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The Circle of the Nation

By: Bodvar



** The Circle of the Nation **

(Before beginning, I must acknowledge a debt.  All Germanic heathens owe a debt to Eric Wodening, for whose book "We Are Our Deeds" we should all be grateful and to which we should turn for a scholarly and deeper discussion of this topic.  Furthermore, we owe a debt to the many Theodish clans and tribes, especially that of Garman Lord and Winlandish Rice, for first examining and then trying better than any to live the life of tribal Germanic heathens.  Finally, we might all look to the many discussions many of us have been party to over the years, trying to work out our often not-that-obvious interrelation.  Hail the Folk!)

What is the Innangardh?

Simply speaking, it is the Circle of the Nation.  Inside the Circle, we are at home.  Outside the Circle, we are wayfarers, may have friends and safe havens.  But, we are not home until we arrive back home.

The terms Circle of the Nation and Innangardh are synonymous, and will be used henceforth interchangeably.

It is the "Inner Enclosure" in which we, who inhabit it, are bound by ties of blood, duty and faith to each other, and to our Elder Kin -- the High Holy Ones of Asgardh, of Vanaheim, and our other relations of legend and the world around us.  Likewise, death only elevates our interaction with our Ancestors, it doesn't severe it.  We are tied to them, as well, and can and must honor and interact with them, with the spirits of land and sky, of time and time-before-time.

The Innangardh is the realm of the Holy.

What makes up the Innangardh, and how binding is the call of duty?  Is it one monolithic and constricting enclosure, more a jail than a refuge?  Or, is it the context in which we live, looking to history and tradition for our roots and for order in a chaotic world? 

Life has always been chaotic, even in elder times, when life was supposed to be simpler.  This is because life is lived in, around and by people...and people are the only creatures walking the Earth who can decide, and so can act, speak and work counter to their inherent nature, can give and then break their work, and can work counter to their self-evident good.  For this reason, an "enclosure" is needed, where folk are expected to follow their traditions, founded upon their natural and historical spiritual and temporal instincts and laws; where one's word is one's bond, and can be relied upon; and where one can seek advice from others in an interdependent and ordered environment.

The problems faced by forest tribesmen in 500 BCE, those faced by the warriors facing down the Romans, those setting sail to Greenland, and those facing each other across the Siegfried Line were different in detail, but were essentially the same in complexity and depth when human choice and the chance of human perfidity was involved. Communications have changed, as have the ways we dress, warm ourselves, and how we deal with sickness and how and even why we record our deeds.  But, Attila/Atli, Aetius, Armin, Egil and Thorgeirr the Lawspeaker walk among us today.  How we deal with the human spirit hasn't changed, nor has the technology of the human heart advanced beyond the technology of the Innangardh.

The glue which holds the Circle of the Nation together is the Law. We are all subject to the natural law of our people, a generally binding law specific to those within the Circle, not modified but amplified and added to depending on our place within the Circle. What holds the Law in place is loyalty.  It is the bond of one's word.  We give our word and then we keep it.  We adhere to the Law, which we hold up to protect us as well as to maintain order between us, and we do so by deciding to do so and doing so.  A citizen of the Innangardh should be expected to be a subject of the Law within the Innangardh, and should expect that law to be observed in regards to his place in it, protecting and empowering him.

The Law of the Innangardh is the agreement between today's citizens that the "technology of the human heart", valid for our ancestors, is still valid today.  It is the acknowledgement that we don't need to reinvent the wheel with each new heathen whom we accept to the embrace of the Innangardh, or with each new generation.

What makes up the Innangardh?  Is it "all white people"?  The "Folk Without" is a term in coined by Drighten Steve McNallen to refer to those of our blood who have not rediscovered the common Folkway of the Elder Gods of the Germanic North.  Does the Innangardh include them?  Is it all humankind?  Does the Law of the Circle of the Nation include -- and, more to the point, is it binding upon -- those who do *not* share our blood, who are not related by blood to the High Holy Ones of our Folk?  Is it simply *our* little piece of Germanic heathenism, that part of the world we can change and over which we have control?

