Nine Virtues

An example of the effort to discover the natural laws of the soul are the Nine Virtues of the Odin’s Kindred. These are the virtues and vices we have discovered about our nature as we looked into our Northern Folk-soul. Use them to take a look into yourself and see whether you agree.

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Do you have honor? If so, then do you know “what” you honor? Because if you have nothing to honor, then you can have no honor. The Nine Virtues provide such a code of honor. Look into them, see if this is a code of honor you already live by, or would want to live by.

We do not have “laws” based on “authority.” We have “virtues” based on “agreement.” That is the same way the Common Laws of our lands were made. For instance, do you agree “Honor is better than dishonor?” If so, then that is all the “authority” we need. It comes from the god in you, which is the same as saying the “good” in you. So ask yourself, Do you agree with all nine? If so, then we have a “kindred” spirit inspired by the gods and ancestors we came from. These become the code of honor we live by. These define what our gods and ancestors would agree a good man is, what a “godly” man would be and what a good woman is, what a “goddessly” woman, would be. Conversely, the nine vices the virtues are contrasted with are everything we would not want to be, everything we would try to avoid. Would you agree?

Honor is better than Dishonor

The first of the Nine Virtues is “Honor is better than Dishonor.” Honor comes from doing your duty. Honor is related to “honesty.” So honestly performing your duty is an honor. There are two kinds of honor. One is public honor, where the public approves of you performing your public duty. The other is personal honor, where you approve of your personal performance of your own word. You follow your code of honor. You can have public honor without personal honor if the public believes you performed your duty when in reality, you know you did not. You will be publicly dishonored if they find out. You can also have personal honor without public honor if you have been falsely accused of not performing your word and following your code of honor. In that case, continuing to have personal honor even in the face of public dishonor will be honored by the gods.

Your honor is directly proportional to your luck. So if you want good luck, be honorable and the luck of the gods will show their approval. To the degree you are dishonorable is the same degree you will have bad luck. Do you want to change your luck? Then look at improving your honor.

Courage is better than Cowardice

The next virtue is “Courage is better than Cowardice.” Again, all you have to do is ask yourself, “Would I rather be courageous or a coward?” In fact, this is a virtue that it is a “cultural universal,” which, in sociological terms, means every culture in the world has some kind of rule or law agreeing to discourage cowardice. So, even if a person does not have a Northern soul they would still agree that courage is better than cowardice.

Some people confuse “cowardice” with “fear” and “courage” with “no fear.” This is a misunderstanding. A fool or insane person may run into a battle feeling no fear because they are not aware of the harm. This is not courage. It is foolish and insane. Both cowards and the courageous feel fear of whatever threat they are facing. The difference between is the courageous perform their duty in spite of the fear.

Just as honor is related to duty, so cowardice is related to duty. The critical difference between dishonor and cowardice is that the coward’s failing to perform their duty results in harm to others. The courageous by performing their duty in spite of fear spares others from the harm they were fearing themselves.

We have all felt fear. Perhaps many of us at some time have been cowards, perhaps when were children. However, for those of us who are good, when we saw the resulting harm to others because we failed to do our duty, we despised it as cowardice. It was at that moment we decided courage is better than cowardice.

Notice that only the courageous can be honorable in fearful situations. It is the use of one’s will to be honorable and do their duty, regardless of the possible harm.

Strength is better than Weakness

The next virtue is “Strength is better than Weakness.” Would you rather be strong or weak? Being strong is always better, because it gives you the choice to use your strength or not, to choose the path of the weak or not. However, if you actually are weak, then you have no choice but to be weak and to follow the path of the weak. Therefore, strength in every form is better than weakness in every form. As with all the Nine Virtues, your soul will naturally agree with this virtue because it is inspired by god, inspired by good.

Being strong does not mean one cannot be gentle. In fact, true gentleness is found in true strength. Holding a baby gently is more possible for the strong than for the weak.

Also strength does not imply being ridged without bending. A bow can be strong and bend at the same time. The difference between a strong bow and a weak one is not their inability to bend, but their tendency to break. Thus, the strong of heart and soul, of mind and body, is the ability to bend and accomplish the goal without breaking.

