In Culture of the Teutons, Groenbeck describes Frith as a deep, abounding love for kin. He points out that one of the most beautiful poems that has survived the pre-Christian era, the kennings in Egil’s Saga, is about the deep love of kin. It’s a beautiful example of what ideally Frith should be – a deep emotional bond in families. However, Frith is not the cultural norm anymore. Many of us come from broken families, and most of us are from families that are often blended as far as faith and worldview. This leads to confusion for both new and old Heathens as they struggle to navigate the overculture. How does Frith apply in the modern world when it’s not ingrained and often not reciprocal? What role does action play in this?
The first thing that must be addressed is that Heathenry is an orthopraxic religion. This means that as a culture, we are more concerned with right action than right belief. Unlike Christianity and Wicca, intent plays a much smaller role in morality than action. In Christianity, Christ spoke on this topic.
But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Mark 5:28, Standard English Translation
Within Wicca, which drives the morality of most NeoPagan movements, intent is often the power behind healing and other religious working. In the Gardenarian Book of Shadows (Gerald Gardener and Doreen Valiente), the idea that intent is the key to healing is presented:
To this end it is not wrong to let people think that we of the cult have more power than we have. For the truth is that if they believe we have more power than we really possess, we do really possess these powers, insomuch we can do good to them. – To Heal the Sick, Verse 3
Even in the secular overculture, there is a very popular cliché “It’s the thought that counts.” In Heathenry, it’s just the opposite. In Heathenry, it’s the action that counts. If I give my kindred brother support, it doesn’t matter if I give it angry or happy. It doesn’t matter how I feel about it. It matters that I am there in that time of need and able to fulfil my obligations to him.
If you will allow me, I am going to dive into a bit of psychology as to why I feel action is the key to Heathenry. Within modern psychology, there is a method that is employed in several types of therapy, including Cognative Behavior Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy called TFAR. This stands for “Thoughts, Feelings, Actions, and Results.” Thoughts, feelings, and actions are all linked in what is called the cognative triangle. Each of these is linked. So by changing one of them, you change all of them.
Actions are the easiest to change. I can’t often change my feelings or my thoughts, but I can control what I do. Right action is doing what is best for the tribe, even if I hate the idea. In practical terms, it’s doing the laundry even when I’d rather sit in front of the TV and knit because having clean clothes for work for my husband and myself benefits our tribe. In short, I fake being an adult.
This changes my emotions. I become proud I did the laundry, or whatever the task was, and am able to take care of my husband. I realize that doing laundry wasn’t that hard. I start feeling like an adult. This gives me a positive association with doing laundry.
Now put this into place with Heathenry. The more I act in accordance with my tribe’s worldview, the more and more this becomes not just action, but thought. Soon, it is second nature. This works the same for those of us who struggle with their feelings with dysfunctional family members. If we act as if the bond of frith is there, it grows by way of our actions. My relationships with family members, even those I would consider toxic, has grown significantly since I put this into action a little more than a year ago. I can spend time with these family members and not feel like either killing them or myself. That is how powerful actions are to changing ourselves.
Actions do indeed speak louder than words. What I do, not want I think or even what I intend, is going to be my legacy. I challenge you to go out and act even if you are struggling. It will change things in ways you can’t even begin to imagine. That is what is so powerful about Heathenry, and why so many are drawn to it – living right action does create a better, more meaningful life.
Tune in next time for more in Frith from up here in the Crow’s Nest.