The oath, sworn at the first of each year, was a renewal of a pledge, an oath that was sworn to aid friends, neighbors, to superiors and leaders and to the community in whole. These oaths were promises to lend aid where one could. To aid in the defense of the community, to share a fire when needed and in times of hunger and famine to share food stores as much as possible. These people of the past had to lean on each other for these things, in a way that is difficult for us in the modern age to comprehend.
We feel we have conquered the elements. We live in houses with central heating, proof against the winters chill. Our fridges and vast system of highways make storing food for the winter something that we’ll hopefully never have to struggle through. The days of relying on our neighbours for assistance are dwindling into nonexistence, as we no longer even know our neighbours any more than a passing wave and quick conversation about the weather can allow us to.
In the days of old, the swearing of these oaths were no simple matter, before swearing an oath a person would weigh it, contemplate it’s meaning and the consequences if one was unable to uphold their promise to fulfill the oath.
An oath breaker was the most reviled creature and they would be at the best shunned and lose all chances for aid or assistance. At the worst they’d be driven off and even executed if their transgression warranted it.
Our modern version of Swearing an Oath is the Making of the New Year’s Resolution, which has become a joke. I’ve heard people make their resolution in one breath and in the next wonder how long it will take to break their resolution. I’ve even heard of folks taking bets on how long they’ll last. A resolution is a promise one makes to oneself, but never really has any intention of actually fulfilling that promise.
I have been thinking about this, contemplating the nature of the resolution and how our ancestors viewed oath taking, and I’ve decided that this year I shall not make any resolutions, a promise made lightly and then forgotten about almost as fast as it is made. Instead this year I shall be swearing an oath to myself, and these will be oaths that I will contemplate and have the full intention of seeing it through.
As a newly converted Heathen, I have been doing a lot of reading about community and tradition, since they are both at the core of a Heathen’s beliefs. I’ve realized how superficial and fleeting our culture is. Traditions do not last, because mass commercialism does not want it to. They want us to enjoy today’s fad and then drop it and quickly move on to the next hot thing. Marketing tells us what we need to eat, to wear and they serve us the latest celebrity craze and tell us that this new behaviour should be adopted and we should all live by these new edicts, until the next craze comes along and then drop that last one and buy, buy, buy, buy.
How can we take our promises to ourselves seriously when our sense of self-worth is always being undermined by the advertising wheel that continues to spin and all of us rush in front of, so as to not be crushed underneath.
So this year my swearing of the Oath will be my first step as taking back control of my life, not letting the media, the advertisers and marketers tell me what I want or need.