Saturday, July 16, 2011

Heathen Fable #6 - The Beaver, the Frog, and the Ringed Snake

The Frog and the Beaver grew up together in the same pond and were the best of friends.  They had a real fondness for each other, spoke often, and visited each other's homes.  They knew each other so long, that they even shared many mutual friends in and around the pond.  Many an evening you would find the Frog and the Beaver sitting side by side on the Beaver's dam talking and laughing and watching the sun set.

One day, the Beaver was visited by a Ringed Snake, and he found the Snake to be interesting, and funny, and a pleasure to be around.  He knew that many of his friends in the pond were scared of the Snake, but the Beaver wasn't scared, because Ringed Snakes don't hunt or eat Beavers.  A friendship began between the Beaver and the Ringed Snake and they began to visit each other frequently.

Days and weeks had gone by, and the Beaver realized that his friend the Frog had stopped visiting him.  The more the Beaver thought about it, all of his friends in the pond except the Snake had stopped visiting him.  The Beaver missed the Frog, so he looked around the pond for him and found him swimming with their friend the Water Rat.  The Beaver waddled over and asked, "Where have you been my friend?"

In an angry voice, Frog croaked out, "You've become friends with my enemy the Ringed Snake.  The Snake hunts and eats Frogs like me, and you know it.  I've seen many tadpoles and frogs become the Snake's dinner, and yet he is now your friend."

The Beaver shrugged, "Frog, I don't see how my friendship with the Snake has anything to do with the friendship you and I share.  It is two different things."

The Water Rat sneered at the Beaver, and said, "You should never be friends with the enemy of a friend.  We've all seen your lack of loyalty to Frog, and none of us trust you anymore.  Go away."

The Beaver swam home and thought, "Well I've lost all my old friends, but at least the Ringed Snake is still my friend."  When the Beaver arrived home, the Ringed Snake was waiting for him.  The Beaver smiled, "Hello, my Friend."

The Ring Snake laughed.  "I'm not your friend.  I've been visiting you these past few weeks because I saw you had friends that I could eat.  I've eaten a belly-full of your little friends, but the one's that remain have stopped visiting you...and so shall I."

(Hávamál Stanza 43)

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Books for Your Heathen Children

When giving your child a book on heathenry to read, it is always better to read it yourself first.  This will help you decide whether the book is really the sort of book you want your chlid to read.  And it will also make it easier for you to discuss the details of the book with your child. 

It is also a good idea to do a little research on the author of the book prior to buying it for your child.  It could be the author is not someone you would want to support by buying their book, and the author's views might not be something you want to share with your child.

Here are some Children's Books worth checking out...

Children of Odin by Padraic Colum and Illustrated by Willy Pogany - This is a collection of stories or the retelling of stories from our Lore.  The stories are somewhat changed or simplified from what you might find in our Lore, but it is an entertaining book, and the illustrations are beautiful.  (free PDF), (buy at B&N).

D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths (Hardcover) by Ingri D'Aulaire - This is another collection of retold stories from our Lore.  But nearly every page is illustrated with full color paintings filled with imagination and power.  My kids really enjoyed this one.  This is for kids 4-8, though adults will enjoy it also.  I usually skip the last page of this book when reading to my kids, because the last page suffers from Christian-bias.  (buy at Amazon).

D'Aulaires' Book of Trolls (Hardcover) by Ingri d'Aulaire - The format of this book is very similar to D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths, except it has all sorts of fun folklore stories about Trolls and such.  For kids 4-8.  (buy at Amazon).

The Adventures of Thor the Thunder God (Hardcover) by Lise Lunge-Larsen - This book is also beautifully illustrated with full-color paintings.  This is listed for ages 9-12. (buy at Amazon).

Odd and the Frost Giants (Hardcover) by Neil Gaiman - A wonderful story of a boy named Odd traveling with Odin, Loki, and Thor and helping to foil a dastardly plot by a giant to take and keep Asgard. (buy at Amazon).

Kinder Edda (Paperback) by Noil Skeggold - A collection of stories based upon the Poetic and Prose Edda of Norse Mythology, with the addition of unique stories. This is also illustrated and is for ages 9-12. (buy at Amazon).

Kindertales: Stories Old and New for the Children of the Folk (Paperback) by Freydis Heimdallson - (buy at Amazon).

Iduna and the Magic Apples by Gal Laszlo - You'll likely have to buy a used copy of this book.

Gods and Goddesses of the Ancient Norse (Hardcover) by Leonard Everett Fisher - There are portraits of 14 of our Gods and Goddesses in this book, with descriptions of who they are and what they do. (buy at Amazon).

Dover Publications makes a coloring book about the Norse Gods and Goddesses. They also give a very brief explanation, but it's obviously "G" rated. Dover publications also has other coloring books, like "Story of the Vikings," "Beowulf," and "Viking Gods and Heroes."

And there are books at this link worth checking out: 

And there are quite a few free storybooks available as PDF's at our on-line Temple Library:

If there are any books you think should be included on this list, feel free to share the information in the comments section...

