In attempting to understand the various customs of Asatru, both old and new, some of the underlying cosmological models must first be understood. Previously, I introduced the idea of progression versus regression as one way of determining right and wrong actions. Here I will attempt to delve a bit further into where these customary laws, or thews, come from.
Cosmologically and psychologically speaking, existence itself may be divided into two categories. That which belongs to the realm of the Innangard and that of the Utangard.
In medieval Germanic societies, physical boundaries such as fences and walls were erected around certain enclosures for more than one purpose. As an example of the obvious, one might build a fence around livestock as a means, not only to keep the livestock in, but also to keep potentially harmful things out. This erecting of barricades may be extended beyond physical, geographical locations to that of the mental and spiritual realms, as well. Most of us carry a sense of personal space within our psyche. The size of that personal space is usually rooted within our experiences in life. Physically speaking, if we or someone we are close to, has previously been physically harmed by another, we usually carry a smaller “bubble” of personal space. Especially, in the unfortunate encounter with the known aggressor. What this means precisely, is that our Innangard is a little smaller. The space around us that we feel safe in, is a tight fit. If a stranger is to approach us, we may be quicker to enter the “fight or flight” state of being. To put it another way, the Innangard represents that which is known to us; that which we can reasonably rely on. The examples above are fairly simple to comprehend, but where the idea of concentric circles comes into play, it may become a little more complex.
Consider your household. From the entrance of your driveway, to the walls that make up your bedroom. Hopefully this is a physical place that you can consider to be safe and known. You can experience things within these confines with a reasonably, reliable outcome in mind. Now, consider you enter your car. In your car, in your driveway, you more than likely, easily maintain a certain level of comfort. What things might you encounter while in your car, speeding down the freeway? Though the personal space of body and mind are still there with you, you are now placing yourself within the realm of the unknown, or the Utangard. This is one way to illustrate how your Innangard intertwines with that of the Utangard.
To expand upon this even further, consider ones family, friends, neighbors, church, community, place of business, etc.
How many times do we hear on the daily news about the nice, quiet neighbor who turns out to enjoy the occasional meal of little boys with a nice chianti? Though, many may have considered this Lectorish character to be harmless, the evidence shows through his meal choices, that this assumption was evidently unwarranted.
To Asatruar, little is assumed to be known based upon outward appearances, or the casual, chance encounters we share with others. Rather, we construct our Innangard with the utmost care, paying close attention to consistency and reputation among other things. This is true, not only of people and places, but of our gods, as well.
To the ancient Germanic tribes, the Innangard was a place of survival. This was the place where the codes of conduct were communally relied upon for safety, both individually and as a whole. If and when these codes were infringed upon to a significant degree, one may have been banished or cast into the Utangard. This is where the outlaw comes from. Those who live outside of the Innangard, or outside of the law, belong to the Utangard and are not to be trusted until proven otherwise. This too, lends to the perception that Asatru is a religion of separatism and elitism. While I do not support this as an accurate summary, there is some truth to it. With family and folk being held as extremely precious to Asatruar, the continuity of such a collective is highly guarded. This may have much to do with why today there are relatively few temples or hofs to be visited by interested parties. We are not necessarily a religion of separatism, but we are far removed from an open door, all inclusive one. To simplify my point, just because you wear certain symbols around your neck and proclaim Asatru as your faith or troth, does not mean that you are part of the collective community, you may very well stand alone. Your belonging is to be found within your deeds, or as it may be said, “what you bring to the table.”
If your reputation and deeds are proven to be conducive with what has become customary law for the collective, through rigorous trial and error, your acceptance into the Innangard and the support thereof, will prove to be fruitful. Though it may seem that this is a system of guilty until proven innocent, more accurately, it is a system of unknown until known.
It is through the understanding and careful maintenance of the Innangard, as contrasted with the often times dangerous intrusion of the Utangard, that Asatru remains a strength to its adherents.