The Evolution of Theodish Belief: Part II

by Garman Lord, copywrited, 1995
first published in the Hallows 1995 issue of THEOD Magazine, PO Box 8062, Watertown, NY, 13601

Introduction:

In 1971, while Steve McNallen and friends down in Texas were still just a
band of young hellraisers calling themselves "the Viking Brotherhood" and
inventing Metagenetics as a byproduct of trying to figure out just what it
was about their ancient forgotten folk-gods that appealed to them so much,
Garman Lord was many leagues north and half a country away founding a group
of Wizards called "The Witan" who, in the course of their Wiccan business,
would end up rediscovering the real "Old Religion", and inevitably the
long-forgotten folkways as well, of their ancient English ancestors. Neither
man knew at the time that, somewhere out across the Atlantic Ocean, an
Icelander, Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson, eventual re-founder of "Asatru" in his
own country 1072 years after the historical fact, was already way ahead of
them, and, as such, soon to be matched by John Yeowell in England, founder of
the Odinic Rite. In other words, there were obviously eldritch gods whom no
one had thought serious religious thoughts about in centuries, suddenly at
large in the world again, and obviously with something to say; something so
strange and uncanny that it would be awhile before even the most questing
minds and ears would begin to hear and understand it all that clearly.

Like several "mad scientists" each independently simultaneously discovering
something that just seems to be "in the air", none of these men was aware of
the work or even the existence of the others, none really understood at the
time the potential significance of what he was doing, and all proceeded along
in it by fits and starts. Each had his peculiar hobgoblins to put down along
the way; Garman's hobgoblin was Wicca. That ghost was finally laid in 1976,
after a visit from Woden and Frige and a life-changing religious
revelation...

Part II, The Witan Theod

It is always important to consider any flow of events against its defining
historical backdrop... such as what kind of a world I had dropped back into
in 1976. It should be borne in mind that the shaping historical and cultural
back- ground of the early seventies was a world largely unknown to many of
today's most active Heathen, who at that time were hardly out of three-
cornered pants. Our culture always seems to go through at least one major
mood-swing per decade. In the sixties it was the Kennedy assassination,
robbing us as it did of our cultural innocence. That episode in our history
not only turned us into a nation largely culturally defined by what we saw on
TV, but marked the transition of the TV world itself from its Leave It To
Beaver era to its Mod Squad era. The Kennedy assassination, a case of the
unthinkable happening right there before our eyes, broke the spirit of the
old order and temporarily broke the control of the opinion mongers over
cultural trends. What burst forth new-hatched from that broken shell was the
baby-boomer youth counterculture, with the Beatles leading the way, and the
youthful sense of hopefulness about the future; that even if the old
institutions were no longer to be trusted, we could just get busy and create
bigger and better new ones. That generation's rite of passage was the Vietnam
War, and by the end of the decade the rock counterculture had peaked with
Woodstock and was beginning to go downhill, as a new generation of opinion
mongers began to reassert control. And then along came a second national
shock, almost as traumatic as the Kennedy assassination, and again, a
television-spawned political event; the Nixon resignation. We as a nation,
already sickened in 1974 by the spectacle of the Symbionbese Liberation Army
and its front-page banner headline hostage, Newspaper heiress Patty Hearst,
wore ourselves out fighting over that exercise in futility, Watergate, and
its trauma marked the crushing-out of the sixties-spawned future-hopefulness,
for the rest of the century. Demoralized as we were as a nation by political
upheaval and social unrest, we quickly fell pawn to every quack nostrum the
social engineers wanted to sell us. A college education, in my own youth
available only to the rich and bright, came to be seen as the cure for
everything, and campuses began getting Federal money to recruit in inner city
neighbor hoods. Accordingly, at least a Bachelor's Degree became the only
acceptable credential for even getting in the door of most personnel offices,
even as it plummeted to something less than my own High School Diploma in
real-world educational significance, and Bachelor's Degrees started being
handed out to Federally funded students who couldn't even read them. And
college campuses themselves started becoming the place to be. Campus life
that formerly amounted to greasy-grind students hitting the books under bare
bulbs in cottage cubbyholes, flush with Federal money, suddenly started
blossoming into higher-ed theme parks, sprouting not only things like
television sets everywhere but mainframe computers time-shared out to
students and every other kind of seventies high-tech. Soon, if you were a
co-ed, the fad was to go down to the library and don earphones and stealthily
masturbate to stereo tracks of Led Zepplin's "What You Want". The brief and
floundering Ford presidency and the subsequent Carter election were the final
national political insult. I myself was amazed at the time to see how
suddenly the world began to turn mean. In 1976, year of the Muppets, the Sex
Pistols and Rocky, my hippie friends were hippies no more, and no longer the
same, and the normal human inner sense of self reliance and wellbeing was
replaced virtually overnight by an inner sense of helplessness, of personal
flaw as a kind of cultural livery, and a new American norm of being a
"victim" of one kind or another. Suddenly, as a friend of those days put it,
"You're just not with it unless you're messed up in some way." TV kept right
in step, as Social Concern began to replace entertainment, as comedy shifted
from laughing because things were funny, like I Love Lucy, to laughing
because things were embarrassing or painful, like All In The Family, and an
abusive Norman Learish mean-spiritedness took over the main medium of a
culture that has ever since then completely lost the fine art of gemutlicheit
and How to Lighten Up. In fact, going from the sixties into the seventies was
in many ways, for America, culturally, eerily like the transition from the
Roaring Twenties, with all its hopefulness, into the Bolshevist
Brother-Can-You-Spare-A-Dime Thirties, with all its despair. Such was the
world that I, a young Heathen man off the mean streets who was already a
stuck-in-the-sixties degreeless cultural dinosaur out of step and out of
touch with his own changing times, dropped back into, with nothing going for
me but mother wit and that Miracle of the Gods, a job.

