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I’m Not Eating Your Word Salad

I’m Not Eating Your Word Salad

This is a bitch session.  Get over it.

One thing I really have issues with is the need by certain Heathen “scholars” to use pretentious words.   You know whence I speak.  We’re talking arch-heathens, thew, frith, grith, innangard, praxi, and whatever other words they’ve come up with. They may be saying something important, but their need to come up with fanciful wordage just kills me.  It’s word salad, plain and simple.  And it needs to go away.

Arch-Heathen Circle-Jerking

I’m sure you’ve read other people’s blogs and know exactly what I mean. It’s like the writer fell in love with the mishmash of terms and threw them together in some sagely sounding bout of verbal diarrhea.  The ideas aren’t particularly complex, but the writer has decided that obfuscation is better than writing clearly.  What’s more, because they’re using those oh-so-big words, they’re sure they sound extra important, even if most of the audience doesn’t understand them.

Most of the time I look at what they say and groan.  Dudes, you are not sounding intelligent.  You’re sounding pretentious as Hel. It’s like an arch-Heathen circle jerk. The moment you start throwing this crap at me, I dodge and split.  I have other things to do with my time.

You’re Not Faulkner, and Certainly Not Hemingway

William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway were literary opposites to the point where they insulted each other frequently. Hemingway was a reporter and knew how to write.  Faulkner went through the dictionary, hoping to send his readers there. (I’m more of a Hemingway fan than a Faulkner fan.)

“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.” — Faulkner on Hemingway.

“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?” — Hemingway on Faulkner.

The truth is those Heathens who think they’re sounding smart actually sound like my dog when she barfs.  They aren’t Faulkner, and they sure as shit aren’t Hemingway.

Ignoring the Basic Beauty of Anglo-Saxon

What I find odd is these so-called scholars have ignored the basics of the Anglo-Saxon language.  Most of the simpler words we use today are from Anglo-Saxon.  The big, ostentatious words are usually Latin-derived. Occasionally, they use archaic words borrowed from Old English or German. Aren’t there better, easier to understand words available?

As a professional writer, it’s my duty to write for maximum comprehension.  That means I write clearly so most people can read what I write. If I try to sound collegiate, it takes away the writing’s clarity.

Most of these people writing word salad aren’t scholars or writers. I have a Masters degree and a Masters certificate, which at least puts me in the post graduate league. I’ve studied Latin and Anglo Saxon in college.  And I am a professional writer with more books published than many of you have in number of years.  So, I think I’ve got a sufficient reason to gripe. Many who talk the talk are amateurs; albeit, some are talented ones.  They don’t have the necessary training in logical thinking or deduction. The moment they start with the word salad, I know whom I am dealing with. And it ain’t pretty.

You Have to Wonder…

Part of me wonders if maybe the lofty, lurid, purple prose is an intentional subterfuge.  After all, if people don’t know what in the Hel you’re saying, it’s hard for them to dispute it.  And if it sounds lofty, then doesn’t it make sense that some people might like to parrot it? Hmm…Got to wonder about it.

As a follower of Tyr, I know that what I say doesn’t make me popular with some people.  But just once I’d like for all the word salad junkies to step back and speak plainly.  Who knows?  You might actually win a convert in The Rational Heathen.


Inbred Monkeys, Kindreds, and Lone Wolves. Are Kindreds Antiquated?

Inbred Monkeys, Kindreds, and Lone Wolves. Are Kindreds Antiquated?

“Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god. ”— Aristotle

One of the many solitary heathens who follows this blog asked me to say something about solitary heathens, and I thought it’d be a good idea.  Whether you belong to a kindred, or whether you are solitary, chances are you’ve had thoughts about whether you can be a heathen with a kindred or not. Seeing as I do not claim a kindred, by Aristotle’s view I am a god or a beast.   I know what my detractors would claim I am.  But seriously, I have my thoughts about kindreds and about solitary heathens, so you can take this as a mixture of science, history, and opinion.

