More Than Apples, We Need Frith

I ache to experience it. And I long for a kindred where frith is central. It seems in short supply in my own family.


From the Urban Dictionary entry for Frith:

Frith is an Old English word that means Peace and Freedom; but means so much more. It is an important concept in the religion of Asatru. It might be described as a combination of loyalty, honor, hospitality, and support. It is the obligation to one’s community, friends, and family to consider their welfare in your actions, and not to set out to harm them.

[And this example which shows the use of the word] Our forebears valued frith almost more than anything else.


But why do I say we need “more than apples?” What do apples have to do with anything?

Ilja_Jefimowitsch_Repin_002
Ilja Repin, Apples and Leaves, 1879.

I recently watched an extremely sad documentary, God Knows Where I Am, the story of Linda Bishop, a woman in her early 60s struggling with severe mental illness who ends up living on rainwater, snow melt, and apples for four months, during an extremely severe winter in New Hampshire, with no power, no running water. She broke into an unoccupied farmhouse for shelter and eventually starved to death as the apples ran out. She kept a journal until she was too weak to write.

Apples were essential to Linda. And that apple tree was probably the only bright and generous being in her universe, during those last months of her life. It feed her through most of the winter until all the apples were gone. The apples were essential to her survival, but that fabled milk of human kindness was more important yet, and of that, there was none.

This poor woman was not miles away from nowhere. There were neighbors just across the street. People drove past this unoccupied farmhouse every day. You cannot tell me that no one in that neighborhood ever saw this woman wandering to the nearby stream or the apple tree, while the weather still permitted. Or that they never saw her in the attic window where she looked out upon the world and read the cast off books she’d found there.

What kind of people, what kind of society would allow this woman (and others) to live and die in such a manner?

A people without frith, that’s what.

I imagine that Linda–as a mentally ill woman–had been rebuffed, scorned, and mistreated enough so that she was unable to reach out to other humans, even as her situation became dire. Yes, she dreamt of rescue by an imaginary lover, but when he did not appear by Christmas, she seems to have given up hope.

Remember that quote from Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire? She says, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” This is her last line as she’s carted off to an institution after having been abused and raped by her brother-in-law. Linda Bishop had probably given up on any expectations of “kind strangers.” She was clearly afraid of people and there may have been a good reason for that.

We all hope that acts of violent abuse are at the further end of the spectrum of human cruelty and we hope that they are rare. But great damage can be done, especially to someone who is vulnerable, by an sequence of dismissive, uncaring, or callous actions. Put-downs, dismissals, writing someone off, not listening or paying attention to the emotional truth at the core of a confused narrative–such things can lead a person to back off from the hope of kindness from others. In fact, it hurts too much to hope!

But if there were a greater emphasis, in all of us, on cultivating and enacting social values such as the kind contained by the word “frith”–loyalty, honor, hospitality, peace, support, freedom (with responsibility)–perhaps fewer people would fall through the cracks and perhaps more people would feel they had a respected and dignified place at the community “table,” even if they were damaged, broken, or had been cast off or cast out in some way (too old, too disabled, too poor, too whatever else). For me, frith has a resonance with “aloha,” a word that means much more than just “love” or “good-bye” in ‘Olelo Hawai’i (Hawaiian language).

It would seem to make common sense that in order to receive frith, you would have to extend it to others–and so I do. But that only works when there is a shared set of values, the possibility of reciprocity. Otherwise, all such efforts may be doomed.

And so I ask, where are those who are doing their best to inclusively (as in The Troth, Heathens Against Hate, and various stray Lokeans) live by frith, to establish and cherish familial and chosen kindred? And is there anyone out there in these here parts? And can I have some of what you’re having too?

Apples, I’ve got.

I can share.

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Declaration 127-A Stand Against Hate

A few years ago, “180 organizations in over 20 different nations” created a repudiation of the Asatru Folk Assembly’s (AFA) policies of discrimination against people of color and LGBTQIA people. Read about this here, at Huginn’s Heathen Hof, which sponsored the Declaration. After the specific language concerning the AFA, the following paragraph is relevant and significant.


“…We hereby declare that we do not condone hatred or discrimination carried out in the name of our religion, and will no longer associate with those who do. We will not grant the tacit approval of silence in the name of frið, to those who would use our traditions to justify prejudice on the basis of race, nationality, orientation, or gender identity.”


D127stickerBNow, because this Declaration 127 was written and then signed by a number of Heathen and Asatru, or otherwise Norse or Northern-identified spiritual groups and people, a denunciation of discrimination against people of other religions wasn’t included. That’s because this was a statement of acceptance of all people wanting in, not all people in general, but I like to think that the general principles of inclusivity and non-discrimination are implied in Declaration 127 and that solidarity with people of all religions is therefore also implied.

That’s a terribly important point to ponder. As are critiques of Declaration 127 which “does not go far enough,” as Snoof Madrune Obline blogged in 2016. We need actions as well as “dissociation.”

Even so, yesterday I signed Declaration 127 as an individual, and also in the name of the Lokabrenna Tiny Temple. I am a member of The Troth and am in the Heathens Against Hate Facebook group, but in my mind, my signing Declaration 127 puts ME on notice that I’d better step up my game. My statement below doesn’t mean that I now get to sit back, satisfied that I’ve done my share in “speaking out.”


I, Amy R. Marsh and the Lokabrenna Tiny Temple, fully support Declaration 127 and am completely opposed, now and forever, to racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, discrimination against immigrants, and all other barbaric superstitions and acts of injustice, violence and hate.


These times are too dire. And people are dying–have been dying for decades, centuries!–as a result of (1) acts of violence and (2) acts of complacency.

There’s a lot to unpack here. I can’t do it in one blog. What I can offer, and it is a poor, outdated document at best, is the Real Zombie Apocalypse Resistance Handbook which is chock full ‘o links to good organizations to support. I did it in the first month after the 2016 election, and though I meant to make monthly updates, I just…couldn’t…keep up… with all the atrocious developments in the new…regime. But go there, find even more organizations to support as you (and I) gather our remaining strength and wits, leverage our community ties, and try to figure out how to stop this horrific slide into utter, reactionary, barbaric fascism.

1. Resistance Handbook – First Issue

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