Chapter XXVII
Troth and the Folk
Ethics and philosophy are as important to any religion as deities and rites, yet most religions seem overly complex or simple in these matters. We in the Troth are thankfully blessed with a philosophy that may be as simple or as complex as any follower of our gods desires. Our philosophy may be as complex as the systems put forth by the Greek philosophers or as simple as the lessons we learn in kindergarten. Such a belief system allows for mystics and sages, farmers and factory workers, corporate lawyers and politicians; all with a comprehension ranging from the most basic tenets of our faith to the most complex. What's more, the simplest aspects of our religion are compatible with the most complex: there are no contradictions, as there are with other faiths. Therefore, a Trother can learn the basics of our faith and then apply these basics as they delve deeper into the lore without encountering the setbacks students of other religions suffer when they run into contradictory lore. The first thing any Trother should study is the ethical system of our forebears, and foremost among our ethical concerns is the matter of how our spiritual forebears viewed society. 
The Germanic folks were strong on individuality, a trait noted by the Romans even in battle. At the same time, they had a strong sense of loyalty, first to their kindred, and then to the community in which they lived. These bonds of loyalty were reflected in how our spiritual forebears viewed the institutions of family, community, nation, and so forth. Each institution, beginning with the smallest (the individual) ranging up to the largest (the nation or tribe) was seen as an enclosure or fenced-in area. Just as Asgard consists of the smaller enclosures of the gods, Midgard consists of enclosures, each one consisting of even smaller enclosures. Thus individuals make up kindreds, kindreds make up communities, communities make up the nation or tribe. And just as each individual has their own personal wyrd, each kindred has its own wyrd, as do communities and tribes (in the form of common law). This concept of enclosures, or garths, is best known from the scholar Kirsten Hastrup's works (esp. Culture and History in Mediæval Iceland), and is based on the opposition of innan-garð (within the garth) and utan-garð (outside the garth). The innan-garð is the human community, the utan-garð is the 'wilds'. According to Hastrup, this opposition may also be seen in the opposition of law and non-law, the law being coexistent with the human community. Of course, the law was seen by our spiritual forebears as the collective wyrd of a community or tribe. More accurately, perhaps, the law is the customs of a folk, deeds that are done because they are helpful to society, deeds that ensure mutual survival within the innan-garð (see "Tiw and Zisa"). But what are these things that form the law or custom of a folk? They can be found by looking at the qualities our spiritual forebears found desirable in individuals. 
In order for mankind to survive, individuals must possess certain traits that allow them to get along with each other. In addition to these traits are other traits that actually allow individuals to benefit each other. Together these traits comprise what most religions consider virtues or thews. Our spiritual forebears held certain thews much higher than others. One description of these thews is the Odinic Rite of England's "Nine Noble Virtues" (or, in Saxon English, Atheling-Thews): Boldness ("Courage"), Truth, Are ("Honour"), Troth ("Fidelity"), Self-Rule ("Discipline"), Guest-Friendliness ("Hospitality"), Busyship ("Industriousness"), Free-Standing ("Independence"), and Steadfastness ("Perseverance"). These have been taken by many groups as the chief traits which true folk should strive to show: the Raven Kindred, for instance, has adopted them as an "official" statement of its beliefs, "not only as a moral guide for our members, but also to say to the world what it is that we stand for - our good name in the community being important to us. Finally, this list is used when someone formally joins the Raven Kindred and we hold a sumble and toast the 9 virtues to the new member in the hope that they will apply them to their life" (Raven Kindred Ritual Book, p. 20). Other thews which our forebears thought most important were Evenhead (equality), Friendship, Strength, and Open-Handedness - and, perhaps highest of all, Wisdom. 
The Nine Atheling-Thews
Bravery or the refusal to allow fear to take one's mind was needed in the harshness of early Europe. Today this thew is reflected in the Troth's move towards acceptance in general society. Fáfnismál 31 shows the true meaning of Germanic boldness: "It is better to be whetted than not to be whetted when you go into battle; to be glad is better than to lose heart, whatever comes to your hand". According to Lew Stead, 
In almost every statement of Ásatrú beliefs, courage comes first. As Stephen McNallen has said, courage and bravery are perhaps the values for which the Vikings are best known. However, despite our history, few of us face such turmoil as a literal battle for one's life. In fact, I believe it might be easier to manifest courage in such a situation than to do so in the many smaller day to day occurrences in which courage is called for. 
The most common of these occurrences for modern Pagans is the courage to acknowledge and live one's beliefs. It is also, sadly, the one that we most often fail at. While we may often be full of the type of courage that would lead us to face a shield wall, many of us quake at the thought of the topic of religion coming up at the office or a friend asking what church we attend. We won't offer easy answers, but we ask this: if you toast the courage of your ancestors to fight and die for what they believe in, can you trade away your religious identity for a higher salary or social acceptance? 
In an essay on values there is also the question of moral courage. The way of Tyr is difficult - to lose one's hand for one's beliefs - but Tyr thought the price worth paying. In a million ways modern society challenges our values, not just as Ásatrúar who are estranged from mainstream religious practice, but for religious people in an increasingly not just secular, but anti-religious culture. Values are also not in favour in modern society. Breaking or getting around the rules is encouraged to get ahead. Living honourably is simply too inconvenient. I think most people, Ásatrú or otherwise, find this repugnant, but the only way to change it is to have the courage to refuse to take part in it. 
Truthfulness or honesty was a prized trait, as was modesty. At first, this might seem to conflict with the idea of heroic boasting, but it does not. The boasts made before battle or in sumble were not the idle boasts of unaccomplished men, but tales of past accomplishments and vows to do deeds within one's ability - perhaps barely so; perhaps deeds that would test the boaster to his utmost or beyond in his fulfillment or death; but nevertheless, which the speaker expected to fulfill. Perhaps it is best if one heeds this warning from the Anglo-Saxon poem "The Wanderer" (lines 65-72): 
"Wita sceal geþyldig...
ne næfre gielpes to georn, ær he geare cunne.
Beorn sceal gebidan, þonne he beot sprice_,
oþþæt collenferð cunne gea`rwe,
hwider hreðra gehygd hweorfan wille". 
(A wise man should be patient...nor ever cry out too eagerly, before he is readied. A stout-hearted warrior (lit. "bear") shall bide his time when he would speak an oath, till he knows quite where the thoughts of his heart will turn). 
As a Troth value, truthfulness does not necessarily mean "always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth regardless of any consequences." Truthfulness was something that came in many shades to our forebears, who delighted in riddle-games and kennings, and at least some of whom worshipped a god who is not best known for straightforward and literal-minded honesty. Both the subtleties of Wodan (and those folk who practise it in the Middle-Garth), and the truthfulness of Thonar are needful to Ásatrúar: there is a time for truth to be cunningly woven, and a time for it to be spoken out boldly (see discussion of Wisdom, below). Still, truth - in whatever form - is always thought better than falseness, and is a goal towards which all Troth folk strive. Truth, in the sense of honesty, is essential to personal honour and also to any system or morality that is not based on rigid legalism. If one is to uphold an honour code, one must be brutally honest with oneself and with others. 
