Informative Email messages from the Uthwitigan Hall:
How can I become Theodish?
If you are interested in becoming High Theodish, please email us for further details and contact information. The process for becoming Greater Theodish is less complicated: one simply has to swear the Greater Theodish Oath, and send their contact information into the Greater Theodish Registry. Click Here to see the oath and contact the Registry.
What Does Gering Theod Do?
Theodish Belief is renowned for its cultural and educational contributions to the reawakening heathen community. We are the trendsetters of tribalism, and the pioneers who have revived many aspects of the elder religion which are now commonplace throughout the heathen community. Our publishing company, THEOD, has provided the heathen community with quality works by Theodish loremasters for many years, and our books, Way of the Heathen, and We Are Our Deeds, have had a revolutionary impact on the reawakening. Theodism's Wednesbury King's School has been providing quality education in Germanic lore for years, and is one of the best credentaling schools in Germanic lore anywhere. Theodish tapes and CDs of harp galdoring music in the ancient Anglo-Saxon, Frisian and Gothic languages have been the first to reintroduce modern heathenry to this formerly lost art which is so appreciated by the gods, and so central to heathen culture. We also supply the community with period clothing and other necessary cultural items such as Germanic harps.
When are the Theodish Gatherings?
There are many Theodish gatherings both at Gering Hall and elsewhere throughout the year, both on the High Holidays, and for other occasions as well. Most Theodsmen come together at the large Theodish Midsummer gatherings. Non-Theodsmen also often attend our events, which are invitation only. By inviting only those we know and trust to our gatherings, we ensure the quality of our events for all in attendance. Nevertheless, we have many non-Theodish friends and allies, so our events tend to bustle with both Theodsmen and non-Theodsmen.
Are you Gering Theod, or the Winland Rice?
As of Hallows 2001, High Theodism is no longer called "The Winland Rice:" our proper designation is now "Gering Theod." The Rice was created in order to foster foreign Germanic tribes in our midst. The various Theods were then sub-units of the Winland Rice. Gering Theod has now replaced this obsolete form of tribal fosterage with the Cynne system, in which each Cynne is a sub-unit of Gering Theod, and therefore there is no longer any need for a Theodish "Rice."
The hold oath is in two parts, since it is sworn by the new thane and
counter-sworn by his new lord, making it a contractual compact of sorts between
them. It is intentionally designed to be like a comitatus oath of old, and to
declare and establish the comitatus relationship, which was indeed rather like a
marriage. The lord swears to ever love and keep the thane, and further him in
his calling as earnestly as he would himself in his own. In practice this can
mean most anything, from the protection of himself and his family to guarantee
of hospitality in his hall, to a promise of a fair share of all war-booty, to
special helps for the thane and his family in times of need, to helping him get
ahead in the world and such; more or less like a "political patronage"
The thane swears to follow the lord wherever he may go, so long as it not be into anything in any wise wrongful or unseemly, and defend that lord's life with his own. He swears to love what his lord loves and hate what his lord hates. It is understood, of course, that this sworn "hatred" is not meant to apply to things like peanuts or power ties or broccoli, which are purely any man's own business, but to any enemies or forces or policies which may threaten or endanger that lord or his own; that this sworn "love" is not meant to apply to Italian opera, Monday Night Football, his wife, or who to vote for for President, things which, again, are personal matters, but rather a guarantee to always indulge and support the lord in the cultivation of any people or policies the lord may consider congenial. The thane swears never to raise voice hand or weapon against his lord, and here, never does mean never. It does not mean, however, that the thane is not allowed to defend himself against that lord's attacks if he ever needs to, nor require the thane to cover or lie for his lord or refuse to testify in some criminal matter or other kind of wrongdoing; that would be following his lord into something somewise wrongful or unseemly. It is never the intent of a hold oath to potentially draw down many innocent men into some one guilty man's corruption; that would defeat the whole social purpose of such arrangements.
Obviously the standard language is much vaguer than your version, but this is not necessarily thought to be a problem, since any Theodsman who has begun his Theodish career with a year or so of thraeldom has had plenty of time to observe and get the instinctive feel for what such oath-swearing means in Theodism before he ever has to swear or hear such an oath himself. And this is really quite important, since it is not always easy to keep the terms of a hold oath in every last particular, and how well any hold oath may be being kept by either party is very often a matter of a million circumstantial judgment calls. What tends to be judged by one's peers in Theodism is not so much how precisely the oath was kept as how earnest and sincere the party was in his efforts to live up to his end of it and keep it. And in situations where judgment calls are presumed to be the rule, language that is clear enough but somewhat vague is obviously much to be preferred over any too-nice literalism.
> I get the impression it's not an authoritarian relationship. The king is a
> "luck councilor" of sorts, but is also, and because of this, an embodiment
> of maegen and therefore boldness, strength, and commanding-nature. The
> commanding-nature is a charismatic forcefulness that is strongly persuasive
> but not coercive. And all commanding suggestions are directed towards the
> betterment and well-being of both individual and theod.
That's more or less true. The sacral kingship is in fact not a "lawful" institution; it has no "legal" status or even force; this despite the fact that "The King's word is law." It is, in fact, and always has been, most usually and accurately described as a "cult of kingship." What this "King's word is law" business really means is that the King cannot be lawfully challenged or gainsaid in his regular expressions or whims; if he says that something happened, for instance, it happened; his word on the subject must be taken as good enough, and he never needs any kind of witness or evidence to prove it.
