The Evolution of Theodish Belief, by Garman Lord

Part III: The Coming of the Theodish Rice

first published in THEOD Magazine, Ewomeoluc Volume III, Number 1 (February 1996)

By 1986, the religion we had been calling "Anglo-Saxon Witanry" had a new
name; Anglo-Saxon Theodish Belief, and the members who were talking about
putting it all back together did not have to do so under the socially dubious
rubric of "Heathenry" anymore; they could now call their religion "Theodish"
and themselves "Theodsmen" or "Theodish Gesithas". Nor was the group's name
the "Witan Theod" anymore. Such a nomenclature had long seemed too ambiguous,
after all. Did the Witan Theod have a Witan, or was it a Witan, and if so, a
Witan to whom or what? What we were, in fact, was the revival of what had
gone before; new green shoots of the first scion that was cloned off the
elder stock a decade earlier in 1976. We called it "the sprout of the
sprout", and used a runic pun for both a logo and an expression of the idea
itself; we were the Gerings, of Gering Theod, formerly the Witan Theod.

Nor was Asatru itself standing still during those years. By 1987 the turmoil
of forces that had been building in the AFA finally tore it apart, and it
collapsed. Edred Thorsson, whose thinking about his own "Ring of Troth" was
already maturing into a book that would appear two years later, founded the
organization itself, somewhat obscurely, in Austin, Texas, on Mother Night of
1987, delegating most of its practical leadership to a thane, James Chisholm,
assisted by Dianne Ross. In Arizona, McNallen lieutenant Valgard Murray
picked up as many pieces as possible of the AFA and launched the Asatru
Alliance in 1988, the two new organizations becoming instant rival suitors
for the hearts and minds of whatever was left of American Asatru. Coming out
of the gate, it was the Alliance which had the best of the early going,
picking right up where the AFA had left off in its series of annual Althings.
What the Alliance lacked, of course, was a commercial book about itself in
print, and this early edge enjoyed by the Alliance was not to last for long.

Meanwhile, a certain Dental Assistant named Gert McQueen, a big city girl (by
local standards) from Buffalo New York, moved to Watertown in the course of a
job change and met Garman Lord at a party. Gert was a Christian, and had
already become a Deacon in the church congregation that she had joined, and
although we dated a few times, I kept my religion out of the picture for
obvious reasons. Once Gert had forced it out into the open between us and
expressed an interest in it herself, I flatly told her it was my own
eccentricity and probably wasn't for her. Gert seemed quite an ordinary girl,
best suited to quite an ordinary religion and certainly nothing as dangerous
and exotic as revived Heathenry. Gert disagreed, saying that it was actually
a spiritual crisis that had first prompted her urge to relocate, that she had
literally been "in search of God" and something in her sudden discovery not
of "God" but "Gods", of a religion that seemed to make so much painful
obvious sense, compared to anything else she had ever heard of in her life,
was telling her instinctively that she had found in Watertown the goal of the
life-quest that had so strangely brought her here. Gert began systematicaly
quizzing me, sitting at my feet like a little Tibetan chela to hear and
absorb my wisdom, and ransacking the vast accumulation in my library, where
she discovered and joined, in 1988, the Rune Gild and The Ring of Troth.

In 1989, I did the only thing I could; I sold her in thrall to M.H. Theod. I
was too busy building them up, after all, to pay that kind of attention to my
own still-nebulous reformed Gering Theod, and there was no avenue for Gert's
development there. Gert, however, with her big-town street-smart energy and
worldliness and ideological sophistication, was never popular at M.H., many
of the most important personalities amongst whom were, by comparison, yokels.
And of course, from the beginning, Gert was a zealot and a reformer by
instinct. She just didn't fit in. By the time she finally decided to set up
runology classes at the local library and undertake a one-man First-Amendment
crusade against all the chronic flat-earth-Christianity that regularly taints
the letter columns of the local newspaper of a little backwoods town like
this, not to mention pointedly questioning the orthodoxy of most of M.H.'s
ritual practice, it had become plain to the leadership of M.H. that Gert was
the kind of pushy little Weenie who would have to be put in her place by fair
means or foul, and mostly foul, since fair never seemed to work very well,
with someone as straightforward and straight-arrow as Gert. Gert's thralldom
was probably the most "abusive" ever seen in the history of the Theodish
Rice.