Are (Honour) 
Truth and Are go together in all things. Honour is the strength of your word in which others may trust. More, it is that soul-might gained when your words uphold your deeds, when your oaths are sworn and kept - especially those oaths made on the hallowed Yule boar or cup, which only the worst of nithlings (or the greatest of fools, for swearing an oath that could not be kept) would fail to fulfill. When an oath is broken, the whole soul and being of the swearer are broken with it: it is upon Are that the many parts of soul-strength are based. Someone with no are, however strong he or she may be in body and mind, is yet lacking in true might, and leeches away the life of her or his clan. But someone who has great are calls upon the god/esses, makes blessings, or rists runes with a might that others cannot match, and that might is passed on to her or his kin after death. 
Honour is also that name which lives after you when your life is over, as in the well-known verses from Hávamál (76-77): "Cattle die, kinsmen die, you yourself shall likewise die. But word-glory dies never, for him who gets it well. Cattle die, kinsmen die, you yourself shall likewise die. I know one thing that never dies: the deeming over every dead man." This is true even among the god/esses: Völuspä tells us how Þórr, even as he sees the Middle-Garth's Wyrm die beneath his hammer, steps back nine feet and dies "fearing no shame"; and how, in the new world, those deities who have lived through Ragnarök speak of his deed again and deem its worth. The Raven Kindred Ritual Book says that, 
Honour is the basis for the entire Ásatrú moral rationale. If anything comes out in the Eddas and Sagas it is that without honour we are nothing. We remember two types of people from ancient times: those whose honour was so clean that they shine as examples to us and those who were so without honour that their names are cursed a thousand years after they lived... 
However, honour is not mere reputation. Honour is an internal force whose outward manifestation is reputation. Internal honour is the sacred moral compass that each Ásatrúar and God should hold dear. It is the inner dwelling at peace which comes from living in accordance with one's beliefs and with one's knowledge of the Truth of what one is doing. It is something deeply personal and heartfelt, almost akin to an emotion. It's a "knowing" that what one is doing is right and correct. 
In many ways, while the most important of all the virtues, it is also the most ephemeral in terms of description. It is all the other virtues rolled together and then still more. The best way I have found to describe honour is that if you are truly living with honour, you will have no regrets about what you have done with your life. 
Closely tied to are is troth - good faith or loyalty to one's friends, kinsmen, or gods. One might see troth as the soul-might of honour shown forth among folk: it is the holy bond of oaths and friendship, tying sib to sib, spouse to spouse, friend to friend, drighten to thanes, and god/esses to humans. 
Northern literature is full of folk who have shown the worth of their troth, but one example will serve. When Beowulf, as an old king, went out to fight the dragon that was devastating his land, he took with him a picked band of guards. But Beowulf's first blow failed, only angering the dragon so that it spewed fire everywhere. Then all the house-thanes fled except for young Wiglaf, whose first battle it was. He, seeing his drighten hard-pressed and thinking of all the good treatment he had gotten from Beowulf, charged through the dragon's fires and into the middle of the fight, and "they killed it together, sib-athelings. Thus should a warrior be, a thane in (time of) need" (2707-9). 
The Old Norse word trú was used for troth, trust, or belief: a patron god/ess or wight was the fulltrúi (manly)/ fulltrúa (womanly) - the fully trusted one, or the holder of full troth. To hold troth with others is not only to keep your word to them, which is needful even in the case of foes, but to work for their weal in all ways, to fight for them when there is need, and to share your own good and your thoughts with them as a true friend - in short, to be a fellow to them both on mead-benches and in the shield-wall. Troth is the very wall that hedges the human world within the garth from the wild world outside: breakers of troth are outlaws and trolls, no longer human folk. 
Troth is also the bond that ties us to our kin (both living and dead) and to the ways of our forebears; and for this reason, it is the word that we have chosen to describe our religion - for Troth is the very heart of the Northern beliefs. We must remain true to the Aesir and Vanir and to our kinsmen. Like marriage, Profession (the rite in which one enters the Ásatrú faith, similar to Christian confirmation or Wiccan initiation) is a sacred bond between two parties: in this case, an Ásatrúar and the Gods. In order for such a relationship to work, both must be honest and faithful to each other. 
Ásatrú, although currently being reborn, is at its roots a folk religion and we also uphold the values of fidelity to the ways of our ancestor. This is why historical research is so important to the Ásatrú folk: it is the rediscovering of our ancient ways and our readoption of them. 
As Grettir says in his saga, "A thrall takes his revenge at once, a coward never". Self-rule was one of the best traits a Norseman could have: loss of control was thought of as a shameful thing, but the person who could bear pain without reacting to it, or control his or her desire for revenge until the time came when it could be most effectively done was greatly respected. 
A fine example of the difference between self-rule and the lack of it (not to mention the result of that lack) is shown in Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar (Heimskringla): Óláfr has come to court Queen Sigríðr the Proud, but wants her to convert to Christianity. She replies reasonably, with a calmness and tolerance to be envied by anyone who has to deal with folk from a faith strongly opposed to their own: "'I shall not go from that troth which I have always held, and my kinsmen before me. But I will also not object to it if you trust in that god whom you prefer'". Óláfr then loses all his self-rule and "became greatly angry and answered hastily (one imagines his voice rising to a shrill shriek - KHG), 'Why should I want to marry you, Heathen bitch?' - and struck her in the face with his glove". Sigríðr, though she is in her own hall, does not call on her warband to deal with Óláfr at once, as she thinks the time has not come for a pitched battle in her home and/or a major international incident. Instead, she only answers with great dignity and self-control, "'That may well be thy death.'" And it is: she is largely responsible for the alliance which brings about Óláfr Tryggvason's fall. While anger and other passions, and expressions of them ranging all the way from a change in tone of voice to man-slaying, were understood as both needful and often good and useful by our forebears, such expressions were only respected as they stemmed from a willed decision to act - to use feelings and the deeds rising from them as tools, rather than to be used by them. 
Self-rule is also the will and judgement which makes honour and troth possible: having no legalistic code of behavior, the true wo/man must rely on her or his own ability to decide what is right, then stick to the path to carry it out, however difficult and fraught with unforeseen problems it may be. It is the exercise of personal will that upholds honour and the other virtues and translates impulse into action...If one rejects legalism, one must be willing to control one's own actions. Without self-discipline, we have the mess we currently see in our culture. Self-Rule is closely tied to Free-Standing; one cannot have one without the other. 