What Science has to Say

TL;DR: Scientists believe groups are a natural order because it helps defend against predators.

If we look at other primates, we can note that they too require some sort of social group.  This isn’t exclusive to primates, per se, it appears to be a natural order among many different species all the way down to insects such as bees and ants. In the higher order lifeforms, we note that most animals are in social orders for protection, mating, and territory.

Jaguar & Panther Graphics
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Science has determined that the primates’ social order didn’t begin as a couple and increase. Rather, it’s likely that there were many related females and several unrelated males in the social order. (Of course, there are variations to this.)  This social structure occurs not only for diversifying the genetics and avoiding inbreeding, but also for protection.  Solitary hunters are generally nocturnal, and nocturnal animals are often solitary.  They use the night to hunt and to conceal them from larger and more dangerous predators. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, that’s basically how it works.  Animals that are mostly diurnal tend to run in groups because solitary animals can be seen and picked off easier by predators in the daytime. Numbers provide a certain amount of safety.

When our ancestors went from nocturnal to diurnal, we stuck with groups for safety. This required a high degree of sociability, because we probably would’ve killed ourselves of with antisocial behavior.

Our Brains are Naturally Programmed for Groups

 TL; DR: The biochemicals in our bodies makes us want to be social.

One interesting paper I read was the affect of certain neurotransmitters in our bodies to our behavior to become more social or antisocial. People who had increased serotonin levels tended to behave more social.  Heightened levels of oxytocin cause people to form bonds between mates, and between parents and offspring.  This also causes a heightened need to protect families.

We as humans have evolved to be social animals, which is why when people have lower doses of serotonin, we can assume that they may have problems such as depression and other conditions that may cause us to become more isolated.

Nature as the Basis for Kindreds

TL; DR: If we look at the history of humans, it’s obvious that in earlier times people arranged themselves in kindreds similar to other primates for protection.

When we look at kindreds, we can kind of see how the older kindreds were arranged, potentially in the fashion I mentioned above with related females and unrelated males. This is a natural construct to protect diurnal primates which humans have inherited. A “lone wolf” human was unlikely to survive without some sort of group. The world was a pretty scary place back then, and people had to band together in order to survive.  As hunter/gatherers, and later, as farmers, we needed a group structure to live in.  This structure offered us protection from the natural predators, and from other groups of humans.

At this point, I can see the recon heathens applauding my statements.  Ah hah!  They think I’ve agreed with them.  Lone wolves have no place in heathenry, or so they think.  Guess what?  They do have a place in heathenry.  Let me continue.

Thanks to

Times Change; People Change

TL;DR: The rule of law has reduced the need for protection a kindred affords.

At this point, it’s easy to see why there was an inner-gard/utan-gard.  The people within the inner-gard were those family and allies that needed to be cared for or defended. The utan-gard were those who did not belong.  Even so, heathenry insists on courtesy to strangers because the world was a difficult place.  The ethics of reciprocity is very much part of the heathen belief.

As the rule of law (thanks, Tyr!) took over, the need for kindreds dwindled. Unless you live in a country under complete chaos, the need for having warriors ready to defend the homestead is happily rare. The 20th Century saw the rise of the nuclear family — where a family consisted of parents and children. Sure, there were grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., but seldom did they live in the same town, let alone the same home as you did.

Nowadays, the family has morphed to whatever the person needs. There are single parent households, there are households with same-sex parents, there are couples without kids, there are children being raised by grandparents, there are temporary marriages, etc. Whether or not you think this is right, that is irrelevant because it is how our society has changed. There are certainly extended families and kindred-like arrangements, but I’d argue that as long as the rule of law continues, there is less need for people to have kindreds for safety sake.


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Inbred Monkeys and Lone Wolves

TL;DR: Your kindred are the people whom you associate with and have relationships with, whether or not they believe in our gods. Joining a heathen kindred may be helpful but not mandatory.