At the same time, however, Gert had quite an unusual ready respite from such
oppression, in the amount of time that she continued to spend with me, the
fountainhead of the whole troth, ever in search of deeper and deeper lore,
discussing all the things she read in Idunna and elsewhere. (I myself was not
a Trother at the time.) She became an avid Edred Thorsson fan, absorbing
everything she could get her hands on, debating his runology with me. In late
1989, somewhere in the course of a discussion of the scope of contemporary
Heathenry, in which she was still feeling her way around, Gert spoke
wistfully of how great it would be if she could personally meet somebody like
Edred Thorsson, to which I responded in an offhand way that "I know all those
guys" and would be glad to introduce her to them someday. Gert was at first
shocked, even doubtful. Intimate as our relationship was, so much a thing to
be taken for granted by then, and newcomer to our ways that she was, it had
never happened to click in her mind before just who I really was, or might
be. Over time, however, it became a pet of hers, confirmed when she received
her first invitation to a Troth gathering, Ostara 1990 in Austin Texas. Gert
was desperate to go; I however, wearing my Graphic Artist hat, was in charge
of signage for a huge local St. Patrick's Day Irish festival, and simply
could not get away. All was not lost, however. That summer we would be taking
my widowed Mother, who had been staying with me for awhile, back to my
brother's place in New Mexico. There was nothing to say that we could not
swing down through Texas on the way back!

When we got to Austin, however, we found Irminsul Garth, the Troth
headquarters, under an Asatru-as-usual state of seige. There is no question
in my mind by now that Asatruar are congenitally at least as fractious as
Wiccans, and the jihaad against Edred, begun by Robert Meek and picked up on
by the Alliance over Edred's Setianism, was in full rut, like nothing at all
that Gert was used to in relatively peaceful Theodism. It took some
considerable detective-work on both our parts to even locate Irminsul and
talk at last to Edred's lieutenant, Jim Chisholm, and finally get cleared for
a personal visit to Irminsul Garth. Even after so many years, however, Edred
himself and the friends he assembled for us couldn't have been more cordial
or hospitable, greeting me as a "colleague", and Gert, as a beginner, nearly
swooned away at the spectacle of her dream come true; myself and Edred
sitting there gravely discussing runes and other deep Heathenries over the
meadhorn, face to face. For our own parts, we bragged interminably about the
glories of M.H. and the Theodish Rice, and Irminsul let us shoot a videotape
of themselves greeting M.H. with every cordiality and blessing, to take back
with us to Watertown.

We of course had a notion to mirror the same process with M.H., and make a
tape to send back down to Texas. At M.H., however, the reaction was very
strange. By then they had come to seem obssessed with what they saw as the
problem of Gert's uppity and self-righteous precociousness, and listened with
quite a dull ear, to say the least, to all Gert's fabulous traveler's tales
and ravings about having met Edred. It was plain that they felt diminished by
it all somehow, in their unworldly way, and when they let us similarly
interview them on a videotape to send back to Irminsul, they seemed almost at
pains to be boorish and even vaguely offensive. But something was better than
nothing, and we sent what we had down anyway, hoping for Irminsul's
indulgence of us. Such indulgence, however, was not quite to be. Though they
never said anything about it, it would become plain enough later that the
Irminsul folks were less than impressed by our showing back here in the Rice.

