Grith and Frith

Grith and Frith (Grið and Friþ)

Chances are that if you’re a heathen, you’ve heard of grith and frith. But is it really as simple as many people make it out to be? Is grith for outsiders and frith for kith and kin? Is grith for utangeard and frith for innangeard? As it turns out with so many other things, it is not so simple, it is more nuanced.

Grith and frith both refer to peace, both refer to peacemaking (griðian, friþsumian) , both refer to peace breaking (griðbrice, friþbræc), and have examples that cross the boundaries of family and outsider. Families could have grith. Outsiders could have frith. So has the whole world gone topsy turvy? No. What you have heard about frith and grith was likely a simplification due to the nuanced way that the two concepts work. That simplification can be correct in application but isn’t always and in most every case it is best to understand the term for what it really is rather than the simplified version.

 

What are Frith and Grith?

The main difference between Frith and Grith is not who is making the peace with whom but in how long it is going to last, where it is over, what special circumstances it entails, and who is enforcing it. Don’t take it from me though, here’s some sources and analysis.

The Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary cites the Cleasby-Vigfusson Icelandic dictionary as saying “friðr is the general word, grið the special, deriving its name from being limited in time or space”.[i] I have not found a more concise definition elsewhere. This also shows the existence of the term in Icelandic and thereby Norse culture, so do not just think this is just an Anglo-Saxon thing.

The Bosworth-Toller defines Friþ as “peace, freedom from molestation, security guaranteed by law to those under special protection”[ii]

The Bosworth-Toller defines Grið as “peace limited to place or time, truce, protection, security, safety.”[iii]

 

Grith as truce and Frith as peace

“Þonñ nam man grið and frið wið hí.” [iv]

“Then was truce and peace made with them.”[v]

This one sentence shows that they viewed them not interchangeably but in different connotations. They laid down a grith (truce) to make a lasting frith (peace). Having now read the original document in context as well (the Bosworth-Toller citation was incorrect and incomplete so I tracked down the original source to cite it properly) it is plainly obvious that the grith functioned as a limited truce for lasting peace to be formed by treaty and upheld through “gafol” or tribute.[vi]

This is usage is also present also within the Skáldskaparmal of the Prose Edda because the Æsir and Vanir went to war but established a “grið” (truce) before they went into a “friðstefnu” (peace-meeting).[vii] This usage seems to speak volumes that grith should be a function that is temporally limited while frith should be utilized for formal, lasting accords and usage referencing peace in general.

 

Grith as an enforced or localized peace

Grith was a function which could be enforced in a localized event or area, in essence somewhere that had special rules. Two such ancient extensions of grith were made through the leadership, usually the king, enforcing and ensuring grith or the temple or church ensuring or enforcing grith. In both cases this had special rules to be applied. This concept was called “hand-grið”, basically these special rules were enforced in certain localized areas where they could be under the hand, the enforcement, of those in charge of them.[viii] One could, for example, violate the religious side of grith by fighting in a religious area (feohtlac), by stealing in a religious area (reaflac), or by fornicating in a religious area (unriht hǽmed).[ix] Or the person could violate the rules of the witan or king or the thing which would be a breach of grith. This expands the understanding of grith to include any area which had special conditions or rules that should be obeyed and enforced such as those for religious spaces. It would even apply to hospitality since there were specialized rules and customs involved and it had limitations to what one could and could not do while being guest or host.

 

Summary

By this we can understand that the difference between Frith and Grith is one of permanence and impermanence. The modern generalization of family vs outsiders and innangeard vs utangeard is a simplistic understanding of a nuanced concept and while it has become the common interpretation it is less correct.

Grith and Frith are both peace, but grith is “limited in time and space”. It would apply in any situation where peace, or at least truce, would be applied in a limited capacity or when there were special rules that needed to be followed in that space.

 

How does this apply to us?

