Ūtanbord/ Innanbord is an extremely pervasive idea which dictated how the elder Heathen interacted with the his tribe, his gods and the world beyond him. This concept gave clear guidelines as to who was bound by his laws, his customs and who was not.

Old English ‘Innan’ means ‘within’ or ‘inside’,  ‘ūtan’ means ‘from without’ or ‘outside’ and ‘bord’ refers to a boundary of sorts.  Essentially, the Innanbord is that which is inside, where people within are all bound by the same tribal customs, laws and religious praxis. Those in ūtanbordes were not bound by those customs and were not afforded protection from the tribal unit, hence ‘outlaw’. The outside was considered a place of wildness and chaos where untamed spirits dwelt and danger lurked around each and every corner.

In We Are Our Deeds, Eric Wōdening explains the dangers one faced as an ‘outlaw’ banished to the wilds:

“The equation of society with law can perhaps be seen best in the custom of outlawry as a punishment for wrongdoers. One who was outlawed was placed outside the law- that is, cast out of society. The Old English phrase butan ǣ, meaning “outlaw”, literally meant ‘without or outside the law (OE ǣ).’ Outlaws had at best only quasi-human status. They could be killed with little fear of reprisal. They could not even receive a decent burial or cremation. They were “outside the law” and hence ‘outside society.'” 

The Germanic world existed in concentric circles, radiating outward from the hearth or immediate family unit, with the next encompassing more distant relations and kin (sibb), while the one after that surrounded the tribe itself. There were also innanbordes around sacred sites and places of worship within the tribal innanbord, where they existed as both part of the tribal innanbord and as a separate, sacred entity.


Further Reading:

We Are Our Deeds: The Elder Heathenry, Its Ethic and Thew by Eric Wōdening