This did not prevent Gert being invited back down to Austin for Ostara
'91, however, and Gert made sure by every means at her disposal that we could
make it. In fact, she wanted us there early, in hopes of having that much
more time to spend with people, and she asked Jim Chisholm if they might need
any help setting up. Jim was strangely unenthusiastic, however, forcing Gert
in her own enthusiasm to virtually force ourselves upon their hospitality,
and when we showed up, a couple of days early, right on our schedule, albeit
not theirs, the reception was decidedly cool. We might as well have been
Uncle Elmer and Aunt Millie, strange folks from way up north somewhere; just
try to be nice to them and maybe they'll go away after awhile. Edred kept
himself unavailable; Jim Chisholm bucked himself up thanely to the task,
and went out of his way to make us as comfortable as might be. We noted the
chill in the air, but Gert set about dauntlessly pitching in with other women
as they showed up and making herself useful. And useful the women were
indeed; the household was that of two extremely unhousebroken bachelors, Jim
and Edred, and was a total domestic horror show; scholarly snowdrifts of
books and papers everywhere, strange life forms growing in the refrigerator,
the whole nine yards. By gathering time, however, feminine savvy and hard
labor had worked its magic, one could feel much surer about what one was
eating, and the dozen or so people, mostly scholarly types, that actually
made up the gathering were very jolly and well looked-after indeed. Whatever
frost there had been amongst us was melted, and Gert was again wowed and
dazzled by the brilliant table talk of first the Jungian Society, to whom
Edred gave a lecture, and then some of the greatest minds in Heathenry aet
symbel, not to mention her own chance conversations with Edred, Jim,
KveldulfR Gundarsson and others. We ourselves, with another Theodsman who was
able to make it, contributed some Theodish thew to the blot itself, and the
gathered Asatruar loved our crisp smooth roundtable Anglo-Saxon; even Edred
seemed to be impressed. Even for me myself, the Ostara '91 event in Austin
was a benchmark; unforgettable.

Indeed, Heathenry in general seemed to be really taking off, all that season.
Edred and Jim, under shellfire from Vor Tru and others over their Setianism,
were abdicating from power themselves in the Troth, but hardly abandoning the
organization. To the contrary, they were already setting up a transfer of
power that Edred felt, correctly, as it proved out, would lead to a
mushrooming of the Troth from its sixty-odd members of the time. Back home,
the Theodish Rice were around that same figure ourselves and growing rapidly,
and there was a heady sense at large amongst us, preparing for our own huge
Midsummer swineblot, as I wowed our Theodish folk with our traveler's tales
from faraway Texas.

In fact, in many ways, it all seemed too good to be true, in the Summer of
'91; something that really couldn't last. It was, and it couldn't. By
Hallows, something had changed in the mindset of the leadership of M.H..
Retroheathen lore is a very difficult and demanding study, and one the M.H.
leadership itself was never really able to come to terms with, much less
teach to anyone else. There was always the frustrating sense of never being
good enough, in terms of lore and ritual, and therefore the constant
misgiving of being subject to the criticism or even disdain of anyone
happening by who might be better schooled in Heathen lore. That was part of
it; there were a lot of other problems too, of course. But M.H. was by then
suffering an embarrassment of riches, in every other way but that. They had
people, money, land, houses, businesses, lawyers, a church, a lavish attic
symbel hall and a bare farm for a hofstead, and yet the one most important
thing of all still capriciously eluded them; the lore. The Rice worked pretty
hard to bridge the lore gulf, with regular nightly classroom sessions, but
for all too many the teaching resources were just too slender and the
learning curve just too steep. Much of the materials were things left over
from the intellectually lofty new ways to dumb the stuff down down down... to
what the Rice's loremasters considered just too dick-and-jane to be possible
without compromise of the integrity of the lore itself. Dissentions began
amongst them, with some crying for a reinvention of Theodism along simpler
and more intelligible "neo" lines... even "Neopagan" lines, if you will. Most
of the female leadership were ex Seax-Wiccan or New Age-Magical types, to
whom the lore-bound quest for the real retroheathenry merely seemed
pointlessly and stiflingly oppressive to their feminine creativity. There was
just one big problem; me. Everyone involved knew from the get-go that I was
always more interested in lore purity than Theodish numbers, and, especially
as a "Recovering Wiccan" myself, there was no way anyone would ever persuade
me to take the religion "neo". M.H. soon convinced themselves that our
religion's problem was a case of the tail wagging the dog. They decided it
was they who were making the religion what it was, after all, despite the
constant carping and obscurantist obstructionism of do-nothing Rice's lore
bigots. They decided that their only hope would be a coup d'etat, after which
they would be able to either absorb me or, at worst, expel me, after
cannibalizing whatever they could of my remains. It was a strange plan, to be
sure, and one that could become historically awkward, of course, but even so,
history is written by the victors, to whom as well belong the spoils. They
began to feel that it was they who really were the religion. And, for the
leadership, it was soon an easy step from there to beginning to claim, first
merely amongst themselves and then gradually to outsiders, that it had been
they who had founded the religion in the first place! This is what has always
been known ever since in Theodish slang as the process of "beginning to
believe your own propaganda." By Hallows of 1991, the leadership thought it
was ready, and ambushed me with a full scale folkmoot defiance, sitting me
down in their midst and scolding me thoroughly as a roomful of thanes glared
at me, fingering their weapons. Obviously, I was suddenly the "good guy" no
was no longer needed, although, in fact, if I did want to stick around, I
could always join M.H.Theod!

