Let’s talk about Oaths

With Heathenry, Oaths are tremendously important to us. While an Oath can be simple, it should never be given out easily, unlike a promise you could make in passing. Oaths aren’t just related to heathenry, in fact, many people make Oaths in many different situations for instance when they are witnesses in court and when they get married.
Heathens place a great deal of emphasis on the power of words; especially words spoken to the Gods and spirits in a sacred ritual. Any oaths made to deities, ancestors, family and friends – even yourself – in this space you are held accountable for. This attitude further weighs down the concept of self-dedication, sometimes making it seem at once both terrifying and absolutely necessary.
There are roughly three parts of an Oath. An oath firstly requires witnesses, they are tied to the oath and are representatives of those who will gain benefit from the long-term impact of the oath. It also reinforces the importance of that oath by having people witness you making it. Swearing an oath when no one Is around makes it meaningless and there’s nothing apart from honour, that would stop you from breaking that oath as no one can hold you accountable.
The oath itself should comprise of no less than two parts regarding consequences. First, there must be a clearly stated action, essentially what you are planning to achieve with this oath. Second, there must be a clearly stated cost of failure. Often, there is a third part clearly states what penalty will be paid for not completing the sworn action. Sometimes the second and third parts are combined, sometimes they are explicitly mentioned. There is no room for ambiguity here. You must say what you will accomplish and what will happen if you fail. If there is no consequence of failure, the oath is worthless. Although an oath shouldn’t be easy it should still be achievable – there’s no point making an oath for something impossible!
When doing an Oath remember that you must put time into it to make sure you complete it, don’t waste time and put it off. If you are not willing to work hard and treasure the endeavour then you really need to ask why you made the oath in the first place. An Oath is about honour and commitment, something that shouldn’t be done lightly.
Many different Kindreds and groups will have additional requirements on how and why an Oath is to be sworn, and who in the first place can swear it. So, when taking an Oath, keep in mind the responsibility behind it.
In the Viking age, a Norseman would take an oath of loyalty to his Jarl or King and he would swear that oath on his arm ring to prove he would not falter or fail his superior. Norsemen who have sworn an oath would rather fall on their own sword before breaking it.
Therefore, it is vital that you never make an oath without truly meaning it and if you do, then you should always fulfil that oath to the best of your ability.


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