Guest-friendliness was one of the most needful thews of the old days, when travelling was made dangerous by weather, outlaws, and other hazards of the road. Then folk always had to be ready to open their doors to wayfarers - and some of those wayfarers were more than human. Hávamál begins with Óðinn coming into a home or hall after a long faring: he speaks to the host. "Hail to the giver! A guest has come in, where shall he look to sit? He is hasty to get to the fire, for his own good. Fire is needed for him who has come in and has cold legs; meat and drink are needful to one who has fared over the fells." Landnamabók (Hauksbók ch. 74) describes how the chieftainess Geirríðr "spared no meat for folk, and let her hall be set on a major roadway; she sat on a stool and invited guests, and her table within stood ever with food on it" - as fine an example of guest-friendliness as one could hope to find! 
Although it is seldom that folk today wander on foot through the snow and must rely on the guest-friendliness of those houses they chance to find, this thew is still needful - the more so as hotel bills get higher. It is the duty of true folk to take care of other true folk where-ever they may be - to offer a place in their own homes or at least see to it that travellers have a place to stay. Lew Stead points out that, 
In our modern Asatru community, we need to treat each other with respect and act together for the good of our community as a whole. This functions most solidly on the level of the kindred or hearth where non-familial members become extremely close and look out for each other. It can mean hospitality in the old sense of taking in people, which we've done, but in modern times it's more likely to mean loaning someone a car or a bit of money when they need it (that's need, not want). 
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. Or perhaps from time to time, they are literally the Gods in human form. This has profound implications for social action in our religion. Our response to societal problems such as poverty (that's poverty, folks, not laziness) is in many ways our modern reaction to this ancient virtue. 
In terms of our modern community as a whole, I see hospitality in terms of frontier 'barn raisings' where a whole community would come together and pool their resources. This doesn't mean we have to forget differences, but we must put them aside for those who are of our Folk, and work for our common good. 
Guest-friendliness is also important in that most of our blessings are still held in folk's homes and yards, and thus most Hearths and Garths rely on this thew as the underlying one which makes it possible for them to gather together in frith with each other and the god/esses. 
Guest-friendliness also stretches to the way in which guests are treated, whether they come alone or in groups at a feast. A good host/ess will offer a guest a choice of drinks when the guest steps over the threshold (see "Rites"), make sure that her or his guests are never thirsty, hungry, or bored; that the music or television programme playing is to their taste; and that the places into which they are likely to go are clean and well-appointed. This means planning ahead for a number of possibilities. 
As well as being sure that his/her guests do not thirst, the host/ess should also be sure that they have sober transportation home. This was less important in the old days (when was the last time you saw an ox-cart wrapped around a telephone pole or a tree?), but is literally a matter of life and death today. 
Likewise, guests have certain duties to the host/ess. They must leave a place in which they have been at least as clean as it was when they got there; if the host/ess cannot afford the best of food or drink, the guest must still partake of it with as much enthusiasm and respect as if the finest table had been spread. An example which all should take note of is that of Rígsþula, in which the god Heimdallr behaves in exactly the same way in the lowly hut of Great-Grandfather and Great-Grandmother as he does in the high hall of Father and Mother. If a guest should chance to break something, she/he is responsible for telling the host/ess and, if the host/ess will accept it, making recompense. 
It is traditional in all the Northern countries for a guest to bring a gift; sometimes a symbolic bouquet of flowers, sometimes something more practical such as a bottle of wine or spirits, or a six-pack of beer. The latter gifts are especially strongly recommended at a feast where many folk will be drinking, as it is very rude to expect a single person to provide all the refreshments for a single feast (a potentially bankrupting prospect). 
Busyship was also needed for survival in the elder days. Those that would not work, starved or froze to death. Although the clan took care of its own, it also called for all its folk to do their share: even small children had their place in the daily work of farming, spinning, and tending beasts. As Hávamál 71 tells us, "The lame rides a horse; the handless can herd; a deaf man can also fight well. To be blind is better than to be burned; no one has use for a corpse". Those who were too old and decrepit to take any part in the household labour were still cared for, honoured for the deeds they had done and the wisdom they had learned in their long lives: Hávamál 134 counsels: "Never laugh at the hoary thule (speaker)! Often what old men say is good, and wise words come out of the wrinkled bag that hangs with the skins". However, so long as there was any contribution a family member could make to the good of the whole, they made it. 
Hávamál has much to say on the matter of busyship, but chief among the High One's redes in the matter may be this: "Seldom does a lying-down wolf get the lamb, or a sleeping man victory. He who has few workers should rise early, and go himself to work: he who sleeps in the morning will miss much" (58-59). 
Modern Ásatrúar must be industrious in their actions. We need to work hard if we are going to achieve our goals. There is so much for us to do...We can't do this by sitting on our virtues, we need to make them an active part of our behavior. Industry also refers to simple hard work in our daily vocations, done with care and pride. 
Here's a few concrete examples. If you are reading this and don't have a kindred, why not? Stop reading now. Go and place ads in the appropriate local stores, get your name on the Ring of Troth, Wyrd Network, or Asatru Alliance networking lists, and with other Pagan groups. Put on a workshop. OK, now you're back to reading and you don't agree with what I'm saying here? Well, be industrious! Write your own articles and arguments. Write a letter to the editor and suggest this material be banned - better than passivity. Get the blood moving and go out and do it. That's how it gets done. The Gods do not favour the lazy. 
The same holds true for our non-religious lives. As Ásatrúar we should offer a good example as industrious people who add to whatever we're involved in rather than take from it. We should be the ones the business we work in can't do without and the ones who always seem to be able to get things done. When people think of Ásatrú, they should think of people who are competent and who offer something to the world. 
This doesn't just apply to vocational work, but to the entire way we live our lives. It is just as much a mentality. The Vikings were vital people. They lived each day to its fullest and didn't wring their hands in doubt or hesitation. We should put the same attitude forward in all that we do whether it is our usual vocation, devotion to the Gods, or leisure time. (Raven Kindred Ritual Book) 
"A dwelling is better, though it be little; everyone is master at home. Though you have but two goats and a thatched roof, it is far better than begging. A dwelling is better, though it be little; everyone is master at home. Bloodied is the heart of him who must beg every time for his meals" (Hávamál 36-37). 
