Theodism

Theodism, or Þēodisc Gelēafa (Old English: "tribal belief") is a North American variant of Germanic Neopaganism which seeks to reconstruct the beliefs and practices of several historic Northern European tribes. Initially, Theodism referred solely to Anglo-Saxon polytheism, the religion of the Anglo-Saxons which had settled in England. Now, however , the term "Theodism" encompasses Norman, Angle, Continental Saxon, Frisian, Jutish, Gothic, Alemannic, Swedish, Danish and other tribal variants. "Þéodisc" is the adjective of "þéod" "people, tribe", cognate to "deutsch".

Reconstructionist beliefs are based on cultural and historical authenticity. Reconstructionists have a very strong scholarly and academic bent which emphasizes the intense study of history, languages, archeology, anthropology and folklore. The primary focus of Theodism is an attempt to reconstruct the pre-Christian religion of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European peoples, within the cultural framework and community environment of specific tribes.

History

While having some commonalities with the budding Ásatrú and Odinist movements, Theodism primarily derived its origins as a reaction to Wicca. In 1971, Garman Lord and other practitioners of Gardnerian Wicca founded the The Coven Witan of Anglo-Saxon Wicca. Contrary to modern lore, Garman and his followers were not influenced by Raymond Buckland's Seax Wicca, which they preceded by some two years. [Garman Lord, "The Evolution of Þéodisc Belief: Part I" Theod Magazine, Lammas, 1995]

Following both a period of seclusion and a personal encounter with the Gods Woden and Frige, Garman Lord formed the Witan Theod in Watertown, New York in 1976, which was the first Theodish group. A few years later, the Moody Hill Theod emerged as an offshoot of the Witan Theod. Theodism attempts to adhere to a more historically accurate reconstruction of Anglo-Saxon religion in a distinct contrast with Wicca. The other extant North American heathen organizations such as the Asatru Free Assembly and the Odinist Fellowship were then focused primarily on the Viking Age and the Icelandic pre-Christian religion.

Theodism is focused on the lore, beliefs and social structure - particularly the concept of "" or "customary law" - of various specific Germanic tribes. The most glaring distinction between Theodism and other modern manifestations of Germanic Neopaganism is that while many groups are attempting to reconstruct the pre-Christian religions, the Theodish are also attempting to reconstruct the tribes, hierarchical social orders and even languages of the pre-Christian Northern Europeans.

In 1983, after being on hiatus, the Witan Theod became the Gering Theod (pronounced 'yerring'), a play on words, meaning "the Sprout of the Sprout". In 1989 the Winland Rice was formed as an umbrella organization of Theodish groups, with Garman Lord chosen by consensus as the "Æþeling" or "lord". "The Rice", as it is known, is now the oldest surviving Anglo-Saxon Heathen organization in North America. One of Garman Lord’s earliest gesiþs or "retainers", Gert McQueen, went on to serve as an Elder and Redesman of the Ring of Troth, an international organization serving the Heathen community. Gert McQueen was successful in lobbying the U.S. Army Chaplain’s Corps to adopt guidelines for recognizing heathen religions and Theodish belief in particular. Together they operated "Theod Magazine" - and Theod Publishing also ran a successful small bookshop venture. In 1995 Garman Lord was "raised on a shield as Cyning" or "presented as king by his followers".

Several groups formed as offshoots of the original Gering Theod and/or Winland Rice. The Fresena Rike formed in 1994 and remanifested in 2005 as the Axentof Thiad. The Normannii Thiud was formed in 1997 by Troth Elder Dan O'Halloran and continues to this day to practice Danish-Norman belief. The Œthelland Cynn was formed in 2004 by Troth Godman Daniel Flores and practices the tribal beliefs of Migration Age Jutland. After some tumult within the Theodish community in 1996, Troth Elder Swain Wodening and Troth Godwoman Winifred Hodge left the Winland Rice to found the Angelseaxisce Ealdriht, as a more democratic alternative to the Winland Rice. The Ealdriht became the largest Anglo-Saxon heathen organization in the Heathen community, until it was dissolved in November 2004. The dissolution was necessary to facilitate the growth of two emerging communities with increasing differences in tribal belief and structure: the Mercinga Ríce, a continuation of the Ealdriht, and the Neowanglia Þéod, who sought towards a more traditional Theodish structure. In August 2007, Neowanglia Theod dissolved. The Mercinga Ríce dissolved in March 2008. Eric Wodening founded Englatheod in July 2007, while Sweartfenn Theod was founded, by Jeffrey Runokivi, in December 2007. Both groups practice Anglo-Saxon Theodism, and have members that have belonged to both the Winland Rice and the Ealdriht.

