The Nine Noble Virtues of Asatru

Hooded bearded tattooed male in fantasy cloudy seascape setting
Lorado / Getty Images

In many branches of Norse Paganism, including but not limited to Asatru, adherents follow a set of guidelines known as the Nine Noble Virtues. This set of moral and ethical standards is drawn from a number of sources, both historic and literary. Sources include the Havamal, the Poetic and Prose Eddas, and many of the Icelandic sagas. Although various branches of Asatruar interpret these nine virtues in slightly different ways, there seems to be some universality as to what the virtues are and what they stand for.

The 9 Noble Virtues: Key Takeaways

  • The Nine Noble Virtues of Norse Paganism include moral and ethical standards drawn from a number of historic and literary sources.
  • These suggestions for honorable behavior include physical and moral courage, honor and fidelity, and the tradition of hospitality.
  • Various branches of Asatruar interpret these nine virtues in slightly different ways.

Courage

Hooded bearded tattooed male in fantasy cloudy seascape setting
Lorado / Getty Images

Courage: both physical and moral courage. Courage isn’t necessarily about running into a fight with your guns blazing. For many people, it’s more about standing up for what you believe in and what you know to be right and just, even if it’s not the popular opinion. Many Heathens agree that it takes a lot of courage to live by the Nine Noble Virtues, particularly if you live in an area that’s spiritually conservative, and is generally ruled by Ten of the Other Guy’s Rules. Living your beliefs in the face of opposition requires as much courage as going into battle.

Truth

Young woman with long hair in period viking costume looks down, turning, outdoors and sunlit
Anna Gorin / Getty Images

There are different types of truth — spiritual truth and actual truth. The Havamal says:

Swear no oath
But what you mean to abide by:
A halter awaits the word breaker,
Villainous is the wolf-of-vows.

The concept of Truth is a powerful one, and stands as a reminder that we must speak of what we know as Truth, rather than what we think others wish to hear.

Honor

Viking warrior against mountain range
Lorado / Getty Images

Honor: one's reputation and moral compass. Honor plays a significant role in the daily life of many Heathens and Asatruar. This virtue reminds us that our deeds, words, and reputation will outlive our bodies, and that the person we are in life will be remembered for a long time. The epic poem Beowulf cautions, For a noble man death is better than a shameful life.

Fidelity

Young Woman In long dress standing in a field in Iceland
TJ Drysdale Photography / Getty Images

Fidelity is complex, and involves remaining true to the Gods, kinsmen, a spouse, and community. Much like honor, fidelity is something to be remembered. In many early heathen cultures, an oath was seen as a sacred contract — someone who broke a vow, whether it was to a wife, a friend, or a business partner, was considered a shameful and dishonorable person indeed. The Nine Noble Virtues all tie in together — if you fail to adhere to one, you may have trouble following the others. The concept of fidelity is one of loyalty. If you let down a friend or member of your Kindred or the Gods, then you’re turning your back on your entire community and all that they stand for.

Discipline

Rune stones
Thinkstock / Getty Images

Discipline includes using one's personal will to uphold honor and other virtues. It’s not easy to be an ethical and just person in today’s society — it often takes some degree of work, and a lot of mental discipline. Will comes into play with that. Upholding the virtues is a choice, and it’s a much simpler path to follow to just ignore them and do what society expects or what’s easy. Discipline is the ability to show your courage, your loyalty, your sense of self-reliance, in the face of personal challenges.

Hospitality

Longhouse in stave style at Viking Ring Fortress (960), Trelleborg, West Zealand, Denmark, Europe
John Elk III / Getty Images

Hospitality is more than just opening your door to a guest. It's about treating others with respect, and being part of the community. For our ancestors, hospitality wasn’t a question of simply being nice, it was often a matter of survival. A traveler might find himself wandering for days or more without seeing another living soul. Arriving in a new village meant not just food and shelter, but also companionship and safety. Traditionally, once a guest had eaten at your table, it meant they were also granted your protection while under your roof. The Havamal says:

Fire is needed by the newcomer
Whose knees are frozen numb;
Meat and clean linen a man needs
Who has fared across the fells,
Water, too, that he may wash before eating,
Hand cloth’s and a hearty welcome,
Courteous words, then courteous silence
That he may tell his tale.

Industriousness

Man in traditional viking clothes
Bill Lai / Getty Images

The concept of industriousness reminds us to hard work as a means to achieve a goal. Work hard at everything you do — you owe it to yourself, to your family, to your community and to your gods. I figure my ancestors never sat around being lazy - working hard was inherent to their survival. You didn’t work, you didn’t eat. Your family might starve if you were busy loafing instead of doing something. I try to make sure that I keep my mind and body working at all times - that doesn’t mean I don’t have down time, it simply means that I am at my best when I feel a sense of accomplishment.”

Self-Reliance

Runestone - Oland, Sweden
crossbrain66 / Getty Images

Self-Reliance is the virtue taking care of oneself, while still maintaining relationships with Deity. It’s important to honor the gods, but also to take care of the body and mind. To do this, many Asatru find a balance between doing for others and doing for the self. To thrive as part of a community, we must also be able to thrive as individuals.

Perseverance

Man in viking warrior dress hunts by mtn river
Ascent Xmedia / Getty Images

Perseverance reminds us to continue pushing onward, despite potential obstacles. To persevere is to not only rise up in the face of defeat, but to learn and grow from our mistakes and poor choices. Anyone can be mediocre. Anyone can be average. Anyone can do just enough to get by. But if we want to excel, and live up to our fullest potential, then we have to persevere. We have to push on even when things are hard and frustrating, or even if it seems like things are completely impossible. If we don’t persevere, then we have nothing to strive for.