My response was that if they had grievances, they must organize them on paper
somehow and call for thing, and that until such was accomplished, I regarded
their theod as in defiance and under Rice's boycott. It was clear to me that
the situation was grave. On the one hand, M.H.'s manner was angry and
belligerent and calculated to intimidate, yet on the other, all the
complaints being voiced throughout the whole long session were phony
straw-man issues, and being voiced by women or male non-combatants. In other
words, it was a setup; it wasn't about any of the things that it was
pretending it was about, and I wasn't born yesterday. If it worked, it might
well amount to a bloodless coup d'etat, and if it failed, they could always
plead stupidity and just call it a mass bad hair day and begin trying to pick
up the pieces as best they could, with whatever novel advantages flexing
some muscle might have gained them. However, the most important thing that it
told me was that, in some fundamental way that none of us was talking about
yet, they were now out of troth.

My failure to cave in sent a ripple of alarm, and, when my continued boycott
and calls for thing over the next few weeks showed that I was serious, M.H.
decided that extreme measures might be necessary. I would probably have to be
nuked out of the picture. They certainly had the edge in resources for the
task. While the Rice itself, for all its lore astuteness, remained otherwise
pretty much a horse-and-buggy operation, M.H. was already computerized, with
a huge database and its own publishing house, equipped with over fifty
thousand dollars' worth of high tech hardware. It would have to be a mass
nuke job, of course; they could not afford to miss if they moved so boldly as
they would need to. They organized and launched a mass secret poison-pen
mailing campaign, to as much of the Heathen community as they could reach,
accusing me of all sorts of strange things, virtually the least criminous but
most outrageous of which was my theft by fraud of their church and religion
from them!

We, of course, with no resources or database or powerbase, had no way to
track or counter this, or even find out what was being said and done,
excepting at times when we would happen to get our hands on some specimen of
it by chance. Appallingly enough, in a religion which I had always preached
to these very people myself as being all about honor, and in which I had
always been so careful myself to set an example by always practicing what I
preached, it was a campaign of character assassination on a scale and level
at least as shamelessly degenerated as any horror story I had ever witnessed
in Wicca. They began contacting other Heathen organizations and leaders,
personally and by phone, telling wild tales about me, impersonating me over
the phone while raving insanely and issuing death threats on people and such.
They had already been secretly in touch with the Asatru Alliance, whose
journal Vor Tru had just published such a scathing series on Edred and his
Setianism as to drive him out of the leadership of the organization he had
founded. The parallels inherent in that situation, specious though they might
be, were not lost on M.H., and they secretly went to the Twelfth Annual
Alliance Althing and began cultivating people, promising Valgard Murray not
only an overnight doubling of the size and power of the Alliance, in the form
of themselves, but some pretty purple copy on me for a follow-up for his
Edred pieces. Valgard, of course, had never known me, but if I was a pal of
Edred's, that might be reason enough in itself to be suspicious of me. In
fact, Gert's own increased involvement with the Ring of Troth, leading to her
being made an Elder and a High Redesman in February of '92, had already
profoundly alarmed M.H. at the same time as it suggested to them a line of
action against her. As part of their campaign to destroy the careers of
Gering Theodsmen, They were already trying to tar Gert as a "Satanist" for
the sake of her friendship with Edred as it was. In Gert's own Gering Theod,
it all became something of a dark joke, with Gert quickly picking up the new
nickname of "Satan's Little Helper".