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Role and Responsibilities of a Modern Chieftain

The position of Chieftain is a responsibility recognized and bestowed upon a member of their kindred or tribe, by the other members of that kindred or tribe. In bestowing this responsibility upon one of its members, the kindred or tribe is recognizing the Luck, knowledge, stability, force of character, decision-making, skills, and ability to “get things done” of that particular member. The relationship between the Chieftain and his tribe is a reciprocal one.

The kindred goes as its Chieftain goes. A kindred without a Chieftain can often lack focus, direction, and the ability to wisely come to important decisions or get things done. A Chieftain without a kindred, is essentially nothing, and certainly not a Chieftain.

In the interest of simplicity, I have referred to the Chieftain throughout this essay using masculine pronouns. There is no reason that a woman could not be Chieftain. I know too many strong and knowledgable women of Luck and worth to hold the opinion that only men can serve in the role of Chieftain.

Gunnar Miller of Volkshof Kindred, Ralph Romig of Tyr's Helm Tribe, and Mark Ludwig Stinson of Jotun's Bane Kindred.


A Chieftain is bound by the kindred's thew, perhaps more than any other member of the kindred. Due to the vast responsibilities that rest with the Chieftain, the kindred's eyes are always on him, and the Chieftain's actions and decisions rarely go without notice. Many of the most basic and practical matters of kindred thew, affect and are affected by the Chieftain. The customs and traditions of a kindred, establish many understandings and expectations between the Chieftain and the kindred's membership, and this thew helps preserve and maintain the reciprocal relationship between the Chieftain and the kindred's members.

To be successful, the Chieftain must have a strong working knowledge of kindred thew, and an understanding of how his actions and decisions will be perceived by the members of his kindred. When the Chieftain acts or chooses a course of action within established thew, the kindred will quickly and naturally agree and follow his course of action. If the Chieftain acts or chooses a course of action for which no thew has yet been developed, the Chieftain must ensure that the kindred's members fully understand the situation and his decision. If the Chieftain acts or chooses a course of action which is contrary to kindred thew, then the Chieftain should expect to be challenged and be ready to explain in a compelling manner why acting contrary to thew was necessary. The Thyle plays a role in advising the Chieftain in a manner consistent with kindred's thew, and also in challenging the Chieftain when he acts outside of thew.

This dynamic within the kindred, described above, will often result in new thew being developed or in thew being adjusted or expanded to fit new situations as the kindred encounters them. One of the roles of the Chieftain is to act within the bounds of thew, or to build consensus regarding adjustment or expansions in the kindred's thew.

As in all things involving the Chieftain, success in his actions and decisions play a large role in the development of trust between the Chieftain and his kindred. A kindred will follow the decisions of a person who has shown great Luck in the past, and a kindred will continue to follow his decisions as his Luck holds, and as it grows.

It is completely false to think that a Chieftain can dictate whatever he wants to his kindred. A Chieftain is bound by thew, and must always actively consider thew when making decisions. To do otherwise reduces the trust between the Chieftain and his kindred, and will surely unbalance the reciprocal relationship between the kindred's members and its leadership. If the Chieftain is allowed to continue along this course, distrust and dissension will develop, disrupting the frith shared within the kindred. This in turn will negatively affect the collective Orlog and Luck of the kindred. If a Chieftain regularly acts in ways contrary to kindred thew, and overrides all attempts to challenge him regarding these actions, it is likely that he will be removed from his position or some or all of the kindred will walk away.

Mike Spires of the Hridgar Folk Kindred.


The strongest way for any group to move forward and accomplish something, is to move forward with a consensus of what to do, how to do it, and why you are doing it. Moving forward with a consensus means that everyone's ideas and opinions have been voiced, discussed, and evaluated. Having a consensus means that you have examined the way forward and discussed it to a point that everyone is in agreement with the plan. A consensus means the entire kindred has “bought in,” and will do their best to make the proposed plan of action succeed.

Consensus is completely different than majority rule. In majority rule, it is possible for half-the-kindred-plus-one to love the plan for moving forward, while half-the-kindred-minus-one does not like it at all. This can cause division within the kindred and result in a disruption of frith.

Consensus is also different from compromise. Compromise suggests that several courses of action were proposed, and discussions were held until such time as the kindred decides on a hybrid plan with bits and pieces of the opposing plans. There can be quite a lot of deal-making in compromise. “I'll agree to this thing I don't like, if you agree to this other thing that you don't like.” Often compromise can lead to a plan for moving forward that no one is particularly happy with.

Consensus is also completely different from having a dictator. If one person dictates and all the rest are just expected to follow, then you don't have everyone's input and ideas, and you have very little true “buy in” from the members of the kindred.

For consensus to work the kindred must share true frith, and the use of consensus further develops and deepens the feelings of frith between kindred members. The goal of having a consensus, is to talk about a course of action in a free and frithful way, until the best parts of everyone's ideas make it into the plan. The process also involves the exposure of flaws in the plan, and efforts as a group to adjust the plan to remove those flaws. The goal of building a consensus, is to develop a plan that everyone “buys into,” and values as a healthy way of moving forward. A plan based on consensus is almost always a better plan than any one person in the kindred could have developed on their own.