Individualism or free will, the freedom to be one's own man (or woman) was very important to our forebears. However, free-standing carries with it certain duties. Greatest among these is responsibility for yourself - all your choices, all your deeds. Germanic Heathens have no "original sin" to blame; we cannot claim that "Loki made me do it". True, an ill wyrd, or unfriendly folk or wights, may put us in the worst of situations, as happened to many of the great hero/ines of the Northern people; but that is where such thews as boldness, honour, and self-rule come into their own - for at the end, what is remembered is not simply that you have suffered and/or even died, but the manner in which you did it. A good example of such free-standing despite the worst of circumstances is the tale of Högni's (Hagen's) death as told in Atlamál hin groenlenzsku. Gunnarr has told Attila that he will not reveal the hiding place of the hoard of the Rhine until he sees Högni's heart before him (presumably fearing that threats to himself might persuade his brother to give in). Högni is taken outside, but it is suggested that it would be better to cut out the heart of the thrall Hjalli, who is good for little. Hjalli whines and moans about how dreadful it is that he should have to pay for their battle, and screams before the knife ever touches him. Then "Högni asked, as few would do, that the thrall be unfettered, and he himself go under: 'I think it will be a lesser thing for me to play this game; why should we wish to listen to this shrieking?'" As his heart is cut out of his breast, Högni laughs. Even though he is a battle-captive, disarmed and bound among his enemies with almost no power over his external circumstances, the hero is still free-standing - willing to take full responsibility for the choices which have led him to where he is, without blaming any of the other folk whose actions contributed to the situation, or regretting either his deeds or his death. 
As many of us do, Lavrans Reimer-Møller counts free-standing as the greatest and most over-arching of the thews of the way of the North, believing that the single unifying principle at the root of our beliefs "is this: one must always be prepared to take full responsibility for one's actions...If a christian should challenge the moral basis of our beliefs, then this can serve as a rational response. We always take responsibility for everything we do. Period. Good, bad, or otherwise...I would imagine that the practical application of our religion would mean to simply think through the consequences of any act, and then decide whether or not the price is worth it. 
Say someone insults and offends you. Your instinctive reaction may be to attack the offender physically. But think: you will be arrested and charged with assault; you will have to hire a lawyer, a member of a profession which no longer carries the honour it once did; you will play the game in the legal system of pleading not guilty in spite of the evidence and force your victim and the court to prove otherwise. The whole legal system in this country has become based on the principle of avoiding responsibility. To take part in the game is morally corrupting. So unless you are willing to go to jail and pay a fine, don't hit him! Of course, if you decide that it's worth it, then go ahead and give your enemy what he deserves, but be prepared to enter the court and proudly say, "Yes, I did assault him". Don't do the crime if you can't do the time. Always have the weregild handy, just in case!" ("Taking the Rap") 
As the sagas show us, this straightforward approach was the way of our folk. Whatever the circumstances, a killing was only a "murder", a shameful slaying, if the killer hid the body and/or tried to conceal having done the deed: the expected thing was for the slayer to announce what he had done, then deal with whatever consequences arose. As Lavrans says, 
For me, a basic mental and spiritual checklist before I go out into the world seems to give me the confidence and inner strength to ride a subway into downtown Boston and do my business without being crippled by the kind of fear I feel all around me. A very large factor in that process of self-empowerment is the constant application of the basic ethic of Odinism as I understand it. I will not take any action unless I am prepared to take full responsibility for the results of that action. All else follows from that. Thus I honour and emulate the Gods and Goddesses of Asa/Vanatru. Even Loki told the truth, and took his punishment ("Taking the Rap"). 
As expressed by Raven Kindred, 
Traditionally, our folkways have always honoured the ability of a man or woman to make their own way in the world and not to lean on others for their physical needs. This is one of the way in which the several virtues reinforce and support each other. Hospitality cannot function if people are not responsible enough to exercise discipline and take care of themselves. It's for those that strive and fail or need assistance that hospitality is intended, not for the idle who simply won't take care of themselves. 
In terms of our relationships with the Gods, self-reliance is also very important. 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 acting as scraelings looking for a handout from on high...We, as Asatruar, are people who can make our own way in the world, but who choose to seek a relationship with the Gods... 
Being self-reliant also means taking responsibility for one's life. It's not just about refusing a welfare check or not lobbying for a tax exemption, but also refusing to blame one's failures on religious intolerance, the patriarchy, or an unfair system. The system may, in fact, be unfair, but it's our own responsibility to deal with it. 
True folk should also remember that, though responsibility comes down to individual actions, our deeds and their consequences can stretch far beyond the self, as spoken of by Eric Wodening: 
...all the threads (of the web of Wyrd) are interconnected throughout the web. This means that we, as Heathen, must take responsibility for our actions lest they affect others through the web. What seemed like "an innocent white lie" could become a vicious rumour that ruins another's life. Such actions ultimately weaken various threads in the web, and one of those threads so weakened will almost always be that of the culprit. For instance, a factory dumping toxins in a local stream may well foul their own water supply, resulting in cancer deaths for the lot of them. Similarly, as all life on the planet is represented by various threads, Man is interconnected to all the other forms of life. For this reason, Heathens must extend the same respect to other forms of life that they have for humans. If mankind damages enough of the other threads that make up our environment, the pattern on the web of Wyrd called "Earth" could well unravel. In other words, man could destroy the earth. It is for this reason that interconnectivity is a concept one should be familiar with. 
Free-standing can also be a matter of the heart. As a troth based on kinship and folk, reputation has always been of the highest value to us; the culture of the North is not a guilt-culture like the Judeo-christian one, but rather a shame-culture, in which ill-doing is shown by the eyes of the community. Nevertheless, to rely on others as the final judges of right or worth, and to act to please them rather than guiding yourself by what you believe to be right, is to be, in effect, a thrall. This can be seen in extreme cases by abusive relationships, in which the abuser convinces the abused partner that (most often, at least when the abuse is physical) he is the sole judge of her worth, and hence has the right to do her violence. In lesser instances, it can be seen by concealing your religion or other beliefs and feelings for social advantage or because you are afraid of how another will react if you tell them, or by trying to change against your own will to please another. In this sense, it can be seen as an anti-social thew, and I (KHG) am not necessarily counselling that a true person needs to, for instance, give his eighty year-old Baptist granny a heart attack by saying, "I don't believe in Jesus and what's more, I sacrificed a pig to Freyr this Midsummer past. Oh, and by the way, I'm gay and this is my boyfriend Billy." In that sense, no one can (or perhaps should) be completely free-standing, unless they live in a mountain cabin all by themselves. 
In order to live within a family, kindred, or community, we all must surrender a little of our free-standing in order to support and be supported by our folk: no matter how firmly you believe that someone has given you an insult that should be washed out in blood, for instance, unless you are ready to go to jail for that belief, ignoring society to do what you think best is probably not a good idea. Grettir the Strong offers us a warning about the perils of being completely self-willed: because he would not be ruled in the least by his father, he was cast from his home; because he would not be ruled in any way by law or custom, he was repeatedly outlawed, and no luck came to him. Even in a close marriage, sometimes there are times when, however strongly you feel, you really should keep your mouth shut (assuming that you want to continue having a close marriage, that is). On the other hand, if you are regularly forced to deny your own opinions, beliefs, or feelings for the sake of appeasing someone who should reasonably be expected to respect them - or have put yourself in a situation where you cannot expect those around you to respect what you hold dear - then you have lost more of your free-standing than is good for you, and need to consider how to regain it. Going out of your way to get yourself fired on the grounds of, for instance, religion or sexual preference, may not be a good idea; however, if your job rules you so completely that you cannot live as you please for fear someone might find out about it, are you not a thrall to your employer? 