It should be borne in mind, perhaps, that much of our cultural history tends
to pivot on the perpetual teeter-totter of two opposing forces; on the one
hand "The People" and on the other hand "The Folk". Not to get too simplistic
about such a complex subject, "The People" tends to be a civilizing,
democratizing, liberalizing kind of bolshevism or plebianism that will
flourish in codified or complex societies and has flourished in ours since
the introduction of Christianity. "The Folk", on the other hand, is an
organic, class-conscious, thew-bound kind of autochthony that is much more
instinctual and generally flourishes naturally whenever and wherever a
populace is allowed to monger its own opinions. The "Opinion Mongers" are a
"People" force, who have generally held sway since being first
technologically empowered by the "Media", beginning in the thirties of this
century. Its guiding and informing force tends always to be that of
"ideology"... a Monster of the collective Id suddenly unleashed amongst us by
the radical experiment of sending America's youth to college en masse, thus
turning us into a Nation of Sophomores. The "Rock Counterculture", on the
other hand, was a media-spawned "Folk" force that broke out in the sixties,
not to be brought back under control again until its morale was broken by mid
seventies cultural alienation and anomie. Folk forces tend to be quite
different; rather more instinctual, and guided and informed by the force of
that most uncommon of commodities, common sense. Campusization and
televization of the American culture, however, could only spell the doom of
any aspect of cultural life based on common sense. By the mid-seventies,
then, common sense having abdicated rulership of the dominion of common
culture, popular music had been "opinion-mongered" into the more readily
packageable absurdist nihilism of early punk and the mindless minimalism of
disco. The impact of this shift in Western cultural consciousness on the
beginning of the Reawakening has not, I think, been elsewhere much remarked.
But it is certainly interesting to note that Wicca, which is certainly not a
"Folk" movement, sprang up nonetheless during the Rock era, basically a
"Folk" era, characterized by folkish common sense, instinctual creativity and
openness to new ideas. Of course the Reawakening has never been truly a
"Folk" movement either, but it is patently one which is always trembling on
the brink of becoming so, and which will surely inevitably one day take the
plunge.

