First Concentric Circle: The Self
The 5th Sedian Tenet states that there are nine virtues: “Honor, Honesty, Wisdom, Piety, Courage, Loyalty, Independence, Generosity, and Kindness.” We, as our ancestors before us, and the gods before them, hold great meaning and value in our ability seek, achieve, and maintain high moral character. Inherently born, we are a tribal folk, where the bonds of relationship, kith and kin, are not taken lightly nor disrespected, but sought after with earnest devotion and heartfelt longing. We seek others, to find common ground with which we build our lives upon. Our lives are not meant to be solo enterprises, as this modern world tell us, seeking only the self-pleasures and solace in the gratifications of endless materialism.
Trúnaðr, the Old Norse term meaning trust, allegiance, or good faith, is a term that we should become familiar with. Maintaining Trúnaðr, or roughly translated as (with its implied meaning), loyalty, is a foundational principle by which we base our lives upon to form the basis that holds our life together; preventing it from unraveling into the empty, chaotic, and lonely life of one who exists, but never truly lives. When we’re born, we immediately bond with our parents for sustenance, protection, and love. As we grow, we bond with our siblings and/or cousins as we seek to establish common understanding with those similar to us. Growing older still, we seek friends who we can form kinship with; those who relate with us, while helping broaden our worldview outside the confines of our family. Further still, we seek a mate to share our mental, emotional, and physical intimacies with – he or she with which we can bring into our innermost circle of confidence to share that which no one else knows. As the intimate union grows, we have children and complete the cycle; providing sustenance for, and giving our love and protection to, that extension of ourselves and our ancestors.
This is the cycle of life, within the macro and micro of our existence. As a tribal Folk, we seek bonds of relationship, which can only stand the test of time, remaining strong and enduring, if with have, and maintain, a sense of loyalty. To uphold Trúnaðr, one must look to the Self as the first circle, within a series of concentric circles; for if we are not loyal to ourselves, we cannot be loyal to others.
Trúnaðr is a staple of being Folk-minded, yet it begins with the Self and the standard with which we hold ourselves accountable. That said however, focusing on the Self does not mean that we put ourselves before others; rather, it means that we conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of respect and trust. To build this foundation, we must secure within ourselves a moral compass grounded in the aforementioned nine Sedian virtues of Honor, Honesty, Wisdom, Piety, Courage, Loyalty, Independence, Generosity, and Kindness. In Lokasenna, the gods are assembled for a feast at Ægir’s hall when Loki shows up and begins a series of insults at those in attendance. When Loki, speaking to Njörðr, insults his Son, Freyr, it is Týr who speaks up to defend his honor. In showing loyalty to his friend, Týr simultaneously exuded courage in the face of hostility, and honesty and kindness in his words of praise about Freyr, stating ”Freyr is the best of all the bold riders in the courts of the Æsir; he makes no girl cry nor any man’s wife, and looses each man from captivity.” By speaking up, Týr showed himself worthy of respect and trust. Perhaps the most recognizable example is the account of Týr losing his hand to Fenrisúlfr. The Gods, knowing that the wolf was growing more powerful, foresaw the destruction and chaos that he would cause, if left with his freedom. Fearing for their lives, and fueled by the calling to preserve order, they devised a plan to bind the Wolf, using the Dvergr-forged chain, Gleipnir. Fenrisúlfr, suspecting the Gods cunning, agreed to the binding under the condition that someone put their hand in his mouth as a pledge of good faith. The Gods, unwilling to lose their hand, knowing it would be bitten off, refused to step up; however, Týr, knowing the consequences, placed his hand in the Wolf’s mouth. Upon realization that he was indeed bound, Fenrisúlfr bit Týr’s hand off. In the face of great danger, and knowing that he would lose his hand, Týr stepped into a difficult situation and willingly made the needed sacrifice to protect the Gods and mankind. In this act, Týr showed honor in doing the right thing, wisdom in knowing that there was no other way, courage to suffer the loss of his hand, and loyalty to the Gods and mankind by placing them above himself.
