THE EVOLUTION OF THEODISH BELIEF

Part 4: The Wider Folk

In 1992, under its new Steerswoman and High Rede, with a whole host of
Asatru-oriented commercial books coming into print, the Ring of Troth began
to burgeon as no other Heathen organization had ever done before, with its
journal, IDUNNA, reincarnated under Thorfinn Einarsson, beginning to go out
to several hundred members and readers at the heretofore unheard-of
subscription price of twenty-four dollars a pop. For Gert McQueen and the
other High Redesmen, it was a heady enough experience of new growth and
momentum to take some getting used to as they settled into their jobs.
Wordsmith Bill Bainbridge quickly found himself buried under a workload well
beyond the capacities of any one man to handle; Lore Warder KveldulfR
Gundarsson, working on his Doctorate in Cambridge, England, was busy proofing
his big new book for Lewellyn, TEUTONIC RELIGION, and calling for copy for
his rewrite of Ring Founder/Drighten Edred Thorsson's original slim handbook,
THE BOOK OF TROTH, into the huge and totally new in-house published anthology
OUR TROTH. Steerswoman Prudence Priest was energetically at work engineering
the initiative she called "Troth Building", and the Troth was beginning its
courting dance with the wonderful world of Neopaganry, as well as introducing
the element into the Asatru community that would come to be known in common
slang Troth parlance as "Wiccatru" and, in the end, "Ergitru". Soon the
membership began to swell with a new kind of crossover Heathen, anxious to
introduce ultra-Left values into the ethnically parochial, aridly xenophobic
landscape of the new elder troth. The Ring got itself up a set of bylaws
patently "non-discriminatory" and loaded with contemporary, even "'90's PC",
agendas and concerns. And well it might. Where the Troth had initially felt
so vulnerable, tottering through its fledgling stages under the attacks of
VOR TRU on its original leadership and the growing pains and throes of other
circumstance, it now began to surge ahead with a new confidence in itself as
Asatru's, and perhaps Heathenry's, real and authentic center of gravity. Its
highly vocal Ultra-Left contingent now could, and did, boldly hurl epithets
of "racist" and "bigot" and "homophobe" and the like at the Asatru Alliance
and everybody else who didn't agree with them.

One such extremist, Gamlinginn, a retired Federal secret agent, even launched
his own secret war against the Alliance, ultimately hoping to draw the Troth
itself into the fray, a la M.H.'s earlier misadventure with the Alliance on
our own accounts. In the Troth mainstream however, few if any expressed real
alarm over such little embarrassments and excesses. It was all viewed as part
of the necessary courting dance with Neopaganry, an initiative that many also
mistrusted but, again, few questioned in any coherent or articulate way. The
day would eventually come when Lore Warder KveldulfR Gundarsson, doubtless
echoing the views of marketing and packaging experts in commercial publishing
houses, would state that "Like it or not, Asatru is a subset of Neopaganism."
Whether or not this be really so, the feeling amongst Trothers, whether they
wrote books themselves or not, seemed to be that such developments in Troth
policy were a necessary and unavoidable rite of passage, a hurdle that the
Troth, at the least, must clear on its way to the world's acknowledgment of
Asatru's existence and, even more importantly for some, Asatru's
acknowledgment of the world's existence.

Gert McQueen threw herself into her Troth work with a zeal and vigor hardly
known before to the laid-back Southwestern US origins of the RoT, while, for
her own Theodish Belief, it was of course a much quieter time. It began to
dawn on me that I might soon even get around to reading some of the stuff
that had been accumulating all those years in my library, playing scholar,
perhaps even writing some serious stuff, as opposed to the kinds of
speculations and pineal whimsies I had previously been submitting to Heathen
journals. At the same time, I couldn't help noticing a continued, even
growing, nearness of the gods, as if they weren't quite done with us yet. As
for Gert, she never doubted that part. Time and again she would speak with a
woman's inner sense that what had gone before was just prologue, and in fact
the real business had not yet even begun. And meanwhile, when Yuletide of
1992 rolled around and we bloted, overwhelmed by the growing inspiration, I
spoke thyle. Without thinking about it or knowing why I was saying it, I
declared to Gert in considerable detail that Woden was saying to us, in a
jolly Yuletide boast, how he thought it a rather shabby business that most of
the attention in Heathenry always seemed to go to him, with often no more
than lip service paid to his holy friends. Therefore, in this Yuletide, he
was going to change all that; he was now selling the thaneship of Gering
Theod to his good friend Ing Frea. Ing Frea would henceforth be the god to
whom we owed such thew as we had been paying to Woden, and if we henceforth
did as well by Ing Frea as we had done by Woden, we would find him a very
good friend indeed.