When the kindred faces a serious problem or a large disagreement exists within the kindred regarding how to move forward, it falls on the Chieftain more than any other member of the kindred, to move the kindred toward a consensus. Within a frithful kindred, the Chieftain should not spend all his time politicking for his own ideas or his own side of an issue. An inexperienced Chieftain will use the power of his position and the force of his personality to make things go “his way.” An experienced Chieftain listens to everyone's ideas, fully evaluates all the pluses and minuses, and then communicates a course of action that everyone can support and be excited about.

If the Chieftain wants to enact a new program for bringing in new members, or wants the kindred to host a new gathering, or wants to purchase something substantial with the kindred's money, it is not enough that he just dictate this new direction. When a Chieftain wants to takes his kindred in a new direction or wants the kindred to tackle a new project, it is the Chieftain's role to elicit suggestions and input from the kindred's membership, and to communicate his plan in such a way that a consensus successfully forms to move forward with the new idea.

An experienced Chieftain knows the thew of his kindred and he knows the members of his kindred very well. The Chieftain must look ahead to problems, challenges, or decisions that the kindred will likely face in the future, and works to build consensus and thew regarding these future problems, challenges, and decisions before they even occur. This ability to look forward and anticipate issues where a consensus among the kindred will be necessary to move forward, ensures the smooth operation of a kindred and reinforces the frith that they share.


Ultimately, a kindred's Chieftain is respected in that role by his people, based on his own Luck, knowledge, decision-making, and skill with dealing with the world. The need to build consensus within a group does not mean that a Chieftain does not make decisions. The need to build consensus with a group does not amount to some sort of “leadership by committee.” A Chieftain is constantly making decisions.

Based on the Chieftain's knowledge of his kindred and its thew, the Chieftain can make decisions without consulting with the kindred when he knows that his decision will be accepted as being within the kindred's thew. For example, if the same or similar situation has come up two times and both times the kindred handled it in the same way, the third time that situation comes up the Chieftain can simply handle it according to thew, and no one will question it. Actually the kindred will appreciate the fact that their Chieftain knows what to do in that situation in a decisive way, based on established thew.

In emergency or any situation where a decision must be made immediately or quickly, the Chieftain is expected to make a wise decision at that moment. The kindred will understand and appreciate their Chieftain being able to handle that situation quickly and wisely, without having to call a kindred-meeting or form a committee. It is for this very purpose that a kindred has chosen to recognize one of their own as Chieftain, and hopefully they have picked someone to fill that role that has the Luck to make good decisions under pressure.

Even for small details, the kindred will often look to the Chieftain for decisions. What time will dinner be served at an event? Who will set up tables and who will cook? What time are we leaving for a trip to visit another kindred? What time do we need to break camp and start packing up? Should we do our study group first and the faining later, or the faining first and study afterward? These decisions are not always made by the Chieftain, but there are times when the kindred simply looks to the Chieftain to make some easy decisions regarding what the kindred should be doing, and in what order we should be doing it. It is not that kindred members can't decide these things on their own. They are all strong and intelligent individuals with a will of their own. But there is a convenience and efficiency to having someone willing to make a quick decision about a small matter that affects the entire kindred. The last thing a kindred wants or needs is a full kindred discussion or a committee meeting to decide what time the kindred should start cooking dinner.

Another time that the Chieftain may have to take control and simply make a decision for the group, is in any situation where a decision must be made but the kindred cannot come to a consensus. If it is clear that no consensus can be found, but a decision must be made, the Chieftain must take everything into consideration and make the wisest decision possible. It is important that the kindred understand that this will sometimes be necessary, and trust in their Chieftain and support his final decision on such a matter. If the Chieftain is good at building consensus and everyone in the kindred approaches these discussions in a frithful manner, it should be fairly rare that the kindred cannot reach a consensus.

The Chieftain is constantly making decisions regarding what matters deserve priority, interactions with heathens outside the kindred and other kindreds, and regarding the basic internal operations of the kindred. He must know what is going on in the lives of his kindred members, and decide what actions he can take to advance them forward in their own lives, and collectively as a group. Good decisions and successful results help build Luck for the Chieftain and his kindred, and further develop and deepen the complexity of the kindred's thew.

Magni Thorsson of Mjolnir Kindred and Mark of JBK.


One way that a Chieftain serves as an example to his kindred, is in his work ethic. If the kindred sees the Chieftain working hard, they are more than willing to work hard by his side. If the Chieftain is working hard, and asks someone in the kindred to assist him or to take on the completion of some other important task, the direction given by the Chieftain will be welcome. Often, if the kindred sees the Chieftain working hard, they will busy themselves with work of their own out of obligation and loyalty to their Chieftain.

As an example, if at the end of a camping trip the Chieftain walks over and begins packing gear and loading it into the vehicles for the trip home, the rest of the kindred will also begin packing and loading their gear and the kindred's gear. The Chieftain doesn't even have to say a word. They follow his example, and they would feel shame to sit quietly off to the side while their Chieftain works alone.