Obviously one can only hope for the best in the case of some King who might be dishonest or incompetent or demented, which is why any King must be chosen with great care and the help of the gods, and why the singular-event thew exists that a Witan is bulletproof against any accusation of High Treason if they decide that they absolutely must depose and replace a bent or
incompetent or unlucky King for the good of the Rice. It is also the reason why the King is expected, by style and conscience, to generally stay out of things and pretty much let his rice run itself, through his Reeves and refscirs. Obviously having any man that the law can't touch muddling and meddling around too much in the middle of things can only inevitably become a huge headache for all concerned. You really only ever want him around for the big problems, such as only he with his special powers could solve.
Other duties and obligations of Kingship are raed and thyle, raising the fyrd (i.e., armed intervention, which only the King has the right to do) and outlawry, which again, only the King can do. While it is usually the folks' business to decide, locally, in their own ways, whether some man needs to be outlawed, it is necessary in the end to make their case to the King for the outlawry to be actually done; only the King possesses that particular rubber stamp. And of course whatever he finally decides, that's it, since his word on anything can't be challenged or gainsaid. And this of course, together with the exclusive privilege of using armed force and the fact that "the King's word is law," is the real power of the kingship, which accordingly does not need any legal apparatus, since with such terrific powers at his disposal no lawful sanction is really necessary. Obviously the power to
instantly make any man a wolfhead with a word and a wave of the hand rather trumps any other kind of power in the kingdom.
Likewise, the King is constantly resorted to for raed and thyle because he talks to the gods... not as a mountebank quack, of course, but as an important part of his job description; that is much of what his folk are raising him on the shield to do. And he is moreover the only man in the kingdom who has any such license. Anyone else who did it and didn't keep such holy conversations pretty much to himself always runs the risk of being accused of "runing against the King," always equivalent to High Treason, by those foes of his who might want to cause big trouble for him.
Interestingly, the ability to have conversations with the gods need not mean that the King is a particularly gifted psychic, and it would be foolish for any Witan to pick some candidate for kingship because he was a peculiarly charismatic and gifted holy man of some kind. That was the huge mistake the Iranians made in picking the Ayatollah Khoumeini for their ruler; a man they regarded as a highly exalted mystic, but who, unfortunately, proved a rather complete fool as a ruler. What must be looked for in a good king are things like character, integrity, intelligence, creativity, wisdom, vision, whether or not the occasional supernatural token may also seem to favor his choice. The psychic gifts do not come from within him, but are something conferred by the gods, as part of their deal with the human community, when that candidate is raised on the shield and accepted by them. That acceptance is all that is required for that strange gift to start coming through fairly immediately.
The result is the strange tendency for the King to always dwell more or less in a world of his own, even in the midst and bosom of his thanes and folk. This unworldly tendency is of course rather convenient, as part of the means of keeping him generally out of the way in routine administrative business, and only to be consulted on things at need. The King dispenses raed, or advice, whenever asked for it, which tends to be quite often, and thyle, which is specific marching orders from the gods and must be obeyed by all, only quite rarely. Those who get raed from the King generally find it to be a rather different take on things, usually inspired, uncanny, and highly accurate in surprising ways, which is why it tends to be valued so highly and is taken as one of the traditional tokens of the King's luck.
None of which, by the way, is to say that the King is just some unworldly kind of Dalai Lama. In fact, the King needs to be a man of as wide a worldly savvy and experience as practical, since he is where the buck stops in terms of defense of the Kingdom, within and without. Inevitably this will sometimes involve taking a forceful hand in things and pushing people around, wherever appropriate. I hope that somewhat windy description touches well enough on some of the points you were raising.
> I get the impression there is a ceremoniality to all of this. For example,
> one doesn't question the king publicly. You just don't do it. That would be
> ridiculous and absurd. But you do bring your question to the Thyle (First
> Officer / Devil's Advocate / Chancellor / High or Sacred Jester) who will
> bring it to the Witan and the King. The Sacred Jester (Thyle) is your
> go-between with the king. If you have a problem, you go through him. Jester
> is the Questioner, both of the folk in hall and even questioner of the
> king. Meanwhile the Witan must make sure that frith is ensured (good
> relationship between gods, folk, and king).
That is all very accurate. Traditionally, no one ever speaks against the King in any way, not even under their own rooftrees; the subject is taboo, for obvious reasons. The gods and wights can easily overhear whatever may be said anywhere, which is of course the meaning of Woden's ravens and such, and if they should happen to hear something that makes them take offense, there is always the risk of such talk marring not just the luck of the speaker but sometimes of his whole community, depending. No member of a community he depends on for survival and subsistence is ever foolish enough to cheerfully want to foul his own nest like that. The result is that the King tends to get special treatment and tremendous outward show of respect everywhere he goes, regardless of how the parties involved may feel about him personally as a man. No one wants to get caught doing things any other way, knock on wood. So everybody certainly loves the King tonight, whether or not they respect him in the morning... Interesting summary; you've obviously been doing your homework!
> I'm wondering if the theodic critique of democracy could be explained in
> more depth here.
> Is it just that you don't think any old d/f (dumbfuck) with no real
> knowledge should be involved in deciding things, and that people should be
> empowered as they are initiated and rise in excellence?
I do think that that is the central problem of the democratic thesis, and that no community should ever be any whit more democratic than they absolutely have to be. Other than where its usefulness to a community can be clearly shown, for some reason, there is no special sociological virtue in the democratic process itself, and a good deal of inherent viciousness in it.
However, above and beyond that, we are talking about a special case when we talk about communities based around the quest for some sort of truth, including religious truth. Truth is, inherently, never a matter of opinion, so why vote on it?