** Inside/Outside **

To address this, first let me say that I believe, as writers and thinkers such as Eric Wodening have said, that the we live amongst *our* people, and that our laws and loyalties are *ours*.  The more "universalistic" view that we are all members of the "human family" may be comforting to citizens of a world generally regarded as "shrinking", given modern communications and interrelated business and governmental alliances, but I think that ultimately it is a false conception.  We may have oaths of loyalty to people not our own, not within the Circle of Our Nation -- the Circle of the Nation of
Odhinn -- and I would expect that, as citizens of this Circle, expected to give and keep our word within the Circle that we would likewise give and keep our word to those not our own, not within the Circle.  But, if one has an enclosure, sense dictates that there are people on the inside, and then there are people on the outside.

There, indeed, *are* people on the outside.  In fact, a great many of those people on the outside look and share blood and custom with us.  In my land of Vinland, the majority of the people outside the Circle of the Nation of Odhinn in Vinland are still "white" in most places, if not all.  But, they are not loyal to our Law, the very thing which keeps that Circle together, and so are neither subject to that Law, nor can they be counted on to respect it without either understanding it or having an oathed loyalty to it.  They are foreigners.

Calling someone a foreigner is *NOT* slapping them with some ethnocentric perjorative, especially when they're as European in stamm as one is oneself, or even more so.  It is simply a statement of fact.  When one sees a horse, and calls it a horse, one is telling those around one that one knows what a horse is.  We may, by common sense and a sense of humanity, establish ways of dealing with horses, of treating them properly, and of treating their kin in the Animal World properly.  This does not make a horse a citizen of the Circle.  It merely means that a horse can get fair, humane and honorable treatment from citizens of the Circle.  Likewise, a foreigner -- an "uetlaender" -- whose loyalties may lie with a foreign god, or
with no god whatsoever, with another body of traditions, or simply *not* with our Law, should expect to receive fair, honest and honorable treatment from citizens of the Circle, treatment at least as humane as that one affords a horse.

Likewise, one should be wary when accepting the word of a horse. 

Not having a tie of loyalty to our Law, but being a citizen of the Animal World, as it were, we should rather look to his or her actions in each and every situation, trusting deed over word.  Within the Innangardh, one's loyalty should reinforce one's word, so that deeds are expected to flow straight from one's word, as one would hope that one's own word is a measure of what one's deeds will be.

We may come to rely on a horse, fully as we might come to rely on our neighbor.  We can be tied by affection, agreement, and the alliance of common interest.  Dealings with horses are much simpler, as I stated earlier, as horses -- once one comes to understand them -- are creatures much more likely to make sound decisions, based upon their needs and the situation at hand.  Horses eat when the opportunity presents itself, drink when they are hungry, and sleep when they can.  We cannot expect to have the same luck with people.

For that reason, we have secular law.  Secular law is the common law of the Utangardh, that which is *outside* the Circle of the Nation.  Just as governments set up by mankind don't generally pass and enforce laws horses are expected to observe, but laws instead regarding how people are expected to deal with horses, we see that law, both secular and tribal, is a creature of mankind.  Secular law, to which we should, as good neighbors, *also* be subject, is intended to keep citizens, in extremis, from killing, stealing from, and generally walking all over eachother.  There is wise secular law and there is stupid secular law, forcing people to do the unnatural and impractical in critical situtions, but that hardly need concern us now.  Dicsussion of that is needed, but let us examine that another day.

What then, makes up the citizenry of the Innangardh?  Who *is* in the Circle of the Nation of Odhinn?

The Circle is just that.  It is the Great Enclosure, our home, in which we agree to live bound by oath and Law, and in which we can assume ourselves, our familes and the honor of our Ancestors to be safe.

It is, moreover, not a monolithic structure.  There is a Great Enclosure, a Circle of the Nation, but, as with any nation, there are localities, and the Innangardh is just as much a collection of villages, localities and individuals as is any nation.

