“Odin gave his eye to acquire knowledge… but I would give far more.”
This was an important moment in the popular History Channel show ‘Vikings’. It tells us Ragnar Lothbrok will stop at nothing to make his dreams' reality. No sacrifice would be too great.
Luckily, we don’t have to give up an eye – or far more – to acquire knowledge. We have the Hávamál, a series of proverbs taken from the Völuspá. “Hávamál” means something close to “Sayings of the High One,” and is attributed to Odin.
Here are a few pieces of Viking wisdom from the Hávamál, using the translation by Henry Adams Bellows, and what they mean for modern-day preppers.
Viking Wisdom for Modern-Day Preppers
Be Careful of Enemies Disguised as Friends
Within the gates | ere a man shall go,
(Full warily let him watch,
Full long let him look about him;
For little, he knows | where a foe may lurk,
And sit in the seats within.
This first stanza is obviously directed at travelers, bidding them to have caution when entering unfamiliar territory.
The modern-day application for preppers is also clear – you need to scout out your territory and select a location for your bug out shelter carefully.
There’s also a secondary meaning, no less important: being mindful of whom you trust. It’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security when you’re around people you think you can trust, especially when you’re building (or joining) a prepper community.
However, some types of preppers are best left alone – in fact, you’ll want to avoid them completely.
These kinds of people will win over your trust with their apparent knowledge and eagerness, but when SHTF, they’ll leave you in the dust. Worse, some of them might even undermine your ability to survive altogether.
Listen First, Speak Second
A man shall not boast | of his keenness of mind,
But keep it close in his breast;
To the silent and wise | does ill come seldom
When he goes as guest to a house;
(For a faster friend | one never finds
Then wisdom tried and true.)
This links, in part, rather nicely to the first stanza quoted above.
Being able to listen and observe is a very important skill for preppers to have, and it has many applications.
First, the most obvious meaning we can draw from the Viking Hávamál: when we listen before we speak, we’re in a better position to gauge the other person’s character and intentions. Drawing back to the idea of prepper types to avoid, those that brag spell trouble more often than not.
For one thing, they may be all words and no substance. When SHTF, they’re suddenly relying on you and your stock to survive. Or – even worse – their bragging has attracted notice from predatory survivalists and opportunistic non-preppers. They’re bound to come knocking when SHTF, ready to steal everyone’s stuff…
Do you really want to be stuck with the bragger when that happens?
Secondly, being able to listen and observe can alert you to a number of things when out in the wilderness. It’s especially important if you need to hunt for food.
Always Be Prepared
Away from his arms | in the open field
A man should fare not a foot;
For never he knows | when the need for a spear
Shall arise on the distant road.
Does this one even need any explanation?
We aren’t called preppers because we think the label sounds cool. No, it’s because we’re prepared. And the idea is to always be prepared, for any SHTF scenario.
Of course, we don’t always remember that. We’re only human. We tend to forget there’s more to prepare for than the apocalypse. In fact, there’s a lot more we’re meant to be readying ourselves to survive – and most of it is more likely than an actual apocalypse.
Whether it’s building a bug out bag, expanding our medical kits, learning a new set of skills (and there’s always a new set of skills waiting to be learned) or restocking our supplies, our motto is “always be prepared.”
Nothing Happens Without Action
He must early go forth | whose workers are few,
Himself his work to seek;
Much remains undone | for the morning-sleeper,
For the swift is wealth half won.
Tying to the previous point, the best way to be prepared is to take action. Survival is a proactive exercise – you can’t expect it to fall in your lap when SHTF.
As with most things, it’s better to start sooner than later. And if we’re completely honest with ourselves, this is especially true for preppers. Because let’s face it, there are a lot of skills to be learned, a lot of gear to be purchased and not a lot of budget to do so with.
The sooner we begin, the more gear we’re able to gather and the more skills we can acquire. And when SHTF, the extra time spent practicing and honing our skills will count us in good stead.
Make The Most Of What You Have
Washed and fed | to the council fare,
But care not too much for thy clothes;
Let none be ashamed | of his shoes and hose,
Less still of the steed he rides,
(Though poor be the horse he has.)
The trick here is not to take the Hávamál literally. Of course, you need to take care of your clothes. In fact, you should learn how to sew so you can repair rather than replace. The same goes for the rest of your gear; it’ll be the difference between life and death when SHTF.
Instead, let’s focus on the third line for this section, which tells us not to be ashamed of what we have. As I mentioned earlier, you’re working on a budget. It’s no secret that being a prepper can get expensive very quickly.
But that’s why one of the traits of successful preppers is the ability to drive a hard bargain. You need to know where to shop for the best prices without compromising on quality.
RELATED: 10 Traits Successful Preppers Have
The Importance of A Solid Structure
Strong is the beam | that raised must be
To give an entrance to all;
Give it a ring, | or grim will be
The wish it would work on thee.
Viking longhouses were built with strong entrances, including a beam that could be raised or lowered to secure the building.
The obvious application for us modern-day preppers is to ensure our shelters are properly secure. Naturally, you want your shelter to withstand any threat, so it needs to be stable and well-protected.
But here’s the thing – the ring the Hávamál speaks of is there to ensure the securing beam isn’t weakened by being raised too often.
What does that mean for preppers? Well, it ties back to the first point I made. You don’t want to be raising your defenses to welcome enemies disguised as friends.
And it also means you need to guard your mind by practicing the psychology of survival. Without that foundation, your career as a prepper is built on shaky ground.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 2, 2019, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.