Gert was frankly skeptical to hear this, and I was a bit puzzled about it
myself. Other than as a name for a rudely impudent ithyphallic icon from days
of old, Ing Frea was pretty much of a blank to me. But if those were our
marching orders, I made up my mind to do the best I could. After all, it did
call to mind a heretofore mysterious event of our Hallows 1991 swine-blot,
when, at the last moment, Woden had instructed me to have Gert rist the
rune-stave meant for propping the dead swine's mouth open not with our usual
"gebo" but instead with an "ingwaz". It was almost with a sense of
"infidelity", then, that we shared the horn and toasted the supposed bargain
between our gods, and in the course of Yuletide I began trying to "sink into"
Ing Frea in the same way I had so often been able to do with Woden, to learn
something about him. It proved surprisingly easy, and quite a different
experience. By contrast with Woden's bristly dangerous energy and sense of
intellectual challenge, there was a vast mellow smoothness about Ing Frea,
and a novel sense of wellbeing, coupled with an incredibly sure-footed
intelligence that just seemed to always know its way, in the midst of doubt
and confusion. Over the holidays, I began to make some new plans. I told Gert
that what we would do is start a new magazine, and start telling the world
about Heathenry our own way. Gert hadn't a clue how to do something like
that, but of course I had already done Vikingstaff. Vikingstaff, however, was
a pop magazine. We would spend a year planning THEOD, then launch it in 1994.
We talked about it. This was going to be pure Heathenry, serious stuff. What
if the readership, obviously mostly Asatru, didn't go for it? Would we still
print it if it had fifty readers? Twenty? Ten?

We decided that we would print it if it had one serious reader. Gert was
adamant about it; she wasn't interested in doing just another puffery pop
wannabe magazine to try to show off and get a big readership. It would be
strictly a forum for serious Heathenry and saying all the things that needed
to be said, whether anybody would want to read it or not. No proselytizing;
nothing like that. We wouldn't even use it for talking about Theodish Belief.
If anybody was curious about that, we would have booklets on it available for
them to buy. It would function as the Rice's official journal, of course, and
at the least be a place where official things could become official by
hitting print when necessary, such as Rice's abannings, and where Theodish
thinkers and writers could hit print as well. But Theodish writers are like
any other Heathen writers; when they write, they are generally writing about
Heathenry, for the general community of Heathen readers, and not just their
peculiar sect of it. Thus was THEOD Magazine conceived. We began learning how
to use my computer, transforming it slowly but surely into a desktop
publishing platform, all through the long gestation months of 1993, and
launched the magazine right on schedule in Ewomeoluc of 1994. Most of the
Heathen community was pretty baffled by this strange newcomer, and the early
going was pretty shakey, but by year's end, THEOD Magazine was clearly
beginning to find its readership and was going out to some eighty or so
readers and still climbing. By Ewomeoluc of 1995, the magazine cleared the
three-figure milestone.

