The Nine Noble Virtues Of the Viking Warriors
The religion of the Vikings religion is known as, Asatru, and the Nine Noble Virtues are contained within the book known as the Havamal. These virtues coincide with the virtues of other warrior cultures throughout the world, and show that best qualities of a warrior transcend time and distance. The best traits of humanity and warriors are universal.
The Nine Nobel Virtues are not like the “Nine Commandments” for Ásatrú. They couldn’t even be called rules, as much as, time-honored principles, by which to live. But, still, to live as a true Ásatrúar, a person should lead his or her life in accordance with the Nine Noble Virtues.
The Nine Noble Virtues are considered a modern innovation and were codified first by the Odinic Rite in England, using as a basis the Hávamál and other ancient sources. The Nine Noble Virtues attempt to encapsulate all the values held dear by the old Norse peoples, and they, in fact, are true guidelines for how any person (not just a follower of Ásatrú) should behave.
The Vikings were known for their courage and bravery in battle, but courage applies to more than simply being brave in battle. Courage, being the first of the nine virtues is appropriate, because without courage a warrior will have a difficult time upholding the Noble Virtues. The word “courage” is derived from the Latin word meaning “heart.” It takes "heart" to defend your beliefs, say what you mean, and mean what you say. Have the courage to live by a code of honor, and do so with wisdom and discretion.
In modern Ásatrú ethics, this other form of courage is the most highly valued, and a truly courageous person is one who stands up for what he believes, even when it would be easier to keep quiet, and doing what he believes is right, and refusing to do what he believes is wrong, even when other people laugh at don’t support those choices.
2. Truth There is spiritual truth and actual truth. The Havamal says:
Swear no oath
But what you mean to abide by:
A halter awaits the word breaker,
Villainous is the wolf-of-vows.
The concept of Truth is a powerful one, and stands as a reminder that we must speak of what we know as Truth, rather than what we think others wish to hear.
The basis for the entire Ásatrú moral rationale is honor. Without honor, there can be no true warrior, as the state of that persons humanity is inadequate. Without honor, a person is nothing.
In many ways, the most important of all the virtues is also the most difficult to describe. It is like all the other virtues rolled into one.
Honor is one's reputation and moral compass. Honor plays a significant role in the daily life of many Heathens and Asatruar. This virtue reminds us that our deeds, words, and reputation will outlive our bodies, and that the person we are in life will be remembered for a long time. The epic poem Beowulf cautions, For a noble man death is better than a shameful life.
Loyalty, is a critical component of human behavior. Loyalty is to be held it in the highest esteem. Look for ways to demonstrate your loyalty and you will have the approval and admiration of everyone around you. Conversely, the lack of loyalty is the dirt from which traitors are spawned. Like a weed, traitors are grown when the garden isn't tended to properly. A person lacking loyalty is respected by no one. Good leaders promote an atmosphere of fidelity and loyalty without turning it into something toxic, which is easily done. Balance in everything.
Quite simply, fidelity is being loyal to those one is connected to. This includes the keeping of oaths, something the ancient Norse held in the highest esteem, since to break an oath to another often led to death, war, or suffering.,
The warrior will defend his clan, family and friends no matter what the cost, because of his dedication to this virtue. Being loyal and faithful to those that the warrior loves is non-negotiable. The Vikings knew this. If someone murdered a Viking’s family, he or she would have an obligation to seek vengeance and puts things right. This is not the same thing as seeking revenge. There is a difference between revenge and in fulfilling an obligation to your loved ones.
In any discussion of the values of Ásatrú, discipline is best described as self-discipline. It is the exercise of personal will that upholds honor and the other. If one is to be able to reject moral legalism for a system of internal honor, one must be willing as well to use the self-discipline necessary to make it work.
A member of the Ásatrú folk should have the discipline to keep oneself from straying from the path of Ásatrú into other, perhaps easier, paths. Discipline and fidelity often work very closely together, with discipline providing the willpower needed to retain one’s fidelity.
Many people looking for the right religion continuously go from faith to faith, system to system, path to path. Ásatrúar are much less likely to do this. The discipline of keeping faith only with the Norse gods and the ways of the ancestors is part of the modern Ásatrú practice. In this way, people limit themselves in some ways, but gain much more in others.
It takes discipline over the course of time to live according to your own personal code of ethics. The true warrior is a man unto himself, unlike any other. He creates his own code and abides by it. Each warrior decides how difficult his code will be to abide by. If its too easy the code will not forge the warrior like it could. If the code is too hard the warrior will find it impossible to follow.
If the warrior is going to live by his own standards, he must be willing to control his own actions. Many things that are legal may go against the warrior’s own code of honor, and many things that governments declare illegal may be permitted by the warrior’s personal standards. In order for the warrior to stay true to his own principles and virtues, he must develop self-discipline.
