Individualism and the Clan
Our Germanic world view puts unity ahead of all else. Individuality has no context outside that of the clan. The power of o is orderly and harmonious; it follows r (the right path). It is here where peace and freedom reign. Our ancestors compared “the group of kinsmen to a fence, Stave by Stave, enclosing a sacred ground. When one is struck down, there is a breach in the clan, and the ground lies open to be trampled on.” This is Frith, and to be removed from that enclosure, to be deprived of human context is to be obliterated. Worse than death one becomes a Niðing.
If personal sympathies and antipathies can never stand up to the authority of Frith, how did this ideal of individualism come to take such a grip on our Folk? Particularly in America, where it was even further aggrandized to a “rugged individualism”. What causes someone to want to distance themselves from their people, their clan, or even their immediate family in extreme cases?
Well, we know the sacral locus of most Folk-religions is the Folk community itself. The sacrality of the community is expressed in rituals celebrating the relationship with their own gods and “promote a strong sense of in-group identification and loyalty.” In contrast universal religions have the salvation of the individual as the sacral locus. Gilbert Murray states “It is an atmosphere in which the aim of the good man is not so much to live justly, to help the society to which he belongs and enjoy the esteem of his fellow creatures; but rather, a means of a burning faith, by contempt for the world and its standards, by ecstasy, suffering and martyrdom, to be granted pardon for his unspeakable unworthiness.”
The Chinese experienced this in the third century when instead of the Confucian ideals of preservation of the body and perpetuation of the family, many turned to Buddhism with its celibacy and ritual acts of body mortification, albeit with much less impact.
People in individualist cultures are less aware of Innangard / Utangard boundaries. They show little emotional commitment or loyalty to the Innangard and do not hold a sense of common Wyrd with other members.
But this atomized existence is not in harmony with the cosmos (Xartus). Our Folk-Soul aches for those connections to be re-established. The dissonance of not living in harmony with the natural order or primal laws harms our Folk in various ways. Like a missing limb we experience that phantom pain. We have been taught independence is the goal to strive for, but interdependence is the ultimate goal. One moves from being wholly dependent as a child, to being independent, to reach our full potential though we must let go of that independence and become interdependent with the clan. g is the rune of sacrifice (making sacred). This is the mystery of the interdependence not just between men, but between the gods and men.
Of all the baggage those of us raised Christian carry, this hyper-individualism is the most detrimental and hardest to shake. Some may even mistakenly come to Asatru for their individual bona fides (being Asatru to distance oneself from Christianity is not pious) and will either embrace the natural order of tribe over the individual, as is our folkway, or they will withdraw to their solitary practices, free of the obligations required by Frith. Individualism is the easy path, but it is not the right path. Freed from that limitation of individualism they grow stronger and make our folk stronger as a whole.
This is the deeper value of our motto “Asatru is about roots, it’s about connections, it’s about coming home.” Only within that fence of Frith do we find the freedom to become who we capable of being. It is here where the divine speaks the loudest to us, it reverberates off our members and is amplified in a way that is impossible for the individual. It requires sacrifice of the individual as exemplified by the All-Father. Óðinn did not sacrifice himself to himself to gain the knowledge of the runes for himself, he did it for the Æsir that they could bring order to the cosmos for the benefit of the descendants of Ask and Embla.
Gothi Lane Ashby