Meanwhile, Gert had self-published a little treatise of her own: A Short
History of Anglo-Saxon Theodism. We offered it cheap and it sold well,
stimulating lots of fan mail, and it soon began to fall together in our minds
where a potential readership for THEOD Magazine might be going to come from.
And early on in 1993, Gert began discovering something else, in her
correspondence; the Wodening brothers, in Missouri. Here were a couple more
Anglo-Saxon crackpots, just like ourselves. What was more, one of them had a
manuscript he had been working on for years in fifty-mile trips back and
forth between the back-country family farm where they lived and Columbia
University; a tract on the subject of Heathen morals and ethics called Beyond
Good and Evil. I asked if I could see it, and soon had in my hands a lengthy
hodgepodge, rough and raw, of some of the most interesting stuff I had ever
seen. Even the wretched condition of the manuscript couldn't hide its
potential, and we cut a deal with Swain Wodening to publish it as our first
real project. At the time, of course, we never really thought that anybody
would ever read that one, either, but that didn't matter to us; all that
mattered was making sure that such a valuable document would not lie fallow,
and would be out there somehere for people. And again we were pleasantly
wrong in our assumptions. We published it simultaneously with the launch of
THEOD Magazine, Ewomeoluc (February Eve) 1994, and over the year it ended up
outselling Gert's Short History. An offbeat, relatively obscure contributor
to Heathen journals up to that time, by year's end, Swain Wodening was a made
man and a recognized loremaster in the Reawakening community.

Meanwhile, Gert and the Wodenings had not been in touch for long before Swain
surprised us by petitioning to plight troth to the Theodish King and come
into the Rice, with brother Eric's own petition coming not much later. We had
to think about that one for awhile. In my own mind, I had never really
settled the question of whether the Theodish Rice was still fact or just a
theory. For Gert, however, there never had been any question, and as
Ambihtsthyle she asked King's leave on it. In a sense, she was playing
AElfwyne on this one, unwittingly repeating Theodish history, and I had to
say yes. They knew our ways and stood ready to sell into thrall, but I told
them that under the circumstances that would hardly be necessary. I had
already seen enough of the Wodenings to know that they were at least as
Theodish as I was already, without ever even having met me, and no more had
their religion from me than they did their land, and I just couldn't keep
them out, and so I heard their oath, and granted charter to Wednesbury, which
has since become a Theod. As their Lord, I swore oath to further their
Heathen careers, and by Ewomeoluc next, with some help from Gert and the
gods, I had kept my oath as faithfully as Woden had kept his to me.

With Wednesbury's involvement, more people started getting interested, and I
began regularly having to hear petitions, give leave for thrall auctions and
deal with a very active Ambihtsthyle's Refscir. More and more, I began just
doing all the things I knew so well how to do, slipping back into harness,
continuing on as AEtheling of my Rice as if nothing had ever happened to so
rudely interrupt us. But of course it was Gert (and the Wodenings) who
rebuilt the Rice, not I. Manifestly, King or whatever, I just work here.

Meanwhile, having been created an Elder for more or less political reasons
(i.e., to guarantee Theodish involvement in the clergy program), Gert was
resolved to be nonetheless the real thing, and, though no scholar, promptly
set to work on her Elder Thesis. She certainly already had plenty of
practicum under her belt, being a Theodish Weofodthane. I found myself having
to teach Gert scholarly technique, in more or less the same way that AElfwyne
had earlier taught me. On the Troth High Rede, Gert soon found her own
appropriate political niche as the resident hardliner and activist emeritus.
Out of all well-known Trothers, Gert in particular soon came to be known
amongst the folk as the Problem Solver. With its organizational sprawl, the
Troth had always been glacial in its response time to situations and member
concerns; in those early days it could take months or years to get attention
to any query, or, in many cases, to even join or subscribe to its journal, if
you got any response at all. It soon became apparent to many that one way to
get something done, however, was to go through the Theodish Rice, and
especially, the Theodish Ambihtsthyle, who was also a Troth High Redesman,
Gert McQueen. You got a problem? Take it to Gert McQueen; she'll fix you
right up! When Gefjon Cleghorn, Proprietress of the Heathen craft shop
"Gefjon's ArdhR" and wife of Gamlinginn, was nominated to the High Rede and
made a bid to undertake as the Troth's "Public Relations" officer, it was a
shocked Gert who sounded the alarm on what the impact of such a move would
likely be on relations between the Troth and the Asatru Alliance.

Gamlinginn was at that time in the midst of a personal war with the Alliance,
in which the blows were falling lower and lower and the potential for
escalation was hanging over the Reawakening community like a Sword of
Damocles; it was as if the whole community was sound asleep. When Ymir
Thunarsson began to fall afoul of the Lore Wardership Programme, Gamlinginn
and, in due time, the High Rede, in the Summer and Fall of 1993, it fell to
Gert to become Counsel for the Prosecution, versus Wordsmith Bill Bainbridge's
Counsel for the Defense.

