FRITH : from Old English friþ, friþu (“peace, tranquility, security, refuge”), from Proto-West Germanic *friþu, from Proto-Germanic *friþuz (“peace, reconciliation”), from Proto-Indo-European *priHós (“beloved, happy”).
A women weaves between the feasting tables. She holds the Symbel horn aloft. She is tending to the frith. Bestowing honour as she moves from oath-maker to oath-maker. She is nurturing clan, practicing the alchemy of diplomacy and the art of ritual. She is of pure gold. Bedecked in riches and shining with the inner fire of a Queen. Her magic is such that the people do not see her shadow. Her loneliness. The life she gave up to knit clan with clan. Uprooted from her land and bound to a people she does not know or understand. It is her role to shine, to walk unwavering. Her presence is not gentle, it is fierce. She knows the cost of the peace.
Another woman now. Striding alone across the bridge of the Gods. She is of ice and rock but fire burns in her heart and her eyes. She will not be cowed though she stands in the presence of those who have slaughtered her kinsfolk. She will meet their power, no, she will exceed it. Her presence is not humble, it is implacable. She will not concede until they have embraced her, raised her up, made her one of them. She knows the cost of peace.
I turned to the Goddesses Freyja and Skadi to understand the mysteries of frith. The golden Vanr who walks amongst the Aesir and the fierce giantess who was also made welcome in their Halls. Beneath the fire they allowed me to glimpse the vulnerability, the existence on a knife edge, the knowledge of the cost. For in the time when the Gods walked the earth the art of frith was fierce and forceful. It had to be. No tribe could afford insurrection. No chieftain could afford to show weakness. Those without frith were alone, in the cold and unprotected. The frith within the tribe was all-consuming and unquestioning. The fragile peace between tribes was preserved through marriage, fostering, hostage exchange and strict rules of tribute and vengeance.
In the Hearthspace last month we explored Frith. I deepened my own reading and found articles both for and very much against ‘frith’. The voices against were strong and compelling. Frith creates the ‘other’, the ‘enemy’ and the ‘outsider’. It demands conformity, loyalty and vengeance for wrongs against ones tribe. It demands that we turn our backs on those outside the clan in exchange for a type of belonging and safety that us human animals crave. So we asked the question in our Hearthspace. Does Frith still have a place? The richness of our discussion prompted me to conclude that, yes it does. Friendship, freedom, fealty. These are values that remain current, relevant and precious. Frith formed them and, if nothing else, it has wisdom to offer. But, even more than that we sensed the beauty behind the ideal of Frith. Something offered by these ancient goddesses who laid the trail for countless humans to follow. Here is what they has whispered (so far):
Those who possess Frith have a responsibility to tend it for others. We were once the trail-blazers, the lonely weavers stitching together tribes who seldom mixed and felt no desire to merge with the other. We preserved the fragile peace like seamstresses bonding fragments of cloth. Our work and our way was necessary to survival. Need unmet breaks the frith.
In this new world every human has the potential to weave the frith. To take a fierce and committed stand for peace across the tribes. We all deserve a place to belong to, an existence that feels safe. And for many in the human tribe this is now the reality of your existence. You possess the Frith and this gift must be re-paid. The frith-weaver looks both inwards and outwards. Inwards to find the shadows of the heart that maintain prejudice, fear and inaction. Outwards to understand and tend to the sharp needs and deep longings in the hearts of all the human tribes. Need unmet breaks the frith.
The light, the fire, the unquenchable spirit. The spirit of the frith is the flame, not the laws and conventions built to preserve it. Frith is not born of fear, but of curiosity to know, to connect, to laugh and to love.