The Purpose of Sacrifice
Sacrifice is never viewed as a form of humility on our part . There is even evidence that the gods sacrifice to one another . The reason for this is that we believe such offerings empower the divine , which allows them to perform magnificent feats , usually to our benefit.
When Ódin , in Hávamál , hangs himself on the World Tree he does so as a sacrifice to himself , which then gives him the strength to per form the grueling deed . In return for this power , the gods and goddesses grant our wishes or help us in our struggles . That this does not always happen is due to the powers of fate , which cannot be denied . This may sound like a cop - out , and indeed there are stories where heroes would get angry at Odin for not giving them victory in battle , but someone has to lose in order for someone to win ; such is fate . So , because of this , their reciprocation does not end there . Where fate must have its way our deities give us the fortitude to meet its decrees valiantly and with dignity . In the end , balance will always be achieved , for this is the rule of örlög and its concept of reciprocity , even if we do not immediately recognize its effects .
The gods warn us against too much sacrificing , because a gift must always be repaid , so those who offer too much will be seen as greedy for divine favors . This will most definitely turn fortune against you . In all respects , we must view our relationship with the divine as a friendship like we would have with people here on Midgard . A bond must be maintained with generosity , mutual respect , and praise . As long as we continue to value our connection with the gods and god desses , we will thrive under their watchful care . The more of us who offer and pray to them , the stronger their union will be with our people . One who lives far away from your home must feel welcome in your land or country in order to feel comfortable .
The exchange of gifts must never be taken lightly , for it is a sacred act that unites two individuals in their relationship . For this reason , gift exchanges have become common in all sorts of observances , where we gather to celebrate occasions as well as our love for one another . Such exchanges may occur at weddings , to bind husband and wife ; in the workplace , to show employers and their workers how much they value one another ; and even in diplomatic affairs , when countries wish to form alliances . The connection or obligation made through the act of giving was used by ancient chieftains in keeping their subjects loyal , while in turn showing the folk the noble nature of their leader . He might offer them a gift of some sort , and they would then pledge their allegiance to him . When a gift is received it falls on the receiver to give something in return , even if this is simply one's gratitude . If this cannot happen , and if one cannot return the things that are presented to them , they are indebted to the givers for their generosity . In a faith such as ours , where munificence is considered one of the greatest vir tues , there must be principles attached to this that would protect charitable men and women from being taken advantage of . After all , we can romanticize the ancients all we want , but the truth is that there have always been thieves , liars , and predators who would try to take all that we have . On the other hand , we must not misconstrue the “ gift for gift ” ideal as an excuse to not be helpful for the less fortunate . The concept is not based on a strict expectation , that every time we give something to someone we must have something in return . This custom is based upon the maintaining of friendships and relationships , which should be formed from reciprocity . At the same time , we should not begrudge our offerings , creating demands or expectations for every act of generosity . The gods condemn such as well . A bond between two people can only be kept strong if both parties work towards that end , otherwise one person , at least , will not have the motiva tion needed to want to continue the relationship , for they will have become less valued , given a less respected role that saps their energy . This is a tried and true fact of life . But when it comes to helping those in need , it is our religious duty to give aid whenever and wherever we can without any thought of return .
I would like to relate a story that is relevant to this , which comes down to us from one of our sources : An ancient land had been ravaged by war , and from the remnants of war came famine . Desperate people often revert to disreputable means to get food . Three such persons had each stolen a sack of corn from different owners , and all three were caught . The first owner took the thief before the local authorities , and for this the priestesses of their land said that he had done right . The second owner took the corn from the thief and let him go in peace , which the priestesses agreed to as well . But the third owner went to the thief's house , where he saw how need had stricken his home . So , he went back to his place , and then returned with a wagon full of goods , which drove poverty away from the man's hearth . Because of this extremely noble act of charity the owner was extolled by the priestesses , who held much sway in that land . They recorded his name in a sacred book of revered ancestors , declared him free of any transgressions , and told of his deed far and wide . Such an admiration for unselfish acts is known throughout our literature . Although this virtue will be discussed in further detail later on , it is important to differentiate the " gift for a gift ” tradition with our ethics of generosity . In doing so , one will need to use wisdom in determining when they are being liberal and when they are being taken advantage of . It is a fundamental precept of our sacred path that we avoid subservient positions that would siphon our power and strength . Of course , in any group there will be leaders and followers , but it is important for a balance to be maintained that will elevate the sense of self - worth for everyone involved . This balance is maintained , as we have seen , with the idea of reciprocal relationships.