We know from science that human beings have nearly gone extinct twice, thus making us a little more than inbred monkeys. I suspect (and this is my conjecture) that it makes us hang onto certain traits a little longer than we really need to. The need to be social may be one of those traits that has been ingrained for a long time, although whether we need it or not can be debated.  I would argue that there are some things you still need from society, even if you manage to become mostly self sufficient. No man is an island, as a teacher of mine once quoted John Donne.

When we look at following the gods and goddesses of our ancestors, do we really need to be in a group to do so?  I would argue no, although you may get more out of being with others. There is a certain amount of comfort belonging to a kindred.  I would also argue that you have a kindred already.  You family and friends are your kindred, even if they are not followers of your path.  These are the people you go to when you need help; these are the people whom you help.

What’s more, we have bigger distances than even the Vikings traveled when it comes to finding folks who believe in our religion.  And even if we find people who are heathens, there’s no guarantee we’re going to get along.  We know that our ancestors didn’t just get along because they believed in the same gods.

The other side of the coin is that technology has made it so that we can have virtual kindreds.  I mean, let’s face it, we can meet via chat rooms and even attend conferences real time. So, even if you are a “lone wolf” heathen practitioner, you can still get some of the benefits being in a group.

To Recap

Our social behavior came about as an evolutionary adaptation to protect ourselves from predators. We have found it useful behavior as we cannot do everything we need to survive in most situations.  (Self sufficient people still rely on tools purchased or obtained from others.)  Nowadays, kindreds are less needed for protection, and are by their nature, a social construct. Your kindred are the people whom you associate with and have relationships with, whether or not they believe in our gods. Joining an Asatru or Heathen kindred is useful in many respects, but not mandatory, especially with the advent of the Internet.

So, solitary practitioners, despair not.  Adaptation is one of the great things about us and our ancestors.  You don’t need to belong to a heathen kindred to follow our gods. They are helpful, but not necessary to be a heathen.


Yeah, Well, I’m not into “Frith”

Yeah, Well, I’m not into “Frith”

“Frith” and “Troth.”  If you hang around with Heathens and Asatruans, inevitably you hear those words.  Those silly, archaic, bizarre words.  Every time I see those words, I want to roll my eyes and sigh.  Or laugh.  Or puke.  Or something.  It’s not that I disagree with the concepts, per se, I just have a tough time with silly archaics.

And I know at least two “dead” languages.

What the Fuck is Frith and Troth?

First, I need to get the definitions out of the way to ensure the recon rabble will find something to argue or poke fun about.  So, let’s look at frith.  My understanding is that it is tied to the “inner yard” or Innangarth which makes up the kindred.  If you look it up under Wikipedia (and you recons are welcome to fix their definitions, by the way), it points out a state of peace that has to do with relationships. Frith encompasses fealty to lords as well.  Basically, it is peace that occurs to those who belong to a certain unit, let’s say “family.” But family is more like The Godfather’s family — extended and has those who must swear loyalty of some variety. When you’re offered sanctuary, that’s frith working.  Got it?

Troth is loyalty and truth.  If you look up the word in Merriam-Webster’s, you’ll see loyalty or pledged faithfulness.  Basically, it’s an archaic term for “truth” or “oath,” depending on its context.

So Why the Fuck do I Have a Problem with them?

Other than the names and usage instead of modern English, you probably are wondering what is wrong with using them today.  Glad you asked that.  I’m going to address the whole Innangarth/Utanngarth and the concept of frith (crap, I keep typing “firth” because my mind and fingers rebel against this silly word.)  Basically, the idea comes down to an early form of feudalism that we got away from a long time ago. 