Gamlinginn, who keeps mysteriously cropping up again and again in the doings
of this period, probably merits some commentary here. Gamlinginn first began
to turn up out of nowhere in the early '90's as an attendee at Heathen
gatherings, mostly Alliance. No one knew who he was until he finally made a
name for himself with an address to the Alliance's Althing 12 in 1992, in
which he urged a "universalist" religious philosophy upon the gathering as a
prescription for Asatru's future progress... which means, of course, that,
under the circumstances, he was in effect trying to sell the Pope a double
bed. His agenda did not go over well, and in fact the Alliance went on to
adopt a bylaw specifically defining Asatru as a Northwest European ethnic
religion as a result of it. At about the same time, Gamlinginn joined and
began turning up in inner circles of the newly reforming Ring of Troth, which
was in the process of naming its new Steers(wo)man, Prudence Priest, to head
up its new nine-member High Rede governing body. The Troth leadership's quest
for a Steersman was not an easy one, and at one point Gamlinginn was offered
the job himself, but, like several others, turned it down. Also at about that
time, Gamlinginn published a fat, meticulously edited handbook of Asatru words
and phrases, folklore and other information, The Ordhasafn of Gamlinginn,
which served to make him generally known throughout the Heathen community, as
well as launching, in 1994, a free monthly informational newsletter called the
Asatru Update, known informally in community slang as Gammy's Blue-Papers.
Gamlinginn and others lobbied hard, and with considerable success, to get the
Troth to adopt a basically PC non-discriminatory policy in the framing of its
own bylaws, similar to the kinds commonly found in Wicca. He began early on
targeting the Alliance and other organizations, both inside and outside the
Troth, whose policies he disapproved of personally in some way, for whatever
often mysterious reason, and managed to keep Troth-oriented Heathenry
embroiled in a spiritually exhausting series of covert and overt brushfire
wars for better than a two year period, with hot spots still remaining to this
day. What manner of man was and is Gamlinginn, then, and why was he doing
these things?

Some people, such as the Asatru Alliance, have always thought they knew,
pointing to an alleged career as a government secret agent. Convincing
arguments have been made that he was that, professionally; such agencies as
the NSA and the CIA have been mentioned, and Gamlinginn was even rumored to
have been early retired due to the effects of a wound received as a field
operative in Latin America, where his adopted children were born. To some
people's minds, the "early retirement" story was just a cover scam, and
Gamlinginn was still a field operative, his current assignment being the
Asatru community, of which our increasingly paranoid and oppressive
powers-that-be are thought by some to be unduly suspicious. Others have
suggested less believable biographies of the man such as, judging from
Gamlinginn's ultra-Leftist agenda, that he was likely in the pay of some
Zionist organization such as the ADL. Such tales, however, are almost
certainly not true, and, in this writer's opinion, not necessary to account
for whatever may be said to make Gamlinginn tick. I myself even question just
how "ultra-Leftist" Gamlinginn really is personally, based upon his obvious
policies and published utterances. It is in fact said that his wife Gefjon,
whom he doubtless loves, as he does their adopted children, very dearly,
began her career as a "McGovernik"-style campus radical. Gamlinginn is known
to be a highly uxorious man by temperament; a fair assessment would surely
have to ask the question of how many of Gamlinginn's presumed convictions are
his own and how many may be his wife's. While Gamlinginn's personal politics
may be as murky as everything else about him, he has been quoted as saying
that his goal in life was to someday see an Asatru community in which folks
like his family could come and go as they pleased, without fear of
discrimination and in the enjoyment of traditional Heathen hospitality and
thew everywhere they went. A vain hope, of course. I myself couldn't do that,
and never will be able to, any more than any of us ever will. However, such a
personal utopian quest as that would surely seem in itself to be motive
enough to account for a certain kind of behavior in a certain kind of man.

