Innanbord, Ūtanbord and Outlawry

 

Ūtanbord(es)/ Innanbord(es) is a pervasive idea which dictated how the Anglo-Saxon 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’[1],  ūtan means ‘from without’ or ‘outside’[2] and –bord refers to a ‘border’, ‘boundary’ or ‘wooden plank’ [3].  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 ūtanbord were not bound by those customs and were not afforded protection from the tribal unit, hence. The outside was considered a place of wildness and chaos where untamed spirits dwelt and danger lurked around each and every corner.

According to Sarah Harlan-Haughey, the English outlaw existed outside “communal, kingly and heavenly law,” and were frequently compared to wolves in Germanic lore – a fact attested by the dual usage of the word, wearg (ON:vargr) [4].

The logical connections between outlaws and wolves are inherent in many different ways. First, outlaws were forced to flee to uninhabited spaces, which were often also abodes of wild animals; since wolves are the most dangerous of wild beasts in the region, they become associated with the space they inhabit. Therefore, the dangerous human who shares his home in the wilderness becomes, in some way, wolflike. If he wasn’t bestial by nature, his new habitat makes him so. Second, outlaws, like wolves, can be hunted and decapitated by anyone who chooses to undertake the task – the relative simplicity of ending an outlaw’s life underlines his basic loss of humanity. Finally, the outlaw’s need to find food for himself may perhaps have led to his preying upon settled areas, stealing livestock or foodstuffs in a way quite similar to the activities of wolves.” [5]

Those within the bounds of common-law existed in concentric circles, radiating outward from the sacred centre of the home. For the contemporary practitioner, these circles might [*] manifest thusly:

  • Heorþ – The primary circle is that of the hearth and home, which encompasses immediate family and cohabitants. 
  • Sibb – The second circle encompasses more distant relations and kin. This grouping would also include close family friends with whom you share friþ but who don’t share a residence.
  • Botlwēla – The third circle encompasses a collection of heorþas analogous to a village or confederation.

utanbord 


Sources:

[1]Bosworth, Joseph. “An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary Online.Innan. Ed. Thomas Northcote Toller and Others. Comp. Sean Christ and Ondřej Tichý. Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague, 21 Mar. 2010. Web. 26 Dec. 2017.

[2]Bosworth, Joseph. “An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary Online.útan. Ed. Thomas Northcote Toller and Others. Comp. Sean Christ and Ondřej Tichý. Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague, 21 Mar. 2010. Web. 26 Dec. 2017.

[3]Bosworth, Joseph. “An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary Online.BORD. Ed. Thomas Northcote Toller and Others. Comp. Sean Christ and Ondřej Tichý. Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague, 21 Mar. 2010. Web. 26 Dec. 2017.

[4]Bosworth, Joseph. “An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary Online.Wearg. Ed. Thomas Northcote Toller and Others. Comp. Sean Christ and Ondřej Tichý. Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague, 21 Mar. 2010. Web. 26 Dec. 2017.

[5]Harlan-Haughey, Sarah. The Ecology of the English Outlaw in Medieval Literature: From Fen to Greenwood. The Wolf and the Fen (pp.25)

[*] Please be aware, this is not the only way one might arrange and label these concentric circles. There also might be a certain amount of overlap present between, say, botlwēla and sibb, just as there might be between sibb and heorþ, what with the inconstant nature of some modern households.

 

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