ÁR, e; f. I. honour, glory, rank, dignity, magnificence, respect, reverence; honor, dignitas, gloria, magnificentia, honestas, reverentia :– Sý him ár and onwald be to him honour and power, Exon. 65 b; Th. 241, 28; Ph. 663. Ne wolde he æ-acute;nige áre wítan nor would he ascribe any honour, Bd. 2, 20; S. 521, 29. He sundor líf wæs fóreberende eallum ðám árum he was preferring a private life to all honours, Bd. 4, 11; S. 579, 8. Nyton náne áre on nánum men they know no respect for any man, Bt. 35, 6; Fox 168, 25. Be ðære cirican áre according to the rank of the church, L. Alf. pol. 42; Th. i. 90, 10. He on his ágenum fæder áre ne wolde gesceáwian he would not look with reverence on his own father, Cd. 76; Th.95, 18; Gen. 1580. II. kindness, favour, mercy, pity, benefit, use, help; gratia, favor, misericordia, beneficium, auxilium :– He gemunde ðá ða áre ðe he him æ-acute;r forgeaf, wíc-stede wéligne he remembered then the favour which he before had conferred upon him, the wealthy dwelling place, Beo. Th. 5205; B. 2606. Ne mihte earmsceapen áre findan nor might the poor wretch find pity, Andr. Kmbl. 2260; An. 1131. Him wæs ára þearf to him was need of favours, Cd. 97; Th. 128, 12; Gen. 2125. To gódre áre to good use, Herb. 2, 9; Lchdm. i. 82, 21: Bd. 3, 5; S. 527, 14. Eallum to áre ylda bearnum for the benefit of all the sons of men, Jul. A. 2. (Vid. Price’s Walton, ci. note 34.) Leáf and gærs gróweþ eldum to áre leaves and grass grow for the benefit of men, Bt. Met. Fox 20, 199; Met. 20, 100. Ðæ-acute;r is ár gelang fira gehwylcum there is help ready to every man, Andr. Kmbl. 1958; An. 981. III. property, possessions, an estate, land, ecclesiastical living, benefice; bona, possessiones, fundus, beneficium :– He plihte to him sylfum and ealre his áre he acts at peril of himself and all his property, L. Eth. ix. 42; Th. i. 350, 3: Ors. 1, 1; Bos. 20, 32. Hwílum be áre, hwílum be æ-acute;hte sometimes in estate, sometimes in goods, L. Eth. vi. 51; Th. i. 328, 11: L. C. S. 50; Th. i. 404,18. Se ðe sitte on his áre on lífe he who lives on his property during life, L. Eth. iii. 14; Th. i. 298, 9: L. Eth. vi. 4; Th. i. 316, 1, 3. Ðæt hí him andlyfne and áre forgeáfen for heora gewinne that they should give them food and possessions for their labour, Bd. 1, 15; S. 483, 19. [Laym. ære, are: Orm. are: O. Sax. éra: O. Frs. ére: Dut. eer: Ger. ehre, f: M. H. Ger. ére: O. H. Ger. éra: Dan. äre: Swed. ära: O. Nrs. æra.] (An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, Joseph Bosworth and T. Northcote Toller )
Honor is a word often bandied about in Asatru, Germanic Heathen, and Theodish circles. However, if you go looking for a description or even a definition of it by Heathen standards, you will come up nearly empty handed (just try typing in “Asatru, honor,” “Germanic Heathen, honor,” or “Theodish, honor,” and see what comes up). Honor is therefore something that has gone overlooked as far as serious discussion. Nor having been discussed in detail, there really is no consensus on what honor is. As a religious movement, we therefore have widely varying ways of viewing honor. I may view honor from the viewpoint of a Southern gentleman, while others may take the view of medieval chivalry. If you look at the definition taken from Bosworth and Toller’s Old English dictionary, you will see that the Old English word ær which we usually use to translate the modern word honor had a wide variety of meanings. By examining these, perhaps we can arrive at some idea of what honor meant to an ancient Heathen. To help even more, I will also discuss several Old Icelandic words for honor. The first term in the definition, honor really does not help us, as that is what we are trying to define. However the next several terms, “glory, rank, dignity, magnificence” point us in the direction of the heroic idea. Glory was part of one’s name living on after death. “Cattle die, kindred die, Every man is mortal: But I know one thing that never dies, The glory of the great dead.”(Havamal 77, Hollander translation). Aspiring to the heroic idea, leading a life of far flung fame was linked to ancient Heathen ideas on honor. But it went more than just aspiring to the Heathen idea. One had to in modern parlance, lead a clean life. “For a noble man death is better than a shameful life.” (Beowulf 2890-2891). This would mean that one does not slay kin, kill by deception, abandon one’s lord, and otherwise abide by the ancient Germanic heroic code. Other words that mean honor in Old English lend themselves to this idea. Old English dóm could mean not only “doom,judgment, judicial sentence, law,” but also glory and honor. The next two terms, “respect, reverence” give us a different aspect of honor. One had to have respect for one’s self and others, a sense of reverence. This is better illustrated by Old Norse virðing which can be translated “dignity.” Old Norse virðing can lead us to more ideas on honor on its own. Virðing derives from the Old Norse verb virða “to fix the worth of a thing, to tax, value.” It is cognate to our word worth. To have honor then was also to have worth. It is reflected in the Old English word, weorðness “worthiness,” which could also mean “honor.” A person had to have value as a human being to have honor in the ancient Heathen sense. Another Old Norse word for honor sómi derived from the Old Norse verb sóma “to beseem” from which our word seem may derive also. Its sense was more that of our word beseemingly. Honor in this sense was that which was appropriate. Honor was appropriate behavior. Honor to an ancient Heathen meant many things. It meant behaving appropriately. It meant leading a life that would be remembered after one was gone. It meant adhering the the codes of conduct of the community. To fully understand Heathen honor one would have to not only study the heroic codes of the warband culture, but also that of the everyday individual. It is hoped this small exploration of honor will start folks to thinking so that such detailed studies may be done.