** The Constituent Parts **

As any organism, the Innangardh is made up of cells, which make up organs, which work together to give the entire body life.  In the Innangardh, we strive -- or, rather, would be wise to strive -- to keep the affairs of daily living, and the rules and customs of daily living as close to the actions of daily living as possible.  For that reason, it will be helpful to examine the cells which become tissue and organs in turn, from the most basic to the more complex, knowing that rules exist at each level which may not carry over to the citizens at higher or more complex levels.  For instance, one family may not conduct ritual, deal with their children, or regard material
matters like their neighboring family, although both are in the Innangardh and are subject to the common law of the Innangardh.  They are simply, each family, making rules within the Innangardh which do not counter or refute common law, but which they feel are more practical to their circumstances.  Others may disagree, and these disagreements and the successes and failures of such families may be lessons to their neighbors.  But, families must be free to decide as they see fit.

The building block of the Innangardh is the HOUSEHOLD. 

The household is generally seen as the family, with a head, with dependents, and with a common purpose, often deriving from blood.  One simple metaphor to describe it is to call it a "family".  It has a householder, who takes the good of the household into every decision, and dependents who rely on the householder to make those decisions in accordance with law and custom, and with the best interests of the household in mind.

A household is a collection of committed individuals *co-located*. 

The power of the householder to decide could be likened to the power of a parent to decide, which is wisely dependent on the condition of the household -- the household's wealth and resources, the time and location in which one lives, and the household's options as they present themselves -- and to the condition and makeup of the dependents in the household.  A parent, to continue the metaphor, deals differently with a young child than with a grown child, if he or she is wise.

Today, the family isn't *always* synonymous with household.  We commonly see one-parent families, households with only one of two parents heathen, as well as "alternative arrangements" which today go into making up a co-located alliance of peoples.  A household may not even be blood family at all, but heathen people living together for their common good.  The morality or practicality of such arrangements, of gay household arrangements, of polyamorous arrangements, and of other "alternatives" I will leave for later discussion.  That is often a matter not for common law, but for more local custom, and is one of the things on which people agree the least.

Furthermore, a household might be an extended family household, with more than two generations collocated.  In that case, the elder generation, within the limits of their faculties, may be either the house holding party or dependent.  That, again, is a matter for the household itself. 

The next step up from household is CLAN.

The clan can be thought of as an extended family -- uncles, cousins, grandparents and the siblings of grandparents -- who are *not co-located* -- but which give loyalty and expect leadership from a matriarch or patriarch.  It is an alliance, if you will, of households.  As such, it is Midhgardh's manifestation of the extended family of the Line of the Family, which takes in the Ancestors and which prepares the way to become ancestors. 

Clans, as households, are organized to meet the needs of the households which make up the clan.  Leadership, depending on the clan, may be dictatorial, may be by consensus, may be democratic to some degree or directly democratic, or may take some other turn. Successful clans, as successful households, rise and fall on the backs of their leadership.  Unsuccessful clans and households are lessons to us all.

(NOTE:  the modern artificial constructs of "hearths" and "kindred's" arose parallel with the blood and oath-bound households and clan structures.  Today, thirty years after the rediscovery and reimplimentation of the Germanic Heathen Folkway, these associations still act as households and clans, if not in name...and, indeed, in spite of the wishes of some hearths and kindred's which do not seek to replace ties of blood or *do not recognize ties of blood* and the family and clan arrangements they parallel.  We will be relying on these and more natural familial households, extend and nuclear, and clans for some time to come, as further generations of Germanic heathens are born, as Heathen Common Law is arrived at and promulgated, and will therefore suffer from their often incomplete and ill-organized structures, and from the artificiality of their existence.  The natural perpetuates itself, while the artificial must be maintained and serviced.)

The next step up from clan is TRIBE. 

While clans are tied by blood and marriage, by adoption and by the extended structure of the household/family, the tribe is a family of clans.  One is born to a household, which lives under one roof or one cluster of roofs.  One can then look for guidance, fostering, and support to one's clan.  A tribe is a more remote structure.  It may, in fact, be made up of an intermediate arrangement, the BAND. Households owe allegiance by blood and oath to a clan, while like-minded clans join together -- by virtue of their shared outlook, location, common enterprise, commonly respected leader or even some common threat -- in mutual agreement which does not take in the entire tribe.  Bands, then, come together to act as a tribe. 

A tribe is a very general structure, taking in many different outlooks, across possibly great expanses of distance, less for their common good -- a matter more accessible for households and clans -- than for their more general good, as in the cases in Elder Times of warfare, and today of common forms of worship and dealing with the Utangardh.  If speaking ethnographically, we would expect them to speak a common language, and have a common cosmology, they would have customs of living and dress and ritual, even recognizing that there would be differences between clans and even households in matters of detail.

