Among the modern incarnations of Germanic Heathenry is a decentralized, grassroots structure which has given rise to innumerable permutations of religious thought and behavior. Some of these have resulted in strong and worthwhile contributions to the Folk. Likewise, some of the fruits of this state of affairs has resulted in poisoned apples, an overriding net negative effect and harmful influence to the sanctity and coherence of our faith.
In the following work I will address the topic of Theism, the reality of Ecclesiastical Doctrine, and the prevalence and Germanic conception of Hierarchy itself. This is intended as a guiding measure to help our faith more strongly base itself in the Weltanschauung of our forefathers, and to abrogate some of the corrupting and pernicious influence that has crept in over the decades.
There exists in any spiritual movement the need for a distinction between the concepts of Moral Philosophy, Lifestyle Exhortation and Religion proper. The former two may exist separately from the third, but Religion Proper always includes the others within its folds. This separation can largely be explained by the conception of Theism and Atheism.
The term “Theism” derives from the Greek “Theos” or “Theoi” meaning “God”, and its opposite in “Atheism” derives from the same root with the addition of “The Alpha Privativum”, used to make words that have a sense opposite to the word to which the prefix is attached. The term therefore takes on the meaning “Without God”, referring to the absence of belief that any deities exist.
Any Religion by these standards must hold a Theistic position of some sort, and there are many styles and manners of belief across the world, from Polytheism and Monotheism to Henotheism and Kathenotheism. They all, however, share the trait of an acceptance of the existence of a Deity or Deities which holds power in the universe. The Germanic Faith of our Forefathers holds creation to be home to Many Deities to which we pay Homage and Worship, which personably exist, and who interact materially, tangibly and even intangibly with Man. Therefore, they maintained a solid position of Polytheism; a root commonality to all European Folk Religions, especially prominent among modern minds, in the religion of Ancient Greece.
This belief in personable and materially existent deities can be found in the references of our forefathers themselves, and I will collect a few for our benefit here.
The first Proof will be the “Hrafnkels saga freysgoða’ or commonly known “The Saga of Hrafnkell, Freyr’s Gothi”, of which I will be quoting, and using as reference, the 1882 translation into English by John Coles.
Hrafnkell was born in Norway, the son of a man named Hallfreðr, and arrived in iceland during the reign of Harald Fairhair in the time of the Settlement at the age of 15. To quote the Saga directly:
“when Hrafnkell had hallowed for himself the land of Aðalból, he held a great sacrificial feast, and a great temple, too, he reared up there. Hrafnkell loved no other god before Frey, and to him he made offerings of all the best things he had, going half-shares. Hrafnkell settled the whole of the valley, bestowing lands on other people, on condition of being their chief; and thus he assumed priesthood over them. From this it came to pass that his name was lengthened, and he was called Freysgoði.”
Here we can see that Hrafnkell is a prosperous man, a pillar of the community, and he rules over his territory as a chief and priest dedicated to the God Freyr, to which he is noted as being especially pious and generous towards.
It comes to pass that Hrafnkell is assaulted and his domain seized by a rival, due to his past manslaughter over the matter of the horse Freyfaxi (Of whom many will recall). Hrafnkell is kicked off the land with only a meager amount of money and his own retainers, and sets up another home elsewhere. When he learns that his enemies have slain Freyfaxi and burnt the temple of Freyr (after removing the Gods themselves) he had erected, Hrafenkell said the words:
““I deem it a vain thing to believe in the gods,” and he vowed that henceforth he would set his trust in them no more. And to this he kept ever afterwards, and never made a sacrifice again.”
From this Incident we can learn a multitude of things. Hrafnkell himself believed in the existence of the Gods enough to devote half of his belongings to Freyr, to murder a man in their honor, and to be so disgusted at their noninterference with what happened to him that he rejected their worship going forward. Likewise, the perpetrators of Hrafnkells woes believed in the gods enough to remove their likenesses from a temple before setting it afire, in an attempt to not provoke their wrath.
The next proof we will be looking at will be located within “Landnamabok” or commonly known as “The Book of Settlement” being a history of Icelands settlement period and its most noble and notable families. I will be using the 1898 translation into English by T. Ellwood as a reference.
In the 5th chapter of the work we are introduced to a pair of men who are bonded by marriage. Ingolf Is introduced as performing “a great sacrifice and consulted the oracles
concerning his destiny”, thereby establishing himself first and foremost as a pious man who trusts in the Gods and the Powers That Be. His counterpart, Hjorleif, in introduced as having married Ingolfs niece and “always contemned sacrifices”.
