blower when your company violates the law, or even just the courage to stand up and be counted among the true folk in what is sometimes a hostile world. We, as true folk must be courageous in our endeavors. We must have the inner strength and conviction that allows us to face the enormity of the task at hand – we must have the courage to stand by our kin and to keep to our principles. These are the foundations for the furtherance of our Faith and Folk, and we must be unflinching in our courage and unfailing in furtherance and our evolution: the very sustenance of our Being.
Boldness is the native English word for bravery or courage. Our ancestors went to battle, even death, without fear. And Tacitus noted that Germans who abandoned their shields were thought to have committed the basest of crimes.
Our ancestors did not hide their heads in the sand at the first sign of danger, nor did they accuse others of doing so unless the accusation was well founded. At the same time, they did not criticize those braver than they, nor did they throw themselves foolishly into the thick of the fray for no reason. Perhaps modern day Heathen should learn to do the same concerning boldness.
Steadfastness- Endurance and tenacity, the enduring of one’s wyrd, was highly valued by the elder Heathens. They endured whatever Wyrd gave them, no matter how hard it was. Steadfastness is closely tied to courage, but it was also a part of everyday life. Whether on the field of battle, or in a field of grain, the elders did not give up, but eagerly worked their wyrd. For us, this means not giving up the fight to make Heathenry an accepted religion, nor giving in to those who demand that we cease to exist.
The coward believes he will live forever
If he holds back in the battle,
But in old age he shall have no peace
Though spears have spared his limbs.
The Hávamál (passage 15) expresses the concept of boldness well:
Silent and attentive– and battle bold
should a chieftain’s son be.
A man should be glad and happy, until defeated by death.
Such sentiment is further expressed in Fáfnismál (passage 29):
Ever the fearless, but never the fearful
fares the better in a fight;
’tis better to be glad than in gloomy mood
whether all is fair or foul.
is the ability to stand up and return from defeat and failure. Each time we have a setback, we recognize this, and if the purpose is a true one we continue until success is won. Times were very hard in ancient times. Only those who were strong, smart, and crafty survived. Times are still hard. We can’t give up at the first sign of adversity. Work, strive, carry on, don’t give up. Those words embody the essence of perseverance.
Who do we admire? Those who have worked hard, pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, and made something of themselves through their grit and determination. Perseverance is inherently dynamic in nature, and is essential to Natural Order. We must actively persevere and preserve our religion and folk. We must persevere to achieve, and must remain stalwart in our works and commitments, for only through our achievement can we truly foster the developments and evolution of our true destiny.
Better alive than lifeless be,
to the quick fall ay the cattle,
the hearth fire burned for the happy heir-
outdoors a dead man lay
May the halt ride a horse, and the handless be herdsman,
the deaf man may doughtily fight,
a blind man is better than a burn one ay;
of what gain is a good man dead?
is the will to be loyal to one’s Gods and Goddesses, to one’s Folk, to one’s self, and loyalty to one’s friends was as valued as highly as loyalty to one’s family. How one interprets the concept of loyalty is largely up to the individual as there are many different levels of loyalty, and hence Fidelity. Each person knows within themselves just what this means to them, and it is important that others understand this, to be able to form the bonds of loyalty that exist on all levels. Fidelity includes your commitment to Asatru, your commitment to your Kindred, your commitment to your Family responsibilities, and your commitment to making the world a better place. In this ‘modern era’ courage is the first to falter- courage is what holds our loyalties to us, what holds them true and keeps those bonds strong. Our bonds serve as the conduit upon which the might of our collective folk-essence travels, the very web that weaves together the tapestry of our Folk. We must be unfailing in our loyalties- to our Gods, Ancestors, tribe, faith and folk. Any breach of loyalty is a tear upon the fabric of the weave, and so threatens the destruction of all we have worked to achieve. We as a folk cannot suffer to permit a faltering of fidelity on any level.
Troth is the native Germanic word for faith, fealty, or loyalty to one’s family, friends, kindred, lord, or Gods is considered amongst the highest of virtues. A warrior that survived his lord in battle, or failed to lay down his life defending kinfolk was shunned in society.