As a contrary example, if the Chieftain hardly works at all, but instead sits on his rear constantly telling other people what to do, this can very quickly lead to resentment among the kindred's members. They will quickly recognize his laziness and either join in on the laziness or quickly develop anger at the work they are having to do on his behalf.

The Chieftain sets an example for his kindred in many areas besides his work ethic. It is true that as the Chieftain goes, the kindred goes. If the Chieftain is generous, honorable, works hard, shows frith towards everyone in the kindred, and has a strong sense of responsibility...this behavior sets a tone and expectations within the kindred that its members also be generous, honorable, work hard, show frith toward others in the kindred, and have a strong sense of responsibility. The opposite is true as well. If a Chieftain is stingy, dishonorable, lazy, disloyal, and has no sense of responsibility, then it is enormously likely that his kindred will eventually turn into a mirror image of their Chieftain's failings.

This happens in two ways. First, the Chieftain can set a tone within the kindred and inspire existing members to be the best they can be, or conversely the worst they can be. Secondly, a strong Chieftain of worth, will attract new people willing to join the kindred that are also strong and worthy. A weak and dishonorable Chieftain will by his nature, drive away every new person of worth that comes around the kindred.

When choosing a Chieftain for your kindred, consider the fact that within several years the kindred as a whole will very likely have many of the same qualities the Chieftain has, for good or ill. And if you serve in the role of Chieftain for your kindred, you must understand that your every action and decision will have an effect on the nature of your kindred.


To understand this portion of the essay, you must understand that Luck is something we earn. Our hard work, our knowledge, our skills at dealing with people, our ability to overcome hardship and conflict, our decision-making, and all that we accomplish honorably in this world is part of our Luck. Over time, the more successful one is the more Luck he/she gains. When something goes wrong, the Luck we have built can make the problem easier to overcome. When someone attacks us, the Luck we have built can turn their attack away. Our Luck encourages unanticipated positive events and opportunities to develop for us.

Collectively, the same things that constitute the Luck of an individual, can also be attributed to the Luck of a kindred. When a kindred performs great and honorable deeds, builds its collective knowledge and skills, and learns to work together in true frith, then they begin to build collective Luck. When something goes wrong, that Luck makes the problem easier to overcome. When someone attacks the kindred, the Luck they have built can turn the attack away. The collective Luck of the kindred encourages unanticipated positive events and opportunities to develop for the kindred and its members.

Our ancestors understood that the collective Luck of a group was held by its leader. It is simply common sense that this same concept is true and applicable today. If a kindred or tribe is led by a person who is knowledgeable, focused, makes good decisions, stable, a hard worker, knows how to work with others, and determined to succeed...the kindred or tribe will do well. It will experience Luck in its efforts in a positive way, and will be able to take advantage of all the positive opportunities for moving forward that are generated.

If a kindred or tribe is led by a person who is ignorant, unfocused, makes poor decisions, unstable, lazy, unable to work with others, or lacks determination...then the kindred or tribe will likely have no Luck at all. Many bad things will happen. When problems do occur the problems will be more difficult to overcome. The group will be so busy dealing with the problems their poor leader causes or allows to happen, that very few positive opportunities will come along, and even when they do, they will be squandered.

Without quality leadership, any group will have very little Luck. Individual members of the group can attempt to make up for this bad leadership, but they spend all their time essentially swimming upstream as long as the bad leadership remains in place. This not only goes for heathen kindreds and tribes. It is also true of heathen organizations, study groups, pubmoot efforts, and it is also true for groups outside of heathenry, like corporations, organizations, small businesses, charities, and clubs.

In order to effectively hold the Luck of their kindred, a Chieftain must have Luck of his own. He must know how to generate Luck, how to protect his Luck, and how to use his Luck. Having this knowledge personally in his own life, such a Chieftain knows what the kindred must do to generate Luck, protect its Luck, and how to use the kindred's Luck to its maximum benefit.

The Chieftain should also understand that a kindred that accepts Luckless individuals into its Innangarth, is putting its own collective Luck at risk, and a Chieftain should do what he can to avoid this.

Gregg Tharp of the Bifrost Bridge Kindred, Gunnar of Volkshof, and Mark of JBK.


The past deeds of an individual do have an effect on the opportunities and possibilities that come their way. This feature of individual Orlog, also plays a role in a kindred's combined Orlog. The past deeds of every individual in the kindred and the past deeds of the kindred itself do have an effect on the opportunities and possibilities that come the kindred's way.

As a consensus-builder and a decision-maker within the kindred, a Chieftain must always keep the kindred's combined Orlog in mind. What will be the results of the kindred's deeds and actions? Are these deeds and actions honorable? Are these deeds and actions pleasing to our Gods? Do these deeds and actions make our ancestors proud? Will these deeds and actions show the respect and consideration of the Vaettir that is due to them? How will these deeds and actions affect the kindred's Gefrain (reputation)?

The kindred's Thyle should work very closely with the Chieftain in this regard, and they should communicate regularly about such matters.

