More on Frið

Subtitle: Nuance is Hard

To be cut off from your family is to be cut off from a limb. It is a grievous, life-altering (and sometimes defining) wound. Some people never manage to get over it. Over the last few years, as I have wrestled with the idea of Frith (and I have, believe me!) I have come to the conclusion that the best analogy for the breaking of frith is the loss of a limb.

And it is trauma, with all that entails.

Some would lionize that trauma, would revel in it, and say of people struggling with their family, "Cut them out! You don't need them!" and encourage the unnecessary elective self amputation of your right arm or left leg simply because it bothered you.

Others, placing the ideal of a whole family on such a pedestal would enable abusive and terrible behavior, encouraging those with gangrenous wounds to allow them to continue to fester and if you only treat it correctly, the infection will clear away. And that's not always the case. Even with all the medicine and all the treatment, you may still have to sign the papers and let the surgeon take the limb. Just so you can have a chance at a life.

But I think it does those who have had to face that decision, or, through trauma or tragedy, had that decision made for them a terrible disservice if we don't acknowledge both the courage it comes with coping and the horror that is its necessity.

Now the internet does many things well, but not nuance. It is incredibly difficult to try and articulate a position such as this, especially when others would have you gleefully sawing away your limbs for any old reason, simply to justify the decisions they had to make. I think that's a shitty way to go about things, and I find those who refuse the fact of frith simply because they are missing an arm or a leg to be also missing the heart of what it is we do.

When Bronze gave way to Iron, and with its associated socio-political upheavals, the elder heathen faced a complete collapse of the ancient bonds of tribe and family. Even then, they did not abandon the hope for either. They made it work. They cobbled things together, bits and pieces of their martial heritage1, some borrowed rituals from the Celts2, a cult of a god who was both inner and outer3, and they built new families, and from those new families came new tribes. They succeeded, for a time, not by the wholesale abandonment of their traditions, but by making them work in the context of the situation that they found themselves. The ideals, like the gods, are eternal. It is up to us to make ourselves as close to that as we can reach, with the knowledge that we will not succeed except through our failed attempts.

I hope that this makes sense. It is both an attempt at answering a question on the subreddit4, and addressing a broader conversation that I feel is subject to too strong feelings on both sides, so that they — we — end up arguing more and more radical positions, simply through the continued opposition of the other.


  1. Kershaw. The One Eyed God, Oðin and the (Indo-)Germanic Männerbünde.

  2. Enright. Lady with a Mead Cup

  3. This is a bit of synthesis from the two previous works. I'd also suggest Richard North and Simek for the rise of the Odin-cult.


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