All too often, we meet people new to Heathenry and the first thing they say is “Hello/hailsa brother/sister!” Most frequently it’s a holdover from Abrahamic practice, in which all members of the faith are the children of God or “brothers and sisters in Christ.” Even in cases where the new Heathen was never actively part of an Abrahamic faith, the notion is so ingrained culturally that it’s hard to separate the idea of sharing kinship from the idea of religion in general. For them, there are bonds of family between those who share a faith, even if they have never met.
Yet the idea of sharing kinship with strangers, even those sharing cultural and religious affiliation, was anathema to arch-Heathens. Kinship or tribal ties were a cornerstone of arch-Heathen culture. Being a part of the tribe forged the basic social structure that they lived by. Kinship also determined who gets what inheritances, whose word held the most weight, even who you owed were-gild to if you wronged someone. The latter facets of kinship were so ingrained culturally that many of them are still inherent in most current legal systems, with the rights of kinship being the default in a large number of legal matters.
One of the key facets of Heathenry is not only our recognition of the existence of innangard, but our embrace of it. We understand it not only as a tenet of the cultural faiths of Northern Europe, but as a fundamental part of human existence. We do not attempt to overcome this very important part of human nature, but instead make it part of ourselves. This flies in the face of so many other modern religions that it is sometimes difficult for new Heathens to understand it, but it remains: your tribe is the most important part of your life, and your life is the most important part of your existence. There is no “great reward” waiting for you at death. The only reward is the continued existence of your line, and the words spoken about you after your passing by those who were closest to you.
What this all boils down to is that the foundations of Heathenry are in family, and we recognize and understand what family truly is. We do not make-believe that everyone is our brother and sister. We don’t pretend that we would lay down our lives for strangers, or cause suffering to our family in order to ease the suffering of those outside it. We embrace our tribal nature, and in doing so we set aside the false claims of kinship that so many other faiths indulge in.
And in all matters in Heathenry, kinship beyond blood ties must be earned. It is only then that it has value.