Heathen Ethics, Part 7: The Ten Guiding Tempers

Quite some time ago, I talked about my issues with the Nine Noble Virtues.  I had a lot of issues with them too, but that wasn’t because I was against the existence of an ethical code; I was against how the NNV was established and the role it fulfills in Heathenry today.  It was created using the Havamal as the penultimate ethical source that it never was intended to be, and it was presented as the wisdom of our ancestors when our ancestors never head heard of it.  The collected wisdom and ethical thew of our spiritual fore-bearers, reduced down to a handful of words chosen by their superficial connection to a few pieces of good advice that existed in a document that is presented as the Tao of the Norse without a single quantifying statement.*

i1232892707_1A while back, I presented a few guidelines that I thought any proper Heathen code would have to follow in order to achieve a state of practical viability.  After letting the ideas and concepts simmer for half a year,** I decided it was time to try to see what I could come up with.  I took all the material from both versions of the Nine Noble Virtues, referenced the Six-Fold Goal of the Troth***, and then separated the grain from the chaff.  I kept things informed by the manners and thew of  our spiritual ancestors, while giving them the room to breathe in modern air.  They weren’t chosen based on observance of barely relevant numerology; it’s just what felt right and it was what worked for what I was attempting to create.  No hard biases against or for any organization, philosophy, or personally relevant spirituality.  Just a code that I think will serve Heathens well.

Those were my goals at least; I can’t say whether they’ve been achieved or not.  That’s up to, well,  everyone else.

These are the ten guiding tempers, intended as guidelines for living a Heathen life that will give you an enduring name, worthwhile deeds, and a satisfying life.  The first nine are concepts and ideals that should rule your thoughts, as well as the concept or idea that you should balance it  against.  No virtue, as an absolute, will ever yield good results.  Thus each virtues is viewed through the lens of another one that helps to guide and define it.

The tenth temper is a special one, but it is also very important.  If these guidelines do not serve you well, follow the tenth temper and you’ll end up with the results you deserve.

This is not Heathen Bushido.  This is not the legacy of our spiritual ancestors.  All it represents is good advice, as seen by one Heathen, and given to any other Heathen who chooses to use it.

Courage tempers Faith: If our way does not maintain its faith, it will not endure.  If we have faith in our Gods and our communities, we will be strong.  There are times, however, when our Gods will test us and our communities are not at hand.  There will be times in the life of every Heathen when they must handle an issue greater than themselves, and where no amount of aide on physical, spiritual, and social fronts will take care of things.  Faith is your belief within things outside of yourself; courage is the faith your own heart and soul have for their own capacity.  Without courage, faith becomes weak and dependent.

Freedom tempers Courage: If our way does not maintain its courage, it will not endure.  Courage gives us the strength to face any difficulty, regards of the risks.  We are not bound, however, to face every difficulty or our lives would become a meaningless transition from struggle to struggle. Without freedom, we would be forever locked with a constant cycle of conflict without respite to enjoy the spoils of those struggles.  We have the freedom to choose the purposes to which we devote ourselves and a mandate to preserve that freedom for ourselves and our community.  Without freedom, courage leads to exhaustion and lifelessness.

Discipline tempers Freedom: If our way does not maintain its freedom, it will not endure.  The choices we make for ourselves, our families, and our communities must be choices made with agency and purpose.  While freedom is important to any Heathen, freedom unchecked by our own willpower can lead to a life without triumphs, deeds of merit, and a completely self-serving attitude.  We need discipline, control of ourselves and actions, for our freedoms to be truly meaningful things.  Without discipline, freedom leads to a lack of focus and action.

Frith tempers DisciplineIf our way does not maintain its discipline, it will not endure.  When we establish self-control, we are the master of ourselves.  Yet, our perspectives alone should never shape all of the circumstances within our lives.  If we focus to much on self-control, we can easily loose perspectives on all things are not connected to the self.  Without acknowledging our responsibilities to our communities, so much of what we do can quickly become meaningless.  Our discipline should be just as much shaped by our desire for goodwill and community as it should by our own willpower.  Without frith, discipline becomes stagnant and selfish.