Troth was what ensured that “hold oaths” (oaths of fealty) and wedding vows were kept. Oaths were seen as sacred contracts, and oath breakers seen as the worst of offenders. Unlike the other virtues, to be lacking in this one would have meant death in the Elder Period.
Generosity, was seen as perhaps the highest of virtues and is intimately related to Loyalty on several levels. Many passages in the Hávamál deal with giving and its importance, and if one looks closely at those passages, one sees that giving was not seen as a one-sided affair, but as an equal exchange. The Ancient Heathens saw giving as not only the exchange of physical gifts, but also as an exchange of mystical power as well. Every gift given called for a gift in return. Should one fail to give the original giver a gift, he would lose main equal to the main contained in the gift to the giver. Mægen exchanged through gifts over a long period of time between two or more people created a bond similar to kinship, due to personal main’s intimate link to one’s soul. Thus kings gave gifts to their thanes, friends exchanged gifts at Yule, gifts were exchanged between bride and groom, and sacrifices were seen as gifts to the gods (obligating the gods to give something in return). However, one could give too much or too often and thereby negate any obligation of a gift in return; nor were gifts amongst kinsmen common, for they shared the same main on a certain level anyway (through the kinfylgja). In this way, the pre-conversion Germans saw giving not only as a physical act, but as a metaphysical one as well.
Vengeance for the murder or harming of one’s kinsmen was not just a virtue, but an obligation. Amongst our ancient ancestors, when a kinsmen was murdered, it was the duty of the kindred to take revenge or demand wergild, which was a heavy fine for murder to prevent blood feud.
Equality of the sexes was one of the ancient Germanic virtues, though no doubt to them it was just a way of life. Men and women were treated the same under Germanic law until late in the Elder Period when Christian ideas intruded and took over. Early in the Heathen Period, the ancient Heathens even placed Women above Men in certain respects. According to Tacitus, “They think that there is something sacred and provident about women. They neither fail to consult them nor do they scoff at their counsel. In Germanic wills, sons and daughters were treated evenly.
If you find a friend you fully trust
And wish for his good-will,
Go often to his house
is the willingness to be hard on oneself first and then if needed help with the development with others, so that greater purposes may be achieved. We must always be hardest on ourselves, to set the example. It is very easy to work at the level of do as I say, not as I do. But in this we dishonour ourselves and we dishonour others.
Leading by example is what this is all about. A member of the true folk should be just that – True. This implies a certain amount of discipline to keep oneself from straying from the path of Asatru into other, perhaps easier paths. Discipline and fidelity often work very closely together, with discipline providing the will power needed to retain one’s fidelity. Thus we grasp and shape our own destiny and worth. This carries forth from our own personal sphere to that of the tribe and folk overall. We must have the discipline that keeps us true to our principles and virtues, and also allows us to master our resolve and focus. We must remain free of dependencies and those indulgences that are the nemesis of evolution and Natural Law: that which sows the seeds of our own or our folk’s demise.
Early shall he rise who rules few servants,
And set to work at once:
Much is lost by the late sleeper,
Wealth is won by the swift.
is the willingness to share what one has with one’s fellows, especially when they are far from home. This is not the same as giving out all your worldly possessions to anyone who comes by a begging. It is the concept of sharing, which is reciprocated by all True folk when they have you as a guest in their homes. It is important to establish and reaffirm the bonds of friendship, and kinship that Hospitality is observed. Hospitality is a virtue that all true Asa-folk take very seriously. When a guest comes into your home, offer him or her a drink and something to eat. Work hard to make your guests feel comfortable. The virtue of hospitality was very important in almost every ancient society, and as the Gods of Asatru are known to go wandering about Midgard in human guise, you will never know who that guest really is…
We rely on the strengths and love that are forged by blood and oath…what good are such things when we can’t otherwise? We must be ready and willing to lend help and assistance where we can, when it is needed- what good are we to those that we are bound if we cannot depend on one another?