However that may be, the Reawakening, with its "folkish" tendencies, was a
thing that came later, sprouting up during the "Populist" cultural mood-swing
of the mid seventies, with its characteristic "People"-era hostility toward
new ideas. It is almost as if each phenomenon was spawned as an antithesis to
the trend of the times, as any marginal or fringe movement is likely bound to
be. The early Wiccans certainly looked outwardly very "hippie", yet there has
never been anything either "hip" or folkish about the Wiccan mentality, then
or now, and it was a thing very much out of step with the times in which it
flourished for awhile, before-self destructing in the Great Witch Wars. The
Heathen Reawakening, on the other hand, has yet to ever boom on the scale
that early Wicca did, and the hostility to new ideas of the age in which it
was spawned has surely been a factor. Nor did the far subtler mood-swing of
the mid eighties provide any cultural energy that the Reawakening could feed
upon. The eighties were much more of a balancing act, with no defining
cultural or political trauma that affected us directly. Politically, in
particular, it was an age when the more populist "Liberalism", being so
entrenched, nonetheless could do no better than a Mexican standoff against
the more folkish "Conservatism" which was then able to ride into ascendancy
on the tide of its practical success. Undoubtably the defining moment of the
nineties, on the other hand, has already come and gone, in the form of the
'94 elections that have Conservatized governments all across the land,
rendering a weak populist presidency meaningless half way through its time,
and casting the magic spell that turned House Speaker Tom Foley into a Newt.
And while this political mood-swing is not entirely "folkish" in its
mentality, it could, with its "common sense" attitude, nonetheless lead to a
more folkish cultural mood-swing before it has run its course, and create a
climate of receptivity to new ideas that could energize the Reawakening the
way sixties openness energized Wicca back when it was at its own comparable
stage of evolutionary development.

That much, however, is nothing but crystal-ball guesswork about our
imponderable future. Returning to the more ponderable subject of our past,
then, as I began settling into a new job and a new life over the next days
and weeks in the summer of 1976, I would often seem to hear Woden whispering
to me, always from somewhere off in the north, and I would whisper back. What
is it you want me to do? I would ask. Do you want me to found a religion for
you or something? No, not at all, I want you to learn, would come the answer.
Learn everything you can. And then always be willing to teach whatever you
learn to others; never mind about founding a religion. Well, then, how will I
do that? Where will I learn? Will you teach me? No; not until you first teach
yourself. Go out and read every book you can find on the elder ways, read the
original languages, learn Anglo-Saxon. Then ask me whatever you want to.

I was frankly appalled at the notion of learning Anglo-Saxon. It all seemed
quite arduously arbitrary and capricious at the time, as if such an exercise
would complicate and disrupt my whole life. How will I learn these things, I
asked. Where will I find the books for it? Don't worry, came the answer; I
will put you in the way of everything you will need.

Meanwhile, it didn't take my friends long to sense a profound change in me
and my fortunes in the month of July 1976. Before then, I had already been
frequently asked to come cast circles for Priestless new covens, to speak at
local gatherings and such. I protested that I was still in retreat, yet
accepted some of these things with the best grace I could muster. And at one
particular seminar where I spoke, I noticed a pair of amber eyes watching me
intently from under big hair worn loose in leftover hippie fashion, tracking
my every move and mannerism. The hair and eyes and ready Monica Seles-grin
that I saw later belonged to the very intelligent and sophisticated girl who
came to be known amongst us as AElfwyne. During wine and cheese after my
talk, as we somehow mysteriously gravitated together in the swirling crowd, I
told her that I wasn't really Wiccan, and AElfwyne said that she wasn't
either; it was her roommate, a terminally blond ditz, who had gotten
interested in Wicca, and AElfwyne was just tagging around after her to look
out for her. Or, at least, that's how it had started. AElfwyne was a budding
academic, a Senior at Syracuse University, Anthropology major, tremendously
knowledgeable about the history of occult organizations, going back to a
stint she had worked as a volunteer in the Rare Book Room at Byrd Library,
where they had the original works of Crowley and such. Opinionated,
strong-minded and witty, she characterized herself to me as a Recovering
Feminist, Syracuse U being of course a well-known early Feminist stronghold,
just as it is a stronghold today. When I asked her what had turned her away
from Feminism, she said it was her discovery that she was not a dyke. She
said that she soon realized that Wicca was a subculture not without its
Anthropological interest, and she had long been interested in what she called
"Neighborhood Bar Anthropology", most of the Steppe nomads and South Sea
Islanders having by now been written about to a fare-thee-well, after all.
She said that she had wanted to write about Wicca, but so far there seemed to
be nothing much in it to write about. All the leaders she had met and heard
talk so far, said AElfwyne, were total BS, and I was in fact the first
speaker she had heard who sounded as if he might actually know something. She
went on to say how she never lasted long in Wiccan company; she was always
asking the HP what his or her "sources" were, which always caused huge
problems. Now, of course, it was time to ask me the same question; what were
my sources? When I cited such sources as I could cite, AElfwyne just laughed
and patted me on the head and said "Later" and strolled away, and I assumed
that was the end of that rather interesting encounter.