In fact, Gamlinginn's whole style and modus has largely been that of his
former livelihood, which has proved over time to be somewhat of a
miscalculation on his part. Unlike the larger world of governmental and
international intrigue, where cloak and dagger operations can be carried out
in a climate of anonymity, unaccountability, deniability and coverup by a
fraternity of what one recent TV special characterized as "trained
professional liars", the Heathen community is very much a small town, however
thinly and widely scattered, where no cover can last unblown for long, where
everybody generally knows everybody else's business, where such knowledge is
cultivated as having considerable survival value and where, as Bill Dwinnells
of Raven Kindred North once observed, "If you don't want anybody to know
about it, don't do it". As small towns go, after all, based as it is on a
fringe religious cultus, the Heathen community is more or less of a Wild West
frontier town, very few of whose citizens are natives and most of whom have
come here from someplace else, often as not some place that they don't care
to talk much about. The surrounding wilderness, usually referred to as the
"host culture", is full of often hostile aborigines, and what passes for Law
and Order, not to mention civilization itself, is meager and tenuous at best,
with sincere seekers and true religious pioneers daily rubbing elbows
willy-nilly with every kind of charlatan, mountebank, renegade and cutthroat
border bandit. Meanwhile, in such a wide-open environment, it has been usual
for Gamlinginn to fall back on a long-established Asatru, not to mention CIA,
tradition, and manifest his personal politics through expendable dupes and
stooges, who generally end up taking the fall, while Gamlinginn himself, when
confronted, generally pleads ignorance, denies everything and claims not to
understand why people are so bound and determined to make up such wild
stories about a benign, harmless old codger like himself. "Deniability" still
figures into any Gamlinginn-op today just as largely as it doubtless did for
him in the bad old days.

And in fact, "bad old days" might be precisely the right metaphor. It is said
that when you cut through the tangled underbrush of skullduggery and denials
and really hold Gamlinginn's feet to the fire, he has said on at least one
occasion that "I'm just trying to get rid of the Nazis (in Asatru)". If this,
then, coming from such a man, conjures up images of elderly leftover
Stormtroopers shooting arthritic heil-fives and relentlessly goose-stepping
along in their aluminum walkers across the screen of bad late-night TV with
geriatric Eli Wiesels in hot pursuit, still fighting out the wars and
politics of fifty years ago, well, it has also been said that much of
Gamlinginn's childhood was spent stranded here and there in the war-torn
Europe of the '40's, a circumstance that may have left its scars. It may well
be that there are "Nazis" somewhere in Asatru, although, notably, none of the
people and organizations whom Gamlinginn has attacked, so far as we know,
have been what anybody else but Gamlinginn would consider "Nazi". On the
other hand, if the punk skinhead enthusiast types of today who may flirt
around the fringes of Asatru can't tell the difference between themselves and
the coal-scuttle-helmeted feldgraus their grandfathers fought World War II
against and shot real bullets at in the '40's, perhaps Gamlinginn should be
somewhat indulged if he can't seem to either.

In fact, our own admittedly biased and limited assessment of Gamlinginn,
despite his sinister impact on the affairs of the Heathen community, is that
he is personally nothing more sinister than some demented kind of Romantic,
still the creature of some dying or dead ethos, who still cares about
something or other best known to himself, but has lost his edge and his
capacity to understand a community around him which is just trying to be
Heathen and which is equally baffled by Gamlinginn himself. All the signs are
there. In the meantime, all through 1993, a Theodish Rice just as bemused in
its own way began trying to get its own act together, as we set about doing
something that had never before been done in Theodism; setting our ideas and
religion down systematically on paper. There does exist, of course, an
archived trove of miscellaneous paperwork accumulated over the previous two
decades which Gert McQueen has never yet succeeded in getting catalogued and
which I have somewhat consulted in compiling this memoir. But now, with new
Theodsmen cropping up here and there across the country, we had a very novel
problem to deal with. We had always been a local group, large or small, but
intimate nonetheless, and with all our lore, and especially our mysticism,
taught totally mouth-to-ear. How would we manage the new wyrd that was
obviously being laid out before us by Yuletide of 1993 and going into 1994?