Neo-Tribalism in Modern Asatru and Germanic Heathenry
by Swain Wodening Canote
Modern tribalism within Germanic Heathenry seeks to create groups that are
more community minded and have a more solid common identity. To many, a group that is more community may not necessarily be
desirable. But to many in the Heathen community to have friends and family there that you share a common bond with, that you
can fall back on for support in your beliefs and in your daily life is felt needed. Tribalism does not sacrifice the identity
of the individual to the group, anymore than a local kindred does, or those organizations with more modern corporate structures.
If anything it does the opposite by allowing each full member of the tribal group more say in the day to day running of the
organization. There is no corporate board running things for you and basing choices on one annual meeting.
To accomplish the purpose of creating a more community minded group, organizations
using a tribal structure usually exclude those that they feel will not work well within the group, or more generally, those
they feel may be a threat to its members. There is very sound reasoning for this.
Within any group, it doesn't matter if it is the Lions Club or the Elks or
the Roman Catholic church, there is a chance of attracting the dangerously mentally ill, child molestors, serial killers,
and such ilk. A group needs to be able to keep out such people that might be a threat to its members or children. What if,
for example, a child molestor wanted to join a kindred? Should they be allowed to on the grounds of their rights as a human
being? What about someone known to have conducted a smear campaign against an upstanding member of the Heathen community,
or a self avowed Nazi?
Tribal organizations only differ from non-tribal in their exclusive behaviour
in that they have mechanisms to keep such folks from joining. Tribal groups rarely blackball anyone simply over personal differences
and get away with it. But at the same time the some non-tribal organizations because of their disclaimers on not excluding
people could legally be forced to admit a convicted serial rapist that has served their time. Tribal organizations because
they give thier groups the right to exclude, cannot be.
Beyond giving members a right to decide who is or is not in the tribe, tribal
groups also try to create tribal traditions and rites. Many of these are based on ancient Heathenry, while others may be new
innovations. Sometimes they are started by accident. It really does not make much difference. Such traditions are meant to
give a stronger sense of common identity. Finally, most tribal groups try to create a uniform moral code based on the ancient
moral codes. This along with a strong belief in and understanding of the word frith solidify the ideal of common identity
as a tribe.
The Structure of Tribal Groups within Germanic Heathenry
Inherent in tribalism structurally are 1) an elected head or chief. 2) A democratically
run tribal council. The chief can be elected for a term or life, and the council can take the form of a representative council
or the entire adult oathed membership. This is the true core of neo-tribalism. Nothing else needs be added to the structure
of the organization to make it tribal.
Within tribal societies however, within any group of any numbers, a hierarchy
soon develops. This happens in any organization or group and seems almost to be instinctive. Usually when such hierarchies
develop however, they are not based on service to the group or wisdom and experience. Often they develop merely because of
popularity. To keep this from destroying the neo-tribe's democratic structure, some groups have instigated arungs or ranks.
These are not like military ranks or noble titles. All within the tribe remain equal, and if not considered equal, are considered
to have the same rights. In this way they are closer to grades in High School (Freshman, Sophomore, and so forth) or college
degrees. Not all tribal organizations handle it this way. In some they may be closer to military ranks, others, noble titles.
But all tribal groups have rights that are granted to all full members regardless of station. That is all have a basic rights
that cannot be violated as these rights were and are a core belief of Germanic Heathenry.
In essence, ranks are a way of telling who has more experience. It does not
mean they have more say in the running of the organization per se, but simply that some folks have been around longer. Ideally
such a hierarchy or anti- hierarchy would be organic. Realistically however favouritism would creep in and ruin the system.
Whether or not a group has ranks however, does not determine if it is or is not a tribal organization.
Core Beliefs of a Tribal Group
The current tribal groups within Germanic Heathenry for the most part share
some common beliefs.
Innangardhs/utangarths: The idea of innangardhs/utangarths is based on the
ancient Heathen mindset concerning the tribe. The tribal group is viewed as an enclosure. This enclosure is made up of smaller
enclosures, that is, communities, and family units. The most important group of any tribe would be its families. All outside
the enclosure is seen as not effecting its existence, unless it intrudes. If an intrusion is friendly, no problem. If it is
not friendly, the tribe reacts to defend its self. This core belief in the tribe as an enclosure is related to many of the
other core beliefs in tribal orlog, "luck", and even frith.
Frith: The word frith derives from Indo-European *priyas, "one's own." Many
other words derive from this root word such as Old English freogan "to love," freodom "freedom," and Old Norse Freyr, the
god. According to most Old English dictionaries, the word frith meant "peace, tranquility, security, or refuge." It also referred
to the special protection offered by the tribe and the penalty for breaching that protection. A verb form, frithian meant
"to make peace with, cherish, guard, defend, or keep." For the Heathen neo-tribe it means the peace and security that must
be maintained to ensure the group's prosperity. A breach of frith can affect the group's luck and orlog.
Tribal Orlog and Maegen ("luck"): Just as individuals have maegen ("hamingja"
or "luck") that is determined by their deeds, and an orlog that determines the course their lives will take (again based on
their deeds), tribal organizations feel as a whole they do too. As such, the orlog and maegen of a group are determined by
its actions as a collective whole. This was the earliest theological basis for Heathen law. Law was seen as that which was
laid down in the Well of Wyrd ot guide the tribe.
These beliefs along with the standard beliefs of Asatru and Germanic Heathenry
in the Gods, wights, and Wyrd form the core of neo-tribalism To read more on them, it is suggested you read the relevant sections
of the Ealdriht Handbook.
Ideally even a neo-tribe would live in the same area. This helps strengthen
the tribal identity, and gives a chance for weekly if not day to day interaction. However, this has not often worked out.
The Angelseaxisce Ealdriht, one of the larger tribal organizations has strove for formng Maethels and Mots "micro-tribes"
if you will with a small degree of success. However, it has not been on a scale to see if it indeed would work any better
than members spread across a wide area. Theodish Belief's Frisian Rice is very localized as well, and this may account for
their numbers (they are one of the larger Theodish groups). It is hoped however, that tribal groups will be able to form on
a geogrpahical basis. In theory, any local kndred that uses a tribal council, has its own traditions, and an elected chief
could be thought neo-tribal. If that is the case, many Asatruar are already practicing neo-tribalism.
Neo-tribalism is not far different from typical modern Germanic Heathenry
or Asatru. The primary differences lie in how they are governed and sometimes (but not always) the addition of some form of
ranking system. Even then groups have a wide range of how they operate ranking system. Most do however seem to cater more
to the individual members than other groups and try to keep a balance of group and individual interests.