Archive for July, 2017

Tending Frith

One of the many things I appreciate about contemporary “Northern Traditions”, or Heathenry, is the reclamation of lost words. These days, it is the word frith which is catching my attention. Theodish elder Winifred Hodge has this to say about frith:

“ Frith is often translated as “peace”. The full meaning of frith encompasses peace but extends well beyond it, to cover a large portion of the most meaningful and essential foundations of human social life, especially as it is lived in more “traditional” societies. A full understanding of the concept of frith will show that “peace” is not identical to frith; rather, peace as we understand it is generally an outgrowth of frith, resulting from the conditions of frith being met…. The idea of frith is very closely tied to kinship — blood kinship in particular — and then to kinship by marriage, adoption and fostering. The words frith and sib were often used interchangeably to describe the state of being of people involved in a kindred relationship, and we can easily see the connection in the modern use of the term sibling to indicate a brother or sister. The term frith did not merely indicate the material fact of blood relationship. Rather, it described the essence of the relationship itself: the joys, responsibilities, interdependence, burdens, and benefits that characterized it.”

In the Jewish roots of the Christian tradition, there is a similar word: shalom. Or, in Arabic, salaam. Shalom points toward something much deeper than the absence of conflict within a kindred community. Shalom, like frith, conjures a sense of fullness, of rich relationships among humans, the Spirit, and the whole creation. Shalom is a gift from the Mother of All, and yet it is also fragile and dependent upon careful and attentive action on the part of every creature sharing in the Divine Peace.

Frith, shalom, peace … whatever word one uses, it requires a deliberate tending. In complex communities of wights, both human and more-than-human, protocols of mutual respect have evolved over the ages. Customs, manners, ceremonies, cultural habits and practices … these all have a place in the guarding of the frith, the keeping of the peace.

In our own small farm community, it is sometimes a challenge to maintain the bonds of frith among even a relatively small group of human persons, let alone all the rich but complicated relations among the birds, animals, insects, plants, spirits, ancestors, and all the other persons who inhabit the lands and waters with us. Maintaining the harmony of frith can take a lot of emotional effort and sometimes painful conversation and negotiation. Perhaps it is like that in your community as well?

Sometimes a druid feels like just giving up! But don’t throw in the towel. The struggle for peace and harmony, for frith, are worth it. Conflict is a natural part of community, and it calls us to engage each other, and all beings, on a deeper and deeper level. And after all is said and done, don’t despair. Know that all your peace-making efforts are supported by the Divine Shalom, the Spirit of eternal frith. So in the words (loosely modified) of the Apostle: Gyfu to you, and frith, from the One who is Wyrd Incarnate. Blessed be.

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