If the kindred appears to be moving toward a course of action that the Chieftain believes will be damaging to the kindred's Orlog, it is his obligation to communicate, convince, and build consensus that his judgement is correct. He must use everything in his power to steer the kindred away from this damaging course of action. If an individual member of the kindred is acting in such a way that it threatens to damage the kindred's Orlog, the Chieftain has an obligation to share rede with that individual and help them understand how they can correct that behavior or action. If the matter is serious enough, he may hold a meeting that involves the individual in question, the Chieftain, the Godhi, and the Thyle so that the rede of these trusted men can add weight to his own rede. And there are times when the entire kindred needs to be brought together, the matter discussed, and frithful decisions made.

The Chieftain must always be vigilant in judging the character and worth of those individuals and families that show an interest in joining the kindred or seeking to become a part of the Folk Community that exists around the kindred. There are those that through their actions would unintentionally, or even intentionally, damage the kindred's Orlog if they are allowed within its Innangarth.


The role of Chieftain outside of Symbel, is naturally reflected during Symbel as well. As Lord of the Hall, the Chieftain normally hosts formal Symbels and Symbels where non-kindred members and guests are present. For small kindred symbels at someone's home other than the Chieftain's home, the host may sometimes lead the Symbel. But not always. This is a decision made prior to such symbels, and is usually left to the preference of the host.

In formal Symbels and Symbels that include guests, the Chieftain works closely with the Lady of the Hall, the Thyle, the Godhi, the Valkyrie, and the Hall Wardens to ensure the Symbel goes well and brings Luck and Honor to all present. While the Valkyrie and Thyle have very specific roles during Symbel, the Lord of the Hall supports them in these roles and can and will step in if something appears to be going wrong. Since the Chieftain holds the kindred's Luck and protects its Orlog, it is ultimately his responsibility to ensure everyone performs their responsibilities during Symbel and that everything occurs as it should.


As the kindred's Chieftain, many outside the kindred will associate the kindred closely with its leader. For Jotun's Bane Kindred, the Chieftain handles many of the administrative matters concerning events, gatherings, or other efforts with which the kindred is involved. For this reason, the Chieftain often serves as the spokesperson for the kindred. This tends to reinforce the association between the kindred and its Chieftain.

At events and gatherings that the kindred is hosting, ultimately the Chieftain is the host. The Chieftain usually welcomes the guests, lets them know what will be happening at the event, and guides everyone through the scheduled activities. If something goes wrong at the event, the Chieftain is always informed, and ensures the problem is quickly and quietly rectified, either by himself or at his direction. Even if a problem is immediately handled by a kindred member, the Chieftain is normally informed what went wrong and how it was corrected.

At such an event or gathering, it is ultimately the Chieftain's responsibility that things go as smoothly as possible, that the event is meaningful and successful, and that the guests feel welcome and leave the event pleased they chose to attend. In these situations, the Chieftain should attempt to greet and talk with everyone in attendance, and get to know them. This role as host tends to reinforce the association between the kindred and its Chieftain.

The Chieftain must never forget that without his kindred, he is essentially nothing, and certainly not a Chieftain. Rather than reacting to the attention given him with arrogance and a sense of entitlement, a Chieftain should be generous and friendly. He should advance his men and women forward, giving them credit for their good work and accomplishments, and never forgetting that everything they achieve as a kindred is a group-effort, accomplished through frithful and collective effort. It is natural that the Chieftain is often seen as the Face of the Kindred, or that the Chieftain should sometimes receive praise that might be better directed at his entire kindred. In those moments, it is important the Chieftain be generous and give credit to everyone that works to make the kindred successful.

In turn, the kindred must remember the enormous burden of responsibility that is often placed upon the Chieftain, and should be understanding that there will be times that outside people will closely associate a kindred with its Chieftain, and further associate the kindred's successes with he who bears the burden of the kindred's oath-ring.

David Ballard of Bifrost Way Kindred, Dan B-E of Winterhof Kindred, Gunnar of Volkshof, Mark of JBK, Ralph of Tyr's Helm, Mike of Hridgar Folk, Gregg of Bifrost Bridge, and Biarki of Third Raven Kindred.


Every kindred members has unique skills and specific knowledge that no one else in the kindred has. Over time, members of the kindred take on various roles of responsibility at which they are best. There may be one or two kindred members that are very good at organizing a kitchen and getting a large meal prepared. There may be one of two kindred members that are very good at starting need-fires and tending to campfires. There may be kindred members that are good at teaching, carving, keeping the bank account in order, playing music, working with children, and this list could go on and on. One of the most important things a Chieftain must learn to do, is to step back and let other kindred members do what they do best. He can support them. He can roll up his sleeves and help them. But, as important as the role of the Chieftain can be, it is not all about the Chieftain. What is paramount is knowing when to step back into the crowd and simply allow your frithful kindred to work like a well-oiled machine.

A Chieftain must also know when to delegate and direct others to get things done as efficiently and effectively as possible. A Chieftain can't do everything himself, and must give responsibilities and tasks to others to perform. The Chieftain must know the capabilities of his kindred's members, and know who he can trust to successfully perform specific tasks. Once a kindred member has proven their ability to fulfill certain responsibilities successfully, the Chieftain must rely on that member to do their job without micro-managing them or interfering with their work.

