What is frith?
I cannot count the number of times I’ve seen someone in a group or page ask this question or been asked personally. It’s something so easy to understand, but like many Heathen concepts it is made difficult by our branches. I write this with the Universalist mindset, for that is what I am and that is what AAA is for – living Tru in the 21st century. It is much more then a “them versus us” concept or tribalist concept that there is a strict bond only shared between those of blood or tribe. It is much more (in a Universalist sense).
First, what is frith in the strictest terms, or definition? It means “peace”. Literally. Some take it to mean “peace between all peoples” which is a very over simplification of a lifestyle habit that is more dear and interconnected. It is between blood, close friends, Kindred, community and the world. It is not a “hippy”, beatnik, feel good concept of everyone loving each other. Sorry, it really isn’t. It’s the duty, respect, discipline, honor and love between you and those you are connected to that leads to an understanding, togetherness and harmony. This connection is explained below as “innangard”. It is a back-and-forth between you and those together in it that establishes it. It is owed and given in equal shares and can be damaged or lost.
Second, how do we apply frith? Frith is a gradule system of levels.
First – Innangard, meaning inner guard, inner garden or inner fence. Orderly, civilized, law-abiding, family/blood and/or kin. The bond of love, togetherness, harmony, growth and shared desire.
The dearest and most honorable and important frith is between you and the immediate family. If you’re a single person, your first duty is to yourself. Self-reliance, personal honor, sense of duty – all this builds you up, and makes you a better person. If you’re not at peace with yourself, how can anyone really depend on you or bring you close into their innangard? Your parents and kindred would be those you also owe frith do by way of blood and/or duty. Your ancestors and the gods as well (no matter if you see the gods as ancestors or not, you owe them frith).
Your wife or husband and children. Or your parents if you’re a traditional family. Your first duty of frith is always to blood or family (if adopted or step- or half-sibling). Your spouse and yourself are on a life journey and you depend on each other for protection, support, love, money and basic day-to-day living. The “peace” between your spouse, elders and children would be harmony. This harmony is paramount. Concessions and sacrifices are to be made to keep the love and honor between family strong. Blood and family are always first. Our ancestors valued the ‘extended’ family to include grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins but the immediate blood/family was paramount.
I cannot stress how much how the family unit is paramount to frith. Your extended family should also respect and give of themselves if possible – for that is the frith they are indebted to. If your wife is sick, and your brother needs you to drive him to work, and you need to take care of your wife – he needs to make other arrangements. We are to SUPPORT EACH OTHER. Blood, family, close friends, kindred – when one needs, we all chip in. We sacrifice for the family – the group. And we maintain the peace of the home and kindred between people. This deepens the love and respect between people.
But frith can also be damaged. And in turn this will damage the persons orlog. When someone becomes unstable, disrespectful, unreliable or voluntarily separates themselves from the group, they move to the Utgard. It can be chaotic, or by choice. Actions that bring dishonor, or breaking the law, or taking away from the family group, circle of friends or Kindred would do this as well.
Frith between members of a Kindred and their Kindred-leaders is not unique in a sense of those in organizations pledging to one another. Many other faiths and peoples are the same thing. We take it just as serious and some might save even more strictly. Kindreds become family, once you join, and joining one is not easy. Loyalty, duty, honor, discipline, worth – all of these come into question. You are joining basically a family.
Close friends who you have affection for also would or could be innangard. The individual orlogs tied together by wyrd, strengthened by their frith brings a favorable hamingja.
Second – Utgard or Utagard, meaning outer guard or outer garden. Everyone else can be either placed there by their actions (or lack of) or contain those who you do not know, or do not interact with them. These people can or could also be destructive or chaotic to your innangard, you, your family, kindred or friends. A break in frith owed to you or those of your innangard.
The community you reside (neighborhood, city, country), occupation (between you and your co-employees and employers) and other people of the world. To think these people are owed the same deep love, respect and duty is ridiculous but you do owe them varying levels of respect and tolerance. Your neighbor and yourself should have respect to maintain the peace between you. The same with your co-employees, and your employer should respect you (and you they) as human beings. Your employer’s peace, and abundance, should trickle down to you. If it does not, wonder and adjust yourself. Those of other faiths should AT LEAST tolerate yours, or at least you as a person/people. You owe them the peace of being left alone in their own peaceable actions and to be human at least towards them. Some do not define such as “frith”, but it is still duty and action that results in a peaceful situtation through the very least – tolerance.
A sketchy area – in today’s world we have adult step- and half- kin living together, and an example of this presented itself to me lately. A friend of mine and her husband have their brother-in-law and sister-in-law and children living with them. The brother-in-law is lazy and doesn’t get a job. The sister-in-law won’t discipline or control her kids. It was stress! My friend was doing everything and getting worn out. How does frith fit in? The brother-in-law and sister-in-law and kids owe my friend frith. As she does them. The love, honor, duty and respect of her home. Family is easily taken advantage of. Frith is a two way street. Those not Heathen would call it respect (respect is part of frith). I advised her to keep the harmony between her and the husband and only do what is needed to keep these people living alive – provide shelter and food – do not offer or do anything else unless they step up (laundry, driving around, favors). If they do not change, more drastic steps should be taken (move out or on).
These things are not hard. In the old days, when our ancestors lived in smaller towns, where everyone was required to pitch in to survive, it was so much deeper. Your neighbors were most likely kin. You worked or “Viking’d” with close family and friends (we’d call it clan or kindred). But in the 21st century, living in a world community, it is so much larger. Your tribe is your blood, family, friends and kindred. You are your village, and the nearest village is not across the sea, but 2 blocks away living in their own village as a tribe.
Frith to the gods is different. Some of us see the gods as our ancestors; directly related by blood. I do not argue this as I believe we are ALL descended from the gods (different set of branches IMHO then some would say). The gods are not long dead, or figments of our imagination. They are living beings, a tribe of their own (Aesir, Vanir, Jotun, etc). We as Heathens live right, honorable, serving our frith, loving our kin, moving forward to better ourselves and our family so as to look to our ancestors whom came before us and made us with pride. To walk with them on their lands and in their halls when it is our time. The gods should see in us their own pride in kin. A strong man sacrificed for his family and they prospered! 16 grandchildren, a thriving business! Or a small family of close knit people working hard, remembering those who came before and loving each other. A Kindred stepping up to help at Special Olympics, or another Kindred, or even a brother or sister in the Kindred. Many hands helping one who has stumbled or who needs a shoulder.
We also remember the gods – with honoring and sacrifice. As our greatest grandparents or uncles and aunts and patrons. This is the frith we owe them as however you want to see them. And they us when it is needed.