> I mean surely we're not talking about disempowering the folk here, right?
> We don't assume the folk is entirely dumb. They're like Thor, just a little
> slow on the uptake, but overall hearty and within limits trustworthy?
Well, I'm not one of those who subscribe to the theory that Thor is slow on the uptake; I consider that theory a bum rap based on the tendency of some EDDAic materials to seem to want to make a convenient buffoonery figure out of him, in ways not truly reflective of his real nature. However, back to your real point; no, the last thing we want to do is disempower the folk. The
folk is necessarily the source of its leadership's real strength; no community with a truly disempowered folk could ever hope to prosper. The real trick is always to authentically "connect" with the folk. Even there, however, I think it is important to be clear on what we mean by "the folk," and our theory about their folkish nature.
For one thing, there is a sense in which the folk is already normally "disempowered," just by being a folk, and the real trick is to not only empower them, but empower them in just the right way. In Theodism we have a saying that "the folk are a great brainless beast." You can see that factor at work in almost any democratic process, with the kinds of dumb choices any folk will usually make when left to their own devices. For the most part, I doubt if anyone could ever listen to very many talk shows where people call in without pretty much concluding that the gods must love knuckleheads, to ever have made so many of them.
On the other hand, there are ways in which the folk are also a genius. In Theodism we also say that no single intelligence could ever match the kinds of mighty works and cultural wonders that any folk, with no brain but a million hands, will instinctively and spontaneously produce over time if left unmolested to their own devices. What is always interesting about any folk is just how that rather contradictory paradoxical process works.
For one thing, it's not entirely accurate to say that the folk are stupid, necessarily, just because they are a great brainless beast. In fact, any individual amongst the folk may be quite brilliant, as long as he is thinking and acting as an individual. It is only as a collective that the folk IQ generally plummets, and, in general, the bigger the collective the stupider; that's where one sees the "mob mentality" coming in.
The reason is the chaotic play of random social forces, and the average person's lack of vision. Put him into a crowd, and his natural instinctive tendency is to be subsumed into the crowd; we're primates, after all. What a man of the folk is usually good at is looking out for his own best interests and his family's; where he tends to be all thumbs is when you ask him to look out for his neighbor's. No man of the folk ever wants to take on that kind of transpersonal responsibility; he inevitably much prefers for some wise trustworthy fair-minded third party to step in and do that job for both of them.
What the man of the folk yearns for is acceptance in the crowd, a legitimate comfortable place in his community, however humble, and minimal animosity toward him and his from the rest of the community. He doesn't want to be made to stand out from the crowd in some way that could make him seem strange or earn him the invidious spitefulness of others. All he normally wants is just to be able to be mellow and gemuetlich amongst his own and enjoy life.
At the same time, however, such judgment as the man of the folk may have will
also tend to be extremely fickle, often wrong-headed, and in fact dangerous to
play around with. When it comes to taking stands on important transpersonal or
public issues, he will often be found to be really too light-minded and
ill-informed for that kind of decision-making, and what he may think about any
issue will very often depend almost entirely on who is asking him, and how they
ask it. To intimately involve him in big heady issues is generally only to
frighten him. He is apt to be less afraid of the judgment of a King's Reeve than
he is of the judgment of his ordinary neighbors. In general, however naturally
bright he may be, the quality that he really lacks is "vision." It is that lack
that is apt to make him one of the folk, in the safest quarter amongst the folk
that he can find for himself, and it is that quality that essentially
It is for this reason that any folk so readily and spontaneously responds to leadership, wherever they can find it. The thing the folk love and value so much about a leader is his apparent willingness to take the hideous responsibility of transpersonal judgment and decision-making off their shoulders, and onto his own. This is why the folk are always so eager to hear, and get behind, any leader's vision. For them, it doesn't even have to be a good or great vision, so long as it is someone else's and not their own.
The reason for this trait is to be found in another chronic enemy of the man of the folk; boredom, caused by his light-mindedness. He always wishes things might be better, but doesn't really know how to accomplish that himself, and is always ill at ease when the folk seem to be just milling around, leaderless and purposeless. And this is where the power and genius of the folk's million hands comes in. When a vision galvanizes a folk into action, they can accomplish miracles, and will suffer just about any hardship uncomplainingly, except uncertainty, as long as you will just clearly tell them what to do. Once they know what to do, the genius of the folk in managing to get individual jobs done is truly astounding. And it is in this
respect that it is never the purpose of any leader with any sense to disempower the folk. The real source of his own strength, as a leader, is to empower them; i.e., give them a sense of purpose, and something ostensibly worthwhile to believe in.
> Or is it more a vision of a "constitutional" monarchy where :
> a) The Constitution is an unwritten, oral set of Thews, that nevertheless
> have real limiting powers on what can be enacted
True enough that, by custom, there are some things the King almost always does, and some things he almost never does, and most properly leaves to the folk themselves and their thewful folk mechanisms. However, I'm not sure if an unwritten set of thews could really be compared to a "Constitution," because custom is bound to always be so much more flexible and versatile than any constitution could ever be. Thew is a weave; a Constitution is a machine.
> b) The king is more like a Taoist ruler who rules best when ruling from a
> distance, or seen in festivals and at hall, but not really interfering in
> people's lives or business
There is a certain Taoism about Kingship, in that he always takes the natural way as much as possible, frequently does by not-doing, and his policies are apt to be at their best the more that he tends to react to others, rather than act himself. However, the King is far more than a Taoist "empty vessel." As a wise policy of rulership, that sort of thing would be too Quietist an
approach to ever work very well in the Western world.