Hospitality for our ancient ancestors was not just a virtue, but a necessity. Traveling long distances was often dangerous, and to ensure free trade and communications, the Elder Heathens opened their homes not only to friends, but also to strangers. Certain common courtesies bound both guest and host. The host provided a warm place to stay and something to eat, and even loaned dry clothes. The guest was expected not to eat too much, to provide entertainment (in the form of songs, tales, or news), and sometimes he gave small trinkets as gifts. Gestening was needful especially during the holy tides (when neighbors would gather to fain the gods and forbears) to prevent having to travel at night. For us, it is not much different at national gatherings when crash space is provided for those who have traveled a long way.
Fire is needed by the newcomer
Whose knees are frozen numb;
Meat and clean linen a man needs
Who has fared across the fells,
Water, too, that he may wash before eating,
Hand cloth’s and a hearty welcome,
Courteous words, then courteous silence
That he may tell his tale.
I give you rede Loddf fnir— heed it well!
You will use it if you learn it,
it will get you good if you understand it.
Do not abuse a guest— or drive him out the door.
Instead do well for the wretched.
is the willingness to work hard, always striving for efficiency, as a joyous activity in itself. It is vital that we work hard at what we seek to achieve, for without consistent and well-directed effort, our goals will not be reached. But it does not mean that we should work all the time, indeed one should be industrious in ones leisure pursuits as well, and avoid the concept of making work for the sake of having work to do.
The virtue of industriousness means working hard, and taking pride in one’s work, but it also goes beyond that. Are you employed, disabled, or a full-time student? If not, get a job. Are you part of a Kindred? If not, join one, or find some like-minded people and start one, be the person that “gets things done. This attitude will carry over to your spiritual life, as well. Do your work carefully, pridefully, and well.
Truly we are worthless if we cannot work to advance our children, to provide better for them in providing the best we can for ourselves…in reaching for high goals, in striving for perfection in all areas of life, we lay that example for our children, as they will for their own…laziness in that endeavor is a true ‘sin’ and failure to lay rightful layers within the Well, failure to take action, to work towards that greater evolution in self and spirit in all areas of our Being is certainly and evil indeed! We must provide for our Sippen and must work to further our standing in society, which also strengthens it! We must actively contribute to the sustenance of our household and Sippe, just as we must actively contribute to the sustenance of our Irminen-Gesellschaft, Irminic folk overall, and society-at-large in which we live! We cannot simply ‘settle’ for the mediocre, nor be satisfied in simply surviving- this does nothing to foster growth and commitment to growth, and does nothing to inspire our children to work harder or to achieve or evolve!
Industriousness went hand in hand with stead-fastness, and was necessary for survival. In ancient times there was always something to do: fields to till, cows to milk, swine to feed, wood to gather. In the mechanized world of today we often forget how hard life was for ancient ancestors. They didn’t just go to the fridge and grab a beer. They had to collect the honey (risking being stung by bees), and brew the mead before they could drink it. In ancient times laziness would leave one starving or freezing to death, so naturally individuals with this trait of industriousness were very highly regarded.
Cattle die, kindred die,
Every man is mortal:
But the good name never dies
Of one who has does well.
is the spirit of independence, which is achieved not only for the individual, but also for the family, clan, tribe and nation. It is not a concept of denying ones interconnectedness with others, but of ensuring that one can take care of oneself first, then ones family and loved ones, then the extended family (clan), the tribe (ones local grouping) and the nation (all true folk no matter where they reside). By being self-reliant we can then share what we have with others and fulfil the duty of Hospitality, the entire better.
Self-Reliance fits in very well with Industriousness. Don’t wait for someone else to do your job for you. Don’t wait for the world to be handed to you on a platter. Our ancient Gods and Goddesses favor those who do it themselves. This certainly doesn’t mean that you have to do something completely alone if you have no idea how, or if you really just can’t do it. What it does mean is that you should learn things from life, learn how to solve common problems, and maybe learn a craft or two. Pick up a book on brewing, or carving, or even plumbing or something. Have a hobby, perhaps one that can make nifty things for your Kindred to use, or for yourself to use. Who knows, you might even be able to sell things and make some extra money. Self-reliance is the key to freedom and freedom is the essence of all joyous life! To need reliance on others, or to be bound in thralldom and servitude is worst than death itself! We cannot be satisfied to let others think for us, nor can we be satisfied to let others do what is rightfully our own work to do! Only freedom can strengthen our love for life, and we cannot allow ourselves to be enthralled by need or want, which in turn enthralls our children and folk.
