Posted by: nicanthiel | April 20, 2009

Ethics 2: Æfæstness

In this second essay on Anglo-Saxon ethics, we will be exploring the virtue of æfæstness, or piety. As árfæstness involved being “fastened” to something, so too does æfastness involved being fixed – æfæstness is “being fixed on the Gods” (The Æ- here is cognate with the Norse Æsir, the tribe of Ése; the Anglo-Saxons did not distinguish between the tribes of gods the way the Norse did, and the Æ- here refers to “all the Gods,” including the Wenagodes).

But, how can one be fixed on the Gods, without becoming fixated on Them? Life in both modern and Anglo-Saxon society required the great majority to be a part of the “mundane” world, and indeed, only a small number of people are wired for frequent or constant communication/communion with the Divine and/or spirits. Yet this is a théow for everyone, not just those few. So, what does æfæstness mean for the average Joe Heathen?

Well, I believe that the Gods are our friends; not necessarily the type of friend who always hangs around you like a puppy dog, or even the friend with connections that can get you stuff that you want. But They are the type of friend that is interested in you, that wants to know more about you, and wants you to know more about Them, and likes spending time with you every so often. As it says in the Hávamál:

Hast thou a friend whom thou trustest well,
from whom thou cravest good?
Share thy mind with him, gifts exchange with him,
fare to find him oft.

Thus, I feel the proper expression of æfæstness can be distilled by those three guidelines. If you would be the Gods’ friend, and hold fast to Them, share your mind in prayer, in meditation, in contemplation (all things anyone can do, even if they don’t have a “God-phone”); present Them with gifts of song, of dance, of music and poetry, of food and drink, of hospitality, of a life well-lived in Their name (even if you’re not “good” by others’ standards, They appreciate intent and effort); and most of all, make time in your life to commune with Them frequently. Too often, we moderns get caught up in the hustle and bustle of our mechanised world, and forget to take time for the soul-feeding things like reading, stillness, relaxation, comforts and indulgences; communing with the Gods falls into this category.

In this view of piety, unlike that of the majority religions, a pious life is not the judgments you make according to an outside standard, but the actions you do with purpose, with intent, and with love – the most powerful magic of all. For indeed, piety is its own form of magic, if we use Dion Fortune’s definition of “changing consciousness at will”; nothing changes consciousness quite so much as actively identifying and communing with a particular Deity or Deities. It’s the entire premise behind one of the most sacred Hindu yogas – that of bhakti yoga, or “devotion to the Deity” though contemplation, meditation, and identification (the actual bhakti is similar to the various God-human relationships that are popping up all over Heathenry and Neo-paganism in general, especially that of the Divine Lover/Spouse).

May you live in æfæstness, and bring the blessings of the Gods upon you.



  1. I love this post.

    You made an excellent point here:

    If you would be the Gods’ friend, and hold fast to Them, share your mind in prayer, in meditation, in contemplation (all things anyone can do, even if they don’t have a “God-phone”);

    It is very hard for a lot of mystically-inclined people to remember that most people do not see and perceive as we do. It’s a system of checks and balances. But that does not mean no one who is not mystical is barred from communion with the Gods, wights, and ancestors. Prayer does not always have to be asking for things. Going outside and meditating on the life all around can be a way to commune with the Vanir and show appreciation for Their gifts.

    This is a really good and useful post. Ic þankie þe.


  2. OT but I find this to be funny synchronicity that “possibly related posts” includes “Mom is a great person”.


  3. Not being very familiar with ASH, I’m finding these ethics posts of yours really interesting — thanks for sharing them.

    • I’m glad you’re enjoying them. They’re certainly opening my own eyes about some things as well 🙂

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