Finally, tribes of people exist within the CIRCLE OF THE NATION. The people are the nation.  The nation serves to provide the context in which they live, and to provide the general guidance of common law.

** An Example **

Today, we might consider, for example, House Smith to be a HOUSEHOLD.  House Smith consists of Joe and Kathy Smith and their dependent children:  Bill, 17; Jane, 13; and the precocious Jimmy, 5.  Kathy's mother, Julie, may live with them, and may be, herself, the householder, by virtue of her age and experience -- in short, her status among our people -- or may defer to Joe or Kathy as the householder, owing them the benefit of her age and advice.

They may be the products of a Germanic heathen upbringing, and may look to Joe's family as their CLAN.  They may look to Joe's parents as head of their clan.  They may, in fact, look to Julie, Kathy's mother, as matriarch of the clan, and then may look to her as householder or may take care of the household, leaving her free to manage the clan as subordinate clan leaders of the household.  The decision would be made, hopefully, taking into consideration  the practicalities of the people involved and their situation, the geographic factors regarding other households in the clan, etc.

Furthermore, Joe and Kathy's household may be members of a clan which espouses the Theodish view of Germanic heathenism.  For that reason, they would be members of a Theodish tribe, however it may be constituted.  Within the Innangardh, then, their household would owe loyalty and support to their Theodish tribal leader -- a King, perhaps -- who would then represent them to other tribes within the Innangardh.

Taking another tack, Joe and Kathy and the kids, with or without a dependent parent, may be members of a kindred, which may act for them as a clan, within a tribe of Nordic-oriented Germanic heathens, which is also common today.  Their household may be members of a kindred of  the Asatru Alliance, which would see then kindred, then, functioning for them as a clan, and the Alliance acting for them as a tribe.  The tribe would then interact with other tribes, as when the Alliance and Winlandish Rice worked together at Althing 20; or when the Alliance, the Asatru Folk Assembly and the Odinic Rite allied to form the International Asatru/Odinic Alliance.  This could be viewed as an example of tribes interworking. 

** The Innangardh And The Law **

When interworking, households bring their own rules and customs -- their household law -- to their working with their clan.  These laws may be many or few, depending on the experience of the household and the problems they've had to face.  The differences between household law and clan law should not be too different, may not in fact be different at all, but *should* be different in detail where they diverge.  Households have to deal with different *specifics* than do clans. 

In short, then, households, clans, and tribes (and bands of tribes, where they exist) differ from eachother in the amount of detail they address in their customs and rules.  The law of a tribe deals, if it's wise, more in generalities than in dictating the exact placement of dinner table silverware.  Tribes are, after all, more general associations of people.

Furthermore, the laws of the household and clan should reinforce the laws of the tribe, making laws on more specific things less necessary.  Law from household to clan to tribe to nation should, then, be thought of as going form the specific and more personally binding to the more general and the realm more of common law and custom.

Finally, we must recognize that many of these ties are less of blood today than of oath and the loyalty of more general kinship ties -- we've all adopted one another on the clan and tribal level more so than we've been born to it -- and can hope for more ties of blood as future generations are born and intermarry.  Then, as time will tell, we will have more *natural* ties of household/family to clan, and clan to tribe.  The ties of today, to kindred or hearth, and of kindred to some more general organization, will (or should) fall away.  Time will tell.

The Circle of the Nation has always existed, buried underneath layers of foreign custom and imposed belief.  That is why it has been so readily picked up as a system of belief once discovered.  That is why many have spun off from these foreign and imposed systems and have looked to "alternative religions" for more native ways of living.  One day, we can hope, we will see more people turning from those "alternatives" and come home.

It is well now that the time has come not only to look to reconstituting our tribal structures -- with some looking to pick up where history left off when the monks and priests arrived, and others looking to the lessons learned even when the foreign priests held sway -- but also to looking into the foundations of that tribal and national structure :  to the law and our loyalty to it.

Hail the Law!  Hail the Folk!  Hail the High Holy Ones!