View Full Version : The Nine Noble Virtues

Tuesday, May 25th, 2004, 01:38 AM
Nine Noble Virtues

They are guidelines for daily living derived mainly from the Hávamál of the Poetic Edda, but they are not set in stone and vary somewhat from Kindred to Kindred. The most prevalent list of these codes of conduct is: Courage, Discrimination, Fidelity, Honor, Hospitality, Industriousness, Perseverance, Self-Reliance, and Truth.


One must be brave, fearless, heroic, determined, and undaunted in the pursuit of righteousness, doing do what is right regardless of the consequences or personal safety


One must be astute, perceptive, and knowledgeable about specific characteristics, judiciously distinguishing individual intentions with refined precision.


One must be totally loyal, reliable, and trustworthy in regard to one's gods and goddesses, family, and kinsmen without taint of reservation, uncertainty, or trepidation.


One must strive for internal integrity and integration of the inherent perfect beingness of the gods and goddesses, resulting in respect of self and an unblemished reputation.


One must be courteous, cordial, generous, and decorous to others, giving unstinting and heartfelt welcome and regard to the virtuous without mental reservation.


One must be diligent, attentive, thorough, and hard working, producing their personal best at all times without thought of reward or honors.


One must seriously and objectively pursue peak performance with modest, impartial endeavor until a carefully completed outcome results.


One must be independent, confident, enduring, and assured with enough mental fortitude, resilience, and personal authenticity to ward off harm.


One must be resolute and committed to the diligent search for comprehension of correct concepts, valid thoughts, and intrinsic ideals both in principle and in actuality.

Friday, June 1st, 2007, 06:03 PM
I find this blog to be quite helpfull to me. The writer has done a good amount of research and seems to live his beliefs well.He comes down on the univeraslist side but in a manner that is not antifolkist. Here is his article on the nine noble virtues. He has written seperate blogs about the virtues as well as other topics.A Heathen Blog - Expanding Inward (http://heathenblog.wordpress.com/nine-noble-virtues/)

The Nine Noble Virtues, an article for Pagan Dawn Magazine
- by Bjorngrímnir

Courage, Truth, Honor, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Self-Reliance, Industriousness, Perseverance….

These words are what are known to many as the Nine Noble Virtues. But what are they, how did they come into being, and what is their significance to modern Heathens? Are they a Heathen form of the Wiccan Rede, or a Vikingly version of the Ten Commandments? Are the Nine Noble Virtues a pre-packaged condensation of Heathen lore, a meaningless list of words that one must memorize before being able to truly call one’s self Heathen? Indeed, these are some of the concerns of their critics - and critics there are aplenty. Adherents aplenty there are, as well, and I count myself among them. Before exploring all of this further, I want to share some condensed definitions for a few key words from Webster’s OnLine dictionary (www.webster.com), so that we have a more common understanding of their literal meanings and functions.

Rede: to give counsel to

Creed: a brief authoritative formula of religious belief; a set of fundamental beliefs; also : a guiding principle

Ethic: the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation; a set of moral principles : a theory or system of moral values; the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group; a guiding philosophy; a consciousness of moral importance; a set of moral issues or aspects (as rightness)

Noble: possessing very high or excellent qualities or properties; very good or excellent; possessing, characterized by, or arising from superiority of mind or character or of ideals or morals

Virtue: conformity to a standard of right; a particular moral excellence; a commendable quality or trait

In looking at the differences between creed, rede and ethic, there is one concept that is common (though not verbatim) to all three words - guide. With the word, rede, guidance is implied by giving counsel. But rede is not really the right word to describe what the Nine Noble Virtues are (although as we will see, rede is involved in a chief source of the Nine Noble Virtues), since the Nine Noble Virtues don’t really constitute counsel or advice. Are the Nine Noble Virtues, then, a creed? Since there is no actual religious authority in the Heathen religion, and since fundamentalism is generally frowned upon in mainstream Heathenry, creed only applies in the sense of a guiding principle. This leaves us with ethic, which is the word I feel most accurately describes the function of the Nine Noble Virtues…but which meaning fits best? The first definition for ethic is eliminated because the Nine Noble Virtues do not list good and bad, and they do not mandate moral duty or obligation. The Nine Noble Virtues are a list of virtues, not morals, so this definition can be eliminated; as can the definitions involving moral issues or aspects, and consciousness of moral importance, for the same reason. This leaves us with principles of conduct governing individuals or groups, and a guiding philosophy, and it is these definitions which best describe the function of the Nine Noble Virtues as a matter of Heathen ethic.

Some of the skepticism and controversy surrounding the Nine Noble Virtues stems from different interpretations of the words noble and virtue, so let us concern ourselves now with their definitions. It is possible to define them simply as the conformity to a superior standard of right - in fact, some Heathens probably do consider noble virtues to mean just that. However this meaning isn’t really the best one. More appropriate, and certainly much more consistent with the definition of ethic that we arrived at by process of elimination, is to say that noble virtues refer to very good, or commendable qualities or traits. Now we can safely define the Nine Noble Virtues as being a Heathen ethic, comprised of commendable qualities or traits. It might be tempting to say that the Nine Noble Virtues are the Heathen version of the Wiccan Rede, or the Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments; but this would be syncretistic and inaccurate, since each serves a different purpose within different religions, despite superficial similarities.

The Nine Noble Virtues are a modern invention: King Gorm of Denmark, great-grandsire of Canute the Great, would not have been able to recite the Nine Noble Virtues despite his having been a Heathen king. The history of the Nine Noble Virtues, according to Wikipedia’s entry, shows how modern they are:

“The Nine Noble Virtues are the ethical code gleaned from various sources including the Poetic Edda (particularly the Hávamál), the Icelandic Sagas and Germanic folklore. They were codified by John Yeowell (a.k.a Stubba) and John Gibbs-Bailey (a.k.a Hoskuld) of the Odinic Rite in the 1970’s.”

