Havamal is the words of wisdom which served as spiritual provisions for the Vikings on their long journeys over the rough sea to discover new lands. It is one of the more famous and certainly one of the most popular of the so-called Eddaic poems. Those chosen parts of Havamal are neither heroic nor mythological, but rather of a didactic nature.

Although more than a thousand years old, it seems incapable of becoming outdated, since in important respects man himself has hardly changed in the course of the centuries. The essential qualities of life, too, are still the same as they were in the day that the Havamal was written: a man who has fire, a view of the sun, good health and personal integrity is better placed than one whose life is spent in pursuit of wealth, of luxury, and impressing others. Nothing can take such a man’s life away, for although death is inescapable, his posthumous reputation will never die.

The ethics of the Havamal are relevant to the neomasculine lifestyle, above all rooted in belief in the value of the individual, who is nonetheless not alone in the world but tied by inextricable bonds to nature and society. In the old philosophy of the North, each individual was responsible for his own life, shaped by his own fortune or misfortune and created a life for himself from his own resources.

1. Worldliness

Worldliness 1

The traveller must

train his wits.

All is easy at home.

He who knows little

is a laughing-stock

amongst the men of the world.

2. The Nature Of Friendship

Nature of friendship 2

A bad friend

is far away

though his cottage is close.

To a true friend

lies a trodden road

though his farm lies far away

3. A Home Is a Castle

Home is a castle

Better a humble

house than none.

A man is master at home.

A pair of goats

and a patched roof

are better than begging.

4. Caution

Caution 2

Never walk

away from home

ahead of your axe and sword.

You can’t feel a battle

in your bones

or foresee a fight.

5. How To Cultivate Friendship

braais

A true friend

whom you trust well

and wish for his good will:

go to him often

exchange gifts

and keep him company.

6. Experience

fiennes reduced

He is truly wise

who’s travelled far

and knows the ways of the world.

He who has travelled

Can tell what spirit

governs the men he meets.

7. Prosperity

prosperity 2

The brave and generous

have the best lives.

They’re seldom sorry.

The unwise man

is always worried,

fears favours to repay.

8. The Importance Of Appearances

appearance

Two wooden stakes

stood in the field,

there I hung my hat and cloak.

They had character

in fine clothes.

Naked I was nothing.

9. The Early Bird

the early bird

Wake early

if you want

another man’s life or land.

No lamb

for the lazy wolf.

No battles won in bed.

10. The Nature of Secrecy

secrecy

Ask you must

and answer well

to be called clever.

One may know your secret

never a second.

If three, a thousand will know.

11. The Basics Of Life

fire small

A man needs warmth,

the warmth of fire

and of the shining sun.

A healthy man

is a happy man

who is neither ill nor injured.

12. Poor – But Alive…

original diado

It is better to live

than lie dead.

A dead man gathers no goods.

I saw warm fire

at a wealthy man’s house

himself dead at the door.

13. Everyone Has His Use (as opposed to everyone is equal™)

Everyone has his use 1

The lame rides a horse

the maimed drives the herd

the deaf is brave in battle.

A man is better

blind than burried.

A dead man is deft at nothing.

14. Keeping Your Name Alive

A son is better

though late begotten

of an old and ailing father.

Only your kin

will proudly carve

a memorial at the main gate.

15. Hospitality

hospitality

The newcomer

needs fire

his knees are numb.

a man who has made

his way over mountains

needs food and fresh linen.

16. Renown

renown leo

Cattle die

kinsmen die

all men are mortal.

Words of praise

will never perish

nor a noble name.

17. Independence

DSC_0032

It is fortunate

to be favoured

with praise and popularity.

It is dire luck

to be dependent

on the feelings of a fellow-man.

18. Responsibility

well traveled

A king’s son should be thoughtful

thorough and silent

brave in battle.

A man should be happy

and in good humour

to his dying day.

19. Financial Sense

financial sense

Become not

a beggar

to the money you make.

What’s saved for a friend

a foe may take

Good plans often go awry.

20. Extravagance

lavish gifts

Load no man

with lavish gifts.

Small presents often win great praise.

With a loaf cut

and a cup shared

I found fellowship.

21. Foresight

foresight

A man should know

how many logs

stubs and strips of bark

to collect in the summer

to keep in stock

wood for his winter fires.

This book should be on everyone’s nightstand. Its words have a significant influence in the way I lead my life as a man and the decisions I take. One day, I will give a copy of it to my sons.

The edition I possess is the translation made by Björn Jonasson, with an foreword by Matthias Vithar Saemundsson, senior lecturer in Icelandic literature at the University of Iceland.

Read more: What You Can Learn About Being A Man From The Vikings