Frith

Study Notes from The Culture of the Teutons by Vilhelm Grønbech | Prologue + Chapter 1

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Frith means keeping the peace between oneself and the people in one’s inner yard.

In the modern age, for modern Heathens, frith can still be upheld and valued. We still have inner yards, even if we do not live in tight-knit primitive communities anymore (i.e. physical proximity). The inner yard’s main purpose is to provide the individual with safety and security – not just physically, but mentally (allowing the individual to be their true self without reservation, judgement, or anxiety). Essentially, the inner yard is comprised of the people that we have considered worthy of experiencing us in various states of vulnerability (mental or physical) – either because those people are our blood family, our married-into family, or our closest chosen-family (best friends).

Note: every person in the modern age will have different perspectives on what constitutes “family” and to what degree of importance “family” has for them. 

An attempt at listing the current members of my inner yard (in order of most important to least important, in terms of levels of frith-keeping and obligation):

  • Jack (my husband through the oath of marriage)
  • My siblings
  • My parents
  • My closest friends (“chosen family”)
  • Jack’s siblings
  • Jack’s parents
  • My extended family that I have met / spent significant time with
  • Jack’s extended family that I have met / spent significant time with
  • My extended family that I have not met / spent significant time with
  • Jack’s extended family that I have not met / spent significant time with

If / when I have children, they would be granted the same level of importance as Jack.

Note: I would personally choose to outcast my paternal grandmother to the outer yard if not for my father’s feelings on the matter. Even though she has broken frith with me and my family beyond repair, in my mind, through her actions and words over the years, because I would want to keep frith with my father I would continue to include her in my inner yard. But I do not consider her an individual I feel safe and secure around. Our relationship is, and will continue to be, solely about keeping the peace (without joy). This seems to be the most challenging aspect of frith-keeping, at least for me, when organizing my life into these terms. 

If maintaining frith produces joy, excellent – we can celebrate that. If it doesn’t, that’s okay too, as it is sacred nonetheless to keep that peace – that is the whole point of frith, in the first place: upholding balance within the inner yard (and hey, sometimes that won’t be easy – and may not necessarily feel “fun” or “joyful”; but it should always feel right). In terms of some modern guidelines, it seems reasonable to keep frith with our inner yards in the general sense (acting fairly and peaceably around them) at all times, as long as we are mentally and physically able to do so. We should keep frith with our inner yards in terms of specific favors / obligations as long as:

  • The ask / obligation in and of itself will not cause mental or physical harm. If it will, it would not be considered breaking frith to say no at the time of the request being asked.
  • One is mentally or physically unable to take part in or complete the ask / obligation at the time of its happening, regardless of what one originally agreed to. In this case, it would not break frith to let the person (who requested something of you) know that you will not be able to go through with the ask / obligation (doing as much as you can to keep the peace despite that failure).

If there are any conflicts between you and someone within your inner yard, or among people within the inner yard in general (but not necessarily with you directly), you should try and reconcile the situation so that all people are satisfied / okay with the proceedings, and so that a general sense of peace can be restored. However, one can only do so much in that one should not actively bring harm to one’s mental or physical health in the process of reconciliation / peace-keeping.

It is also important to keep frith with the spirits of the land that one’s physical house/dwelling sits upon, as well as with the greater spirits of one’s city / town / region. I also feel it would be important, based on what I read, to keep frith with one’s animals (pets and/or livestock) and any plants grown/cared for indoors and/or outdoors (on or within one’s property).

IMPORTANT REFERENCES / QUOTES

“For the Northman to be affected by this or that in what he meets depends on something that has happened, something past, and something ahead, an event which has happened to himself or his ancestors, and an event which must be brought to pass for the betterment of himself and his descendants.”

“We find a community based upon general unity, mutual self-sacrifice and self-denial, and the social spirit. A society, in which every individual, from birth to death, was bound by consideration for his neighbor.”

“Egil appears to regard life in the light of a process at law, where the man with a strong circle of kinsman wins his case, because he is backed by a crowd of men ready to swear on his side, and whose oaths carry weight enough to crush his opponent.”

“We must begin with the kin, the race or family; a gathering of individuals so joined up into one unit that they appear incapable of independent action…no single individual can suffer without affecting the whole circle.”

“At the very moment when man most passionately and unreservedly gives way to his own feelings, the clan takes possession of the individual fully and completely. Egil’s lament is not the lament of a father for his son; it is the kin, that utters its lament through the person of the father.”

“In “frith”, peace, we have the old kinsman’s own definition of the fundamental idea in their inner-relationship. By frith they mean something in themselves, a power that makes them “friends” one towards another, and “free men” towards the rest of the world.”

“The frith of earlier days was less passive than now, with less of submissiveness and more of will. It held also an element of passion which has now been submerged in quietism.” 

“But the world tells us indisputably that the love which knit these kinsmen together is not to be taken in a modern, sentimental sense; the dominant note of kinsmanship is safety, security.”

“Frith is the state of things which exists between friends. And it means, first and foremost, reciprocal inviolability.” 

“We need have no doubt but that good kinsmen could disagree with fervor, but however the matter might stand, there could – should, must inevitably – be but one ending to it all; a settlement peaceable and making for peace – frith.

“The power of frith is apparent, in the fact that it does not count as a virtue, something in excess of what is demanded, but as an everyday necessity, the most obvious of all, alike for high and low, heroic and unheroic characters.”

“The frith is something that underlies all else, deeper than all inclination. It is not a matter of will, in the sense that those who share it again and again choose to set their kinship before all other feelings. It is rather the will itself. It is identical with the actual feeling of kinship, and not a thing deriving from that source.”

“Frith is something active, not merely leading kinsmen to spare each other, but forcing them to support one another’s cause, help and stand sponsor for one another, trust one another. … the responsibility is absolute, because kinsmen are literally the doers of one another’s deeds.”

“Whom can I trust, when my father fails me?”

“So simple and straightforward is the idea of frith. It reckons with facts alone…”

“All must give way to frith, all obligations, all considerations of self, everything down to the regard for one’s own personal dignity – if such a thing could be imagined as existing apart from the feeling of kinship.”

“A woman’s relationship to her husband is also a sort of frith.”

“Kinsman strengthen one another; they are not as two or more individuals  who add their respective strengths together, but they act in concert, because deep down in them all there is a thing in common which knows and thinks for them. Nay, more; they are so united that one can draw strength to himself from another.”

“what a single man has done binds all who live in the same circle of frith.”

“Frith, on the other hand, indicates something armed, protection, defense – or else a power for peace which keeps men amicably inclined.”

“And it is not only men, but also, for instance, places, strongholds, which can furnish those in need of frith.”

“Gladness was an essential feature of humanity, and thus a quality of frith. The connection between joy and friendly feeling is so intimate that the two cannot be found apart.”

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Brooke

Artist | Herbalist | Witch

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