Trúnaðr to the Self is when Óðinn willingly accepted dethronement and subsequent banishment. Upon learning that his son, Baldr, will die, he traveled into Hel to speak with a Völva, who informed him that Baldr will die at the hands of Hǫðr, his other son. Knowing that the Law requires vengeance upon the killer, Óðinn pressed further, to which the Völva replied that Rindr will bear a son named Váli who will avenge Baldr’s death by killing Hǫðr (Vǫluspá 33 tells us that Váli is a son of Óðinn.) Fate decreed that Baldr would die and Váli will avenge the death by killing Hǫðr (all three sons of Óðinn), thus fulfilling the law and restoring balance; even the gods are subject to Urðr’s law and cannot escape her Örlögþættir. Knowing what was to come, Óðinn sought Rindr, making several failed attempts to win her favor; each time, she rebuffed him. As a last resort, Óðinn practiced seiðr to manipulate Rindr, causing her to act insane before falling ill. Knowing the union would produce Váli, he, in her manipulated condition, slept with Rindr. By this act however, Óðinn both obeyed and broke the law. When discovered, his actions created events that led to an Æsir-Vanir war, and upon the Vanir victory, the Alföðr accepted dethronement and banishment. For ten years, Óðinn lived the life of an exiled níðingr. Óðinn eventually reclaimed his throne through a redemptive act (He informed the Vanir of an impending Jötnar attack. The exiled Æsir fought beside the Vanir and crushed the Jötnar). The Vanir accepted the Æsir’s return and restored Óðinn’s Kingship thus reestablishing frith amongst the Gods. When faced with impossible odds, Óðinn did what was necessary despite the self-inflicting consequences. Although committing a dishonorable act and suffering loss of honor and Kingship, he was steadfast in his courage, while remaining loyal and honest before the Gods.
Throughout our Lore, Trúnaðr plays an ever-present and important role in the lives of the Gods and mankind; however, the most important aspect of maintaining loyalty to the Self is not always in our interactions with others, but in our adherence to the faith, i.e. to know the Gods, perform Blót, and obey the law. So how do we know the Gods? To begin with, we must look at the sources which document the Gods and Higher Powers. The Poetic Edda, the collection of pre-Christian, Old Norse poetry, as well the Skaldic poetry (contemporary with Eddaic poetry) comprise the Hierology (primary sources) upon which we build our Faith. After these, other texts are secondary sources and should only be used when they don’t contradict the primary sources. As a Tribal people, we can better know the Gods by studying the culture and traditions of our Teutonic ancestors, as well as embracing the zeitgeist of our fellow Ásatrúar and attend gatherings; experiencing life as it is meant to be lived. Knowledge and fellowship, however important and necessary they are to knowing the Gods, we must also find time to develop a practice of quiet meditation to attune our inner selves with that of the Higher Powers. Building upon the meditative spirit is to participate in Blót, the sacred act of worshipping with sacrifice. As we give our sacrifice, we give to the Gods our ǫnd, and in return, the Gods ignite our óðr, thus giving us a two-way form of communication and the inspiration to live our lives worthy of Trúnaðr. Lastly, we must obey the law. We are not a legalistic people following a legalistic faith; however, as a people that believe that we are our deeds, it goes without saying that we hold an adherence to a moral code. The Law of the Gods is within the 5th and 6th Sedian Tenets of nine virtues to follow (Honor, Honesty, Wisdom, Piety, Courage, Loyalty, Independence, Generosity, and Kindness) and nine vices to avoid (Murder, Perjury, Adultery, Thievery, Greed, Slander, Sacrilege, Treason, and Cruelty). Obeying the law is in keeping with Trúnaðr.
Trúnaðr, the trust, allegiance, and/or good faith that we hold and maintain within ourselves, is merely the first circle in a series of concentric circles applied to within our life, i.e. self, immediate family, extended family, ætt, other allegiances, tribe, relatives, ethnicity, state, region, nation, etc. Each level of Trúnaðr, as it extends outward, exhibits lesser degrees of strength, which illustrates how and why the first circle of the self is so important. If we cannot stand upon a solid moral foundation, then we are no better than the moral relativists of our Age who base their ever-changing views upon the Society in which they live. We must look to our ancestors and the Gods for examples and guidance, e.g. family stories of the great deeds and character of our ancestors and those of the Gods, such as the aforementioned accounts of Týr and Óðinn. We must remain a tribal folk, ever-strengthening and renewing the bonds of relationship with our kith and kin. We must never neglect nor disrespect our heritage, but seek the ways of our Gods and ancestors with solemn dedication and a genuine yearning; for upholding Trúnaðr, we must look to the Self. We must first be loyal to ourselves before we can be loyal to others. As the Alföðr states, “Deyr fé, deyja frændr, deyr sjalfr it sama, en orðstírr deyr aldregi, hveim er sér góðan getr” (roughly translated as, “Cattle die, Kinsman die, even the self must die, but one thing never dies, the judgement of a dead man”).
-by Damon Domke, first published in The Epicist number 1 -2019