Frith

While frith directly translates to “peace,” it is a word that holds so much meaning inside it that “peace” does not do it justice. Frith and pax are not synonymous. Vilhelm Grønbech states in Culture of the Teutons,

A word such as the Latin pax suggests first and foremost…a laying down of arms, a state of equipoise due to the absence of disturbing elements; frith, on the other hand, indicates something armed, protection defense – or else a power for peace which keeps men amicably inclined (Grønbech 35).

Frith, then, is an actively defensive and protective type of peace. Frith, for the ancient Germanic people, formed the very foundation of the soul itself. Frith was such a vital part of life that it was considered a base necessity and not referred to as a virtue. Because of that, the society formulated around frith became one “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” (Grønbech 13).

Frith was the power that made people friendly towards one other; it was the glue that bound society together. According to Grønbech, “Frith is the state of things which exists between friends. And it means, first and foremost, reciprocal inviolability” (Grønbech 18). That means everyone was expected to act from a place of frith; frith was more important than any disputes that arose.

Disputes could arise; arguments did occur. Frith did not prevent arguments. Instead, frith required that all arguments be held in such a way that people worked toward a settlement that satisfied the nature of frith. The active force of frith guaranteed a solution that resulted in communal peace. As Grønbech states,

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 (Grønbech 24).

Frith rested on the Germanic concept of unity. In the Western world, the way we are taught the idea of unity today is the same method that was used when Grønbech lived. Children are taught that a stick by itself is weak but a bundle of sticks together are strong – unity is thus conveyed as the addition of individuals to a collective.

The Germanic people did not understand unity in this way; for them, unity was the natural state of existence. Grønbech explains:

The Germanic attitude or mind starts from a different side altogether. Here, unity is not regarded as originating in addition; unity is first in existence. The thought of mutual support plays no leading part among these men; they do not see it in the light of one man after another coming with his strength and the whole then added together; but rather as if the force lay in that which unites them (Grønbech 33).

Frith is the uniting force; it is what creates the cohesive whole. It is because the Germanic people thought of unity in this way that frith became the most inviolable social reality. It is why the family clan was conceptualized as a fence, each member a stave set in the ground and enclosing a sacred ground.

That is where the Heathen concepts of innangard and utangard originate. Innangard is the inner circle; it is the family, the clan, the communities we build. It is where we owe our loyalties. Utangard is everything outside of those structures; it is everything external to our communities that threaten to destroy frith.

Frith is always accompanied by joy or glad-feeling. As Grønbech states,

Gladness or joy is not a pleasure derived from social intercourse, it draws its exhilarating strength from being identical with frith…Joy is a thing essential to humanity. It is inseparably attached to frith; a sum and an inheritance. But this joy, then, contained something in itself…What were the ideas attaching to this joy? The answer is contained in the old world honor (Grønbech 37-38).

Frith and joy are the foundation of honor, and it is the power of frith that makes communities cohesive and joyful.


Sources

Vilhelm Grønbech. Culture of the Teutons, Volume 1. Trans. W. Worster. London: Oxford University Press, 1931.

 

 

5 comments

  1. Yvonne Aburrow · December 15

    Very interesting, thank you.

    So from what you’re saying, if people use the concept of frith to suppress dissenting views, they’re doing it wrong?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kyaza · December 16

      This question has a more complicated answer than yes or no because some arguments violate frith while others do not. There is a difference between people who express dissenting views in an effort to tear each other down – there is no effort being made to actively promote frith. Instead, those two individuals are actively working to dismantle it. If the point is the destruction of one another, then it’s better to prevent those arguments from ever happening.

      There are others who hold dissenting views who argue with one another in an attempt to reach a common understanding. These are the people who are actively working to promote frith, trying to reach at least a shared understanding of where the other person stands. They are trying to build each other up, which works to promote frith.

      Frith underlies the very foundation of a community. If people are working towards aims that threaten to unravel the community, those actions threaten frith. Some arguments are held to determine the best way forward for an entire community – these are actions that promote frith, and they should not be repressed.

      So, to answer your question in two words – it depends.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yvonne Aburrow · December 17

        Thank you, that’s very helpful.

        I was thinking specifically of inclusive Heathens calling out the behaviour of far right Heathens and being told not to violate frith. But the behaviour of the far right Heathens is indeed violating frith.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Kyaza · 29 Days Ago

    Reblogged this on A Polytheistic Life.

    Like

  3. Pingback: Notable and quotable 21 | Dowsing for Divinity

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