Part of the Chieftain's role as a facilitator, is helping newer members find their “place” or their role in the kindred. New members to a group must go through a process of “settling-in,” and part of that process for the new member is to figure out where they fit best into the kindred. Sometimes it takes some time to figure out what unique skills or specific knowledge they bring to the table. The Chieftain can give advice on this and help new members find their specific roles within the kindred.

A frithful kindred or tribe is more than the sum of its parts, but the successes of each individual member do play a role in the success, Luck, and Gefrain of the kindred as a whole. The concept of frith suggests that what one kindred member has done, the whole kindred has done – and what the kindred does as a whole, each individual member has done. Toward this end, a Chieftain must support and facilitate the growth and success of each individual member of his kindred. A Chieftain should encourage, support, and allow the individual members of his kindred to grow and become the absolutely best and most honorable people they can be. There are times when individual members of the kindred will get a lot of attention for their great deeds, and a Chieftain should celebrate this and even do what he can to give that individual member the spotlight they deserve.


Our ancestors believed that when you asked for advice from a man of Luck, that the rede you received contained some of that man's Luck. If you followed the rede given by a Chieftain or the King, then the Luck of that rede was likely to bring you success. In very practical terms, this makes complete sense. When you require advice about a business matter would you rather ask someone has built and operated a successful business or a guy who has run three businesses into bankruptcy? When you require advice about your marriage or your children would you rather ask a happy and successful family-man, or a guy who has been divorced twice and never sees his kids? When you require advice about interpersonal relationships would you rather ask someone who deals well with people and who is well-liked and respected by many friends or a guy who seems to eventually anger and drive away everyone with whom he interacts?

If the kindred has chosen their Chieftain well, then the kindred as a whole will benefit from his rede on important matters and decisions that must be made. In addition, individual kindred members may seek rede from their Chieftain regarding matters within their own families and in their own lives. Kindred members may even ask the Chieftain about how to resolve a problem they are having with someone in the kindred. It is possible that heathens involved in the Folk Community surrounding the kindred, or even heathens from around the region, may ask for rede from a Chieftain who is considered to be a man of great Luck.

If a Chieftain's rede is good and leads others to success, then his Gefrain as a giver of rede will grow.

Some of Jotun's Bane Kindred...


It is said that a good Chieftain is the poorest among his men. It is a high compliment to say that a Chieftain is a “gold-hater,” as it illustrates the Chieftain's generosity.

If someone in the kindred needs money or food, the Chieftain should be the first to give what he can to help. If someone in the kindred is facing a serious problem, the Chieftain should be the first to give advice, take action to help solve it, or to fight by their side to make things right. If someone tries something and fails, the Chieftain should be the first to pick them up, dust them off, and be available to give them rede should they require it.

A Chieftain should be generous with is money, his skills, his time, his energy, his effort, his concern, his rede, his Luck, and his love. He should be willing to give all that he has for his family and his tribe. He should work tirelessly to advance his kindred forward as a whole and to advance forward in life every individual member of his kindred.

Often, those that deride the idea of kindreds needing leaders, will suggest an image of the arrogant Chieftain, dictating orders, while he sits back doing nothing, and enjoying some sort of power-trip over others. This is the exact opposite of true leadership.

Some would suggest the image of the selfish Chieftain, hoarding the kindred's assets and all the goods and money generated by the work of the kindred. Pushing himself out in front on the backs of the kindred's members, taking full and complete credit for all his kindred has done. This too is the exact opposite of true leadership.

A heathen Chieftain is the first to get to work – and the last to stop and rest. A heathen Chieftain sees his role within the kindred as a responsibility to those he values and cares most about in the world. A heathen Chieftain leads by example, and not by making others do his work. A heathen Chieftain is bound by his kindred's thew, not someone who can do whatever he wants, any way he wants, whenever he wants. A heathen Chieftain is generous and sharing with both the tangible and intangible results of the kindred's hard work.


The Chieftain works closely with everyone in the kindred, but he must work even more closely with the other kindred members that hold positions of responsibility within the kindred, such as the Godhi, the Thyle, and the Valkyrie. He must be able to inherently trust the people who serve in these positions. He must communicate with them regularly, and be able to do so in a direct and straight forward manner. There are times that the responsibilities of these other roles will intersect, or even overlap, with the responsibilities of the Chieftain. And so it is important that all of their efforts are coordinated as efficiently and effectively as possible. As trusted Thanes of the Chieftain, these other leadership roles have a responsibility to support and protect their Chieftain from the actions of others that may intentionally or unintentionally hurt or diminish their Chieftain, and thus hurt or diminish the kindred.

The kindred's Godhi gives rede to the Chieftain, which the Chieftain then evaluates, and decides what is to be done, what priority should be given to it, and when and how to do it. If the Godhi says that the kindred would benefit spiritually by accomplishing A, B, and C, it is the Chieftain's role to build consensus within the kindred regarding whether A, B, or C will be worked on, when that work should be scheduled, what will be needed to accomplish the work, etc. In the simplest terms, there are times that the Godhi may say where the kindred needs to go, but it is the Chieftain who decides when to begin, who is going, and how to get there. The Godhi serves as an adviser to the Chieftain, and it is drastically important that the Chieftain and Godhi work together well.