But it wasn't. When she had said "Later", AElfwyne had meant it. At the time,
I was still doing what I had been doing to make the rent in my hippie days;
singing and picking quasi-rock guitar with a few Wiccan friends in bars.
AElfwyne started turning up as a groupie, and in time a roadie with our band.
She was a big brawny girl with an astonishing capacity for schlepping heavy
speakers around, and an equally astonishing penchant for turning up wherever
we ended up when the gig was over. AElfwyne and I were soon coming to be
thought of as an item, constantly head-to-head, with her constantly trying to
draw me out on exactly what my religion was, at a time when I wasn't real
sure what it was myself.

By Harvest, Woden began to come on almost as strong as AElfwyne, and started
asking me if I was going to become his thane. When I waffled, Woden said
something to the effect that they sure didn't make men like they used to that
got to me, and I plighted troth on the spot. If we had a bargain of any kind,
after all, Woden had certainly kept his end of it! The next time AElfwyne
came by my digs, she caught me reading the dictionary, trying to learn some
Anglo-Saxon from the etymologies of English words. That seemed to strike her
as enormously and pathetically funny, and she told me it was time I had some
tutoring. On her next visit, she came equipped with a big carton of books
from the campus library that made my eyes grow big with wonder, and sat me
down and started teaching me how to read them. Most of them were of a kind
new to me; a thin trickle of text running through acres of arid footnotes in
eight or ten point type. "Now", said AElfwyne, "it's time you learned how to
do research!"

I proved an apt pupil, to say the least. Incredibly difficult as the material
was, I soon got hooked on it, and AElfwyne soon began to wonder if she had
created a Frankenstein's monster, especially during marathon sessions when
she couldn't get my nose out of the books long enough to pay attention to
her. In the meantime, however, she told me that it was time I came out of
retreat. If I had a "coven", she wanted to join it, and besides, she had been
talking to some of my friends. They had quit meeting, what with me not
around, and one of them had even briefly gone Christian. But they wanted us
to come back together. Everybody knew that I had had some kind of
"revelation", after all, and shouldn't a person share such gifts?

AElfwyne was always persuasive. I told her that I did not have a "coven"
anymore, now that I knew a bit about what I was doing, but a "theod"; the
Witan theod, to be exact, and, since I was "Hlaford" of it, called forth by
Woden, the spear god, I also had a new name: Garman Lord. What was more, if
anyone wished to come back to a Wicca coven, they must understand that they
were in for a disappointment. I was full of new wisdom and infinitely
booklearned by then, needless to say; Wicca was all BS, and what we were
going to be instead was Heathen.

Ours was a bright crowd, generally speaking, and we all fell to AElfwyne's
constant flow of books, together with a fast-burgeoning welter of discoveries
of our own, with a vengeance, beginning to put together rituals in
Anglo-Saxon. It all went swimmingly, with new people coming along all the
time, and we soon discovered that our biggest challenge was getting rid of
the old Wiccan connections. Wiccans hate you when you're around, yet when
you're not around they just can't leave you alone. We found ourselves
constantly being drawn into Wiccan crisis situations, sorting out Wiccan
politics. At the same time, we started forming strict rules; our "theod" was
not a "coven", and Wiccans were not allowed into it. Yet, all through the
summer of '77 and into '78, breaking loose from Wicca was like finding your
way out of a trackless swamp.

In those days, of course, California-based Asatru was starting to spread its
wings, or say rather square-sails, if you will. In Texas, Edred Thorsson had
become aware of Steve McNallen's AFA, had himself joined in 1978, and would
go on to found his own "Ship's Crew", later Kindred, in 1979, together with
Mitchell Edwin Wade, since deceased. It was in '77, year of Close Encounters
of the Third Kind, that a Wiccan/Heathen eclectic, a musician I had gigged
with for awhile, began to worm his way into our midst. He had a new wrinkle
for us; a close encounter called "Asatru". It was all there in a newsletter
he had with him, one of Steve McNallen's old Runestones, called at the time,
as I recall, something like "Runensteinnen". Why didn't we know about this
stuff? my friend wanted to know. We were Heathen after all, and here was some
real Heathenry, just like us. He seemed to know all sorts of people we hadn't
a clue about, including Else Christensen, then living in Canada. He got Else
to come down and visit one of our rituals; Else was in fact casting about for
some religious forms that might lend more spiritual substance to her
"Odinism". Else was friendly and polite, but ultimately not much interested
in our Anglo-Saxon stuff as being what she was looking for; too complicated!

