The life rules which I am about to share, are based on the Havamal, a collection of old Norse poems from the Viking age. “Norse” and “Viking” refer to the same Germanic people who settled in Scandinavia during the Viking Age and who spoke Old Norse. “Norse” refers to Norsemen who were full-time traders and Vikings refers to people who were actually farmers but were part-time warriors led by people of noble birth; often the terms overlapped.
The Havamal (Sayings of the High One) is part of the Poetic Edda, a collection of Old Norse poems that survive in a 13th century manuscript. The various verses found in the Havamal were collected from different sources, with some dating back as far as the 10th century. They are presented as being words of wisdom by Odin, who according to Norse mythology was the father of all gods and ruler of Asgard.
Within the 164 stanzas found in the Havamal, you can find advice on proper ways to show hospitality, being generous, how to be wise, how to properly treat women and ethics. The final sections talk about runes and charms. Here are some proverbs from the Hávamál:
1) “Be a person of worldly intelligence if you desire to sit with kings. The man who only carries the limited scope of his village will be a laughing stock”–This verse reminds us to properly educate ourselves; proper education, is not only a good way to become introspective but also expands the mind.
2) “Travel far and wide and you shall possess the secrets of man”–Nothing opens the mind and soul more than to be exposed to different views and cultures.
3) “When fear leads the way, the destination is never glorious”
4) “As one candle can light another, so too can greatness of mind be transferred among men. To remain in solitude is to deprive oneself of this kindling”–What is the point of amassing knowledge or to spend time meditating to achieve inner peace and wisdom, if all you learned cannot be share with others?
5) “Take care with your speech; it can be the catalyst for many needless problems. You never know who could be lending an ear to your ramblings”.
6) “If you desire to claim a place in the world, arise early. The slothful wolf starves and the sleeping man rarely sees victory”–Work for what you want.
7) “Understand that a storm can change its course without warning, always be prepared to brave a storm”–learn to look at all angles to prevent setbacks and plan accordingly.
8) “The cowardly man thinks he’ll live for ever, if he keeps away from fighting; but old age won’t grant him a truce”–Life cares not for fake diplomacy.
9) “A guest must depart again on his way, nor stay in the same place ever; if he bide too long on another’s bench the loved one soon becomes loathed”.
10) “Defeat your enemies at the fields before they reach your house”.
11) “There is a always a sage wiser and a warrior bolder than yourself, be careful not to become too comfortable”.–Don’t fall pray to false ego.
12) “Enemies often lurk in the shadows around corners. It would be wise to check them before venturing further on your path”.–Be careful who your friends are.
13) “Moderate yourself ruthlessly, allowing greed to consume you will bring you nothing but sorrow”.
14) “The simple man is quick to point fingers, causing much dismay amongst others. He is unknowing that he too shares their faults”.
15) “Lying awake in the night battling ill thoughts, offers no solutions. You rise unrested and in no better position than before”.
16) “The coward hoards and lives in fear, rarely delighting in the fortune that seldom comes his way”.
17) “No matter if your dwelling is a fragile shackle of sticks and mud. It is valuable to have a home. Nothing crushes a man’s spirit more than having to beg”.
18) “What will be etched into history about your life? What legend will be left long after you are gone? How have you made this world better? Ponder these questions daily”.–What meaning does your life have? If none, give it some.
19) “Affection is mutual when men can open all their heart to each other: He whose words are always fair, is untrue and not to be trusted. A good friend speaks truly and from the heart, the one whose speech is always pleasant cannot be trusted”–A good reminder that false diplomacy is not something to be proud of; instead we should be cautious when meeting people who are always trying to please the crowd and can’t commit to their own opinions.
20) “Common sense is your best friend”.
21) “No matter how cautiously you live, there is no escaping the fatal clutches of old age. So then, better to join the fray and fight proudly for something worth obtaining”.