Written by Mark Puryear
Ancestral Distinctions and about building a Community
Our ancestors had a natural, long-lived means of establishing folk distinctions, which represented a larger relationship between all peoples. Individuals were members of families, from the immediate family to the larger, extended “kindred”. Kindreds grouped together into clans, clans into tribes, and tribes into nations. With each link in this chain a set of traditions would be celebrated, which would eventually form the diverse cultures spread out all over native Europe .
Families would have a special set of customs they would follow, which may or may not include the kindred; clans would follow their customs, tribes would follow theirs, nations theirs. In the end, all still worshiped the same gods and goddesses, but in their own way, which celebrated the independence of the folk and the shared bloodline of all. Such a model could be valuable in reforming our cultural identity, for it gives us particular steps in doing so, while honoring the actual method used in Northern Europe centuries ago. Allow me to put this into perspective. My family is generally considered to be my parents, my siblings, my grandparents, and now my wife and children. The extended family: aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, great-uncles, etc are all part of my kindred.
When a group of families come together under one banner this alliance, which can be solidified by intermarriage, is called a clan. Many Ásatrú or Odinist fellowships today would fall into this category. When many clans came together this is a tribe, which could be considered the larger Ásatrú/Odinist groups today. More appropriately, tribes would be the conglomeration of various clans within one's state, province, county, or country .
In the past, tribes were bound by location and an ancestral name of a tribal founder, such as the Istae vones or the Hermiones, or some other signification, such as the Longobards (“Long-Beards,” a name believed to have been given to them by Ódin himself).
However, modern technology allows us to maintain close ties from long distances, so geographical location might not be as important as it once was. Finally, as stated, the nation itself is the collaboration of all of us, a great union of our people working in steadfast devotion for our faith, our folk, and our families. Land was integral to tribal relationships, for each division came with a territory of its own, spreading from small homesteads to entire countries.
Nations were established as the realms of tribes or alliances with others, with all the culture and heritage that came with each group. Perhaps we could one day make this may valid once again, while never forgetting the union of the overall “Ásatrú Nation” that we have created in our re-awakening. Families can become part of communities, building clans to form tribes, which will then recognize their place within the country they inhabit as a part of the folk identity, possibly becoming viable entities within their lands. Clans become tribes through blood relations as well.
For instance, if the father of several sons is a clan founder, then each of these sons in turn establish their own clans, then the overall group would be a tribe, named after the father's original clan. Such was the case with Ívaldi and his three sons: Völund, Slagfin, and Egil. All of these divisions then have their particular divine protectors, Norns who represent the luck of the people, who watch over us and aid us when possible.
For the individual is the Mannsfylgja - “Man's Fylgja,” identical to the hamingja. The Kynsfylgja looks out for the family and the Aettarsfylgja protect the clan or tribe. Such a divine correlation to these divisions shows how sacred they were to our ancestors.
We have talked about developing large, folk-based communities in our nation for years, yet few, if any have been truly successful at this. A lot of it has to do with how many perceive such a way of life, which in many ways has been influenced by isolated cults or bizarre organizations, which shut themselves off from the world. Some believe that a “community” must be built on some compound, or on private land where we won't have to deal with others, where we might stock up guns for protection, or “train” for any conflict that may or may not arise.
For one thing, it costs a lot of money to set up something like this, money most people do not have, money best spent elsewhere. Also, in such a situation you are going to instill fear in those around you towards you and your group, which can lead to all sorts of trouble. Is this what we want? Do we want other people, especially those of our own folk, to actually be afraid of us? I think not.
Integrated communities are the best means of creating strong, locally respected groups that can thrive within each area. When those around you fear you it will be next to impossible to be taken seriously. Consider the old hermit in your town, which almost all have, and think about the rumors and innuendos told about him. Some say such people are devil worshipers, others may say they kidnap children and lock them in the basement, all kinds of stuff. Usually this is just amusing banter or trivial gossip, but when several people gather and have such things said about them it can escalate into more strife than it's worth.
How your friends, ever, when you act honorably and nobly you will find you have more advocates than if you try to hide from everyone. This could also help you if you were to ever face any difficulty in dealing with law enforcement, which can sometimes be just as reactionary as rumor-spreading locals. Not that you should spend every waking hour trying to impress or kowtow to the whims of area residents.
It is very likely that you may have problems with some who just do not appreciate any beliefs being practiced near them, if they are not those they grew up with. No matter what you do in life there will always be someone who doesn't like it, so all you can do is what you know to be right. As long as you handle yourself in a respectful, dignified manner, remembering that you are a representative of your family, clan, tribe, etc what anyone says behind your back is irrelevant. When one starts telling lies about you and including the media, it is your duty to address these nobly, but with a stern determination against them.
All you need to do to start building an integrated, folk-based community is pick an area, probably the one you live in right now, and start a group, starting uniting families into clans. Offer information on our faith, emphasizing teaching rather than proselytizing as you let more and more people know about our ancient ways.
Once a few have come together you might consider importing others by helping Ásatrúar find deals on real estate near you. As your community grows so should programs offered in service to it, such as faith-based daycare, schooling, tribal economy, and so on. So much more goes into this than just meeting for ceremonies or discussing traditions. In fact, these are but a small part of the larger cultural picture that defines our religion.
It takes some work, but developing and establishing a community can be immensely rewarding, leading you all into so many areas of effective, pro-active living I could not begin to list them here. Be creative! Be supportive!
Look at your group not as a stale manifestation of a cultural aspect, but as the vigorous, flourishing embodiment of an entire society! First and foremost, when you are a part of something larger than yourself, you have to accept this and embrace it, for you can no longer consider yourself alone. That means that what you do reflects upon the others in your group, even if this is just your family.
If you, as their representative (which all the members are), make yourself look bad, you make everyone connected to you look bad, and vice versa. This is a responsibility that you have to them, which you must not take lightly.