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The Reach of Common Law


How much law is good law? 


To answer this, one needs to ask ones self, how effective can law be when it isn't remembered, or when it goes against the natures of those who must observe it.


It has been observed as long ago as the time of Cornelius Tacitus that the messiest of governments seek to govern with the most laws.  Often, as Henry Thoreau observed, one ancient writer even went so far as to mandate the "perfect" length at which to maintain one's fingernails.  Such laws from such attempts at public order and the common weal tend to be invasive, unnatural, and ultimately futile.


Nobody likes feeling as if they're being pushed around.


Likewise, the law is not a thing for the personal whimsy of an arrogant chieftain or gabby online correspondent.


How much law is enough?  To answer that, one must determine how much peace and civil order one wishes to attain.  There can actually be a point where one has too much order and things can be far too peaceful for the good of the community.  Too much peace and too much order stifle innovation, and too hide-bound a tradition captures and holds the spirit.


Furthermore, a law which is not accessible to all -- not readily understood in language or in purpose -- which is condescending, which is too detailed for general use, and a body of laws which is too lengthy and too convoluted doesn't benefit anyone...aside from lawyers.  We might be wise to leave the profession of attorney to the civil, secular realm, and not raise a crop of lawyers amongst our own.  While one might find it wise to ask another to act for you in advocacy or mediation, one should never need another to explain or manipulate the law for you.


How much law is enough?  Law that addresses the causes and abuses of conduct that give rise to unrest amongst the Folk of the Innangardh is enough law.  People should constrain themselves, showing self-discipline when opportunities to cheat or steal or lie present themselves.  The common law should, in this case, reinforce that such self-discipline is an admirable thing, expected of our Folk, and that lack of self-discipline is detrimental to the common good, and is actionable by common action.


How much law is enough?  Law that seeks to guide folks away from harmful or antisocial conduct is enough law.  Law which mandates conduct -- the "thou shalts" -- is often too narrow in focus, and is unnecessarily invasive of an individual's privacy.  It is one thing to codify that we are to remember the Holy Tides and seek to commune with your Gods and Folk, and quite another to prescribe a cycle of holy observances and make those observances mandatory.

How much law is enough?  Law based upon generally valued virtues and which reinforces them as general virtues is enough law.  The benefits to the community of fidelity, hospitality, disciple both self and communal, and honor are above dispute -- one would hope -- in our tradition, custom and in daily life.  Laws that take the common good in view of these common virtues cannot fail to act for the common good.


How much law is enough?  Law that doesn't seek to dictate the right in all specific instances is enough law.  People are many and varied, even the people of the sir and Vanir.  We recognize as social conventions -- marriage, contracts, and alliances -- as binding, but recognize also that people observe them in different ways at different times.  Through it all, an oath is an oath, but there are many non-oath-bound relationships, and a law which seeks to "regularize" all which exist and which may exist would need to come from Forseti himself, and would probably still be too restrictive or not sufficiently effective.


How much law is enough?  Law that doesn't seek to take the right of decision away from those observing the law is enough law.  Wise people seek to operate within the realm of the common good, and can make their own decisions as to what they should do and not do.  Laws which mandate specific decisions rob the individual of his or her rights to work for the good in his or her own life and so for the good of all by limiting both inspiration and initiative.


How much law is enough law?  Law that is general and impersonal is enough law.  A law mandated or imposed by a specific chieftain, for their own convenience or aggrandizement, creating status where none existed before, will turn out to be a transient law, ultimately injuring the rule of law by holding law up as a plaything of those entrusted to do the people's business.


How much law is enough law?  Law that can be remembered, and so can be observed, is enough law.  Codifying fishing regulations, ritual observance, and table manners into common law not only fills legal volumes, but robs the common man or woman of the right to understand the law they are expected to observe.  If one is going to fish, one then looks into fishing regulations.  If one is going to worship, one looks to the modes and forms of observance particular to one's own form of the Folkway. 


Should there be more law than common law?  Many folks, in many kindreds, sippes, hearths, tribes and organizations believe that there should be, and life experience reinforces this.  But, these laws may end up being binding on specific kindreds, sippes, etc., and not be regarded as common.  One kindred may revere the hammer sign in ritual, while another may choose to observe only those tides and rituals verifiable in historical documents or in Lore.  This does not constrain someone not a communicant of this more specific law, and does not make anyone "more or less a heathen".  Beyond the common law of Germanic heathens, one would expect AngloSaxons to observe the tides their own way, and make some rules regarding observance, conduct and interaction.  One would likewise expect that a Norse, Gothic, or other Germanic heathen, in their own sippes or organizations, to mandate rules for the observance of their kinsmen.  This might stand as an example of useful conduct to other organizations or individuals, and may be adopted, but isn't generally binding on the general body of the Germanic heathen community.


How much law is enough common law?  We, as a people, need a law that is accessible, which we can remember and use constructively, and which binds us as a people.  More law is unnecesary for the common good, and should be left to those who see a need, at their level and in their lives or the lives of their kindreds or sippes.


How much law is enough law?  That which is generally regarded as common sense is common law, and is enough law.