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Frith and Grith

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> My understanding of "frith" is that it's a deep celebration of one's real
> fellows, one's "kindred" or those one has come to know heartfully and
> wholly through many a sumble and challenge ; whereas "grith" is more of a
> "treaty" kind of relationship that can extend from at its worst being
> merely a "cease fire" or "truce" between feuding parties, to at best, a
> very pleasant, friendly tolerance of "live and let live."
>
> My sense is that grith is always "cooler" ; frith is always "warmer". Maybe
> there are gradients of "temperature" between these that indigenous
> Europeans, as the Cyning indicates, better navigate.
 
About the only commentary I can offer here is to tell you how these terms are
used in Theodism, as terms of art. For us, "frith" means, literally,
something like "the freedom to be oneself, without having to watch one's
back." In other words, something like community normalcy in an ambience of
Right Good Will. Truth to tell, there isn't any modern word that we know of
to express the core concept of frith, which is why we stick with the old one.
I think some translations have glossed it as "peace," meaning, presumably,
"pacification qua mutual non-aggression," but in fact it isn't really that at
all. Frith, for one thing, isn't necessarily peaceful; it doesn't rule out or
suppress all natural discords or disputes, especially the innocent kind which
will still be bound to crop up out of misunderstanding or natural
disagreement or difference of opinion. Rather, it means the guarantee of the
timely and orderly resolution and settlement of such disputation as does crop
up, in a prevailing general spirit of Right Good Will; rather a different
thing.
 
Eg: Under frith, if two men want to fight, for no particular reason, then
they may still be allowed to fight. What frithstead guarantees is simply that
they will fight fairly by agreed-upon rules, winner and loser will win and
lose graciously, and then that's that; it's over, and the two men, having
thus settled whatever their difference was, are expected to try to become
friends. Eg: If two men happen to fall in love with the same girl, they might
ordinarily fight over her, perhaps damaging or disrupting the community in
the process and causing some lasting kind of harm. Under a frithstead, on the
other hand, it would be more likely that some wise-woman or ides would
intervene, her ruling would be automatically accepted as binding upon all,
and very likely she would rule that the girl must be the one to choose,
whereupon the girl would be forced to choose one, both or neither of them,
and whatever way she chose, there would then be no fighting; that would be
that. Another way to define frith and frithstead might be to classify it as
any sort of doom or general agreement whereby in all cases it shall be the
interests of the community that shall be put first, as always trumping the
interests of any individual in it. Frith, in other words, is inherently a
social or sociological condition.
 
Grith, on the other hand, is quite another matter; it refers to sanctuary, in
the sense of a suspension of ordinary rules. Holy places, such as ves or
weofodsteads, are normally sanctuaries; if a man who is being sought for some
reason can make it into a sanctuary, he may not be taken from there by force
or any other means that might threaten the grith of the stead, and his
disposition from there immediately becomes a sacral matter. A sacral person,
such as a King or Weofodthane, also has authority to impose the grithstead of
his holy person upon the bounds of any ground where he may be standing, such
as to immediately and automatically take custody of any sought man who comes
into his keeping... usually for some set period of time, during which that
sacral person must achieve some sort of regular satisfactory disposition of
his charge or else yield him up to his pursuers.
 
At least that's the way it is in Theodism, and we believe it to be
traditional, though such thews may vary elsewhere. The usefulness of such
thews in a free heathen society are doubtless obvious; it gives time for the
real truth to emerge in otherwise dubious cases where someone might have
fallen dangerously afoul of some other powerful party not through real guilt
but rather through some sort of misunderstanding or misrepresentation. At the
same time, though it may delay the exaction of justice upon a truly guilty
party, it will generally have no power to ultimately deny it, and may even be
a help in somewhat refining it, in preventing rash execution, allowing for
the intervention of wiser heads, and allowing time for any punishment to be
most suitably tailored to the crime.
 
Such elegant old concepts are always worth our musing on. I'm not sure how
much grithstead still exists in the world today, but frith is still the
wisest and best governor of communal affairs wherever it is still in force.
In a neighborhood where frith prevails, an irate housewife armed with a broom
can do more to effectively control crime than a whole police SWAT team can in
a neighborhood where it does not. Much of the elegance of such concepts is
merely to be found in what they are able to say and not say about ourselves,
and in their eminent practicality. Godspeed.......

Garman