The Pair make for the settlement of Iceland and Hjorleif The pair make for the settlement of Iceland, but are separated as Hjorleif and his Irish thralls are blown off course. When Hjorleif makes landfall, his slaves hatch a scheme to lure him into the wilds and thereby set upon him in number and murder him, which they accomplish.
Ingolf later makes for his companions home and discovers his body and states:
“Little indeed went here to the undoing of a brave man and true, that slaves should have put him to death, and thus I see it goes with every one who will do no sacrifice.”
Ingolf proceeds to slaughter the slaves who slew his kin and avenges the man’s death as much as he is able, though it is considered an especially ignominious end as there is no honor to be had from thralls.
Here we can also learn much of Germanic belief and custom, this time from a source a half century older than the previous one. We can see here that Ingolf is a right and pious man who trusts in guidance from the heavens to render him material aid, staking serious matters on the outcome. We are also shown that Hjorleif disdains sacrifices, perhaps out of simple greed, perhaps out of some atheism, and this is seen as both something of considerable note, and also a poor character trait by Ingolf who ascribes his especially grim fate to him angering the Gods.
The final proof we will be looking at is from the 10th chapter of Landnamabok. Here we are introduced to a Father and Son pair named Helgi the Godless and Hall the Godless. The Work further records “neither father nor son would sacrifice but they trusted in their own might“.
Here we see a sentiment that is often expressed from many modern Pagans in the mistaken assumption that this was common practice. On the contrary, we can see a father and son pair of atheists, and in these early days of the settlement of Iceland, such a thing is so noteworthy and unique as to identify the men in common parlance and history itself as “The Godless”, with this unusual fact being the only noteworthy element to their story worth writing down.
Among the modern incarnation of our ancestral faith, and those who would claim such a mantle, there is a noted tendency to shun the concept of Dogma and Doctrine as being inimical to the folk, a christian interpolation that our forefathers did not adhere to. Rather I would strongly argue that such ideas stem not from the sacred tenets and beliefs of our ancestors, but from very modern anarchic conceptions deriving from various forms of Neopaganism and Satanism: Wiccanism, Thelema and Luciferianism.
The Germanic peoples possessed strong notions of Order and Law, including formalized places of worship, practices and priests who could and did command obedience, observance and Tribute from everyone in their region. At various times and places, this Authority eclipsed the traditional might and power of Kings and Commanders. As above, I will present a number of proofs regarding these claims.
The first proof will come from the Ynglinga Saga, as compiled by Snorri in his Heimskringla, using here the english translation by Samuel Lang in 1844 as a reference and the origin of my quotes.
Prior to the traveling of Odin (Of which an article shall be written in the future) to the lands of the north, the Ynglinga Saga records thusly regarding Priests and Temples:
“The chief city in that land was called Asgaard. In that city was a chief called Odin, and it was a great place for sacrifice. It was the custom there that twelve temple priests should both direct the sacrifices, and also judge the people. They were called Diar, or Drotner, and all the people served and obeyed them.”
Following the establishment of the God Odin and the rest of the Aesir in the lands of Sweden, and the parceling out of various holy cities to several of the Gods, the Alfather assigns several titles to the Divine Assembly, including priestly roles:
“Odin placed Njord and Frey as priests of the sacrifices, and they became Diar of the Asaland people. Njord’s daughter Freya was priestess of the sacrifices, and first taught the Asaland people the magic art, as it was in use and fashion among the Vanaland people.”
Here we can see that the institution of Priesthood and their role as conductor of ceremonies and judge of the people is a divinely ordained office, present from the very beginning of our folk and present among the Gods themselves.
A second proof of the nature of Priests and their roles can be found in the works of Publius Cornelius Tacitus, specifically his seminal “Germania” of which i will be using and referencing the 1910 translation by Thomas Gordon.
While describing the ethnology and anthropology of the various tribes of Germania, Tacitus records this regarding their priests and methods of punishment on the battlefield and during wartime:
“Capital punishment, imprisonment, even flogging, are allowed to none but the priests, and are not inflicted merely as punishments or on the commanders’ orders, but as it were in obedience to the god whom the Germans believe to be present on the field of battle. They actually carry with them into the fight certain figures and emblems taken from their sacred groves.”