Valgard Murray, however, never seemed to see anything funny about the
situation that was developing, and, much to his credit, was not born
yesterday either. When he saw the very strange document that M.H. gave him to
publish, Valgard decided that he wanted to know some background, and
accordingly got himself put in touch with the Rice through Troth Wordsmith
Bill Bainbridge. Hearing about the manuscript for the first time, I
immediately saw what M.H. was up to, and told Valgard that the document was a
total fraud and fantasy, and an attempt to use his pub as a vehicle for a
drive-by shooting and use his organization for a stalking horse for M.H.'s
campaign to destroy me. And of course I gave him my own official version of
our "saga", in detail. Valgard was skeptical, even hostile, and non-commital,
but he soon saw that whatever he was able to check out of my side of the
story did indeed "check out". I was evidently telling the truth, however
unwelcome such truth might be, and in the end, Valgard backed Vor Tru and the
Alliance out of involvement in what had by then become a hot war. And it was
all of that; we had ourselves gotten computerized and come on line with email
and were fighting back, including making inroads on M.H.'s mail campaign with
mailings of our own that told the real story. Most telling of all, perhaps,
we soon started hitting print in Heathen journals and becoming known in the
Asatru community.

We didn't write about our war, of course; the Ring of Troth, of which we were
members, had no more spleen for or interest in such a nasty and fruitless
foreign war as ours than the Alliance did. Few even understood it. Idunna
Shope Thorfinn Einarsson, for instance, although a personal friend of ours
going back to the Austin Ostara of '91 was by the end of 1992 an intimate of
the myopically parochial West Coast cliques to which Troth policy-making had
defaulted with Prudence Priest's ascendancy to power, and never picked up on
it as being anything more than a distant power-struggle between a
Tweedle-Dum/Tweedle-Dee pair of local leaders of no consequence in the bigger
picture. No one would have printed any of our war stories had we written
them. The stories we wrote, however, writing with one hand while fighting
with the other, were not war stories but lore stories, and began duly finding
their way into such high-profile venues as Mountain Thunder, and serving
their own kind of notice in the Asatru community that there were some new and
perhaps interesting kids on the block.

Which in fact raises the whole point of this long digression on the
subject of what we have since come to think of as "the M.H. experiment"
and the locally catastrophic witch-war that so dramatically signalized its
failure. The reason is for the sake of the light thus shed on what we have
found to be perhaps the least understood point in Theodish history in
relation to Asatru history; namely, when and how, and especially why, we
Theodish first came on the national scene. We were in fact crab-walked
reluctantly but inevitably onto the scene by warfare; a series of tactical
flanking movements, marches and counter-marches executed between M.H.
and the personality who had by then come by sure degrees to be
battlefield-promoted to a kind of Rice's Field Marshall; Theodish Thane and
Troth High Redesman Gert McQueen. Gert never tried to "play M.H." and
bring the Troth that she was then also zealously serving into our war. Gert
herself has never pretended to possess any significant brains or talent, nor
ever aspired to anything beyond being a good thane of a cause that she
believes in. It is true enough that, in taking advantage of an historical
situation that she herself did not create, Gert, as Rice's Ambihtsthyle, went
with the flow and calculatedly manoeuvered the Theodish Rice onto the
national scene, something that these days she cheerfully admits. The reason
she did this, however, had nothing to do with personal ambition or a yearning
to accede to the halls of Heathen power, but rather, her conviction that
Theodish Belief had and has something to say, and the world, or at least the
Heathen world, had to be given a shot at hearing it. Nor does Gert herself
seem to consider the way in which she managed to do what she did to be any
great accomplishment. To her, it was all in the job description and all in
the line of duty, and Gert is nothing if not dutiful. As Woody Allen
once put it, the world is mostly run by those who show up. And Gert is the
kind who always shows up.