As modern heathens we are unlikely to be making formal and permanent alliances with each other in the same manner as is thought of in the ancient world. Seeing how spread out we are it is unlikely we will live even in the same communities as one another. Much of our pagan time will be spent on online forums but when we do meet in person to conduct rituals together or just to hang out it is likely to be a public place or a private residence; in either case the meet up is probably held under the auspices of some larger pagan group or by a host or a leader. These meet-ups or events would not fall under just frith but would fall squarely under grith. There would apply a spoken or unspoken assurance that to commune with one another there would need to be a truce through that time both in word and in action and in that space the rules would be ensured and enforced by whomever was over the meet-up or even whomever ran the online forum. In the other case, that of a religious space, these areas often have specialized rules and protocol and the grith there would be guided over by the gods themselves but for practicality’s sake enforcement would again fall on whomever was over the rite or the leaders of the local organization who put the rite on. Breaking the rules of these areas or breaking the truce and peace of these areas would be breaking grith.

Our events, our rituals, and our online forums constitute special space that should be guarded and guided to ensure that the grith is maintained in them. That grith should be temporary and limited, it should extend only as far as the ability of the host or organization to enforce it and extend only as long as the people are present under the auspices of that event, ritual, or online forum. Frith would not be limited in that way, it would be necessarily be permanent and should be unlimited by location or time.

In the end, while they are both effectively peace, their subtle differences make them worthwhile for us to explore.

 

Sources:

[i] Joseph Bosworth, “grið”, An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, Based On the Manuscript Collections of the Late Joseph Bosworth, Edited by Thomas Northcote Toller (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1898), 490.

[ii] Joseph Bosworth, “friþ”, An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, Based On the Manuscript Collections of the Late Joseph Bosworth, Edited by Thomas Northcote Toller (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1898), 338.

[iii] Joseph Bosworth, “grið”, An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, Based On the Manuscript Collections of the Late Joseph Bosworth, Edited by Thomas Northcote Toller (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1898), 490.

[iv] John Earle, Two of the Saxon Chronicles Parallel, with Supplementary Extracts from the Others (Oxford England: at the Clarendon Press, 1865), 145.

[v] Joseph Bosworth, “grið”, An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, Based On the Manuscript Collections of the Late Joseph Bosworth, Edited by Thomas Northcote Toller (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1898), 490.

[vi] John Earle, Two of the Saxon Chronicles Parallel, with Supplementary Extracts from the Others (Oxford England: at the Clarendon Press, 1865), 145.
And
Joseph Bosworth, “gafol”, An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, Based On the Manuscript Collections of the Late Joseph Bosworth, Edited by Thomas Northcote Toller (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1898), 358.

[vii] Snorri Sturluson, The Prose Edda, Old Norse version found at: http://heimskringla.no/wiki/Skáldskaparmál accessed 2/28/19.

[viii] Benjamin Thorpe, editor, Index: “grið”, Ancient Laws and Institutes of England, Volume 1 (England: The Commissioners on the Public Records of the Kingdom, 1840), 702.

[ix] Benjamin Thorpe, editor, Ancient Laws and Institutes of England, Volume 1 (England: The Commissioners on the Public Records of the Kingdom, 1840), 146.

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Propitiation

Propitiation is a concept in paganism that does not receive the discussion it deserves. You see we do a fairly alright job of describing the gifting cycle and those concepts regarding offering. We know that as we gift a friendly god we build a relationship of reciprocal gifting with them that increases over time. But we fall short when describing offering to chaotic forces.

While I have taken issue with the concept that the gods universally represent order, they do on a whole represent order a majority of the time. That is not to say they are not on occasion fickle; they do have their destructive or chaotic moments. That said, there are forces which are much the inverse of the gods in that where the gods represent order, those other forces represent chaos. In terms of sheer power the chaotic forces are often on par with the gods. But whether you call these things Ettins or baneful wights the end result is the same, these beings are chaotic and can cause destruction and devastation and unrest and suffering. Are they gods? I would argue that the only thing truly separating them in might and being from the gods is their attitudes and bearing towards men. But hesitate to call them gods in the same respect. Yet It Is here that the difference between propitiation and the gifting cycle comes into play.

Propitiation implies appeasement. It implies that it is to lessen the negatives of something. Chaotic forces can be offered propitiation to appease them and keep them from killing you today or tomorrow or from wrecking your day. I have seen rituals where people offered propitiation beforehand so that outside forces would not impede the ritual. But that doesn’t make them benevolent, it means you can pay them off. They will drop you like a hot rock the second they see fit. It isn’t the gifting cycle. The gifting cycle builds a relationship. You cannot build a relationship with chaos.