Notice that strength empowers the courageous to overcome their fear and do the honorable thing. The weak are very often the same who are cowards. So get the strength you need to be courageous and honorable. It’s just better.

Freedom is better than Slavery

The next virtue is “Freedom is better than slavery.” Here again, the answer seems obvious. Yet you would be surprised how many people choose slavery in various forms rather than Freedom. Freedom requires self-rule rather than submitting to the rules of others. If we agree to the rules of others, that is still self-rule. But when others impose rules on you that you do not agree with, to the degree you must accept them is the same degree you are being subdued into slavery. Being your own master is the same as being free. It makes you free to choose. To the degree that you cannot choose is the same degree you are not free. Strive to be your own master. Choose freedom if you have the strength, the courage, and the honor to be free.

Becoming your own master is the same as Mastery. Mastery also connotes achieving control of something, becoming the best at what you do. Mastering an instrument, a skill, or a sport or any other action is a form of mastery. Some people can master many things. Others only become the master of one thing. Even if that one thing you have mastered is being yourself, then strive to become your own master.

Mastery does not mean you must subdue others to yourself. It just means you are free to choose your own rules. It also doesn’t mean you have no one else you will listen to or join with in joint efforts. It just means you choose to join and pursue that group activity. No one chose for you.

Just as an observation of this virtue, notice that it requires the first three virtues to maintain it. You need strength to be free, for it is the weak who are subdued by the strong. You need courage to be free, for it is cowards who cower in submission before their oppressors. You need honor, for it is the dishonorable who are justifiably dominated and subdued by the honorable.

Diligence is better than Laziness

Freedom comes with responsibility. That is why the next virtue is “Diligence is better than Laziness.” Do you feel better when you are diligent or when you are lazy? Or better, do you prefer to be around diligent people or lazy people? Whom you would rather be around reveals your true concept of virtue. So regardless of how you may have been lazy in the past or feel drawn to it, the fact is, even you do not want to feel like, or be known as, a “lazy bum.” The only remedy for that is diligence.

Excellence is better than Mediocrity

The next virtue is “Excellence is better than Mediocrity.” That is the same as saying doing a good job is better than doing a medium job. You do not have to be perfect, but to strive for perfection is virtuous. The key word here is “excel.” Striving to be better is better than settling for what you know you could do better. Some people call doing something mediocre is doing it “half-ass.” So putting your “whole-ass” into anything you choose to do is virtuous. Another way to put it is, “Whatever you put your hand to do, do it with all your might.” Whatever you choose to do reveals who you are, what quality of person you are. Striving to be an excellent person is the Northern Way. It is a virtuous way.

Loyalty is better than Betrayal

The next virtue is “Loyalty is better than betrayal.” It has been said, you cannot be betrayed by an enemy. You can only be betrayed by family or a friend. Therefore the “loyalty” referred to in this virtue is to family and friends. Here is a deeply imbedded virtue of the gods in the Northern Folk-soul. In the Poetic Edda, it says that Odin’s brother, the god “Lothur” or “Vey,” put the value of family in the Northern souls of our first parents. They called it a sense of “blood” (Masks of Odin: 93) Now people of the Northern folk say, “Blood is thicker than water.” It means that the connection to family is stronger than connections we have to anyone else. When a time comes to have to choose sides between family or strangers, the Northern folk will always choose family first.

Some kindreds express this virtue as “Ancestry is better than Universalism.” Ancestry simply refers to the extended family back to through the past. The reason given to choose ancestry over siding with the “universal” family of mankind is because we are more like our ancestors than anyone else (Asatru Alliance: Steven McNallen). No matter how much intellectuals try to override this virtue with ideas about “loving everybody equally,” those touched by the Northern gods will always love their family more than the universal family of strangers.

Even the Bible, as much as it is used to promote a universal identity of all mankind, the Bible says, “If anyone does not provide for his own, especially for those of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). Why is he “worse” than an unbeliever? Because even unbelievers, without the Bible, know it is virtuous to provide for your own, especially those of your own household, before you provide for strangers.