By early 1992, after two months of a boycott that was getting nowhere, I was
already quite willing to abandon the "failed experiment" and simply set M.H.
wretched and let them walk. Enough is enough. It was not to be that simple,
however. The fact was, M.H. never really wanted to just walk. They really
wanted to just take over. They had long been secretly telling newcomers that
it was really they who had founded the religion, and that it was I who was
the cuckoo in the nest, an erstwhiles fable of convenience which they had no
way to back out of! But of course it could never really be theirs unless I
were somehow compelled to surrender up Theodish Belief's name and style to
them and then either stay or walk myself. Meanwhile, we ourselves were busy
warding our marches and shaping up at home into an ever less assailable and
more invincible armed camp. A mexican standoff was shaping up, and with the
failure of their Alliance adventure, M.H. fell back on the only real
vulnerability left open to them; the vulnerability of my job. This is a small
and very rural Bible Belt town, and ours had always had to be an underground
religion, with myself obliged to keep very much in the background. M.H., with
its own self-sufficient neighborhood empire, was under no such constraints.
They had had in the works since the previous year the beginnings of a local
publicity campaign, and we might well scuttle their character assassination
schemes and outflank them nationally in the quest for legitimacy, but were
obviously paralyzed locally, and in the summer of '92 they went public. There
was obviously no way that we could upstage them in that crucial theater of
action!

Their publicity campaign was, however, disasterously ill-conceived, and
quickly collapsed into the kind of lurid fiasco that roving reporters and
Sunday Supplement feature writers feed on in the silly season like sharks in
a tuna tank. M.H.'s spectacular misadventures, squabbles with local
preachers, clashes with local authorities and such, scandalized the local
media all summer long and into the fall, even finally compelling Gert
McQueen, acting as Rice's Ambihtsthyle, to call a press conference and
publicly expel their whole Theod from the religion. Luckily, Gert happened to
be vested and unionized in a Federal job that was, religiously, at least,
bullet-proof. Locally, however, the whole affair was a debacle on the scale
of Robert Meek going on Geraldo, and did leave the lasting result that, in
Watertown New York, it has been no longer possible to openly and respectably
practice Heathenry from that day to this. In September of '92, M.H.'s nerve
broke and they surrendered and were set wretched to a man, with the
leadership muttering its intentions to go off and found their own separate
"church" under a new name, which is of course what they should have done in
the first place. And by the Spring of '93, they no longer existed.

The Theodish Rice had won the war, but that is never the end of things, and
one still has to win the peace... which in the end we were never really able
to do. The war was not long over before an envious female rival of Gert's in
Gering Theod made her move. When her first efforts to actually depose Gert
from power fell short, she began to foment an anti-Gert cabal behind the
scenes that spread relentlessly until it involved most of the people in
Gering Theod, even to thanes who were members all the way back to the middle
and late seventies, one of them in fact a charter member from 1972. Edged on
by Gert's rival, this clique fanned itself to a heat calculated to burn Gert
right out of the bosom of the Theodish Rice. When this did not succeed, their
frustration flared into open revolt, and they soon served an ultimatum. Gert
must go, and if she were not set wretched most of our Theod stood ready to go
wretched themselves. I had my choice.

To me, however, that was no choice at all. Bitter though the mysterious
hatred they had conceived against Gert might seem to be to them, Gert was
nonetheless in a Rice's troth that she herself had served unstintingly
through the direst hardship and never broken, and she had never done anything
wrong, to any of them or, aside from the Rice's enemies, anyone else. I had
heard her plight of troth myself, back when she was a thrall gone free as a
wretch from abusive owners into lordless churldom, seeking a chance at thew
into the Rice, and I had duly matched it with my own, all in right and proper
keeping with our usual Theodish thew, and a king's word has to be worth
something. I set the lot of them wretched, on grounds of their defiance. This
they had not expected, and of course they were more surprised than they
should have been to discover what has always been our way; that once out,
there was no way back in.