We were too busy with our own evolving cultus to pay much attention to Asatru
at the time, and our friend was the only cross member we had with the AFA of
those days. Asatru, however, was national, and we were strictly a local cult,
with no interest in going national. That might all be very well for San
Francisco, but, living as we did in a small town on the buckle of the Bible
Belt, it was all we could manage to keep our doings quiet enough to keep on
practicing our religion in peace and safety. Not that there was anything
particularly "safe" about it, for that matter; during the late seventies we
had gone whole hog Heathen, and were experimenting with things like
Witchcraft, hallucinogenic shamanry, sword smithing, trials by ordeal, Thing,
swine bloting and all sorts of other things besides Anglo-Saxon galdoring
that could be hard to explain to the boys down at the Rotary Club.

Not that the times in which we were questing after such adventures were such
as to inspire community confidence, for that matter, swashbuckling about as
we did during late 1978 and through '79 like Indiana Jones and the Temple of
Doom, while Indianan Jim Jones was dooming his Guiana cult to their Kool Aid
and cyanide sacrament, Three Mile Island was going critical, AIDS was
beginning to be whispered about, and nut cases like Ayatollah Khoumeni were
starting Jihaads and taking American hostages. It was not an era when the
temper of the media-driven times was with folks like us. In fact, by the
summer of 1981, it had all gotten to be just too much. Not only was the word
inevitably getting around our neighborhoods and workplaces that there were
some mighty strange people living up the street, but the more knowledgeable
and intense we became, the more our Heathenry began taking us into its own
world, separated from the host community by an unbridgeable gap. Some of the
new people coming in were a problem too, and after one particularly awkward
crisis, we all began to back off. It wasn't workable, at least not in our
community and in our lives in it. In 1981 I finally just stopped calling
meetings and put the theod on hold, promising to open up shop again in some
better tomorrow. Not that I was abandoning my troth, in my own mind, at
least. What I really wanted to do was shift my ground; perhaps try to
engineer some sort of bridge that could be thrown across that "unbridgeable
gap". There needed to be somebody writing about this stuff in some way that
would be open to the general public. In the Spring of '81 we had started up a
magazine of our own, called Vikingstaff, a popularized publication and not a
Heathen journal at all, but rather Heathen-informed in its thinking instead.
In terms of format and appeal, Vikingstaff was the Mountain Thunder of its
time, and immediately attracted a huge following in Asatru circles, thanks to
the attention drawn to it by an enthusiastic early fan, David Bragwin James,
a German Instructor at Yale, of Oak Ash and Thorn in Connecticutt.
Vikingstaff ran for a bit over two years, with a subscription list
approaching the four hundred mark by the time it finally folded. It was
during this time that some tenuous connection between our own "Anglo-Saxon
Witanry" and Asatru began to actually "take", and I began regularly hearing
from Asatru leaders and publishing Asatru doings and writings in Vikingstaff,
even occasionally contributing articles to Asatru journals myself. Around
Midsummer of 1980, about a month after the eruption in Washington of Mount
Saint Helens, the AFA erupted with its First Annual Althing in California,
and was beginning to spew special interest gilds, and Edred Thorsson,
ordained a Godhi at that first Althing, had already founded his Runa Gildi
some six months before. In 1981, as MTV was being launched, Vikingstaff
rented a motel dining hall and launched its first gathering of fans, mostly
Heathen or quasi-Heathen, and in 1982, not long after ET and Michael
Jackson's Thriller, we were thrilled to accept an offer to host a Harvest
gathering at the home of an enthusiastic New Jersey reader.