Frithering Heights

Let’s talk frith.  Back in the olden days, you had to have scores of relatives, friends, and whomever else in your Inner-yard because, quite frankly, the world was a dangerous place (it’s still dangerous, but not quite that level in Western societies) and if you didn’t have allies close at hand, you had everything taken from you by force.  Warfare was common back then, and it was the equivalent of living in street gangs, but without police to really turn to.  It’s no surprise that I likened the Inner-yard to the Mafia in the Godfather.  Hels Bells, where do you think the Sicilians learned this behavior?  Try the Norse and the Normans. There’s a reason why there are red and blond Sicilians.

“But Tyra,” you say, “we’re using frith to mean a safe space for our family and friends.”  I would argue that that’s fine, but be aware it is much different than the historical frithering something or other.  Yes, it can evolve over time — I’m not as pedantic as some — but change the term.  Tell us what it is.  “Safety,” “Safe space,” or whatever.  You’re using an anachronistic word here.

Frith, like many things, is conceptually an attractive idea, but in the end really offers a lot up for abuse of power.  People swear fealty to that particular lord and support him.  Peace (lack of warfare) occurs between members, though there are always disagreements.  Basically, you trade your loyalty for protection.  Feudalism, to sum it up succinctly. 

I grew up in a Frith-type household.  It sucked.  Not because of any physical abuse (although I could make the case for verbal abuse), but because there were things you never went to the Utanngarth over.  And quite honestly, there should have been more Outer-Yard interaction.  There were too many “secrets” that shouldn’t have been, and too many issues that later on caused problems that could have been addressed early on and avoided.

By the way, the Heathens of old weren’t the only ones who had the concept of Inner/Outer-Yard.  That concept is alive and well with the Japanese and other Asian ethnicities. In fact, the Japanese have one set of words for family members that are only used among family members versus a more formal set of words for “outsiders.” In many ways, Heathen culture mimics Japanese culture and Shinto: concept of inner/outer yard, ancestor worship, local kami/wight worship, female sun goddess, highly ritualized ceremonies with drink, warrior class which required fealty for protection, thegns/daimyo…I could go on and on.

I can see Frith being used as an excuse to hide addictions, sexual abuse, law breaking, and other terrible things, because it’s all too easy to insist on loyalty for “protection.”  Look at how feudalism was abused.  Look, our ancestors thought it sucked enough to get rid of it.  Now, I can hear the recons arguing with me on this.  Guess what?  I don’t give a shit.  The fact that it CAN be abused, suggests it WILL be abused.  Power, my friend, corrupts.

What About Troth?

Being a follower of Tyr, I do have some thoughts about Troth. You may guess by my crazy blog posts I tend to be a little on the brutally honest side.  Being honest and forthright is best, In My Not So Humble Opinion (IMNSHO), but I am quick to avoid oaths.  Oaths are solemn things, and yes, the gods will hold you accountable to them. So, swearing loyalty, except maybe in marriage, scares the bejesus (heh!) out of me.  Fail that oath, and you’re dealing with an ugly situation both here and in the afterlife, such as it may be.  Plus pledging Troth to anyone in terms of fealty, takes us right into the (not so) good-old-days of feudalism.

So, Where does that Leave us?

By now, I can feel all the recon rage.  Look, I really don’t care if you frither and troth all you want. I get the concepts, and I get you want to go back to the Bad Old Days.  Or maybe you think you can do a better job incorporating them into your family, kith and kin. Far be it from me to tell you how to live your life, as long as it doesn’t affect me. I’m not saying don’t respect your elders, and don’t respect your family, but families aren’t perfect, and no matter how much you’d like your Hof, Kindred, or whatever you call your group to be, to be perfect, it isn’t going to be that way.

I’d argue too that our Inner-Yard versus Outer-Yard has grown substantially. One could make the argument that our Inner-Yard encompasses our community, our state, or even our nation.  I haven’t gone so far as to say it encompasses our world, but maybe if we discover other life forms, that might be a real possibility.  (Someday, I’m going to write something about if Thor is on other planets, but this post is long enough.)

Anyway, use frith and troth around me, and I’ll laugh.  If for the silliness of the words, if nothing else.