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Common Law v. Tribal Law



Today, we as Germanic heathens have a serious problem:  we are members of kindreds, clans, tribes and associations with tribal law, but no common law.  Folks today are trying to organize, and efforts in the past have come to naught.  This, I believe, is because, many times, folks try to impose tribal law as common law.

First of all, one must understand there has come into being the notion that there is a thing called "Asatru".  Asatru does indeed exist, but then it doesn't.  Not as it is postulated by some folks today.

Asatru is as much the name of a group of people as is Christianity.  It is a general thing, a label to vector the mind in on a general subject.  Just as there are lots of different sorts of Christians, from Russian Orthodox to Free Will Baptists, and just as the Orthodox Church defines the man in Minsk as much as the man in Missouri is guided and defined by the doings at his steepled chapel; so are Germanic heathens different from each other, and as different in focus and self-definition one from the another.

Asatru, per se, is the name imposed on the Icelandic revival of what we in Vinland and elsewhere have come to call Germanic heathenism.  The Danes have a national association devoted to what they call Forn Sidhr. The Norwegians have their own expression of their own folkway called Forn Sed.  There are English and continental German heathens who express the genius of our people both within the framework of the UK or continental branches of the Odinic Rite and other, more local groupings.

Some of these associations, organizations and congregations are extremely localized, being the expression not only of the Germanic folksoul, but very particularly of the Norwegian folksoul, as it manifests itself in the geography of that homeland, and as it breaths that homeland's air.  Asatru, the Icelandic original, is very much an expression of what it means to be one of those rightly proud, historically significant and verifiable people.  I'm sure that they often wonder about folks in Texas and Idaho discussing instances in the Sagas -- Sagas which their people saw to it were passed along to a grateful Germanic heathen community, by the way -- which took place, in some cases, not far from where they were born, perhaps within sight from their front room windows.


Each group is different in ritual, focus, language, emphasis on the wider world, emphasis on environmental issues as they effect spirituality, and internal and external politics, both secular and international among other Germanic heathen groups.  NOBODY would EVER confuse an Icelandic asatruarari with an AOR of the Odinic Rite in the UK.


...and, that's just the Europeans.


On the other hand, we have many, many different groups, with many different aspirations and ways of doing business, in Australia, South Africa, Canada, and Vinland.  We have folks whose family presence in these places is a fairly recent matter, and others whose families haven't been European since the Voortrek of the 1830's, the Australian settlements of the 18th century, and the Canadian and Vinnish settlements in the 17th Century.  Their ancestors have been looking at different mountains and plains from those of Europe, seeking self-definition and sense of time and place from an entirely different landscape.  They have been communing, perhaps it might be speculated, with an entirely different family of landvŠttir.  Their blood springs from the glens and mountains of Old Europe, but the soil that fed their flesh is the soil of the Kansas plains and their thirst was slaked with water from the Ohio.  Furthermore, Vinlanders long resident in this country are apt to be less than "pure", having ancestors from all over Northern Europe (and beyond).  This happens occasionally in Europe, but is a feature in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Vinland.


It must also be remembered that the blood of Iceland -- purported to be amongst the "purest" genetically in the world -- once flowed there from the Orkneys, Ireland and Norway.  It arrived there, perhaps, from points east.  It can be argued that the heathen who today pours libation in the Wasatch in Utah is of the blood of ancestors who consulted the High Ones around the Holy Stones at the Externsteine or who looked out over the marshes of Saxony.  Their ancestors, it must then be remembered, came long ago across the steppes of Eastern Europe, perhaps from Central Asia.  Today, we are products of a history of wandering, and have arrived at this end with, sometimes, substantially different outlooks concerning something we all hold dear:  our relationship with the spiritual world.


So, when one is speaking of "Asatru", one actually might be referring to the members of the Icelandic Asatruarfelagidh, or instead be trying to find a word to wrap one's tongue around which might express all of us, across three oceans, and on at least four different continents and in at least three island nations.  Some folks see theirs as the true expression of a pan-Germanic folkway.  Others are very particular in their views on association, ritual and kinship ties.


That is because we are many Innangardhs within the greater Innangardh.  Here in Vinland, we have many "flavors" of Germanic spiritual expression, culture and ritual observance, as well as ritual language, but all fall heir to the Vinnish Innangardh, the Circle of the Nation of O­inn in Vinland.


Each group, as one might expect, has it's own group of rules and expectations of conduct, which exist as tribal law.  They bind and guide the members of the tribe, and of the kindreds, sippes, hearths, solitary practitioners, families and others claiming allegiance and owing duty to the tribe.  In Vinland alone, to start with, we have AngloSaxon tribesmen, a few varying expressions of the Norse folkway, at least one Gothic/Germanic tradition being rediscovered and rebuilt, and many who are "simply heathens".  To bind all of these folks together as one tribe would be like saying "I walk the Druidic path" or "I am a priestess of Isis and Serapis", but still count ones self as a Wiccan.  The irony of that comparison there is intentional.


Likewise, to try to operate as a Norse heathen or Gothic heathen by rules laid down by Theodish heathens would bend the Theodish tradition all out of shape, ruining a valued spiritual, cultural and historical legacy for the AngloSaxons and satisfying no one else into the bargain.


There have been, from time to time, attempts to "regularize" Germanic heathen expression in Vinland, at least, with this chieftain or that, or some well-meaning group of chieftains and kinsmen, trying to lead our people to a more united, more fri■ful association.  Many of these "heathen councils of Nicea" have failed, or their impact has been blunted by the reality that one tribe trying to impose it's customs, traditions or worldview as a "model" for Germanic heathenism raises the boar-bristles on the neck-backs of our combative people.


The need then comes into being for Germanic Heathen Common Law. This is a construct of laws, based on historically verifiable and natural customs and traditions of Northern European peoples, which can be observed by all Germanic heathens, allowing for the establishment of a bond between the many disparate tribes and clans.  Just as, in Elder Times, Germans of the forests and valleys shared gods with the folks of the Gautish fjords, and shared generally similar ethics and customs, and might even interact freely among their cousins, they were then -- then by virtue of distance -- left at home with their own more specific laws, customs, rituals, stories and traditions.


Today, we haven't either the advantages of elbowroom or the disadvantages to communications in a rapidly shrinking, interconnected world.  We must find a way of arriving at general principles to which we can all look for guidance, allowing us to give allegiance to each other as kinsmen, but allowing us to retain our respective, more local and more dear tribal traditions.


It is for that reason that we need to address the need for a Germanic Heathen Common Law.  It could be defined as general set of binding national precepts.  This would leave the many tribes of our Germanic people to their tribal and clan laws and heritage.  Further, it would underscore what we have in common, and give those tribes and clans in the Circle of the Nation a framework on which to build their own tribal law.

Germanic Heathen Common Law would, then, strive to be a uniting force, from which a Germanic heathen anywhere might give and receive the duty and loyalty, in a general setting, from his kinsmen.  At home, he or she and their kinsmen of that sacred place, in the land of their ancestors, would observe the tribal law which governs them, and to which they owe their specific allegiance.