Wisdom tempers FrithIf our way does not maintain its Frith, it will not endure.  The well being of our community was of central importance to our spiritual ancestors, but those communities needed more than just goodwill to survive.  The frith they built was also guided by intelligence, experience and wisdom.  Further, our societies and communities are not constructed from and limited by geographical restrictions; who we build Frith with is now completely a choice.  This changes much, and alters entire social models in the blink of an eye.  Now the entire world is at our fingertips, connect societies and communities as never before.  While this allows us to teach and learn as never before, it also gives those who speak with ignorance and greed a louder voice as well.  Now words of wisdom and intelligence are more power and meaningful than ever, for they both guide our communities as well as shape them.  Our choices must ever be guided by sound thoughts and firm understanding.  Without wisdom, frith dilutes and is quickly usurped.

Honesty tempers Wisdom: If our way does not maintain its wisdom, it will not endure.  If a Heathen is asked for their council, they should their true thoughts or none at all.  Without honesty, the sage and correct choices are harder to find and communities become easily led to infighting and ruin.     Without honesty, any piece of wisdom can be a lie and thus the nature of wisdom itself is compromised.  With but a single lie, a lifetime of advice can be render contaminated and suspect.  Without honesty, wisdom becomes foul and poisoned.

Warmth tempers HonestyIf our way does not maintain its honesty, it will not endure.  Honesty is the lifeblood of an honorable life.  Yet, without a hospitable bearing, the blood turn weak and this.  If those who are our guest are given every truth we can think of without request or consideration?  We abuse the privileges of a proper host.  Should we release our words without thought within the house of another?  We abuse the respect and consideration afforded to a guest.  While we should never lie to our quests or to our hosts, we should also respect them all the same and leave their private lives to their own device.  Warmth is a combination of many ideas: hospitality, manners, grith, and more.  All of these things have subtle differences, but they all fly under of being a good person to the souls who we trust to be honest towards and our spiritual ancestors did not grant their warmth strictly to those who were the same as they.  Without warmth, honesty turns to bitterness and callousness.

Pragmatism tempers Warmth: If our way does not maintain its warmth, it will not endure.  Our spiritual ancestors welcomed strangers, yet they were not foolish.  Those who would and have threatened them are not welcome.  They do not give more than they can afford to give, for their first loyalty is to their families.  A good Heathen is one who plans ahead.  They have prepared for the next winter before the previous one has ended, and they plan for the next harvest in the way they gather the present one.  They endure not only by their resilience of body, but also from their resilience of mind.  Long before the fight started, whether it be against robbers of weather, our spiritual ancestors prepared themselves as best they could for it.  They secured their capacity for hospitality and mindfulness with actions and plans.  Without pragmatism, warmth cannot be maintained or established.

Faith tempers Pragmatism: If our way does not maintain its pragmatism, it will not endure.  We must be ready for the unexpected and aware of the known, but we must also leave room for those things for our heart and soul.  We venerate and worship mighty Gods and Goddesses, whose capacity and influence is far greater than the legends alone would tell us.  To loose sight of that is to loose sight of those who help us, guide us, and watch over us.  We must trust those who have built good frith and warmth with us.  To loose sight of this is to loose sight of all that a community can offer.  There will be times were no amount of logic and common sense will see us through.  In these cases, we must trust our luck, our communities, and our Gods to get us through.  Without faith, pragmatism becomes bland and paranoid.

The Tenth Temper – Deeds temper Ethics:   If our way does not consider ethics, it will not endure.  Yet this is but one interpretation of the ethics of our spiritual ancestors.  If you are not satisfied with the deeds that results from the tempers?  Than change them.  Alter them.  Break them over your knee with a sickening crunch so loud that it turns the Allfather’s head.  Make them yours.  Cast them aside, and live your life by your instincts.  Your deeds are your own, and no moralistic code can ever take responsibility for them.  Never lets yourself become so dogmatic and fixated that you fail to hold your ethical beliefs up to the same standard you hold yourself up to.  Without mindfulness of our deeds and their consequences, ethics will always fail.