The wild places. The rivers. The untamed places. The mountains. The Glaciers. The thorny places. The Ettins. Chaotic deities. They’re all like the gods in their might but not all deities are benevolent and not all are kind and not all have equal disposition towards humans and not all enter gifting cycles that benefit humans.

The wilds will send forth beasts. The rivers will flood or even on the best of times dash your head on the rocks. The untamed places will make you lose your way. The mountains will drop rocks onto you or make you lose your footing. The Glaciers will send forth icebergs and sink your boat. The Ettins and chaotic deities will devour you and your sacrifices with equal glee.

If we work with the forces of chaos we should understand this, it is practicing propitiation. All those sacrifices do not build a truly lasting relationship as relationships are a function of order. It’s not a gifting cycle, its paying the chaotic forces off. It’s like the Danegeld, don’t be surprised if the chaotic forces decide to turn on you eventually; they are chaotic after all. Your offerings of propitiation are great until they aren’t and then the amount you gave before or the time and energy spent on it before don’t matter.

The Multi-Part Soul

The Soul

The modern concept of a soul as being a singular spiritual aspect of a person is not the way that these things were conceived of in ancient Anglo-Saxon society. For those ancient heathens, the soul was multi-faceted, made up of many different parts; each of those parts carried its own function. While no universal list of parts of a soul has persisted from Anglo-Saxon society, there are inklings of this which remain in ancient literature and within the language itself.

In a sense, the soul functioned differently based on what a person was doing or the circumstances of their being. In our everyday lives, this subject has bearing but not to the extent that it would alter things. In this way, we typically conceive of the soul in terms of our being in the moment. However there is much more going on in the terms of the Anglo-Saxon beliefs. Your very consciousness is wrapped up with your soul, your memories, your conscience, and yes your body too. From this idea, we will work from the seen and unseen outside inward.

The Lic:

What is the spirit without the body? What is the body without spirit? The two are necessary for one another to together create the being we are familiar with. On this level, the Lic is the body, the physical body.

The Ealdor (Æþm):

The Ealdor, or Æþm, is essentially the breath of life. Seeing as how your body remains living when your spirit fares forth, it can be surmised that the Ealdor remains with the Lic under the circumstance of dreaming and faring forth. Yet upon death, this aspect of a person’s soul leaves and is disconnected from their being. This ultimately connects it to and separates it from the Lic. It is an aspect of the Lic because the Lic cannot live without it; it separates from the Lic upon death.

The Hama:

The Hama is a bit tougher to get into and somewhat contentious. Hama means a natural covering, a membrane, like the skin shed off of a snake. Yet this meaning does not do the word justice in a spiritual sense.

The Norse connection would be with the cognate Hamr. Within Norse literature we see examples of this concept through the “Hamför” or a journey outside of oneself and in the Havamal Odin claims to know spells to keep witches from returning to their “heim hama” or home skin. Essentially, the Hama is that which is spiritually surrounding us in a covering. Yet there is some contention due to one aspect – does the hama leave with the person during the Hamför or is it a trip away from the Hama? The concept of “heim hama” shows us that the Hama was seen as remaining behind when a person’s Ferþ leaves their Lic because the spells Odin speaks of would prevent a person from returning to their Hama. Lingistics also helps in this regard; the snake sheds its skin (Hama) and leaves. So too does the person leave their Hama behind during the Hamför. To complicate the matter, one has a shape within themselves which can change its shape while faring forth called the Hiw. The Hiw is likely an aspect of the Hama, the internal aspect almost like an imprinted shape of it. Yet the Hama itself is also internally connected as an aspect of the spirit and can impact the person.

An example of this is babies; babies grow within a hama, within a membrane. Yet some babies are born with a caul, a membrane which remains over their head during and after birth. This caul was widely considered a sign of luck for hundreds of years back across Europe. Beliefs surrounding this persisted to modern times because I remember my own grandmother remarking that my grandfather was not only lucky but also prescient due to being born with a caul. The caul is likely a manifestation of an aspect of the Hama and it somehow influences a person’s luck and abilities. In each of these usages we get closer to a spiritual idea of a hama.