Especially with family and friends, free-standing and socialization can be a delicate balance: relying too much on one can mean giving up too much of the other. Offending your boss by not denying your religion may mean losing your job, which is something that most people can deal with; but offending your rigidly christian parents in the same way, if it means the risk of losing your family, is a different matter altogether. The best relationships, of course, are the ones where all parties allow the others to keep as much of their free-standing as possible; but in real life, there will always be a struggle between, "I want you to be what you are" and "I want you to be what I want you to be". There are no hard and fast guidelines for what to do in such situations. It is, as always, a matter for your own choice - but it is well to be aware of what you risk on both sides, and what price you are willing to pay for whatever path you take. The only person who is absolutely free-standing is an outlaw; but the person who is absolutely dependent on others is a thrall. Both are ill to some degree in the eyes of the North - although the tales of both Grettir and Eiríkr the Red suggest that, if those were the only choices, the free-standing and brave outlaw is a better person than the dependent and honourless thrall. Yet, like all thews, free-standing must be ruled by wisdom. 
Endurance and tenacity, the enduring of one's wyrd, was and still is a desired quality. Our forebears had to be steadfast to survive. The Anglo-Saxon poem "Deor", written by a poet in a bad situation, recounted the sufferings of various heroes and heroines, with the refrain, "Þes offereode, þisses swa mæg" ("That passed over; this may also"). Such steadfastness may be seen in the story of Weyland (see "Alfs, Dwarves, and Huldfolk"), who, forsaken by his swan-wife, imprisoned on an island with his hamstrings cut, and forced to work for his foe, did not give up and die, but instead worked ceaselessly until he was able to forge not only a full revenge, but his own freedom. Such steadfastness is what we need as true folk today, if we are to bring back the ways of our forebears. The Raven Kindred Ritual Book says, 
The final virtue is perseverance, which I think the most appropriate because it is the one that we most need to keep in mind in our living of the other values. Our religion teaches us that...nothing comes easy. We need to continue to seek after that which we desire...there are no free lunches or easy accomplishments - especially in the subjects we have set before ourselves. If we truly wish to build an Ásatrú community that people will hold up as an example of what committed people can do, then we must persevere through the hardships that building our religion is going to entail. We must be willing to continue on when we are pushed back. If one loses a job for one's religion, the answer is not to go back and hide, but to continue until one finds a vocation where one can move forward and live as an Ásatrúar should. 
Finally, we must persevere when we simply fail. If one's kindred falls apart because of internal strife, one should go back and start over. Pick up the pieces and continue on. If nobody had done this after the disintegration of the Asatru Free Assembly, this would probably never have been written. We must be willing to continue in the hard work of making our religion strong - not just when it is convenient and easy to do so, but when it gets hard, inconvenient, or just plain boring. To accomplish without striving is to do little, but to persevere and finally accomplish a hard-fought goal brings great honour. 
The will to keep going even after failure is the will of the true hero. When Sigmundr Völsung was defeated in battle by Siggeir, his father and brothers slain, he still did not give up: he waited for his revenge long enough to father a son and raise him to manhood. Völundr lost his love but did not give up hope of her; his sword - the self-forged embodiment of his luck - was taken from him by force, and he was physically crippled and made into a thrall, losing all that our forebears saw as honour and the various aspects of soul-strength; yet he regained that, and more. Everyone will fail sometime, perhaps repeatedly. A vow may be made that cannot be kept; a recovering alcoholic may fall off the wagon; countless things, which may or may not be your own fault, can happen to diminish your soul-might or break your heart. The only way to deal with such failures is to keep going, to rebuild what you lost (and like Všlundr, to strengthen yourself more than before in the process); defeat in a battle need not be defeat in the war unless you choose to surrender to it, and usually the despair of having failed at something important to you does more damage than the failure itself. It is a truism that if you fall off a horse, you have to get right back on in order to keep the fear from being graven in; the same is true of every struggle and failure in life. Even the god/esses themselves sometimes know defeat: Thonar was shamed and mocked in the hall of Utgarð-Loki; Frija could not protect Balder from his doom; Wodan knows that at Ragnarök, he must be slain by the Wolf Fenrir. Yet Thonar has never ceased to fight etins, nor Frija to bless and ward those she loves. Sometimes perseverance means finding a way around the impossible rather than facing it straight-on: Wodan sired Víðarr to be his avenger and do what he himself shall not be able to. Sometimes it means drawing back and waiting as Sigmundr did; Wodan's advice to praise no day till it is done, no man until he is dead, is not only a warning against taking victories for granted, it is a reminder that defeats are not final while you can live and struggle. 
One of the rune-poems tells us that "Need is the help of heroes": it is the stubbornness that kindles the need-fire to work around Wyrd and overcome in the end which proves the hero's heart at the last, so that failure is not a true defeat, but a challenge. And, in the end, that steadfastness will suffice for all the thews of the North: a coward who is too stubborn to let his fear stop him becomes brave, a lazy person who is too stubborn to leave a task unfinished becomes the embodiment of busyship. Steadfastness will see you through the suffering brought by troth and truth; if you force yourself steadfastly to guest-friendliness, however uncomfortable you find it, you will find that others come to speak of you as the best of hosts or hostesses. Steadfastness is the heart of free-standing: where others may come to doubt you completely when you have failed, you must have the stubbornness not to doubt yourself, but to keep going in spite of their mistrust and not let it daunt you - if you have that steadfastness in yourself, you will never become truly dependent on another's will or words, and thus never be a thrall in your heart. Steadfastness is the essence of self-rule; it is your shield-wall in every battle of life, great or small - where one shoulder-companion of your deeds or hearts may fall, so long as you are able to summon your steadfastness to you again and go on, you will triumph in the end. There is a poem by Rudyard Kipling (and not "If", for a change) which, even with a mildly christian reference, best expresses the truth of steadfastness in the face of all that may befall: 
The careful textbooks measure - let all who build beware! -
The load, the shock, the pressure materials can bear,
So when the buckled girder lets down the grinding span,
The blame of loss or murder is laid upon the Man,
Not on the Steel - the Man! 
The prudent textbooks give it in tables at the end,
The stress that shears a rivet or makes a tie-bar bend.
What traffic breaks macadam - what concrete may endure -
But we, poor sons of Adam, have no such literature
To warn us, or make sure. 
So in our daily dealings with stone and steel we find
The Gods have no such feelings of justice towards mankind.
To no set gauge they make us, for no laid force prepare,
In time they overtake us with loads we cannot bear,
Too merciless to bear. 
We hold all earth to plunder - all time and space as well -
Too wonder-stale to wonder at each new miracle,
Till in the mid-illusion of godhood 'neath our hands
Falls multiple confusion on all we did or planned,
The mighty works we planned. 