Tacitus also records the following duties and performance of Priests of the God Nerthus:
“There is nothing noteworthy about these tribes individually, but they share a common worship of Nerthus, or Mother Earth. They believe that she takes part in human affairs, riding in a chariot among her people. On an island of the sea stands an inviolate grove, in which, veiled with a cloth, is a chariot that none but the priest may touch. The priest can feel the presence of the goddess in this holy of holies, and attends her with deepest reverence as her chariot is drawn along by cows. Then follow days of rejoicing and merrymaking in every place that she condescends to visit and sojourn in. No one goes to war, no one takes up arms; every iron object is locked away. Then, and then only, are peace and quiet known and welcomed, until the goddess, when she has had enough of the society of men, is restored to her sacred precinct by the priest. After that, the chariot, the vestments, and (believe it if you will) the goddess herself, are cleansed in a secluded lake. This service is performed by slaves who are immediately afterwards drowned in the lake.”
Here we can ascertain that even among the tribes of Germania, nearly a millennia before the records of the nordic peoples, we have formalized positions of priesthoods who maintain similar rights and duties as the nordic examples many centuries later. These priests maintain the power to command the people and be obeyed even unto physical injury and death. The Priests also exhibit a singular ability to lead the people in ritual devotion and performance, and there is something to the hint of Priesthoods of and devoted to certain Gods, either above or in exclusion to others.
We have established a strong tradition of formal priesthood among the Germanic Peoples across the continent and a millennia of difference. We must now ask ourselves the pivotal question of what the logical purpose of a Priest is and how it relates to the Doctrine of a faith.
A Priest is someone learned in both the Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy of a religion, able to guide their followers whether they are performing sacred rituals or asking questions of the nature of the divine. The existence of a priest and especially of a priesthood implies that there is a correct answer and method, and also to the reverse, that there is an incorrect answer and method, one which a religious community is worried about enough to require the services of the learned to correctly answer and adjudicate.
This itself shows the lie inherent in the beliefs of anarchic neopagans who would deny the notion of Truth in itself, that they require no Priest, no Doctrine and no Dogma. We can clearly see here that such ideas are extremely counter to the great faith and trust our forefathers placed in the wise and the learned who knew of the Gods and what practices they demanded.
A third and most striking evidence for the existence of a solid religious doctrine among the germanic peoples can be found in “Brennu-Njáls saga”, or “The Story of Burnt Njal” of which I will be referencing the 1861 translation into English by George W. DaSent.
Immediately prior to the Conversion of Iceland in the Year 1000, a great many instances of religious feuding and violence erupted among the people, of which the legal incident involving Hjallti Skeggisson is perhaps the most famous. The saga records this terrible Blasphemy directed at the Goddess Freya and the God Odin:
“Then Hjallti Skeggi’s son sang this rhyme at the Hill of Laws –
Ever will I Gods blaspheme
Freyja methinks a dog does seem,
Freyja a dog? Aye! let them be
Both dogs together Odin and She”
(Authors note: The phrase translated as “Dog” here should more properly understood akin to the modern phrase “Bitch” and also “Howler”, Hjallti making a pun around the term for a female dog, a loud annoyance, and also comparing the two to animals (In Odin’s case a female animal no less) which was strictly a severe insult in icelandic society.)
The Saga then records some time later the events of this occurrence.
“That same summer Hjallti Skeggi’s son was outlawed at the Thing for blasphemy against the Gods.“
It is here we can absolutely determine that the Germanic peoples possessed the concept of Blasphemy as a crime and prosecuted it by the punishment of outlawry, despite the protestations of those who would have you believe that such “dogmas” are purely a facet of Christianity or Abrahamic religions. Our ancestors saw the Honor of the Gods as being just as important as yours or mine, that they had legal personhood even, because the Gods were real, manifest beings.
The last of the great baleful influences that has infected our faith from the anarchic neopagans has to do with the concept of Hierarchy. I have mused in the past that one of the telltale traits of the neopagan is their almost clinical reaction and hostility to the concept of Authority, Order and Rules which they shun and shed at a moments notice. As may also be gleaned from the above section on doctrine, the Germanic peoples did not believe in any semblance of Anarchy or Libertine ethics.
I will begin by quoting the excellent work of Daniel McCoy and his blog “Norse Mythology For Smart People”:
“In Norse mythology and religion, geographical spaces and psychological states are often classified as being either innangard (pronounced “INN-ann-guard”; Old Norse innangarðr, “within the enclosure”) or utangard (pronounced “OOT-ann-guard”; Old Norse útangarðr, “beyond the enclosure”). A place or a state of mind is innangard if it’s orderly, civilized, and law-abiding. If, on the other hand, it’s chaotic, wild, and anarchic, it’s utangard. Pre-Christian Germanic society had an overwhelming preference for the innangard, but this preference was by no means an absolute one; it was recognized that the utangard had its place as well, as long as it could be kept in check.
