A recurrent theme in Asatru lore is that of the band of heroes, surrounded and outnumbered, fighting to the death rather than surrendering. Of course, such examples of courage and tenacity are not confined to the Northern sagas.
On March 6, 1836, the Alamo fell to the army of Mexican General Santa Ana. For thirteen days, the garrison of around 200 Texans held out against a force of about 1500 Mexicans. On the eighth day of the siege, Commander William B. Travis gave any man who wanted to leave permission to do so. One man accepted; the rest stayed to die rather than surrender.
Such an act seems almost impossible in our cynical and degenerate age. The men of the Alamo remain a shining example for those of us who live in these dangerous times. There is a wonderful poem sometimes found in Asatru circles, written in the old Germanic style, about this battle; it begins
Harsh that hearing for Houston the Raven:
Fools had enfeebled the fortress at Bexar,
Leaving it lacking and looted the while
Hordes were sweeping swift on the land,
Hell-bent to crush him...
(For more, go to http://www.anitra.net/commonwealth/alamo.html).
But aside from its obvious courage and idealism, what does this engagement in central Texas have to to do with Asatru?
Quite a lot, actually...
Our Christian friends, if they know Asatru lore well enough, chide us with statements from another supposedly lost battle: "Your Gods die at Ragnarok. They may be brave, but they are losers; mere mortals writ large. Why follow Gods like that when you could follow the God of Abraham?"
The answer, of course, is that by doing their duty and fighting to the death, the Gods and those great souls who fight alongside them make rebirth possible. If they do not fight, all ends in eternal darkness and death. Their resistance, and their resistance alone, enables the great cycle of arising, being and becoming, and falling away to a new arising. And of course, there remains the fact that the Gods are reborn into the new world, so the Christian argument is flawed from the start.
The men who died at a lonely mission village called San Antonio de Bexar similarly "lost." Yet, the time they bought allowed Sam Houston to raise an army, and led to the sweeping Texan victory at San Jacinto on April 21st of the same year. In a surprise attack, Houston's army killed 630 Mexican troops and captured 730. Only (Ahem!) nine Texans were killed. The actual combat lasted eighteen minutes.
Because of this victory, Texas won its freedom and remained an independent nation for ten years before joining the United States. As recently as the 1980's, a poll of Texans found that 18.5% thought Texas would have done better on its own.
Great things come from great lives, and great deaths. Our role, like that of Colonel Travis' volunteers, and like the Gods themselves, is to do our duty as demanded by honor - whether that duty be fighting and dying, or writing, or raising our children well, or speaking the truth when that is perilous. Victory is sweet, life is precious, and we ought to pursue them - but above all we must meet our Wyrd without shirking or shrinking. One could do worse than winning what all branches of the Indo-Europeans, from Troy and Thermopylae to Maldon and Beowulf, would recognize as "bright and undying fame."
Asatru Folk Assembly