*While I don’t oppose the Havamal, I certain oppose how it is used by many Heathens.  The Havamal is, at best, a modestly functional compass for making educated guess about the ethical viewpoints of out spiritual ancestors.  I’ll never suggest throwing it out because it certainly has it’s uses, and one can gain some insight by considering its words.  It is not the Heathen Bible, but it still gets used as such; in function if not in name. 

**Wait, how long have I been doing this?  Yeesh.

*** I consider it somewhere between two version of the Nine Noble Virtues in terms of quality.  It’s well intentioned, and serves well as some sort of ethic infused mission statement.  It still suffers from almost all of the same problems however, and thus I didn’t think it needed a whole lot of narration to cover the pros and cons.


13 thoughts on “Heathen Ethics, Part 7: The Ten Guiding Tempers

  1. Reblogged this on facingthefireswithin and commented:
    A different view of heathen ethics. There should not be holy books in our way and we should be more philosophical. I liked this and want to re-read it periodically.

    • Doug Freyburger says:

      There are and should be holy books in our way. Never tolerate anyone who starts down the road of applying biblical inerrancy to our holy books. That’s not our way and indicates someone still stuck in a Christian mode of thinking.

      • If you are saying we should never be dogmatic, I agree. I favor a pragmatically spiritual path. I tend toward the 9 Noble Virtues but liked his take on some of these.

      • Ah, I think we are disagreeing on the meaning of holy. I think I was going for a more fundamentalist interpretation. If your interpretation is less like that, then we are likely to come up with a mutually agreeable definition.

      • Doug Freyburger says:


        The Eddas are holy writings. Do not allow some alien insistence by Christians that they have a monopoly on the status or that the category implies inerrancy.

        Thor did not go fishing. Our stories are not depictions of events that actually happened. Our stories are not literal. The truth our stories contain is of a different type than literal. The type of truth contained in our stories is the more holy for that.

        By making the mistake of inerrancy the Christians lose much of the holiness contained within their writings. It’s sad but as outsiders all we really need to care about it not making that mistake and not letting work their PR campaign to define the discussion by ideas like “There should not be holy books in our way” because we don’t think of our holy books the way they expect us to.

  2. EmberVoices says:

    *Applause* Very well put.

    I especially like your meaning in “temper”, and the cycle of values, how they balance each other. I also like your choices.

    I would most likely use different words, but I also am not currently trying to have a mnemonic system like this set up. Still, my Vanatru group has been working for a while on a way to illuminate Vanic values. Our focus has been on what values the Vanir seem to demonstrate, and what they mean for us in practical life.

    Your approach is significantly different in a useful way. Thank you very much for this.


  3. Doug, I think we are in agreement. It was merely connotation for “holy”.

  4. Rob says:

    Sir, I’ve been reading your posts for a few days now, and as one that is new to this path I want to thank you sincerely. I live in a southern state known for bible thumpers. I hold no Ill will for my Christian Familly and Neighbors, the overwhelming majority are honorable folk with a strong sense of community. However as a Heathen I stand alone in my community. Incredibly alone, I have neither fellow heathen friends nor teachers. In fact only two people dear to me know of my path. One is my best freind who is agnostic and recently move to Denver, the other is my girlfriend who could care less. I worship the Gods in private, my altars are few and hidden in the woods where I can meditate and pray alone. I spend hours every other day reading blogs articles and essays written by various individuals on Asatru, Odinism, and now Rokkatru. This is Exile. Not a day goes by when I do not seek Odin for Wisdom, Heimdall for Guidance, and Thor for Strength and Courage. I have put a lot of focus into being pragmatic and living in such manner as to please the Gods. The NNV are a great and worthy code for our faith, but you have done well to dive deeper into how values temper values and the interconnection with these ethics. Fascinating concept, you deserve credit for this as a teacher among Heathens who, like me, seek to learn more.

  5. […] margins of the Nine Noble Virtues (both versions), the Nine Charges, the Six Fold Goal, and in the Ten Guiding Tempers that I wrote […]

  6. […] my own ethical code in response to my issues with the NNV, I made sure that this was material that said something I could be proud of.  When I post something here, it’s very rare that it’s something I haven’t put a […]

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