Mad Respect: A Commentary On Reputation
Reputation. One’s standing in their community. As well as one’s standing outside of it. An example of something of great importance today, much as it was in the day of the Elder Heathen. A good or bad reputation could well affect whether or not others would help you if you needed it. In a justice system that counted innocence or guilt in some cases by how many people would swear to your innocence, reputation could save or condemn you.
Few will come to the defense of one with a bad reputation. This is something that, even though it may not decide things in legal matters anymore, we still find to be very important. After all, no one wants to go to restaurant that has a reputation for having roaches or mice. Nor would they stay at a hotel known for having bedbugs. Few are willing to associate with a liar. Your reputation can even affect your ability to find a job.
So, we find this to still be an extremely important matter. Reputation can even affect your luck. In ages past, the Elder Heathens saw one’s luck as mixing with those around them. One who was known for having bad luck could count few, if any, friends or allies amongst them.
When looking at this extremely important aspect of Heathen worldview, in the experience of Heathens today we are reminded of just how important it can be. For those with any measurable amount of time in Heathenry, some of whom are in Heathen specific groups (Hearths, Theods, Kindreds, etc.), they often know other groups. Most of them know with which groups are good to interact, and those who are not. Even those who practice on their own, be it by lack of other interested people or otherwise, are at least aware of the same things. In some cases, we also see this with national organizations. Though not so much with Anglo-Saxon Heathenry specifically.
When one either speaks often on Heathen matters, like this site. Or are in a group, they have a reputation. This is why being careful with whom one associates is of utmost importance. Your reputation becomes tied to your group or organization. So, it is best even if you are on your own, to be careful of what you say and do. Also, to stay away from groups and organizations (as well as individuals) with a bad reputation.
This, of course, is reputation on the “street level”. The day to day mechanics of it. In the past, reputation was guarded far more seriously. In England, during the Anglo-Saxon era, crimes like slander were punished by cutting off the offender’s tongue! Reputation was that much held in regard by the Elder Heathen.
Fortune has it that your tongue is not at risk of being cut off for false claims against another’s reputation. Be that as it may, one might give pause that not only do we cultivate and grow our reputations in a positive manner, that we also mind the effect we may have on the reputations of others with our words. Our ancestors knew well that words have power. Deeds, of course, more so, but words as well.
Though many of us may not fulfill the aspirations for fame that we see in the old tales, such as Beowulf, we can still establish ourselves as upstanding and beneficial members of our communities. You don’t have to slay monsters to make a difference or have a good reputation. Though, if one were to appear, I’m sure that would help cultivate a good reputation! Instead, I suspect being a benefactor to those around you, as well as being an honorable person, choosing words and actions carefully, will go a long way.