Posted by: nicanthiel | April 18, 2009

Ethics 1: Árfæstness

Árfæstness, literally “value-fastness,” is the virtue of honor. Like its names states, honor is “sticking to your values” (fastness means “firm adherence, stability, firmly fixed”). But what does that really mean?

Many Heathens view honor in a certain way – the Viking way. For them, honor is something that is easily lost, and can only be regained by beating the crap out of other people. For them, honor is external – it is completely dependent on reacting to perceived slights and offenses. Too often, these people who claim such “honor” actually do themselves dishonor through their actions trying to defend it.

Honor, in this sense, is similar to the concept of face, and is more equivalent to mægen (power, force, importance) than árfæstness. So, if this is not honor, then what does árfæstness really mean?

I said that the general conception of honor in Heathen circles is something external to the self – that it is both actualised and dealt with through other people. However, this is not árfæstness. Árfæstness is internal – based on personal, internal values, it is the strength of will and composition that enables one to hold true to those values despite outside circumstances.

Honor, in this view, has nothing to do with other people. Honor, árfæst honor, does not take into account such things as “What will people think of me?” or “What if I look like an idiot?” or even “You have offended my sensibilities; I must avenge my honor.” Honor is holding fast, not letting go of your other values (hospitality, moderation, piety, etc.)  because someone has looked at you the wrong way, or because someone holds a different point of view.

There’s a whole different world to be encountered with this version of honor – one where people are dealt with in respect, where self-control and personal responsibility are paramount to belligerence and xenophobia. And the reason for that is because no one can touch your honor, because it’s wholly dependent upon your own actions and no one else’s.

And that is honor worth living and dying for.

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Responses

  1. Well said, except for one point that is a minor quibble, and you may feel free to disagree with me (you’ll still get your Secret Decoder Ring).

    The word “respect” is one of the misused words in the English language IMHO. It assumes that by virtue of someone else being a human being they are automatically entitled to my respect. What most people mean when they say “respect” is common courtesy. I think the Internet, while on the one hand has been great for growing Heathenry and promoting necessary dialogue, has also cheapened common courtesy, so we forget there is a person on the other end of the computer.

    People have to earn my respect. They’re not entitled to it by merely existing, they’re not entitled to it by merely sharing certain viewpoints of mine. It’s earned.

    But that’s just my opinion, and like I said, you may disagree with me there.

    The rest of your post is good. I think not selling out your values is important. I think more Heathens need to realize the Viking era was not the end-all, be-all of Heathen practice and experience. The Anglo-Saxons were more… civilised. ^^

    -Siggy

    • True. The problem I think is that courtesy and civility have lost almost all general meaning in modern society, and respect is the next best “alternative.” So no, it’s not accurate, but it’s the best-known idiom for the intent of treating other people as though they were actually people.

      • Like I said, it’s a minor quibble. A quibblet, if you will. And I agree with you about courtesy and civility. Now, of course, there comes a point even when courtesy is no longer acceptable, such as if someone has proven themselves to be a danger in the community. No one should have to tolerate that. But short of someone having proved themselves to be a danger, which does need to be addressed, there is something to be said about civility. I grew up in central Connecticut, the place where people will cross the street to avoid another pedestrian walking down the same street, and will let the door close on elderly ladies with their hands full, rather than holding a door open for five seconds. There’s a lot of macho posturing in modern Heathenry that I wish would just die, especially because the same people wouldn’t last five minutes in ancient times without help from others providing hospitality.

        Like I said, Anglo-Saxons were more civilised. And that’s why I think their thews are more compatible with a Vanic path. That, and Anglo-Saxon Heathenry is sexier. 😉

        -Siggy


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