Hrafnar is committed to the heathen principles of frith and grith. In Heathen tradition, grith was originally defined as a truce, but today covers the ordinary courtesy civilized people are expected to use toward each other in ordinary social situations—everything from observing traffic laws to cooperating in a grocery checkout line. Grith requires that we respect the rights and boundaries of others in speech and action, but does not imply an obligation to offer extraordinary support or aid.
As an open kindred, Hrafnar observes and expects grith toward and from guests and visitors. Our basic requirement is that anyone who accepts our hospitality will interact respectfully with everyone else who is present, whatever their personal opinions may be. However different backgrounds lead to different sets of assumptions about what correct behavior entails. Often we don’t realize someone is operating with a different rule book until interpretations collide. Like any other human group, Hrafnar has evolved its own “culture”. If you are new, and uncertain about the correct response to a situation, find someone who has been around for awhile and ask.
The concept of Frith, on the other hand is based on the kinds of mutual obligations and behaviors one might find in a clan or family. It implies not only mutual tolerance, but active support, defense, and aid. Where grith might be imposed by an outside authority, frith is a voluntary commitment, implying trust and goodwill. Although Hrafnar does not require an oath of loyalty, those who after a year of attendance wish to formally affiliate are asked to confirm their commitment to Hrafnar’s goals and values as expressed in this website, and are held to a higher standard of conduct.
Hrafnar also includes a large community who have not made a formal commitment to the kindred, but who have been involved long or often enough that they have a status similar to that of members of an extended family. Frith would describe the relationship between many of them and Hrafnar as well.
One might assume that in a small, local group, it would not be necessary to define what Grith and Frith within the kindred entails, however newer members may not have encountered concepts and practices that seem obvious to old-timers. For this reason, we’ve been looking at some of the anti-harassment policies that have been developed for businesses to clarify what we mean.
Stated very simply, maintaining Grith and Frith require good communication, courtesy, and an understanding of and respect for personal boundaries.
More specifically, Hrafnar members and participants do not engage in unethical, hostile or harassing behavior toward each other, or towards those outside the kindred or community, as the perceived character and reputation of those associated with Hrafnar reflects on us all. Such behavior may include sexual harassment, attacks based on a person’s beliefs, background or politics, or dishonorable actions or crimes.
The examples in the first three sections that follow are from a “MyPolicies” site, available from https://www.infotech.com/my-policies
1. Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment (whether opposite-sex or same-sex, or based on gender identity or sexual orientation) is strictly prohibited. Examples include the following:
- Sexually offensive jokes or comments
- “Sexist” or “discriminatory” comments or behavior (in other words, conduct that demeans other individuals because of their sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation, even if not vulgar, lewd, or sexually provocative)
- Physical assaults or other touching that is sexual in nature
- Promising favorable treatment or threatening unfavorable treatment based on response to sexual demands
- Displays of sexually oriented reading materials or pictures, including electronic material
Note: Social cues can be confusing. In any sexual situation, both parties need to remember that the only way to give consent is to say “Yes”. Silence, a giggle, and “Stop” all mean “No”. All participants need to be aware of and respect each other’s sexual, social, and psychic (especially at events that include trance work) boundaries. When in doubt, ask.
Harassment based on Race, National Origin (ethnic group), Age or Disability.
Examples include the following:
- Jokes or negative comments about these characteristics
- Displays of reading materials or pictures containing negative material about these characteristics, including electronic materials
- Vandalism or “pranks” based on these characteristics
- Name-calling based on these characteristics
- Using email or text messaging to transmit messages, jokes, or other material that is defined as “harassing” in this Policy (this includes forwarding or showing the material to others)
- Electronic “pranks” or harassment by social media – based on the protected status of the victim (race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability or religion), or in retaliation for a harassment complaint
- Attacks via social media, including blogs and Facebook, especially when made public.
- Gossip and rumor-mongering.
Crime and dishonor
Criminal actions are those which are illegal as defined by the law of the land. In heathen terms, they may or may not also be dishonorable. For instance, being arrested while marching in a protest might result in a conviction while not being considered dishonorable. Another debatable action might be harming someone in self-defense or in defense of another. Where guilt is disputed, the group may wait for the outcome of a trial before making a decision on the status of the individual. It is also possible that based on Heathen values, an act such as oath-breaking that is not technically illegal might be considered dishonorable.
The Icelandic sagas are notable for including as much legal conflict as physical violence. Although we hope to avoid the blood-feuds, like the Icelanders the modern Heathen community has no central authority that can impose rules or punish those who break them. In cases that the mundane legal system cannot touch, the ultimate option available to the individual is to leave, and to the group or community, to publicize the offense and banish the offender.
That said, when we are dealing with problems that for whatever reason cannot be turned over to a legal system whose checks and balances are intended to guarantee the accused a fair trial, I believe that honor requires that when there is a dispute, we do everything possible to protect the rights of all those involved.
The process might include the following:
- If you are having difficulties with another Hrafnar member, if possible try for a personal meeting in which you explain the problem and propose a resolution;
- If, for whatever reason, you have been unable to solve the problem personally, contact Hrafnar’s leaders, beginning with the gythja or thul. You can use the “contact Hrafnar” link on this website, or talk to them at a kindred meeting and request a conference. If the problem is with the gythja or thul, talk to the other or go to a long-term member of the kindred for advice on how to proceed. Present your complaint with as much supporting information as possible, and your ideas on what is needed for it to be resolved.
- No member of the Hrafnar community will be punished for bringing a good-faith report of a problem to the attention of the leaders or cooperating in an investigation.
- If you receive an unwanted Electronic Communication, do not destroy or delete the communication, but do not forward it or show it to anyone else until the situation has been addressed.
- When a complaint has been received, the gythja and thul, with the help of whatever other reputable individuals seem appropriate, will investigate and meet with you to discuss the results and possible courses of action. Both investigation and results will be kept confidential.
- Based on Germanic custom, in cases where the accused accepts that he or she has caused harm, s/he may be offered “self-judgment”, in which s/he proposes a penalty. This may consist of monetary compensation or other reparations. If the accused refuses this option, or it is unacceptable to the complainant, the leaders, with a committee of the other formal members of Hrafnar, may propose what they consider a just compensation.
- The leaders should also make every effort to be sure the accused understands what happened, why it happened, why it was a problem, and how s/he can make sure it does not happen again, up to and including a recommendation to seek a psychological evaluation.
- Another option would be to arrange a hearing attended by members of the kindred, in which all those involved are invited to submit their evidence and explain their positions, either in person or in writing. If the latter, it would be desirable for them to be available by phone to answer questions.
- If arranging compensation or holding a hearing fail to restore harmony, the kindred may attempt to set up some kind of group process, such as “Restorative Justice”.
- When all options have been explored, the gythja, thul and formal members will confer regarding an appropriate response, which may include expulsion, reparations, or exoneration.