When I was in Norway last year, I picked up the postcard below at the Oslo Viking Ships museum:
Here’s the text, in case you can’t read it well:
BE BRAVE AND AGGRESSIVE
Grab all opportunities
Use varying methods of attack
Be versatile and agile
Attack one target at a time
Don’t plan everything in detail
Use top quality weapons
Keep weapons in good condition
Keep in shape
Find good battle comrades
Agree on important points
Choose one chief
BE A GOOD MERCHANT
Find out what the market needs
Don’t promise what you can’t keep
Don’t demand overpayment
Arrange things so that you can return
KEEP THE CAMP IN ORDER
Keep things tidy and organised
Arrange enjoyable activities which strengthen the group
Make sure everybody does useful work
Consult all members of the group for advice.
I don’t know how historically accurate these “Laws” are. Possibly not at all. But they got me thinking about what sort of laws a Pagan society might have, and I could see a lot of usefulness in the Viking Laws above.
A lot more usefulness than in the Judeo-Christian “10 Commandments”, to be honest.
Here’s the Judeo-Christian “10 Commandments”, as a quick refresher:
1. I am the Lord your God. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5. Honour thy father and thy mother.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.
Of the 10 Commandments, realistically only Commandments 6, 8 and 9 really have any direct relevance to managing a modern society.
Even then, there are socially sanctioned exceptions for 6 (wartime and self-defence), and 8 (an argument could be made that taxes are state-sanctioned theft).
So Commandment 9 is the only one left legally standing. And our legal system is in such a poor state that it’s usually more likely that the party with the most money wins than the party whose cause is just. So false witness can be worked around, apparently quite easily if you take time to read the papers and have the ready cash.
By comparison, the Viking Laws are direct.
They give sensible advice on what to do and how to manage your affairs. There is no talk of Gods or Goddesses.
About the only “Law” that I could sensibly find fault with is “Attack one target at a time” which, although sensible advice in most cases, could sometimes restrict an army (or an individual) from possibly making a great (and unexpected) strategic move. It doesn’t matter who you are or how wealthy: the Laws are useful to anyone.
If I were going to teach my kids a series of Laws to live by, I’d opt for the Viking Laws. They’re practical. They’re relevant. They fit well with any religion, apart from a totally pacifist stance.
The Viking Laws also teach a team mentality which I like. They teach listening to one another, but respect for leadership. They recommend planning and forethought. All of these are great skills.
In the end, it’s up to us individually to choose (or not) a series of Laws to live by. I think these Viking Laws are as good a set of Laws as any.
I guess I’d have made a good Viking!