We only in creation - how much luckier the bridge and rail! -
Abide the twin damnation to fail and know we fail.
Yet we - by which one token we know we once were gods -
Take shame in being broken, however great the odds,
The Burden or the Odds. 
O veiled and secret Power, whose paths we seek in vain,
Be with us in our hour of overthrow and pain,
That we - by which sure token may know thy ways are true -
In spite of being broken - or because of being broken -
May rise up and build anew,
Stand up and build anew! 
Even so, after Ragnarök - in large part because Wodan would not accept his own defeat and death as being final - the world is built anew, and the heirs of the god/esses take up their might; it is not by chance that the forebears of the new humanity are named Líf and Lífþrasir - Life and the Stubborn Will to Live. 
Further Thews
Equality of the sexes probably was not considered a thew by our forebears, but simply a fact of life. Obviously some roles were divided by gender: most of the heavy fieldwork and fighting was done by men, most of the housework, spinning, and weaving by women. Both sexes could hold rule, in both the religious and social spheres; women, thought to be especially wise from early times, were very often the ones who determined the course of a household or kingdom, though men, especially in matters of battle or law, were usually the ones who carried out the plans. 
In modern times, now that physical combat and actual muscular strength are less important than they were in days of old (and now that more women are seriously training in various forms of fighting in any case), there is no reason to expect any sort of division by gender in anything that true folk do, with the exception of adulthood initiations (see "Man-Making" and "Woman-Making"), the exploration of such spiritual mysteries as some folk may think are specifically gender-linked, and certain traditional customs (for instance, the Yule-Buck is only ever played by a male guiser, while it is far more fitting for women to pour out drink). As far as leadership and religious activity, the Troth places full worth on both men and women, as on both goddesses and gods: the highest post in the organization was first held by Steersman James Chisholm, then by Steerswoman Prudence Priest. 
Seen in a broader light, evenhed applies to more than gender. In its fullness, it means treating all folk evenly - that is, as their deeds merit. Folk are known as worthy by how well their works and their lives show forth the thews of the Northern way - not because their chromosones are XY, their skins are white and hair fair, or because their sexual preferences conform to the ideology of mainstream Western society. Neither snobbery nor reverse snobbery, neither discrimination nor reverse discrimination has a place here: evenhed means seeing individuals in terms of their own abilities and worth. It is one of the easiest thews to talk or write about, but one of the hardest to carry out. 
Strength has always been one of the most notable characteristics of the Northern folk - the emphasis we place on strength and health of body as well as mind and soul. This has to do with the way in which the Teutonic peoples looked at the being: rather than separating the physical body from the other elements, our forebears saw it as reflecting them, feeding and being fed by the various sorts of soul-might (see "Soul, Death, and Rebirth"). For us, intellectual, spiritual, and physical capabilities are equally important, and each of us should strive to develop all of them to the best of our abilities. This does not mean that to be really true, you have to have a Ph.D., be a great godwo/man, runester, or seith-worker, hold a black belt in some martial art, and look like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Cory Everett (even if that would be the modern equivalent of the ultimate Viking ideal). It does mean that scholars should meditate for a little while every day, that deeply spiritual folk should balance their own revelations with research and left-brain intellectual discipline, and that both of them should have some form of regular exercise and training in defending themselves should it become necessary - just as those who are physically strong and active should not neglect to develop their minds and souls, or trust only in bodily strength and a good heart to see them through all life's trials: even Thonar, mighty as he is, is both deep-minded and cunning in his way, with, quite probably, his own magic (see discussion in the chapter on "Thonar"). Our forebears had less respect for the weak-minded than for the weak of body; a cripple such as Völundr could still be a hero, but never a true fool (the image of Siegfried as a muscle-bound dimwit is a creation of Wagner, who seemed, as he makes explicit in Parsifal, to confuse idiocy with purity of heart). 
Strength of will was also highly prized by our forebears: the weak-willed can hardly hope to show forth any of the atheling-thews, for they all depend more on will than on any other trait. The same strength of will should ever test both mind and body - the true wo/man should ever strive to make him/herself as mighty in every way as s/he can. 
Wisdom was one of the traits most highly prized by our forebears - both in the sense of "knowledge of lore" and of "good judgement". Someone who is truly wise has both a broad background of information and the ability to apply it to the current situation to see what is needed to deal with it in the best way possible. Without wisdom, the other thews can be suicidal and destructive, as well as helpful: a bold fool in battle, for instance, is not only likely to get him- or herself killed, but her or his comrades as well; while truth told without wisdom can be more dangerous than a randomly tossed hand grenade; unmeasured busyship leads to nervous collapse or heart attacks; offering guest-friendliness beyond one's means can bankrupt one's own family and offering it to the wrong people can lead to all sorts of difficulties; unmeasured free-standing leads to outlawry; steadfastness in regards to the wrong thing is the path to destruction; and so forth. 
While the wiser characters in the tales of our folk often seem less heroic than others, events usually prove their caution to have been well-founded. Both in Nibelungenlied and Þiðreks saga, Hagen is most often the character who counsels restraint, and is criticized for it - but the deaths of all around him are the direct result of his wisdom being ignored (while his own death is the price of his heroic choice of troth above all the other thews). 
Wisdom is understood in different ways by the followers of different god/esses. For those folk to whom Thonar embodies the highest hopes of their beings, for instance, wisdom is the practicality and common sense which deals with a problem directly at its roots; while to a follower of Frija, wisdom might be fore-sight (of one sort or another), and preparing for a difficulty in advance. Much of Wodan's wisdom is knowing when the other thews serve and when they will not. Some examples of this are given by Lavrans Reimer-Møller: 
In the Hávamál verses 42 through 48 we get some ideas how to deal with various relationships. 'If you have a true friend, then to that friend be true' seems to be the general message. But, 'eke lesing for lies': that is, give falsehoods to one who lies to you. Further verses make the point clear: all's fair in love and war. 
An oath taken within your kindred to be true to each other as well as the Aesir and Vanir is a strong bond, and not to be taken lightly. But it is only an oath to which you share troth...You are not always honour-bound to play fair and truthfully when dealing with enemies, especially those who attack you because of your faith.... 
Remember that Odin is a god of wisdom. That means having the smarts to outwit an enemy. Not just overpower or overwhelm, but outsmart him! Time after time in the Sagas, we see examples of men winning over their enemies by the simple expedient of fighting dirty. There is the story of two neighbors arguing over a piece of pasture. In spite of the established ownership, one neighbor runs his sheep up to the meadow in summer to graze. Finally, the owner hires a warrior to tend his sheep. The neighbor sends his own warrior to settle matters once and for all. It is agreed that they will fight, but while the shepherd-warrior sits down to tie up his bootlace, the other kills him with an axe-blow. Not a fair fight, but certainly decisive! As in so many other cases, it is clear that expediency takes precedence over ethics. It could be argued, of course, that this kind of foul play is indicative of the weakening of honour among the Norsemen, which made it possible for the christians to take over. The last days of a free Iceland would seem to almost prove my point. But there are too many earlier examples of winning by any means to give that argument much credence. 