It is my belief that the truth about the Hama lies somewhere in between these things. The Hama is yes, left behind, but material exists to say that it also has something to do with the journey itself. To reconcile this, it is likely that the Hama plays a role in connecting the person to their Lic so they may return properly.

If the Hama impacts a person throughout their life, what happens to it after death? It is possible that the Hama remains after a soul’s passing and that it may then form the basis for hauntings. This could also account for the split destination for a person’s spirit being alternatively the mound or the afterlife.

The Hiw:

While it is commonly considered within Norse heathenry that the Hamr is being used to shapeshift, in Anglo-Saxon the term for the shape which changes is called the Hiw while the Hama is that which is left behind. Shapeshifting as a concept was not unknown in Anglo-Saxon sources because the idea persisted in folktales as well as through such concepts as the Werewulf. This could be an external shift, but most likely applies to the same kind of spiritual shifting as is seen accomplished by Odin. In the Yngling Saga it is given most clearly in that Odin lies as if dead or asleep while his spirit fares forth and changes its shape at will. This shifting of the spiritual shape is known to the Anglo-Saxons as “hiwung”. The Hiw, rather than being a distinct part of the soul, is likely just the shape the Ferþ takes outside of the Hama and Lic or an extension of the Hama outside of the Lic. Given the connection with the Hama, it could be that the Hiw naturally takes the shape of the Hama it is connected with but that it is malleable in ways that the Hama is not.

The Ferþ (alternatively, the Mod):

The Ferþ (also spelled Ferhþ, Feorþ, Færþ) can be translated as the spirit or soul and this is the part of us which is most akin to what we think of when we think “soul”. However, this aspect of ourselves is itself composed of other parts. Furthermore, this is not the only term for this particular aspect of oneself. The Mod and the Ferþ are both synonymous terms for the spirit, the inner self. The Ferþ includes the Hyge and the Myne.

The Hyge:

The Hyge is the thinking, considering, and judging part of the mind. It is our mental capacity for thought. It is also the conscience, the part of us telling us to do or not to do something. It can further be translated as the heart because it is with the Hyge that the ancient heathens believed bravery and courage resided. The Hyge is a part of the Ferþ, the inner self. The Norse connection here is to Huginn, Odin’s raven that represents thought. However, the thinking here in this case is not mere thought because our modern words and understandings have shifted since that point. Thinking in this case is deeper, it is deciding as well.

The Myne:

The Myne is the memories of a person and their ability to recall them. It is a further part of the Ferþ. The obvious Norse connection here is with Munin, Odin’s raven that represents memory. While we had to divorce our modern thinking from the ancient when it came to the Hyge, the Myne is much closer to the modern idea of memory without any major overhaul.

Folgere (m) or Fylgestre (f):

In Norse literature we find the Fylgja, a spirit attached to oneself but not of oneself. This spirit is typically seen as a sort of protective guardian. While not specifically attested in Anglo-Saxon literature by that name, the cognates for the concept of a Fylgja in Old English would be Folgere (masculine) and Fylgestre (feminine); the term means follower. These have been attested often enough in Norse literature and are often spoken of within modern heathenry to warrant including at least as a brief mention. They are not a part of the soul, but instead appear to be an external kind of spiritual protection.

How this relates to you:

It is not likely to keep you awake at night wondering on the multifaceted nature of the soul. Our conscious minds are far too concerned with other matters usually. In this way, we are likely to think of ourselves in the awakened state in much the same way as this drawing. The Lic is us, we are the Lic, and the Hama could then be thought of as surrounding us in much the same way that some other beliefs have considered an “aura”. Yet if we stop there, we miss the entire point of this.