The kindred's Thyle knows and maintains the Thew of the kindred, and plays a major role in safeguarding the kindred's Orlog. So, there are many areas of responsibility where the Thyle and Chieftain work together. This redundancy is intentional, because these responsibilities are enormously important to the stability and strength of the kindred. While the Thyle plays an important role in judging oaths that are made and ensuring that sufficient Shyld is offered in case there would be a failure in fulfilling the oath, it is the Chieftain in our kindred that wears our kindred's oath-ring. The Chieftain literally holds the oaths made on that ring, including each member's kindred oath.

The kindred's Thyle also serves as a safeguard, and should be free to privately challenge the kindred's Chieftain should it appear that he is on the wrong course or making decisions that will negatively affect the kindred's Orlog. Depending on the seriousness of the situation and the degree to which the Chieftain may be acting outside the kindred's Thew, it may be appropriate for the Thyle to challenge the Chieftain before the kindred, and ask him to explain and justify his actions, so the matter can be worked through and resolved.

Both inside and outside of Symbel, the Chieftain and Valkyrie must work well together. During Symbel the Valkyrie is walking among the guests, safeguarding the horn (well) and will often become aware of a problem or a potential problem long before the Chieftain, the Thyle, or the Hall Wardens are aware of it. The Chieftain and Thyle must watch the Valkyrie closely, and respond appropriately when she requires assistance from them or the Hall Wardens. Away from Symbel, the Valkyrie serves as a trusted adviser to the Chieftain, and helps to watch his back in all matters.


As the Chieftain goes, the kindred goes. A good leader understands and accepts that he is bound by thew more than any other member of the kindred. He will work to be a consensus-builder and he will lead by example. He will make decisions that protect and build the collective Luck of the kindred, and is always mindful of safeguarding the kindred's Orlog. He must work well with everyone in his kindred, and especially those who also hold positions of responsibility. As Lord of the Hall, he should be known for his hospitality, generosity, and honor. A Chieftain must never forget that his words, decisions, and deeds directly impact to what degree his kindred and its members will succeed and prosper in this life. His reciprocal relationship with the members of his kindred, is a position of responsibility bestowed upon him by his kindred. A Chieftain with little Luck, damaged Orlog, or who does not show love and generosity toward the members of his kindred or tribe...will not long be their Chieftain.

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

NOTE:  I chose just a selection of photos of Chieftains here in the Midwest, there were 23 kindreds represented at Lightning Across the Plains 2010, so it would be difficult to share pictures of all of them.  :-)

Raising Up Strong Heathen Children

I do think it is a parent's responsibility to teach their child about their religion. I think the idea that a parent will not share their religion with their child and will instead “let them figure it out on their own” is somewhat harmful. Children need to be taught spiritual beliefs in the same way they are taught how to behave in public.

Joshua (5) is a rough-and-tumble kid who brings up the Gods and Goddesses quite a bit.

If you do not teach your children about spirituality, the Gods, their Ancestors, and the way to live their lives in relation to the divine – then someone else most certainly will. If you do not teach your children your belief system as the basis for which they live good and honorable lives – then someone else most certainly will.

It might be their classmate, their Uncle Bob, their first girlfriend or boyfriend, or even some television show. But, when we leave a spiritual hole or emptiness in our children, they will find someone willing to fill that hole. When that happens, you will have very little input or control regarding how they fill that emptiness.

Nathan (10) has begun helping with tasks during our Fainings, and is beginning to show an interest in toasting during Symbel.

Some will say that teaching your child about your spirituality or belief system, is somehow “forcing them into a religion.” I believe that much of this reaction is based on negative experiences with being forced to go to Christian church or being forced to pray as a child. It is not about “forcing” your children to do or believe anything. It is about communicating, sharing, explaining, and letting them know what you believe.

I know that if I do not teach my kids about heathenry, no one will. I reached the age of 37 or so, without even HEARING of heathenry. I had no idea heathenry even existed.

Heathens describe being drawn back to our Folksoul. Heathens talk about the Gods calling us back to our native Folkway. But, our ancestors taught their children our Folkway from the day they were born. They did not remain mute about their Gods and Ancestors, and just let the Gods call their children when it was time. Our ancestors shared their culture directly with their children all through their lives. It should be no different for us as modern heathen parents.

Elizabeth (8) has a keen interest in her Ancestors and our house wight, and will also toast during Symbel.

We live in a world and culture with an immense amount of Christian pressures and indoctrination. There is also all this pressure from Science, which in many ways encourages a strong agnostic or atheist point of view. If we do not teach and share heathenry with our children, there is an immensely high chance that they will end up Christian or Agnostic. Having been Agnostic for 25-plus years, I can attest that it gave me a very empty and cold feeling about the world. I do not want that for my children.