By comparison, there is the honourable example of the captured Jomsvikings going cheerfully to their deaths. But they had little choice except to die on their feet like men and warriors, or behave like cowards. Given an (honourable) out, I'm sure they would have taken it. In fact, the hero of that episode does succeed in saving 12 of the remaining vikings from execution. There is a time to stand bravely and a time to wheel and deal. 
I've always thought that it would be a good idea to send troops into battle armed with an affidavit which clearly states that any statements or confession made under duress while in enemy hands are invalid. It would sure save a lot of wear and tear on POWs! And it would not compromise their integrity. 
So if an official from the local DSS comes into your home to see if you are corrupting your children with your 'pagan' ways: lie! If you have to, tell them whatever you must in order to protect your family. Then once you are in the clear, figure out a way to protect yourself from them in the future, either by moving, or by preventing such stuff and nonsense from occurring. I don't think that your fellow Asatruar or the Gods themselves will think any the less of you for using whatever trickery or deceit is necessary. 
If you found yourself confronted with a parole board hearing and your freedom depended on the judgement of the chaplain, who happened to be a christian fundamentalist, LIE! Tell him that you have given up your pagan ways and have seen the light. Praise Gee-Zuzzz! Get out of prison, and then get away, and then get even. One's first responsibility is to family, folk, and faith. One can better serve one's holy oaths by getting free, by any means possible. 
This is not to say that any of us who has acted in what he believes to be an honourable and true manner is not worthy of our support, respect, and trust. It is that given the results of some attempts at honourable actions which have been met with trickery and deceit, we must reconsider when and where and how to honour our oaths. 
Hindsight is not a lot of use to someone who has made a choice and paid the price, but we can all hope to learn and prepare for a better future. Further, if one of us has misrepresented himself in any way to his fellow Asatruar, then the means must exist for him to make reparations and take responsibility for his actions. But when dealing with religious fanatics of the extreme right-wing fundamentalist type, remember that they truly believe that they are in the right and that any and all actions against you and yours are justified. Be prepared to defend yourself by any means available. Again, not just the courage of Tyr or the steadfastness of Heimdall or the wisdom of Odin or the strength of Thor - but also the cunning of the trickster, Loki!" ("An Oath is an Oath, Or..?") 
A large part of wisdom is also the willingness to learn, and the ability to be on the watch for new knowledge. Most broadly stated in Wodanic terms, it is to have one eye in the Well of Mimir - to see all that has gone before - and one eye looking at what is about one, so that one can draw conclusions based on our knowledge and apply them to what is happening today. One who follows all the advice of H‡vam‡l and is able to use it will be truly least in the opinion of the Wodanist who is writing these particular sentences. 
The worst thing that could be said of a Germanic leader was that he or she was stingy; but the best thing that could be said was that she or he was open-handed and free with food and gifts. In his praise-poem for his friend Arinbjörn, Egill Skalla-Grímsson says that "he is grim towards gold, he is a foe to Draupnir's descendants...the gold-dealer, dangerous to rings" - meaning that Arinbjörn often broke pieces from the coiled gold arm-rings that were the chief Germanic currency in order to give them away. "Ring-breaker" and "ring-giver" are two of the most common poetic phrases for a leader. 
In elder days, the ruler was the chief giver of gifts, food, and ale; and in turn got the troth of strong thanes in frith and in battle. Today, there are few of us indeed who stand as major political figures with appropriate budgets for keeping a warband, so our views on open-handedness have to be modified slightly. This is not a thew expected only of the leaders of Hearth, Garth, and Hof, but of all the folk. As spoken of under "Guest-Friendliness", all should be willing to put in their share of food and drink at feasts; likewise, everyone should be willing to give when it will help their own group or Ásatrú folk as a whole. 
It should also be remembered that in elder days, the ring-giver was the source of gifts and food, but s/he got back as much as she gave, in terms of both presents and services. The thew of open-handedness is not just a matter of money, but of all forms of energy. In the modern age, time and personal effort are every bit as valuable as money - sometimes more so. The open-handed wo/man is the one who is ready to lend car and/or muscles to hauling stones for a harrow, to spend several hours cooking for a feast, to stay up until weird o'clock typing so that a newsletter can go out on time - or drive a kindred member whose car has died to work. In its greater sense, open-handedness is that mutual support which makes it possible for a community to be strong. 
The basic unit of the Germanic people was not the nuclear family, but the extended family. As spoken of earlier, every member of this family was a contributor in some way. It was the responsibility of the family to take care of those members who were no longer bodily able to support themselves, or who had fallen on hard times. Foote and Wilson quote a passage of Icelandic law describing the hierarchy of responsibility: 
A man must first maintain his mother. If he can manage more, then he must also maintain his father. If he can do better still, then he must maintain his children. If still better, then he must maintain his brothers and sisters. If better again, then he must maintain those people whose heir he is and those he has taken in against promise of inheritance. If yet better, he must maintain the freed man to whom he gave liberty. 
They add that "If a man cannot maintain his mother and father, he must approach his nearest kinsman who has the means and offer to work as his slave in order to pay off the loan necessary to keep his mother and father alive" (The Viking Age, p. 120). Only when all family resources had been exhausted did the care of the disabled or destitute become the responsibility of larger society. 
These were the most important and best of the thews held in high esteem by our forebears. To hold such thews is to be worthy (respected, valued) or have ar (honour); to lack them in the elder times could mean at best to be forgotten after death, at worst to be outlawed in shame. 
Of course, by showing forth the thews and thus achieving a good name, Trothers not only help their own self-esteem, they also help the Troth, the folk, and even the general society. The reasons for this are that the things that help society are the very things that individuals must do to help themselves. Selfish people, braggarts, and those who commit crimes or do wrong in other ways may help themselves in the short run, but they eventually incur a shild (debt) to society. Just as "every gift calls for a gain", every gain calls for a gift in return. Theft, over-reliance on others, even over-charging for one's services not only destroys individuals, but societies as well. A look at our world and such things as the changing prices of commodities and labour today quickly shows this: the corporation that overcharges and/or deliberately sells an unsafe product is as guilty as the murderer or rapist when it comes to the destruction of the modern world. As Trothers, we can either play by society's rules of selfishness or we can keep the thews held dear by our forefathers. After all, if we maintain a high standard of worth for ourselves, we can change society. As members of a larger society, our deeds form a part of its collective wyrd. So by keeping the thews of our spiritual forebears, we make that part of society which interacts with us do the same, because it will be our deeds that are helping to maintain or restore the wholesomeness of that society. If we fail to keep the thews of our forebears, we wind up living the wyrd of the non-Heathen majority, and join them in the destruction of not only Middenerd, but all the worlds about it. It is our choice. 
