A month for Freyr: day 11

To sum up yesterday’s post (I get the feeling it might have been confusing), friðr doesn’t simply mean peace as opposed to war. It means protection and social peace as opposed to feuding and the breakdown of family or communal bonds. Hence the toast to Njord and Frey for ár ok friðr, good crops and “peace”, makes perfect sense: society cannot thrive if it doesn’t have order, individuals cannot prosper if they’re not safe. What Ingui grants is a state of things where people have bonds of mutual assistance and cannot be harmed with impunity. It’s a legal side of Him and one in tune with life in a family and community.

If people are harmed, then that calls for a healing process that may include penalties. In the old days, if someone was injured or murdered a compensation had to be paid to the relatives of the victim. Though it did not always work, this was nonetheless a way of solving the matter without falling in a perpetual cycle of vengeance. And it’s also a form of legal or formal justice, contained and rational, as opposed to lynching or personal vendetta, which can easily degenerate into chaos. Again, friðr is not about peace as opposed to war, but communal peace as opposed to feuding. Of course, maintaining friðr may require violence: law enforcement sometimes calls for aggressiveness (ask any policie officer) and, in the old days, quarrels could be settled through dueling. But this is controlled violence, for it has limits and rules: a police officer cannot legally kill or beat someone freely; an old duel could take place within an area called hólmgöngustaðir and under the assumption that the result would settle things and end the quarrel. This assumption was reinforced by the quasi-sacred nature of the fight, since the hólmgöngustaðir was marked out in the same fashion as hallowed ground or friðgarðr. An extreme decision, however, would have been to declare someone an outlaw, in which case that person could be killed with impunity because he/she was outside of the law, i.e., excluded from a state of friðr or protection.

This impacts Ingui-Frey’s roles in several ways. First and foremost, it makes Him a god of the family and adds to His household aspect. Not in the conservative, family-values kind of way, but in the sense of bonds of blood, marriage or adoption that include a mutual obligation to help and protect, regardless of gender and sexual orientation. It may even include animals as an extended household, be they pets that are under your care or cattle that should be treated well. What’s true to family relations is equally valid for communities. A society needs rules and laws that bind people together in friðr or bonds of mutual assistance and respect. Otherwise, it’s just a loose association of individuals with no common tools and therefore no common good. And whatever problems that society has it needs to address them within the legal limits: if someone commits a crime, it must be handled in a rational manner and not by mob justice; if there is a quarrel, it must be solved in a way that contains the violence instead of spreading it. Social peace as opposed to feuding.

Ingui-Frey doesn’t just nurture civilization through food and general bounty: He also nurtures the bonds that keep human groups together and allows them to prosper. This puts Him in the (unexpected) role of a wise god of justice, both in a family and social context. For in order for a quarrel to be settled the sentence needs to be wise and just or else it will result in more violence and the breaking of friðr. He is, in order words, a guardian of constructive human unions and the common good.

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