Building Tribe: Kith, Kin, and Sacrifice

Tribes, and the bands that make up those tribes are—historically and prehistorically—composed of a physical and spiritual extension of the family. In European cultures this is referred to with some derivation of the Germanic term “folk.” To use another traditional European term (I am after all, of very European descent), your folk are your “kith and kin.” While it will undoubtedly incite the angst of the white power organizations, despite my use of Euro-centric terminology, this is not about race, contrary to their blatherings otherwise.

“Kin,” as anyone raised in the Southern Highlands as I was, can tell you, means “family.” These are—obviously—those people related to you by blood. “Kith” on the other hand, is somewhat more complicated, because it is so often misused by those with a political agenda. According to the Merrian-Webster dictionary, kith refers to “familiar friends and neighbors.” It is Middle English, cognate of the Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, word cythth, meaning “known.”

Thus, your tribe composed of your “kith and kin,” has nothing to do with everyone who shares your national heritage, or even your race. It is your known friends, neighbors, and family. This is critically important, as we discuss neo-tribalism, in the sense of building and forging self-reliant communities. Most native English speakers will be familiar with the proverb, “blood is thicker than water.” The problem is, the common, contemporary understanding of that term is completely inverted. The original verbiage of the proverb was “the blood of the oath is thicker than the water of the womb.” It actually meant the EXACT OPPOSITE of what we commonly use it to reference.

It refers to the blood oaths used in ancient warrior societies to bond men together, separating them from their families. These are the same bonds that we need to be forging with the people we choose to allow into your preparedness group at a tribal level. Your family—your kin—is important. So however, are your kith—those people you owe fealty and allegiance to, not through the water of the womb, but through the blood of the oath. If the only friends you have whom you trust at that level happen to be the same ethnic background as you? More power to you. I can respect that. At the same time, I’m not going to turn away someone that has all the traits I look for in a kinsman, simply because his ancestors are from a different continent than mine. If he’s adapted to the same worldview I hold, and we share the same values, I’m okay with that. I’d much rather have that guy than a dude who happens to be white, but is too busy tweaking on meth to be functional.

This is extremely important for people to realize. You are talking about people whom you expect to protect your life and the lives of your family. What level of trust is required for that?

One of the defining traits of people in contemporary culture is to see himself as something very important; even indispensable. Too many find it impossible to engage in any task unless they can see an immediate personal, material benefit to it. This desire to nourish and inflate the ego is one of the most telling flaws of our post-modern, decadent society in decline.

Unfortunately however, even amongst the preparedness-minded, this attitude is too frequently found. I’ve seen a lot of groups formed around the leadership of one individual, who fed off the efforts of his “followers.” I’ve been accused of this egoism myself, which is doubly ironic, since a) I am an arrogant, elitist, self-confident prick, but b) I’ll be the first to tell you that there are other people far more qualified to be writing what I am writing, and that I am the last person anyone with a grain of sense would want in a leadership position, because I am entirely too corruptible.

Ultimately, if we are to survive the continuing collapse of the nation-state system, and build resilient, self-reliant communities, we will—in alignment with human nature—revert to some form of neo-tribalism. The first people we should be looking at for our tribes are—of course—our kin. Does the phrase “my family is my religion” sound familiar to any readers of the MountainGuerrilla blog?

Second only to our kin however, are those people—our friends and neighbors that we know and love—that make up our “kith.” Developing the level of trust of the blood oath nature of “kith” can be—has been—said to require three elements: suffering, discipline, and love. These cannot simply be shallow verbal tokens however. They have to be lived.

Suffering can be—and should be—defined by both the physical and psychological. It sounds miserable, and as a mentor once told me, “We don’t need to practice being miserable. We’ll be plenty miserable when it comes,” but the fact is, the vast majority of Americans have no idea what suffering really is. In a country where the “poor” have large screen televisions, fast-food, and reality TV, let’s face it, there’s not that many who are really, REALLY suffering. Even amongst the much-heralded homeless in America, the suffering is relative. The most miserable homeless dude in the USA has life 100 times better than a street urchin in Bangkok or New Delhi. We DO need to practice suffering, at some level. Not only because I can promise you, whether your contingency planning focuses on insurgency against a totalitarian regime, or a socio-economic collapse, life is going to be a lot more miserable than you or I have ever experienced, but also because suffering together forges the bonds of a tribe. Tribes aren’t built at picnics and potlucks (although both of those have their place!). Tribes are forged during the Suck.

I’m not suggesting you set up a Sun Dance pole in your backyard—although, if you’re a member of the Sioux Nation, perhaps that WOULD be ideal. Some groups like to use intra-group violence, not only to forge loyalty, but to establish a hierarchy within the group. I don’t personally believe that’s the best route either, but if that works for your people, more power to you.