Hospitality is better than Bigotry

However, does being loyal to our family and friends mean to hate strangers? Not according to the Northern Way. That is why the next virtue is “Hospitality is better than Bigotry.” Hating someone or something you don’t even know is bigotry. Ask yourself, does being hospitable feel better than how you feel after being a bigot? Our ancestors held hospitality as one of the highest virtues of a godly man or woman. This virtue is the counter-balance to “Loyalty is better than betrayal.” You cannot become so focused on your family and ancestry that you treat strangers badly simply because they are not family or descended from your ancestors. This is one of the lessons of “The Lay of Grimnir” in the Poetic Edda where Odin came to a king’s home disguised as a stranger and was treated badly. The gods will sometimes test your hospitality by how you treat strangers and reward you accordingly.

Hospitality is the evidence of goodwill, god-will. Hospitality does not mean “loving” or any such business. It simply means being compassionate and generous, treating others the way you would want to be treated if their shoes were on your feet. You would want people to give you a chance to prove your goodwill before they rejected you for simply being a “stranger” or being different.

However, there are limits to hospitality. “Hospitality” is related to the word “hospital.” Therefore, it implies your willingness to help people who are injured or in need to get on their feet and on their way. Once they are able to function on their own, just as a hospital would, it becomes time for them to leave. Even visits by loved ones have limits. The length of a stay was three days. This was established by the god Heimdal-Rig himself only staying three days in whatever house he chose to visit (Poetic Edda: 120, The Lay of Rig). SO, think of hospitality in “threes,” three days, three times, and so on. Therefore, hospitality does not create dependents. It helps promote goodwill (god’s-will) for independence.

Wisdom is better than Foolishness

The final virtue is the balance of all virtues, “Wisdom is better than foolishness.” This virtue brings us back to the supremacy of Odin, the god of wisdom, the good of wisdom being above all others, for it is better to be wise than a fool. Wisdom is just better both for yourself and for others. One fool can cause much harm to him or herself and others. Wisdom is not the same as intelligence. Intelligence can be used for evil, so it is not inherently good. Wisdom has good and goodness inherent in its meaning. Wisdom is the ability to choose beneficially, that is, what is good, for oneself and others. Fools are those who even for intelligent reasons think they are choosing something good for themselves or others, but are really choosing something less than the best. So wisdom is better than foolishness.

However, this virtue functions also as the exception to all the others. Take Honor, making a honest commitment to fulfill a duty is an honor. But what if you were fooled into making that commitment? Then honoring that commitment makes you look like a fool. It is not an honor to be a fool, nor is it honest to be fooled. So wisdom would counsel you to not fulfill that duty if it is foolish. The same is true for courage. How many times have we been goaded to do something by a group of peers who say, “Come on…Are you chicken?” Which is to say, “Are you a coward?” They are appealing to the virtue that courage is better than cowardice. Yet in almost every case, “courage” is not really the reason you were hesitating. It was because what they wanted you to do was foolish or potentially harmful to yourself or others. Wisdom in those cases would counsel you not to be fooled into being “courageous” at those times. The same is true for strength, mastery and so forth. We need the wisdom of Odin to not become the fools of men.

Steven McNallen expressed this virtue in his kindred as “Realism is better than Dogmatism.” “Dogmatism” means to follow an authoritative rule or belief even when it is not realistic or functional. This virtue of “Realism,” then, requires us to follow wise reason before we blindly follow authority. We must follow “common sense” before we will follow “non-sense,” even if the non-sense comes from those in “authority,” whether that be from rulers or those who speak for “God.” Just because they have a pointed hat is not a good enough reason. It is not god (good), if it is not sensible, that is, if it is not realistic. The true gods created what is “real.” Therefore, anyone who tries to convince you to do or believe something that is not “real” or “realistic” is trying to convince you to do or believe something that is not “good” and therefore is not “god.” That makes sense, doesn’t it? Ah yes, “sense,” the gift of the gods (Poetic Edda: 3, Voluspa: St. 18). Keep in touch with your senses, both inward and outward, and life will keep making the sense you need to be wise and not a fool.