Some thoughts on generational improvements and arch-heathen logic – Jonathan Knoche
As a general observation, modern man is bad at taking the long view. We’ve become accustomed to instant gratification, and the idea of carrying out a deed we will never see the benefit of, is a daunting one, if one we even have at all. However, if we are to understand and emulate an arch-heathen worldview, we must become better at it, and understand not only that we are our deeds–our deeds also shape the worlds of future generations.
I see this modernist logic often in the notion that gift-cycles with outsiders being a waste of resources and time. Certainly, if we are considering only our own personal return, these small exchanges of resources and energy may not seem to amount to much. Yet a quick gleaning of Mauss’s “The Gift” will show that the arch-heathen, as well as many other primitive cultures, considered them vital to the functioning of their societies. With that in mind, let’s dig deeper.
It’s almost a trope at this point to send the newly interested heathen to study Gronbech’s ‘Culture of the Teutons,” whose first massive chapter will address the various permutations of frith in mind-numbing detail. To summarize, frith is the state of mutually obligatory goodwill between those who share consanguinity or oathbound relationship. Let’s consider this in the larger context of primitive society. An oath-bond will track almost inevitably to a degree of consanguinity over generations–either immediately as in the marriage vow and the children that tended to follow, or as a prelude to such bonds of marriage, as members of a shared oath-web would raise their children in proximity, leading to romance and shared grandchildren. Thus, we can see that oath-bond, in archheathen society would arc with a high degree of probability to blood relatives in future generations.
But this implies a question: Who, then, do we share oaths with? With random outsiders? With the man off the street or from the next village over, about whom we know nothing? Or do we start down the road towards a potential oathbond, and thence potential future blood relations that cement frith most certainly, with the exchange of material goods? Let us ponder this progression.
An initial gift costs little, and bears little weight, but it places a starting point in the well of Wyrd as we understand it. Once such a starting point is established, repeated exchange builds upon itself and becomes self-reinforcing. We gift because we have received, and we receive because we have gifted. Mutual trust and mutual goodwill grows, and the idea of breaking this long-standing tradition of behavior becomes more and more distasteful for both parties. Eventually, it may (historically, it was extremely likely that it would) culminate in an oath of service, blood brotherhood, adoption, or marriage–all variations of the oaths they, and we, would recognize as establishing a frith-bound relationship, and all of which would likely lead to the merging of families. At this point, while not impossible, the idea of betrayal or bringing harm to each other would be unthinkable, while the continued exchange of gift and obligation becomes natural as breathing.
Is this to say that those with whom we share gifting cycles are the same as those to whom we are frithbound? Of course not. But the potential exists for them, or their children, to become frith-bound to us, or our future kin, and that potential, as part of our worth, is not something that we ought easily squander.
Mauss – The Gift