One way that we know works well is shared suffering during training. Whether it’s shared PT during a group run or a Crossfit-type conditioning workout, a series of really HARD PT sessions can build a remarkable level of loyalty and sense of community. If my experiences are indicative, however, getting people to show up and do PT, even when the gym use is free, and they’re going to get free coaching, is next to impossible. In a previous article for FO, I mentioned the use of backpacking and camping trips. ANYTHING that you can do as a group, or part of a group, that involves a shared experience of suffering, at some level, will build that sense of mutual exclusivity within the group. If you want a great, contemporary example of this, even in the suck of modern society, go look at your local Crossfit box and see what is happening there.

Related to suffering is discipline. Discipline is the indomitable will to reach a goal, despite the suffering, through determination. Discipline in this context can range from foregoing the “guys’ night out” with your buddies, in order to spend the money on something important, like a new vacuum sealer. It can mean convincing your wife to forgo the new diamond earrings she wants for Christmas, and buying her a new sidearm and a concealed carry holster instead. That builds discipline not only for her, but for you as well, since you’re probably going to get to practice suffering when she makes you sleep on the couch for the next month.

We must have discipline—of self and within our tribes. This requires accountability. It’s important that I do my daily dry-fire practice. But, do I know that my tribesman is doing his? If he shows no marked improvement from one training day at the range to the next, he’s probably not. What can I do to hold him accountable—within the “laws” of my tribe, to focus his self-discipline? If the reverse is true, what is it going to take for him to motivate me to improve my self-discipline? In order to build the level of skill necessary to protect the tribe—the kith and kin—we both have to hold ourselves and each other accountable for practicing the self-discipline to do the work that needs to be done. If I’ve got a fat dude in my forming tribe who has a lot of otherwise useful skills, but absolutely refuses to display the self-discipline to do SOMETHING for PT to improve his health, how can I trust him to be able to protect my family, if something happens to me while I’m helping to protect his family? I can’t. So am I going to be willing to put myself at risk—and by extension, my family at risk—if I don’t trust him to be able to protect them? Not. A. Chance.

Finally, we need love. This is not some mushy, feel-good, New Age nonsense. Love is the one emotion that can be said to always drive us away from the meanness of our nature, towards higher, loftier goals. Whether you place love of family first, or love of God, love is what moves us to do the ugly, scary, necessary tasks that we don’t want to do. It’s what makes us able to endure the suffering of discipline, to be the people we need to be. It leads us away from the egotism of modern pop culture, and drives us to perform the important things, even to the point of self-sacrifice, for the survival of the tribe.

Aiming for the achievement of these three standards of behavior in our tribal, self-reliant, resilient communities allows us to destroy the illusions of the importance of ego, and achieve greater things than we are even aware we are capable of. This self-sacrifice, post-modern egoism be damned, is what drives mankind closer to the sacred. Whether you are Christian, and define sacred as being more Christ-like, or you are—like me—a “dirty, filthy, heathen,” and place kith and kin above all other considerations in this life, the search for the sacred, through the willingness to sacrifice self for love, is the most important gift we can offer our “tribes.”


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Excellent piece John. You just keep getting better brother.
Hope to see you soon.

Wow. Awesome! Lot’s of thought right there. Take heed. Thanks.

Great Article. I shared it with the Open Halls Project on Facebook because as the military heathen network I know they would appreciate your work.

Great article John. Thank you.

Awesome, John. Probably your best. Nice explanation of kith and how to nurture that, this is very helpful.

Wonderful, insightful article. Thanks, John

As I am almost always head over heels in love with my own verbiage, it is rare to really appreciate someone else’s writing. This is a rare find. First rate job. Be cool, be safe.


Great article. As a former Spec-Ops soldier, build a force is one of the most difficult undertakings one can take on. Adding the elements which you speak of in your article will only lead to more difficulty in trying to obtain a cohesive unit/tribe. The elements of suffering and discipline are two things the will aid to effort make or break the tribe. The element of love will grow out of the trails that are experienced together. As we both discovered with the teams, both suffering and discipline fostered a greater type of love and brotherhood than one can find anywhere but there.

The building of the tribe before and after a societal collapse is and will be difficult at best. The tribes overall success or failure will be directly related to its own ability to become a cohesive unit functioning for the common good of the tribe.

Again, great article.


I have several prepper friends in my neighborhood, but every one of them has flaws. One talks a good game, has excellent ideas that I implement, but is super slow to act, herself. She also has a seriously mechanically minded husband, who likes to stock up on gigantic batteries and power supplies. Do they get the boot? Some are severely overweight, but prep better than me, and that’s saying something. Do they get the boot? As the Mother in my home, with a husband who has serious issues with my prepping, I hesitate to automatically kick someone out of my group of prepper associates, when I already have so few. I’ve come to grips with the fact that, although I like myself more than your typical human likes themselves, I’m not perfect. How can I expect my prepper friends to be perfect? Can I still have a good functioning Kith and Kin group with imperfect people? I sure hope so, because I have yet to meet the perfect person on planet Earth.

I would like permission to use some of this article in a sermon at my local church.

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