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The Nine Noble Virtues of Asatru

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In many branches of Norse Paganism, including but not limited to Asatru, adherents follow a set of guidelines known as the Nine Noble Virtues. This set of moral and ethical standards is drawn from a number of sources, both historic and literary. Sources include the Havamal, the Poetic and Prose Eddas, and many of the Icelandic sagas. Although various branches of Asatruar interpret these nine virtues in slightly different ways, there seems to be some universality as to what the virtues are and what they stand for.

Courage

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Courage: both physical and moral courage. Thorne, a Heathen from Indiana, says, “Courage isn’t necessarily about running into a fight with your guns blazing. For me, it’s more about standing up for what I believe in and what I know to be right and just, even if it’s not the popular opinion. Honestly, I think it takes a lot of courage to live by the Nine Noble Virtues, just because I live in an area that’s pretty conservative, and is generally ruled by Ten of the Other Guy’s Rules. Living your beliefs in the face of opposition requires as much courage as going into battle.”

Truth

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Truth: spiritual truth and actual truth. The Havamal says:

Swear no oath
But what you mean to abide by:
A halter awaits the word breaker,
Villainous is the wolf-of-vows.

The concept of Truth is a powerful one, and stands as a reminder that we must speak of what we know as Truth, rather than what we think others wish to hear.

What are the Norse Runes?

Honor

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Honor: one's reputation and moral compass. Honor plays a significant role in the daily life of many Heathens and Asatruar. This virtue reminds us that our deeds, words, and reputation will outlive our bodies, and that the person we are in life will be remembered for a long time. The epic poem Beowulf cautions, For a noble man death is better than a shameful life.

Fidelity

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Fidelity: remaining true to the Gods, kinsmen, a spouse, and community. Much like honor, fidelity is something to be remembered. In many early heathen cultures, an oath was seen as a sacred contract - someone who broke a vow, whether it was to a wife, a friend, or a business partner, was considered a shameful and dishonorable person indeed. Brid is a Germanic Pagan from Florida, and says, “The Nine Noble Virtues all tie in together - if you fail to adhere to one, you have trouble following the others. The concept of fidelity is one of loyalty. If you let down a friend or member of your Kindred or the Gods, then you’re turning your back on your entire community and all that they stand for.”

Who are the Norse Deities?

Discipline

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Discipline: using personal will to uphold honor and other virtues. Thorne says, “It’s not easy to be an ethical and just person in today’s society. Seriously, it takes some degree of work, and a lot of mental discipline. Will comes into play with that. Upholding the virtues is a choice, and it’s a much simpler path to follow to just ignore them and do what society expects or what’s easy. Discipline is the ability to show your courage, your loyalty, your sense of self-reliance, in the face of personal challenges.”

Hospitality

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Hospitality: treating others with respect, and being part of the community. For our ancestors, hospitality wasn’t just a question of being nice, it was often a matter of survival. A traveler might find himself wandering for days or more without seeing another living soul. Arriving in a new village meant not just food and shelter, but also companionship and safety. Traditionally, once a guest had eaten at your table, it meant they were also granted your protection while under your roof. The Havamal says:

Fire is needed by the newcomer
Whose knees are frozen numb;
Meat and clean linen a man needs
Who has fared across the fells,
Water, too, that he may wash before eating,
Hand cloth’s and a hearty welcome,
Courteous words, then courteous silence
That he may tell his tale.

Industriousness

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Industriousness: hard work as a means to achieve a goal. Brid says, “I work hard at everything I do. I owe it to myself, to my family, to my community and to my gods. I figure my ancestors never sat around being lazy - working hard was inherent to their survival. You didn’t work, you didn’t eat. Your family might starve if you were busy loafing instead of doing something. I try to make sure that I keep my mind and body working at all times - that doesn’t mean I don’t have down time, it simply means that I am at my best when I feel a sense of accomplishment.”

Self-Reliance

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Self-Reliance: taking care of oneself, while still maintaining relationships with Deity. It’s important to honor the gods, but also to take care of the body and mind. To do this, many Asatru find a balance between doing for others and doing for the self. To thrive as part of a community, we must also be able to thrive as individuals.

Perseverance

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Perseverance: continuing despite potential obstacles. To persevere is to not only rise up in the face of defeat, but to learn and grow from our mistakes and poor choices. Thorne says, “Look, anyone can be mediocre. Anyone can be average. Anyone can do just enough to get by. But if we want to excel, and live up to our fullest potential, then we have to persevere. We have to push on even when things are hard and frustrating, or even if it seems like things are completely impossible. If we don’t persevere, then we have nothing to strive for.”

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