It was onto those grounds that David James came strolling, with Alice
Karlsdottir and Bob Zoller in tow, bearing the biggest meadhorn I had ever
seen up until that time and some equally big news; that a famous runester was
currently in the neighborhood and might be induced to come to our gathering
if someone would just go get him. It was Edred Thorsson, just back from his
second and definitive German runology hegira and currently at the family home
of his first wife, Nancy, in the ironically-named town of Valhalla, New York,
just across the Hudson River. Edred's name meant little enough to me at the
time, and mine meant even less to him, but his arrival brought together all
four of those who at that time knew anything worth knowing about runes on
this side of the Atlantic in the same place at the same time. Needless to
say, the conversation got very deep in a hurry. Edred proved to be a serious,
deeply thoughtful young man with a slow, almost unintelligible (to our Yankee
ears) Texas drawl, and the depth of my own rune knowledge was an obvious
surprise to him. Later, Edred would invite me to join him in writing the
Anglo-Saxon portion of a proposed book he had in mind, which offer I
declined, for fear, as he later agreed, that my lack of academic credentials
would compromise the credibility of the book. Not that commercial books on
runes were a particularly hot market item in any case, none having been
published yet. Edred himself had a manuscript that he was trying desperately
to get publishers to look at; his Futhark, A Handbook of Rune Magic. I
encouraged him to keep trying, hardly necessary, since he was obviously a
very determined young man in his own right, who seemed to know exactly what
his mission in life was. I said at the time that I had had some successful
dealings with FATE Magazine (they had published a lengthy popularized article
of mine about Anglo-Saxon runes), and thought that I could probably get a
review of Edred's book into FATE, if he could get it published. He did, in
1984, and I did, in 1985.

Meanwhile, at the Jersey gathering, things were obviously falling apart while
the two main attractions sat off in a corner, rudely monopolizing each
other's attention in a conversation studded with elder tongues and esoteric
lore and largely not even intelligible to most folks present, and we were
finally pried apart by main force and fed back into the social flow. We did
stay in touch for awhile after that, however, with myself joining the Rune
Gild and corresponding off and on about a topic that had cropped up between
us back then; some sort of networking organization that could help bring the
sparse and widely scattered Heathen folk together. Nearly as I can recall, it
was Edred himself who first proposed a name for it other than "network";
namely, the "Ring of Troth". Edred liked my ideas, had obviously been
thinking about the same sort of thing for awhile himself, and had quite a few
well-developed ideas of his own. It was all still very nebulous, and others
soon joined the conversation too, by letter and long distance phone calls:
David James, Bob Zoller, even Steve McNallen now and then. In time, we got to
the point of speculating as to who would actually take the point and found
such an organization. Bob Zoller had other and more compelling priorities in
his own life. Steve McNallen obviously had his own fish to fry. The AFA was
beginning to draw the attention of local Wicca, and a new kid was already
moving in on the block; Prudence Priest. David James seemed to fear that the
discipline of developing the monstrous organizational apparati involved could
seriously interfere with his drinking; he was the one who asked me whether I
might propose to found it myself. When I said no, Bragwin expressed the
opinion that it would then probably be Edred who would go ahead and do it, if
no one else would.

That didn't surprise me any, from what I knew of Edred's zeal and purpose,
and I began to look forward to the prospect of seeing the "Ring of Troth's"
sail appear somewhere on the horizon, wondering if Edred would really follow
through, and would really have what it would take to bring it off. I knew it
would have to be a huge job, which is why I backed down and never myself
became the founding daddy of "The Troth", which would obviously have emerged
as quite a different kind of organization if I had. It was not that I doubted
my own organizational skills, or any other necessary element of "the right
stuff". The fact was, my own notions had originally been inspired by the
invention of the personal computer. For an ordinary working stiff, the
organizational challenges involved in bringing together all Heathenry into a
single interactive network was just not a doable job, and yet the computer
was exactly the sort of innovation that could change all that, with its
capabilities for database management, modem hookups and information
interchange. At the time, however, a feeble PC 8086 cost something close to
the price of a new car, trickledown to the common man of that sort of
technology was still a few years away, and I was willing to wait a few years.
Edred, however, was not the sort of man who was interested in computers or
likely to become so for some years to come, and for him the time was now, or
at least the near future, indifferent of any technological innovations. A
1983 letter from Edred to me indicates that he would be going ahead along his
own lines in any case, regardless of what anybody else did. In a portion of
it, Edred says:

"As to the substantive suggestions you made in this latest letter, I indeed
find them right on the mark in every way. I would be most interested in
actively taking part in the type of networking project you outline. It seems
clear that such a band of aethelings would virtually automatically take care
of the concerns I raised over the phone. I have always known that if enough
quality energy were expended, the philosophical dead-wood would be submerged
in the process. Keep me posted on your progress, and even more importantly
let me know of anything I can actively do to aid in the process." Further
down, Edred goes on to say: "I will also try and work up some working
procedures for the Ring of Troth (by whatever name); to some extent it could
be a judicial function of the BUND of which you so rightly speak. Even a holy
Vehme of sorts...? There is a lot of work to be done, but if we concentrate
our efforts on quality at this stage, the High Ground will lie before us."

