The following essay was originally published on AsatruBlog.com and is republished here with the permission of the original author.
In ancient times we didn’t have a written moral code. Instead, each tribe and clan relied on their own norms of behavior and customs to determine whether someone was behaving in a good and right fashion. There are clear commonalities of behavior shared within the Nordic, Anglo-Saxon, and Teutonic cultural groups that we are able to identify that have lead different groups to form modern codes of virtue and right behavior. The most commonly known of these are the Nine Noble Virtues of the Odinic Rite of England and the Twelve Atheling Thews common in Théodish groups. I don’t ascribe to a specific modern code of moral or ethical ideas but I do hold beliefs about what makes a person worthy and good. Because of the commonality of culture, many of the “worths” that I believe in are shared with other codes that are derived from our past. This list does not detail the only values that make up a person’s worthiness. Rather, this list contains the most important worthy traits that are the foundation of right action.
Honor: Keeping your word. Knowing what is right and true. If you possess honor then it is made manifest in a good reputation. Honor is one of the hardest worthy characteristic to define because it is comprised of all worthy behavior. Honor sits at the very core of everything we do.
Boldness: Being brave in the face of adversity or danger. This is the refusal to allow our fears to control us and the willingness to act when others cannot or will not. It is the courage to stand up for what is right and true, even if we do so alone.
Forthrightness: Being honest in your dealings with others as well as yourself. This includes intellectual honesty as well as being truthful to those who merit it. It does not include giving advantage to those who would harm you because you refuse to lie. Be forthright with those who are forthright with you.
Troth: Loyalty. Keeping good faith with friends, kin, and the gods. Doing what you say you are going to do. To keep troth is to stay true to the holy bonds of the oaths we swear.
Self-rule: Discipline of mind and action; self-control. Having control over yourself and your actions, not being held thrall to your emotions and passions. Acting when it is most effective, not when it is most convenient. Taking responsibility for your actions, good and bad.
Hospitality: Proper treatment of guests. Keeping guests safe, fed, and their cups filled. Also, being a good guest. Helping out in the home of your host, taking good care of their possessions and home, gratitude for their kindnesses.
Open-handedness: This is the extended helping hand, a willingness to assist others and to work for the common good of the community. This isn’t the hand-out of “charity” but an investment in others to make our folk and our society stronger and healthier.
Hard work: To our ancestors, being lazy meant death from starvation or exposure. Today, we must still work hard in order to properly provide for ourselves and our families. This is the willingness to do as much honest work as it takes to survive. Those who work hard and still are unable to make ends meet are deserving of our open-handedness.
Free-standing: It is best to be a free man instead of a thrall, to stand on our own instead of being indebted to others; self-reliance and independence. Also, taking responsibility for your actions rather than allowing others to be responsible for you. Today this can also mean self-governance, freedom from tyranny and oppression.
Steadfastness: Tenacity, perseverance, and endurance. Standing strong in the face of hardship. “Sticking to your guns.” Not to be confused with stubbornness or being obstinate.
Fairness: Treating others with equity, regardless of our differences; equality. Being courteous with those who are courteous with you. We live in a world of great diversity and to discriminate against someone because they look different, love differently, believe differently, or have limitations we do not is simply not tolerable. Our ancestors judged people on their merits and character, not on skin color or creed.
Wisdom: Knowledge and good judgement. Being well informed and reasoned. Knowing how to keep our lives in balance and how to uphold worthy behaviors without risking our well-being through foolishness.
Kinship: Possessing family and trusted friends, having others to share our lives with. Treating them well and being treated well by them. When we are tied to family and friends, when we are invested in our community, we have reasons to engage in worthy behavior.
Pride: Taking credit for your deeds and refusal to be ashamed of who and what you are just because others object. Boasting of your worthy deeds at the appropriate time.
Modesty: This one often surprises people because it seems to conflict with Pride. In a modern sense it likely does but that isn’t what I am talking about here. Modesty is not being humble or meek. Modesty is not inflating your actions or deeds beyond their true nature. Modesty prevents the proud from becoming a self-aggrandizing braggart who boasts of false deeds.
Thoughtfulness: Being considerate, polite, and civil with others. Treating others decently until they prove they are not deserving of it. Being thoughtful does not mean you need to be a doormat.
Lagom: Not too much, not too little. When something is “just right,” particularly in how we behave and act.
Gemytlig: That sense of peace and tranquility from everything being in just the right place and being with just the right people.