> In this setup where Common Law (thews) rule, there is no Statute Law at all,
> as all cases are decided in Thing according to precedent and thew, so I
> suppose there is no notion of duly elected representatives, because there's
> no need for constantly creating new laws and innovations; rather,
> innovations are tested for their worth against the recurring, sustainable
> patterns of the community; and if people are following those traditions,
> they're pretty much left to their own judgment??
That's really about right.
> In which case it isn't a democracy but more like a "constitutional anarchy"
> led by a charismatic king and overseen by a council of elders? Do you get
> what I'm saying? That actually no one rules because the system rules itself
> through the structure of Folk/Witan/King? And the "anarchy" (ie liberty of
> being left to your own judgement most of the time) is only constrained by
> thew? And in a kingly theod, one of the thews is to take guidance from the
That's true too, except that I wonder whether anarchy is quite the right word. My impression is that inherent in anarchy is the notion that authority is in and of itself an inherently bad thing. That's not at all true in Theodism, where duly vested authority, where and whenever it is wielded, is instinctively respected and unerringly accommodated. In Theodism, the spirit is not so much that authority is a bad thing as that, whenever people are acting in good faith and with a right good will, it is generally apt to be an unnecessary thing.
> Btw, my understanding of an ideal common law situation is that there is no
> need for the Court or Thing to really create laws at all, because for the
> most part, you are free to do as you please until you come into conflict
> with another; and when you come into conflict, the case is brought to Thing
> or Court where its individual merits are considered against the background
> of similar sorts of cases, and a "rule of law" develops out of the
> tendencies of these sorts of (hopefully) wise decisions. Thus common law
> actually respects freedom much more than democracy where the majority are
> constantly deciding laws for everyone. Under common law, you do as you
> please so long as you aren't messing with anybody. Does this seem accurate?
I would say that's extremely accurate. To go a step further, there is no statutory law in Theodism because Theodism is not that kind of community. Statutory law is appropriate in communities that are based, for whatever reason, on an adversarial civil system, and Theodish community is not an adversarial system; it's based on entirely different, and we believe elder, principles.
Theodish Belief is also not a doctrinal religion. There is nothing you have to "believe," or else be called an heretic, in Theodish Belief. There are only certain things that you have to "allow as how" and regularly respect and abide by, for the community's sake, whether you yourself may have any profound personal spiritual conviction in them or not.
In fact, Theodism does have a few doctrines, three, to be exact, but, although "religiously" inspired, they are entirely ethical doctrines, not religious. They are:
1> Love the King, help him blot, and always stand ready to answer the fyrd horn.
2> The doctrine of Freedom of Conscience. In essence, what this doctrine amounts to is that you can only be compelled or constrained by contractual obligations that you yourself have freely and willingly entered into; that beyond that, no one ever has any inherent right to tell a free Theodsman what to think, say or do.
3> The doctrine of Right Good Will. This doctrine stipulates honesty and plain dealing in all matters between and among Theodsmen. Every Theodsman is presumed to be always working to advance his neighbor's best interests, not his own. He doesn't really have to be working to advance his own, because he will always have neighbors who will be doing that for him. This stipulates that nothing Theodsmen do amongst themselves shall ever be in any way duplicitous, political, self-serving or anything but dead on the level. No kind of dealing off the bottom of the deck; if you try that, someone is eventually going to catch you, and you will be outlawed.
In general, we have never needed anything like statutory law, because these doctrines and the regulation of life by the Three Wynns, Wisdom, Generosity and Personal Honor, have, when duly observed, always been quite sufficient to the ordinary purposes of a well-regulated community.
In Theodism, whatever politics there ever are are most generally local, and personal. We do, of course have Things, but they are most apt to be ad hoc, and called as needed to address the concerns of local communities, and sometimes the whole Rice. The King may be present at Thing, and when he is present he always has discretionary speech-right, but, by custom, unless he
is asked, or unless the circumstances are extraordinary in some way, he generally will not have much to say.
Theodsmen don't vote, since there is never really anything to vote on. They don't have to vote for representatives at Thing, because most Theodish Things are folkmoots, where participation is however direct the folk themselves may want it at the time. In resolving issues taken up at Thing, popular vote may be called for or it may not, and the concern resolved in some other way
instead, depending on what approach seems most appropriate to the situation. There is no Theodish legislature, since there are no laws for such a body to make. New thew does constantly evolve as necessary, but thew is the sort of thing that naturally evolves by folk processes, not formal ones. The King's Witan is charged to seek always to be properly representative of the will of the folk in their determinations; however, they are not a legislative or judicial body; they are a panel of the King's wizards and advisors. Wherever there may be concerns amongst the folk that may not be being addressed, whenever the Refscirs may seem unresponsive, there is nothing to stop any concerned freeman from taking his concerns as high as he needs to in the Rice, even to the King, and eventually being guaranteed a hearing. No one can thewfully prevent any freeman from doing that.
This is not, by the way, an utopian system. It's very natural, it works pretty well, and we like to think it is really pretty much the way things always were in days of old, before Xtianity came along and introduced the Mediterranean concept of sociological adversarialism. I hope it answers your questions, Kwen, and thanks for your interest. Godspeed.......Garman
Exile isn't ruled out in High Theodism; my own guess would
be that situations might alter cases and it might all depend on many things.
Witans are the ones who make Kings, and it lies to them to be their business to
break them, as necessary, however best they may see fit. However, to say more
than that would be clearly inappropriate in my own case, since I myself am a
King. For me to comment would be as much as to second guess some future Witan in one of their most sacral kinds of undertakings.