Thus did matters stand until 1985, when I finally bought a house. With no
more landlord to answer to, I announced that we were going to start the theod
up again, quietly, as soon as I got some remodeling done. By 1986 some of the
old Witan had begun drifting back into the picture, and we began having
informal discussions. One point in particular which came up again and again
was the onus attached to calling ourselves "Heathen" in a small Bible Belt
town, a problem not solved by the awkwardness of another term we sometimes
used for it; Witanry. I had been thinking about that problem myself, and I
announced that when we did start up again, we would be calling ourselves
"Theodish Geleafa", a term the ancient Heathen formerly used when asked by
Christians for the name of their nameless religion. It simply means "tribal
belief", and our common New English name for our religion would be "Theodish
Belief". We talked vaguely about startup dates, but some of my first
remodeling projects were pretty major, and I could only say that there
wouldn't be much I could do until those were out of the way. One couple in
particular said they couldn't wait that long. He was, in fact, the same guy
who had triggered the main problem that had led to us closing our doors
before, but we still remained friends. They had bought a house too, and by
late 1988 had come by default into the leadership of a stranded Seax Wicca
coven, and said they had plans of Heathenizing it. I asked them if we still
had troth, and they agreed we did, and in time I was invited to come by. Such
were the beginnings of the rogue theod that came to be known as M.H.

To me, it didn't make sense to step in as an "outsider" and take over the
leadership of a group that I had had no hand in organizing. We agreed that,
if anything, M.H. should keep its present Lord and Lady, my thanes, and its
own identity, as a daughter theod of our old Witan Theod. M.H. was small at
the time, but we were sure it would grow bigger, and other theods would be
spawned as well. There would have to be, then, some overlord recognized as
the First Lord among Lords; more or less of a Kingship. True Kingship,
however, seemed at the time a bit too ambitious and topheavy for the scale of
things as they then stood, a mere dozen or so people, and it was agreed
amongst us that I would merely stand for election as "AEtheling", with the
current folk constituting themselves a "Witan of the Whole", so to speak, for
election purposes. Even that idea was neither universally understood nor
popular, however, amongst such green folks as most of these were, and it was
necessary to call Thing on it. I came accordingly to Thing, and stood up and
introduced myself as our religion's founder and said "I am the reason you are
all here" into a circle of mostly blank stares. Most of the people involved
not only didn't know me from AskR, but were themselves pretty "neo", and the
proposition sounded somewhat authoritarian to them, and evoked amongst them
misgivings of the kind commonly found amongst Wiccans about "authority
figures". I was thoroughly grilled on my pretensions and my ideas, and the
question was thrashed out considerably. In the end, however, there not being
any other realistic choice, the motion for the new institution carried, and I
was elected to the AEthelingship, with a few abstentions but nary a nay vote
cast. I was installed in Hallows of 1989, and all swore troth to me as First
Lord AEtheling for a year and a day, renewing the oath and the office as
permanent in Hallows of 1990, just nineteen years to the day after I had
initiated my first coven-full of Wiccans.

In most senses, the AEthelingship did function just about like a sacral
kingship, and we all soon began to experience something of what "the King's
speed" means. I threw my whole efforts into helping turn M.H. out as
Heathens, while the Lord and Lady got busy and proselytized like crazy. They
bought a neighborhood bar down the street and opened a tattoo parlor, as well
as buying more houses, and their businesses and their theod boomed. For
Midsummer of 1991 they rented a campground and assembled over fifty Theodsmen
to hold Midsummer games and blot a three hundred pound swine, and by Hallows
the Theod was near a hundred strong. The Theodish Rice, albeit entirely a
local affair virtually unknown to Asatru, was, at the time, the biggest and
most powerful organization in Heathenry.