Only freedom furthers freedom!
A great part of Self reliance is utilizing ones own intellect and Wisdom, Odin is the God of wisdom, and knowledge of every kind was valued. Good kings were often given the appellation “the Wise,” and contests of knowledge occur in several of the Edda’s stories. Learning was a part of this, as it was the starting point on the road to knowledge and later wisdom. Today this is reflected in the research of modern Heathen scholars do to uncover the Elder Lore. It may be illuminating to note that Odin’s self sacrifice on the World tree Yggdrasil was to gain knowledge, not power. Odin’s quest to obtain a drink from Mimer’s Well was also to gain wisdom, the ability to use knowledge, foresight and common sense.
One’s home is best, though small it be
To each home is hall.
The heart bleeds in the beggar who must
Ask at each meal for meat.
Wits are needful
to he who travels far.
The dull should stay home
The dull will be mocked,
who cannot sit with sages.
Örlög (“Primal-layer”) or Wyrd, is the cosmic web of cause and effect that is influenced by, and influences everyone. Part of our Örlög is determined by the circumstances of our birth, our past lives, surroundings and so on. Örlög is not set in stone, for our choices in the moment are constantly modifying it. In other words, what we do now and have done in the past affects what happens to us in the future. This differs from the concept of “fate”, because it does not imply being utterly bound by a predetermined future. Nevertheless, it does mean that we cannot escape the consequences of our actions. Orlog is described in Nordic mythology as being the external law of the Universe. It seems at times to be a kind of ‘Primal Goddess’, an entity without beginning or ending, older and superior even than the gods and giants. The decrees of Orlog could not be set aside, and it was the pattern set by Orlog that the Norns wove, themselves bound by powers beyond their control.
‘LOG’, derived from Old Norwegian LAGU, means ‘law’, only it is a much broader, more binding, concept than our modern word. It also encompassed the concept of ‘lore’, knowledge and wisdom of the past, for use in the present. The term ‘OR-LOG’ means something along the lines of First Law, Primal Law, Ultimate Law (The Law, as in the Law or Word of God). Also, it could be seen as First Principle or Primal Layer. To sum up, and to greatly understate it, Orlog is the ultimate purpose, or great plan, of Creation.
In Norse Germanic mythology, Wyrd is a primal goddess and was the mother of the Norns. Her only appearance in surviving mythology seems to be her declaration that Vidar, son of Odin, will survive Ragnarok.
The word Wyrd is Old English and means ‘destiny’. From the same root comes Urd, one of the Norns, and the Germanic words Werth, Warth and Wurth, which mean ‘become’. The root word means ‘to turn’ or ‘to become’ and relates to that which has become (past and present), and that which will become (future). The term Wyrd has been translated as ‘Fate’, but has a different meaning to the Greco-Roman concept of fate, as will be shown.
An interesting aspect of Wyrd is that it can be pronounced as ‘Weird’ or ‘Word’ and both of these reveal meaning within the concept of Wyrd. ‘Weird’ can mean fate or destiny, and the Fates (similar entities to the Norns) are sometimes called the Weird Sisters. Weird also means supernatural, unearthly, uncanny. This last is derived from un kenny – ‘beyond our ken’ or ‘beyond our ability to know’. So the very word defies our ability to comprehend it.
‘Word’ can have very significant meaning within the concept of Wyrd. In the Gospel according to St. John (1:1), it is written that ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.’ Not a Nordic source, granted, but a mystery tradition that links the Word (Wyrd) with the Creative Powers of the Cosmos, as the concept of Wyrd is. The entire world was created with words in the Judeao/Christian tradition, and even in Nordic traditions a great deal of score was set by words, both as sources of wisdom (and thus power), and as mysteries with spells and blessings being spoken.