What I think is important is to bear in mind the kinds of things that can happen. For one thing, it is not likely to be either easy or painless, even for a duly constituted Witan, to depose a sitting King by any means. The sacral Kingship is warded round by all sorts of special privileges and protections, just as it was in days of old, and for exactly the same reason; even in the old days there were always adventurers who might think they would make pretty good Kings themselves, as compared to the current guy who has the job. Small potatoes though such a Kingship as the High Theodish might seem, there has always been the odd usurper even amongst little old us who has gotten stupid for some reason and decided to try his luck in some way; you know how people are, I'm sure. However, stupid is the right word; even the Theodish Kingship is such a stacked deck in the King's favor that you might as well think of trying to buy a Las Vegas casino by beating its house odds and breaking its bank.
I know that in my own case, if the Witan came to me to depose me, I would certainly be inclined to dutifully accept their deeming and step down however gracefully I could. However, that's easy for me to say, since no one is trying to depose me. As I say, in the reality, it's just not likely to be all that simple a matter. If a sitting Witan does decide to depose a sitting King, there are really only three possibilities: Either it's a case of a corrupt King, or corruption in the Witan, or else it's all just a big mistake
of some kind. Though that third possibility is obviously an imponderable which must lie outside our consideration, the other two are nonetheless problematical enough in their own right. If the King really is corrupt, he is accordingly that much less likely to play fair and just step down gracefully. If the Witan is corrupt, chances are the King will already know it, and in such case it is actually his Kingly duty, as warder of his Rice and folk, to resist their deeming and depose them instead.
Historically speaking, both sacral Kingship and witanry are brutally difficult jobs, calling for the highest quality kinds of people and wisdom in any community. It is a tremendously tricky job to pick and install a King, and at least ten times as difficult to depose a King and install another. In practice, we can see how it was always generally too much for any folk, as there have always been some rather bad kings in what history we know of, who nonetheless often seem to have ruled for decades without anyone managing to get rid of them. Concomitantly we see instances of how anxious the folk were to keep a good king riding the gifstol as long as possible, long past the point of drooling in his meadhorn, whenever they managed to get one; it is not for nothing that people so commonly cry Long Live the King.
It is likewise not for nothing that, under the circumstances, people might think that perhaps there ought to be some kind of checks and balances. Unfortunately, however, that sort of thing never works. You just can't idiot-proof heathenry; the world just comes up with a bigger and better idiot. More importantly, though, in a truly sacral office, checks and balances simply aren't possible, as being inherently offensive to the gods, as much a constraint on their own power as they are on the King's, whose job they oversee. The gods know how to deal with both bad kings and bad witans, and all they ask is that the folk be upstanding enough to follow through on their end on whatever may be necessary... which too often any folk simply aren't, of course. No folk can get far when their own leaders have betrayed them. The gods know that too, and fortunately are often far more forgiving toward a loyal folk than toward their rulers, even though everybody may well suffer before all is said and done. To paraphrase Confucius, emperors may topple, yet the folk always get by somehow. So yes, it's an inherently messy process, but that's the way the gods like it, and they don't like us tinkering with things they like, or trying to fix things they don't think are
broke. The gods know that, come what may, in the end it's always the principle of ordeal that will generally bring out the worthiest and best in all concerned. Hope that helps clarify. Godspeed......Garman
<<Question; on AElfric's website there is an oath to be sworn by folk
who would be Greater Theodish to the Gering-sprung Kingship, and I was curious
as to what benefits and obligations there are, on both ends, if a person or
group were to swear this oath. How would it differ from a person simply putting
Theodisc principles and taking the King's raed wherever they can get it?>>
Greater Theodism is what it is, and part of being what it is involves taking the Greater Theodish Oath. The difference between those who take the oath and those who don't is primarily that those who do are more legitimately and officially Greater Theodish in that by taking the oath, they are following the Thew of Greater Theodism as laid out in Garman Lord's THE WAY OF THE HEATHEN.
There is another aspect though, related to the question of benefits and obligations concerning the Greater Theodism oath. We know that there are many Greater Theodsmen who may or may not have taken the oath, who, for whatever reason, do not contact us or enter their names in the Greater Theodish Registry. This is one of the reasons why it is so difficult for us to say how many Greater Theodsmen there actually are.
The benefits of taking the oath (ie, following proper Greater Theodish Thew) is that the King and the Gerings will know about you or your group, and as such, there are many ways in which you or your group can benefit from friendly relations and personal association with the King and the Gerings. We can make much more information about Theodism available to those Greater Theodsmen we know. This is important, considering that there is so much about Theodism that you can't really ever find out until you associate with the Gerings.
Often, Greater Theodsmen are invited to Gering gatherings, and can thus enjoy our hospitality and comradery, and participate in our workshops. There are even opportunities to directly associate with Garman Lord in a Theodish setting: the benefits there are obvious. As for obligations that go along with the oath, there aren't really any except that which are part of the oath: oath sworn Greater Theodsmen could not thewfully take any hostile or harmful action against the King or the Gerings. I know if I considered myself a Greater Theodsman, I wouldn't want to miss the opportunity to take the Greater Theodish oath and join in the Registry, thus opening myself up to so many new Theodish possibilities and ways to grow and flourish in real heathenry. AElfric
Leof Dan Wassail!
> Words like "luck", "folk", "frith", "troth", "wyrd", "thew", as well as the
> more latino "honour" and "pride", "virtue" and the like, seem to be thrown
> around with little understanding of the concepts, philosophies, and even
> ways of life that lay behind and beneath and inform those words with
> meaning. Oaths are sometimes sworn seemingly without even the slightest
> ponderance on the meaning of the words being uttered. And perhaps worst of
> all, the modern "cult of personality" teaches that the individual is indeed
> more important that the group, and thus the group, whatever it is, is
> doomed to lose cohesion.