Many people believe that the Nine Noble Virtues are a mere condensing of advice given in the Icelandic poetic rede, Hávamál, and somehow discourage people from making a detailed study of Heathen lore. It’s important to remember that the Nine Noble Virtues are simply an ethical guide, discouraging nothing at all; and it’s important to note that the virtues themselves exist throughout the corpus of Heathen lore, from Hávamál, to Beowulf, to Völsunga saga. In fact, the virtues we are talking about have been seen as commendable by more than just Heathens, they are echoed by the ethical standards of cultures around the world. So while the Nine Noble Virtues were gleaned from Heathen lore, by Heathens for Heathens, they transcend Heathenry in that people of nearly any religion (along with those of no religion at all) can aspire to them and adapt them to their lives. This is aided in large part by the fact that none of the nine virtues refer directly to religion.

As mentioned before, there is no real religious authority in contemporary Heathenry. There are various groups and organizations within Heathenry, but none of these groups can claim authority or influence over the whole of the Heathen community. As such, no code, no set of commandments, and certainly no ethical guides can be imposed on Heathens as a religious community. The Nine Noble Virtues are completely voluntary, Heathens are not (nor should we ever be) enjoined to comply with the Nine Noble Virtues. Many Heathens choose to observe the Nine Noble Virtues, and many do not - the number of Heathens who choose or choose not to observe them does not affect their validity as an ethical guide, nor does their validity as an ethical guide affect the validity of religious expression by Heathens, regardless whether they observe the Nine Noble Virtues or not.

Since we have covered the function of the Nine Noble Virtues, we should now look more closely at their meaning. The Nine Noble Virtues are a list of seemingly simple words, not even forming a complete sentence. There is no preamble, other than their title, and there is no conclusion. The virtues that are listed are certainly not exhaustive - the number was limited to nine because this is a very sacred number in Heathenry. Since each virtue can have multiple meanings, and since these meanings and the degree to which they would be commendable depend on the situation, there is no universal, one-size-fits-all interpretation to which people must refer. Some of the virtues imply other virtues, as well. For example, hospitality implies the two-way relationship between guest and host, thus implying the virtue of guest-honor. Discipline implies caution, and all nine virtues are best approached with another great, unspoken virtue: common sense. The definitions are individually determined, and the process for this determination should involve a lot of time spent in reflection and thought. I’ve spent some long hours reading all the lore I can get my hands on, contemplating instances where I can find one of the nine virtues, how it is implemented or exemplified, what other virtues are being exemplified, and how I might apply these ethics in my life. I’m sure there are some who feel like memorizing the Nine Noble Virtues, without any real mindfulness of their meaning or occurrence in the lore, is all it takes to be a good Heathen - such people are making a serious mistake, and are missing out on more than just the point.

With a mind toward brevity (since I feel like each virtue is deserving of its own article), I’ll share a glimpse of what each virtue means to me, to provide a sample of one way in which the nine virtues can be interpreted:

Courage: to have courage doesn’t mean to lack fear, it means to act in spite of fear. It is the core virtue of the nine because none of the other eight virtues exist without it.

Truth: to seek and provide truth is to seek and provide reality, to have the wisdom to determine reality from fantasy, then further determine one reality from another.

Honor: is not about reputation or esteem, because people can have the best of reputations and have very little honor - honor is more about worth and integrity as a human being.

Fidelity: to be loyal, to understand why that loyalty exists, and to be reliable and deserving of loyalty one’s self. Fidelity is best when earned, and a curse when gained through demand or deception.

Discipline: self-control, the will and the practice of governing one’s self so that others don’t have to.

Hospitality: does not lock itself indoors, nor does it suffer the hindrance of inconvenience. It is the greatest of the nine virtues because to have it, one must also have the other eight.

Self-Reliance: if you can’t rely on yourself, neither can anyone else.

Industriousness: is the act of doing, of transforming stasis into motion, which is what makes our world go ’round.

Perseverance: purpose, and the will to remember it even when it would be more convenient to do otherwise.

The Nine Noble Virtues have been adapted and expanded by different communities within Heathenry - the Twelve Atheling Thews are one example of this, although there are others. The Twelve Atheling Thews were created by Swain Wodening, and I’d like to share a quote from him that describes his views on the purpose served by them: “These thews encourage Heathens to depend on one’s self and to help others, not just for the good of one’s self, but for the good of all.” I think the same thing could safely be said of the Nine Noble Virtues. Ultimately, this is why the Nine Noble Virtues have become an important aspect of my approach to Heathenry and my approach to life in general, and why they’re a significant and valid (though certainly not universal) ethical guide in contemporary Heathenry.

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019, 08:56 AM
Thought i'd bump this thread. The 9 virtues are something i never knew about, but it's good that we can learn more.
Interesting stuff.

Wednesday, April 17th, 2019, 08:25 AM
Thought i'd bump this thread. The 9 virtues are something i never knew about, but it's good that we can learn more.
Interesting stuff.

They are a New Age creation, a heathen version of the Ten Commandments.

Wednesday, April 17th, 2019, 08:52 AM
They are a New Age creation, a heathen version of the Ten Commandments.

I'm guessing this is bad then ?

Wednesday, April 17th, 2019, 11:18 AM
I'm guessing this is bad then ?

Up for yourself to the decide, many modern heathens have a lot of New Age practices.
But maybe better to go for "Old Age".

If you want to practice Norse Germanic religion, I don't think you would need the Nine Noble Virtues when you have The Håvamål.