The Nine Noble Virtues of Asatru – Courage
In my previous post I gave a small breakdown of the Nine Noble Virtues of Asatru.
What are they? Are they concrete rules like the ten commandments? Why nine?
No they are not laws, for one, they are a moral code of conduct that will benefit you and those around you if you wish to apply them to your life. The Nine Noble Virtues can be defined as being a Heathen ethic, comprised of commendable qualities or traits.
The Virtues were gleamed and distilled from various ancient sources including the Prose and Poetic Edda (particularly the Hávamál), the Icelandic Sagas and various tales from Germanic folklore in the mid-1970’s by the Odinic Rite. That’s right; the Nine Noble Virtues are a modern invention – any ancient heathen would not have been able to recite the Nine Noble Virtues – but they would have recognized them. The virtues are many aspects on conduct that pre-christian Germanic peoples held in most high regard as their tales usually comprised of the hero/es of the tales being true and virtuous – a point-form list has been created to gain a better understanding into their mindset.
In fact, these noble virtues are irreligious as there is no direct reference to any gods, goddesses or supernatural beings. In fact, these virtues have been seen as commendable and are indeed echoed by the ethical standards of other cultures, worldwide. So while the Nine Noble Virtues were gleaned from Heathen lore, by Heathens for Heathens (as one site puts it), they eventually transcend Heathenry since anyone can aspire to adapt them to their lives.
Knowing the virtues off by heart does not make you into “a good heathen” or “more heathen”. It is not about memorizing them but acting upon them that will make you a better person and a benefit to your community. Whether you choose to adapt the virtues to your life or not is up to you – it does not make you any less heathen, but it does bring your morality towards your community and yourself into doubt.
Nine is a sacred number in heathenry. Well actually three and multiples of three are; the three sacred feasts, the three Norns, the nine points on the valknut, twelve nights of Yule etc. Odin also hung for nine days and nine nights before taking up the runes.
The original virtues according to the Odinic Rite are;
- Courage / Honour
- Self Reliance
The Nine Charges were, like the Nine Noble Virtues, codified by the Odinic Rite in the 1970s.
- To maintain candour and fidelity in love and devotion to the tried friend: though he strike me I will do him no scathe.
- Never to make wrongsome oath: for great and grim is the reward for the breaking of plighted troth.
- To deal not hardly with the humble and the lowly.
- To remember the respect that is due to great age.
- To suffer no evil to go unremedied and to fight against the enemies of Faith, Folk and Family: my foes I will fight in the field, nor will I stay to be burnt in my house.
- To succour the friendless but to put no faith in the pledged word of a stranger people.
- If I hear the fool’s word of a drunken man I will strive not: for many a grief and the very death groweth from out such things.
- To give kind heed to dead people: straw dead, sea dead or sword dead.
- To abide by the enactments of lawful authority and to bear with courage the decrees of the Norns.
The AFA (Asatru Folk Assembly) have stated their interpretation as follows;
- Strength is better than weakness.
- Courage is better than cowardice.
- Joy is better than guilt.
- Honour is better than dishonour.
- Freedom is better than slavery.
- Kinship is better than alienation.
- Realism is better than dogmatism.
- Vigor is better than lifelessness.
- Ancestry is better than universalism.
I will focus on the virtues according to the Odinic Rite – please note that these are my own interpretations!
First – There is Courage.
Courage can be bluntly put as the bravery to do what is right at all times. It means to act in spite of fear. It is the core virtue of the nine because none of the other eight virtues exist without it.
Think of your courage and the subsequent honour as your worth to the community.
Are you known as an honourable and upstanding member of society? Is your advice to be trusted? And most importantly – is your oath worthy of being trusted? Are your actions worthy of praise? If not, then ask yourself why.
Our honour is our net worth; without this worth, we do not further and better ourselves, our folk and our kin. We end up holding not just ourselves but our communities back. Without this worth, we may as well be nothing – a non-entity.
Those who are dishonourable and cowardly are also most likely to be oath-breakers – and oath-breakers are those who are doomed to wade the river of poison in Helheim.
The following stanza from the Hávamál (Sayings of the High One) is probably the most popular and most recited and deservedly so as it indicates the importance of courage and honour and our final legacy;
“Cattle die and kinsmen die,
thyself too soon must die,
but one thing never, I ween, will die, —
fair fame of one who has earned.”
As well as;
“A coward believes he will ever live
if he keep him safe from strife:
but old age leaves him not long in peace
though spears may spare his life.”
Our deeds, our reputation are our lasting legacy when we leave this world – they attest to our courage and to the honour that we have accumulated in our lives. These works of courage prove our worth not just to our communities but to ourselves. Thus we strive to be courageous and to bring honour to our families and to ourselves if we are to dwell with our Gods in their mighty Halls in Asgard.
Our deeds, our reputation and our hamingja (familial “luck”) are our lasting legacy when we leave this world – whether they are most honourable or dishonourable – they will outlive us and are either a gift or a curse to those that we leave behind!
“The expression goes that a man is Tyr courageous if he is the type who advances out in front, never losing his courage.” — High, Gylfaginning: The Prose Edda