> Perhaps I am singing to the choir, but I would prefer to think I am joining
> a chorous, here, as unless I am mistaken, this is the gist of Lord Garman's
As they say in Canada, bang-on. The problems with today's heathenry do indeed run very deep, and if people like me might sometimes seem too noisy and disruptive, it should nonetheless be borne in mind that the bigger the stump, the more dynamite you're going to need, and if you're not using enough you're just wasting your dynamite and everybody else's time.
What you're saying above seems highly illustrative, Dan, of at least two big problems. One is that the heathen community, due to its many inevitable social inefficiencies, has always been very imperfectly catechized. The second is that it is inherently very resistive to catechization, to the point of actually considering it to be somewhat of an affront. People don't realize that there is real lore, and one may go by it or one may not, but whenever some go by it and some don't, but both call what they are doing by the same name, the result can only be huge misunderstandings.
This does seem to be a principle better understood in Canada than in your good neighbor to the south; Canadians really do seem to me to get into the real lore much more than Yanks, and to be generally smarter about understanding it. No doubt the esteemed landlord of this hall, AElfric, is as good an example as any. Since he never says much about it, most people don't realize that AElfric knows more about real hardcore arch-heathen elder lore than practically any human being on this planet in the last thousand years. And yet I have seen pinhead heathen poetasters who couldn't carry AElfric's maple leaf lunch bucket give him an argument on things that he knows, but they never dreamed of, as if the wannabe fantasies of their overwrought
pineal glands were just as valuable and just as respectable in the eyes of gods and folk as hardcore stuff that AElfric has spent years deep-structurally studying and analyzing in the original elder tongues.
A probnlem such as you cite about terms like "luck" is typical. Too many heathen don't realize that, no, it isn't about things like shooting craps in an Indian casino, because they don't realize that they are thinking about such things in a completely different ontological language from the original; one that modern science and technology has taken over and changed from Xtianity, which Xtianity earlier took over and changed from the original heathen, thus two intellectual giant-steps away. They don't realize that real "luck," in heathen terms, is closer to, say, what Steve A. means by "synchronicity," which is itself still at one remove from the actual heathen, because it is the rationalistic, quasi-scientific concept of a man, Karl Jung, who was accustomed to thinking in the scientific idiom, and thus able to only apprehend part of the original heathen idea, with no vocabulary
semantically capable of dealing with the rest, which involves fundamentally arational mythic concepts that thus can't be modernized.
The same case holds for such concepts as '"folk", "frith", "troth", "wyrd", "thew", as well as the more latino "honour" and "pride", "virtue" and the like,' just as you note, because people come into heathenry with a subjectivized concept of such things, think they understand them when they really don't, and are very likely to get upset, even insulted, when somebody who does tries to tell them they don't, and that such epistemological niceties are more important than they may realize. And here, let's be very
clear, I'm not talking about heathen doctrine or dogma; perish the thought. I'm talking about heathen common sense. To heathen A, who understands these various words on their own heathen terms, they are holy things, and keys to where his religion is really at. To heathen B, on the other hand, they may be nice words, which he may even think he understands, but just words,
nonetheless, and often as not just that much more SCA-jive crapola to contend with, in what is for him not so much a religion as a mere lifestyle-choice.
And of course this is fair enough in itself. Nobody ever has any right to tell another person what to believe, or what his religion ought to be to him; that would be just the same old Xtian sin of Proselytism redux. The problem comes, however, when heathen A and heathen B happen to meet in the same frithstead, and end up thinking they are practicing the same religion when they are not, simply because the goods aren't plainly labeled. In such case, heathen B ends up unwittingly trampling on heathen A's holy religion, heathen A ends up unwittingly trampling on heathen B's holy ego and self-esteem, and the result can only be a spiritual suicide-bomb explosion more appropriate to the West Bank than to the Reawakening community, and just that much more bad
faith and loss and destruction inflicted on the cause of the gods and the heathen Peace-Process.
Here of course it really is, by-and-large, a problem mainly caused by certain birth-defects of Asatru; we really do have to let the chips fall where they may here, and feelgood fuzzybunny denialism just won't help. It was Asatru which naively introduced the idea of "Jomsviking" radical-autonomous individualism as a heathen tenet, in hopes, no doubt, of being "tolerant" and "inclusive," but based on the Historically-Arrogant "Fallacy of Presentism," and thus, in culturally shifting from an Xtian metaphor to a heathen one, inadvertantly throwing out the baby with the bath in the process.
"Presentism" refers to the ontological fallacy of judging the past by the values of the present, as if assuming that the present is always bound to be superior. It is the kind of thinking that is behind the idea that people today whose ancestors kept slaves 150 years ago should be punished for it today, because if today's world thinks slavery is evil, then yesterday's world should have thought so too, and should have structured their values accordingly, naughty naughty tsk tsk. And, since they didn't, the sin of the fathers is visited upon the sons, and upon the son's sons, and so forth unto the umpteenth generation. It is the kind of thinking that thinks that if Rationalism, Logical Positivism and Intellectual Linearism/Literalism is the ontology of the present, then it must be superior to Arational Mythic Holistic thinking, because that was the thinking of the past, and is therefore obsolete. It is, in other words, Biblical eschatological thinking; the teleological idea of the whole course of human history as some kind of
linear Progress out of Darkness and working out of God's Plan, of which the present age and present moment most naturally stands at the culmination.