If you are a parent and you are new to heathenry, take your time. Work your comfort level up, while also improving your own understanding of our native Folkway. When the time is right, share with your children the wonders of the world that you now know. Our Gods are amazingly inspiring, and your chlidren deserve to have that inspiration in their lives. Our Ancestors are an amazing foundation, and your children deserve to have that foundation in their lives. The Vaettir are a wonder all about us, and your children deserve to have that wonder in their lives...

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Your Ancestors Were Heathen...

This essay is written for those that know very little about Asatru or Heathenry, or perhaps have not even heard of it.

It is a simple question, really.  Did your family come to America from Northern Europe...or do you have Northern European Ancestry?  Well, if you do...then your ancestors were "Heathens."

Many people with Northern European ancestry do not realize that the original religion of our People and our ancient culture was not Christianity.  If you go back a 1000 years or more, prior to the conversions to Christianity in Europe, our ancestors had their own native Folk Religion that was rich and meaningful in their lives.

Our People honored their own Gods and Goddesses, their ancestors, and the spirits in nature.  These original Heathens were the pre-Christian Northern European peoples who lived in the lands around what is now called the North Sea.  These included the people of Anglo-Saxon England, Scandinavia, and other areas of Northern Europe.

Some of our ancestors were convinced to convert to Christianity by missionaries.  Some were coerced into converting, based on threats of physical violence.  Others converted due to political or economic pressures brought on them by Christians.  And some of our ancestors were killed, because they refused to give up the Ways of their People.


If you are just hearing about Heathenry, then you are very likely thinking, "But isn't the word Heathen a word for a bad person?"

Well, it is true that Christians frequently use it this way.  The word "heathen" refers to people who don't worship the Christian God or follow the Christian religion.  The historical origin of this use of the word "Heathen" is pretty interesting.

The word "Heathen" comes from the fact that the country people (those living on the heath), honored the old gods for centuries after the city-dwellers were already converted to Christianity.

This is why "heathen" is a bad word in Christianity. The missionaries and preachers in the cities would rail against the "heathen" (those living out in the heath), that still honored the old gods.  But we embrace the term, for we are proud of those ancestors that resisted the conversion to a foreign religion, and who remained loyal to the Gods and the Ways of our People.

Another word commonly used for heathenry is Asatru, meaning "loyalty to the gods." Though, Asatru is normally used to refer to a more Icelandic influenced heathenry, while the word heathenry itself is a broader term encompassing those focusing on the Icelandic, the Anglo-Saxon, the Frankish, etc.

Our Heathen ancestors did not refer to themselves as "Heathen" or "Asatru."  It is believed they did not have a name for their religion, and simply called it their Way.


So many modern Americans are dissatisfied with their religious options.  Many of the descendants of our Heathen ancestors have become dissatisfied with Christianity.  Modern Heathens would make the point, that much of this dissatisfaction comes from the fact that Christianity did not originate with our People.  It is a foreign religion that was relentlessly pushed on our Ancestors, until our native Folkway was suppressed or destroyed among our People.

Modern Heathens around the world are reviving the Ways of our Ancestors, and find that the religion of our Ancestors is truly satisfying and feels "like coming home."  Heathenry is very family and community-oriented, and encourages us to live responsible lives of loyalty and honor.  A person's word matters greatly, and each person is judged by his/her choices and actions.  The Ways of our Ancestors are life-fulfilling and natural to who we are and how we think, and they work to strengthen and enrich our lives.

You will hear modern Heathenry called many things by the people who practice it.  You may hear it called  Asatru, the Northern Tradition, Odinism, Forn Sed, Germanic Pagan Reconstructionism or, simply, Heathenry. In Iceland, which did not convert to Christianity until the 11th Century, Heathenry has once again become an official (nationally recognized) religion.  There are growing numbers of Heathens and Heathen groups across the United States, and that growth seems to be accelerating as more and more people tire of the foreign religions.  


If you have found yourself dissatisfied with Christianity and organized religion, take a little bit of time to look into modern Heathenry.  When your heathen ancestors were pestered, coerced, or forced into giving up the Ways of the People, I have to imagine that they wondered if years down the line their descendants would again return to their true religion and way of life.  As someone who has returned to the religion of my Ancestors, it is hard to describe how much it has improved my life.  In the end, it is something you have to look into yourself and explore whether it makes sense for you.

A good starting place to learn more, is this Heathen FAQ.  Reading through all the topics there will give you some idea of what heathenry is all about:

And for some basic information on Heathenry and how to start and maintain a Heathen group (normally called a kindred), you might want to read this book which is available as a free download or in paperback and hardback versions:


Unless your ancestors were Middle Eastern, they weren't originally Christian.  Even early Christianity sprang from a Folk religion...the Folk religion of the Jewish people.  There are Folk religions in all parts of the world, and each cultural or ethnic group had a way of life, a belief system, a world-view, and an approach to religion that was native to that People.  If you feel very little connection with Christianity, it may be worth taking a little bit of time to research and learn more about the original religion of your ancestors, prior to the Christian conversions.  It is enormously healthy and rewarding when you return "home" to the native religion of your People.

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods