The Asatru Community has declared that 2020 is The Year of Frith. As a representative of TAC, I have decided to embrace this and delve into what frith truly means. Suffice to say there are almost as many opinions as to what frith means as there are people trying to explain it. There is not an easy way to describe the full concept – there is not a single word that conveys the message of frith. It seems that frith is some combination of peace, love, security, joy, delight, gentleness, loyalty, trust, affection, reciprocity, and mutual selflessness. None of those words fully express the meaning…they have to come together to be frith. Some may see this and say…nope that’s completely wrong and some will agree. Such is modern Heathenry.
One word that I think comes closest to defining frith in one word is interdependence. Interdependence recognizes that I cannot do the things alone, that you cannot do the things alone, but together we can do the things. It is not I, and it is not YOU, it is WE. Frith is synergy; the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts.
Frith is an active aspect of life. It must be maintained and nurtured; we have to be intentional in keeping the frith. This means that it is not unconditional love, frith can be broken, and isn’t given freely. We have to work on our frithships not take them for granted. You are not owed frith, you earn frith. You earn it by giving it. This doesn’t mean everyone should be given frith. It begins by coming together and finding the commonalities that unite you with the others. Frith isn’t given to those who harm those you have frith with.
In the ancient times we are told that frith was something that was found only among closely connected people, by blood and marriage typically (insert obligatory inner/outer yard discussion). That may have been true way back in the way back, but today frith has evolved. I don’t mean just the word has come to mean something different, I mean that how we see the connections has evolved. We no longer have to rely on our family for survival. We can, and should, exit any toxic relationship. The idea that we have to defend our family no matter what they have done – to us or in general – is no longer valid. Society today has more resources and family is no longer the sole provider of safety. This isn’t a dig on the family unit. I truly believe that we must do what can be done to repair and support the family connection; family should be a strong and healthy foundation in life.
However, we are not trapped in a relationship that is not fixable. In those ancient times frith was inviolable, to break frith was among the very worst crimes one could commit. We can look to the sagas – Gudrun’s brothers killed her husband. She truly loved that man, but she could not avenge him because the frith bond of family would not allow her harm her brothers. We are not in those times. Frith means something different now.
While researching I came across a blogsite that I think has come up with a great summation of what frith looks like in our modern times. The Longship defines frith: “A mutual agreement to avoid causing each other physical, emotional, and mental harm; and to avoid negatively affecting each other’s honor, worth, and luck.”