It is, accordingly, this fallacy that Asatru incorporated into its fabric when it embraced Radical-Autonomous Individualism as a value, just because it was a modern value, and Asatru was anxious to reinvent itself as something modern and trendy, and not be thought old-fashioned or out-of-date. To anyone who actually understands elder heathenry on its own terms, that sort of thing is a bit like trying to teach a pig to dance the polka, and in fact that is rather what the movement has too often ended up looking like in its various struggles and divagations since then, but no matter; the people of those days in the seventies didn't understand the elder heathenry, and to most it seemed like a reasonable idea at the time.
Today, of course, we can see more clearly that Radical Autonomy is just a modern Romanticism, and modern history's way of making a virtue of necessity. Modern society is imploding, and therefore community is collapsing everywhere. Accordingly, since the doom of community is writ so large everywhere on society's crumbling wall, why not simply be more cheerful about
it, rationalize the loss of community's strictures as really just an increase of personal liberty and freedom, even license, no doubt, make the most of it, and eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die? Obviously, that was the thinking of the seventies, as anyone knows who was there and did that, in an age when there was still some living memory of community, and some sort of
Romanticism was still possible. Today, of course, things having progressed to a later stage, we can see more clearly; we can see that collapse of community really is terminal for us, and that Radical Autonomy isn't the Solution, it's the Problem. That what is really needed is a serious general de-Romanticization in the present Post-Romantic Age, a serious general reality check and a serious intellectual axis-shift, that that won't be easy or painless, and that meanwhile the clock is ticking.
Once that has been accomplished, but only in tandem with that, some sort of general heathen recatechization could well become possible. Which does not, of course, mean that every heathen will be, or should be, recatechized. Heathen should be left secure in the knowledge that whether or not to personally embrace any catechism remains entirely the business of their own personal conscience. What is different is that at least they would know and respect the fact that some sort of real catechism really does exist.
> But stumbling in the from the cold of this society, as it were, from one of
> the millions the "atomic" families, uncles and aunts scattered across
> thousands of miles with the eldest all institutionalized or what have
> you... from broken and abusive homes and foster homes and a world of broken
> promise and little hope... what does anyone know about frithful bonds,
> other than what one manages to, trial and error, work out all to often the
> hard way?
That is indeed it. Today, that is the only world that people of the mean demographic age have ever experienced and can remember; the era of the atomized, alienated family. My own family was certainly less than ideal, even for those days, but at least it was a family, enabling me to at least remember what that actually felt like. We never had much, and spent way too much of our time acting as if we all hated each other, but at least I didn't spend my time cocooned up in the bedroom playing video games and watching MTV, with my mother emailing me from the kitchen to tell me that supper was ready, and at least we weren't spiritually alienated.
> Recently, I had some newage-Pagans thumb their noses on a virtual
> drive-by,,, "We could care less about tradition or the past... we invoke
> "Odhin"... blah blah blah... anyway, I need not tell you how that thread
> went as you can guess. Some, among the neoPagans, revel in their ignorance,
> celebrating it... it astounds me.
If you had had a bit more patience, maybe you could even have gotten them to tell you that they don't need to change a thing; that they are already perfect in their beautiful selves just like they are. And that whatever they send out will return upon them threefold. (Hmmm; I wonder how they managed to quantify that....)
> Many of the attendees to the workshops I taught, for example, were
> "neoPagan" in every sense, and indeed one "Ralph Blumster", as I like to
> call them, quit the course after the exclaiming "what's all this Germanic
> history have to do with the runes?"
Well, as one noted heathen pundit recently put it, in a somewhat different context, you can't teach a pig to whistle. And whatever we may do, progress will be bound to be slow at first, though I suspect it will begin to accelerate surprisingly once it ever manages to build a head of steam without too many mindless Three-Stoogeatru wannabes constantly shooting holes through the boiler just for fun. Classes and courses like yours are important. Lists like this are important. There should undoubtably be more of both. And good websites are tremendously important; it's good to see so many more of those
coming on line lately.
However, as I recently said to a colleague, what I think will really end up being important will be more and better books. Real heathen books are still rare, and do get bought and handed round and talked about whenever they do appear, and as such do tend to slowly but surely make a difference. A book simply works differently, and I suspect more influentally and effectively,
than any other form of mass communication, and I think this has been underappreciated, for perhaps two reasons, maybe three.
One is the difficulty inherent in publishing heathen books. Books are expensive to publish and need a big market, something that heathenry is not, in order to achieve the necessary economies of scale. However, all of that is gradually changing. The price of book-publishing has been relentlessly coming down, to the point where you can break even, on printing costs at least, by managing to print and sell a few hundred copies of a book. And at this point, as long as you're not trying to get rich on it, the community has now grown to the point where it is indeed possible to sell a few hundred copies of any reasonably interesting heathen book, in the heathen community alone, independently of access to mass commercial markets. Our own offerings in THEOD have now proved that. When we published them, we rolled the dice with crossed fingers and knew we were taking a flier, so it's worth noting that sales of WE ARE OUR DEEDS and WAY OF THE HEATHEN have long ago far exceeded
our original expectations, and we're already planning other book projects, with much greater confidence. Say what you will about this knucklehead community, if I said it's not willing to support publication of its own book literature, I'd be lying. Rather, my impression has been that the Reawakening community is actually hungry for some sort of literature that it could really call its own.