At which point, for my own part, I began to contemplate the irony of being
such a supremely victorious and successful ex-King! Rather as I had done a
decade earlier, I began to wonder afresh whether the world was really ready
for what we were trying to do, or was it just time to start writing my
memoirs and take up golf or something. Gert, of course, still held firm as
ever in her own Wiglaf-dauntless thew, but, what with even charter members
gone, and no way back in for them, she herself was really about all that was
left to show for an incredibly turbulent two decades-worth of my life's work
and thought.

Gert, however, seemed far from ready to believe that Theodish Belief was
really finished. Sure as she might be that the Theodish Rice would one day
rise again from the ashes, I felt it my own duty to define for her where I
thought we stood. I was King of nothing. Not only was there surely no Rice,
but I was never even really king of it had there been one; the gods had never
deemed me King, no Witan had ever crowned me, and in fact by our own thew I
was only at best a Regent. Moreover, Heathenry itself had been nuked out of
our town for doubtless years or decades to come; M.H. had certainly seen to
that. People were no longer even turning up for Gert's Rune classes. Even our
war-spawned work in Asatru had come in the end to nothing; we had already by
then somehow mysteriously fallen afoul of the Wiccatru cult that became the
Troth's Invisible Government with Prudence Priest's accession to the
Steersmanship and were now barred from the pages of Idunna, and the only
other major pub that carried us, Mountain Thunder, was itself doomed to fall
within the year, All that was left to us, really, was a huge fund of
hard-earned and dearly-paid-for lore and experience. Yet, in Gert's mind, at
least, we were "players" on the Asatru scene, and more and more Asatruar
themselves knew it. Gert herself was a Troth High Redesman and Elder,
particularly picked by the Troth because of her ability to keep Theodish
Belief in the picture. Gert was also Steward of a Rune Gild Outer Hall. Nor
were we actually out of options; merely out of acceptable ones, with
unacceptable ones turning up nonetheless to haunt us, trying to get back into
the Rice! But of course that was out of the question. Nothing quite chills
the heart or turns it to stone like a broken troth, at least to those who
take troth seriously.

As I came under increasing fire and criticism, however faintly and at long
range, for my obduracy in that, I sometimes pondered why I did not feel worse
inside than I did about the loss of my short-lived kingdom. If anything, I
felt surer of my destiny than I had in a long time. It was a sense of some
sort of destiny or inspiration as yet unmanifested and just hanging in the
air. Gert and I are very different personalities, always somewhat strangers
to each other, usually too busy working furiously together for the common
good, and often as not, our own mere survival, to even get to know each other
very well. What has always held us fast together through thick and thin has
been troth and thew, under the pressure of constant furious strife from
without. I began using Gert willy-nilly as a sounding board for my new ideas
as they began to form. What was really important, I opined, was the Theodish
Kingship. That's what we were truly warders of, and had to be warders of at
the price of our lives if it came to that. Even if it might all be academic
now, nothing left of it but a theory, it was our Holy Grail. Nothing else
mattered. It was the principle of the thing. We had never forfeited it to
force of arms, nor yet to treachery or false troth. No lying words had ever
sullied it, and every unworthy hand that had reached out to grasp it had been
stricken away and withered. And slowly but surely I began to understand what
it was that I was feeling so strangely smug about. Some twenty years ago, I
had set forth some few good and simple and obvious common-sense religious
principles and made so bold as to stick by them, unvarying, and found myself
facing down what had come to seem myopically to me like two decades of the
world's towering wrath and furious outrage, far more tales of storm and
strife than there has been room enough and time to recount here, at such
impudent presumption on a mere mortal's part, and at the other end of that,
here I still stood, head bloody but unbowed. I had never budged an inch. And
now I found myself in possession of something I had never even reached out
for or thought to seek; our "Holy Grail". Not that it was something that
could ever be mine, of course; it is the sort of thing that can never be
truly anybody's but God's. What was mine, duly earned, was the rare privilege
of warding it. It was enough, and a thought that left me feeling strangely
content, and at peace at last. Twenty years later, I finally understood the
meaning of those two crowns in the sky.