To this, Lavrans Reimer-Møller adds his thoughts on politics and the relationship of Heathens to both our own and general society ("Politics: Left, Right, or Wrong?"): 
During the last several years, as I have become more deeply involved in Asatru, I have observed a wide variety of attitudes regarding politics. The problem seems to be one of how to apply the basics of our philosophy to the reality of everyday life. The most often expressed viewpoint seems to be that Asatru does not have a political agenda. That's fine with me and many of the folk but we are surrounded by others who do have a political agenda. If we find ourselves confronted with these kinds of choices, do we choose the left or the right? 
Are we as a group more liberal? We tend to agree with the general ideas of social responsibility that are associated with so-called liberalism. We also seem to value the idea of the right to individual freedom and liberty, and thus would seem to be "conservative". But wait; each position has flaws which we might consider to be unacceptable. A "liberal" institution, the Department of Children and Social Services, has threatened to take away the children of one of us because of false charges of abusive treatment (involving a "cult"). Liberals can be very narrow-minded. Many of us are concerned with protecting the environment, which "conservatives" oppose. In fact, many of the views held by conservatives are generally selfish, mean, and nasty. We are not that either. Confusing? 
It all becomes less confusing when we look at the problem from a different viewpoint. Here in America and the West we live in a society which is dominated by the so-called Judeo-Christian code...which I call "jehovanism". This set of usually misapplied principles rules its victims by the old game of divide and conquer. They keep their power by keeping us at war with each other. The conflict between liberals and conservatives is only one example of this, a policy that is so deeply ingrained in jehovanist thought that it has become instinctive. All of the seemingly different manifestations of this philosophy require enemies in order to even exist, from religions to political parties to cops-and-robbers. For example, we have seen the world economy over the past 45 years maintain the illusion of stability and growth by sustaining the illusion of a "cold war" again imaginary enemies. Those same enemies are now our imaginary friends, but the process continues as they keep finding new enemies. (This) hypocrisy...rules every aspect of western politics, economics, social institutions, and religion. Because of the nature of Asatru, I think we tend to isolate ourselves from the world out there to some degree. But it is still out there, and we are still forced to deal with that reality. So how do we deal with this, and how do we define ourselves relative to these established ideas? 
The answer, to my way of thinking, is to realize that there is no need to deal with these artificially contrived conflicts in jehovanist terms. One can be both liberal and conservative simultaneously! These two viewpoints can work together harmoniously, and need not be seen as conflicting. The conflict is imaginary... 
We can, and should, be "conservative" in the real sense of that term, not in the selfish and mean-spirited manner in which it is usually embodied. We honour the freedom and liberty of the individual and loyalty to our word; we respect the family and true values. We Asatru actually do respect our gods, our moms, and even apple pie in ways that the typical American patriot never dreamed of! 
But at the same time, we understand that we must work to develop a social structure in which individuals are free to function fully. Beginning with the family, we have a genuine commitment to the collective welfare of the larger social group. There is no real conflict between these ideas! 
Those demogagues and ideologues who would prosper from divisiveness thrive on the exploitation of conflict. The preposterous notion that we must either have individual freedom or have social welfare and justice is a contrivance by the establishment to keep us divided against each other. 
The simple fact is that the two ideas support each other in an entirely harmonious fashion if rational action is applied. If each of us in Asatru takes full responsibility for our actions as individuals, in keeping with the basic tenets of our religion beliefs, then our society benefits. If we work within the Asatru community to create a society in which our individual rights are protected, encouraged, and respected, then each of us can prosper. I repeat: there is no conflict between these two ideas. The individual and the group can and must work together to succeed. 
Unfortunately, we don't live in the Midgardh of our dreams. We live in the real world, and we don't stand a very good chance of changing that world, at least not yet. While America claims to honour honesty, responsibility, and justice, the opposite is usually more true. And the powers that be are not likely to gladly relinquish their power. Some of us found that out the hard way during the Sixties. 
So what can we do? We can live true within the community of Asatru. Just as other religious groups practise their own beliefs and spiritual guidelines within the group, so too can we. If Buddhists, Jains, Sufis, Yogis, Wiccans, Druids, and others can live a life of devotion to ideals and still get along in the real world, so too can we. We start by living true as individual members of our collective. Begin each day with a renewed personal commitment to the principles of Asatru: Family, Folk, and Faith; Loyalty, Honour, and Strength. At the heart of true anarchism is the principle of personal responsibility, of always conducting yourself in a manner which is beyond reproach. Before you take any action, always consider that you must be prepared to take full responsibility for the results of that action...If you take that extra moment to consider how your actions reflect your inner spiritual self along with your responsibility to those around you, then you will live true... 
If you always conduct yourself in terms of how your acts affect your society of Asatru, then you will complete the balanced, rational approach to life which Asatru establishes for us. Your group starts with you; then your family; then the Kindred or Hearth outside of that; then the Asatru community as a whole. As far as interactions with society outside of Asatru, we must consider that as well: however, the circle of involvement weakens as it grows larger. I will extend my personal concern and support to all within Asatru, starting with my home and extending outward. But I won't, as most of us will not, waste time and energy in concerning myself with those who don't have the personal responsibility to live true according to our terms. I have no concern for liars, thieves, and for those losers who are unwilling to try and help themselves. 
What if society attacks us and tries to deny us our rights? When confronted by jehovanists, the best proof of the validity of our beliefs is in the demonstrated quality of our lives and our works. We are faithful to family, friends, and folk. We don't just pay lip service to these ideas; we live them. If we have realized and actualized the principles upon which our religion is based, then we need answer to no one. 
We should always, whenever appropriate to do so, try to put Asatru forward in a positive light. Write letters to the editors. Become a religious activist. Enter into public dialogues. Whenever you come up against a condemnation by the ignorant which tries to characterize us "pagans" as Satanists, Nazis, anti-Christs, or anti-Semites, set the record straight. Tell the truth. 
It is also useful to know when to stop debating and just walk away from an argument. Don't let them drag you down to their level of lies and hypocrisy. The jehovanist megalomaniacs can't be convinced that there is any reason to give up their stranglehold on society. Do what you can to enlighten the innocent victims, then run for your life. When the game is rigged against you, refuse to play. It's hard to think of my old folk-hero Bob Dylan as an Odinist, but he did once say, "to live outside the law, you must be honest". Live true and none can stand against you. 
Freya Aswynn 
Lavrans Reimer-Møller, Elder-in-training, from "Politics, Left, Right, or Wrong?"; "Taking the Rap", and "An Oath is an Oath, Or..?", submitted to On Wings of Eagles. 
Lewis Stead and the Raven Kindred, from The Raven Kindred Ritual Book. 
Eric Wodening, from an article on Wyrd written for Our Troth. 
Swain Wodening, Elder-in-training, "Troth and the Folk", written for Our Troth.