Parts of self awake

When we sleep and dream, when we go deep into our own thoughts, where do we go to? It is both a religious and philosophical question. However, one thing is absolutely certain. The Anglo-Saxons believed that dreams came from outside oneself. You only need peruse the medico-magical charms of the Anglo-Saxons to see and understand that for their beliefs dreams were external and carried weight and importance. Many charms exist for preventing malicious attacks of various natural and supernatural forces on sleep. One could become æfsiden, come under the spell of witches or even have dweorgas or a Mære attack a person. The Anglo-Saxons also believed in the concept of spiritual travel and even spiritual transformation as can be seen with the idea of the hiwung. This term as well as plenty of lore shows the idea of faring forth outside of oneself – be that in dreams or in other practices. So if people can leave their body, what goes and what stays?

parts of self faring forth

In this diagram we get into the basics a spirit faring forth as best as can be reckoned by my understanding. There is too much lore in Norse sources to discount the Hama being somehow linked to the spirit faring forth. Yet the linguistic link points more to it being left behind, especially at death. The common point could be that the Hama stretches between the two and this could be somewhat supported by the Havamal when Odin tells of a spell to befuddle witches out of returning to their heim-hama. The implication being that return would otherwise be automatic unless tampered with. The further aspect to this is that tampering with the process of faring forth is indeed possible which makes it dangerous. The writing also says the spell could keep them from their heim-huga or proper mind, which I would interpret as being the mind of the person they were before faring forth, their original sensibilities. If your Hyge can be tampered with and your Hama can be lost to you, the prospect of faring forth could be dangerous indeed.

There are aspects that show one could also willingly or unwillingly split their Hyge from themselves as well and lay it upon another. While this could be metaphorical of your thoughts dwelling on another, it likely should be taken more seriously.

Parts of the soul after death

Very likely the most influential and important time that this subject becomes important is upon death. Upon death the Ealdor leaves the body. At some point, the Ferþ leaves the body as well. The Ferþ likely doesn’t leave immediately because otherwise what would the point of grave goods be? The Anglo-Saxons gave grave goods of a votive and literal sense. Gifts of transportation such as a horse or a boat are key to this particular aspect because why would it matter unless some kind of journey is implied in the afterlife. Why would a person be given grave goods at all if their spirit would find no benefit of them after death? Because of this, I believe that the Ferþ waits at least until burial before they travel to the afterlife.

The Hiw and the Hama provide a point of interest. The Hiw could be a part of the Hama or simply the shape of the Ferþ, either way it is unlikely that the Ferþ would be shapeless after death so the Hiw continues on. However, the Hama is sloughed off and left behind when the Ferþ leaves. This distinctly spiritual part of a person lacks its memory and its personality; it is a shell of its former self. Yet it is also a part of the person. It almost certainly retains their form – having held the form for so long why should that change? However, deprived of Hyge and Myne, the Hama spirit is now unknowing.

There is a unique aspect to heathen belief – the ancient heathens held an afterlife in a different world in their beliefs as well as an afterlife in the mound. How can they have it both ways? The Hama remains tied to the person’s physical remains while the Ferþ travels to the afterlife. This would go a long way to explaining how elves and wights were seen to have been ancestors – if the Hama forgets who it is, what is to stop it from becoming a wight or an elf? It would be semi-human, somewhat recognizable, but in many ways inhuman. This could easily explain the often confused nature of how ghosts and spirits tend to be described. It would also explain what reasoning there might be to visit a grave and talk to or offer at the grave itself – to perhaps remind the spirit who they were and to ease them.

This is what is meant by a multi-part soul. The heathen will end up in more than one location as part of their afterlife. Their Hama will be bound to this earth while their Ferþ journeys to the afterlife.

Sources:

Bosworth, Joseph. “An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary Online” March 21, 2010. Accessed January 23, 2018. http://bosworth.ff.cuni.cz/

Inguing, Wodgar. “Lārhūs Fyrnsida” Parts of the Self, Accessed January 23, 2018. https://larhusfyrnsida.com/parts-of-the-self/

Miller, Sean, trans. “Anglo-Saxons.net” The Hávamál, Accessed January 23, 2018. http://www.anglo-saxons.net/hwaet/?do=get&type=text&id=Hav

Sturlson, Snorri. “Internet Sacred Text Archive” The Yngling Saga, Trans. Samuel Laing. Accessed January 23, 2018. http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/heim/02ynglga.htmTop of Form