Medieval Icelanders referred to their society as “our law” (Old Norse vár lög), a phrase which shows that they thought of “law” and “society” as two ways of expressing the same thing. Law was a psychological enclosure that separated the social from the antisocial, the innangard from the utangard. This is why the punishment for especially heinous crimes was outlawry, whereby a person lost all of his or her civil rights and could be killed on sight without any legal repercussions. Through the crime, the outlaw had demonstrated that he or she was an utangard being rather than an innangard one, and since the criminal was beyond society’s control, he or she was accordingly stripped of society’s protection. The very words related to outlawry demonstrate this transition from being a civilized person to a wild one.
The distinction between the innangard and the utangard was also mapped onto the Germanic spiritual cosmology. Three of the Nine Worlds have the suffix -gard in their name, and all three of these are quintessentially innangard or utangard places: Midgard, Asgard, and Utgard, another name for Jotunheim. The first two are innangard worlds – Midgard, literally “the middle enclosure,” is the world of human civilization, the realm of fields and fences, which is at least partially modeled on Asgard, “the enclosure of the Aesir gods.” These two realms must constantly defend themselves from attacks by the giants, the lawless residents of Jotunheim/Utgard. (“Utgard,” in fact, is simply another version of the word “utangard.”)
More evidence of the Hierarchical nature of Germanic society can be seen in the birth-based Caste System first given to us by the God Rig in ancient times. The system contained three castes “Thrall (Slave) – Karl (Freeman) – Jarl (Lord)” and was patrilineally heritable with deep implications for the metaphysics of the soul. An example of these implications can be seen in the quote below when Earl Rognvald Eysteinsson rebukes one of his three sons born from a slave mistress, for cowardice in the face of the enemy, in the The Sagas of Olaf Tryggvason and of Harald The Tyrant, Translated into english by J. Sephton:
His father Rognwald was much displeased at his return. “My sons,” he said, “are not like my forefathers.”
To this remark of his father, Einar answered: “You give me little of your affection; it will be a very small matter to me to lose such regard as I have received from my childhood until now, and it cannot be my fate to find elsewhere less good fortune than I have had here. Therefore, you will grant me some assistance, I will go to the Orkneys, and I promise you that I will never come back to Norway.”
“I shall be well pleased,” the Earl answered, “if you come not again; but I have little hope that you will ever be an honour to your kinsmen, for your mother’s family are all thrall-bom.”
Here we can see that Rognvald of Norway firmly believes that the origins of his sons moral turpitude lies in the metaphysics of his parentage, he is unlike his father and his paternal ancestors because something of his fundamental nature has been altered due to their status as Slaves.
I will end the section with a selection from the seminal work of the distinguished Professor of Religion, Vilhelm Grønbech in “The Culture of the Tuetons”, published in 1931, that highlights the strikingly different model of society and worldview our ancestors possessed from that of modern man, inundated with assumptions of liberalism hearkening back to the Enlightenment, and especially popular in the anglosphere.
“The thrall has no soul, our ancestors say; and they know, because they have seen that it is lacking in him. When a thrall finds himself in a perilous situation, be goes blind, so that he dashes down and kills himself out of pure fear of death. How a soulless man would naturally behave we can learn from the story of the fight at Orlygsstad, where the wise and noble chief Arnkel met his death. When Arnkel unexpectedly found himself attacked by a superior force he sent home his thrall to bring aid.
On the road the messenger was accosted by a fellow-servant — and willingly fell to helping him with a load of hay. Not until the evening, when those at home asked where Arnkel was, did he wake up and remember that his master was fighting with Snorri at Orlygsstad. There is no need of any hypothesis as to soul and life to make clear the fact that the thrall lacked hugr and hamingja; his soullessness is discernible by the lack-lustre of his eyes. The only possibility for a thrall to rise into something like a human being is by inspiration of his master’s luck and life, and thus faithfulness and devotion are the noblest virtues of a bondman.“
As members of our modern faith and upholders of the sacred traditions of our forefathers, we must make a conscious effort to “stay within the Innangard” as it were, to reject the pernicious influences of anarchy and chaos and, like our ancestors, temper them with Law, and the Divine Orlog that righteously Orders our existence.
Part of this hearkening to the Innangard must necessarily result in the expulsion of the Utangard, those who fall outside of “vár lög”, for the good of our community and its spiritual health. For us, and for the Gods.
“To the wolf in Woden’s harness,
Uggi’s worthy warlike son,
I, steel’s swinger dearly loving,
This my simple bidding send;
That the wolf of Gods he chaseth, –
Man who snaps at chink of gold –
Wolf who base our Gods blasphemeth,
I the other wolf will crush.”
-The Saga of Burnt Njal