Law in the Ættarbók: the Official Guide to the Sedian Nation
It is crucial to the maintenance of a well-ordered and harmonious organization for laws to be in place that are respected and followed by its members. Ours is no different. Every person involved should at least have some idea of the laws of your Ætt, of our Nation, and our faith.
Furthermore, a set of consequences for violating these laws should be in place for all who swear allegiance to our alliance. These could be anything from apologies to paying fines, to being stripped of rank or position, or even temporary or permanent banishment.
Anything you come up with is fine; as long as there are consequences to help members in balancing their örlög (see below). You should not take this lightly, or think it is merely a quaint idealism that is best not put into practice to keep feelings from possibly being hurt. Without laws and payment for transgressions you are asking for all sorts of problems and chaos that can arise on so many levels. We should note that even the Gods and Goddesses have their own laws and Things, teaching us by example to work for the order by living devoutly to our sacred code.
If you decided to keep a legal structure from your group, the first thing that would happen is you would experience a lot of rumor-mongering and gossip working as a de facto process of law. Person A would have a conflict with person B, who would then attack and berate them and turn other members against them, coming up with whatever they could to get rid of them. Or, the two might bicker so much that everyone else would want to separate from them, and they would become outcast. Outcasting members could then happen on a whim as you played a popularity contest, while your most charismatic and outspoken members dominated the group. Then others might want to live without any sort of structure or rules, and would bring those around them down with their decadence and rebellion, either by recruiting others into it, or rallying members against those who opposed it.
All of this is avoided by a clear-cut, to-the-point system of law that is agreed upon and recognized as part of the oaths sworn after the membership probationary period has ended. At the same time, no action should be taken against any sort of violation that is not clearly defined and understood from the very beginning, before any oaths are sworn.
Our people involved in this work must recognize the great importance of their position as representatives of their Ætt, our Nation, and our faith. Every action we take, good or bad, reflects upon us as a folk. Despite what some may try to tell you, what people think of us is important, especially when we work for something greater than ourselves. If we project negativity with in- fighting, attacks on others, vitriolic speech, or extremism, these images will stick to us. But if we want to be seen as hard-working, honest, honorable people, these virtues must resonate within the very core of our being.
No one is perfect, and certainly no one is expected to be. One of the key components in building these Ætts is to accept people as they are, while working to help all evolve and better their lives through our beliefs and culture. But we will all fall off the straight and narrow path every now and then, and it is at this time that we need a way to balance our örlög. You see, the idea of law as understood by our ancestors, is not based upon “crime and punishment” in the sense of serving an abstract entity such as “the state” or “civilization.”
Rather, it is meant to work as a tool for individuals to repair their honor and return to the favor of right and good on the side of the Gods, Goddesses, and the divine order, in opposition to the forces of chaos. As part of our beliefs in Fate and destiny, represented by our beloved Norns, the sacred laws of our faith help to maintain the honor of the folk, while our by-laws hold strong the bonds of the Ætts and the alliance of our Nation.
The basis of our model of ethics, morals, and social standards is that of action and obligation. When one breaks a law, or wrongs another, they are required to admit their mistakes, and then make actual amends to repair the damage done to the relationship and/or their örlög. The same idea is used when we sacrifice to the Gods for any transgressions we make towards them— we offer to make amends and restore friendship. When one wrongs another they owe a debt to them, and will remain in debt until they have somehow compensated them.
This system is perfectly symbolized by the duties of the Norns themselves, for Urd represents the law, Verdandi actions, and Skuld consequences. When one is under obligation to another for some violation, it can be said that they “owe Skuld (debt)” for them, and must do what they can to set things right, for the sake of the one wronged, for their own honor, and that of their entire Ætt.
Of course, no system of law is complete without some sort of judicial proceedings to properly apply it. For us, this is the Thing, which is described in detail in the next chapter. If the Thing is not employed for such a purpose the law will become subject to arbitrary interpretation, which can create problems by itself. Trust that problems will arise, and people need a platform for dealing with them when they do, to uphold honor and settle disputes. I want to give you an example of how a lack of such a platform can negatively affect an organization:
A few years back there was a woman who was put in charge of keeping the funds and donations for her group. One day it was discovered that she had taken some of the money and used it for her own means. Without any sort of hearing or a chance to explain herself, she was immediately outcast and blackballed. It later came out that her mother was sick with cancer and needed help paying medical bills, and she had a well-paying job and fully intended on replenishing the money. Now, obviously some sort of violation of trust was committed here. After all, she did steal money from her fellow members who had donated those funds for a purpose other than paying her mom’s medical bills. But these extenuating circumstances most likely would have kept her punishment from being quite so harsh if she had been allowed to stand before any sort of tribunal. When the organization learned of her circumstances, they tried to convince her to come back, for she was one of their most devoted, industrious members. But it was too late, the damage was done, and she wanted nothing to do with them.
We cannot just throw our folk away on a whim, using rash decisions and anger to dictate our actions in such situations. Even though we must live in accordance with our laws, we must also see to it that breaking them is met fairly, justly, and compassionately. Such is the purpose of the Thing.
There may well come a time when someone has disgraced the Ætt in such a way that this must be brought before the Thing, either through a particularly heinous act or through repeated violations that bring harm or dishonor to all. As with disputes (see below), most violations can be dealt with outside the Thing without a lot of hoopla and embarrassment to the transgressor.
Elders want their folk to feel comfortable in coming to them to help make wrongs right, which will not happen if he or she makes a big deal out of every little problem. At the same time, they should be trusted to obey the law themselves and not cover for anyone who may be secretly bringing disgrace upon the folk. In all cases, the Elder should use their best judgment.
So let’s say that the time has come for someone to be dealt justice by the Thing. It is crucial that this be done delicately and compassionately if you wish to keep the person as a member. It must be fully understood by everyone that the decision of the Thing is made to settle the person’s debt, to balance their örlög, and to see to it that their honor is restored. The accused or any of the wronged may even wish to come up with an appropriate recompense for their actions.
Once this is determined and fulfilled, it must be demanded that every other member recognizes this and the restoration of honor resulting from it. We will not castigate our folk or hold past mistakes against them (unless it happens again), nor will we reject or outcast them unless it is absolutely necessary, and all such matters will be brought before the Thing.
There are several codices of law reconstructed by our movement for your use, and you can use any you wish, as long as they are grounded in the sources handed down to us. Some use the Runelaw, the Nine Virtues and Vices, the Nine Charges, and so on. Once again, the code you use is your choice as part of your Ætt Identity, and will be recognized as such by the Nation. It is good for members, especially Elders, of our alliance to have a full comprehension of all of your laws, their origins, and how they should be applied to various circumstances.
As stated, the by-laws of the Sedian Ætts are intended to keep our alliance strong, and our work perpetually moving forward. These laws can only be changed or added to by a majority vote of the Rigsthing (see next chapter), which is likely to happen as we continue to expand. New circumstances require new mandates, which are always meant to serve the best interests of the folk.