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Trúlög: Northern Truisms

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76. Cattle die, and kinsmen die,
And so one dies one's self;
But a noble name will never die,
If good renown one gets.
77. Cattle die,             and kinsmen die,
And so one dies one's self;
One thing I know              that never dies,
The fame of a dead man's deeds.
(Havamal 76-77)

Each of us all must his end abide
in the ways of the world; so win who may
glory ere death! When his days are told,
that is the warrior's worthiest doom.
(Beowulf 21)


The quest for a noble and good name is one that runs through Northern European culture like life blood. Gold is a fleeting friend, health must, by necessity of nature, flee eventually, but the one thing our Northern European ancestors knew to be eternal was a good name. Standing stones all over Northern Europe give still, after a thousand years, testimony of the good names of men and women of the North. The Sagas, one of the greatest literary treasures the world has known, records the good names of men and women. In H. Halliday Sparling's introduction to what is arguably the greatest of the Northern Sagas, Volsunga Saga, Sparling says,:

It is, however, becoming ever clearer, and to an increasing number, how supremely important is Icelandic as a word-hoard to the English- speaking peoples, and that in its legend, song, and story there is a very mine of noble and pleasant beauty and high manhood.” (VS, Introduction)

This “mine of noble and pleasant beauty and high manhood” (and womanhood) is the basis of Trúlög. The word Trúlög comes from the Old Norse words, trú – 'true or loyal' and lög – 'law', literally “true law.” So, then, is Trúlög a set of commandments handed down from on high; in affect, dogma? No, it is certainly not that. We would call Trúlög, an examination of Northern Ethics or more accurately, Northern Truisms. So Trúlög is not a set of commandments nor is it dogma. What we believe Trúlög to be is an ideal to be striven for. We believe that these virtues were, by our ancestors, considered praiseworthy in a man or woman of honor; virtues that would bring a person a good name.

So it is our desire not to do away with the Nine Noble Virtues (NNV) but instead to take the next step; to go the next level. Like the NNV, Trúlög will only prove its worth when it is applied to our daily lives. If it is indeed a true reflection of Northern ethics then when it is applied to our daily lives, it will reap results. So in the end, it will be you, the reader, who will prove or disprove the worth of Trúlög.

“He knows most who most has tried.” (Sögumál 22)

What I can say from my own experience is that when I have lived up to the ideal, here outlined, I have gained from it. When I have failed to live up to the ideal, I have likewise paid the price.

It has been my desire in the completion of this article to use as few of my own words as possible and let our Northern European ancestors speak for themselves as to what they felt was worthy of praise. For that reason you will see quite a few quotes, and it is these quotes that make up the bulk of this article.


The outstanding feature of Northern tradition is its somewhat unique form of society, based on gifting. The intimate understanding of exchange, in its many facets, forms and levels, was what made up the basic core of custom in early times. Personal orlog, or 'forward law', ordained behavior to the extent that the universal law of 'what thee give so shall thee receive', a fundamental common to nearly every tribal tradition in every world. It was an impelling force, molding behavior and ethics from the personal level right up to the highest structure of society. What was owned by the common unit of society was warded by its leaders, shared out fairly to all, and in times of plenty, divided amongst the population.

Such commonality of wealth and purpose led to traits such as moderation being highly esteemed. Squander of resources harmed all, misuse of goods or services was felt by all. Northfolk found praise in being moderate in speech, speaking of 'wisdom', the taking in of drink and food, acceptance of gifts, and in gifting over much itself, to others, the ancestors and even the Elder Kin. One may take the following passages as metaphors as well as literally:

12. A better burden             may no man bear
For wanderings wide than wisdom;
Worse food for the journey             he brings not afield
Than an over-drinking of ale.
13. Less good there lies             than most believe
In ale for mortal men;
For the more he drinks the less does man
Of his mind the mastery hold.
14. Over beer the bird             of forgetfulness broods,
And steals the minds of men;
With the heron's feathers             fettered I lay
And in Gunnloth's house was held.
15. Drunk I was,             I was dead-drunk,
When with Fjalar wise I was:
'Tis the best of drinking if back one brings,
His wisdom with him home.
(Havamal 12-15)

21.The greedy man,             if his mind be vague,
Will eat till such he is;
The vulgar man,              when among the wise,
To scorn by his belly is brought. (Havamal 21)

22.The herds know well             when home they shall fare,
And then from the grass they go;
But the foolish man             his belly's measure
Shall never know aright. (Havamal 22)

29. Then sixth I rede thee,

 if men shall wrangle,
And ale-talk rise to wrath,
No words with a drunken

 warrior have,
For wine steals many men's wits.
30. Brawls and ale

 full oft have been
An ill to many a man,
Death for some,

 and sorrow for some;
Full many the woes of men. (Sigdrifumal 29-30)

The examples of praises for generosity in the lore are so numerous that there are few Northern virtues that can equal it in number of times mentioned except perhaps courage. Anyone who takes the time to read the sagas will find quickly that generosity was a quality that brought a person a good name. The following quotes are but a fraction of examples of generosity being praised in a person that you would find in the sagas.

“King Hring was a wise and popular man; generous with his wealth and the greatest of warriors. They (King Hring and Queen Sigrid) had a son named Sigurd. He was the most handsome of all men and best equipped for great achievements; cheerful with his friends, liberal with wealth, but fierce to his foes.” (The Saga of Illugi . c. 1)

“Sigurd the earl was an open-handed man, who did what was very much celebrated; namely, he made a great sacrifice festival at Hlader of which he paid all the expenses.” (The Saga of Hakon the Good, c.16)

“Grim thanked him for these words, and said he could never have thought of asking for as much as he offered. At parting Thorkell gave to Grim a goodly deal of merchandise, and many men said that this deed bore the stamp of a great man.” (Laxdaela Saga, c.58)

“Olaf gave great gifts to all the chief men who came. Olaf was considered to have gained in renown by this feast.” (Laxdaela Saga, c.29)

“Gunnar gave many men gifts, and that made him much liked.” (Njal's Saga, c.34)

“About this time Geirrid, sister of Geirrod of Eyr, came to Iceland, and Geirrod granted her land at Borgardale, west of Alfta Fjord. She built a hall right across the main road, and every traveler was expected to pass through it. In the hall stood a table always laden with food which all were welcome to share, and for this people thought her the finest of women.” (ES, c.8)

“Then they bore him over to ocean's billow,
loving clansmen, as late he charged them,
while wielded words the winsome Scyld,
the leader beloved who long had ruled....
In the roadstead rocked a ring-dight vessel,
ice-flecked, outbound, atheling's barge:
there laid they down their darling lord
on the breast of the boat, the breaker-of-rings,
by the mast the mighty one.” (Beowulf, prelude)

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