I saw a post in a Heathen Facebook group recently, asking for people’s opinions on what the world would be like if it was ran according to heathen values. It provoked some very interesting responses, so I thought I’d write a blog post about it! Feel free to add your own opinions in the comments below!
How would it work?
Well, it really depends on whether we would be operating under ancient Viking Age laws, or those of modern Heathenry. So here’s the low down on what could happen for both of these scenarios:
If we use history as our guide, living under Viking laws, even in modern times, would be extremely brutal. The way in which world leaders meet to discuss important matters wouldn’t actually change much, though – the Vikings founded the world’s first proper government structure (or at least, the type of politics which most closely resembles that which is used in the UK and Europe now). Their meetings were called ‘Althings’, and they were first held at Thingvellir in Iceland. The governments in Europe and, particularly, the UK were originally based on this ancient tradition.
The main difference would be that instead of talking things over in a calm and polite manner, in certain situations, it would not be illegal or unheard of to kill a political opponent. The death penalty would be reintroduced, and even if a criminal hadn’t committed a crime heinous enough to be put to death, they could be forced into exile (which in Viking times was actually considered worse than death). They would also stand to lose their land, wealth, possessions, property and livestock. They would be blacklisted, isolated from the rest of their community, and unable to barter or trade with anyone. This period of banishment could be anywhere from one year to an entire lifetime, and the implications (financially, emotionally and in terms of honour and respect) were not to be taken lightly.
For the reasons above, prison would be a far worse place to be. People in charge would be allowed to use violence to keep prisoners in order, and conditions inside would be truly disgusting. I suppose at least this would be a massive deterrent to potential criminals, unlike today’s fairly soft prison system!
If civilians or government officials needed to settle a dispute, and it could not be solved by negotiation, they could opt to partake in the ancient northern European practise of Holmgang. Holmgangs were duels, which could be fought until first blood, or even until death.
Speaking of duels and death, wars would also be fought a lot differently. Nowadays, the military has the power to completely destroy an enemy with the push of a button; back then, warfare required real skill, talent and luck. The absolute belief in a glorious afterlife awaiting them also helped them to fight valiantly and without fear (along with a dose of magic mushrooms if they happened to be a berserker!). Today, a world leader could destroy an entire continent with minimum effort, putting millions of innocent people at risk… At least back then, wars were fought between opposing armies/leaders, dramatically reducing the number of innocent casualties. I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve always considered guns to be cowardly weapons compared to swords and axes (which take more skill to wield). It also ensures a much fairer fight. However, saying that, I’m pretty sure that if the Vikings had access to modern weaponry, they’d definitely have made use of them!
The way in which business is conducted would definitely improve. Money rules the modern world, and I guess a thousand years ago things weren’t much different in this respect. However, the art of bartering would make a comeback, which would certainly help poorer people who may not have much gold and silver to spare.
Trading networks between different countries would improve, again with the aid of bartering (swapping goods for something else, in case you don’t know what that means).
Our diets would be much better, and in general we would be a lot fitter. Traditional farming methods could make a comeback, and if we stopped using pesticides or other chemicals on our crops, both the land and our bodies would be much healthier. Each family would grow their own food, and raise their own livestock for meat. This would reduce food wastage, and improve the quality of what we eat. People would know how to grow, raise, kill, prepare and cook their own food without the modern aids which we tend to rely on nowadays. This would improve our chances of survival if food became scarce due to climate change, natural disasters or a world war.
Young men would be trained in how to fight, and would also learn valuable skills or trades. This would, again, improve our health, finances and the quality of our products.
Women would also know how to defend themselves, children would be raised properly (unlike the millennial snowflakes of today!), and once again they’d learn valuable life skills. Viking attitudes to women were also very progressive considering the time period, and especially compared to the rest of the world at that time.
So, what if we forgo the ancient customs, and simply abide by modern Heathen values?
Well, in my humble opinion, we would all be a lot better off. Everyone would conduct themselves according to our code of honour, respect, discipline and hospitality (etc.), which would hopefully prevent dishonesty. It would also improve relationships between world leaders, and empower civilians to revolt against the powerful and corrupt if necessary.
Our children would know how to take care of themselves, and people wouldn’t be so offended by mere words. They wouldn’t become indoctrinated by the Abrahamic faiths, and neither would they be completely absorbed by our own beliefs, because we do not rely on our gods for everything. We are freethinking, independent and have the power to alter the courses of our destinies. Our beliefs simply empower us, and the gods are our guides, not our supreme masters.
Most of the outcomes from the scenarios I detailed under Viking Law would also apply, just minus some of the ancient traditions.
Well, that was my point of view… Do you agree or disagree? If you disagree, why? Is there anything you think I’ve forgotten to include? Please let me know in the comments!
In conclusion, I think that the world would be a far better place for everyone if we included a happy medium between Viking laws and Heathen values in our everyday life. Obviously we should not stand completely in the way of progress, because not all of the progress we have made has been bad; but I do feel that our planet and our species (as well as every other species of flora and fauna on Midgard) has suffered as a result of us losing touch with our more primitive practises and instincts. In relying on technology so much, we have almost forgotten how to be truly human, and that is extremely dangerous. We are not immortal, and neither is our host. At the end of the day, we are just animals, and despite all we have achieved as a species, we are not as powerful as our egos would like us to think. We should never forget that!