Hospitality, though it may not seem like it, is a warrior trait. The warrior is expected to treat others with respect and dignity. It is important to treat with others with respect and courtesy, even when it appears they don't deserve it. The Vikings believed that sometimes the gods would visit people in human form and that in being disrespectful to strangers they could also be disrespecting the gods. The Bible also states a similar belief, stating that many people have entertained angels unknowingly when they have entertained strangers.
Whether or not angels or gods visit people in the form of strangers is irrelevant. What matters is that you treat everyone with respect and courtesy. The warrior does this because it is a part of his own code of ethics. You should treat others with hospitality not because they deserve it, but because that is how you behave towards other people. It has to do with your own principles; what others deserve has nothing to do with it.
Nearly every ancient human civilization incorporates the concept of hospitality. Within the religion of Ásatrú, it is thought to be a crucial part of the social fabric that binds society together.
In contemporary times, people within the Ásatrú community are encouraged to treat each other with respect for the good of the community.
The willingness to share what one has with one’s fellows is a vital part of the Ásatrú way of life. Hospitality is the virtue where one is meant to recognize that its an important part of belonging to a community.
In the ancient Norse world, people lived in wild lands, often cut off by miles from their neighbors, so hospitality meant opening your house to travelers and treating people who came to visit you with the same kindness and respect as you give your own family.
Hospitality is a trait of civilized person and a civilized society. The Ásatrúar people believe in treating guests as they would family, making sure they are comfortable and if appropriate offering them food and drink. The ancient Norse people also believed the gods of Ásatrú were wandering about Midgard (the world of men) disguised as humans, thus treating all guests as family in the event they were being visited by the gods.
7. Work Ethic/ Industriousness
Industriousness is simply doing your best work in everything that you do. It is also keeping yourself busy, not lying around, otherwise known as laziness. The Vikings believed the gods looked down on those who were lazy, thus they did as well. Excellence is a trait of The true warrior, performing everything with care and detail. Attention to detail is something engrained into every military man, and woman. Warriors set high expectations for themselves and in everything that they do.
Industriousness, and working hard is a crucial component of every military, but doesn’t just apply to life in the military, it applies to every aspect of their life. A person who leads an industrious life continues to grow intellectually as well as maintaining physical stamina. Like most of the Noble Virtues they interlock as it take discipline to continue being industrious.
Warriors are independent by nature, sometimes too much so. An ability to working as team is an important aspect of being a warrior. However, the warrior must also have the confidence and sometimes bravery to get things done on his own. The warrior is responsible for taking care of himself and his family; this is his first and foremost duty in life. The warrior should not feel comfortable if he were to be killed and his family is not taken care of.
As such, the warrior goes through extra effort to ensure he and his family are not vulnerable. Such a position can distract the warrior from the task at hand, whether that be the next battle, or his regular job. For this reason, it is best to strive to be as independent as possible and free of outside influences. Being financially stable is also an important part of being self-reliant. If people wish the gods to offer them their blessings and gifts, they must make themselves worthy of them – and the gods are generous to those who stand on their own two feet. This is one of the reasons for the Ásatrú “rule” that no one kneels to the gods during ceremonies. By standing, an Ásatrúar acknowledges a want for comradeship and a relationship with the gods, rather than looking for a handout.
Success, whether it be in battle, or in life in general requires perseverance. Perseverance will also be required in applying the other 8 Noble Virtues. In order to live the warrior lifestyle, you cannot simply give up and quit when you fall short of your mark. You must persevere. You must not give up.
The warrior’s code of honor is too important for him to give up or give in when the going gets tough. The warrior lifestyle is a lifelong way of living. Being a true warrior is not something you try; it is something you are. It is a way of living, a way of being. You don’t try to be a warrior – you either are a warrior or you are not a warrior. For the true warrior, a lack of perseverance may in fact be a matter of life, or death. Many battles and military missions are extremely difficult. Perseverance, grit and determination is often required. Therefore, perseverance is an essential component of being a warrior.
If people truly wish to build an Ásatrú community that other people will hold up as an example of what a committed group can do, then perseverance is required to get through the hardships that building the kindred is going to entail. Ásatrúar must be willing to continue on when they are pushed back. Ásatrúar must hold to their path until its completion and remain strong.
Times were hard in the days of the Vikings, so only those who were strong, smart, and crafty survived. The Norse ancestors were survivors. They fought bravely, explored widely, and never gave up in the face of terrible odds. A good example is the perseverance shown by those Norsemen who settled in Iceland, Greenland, sailed to the shores of Vinlad. Times are still hard, so people still shouldn’t give up at the first sign of adversity. Work, strive, carry on, and don’t give up — those words embody the essence of perseverance.
Ásatrú folk have a saying, “We are our deeds.” This essentially defines ethics of Ásatrú better than anything else.
Exercise: Write your own code and live by it. In what ways should you refrain and from what? Why?
Don't think of another warrior you'd like to emulate, be your own person guided by your own intuition and your true spirit.