The other reason is perhaps the tendency of heathen ephemeral publications not to do very well. Heathen mags of any quality, though cheaper to publish, tend to be a lot of work to produce, and the community tends not to support them anymore than fairly weakly and fairly uninfluentially. My suspicion is that the community tends to think of them as mere fanzines, and not to
respect or value them. Because of this, I suspect that most heathen writers tend to think that if magazines don't get community support, one may as well forget about trying a book, but if so, I'm just saying that that might be a false impression.
I do think that a good book will always be bound to be difficult for anyone to write; book writing is much more acrobatic and less forgiving than magazine writing, with much narrower margin of error. It may well still be that the next heathen book that comes out, from THEOD or anybody else, won't catch on for some reason and will bomb. I'm just saying that the chances for
at least break-even are probably already better in this community at this point than most people would have thought. And that, beyond books, other more high tech mass media heathen materials are probably not far behind. Heathen CDs are already another thing that seems to do pretty well. I would guess that any heathen musician who could produce a listenable CD could probably hope to sell a few hundred copies over time; usually enough sales to justify a break-even pressing.
But then, there's a third reason that perhaps ought to be considered too. That is just the fact that, at present, there seems to be something in the air that was never there before since the beginnings of the Reawakening; the world's growing resentment of creeping globalism, especially amongst the young, and sense of a general crying out for community renewal. That may not bode particularly well for heathenry's prevailing climate of radical autonomy still being in keeping with the times, of course, but for heathenry's growing sense of "tribalism," it's as much as a faint scent wafting upon the breeze that suddenly heathenry's day is come and its time is at hand. The water is already inching up, and soon enough, in a matter of months or years, not centuries, the tide will be at the flood. Books and every other form of media will soon suddenly find their markets. The world will suddenly be ready for heathenry. It will certainly be a pity, when that day comes, if heathenry, so long mired down in its own peculiar unlucky unworldly quagmire, is still so unready for the world. Godspeed......Garman
> but then there is somthing that I first heard about in the context of
> Theodish... that language is, in fact, lore. .and every word has an origin
> and kennings to it.And the beauty of it is that how the words are arranged,
> can communicate all sorts of things beyond the dictionary as it
Another good observation. Words are like heathen; whether known or, as sometimes happen, unknown, they have family trees, which often lead back to a much more interesting history than you might guess, and every word is some word's kid, with a story to tell, that leads to another story, such that a word leads to another word.
This is something we learned back at the earliest beginnings of Theodism, in our quest for what the actual ancestral troth might have been, if it wasn't Wicca. The answer was supplied by a girl I met at the time, an Anthropologist, who first taught us all how to do proper research. Not ordinary superficial term-paper research, involving quoting scholars who were quoting other scholars and all that, but primary research, what she used to call "deep-structural" research, radical stuff, of the kind that takes you down to root levels where there really aren't many footnotes to quote. How do you do that? Many ways, said AElfwyne. One way that would at least be accessible to such as us would be to learn elder tongues and teach ourselves how to do internal Higher Critical analysis of surviving texts. I said at the time that I didn't know what surviving texts might possibly exist, or where
to find them. AElfwyne's answer was to come back that next weekend with a whole xerox carton full of them and say dig in, lads. At university, she had been involved as a volunteer in moving the books from the old library over to the new one, and seemed to practically know every book in the place. Such books were there all the time, but back then, in the days when no heathenry existed yet, nobody knew where, and such books were mainly just sitting there on dark back shelves collecting dust.
Another accessible "deep-structural" thing she taught us was Philology and word etymologies, the sort of thing that could fit right in with Higher textual Criticism. A Cultural Anthropologist knows not only that if you want to understand a culture you have to understand its language and its thoughts, but also that if we really think we even understand our own culture, we're really just kidding ourselves. AElfwyne's first Yuletide gift to me was an American Heritage Dictionary, because of the Indo-European Etymological Dictionary that it had in the back of the book. Every word in the language has a story, sometimes a big story, and when you put together all the stories of all the words, you have, essentially, the whole story of the intellectual corpus, the thoughts, of a whole folk. That's far too vast a world for any one man to know, of course, but still the kind of world that can be endlessly explored and rediscovered and shared by any sufficiently intrepid brotherhood of adventurers.
Every word has a story because it has a family tree, of ancestral words from which it sprang, which themselves sprang from other words, tracing all the way back to the Ice Age, many thousands of years before things like Xtianity. Every language has an archaeology of elder languages that it lies on top of, giving up its mysteries to the light of day as you peel back layer upon layer, rediscovering horizon upon horizon. All that bafflegab about "i-stem mutations" and such can obviously be pretty puzzling, at first, until you begin to absorb some of the fine points of what it says about what your ancestors really meant, in their world so like yours in some ways but in others so tremendously different, in the ways they used a word that was the direct ancestor of some word you use today, in some ways so like their older word but in others so very different.
AElfwyne was right; if you really care that much about getting it right, you have to go after the deep structure. The real story of a folk and a culture can only be understood through dimension and perspective. It can't be just a movie seen on the two-dimensional screen of today; you have to somehow walk back into the scene and seek out its depth, its hidden third dimension. A castle is seen from afar, from a hill, in whole and in proper perspective, if you really care to understand it. You only think you understand it, if you are standing right up next to a wall of it and just reading the grafiti scrawled by fools upon its outer surface, and if you try to rebuild it from just that much knowledge and understanding, you will only end up building
something not very sound, and certainly very strange.
To many, of course, such thinking doesn't really fit; why should things need to be all that serious? And yet, in human experience, it hasn't really been all that unusual for humans to want to give serious gifts to gods that they believe are serious gods. Godspeed.......Garman