ORLOG and WYRD
The definitions given above for Orlog and Wyrd indicate that they are aspects of the same thing, that thing being ‘Destiny’, the predetermined pathway that Creation follows. However, that can be somewhat misleading. It does not mean ‘predetermined’ in the sense of ‘unavoidable’. Many people regard Destiny as being either an excuse for doing nothing and assuming Destiny will ‘find’ them; or an excuse for doing anything they want and ‘blaming’ it on Destiny. The twin concepts of Orlog and Wyrd have no place for either of these attitudes.
Instead, they are the natural course of one’s life. Everybody is born with certain abilities: strengths in some areas, weaknesses in others. One’s own Wyrd is the way these abilities will lead you through life. Problems, confusion, stress and depression arise when we try (whether through our own actions or external pressure) to work against it. This can be regarded as the Reality of our Life. Therefore Wyrd is related to the Web of Reality. The difference between Wyrd and the Web is that we can leave the path of our Wyrd, but the Web (the Reality) of our new situation will always remain with us, and will constantly be attempting to pull us back on course.
One of the principles of Asatru is to seek one’s own Orlog and endeavor to work with it. This means learning to live with the Reality of yourself, using your strengths and accepting your weaknesses, while at the same time attempting to use them as strengths by working with them and not against them. This shows that, while living against your Orlog creates problems, living in accordance with your Orlog will not necessarily be easy, although it will be regarded as challenging rather than problematical.
The concepts of Orlog and Wyrd do not end here, however. All things have their own Orlog, their own Path of Reality. This includes concepts and situations. It also includes Creation itself. All individual Orlogs are facets of the Universal Orlog, and all are part of the great Web of Fate being woven by the Norns.
In the Germanic spiritual tradition, the Hamingja was the force that was believed to run through the family. The lifestyle and conduct of the family affected the Hamingja for good or ill.
This can be regarded on several levels. On a purely physical level, in which the Hamingja can be considered to be the family reputation. The actions of any member can affect the reputation of the entire family and can last through several generations. On a more esoteric level, the Hamingja can be seen as a many faceted ‘soul’, each facet of which was the separate soul of an individual person, and yet part of the joint soul of the entire family. It can be seen from this that the ‘reputation’ could affect the entire future of the family and the actions of one family member could create good, or bad, luck for many generations to come.
Each family was seen as coming from one of the deities, and so each individual was an extension of that deity. This is demonstrated in ‘The List of Rig’. Also, the Anglo Saxon Chronicle lists many genealogies going back to Odin. Later, when Christianity became the leading religion, Odin was seen as being descended from Adam (for instance, the Parker Chronicle, AD853). The main purpose of this aspect of Hamingja was to attempt to lead a worthy life to eventually lead the family soul back to that deity.
After death, the individual soul would go to Hel – this was not a place of punishment, as in the Christian tradition, but a place of rest between incarnations. (In this, the figure of Hel as being half corpse and half beautiful woman represents the triple Goddess in the aspect of transforming from Crone to Maiden, embodying the concept of death and rebirth). Alternatively, the soul would go to Asgard to reside in the hall of their family’s deity: in other words, they would become one with their patron deity. This was a final destination, the soul would not be reborn again. This could be due to that particular individual having reached a level comparable to the Buddhist concept of Enlightenment, or to the entire Hamingja (family soul) being deemed worthy. There is a hall in Asgard with a golden roof for these worthy dead.
According to Asatru tradition, a person could only be reincarnated back into their own family line – they remained part of their Hamingja. If the family line died out, and therefore the Hamingja came to an end, none of the souls could be reborn. They would either remain in Hel, or become ghosts. (Another belief was that when the family line died, the entire Hamingja went to Asgard, but this seems a little too easy: entry into Asgard should require more than simply being the last of your line.) This explains the fierce loyalty to the family and the severe vengeance that could be instigated by the murder of a family member. Since their conduct also affected their Hamingja, it also explains the strong code of honour that the Germanic people lived by.
Hamingja also explains why it was such a great thing to die in battle: the individual soul would go straight to Asgard and side step any further incarnations, thus negating the risk of permanent residence in Hel. Also there was the added kudos of becoming a warrior for the Gods.