In addition to these Theods, there are numerous "Greater Theodish" groups in the Heathen community, who do not have a direct organizational lineage to the Winland Rice, but were inspired to organize based on Garman Lord’s seminal work, "The Way of the Heathen". These groups include the Frankish Leod, the Ostrogothia Thiod and others. "The Ring of Troth" continues to have numerous members from the Theodish community, who contribute heavily to periodicals such as "Idunna".

Beliefs

*Theodism is a tribal movement, seeking to create a "folk" and revive the "weltanschauung" necessary to accurately practice the religion of their progenitors
*Theodsmen hold freedom of conscience as matters of necessity for all Heathens
*Theodism advocates the Germanic Heathen concept of "Sacral Kingship" as the gift of the Gods and expression of Luck, Might, and Main
*Theodish groups advocate a "Web of Thew" and a "Web of Oaths" to bind the community
*The goal of the individual is to struggle in life to build worth, which is something that will remain after death for the individual's family and community
*Theodsmen adhere to the "Three Wynns": Wisdom, Generosity, and Honor
*All Theods submit to the Thing as the measure of "recht" or "right" and abide by its rulings

Important Theodish concepts

*Nobility is defined by one's deeds and worth rather than any concept of equality or birth-right - everyone is born worthless and unproven
*Practicing the concepts of "Innangarð" and "Útangarð" or "insiders and outsiders" - placing ones' loyalty to family and community eminently above all obligations to those who are not bound by oath or blood relations

Hierarchy and the Sacral Leader

Théodism advocates a hierarchical relationship within the tribe. Beginning at the top with the sacral leader, the tribe has nobles, freemen, and non-freemen. This is integral to the Théodish concept that the Gods prefer to deal with human beings on a corporate basis. This is ultimately expressed on the tribal level, where the sacral leader is the intermediary between the Gods and the entire tribe. Offerings from the tribe are made by the sacral leader, and the good fortune or luck (ON "hamingja") is dispensed to that leader and thence distributed through the web of thew to his followers. [Garman Lord, p. 19] This principle follows all the way down the hierarchy (where we see nobles making offerings on behalf of a particular district within the kingdom [Snorri Sturluson, Heimskringla, Saga of King Olaf Haraldson ch. 113] ) to the family level, where the head of the household is able to offer sacrifices and take omens on behalf of his family. [Tacitus, Germania, ch. 10]

Oaths

Oaths are binding and are the glue which holds society together - betrayal and treachery are grievous sins which bring ill luck to the individual and the community. Oaths which are not fulfilled will actively damage the "luck" of not only the person who failed to keep the oath, but also that of those who were present when it was uttered. It is for this reason that at the Theodish ritual of symbel (the main ritual at which oaths are sworn over a sanctified alcoholic beverage such as mead or ale) there will actually be an appointed officer (the "þyle" (OE) or "þulR" (ON)) who is tasked with ensuring that impossible-to-keep oaths are not made over the symbel cup. It is also for this reason that thralls, in their capacity as "learners", might not understand what constitutes a bad oath, and thus in order to prevent them from inadvertently tainting the luck of the Theod, they are not judged capable of making any oaths until they have earned their freedom ("cheaped their abraidness"), and become free and full members of the Theod. A special class of oath is the "hold oath", which is sworn from one free individual to another of higher arung. The text is based on the ancient Germanic "comitatus" oath, and forms the basis of the "web of oaths" which lead up to the King, and which binds the Theodish group together. [Garman Lord pp. 55-57]

Right Good Will

The concept of Right Good Will states, simply, that Théodsmen will treat with one another in a completely above-board fashion, and will not willingly harm or do ill to one another without a compelling reason. [ [http://gamall-steinn.org/theod/gl-rgw.htm Gamall Steinn [GL Right Good Will ] ] It is by thinking first of the well-being and best interests of other Théodsmen, as a matter of personal honor, that Théodish Belief attempts to address the problem of personal evil. Humans are flawed creatures, and it is only by the application of such a strict and comprehensively altruistic ethic, that a workable and sustainable society can be maintained.According to Swain Wodening, not all Theodish groups use this concept, instead preferring to use the term "grith," the temporary peace of a gathering or get together to refer to the idea that there should be peace amongst Theodsmen.Fact|date=July 2007

Thew

Thew or "þeaw" is an Old English word meaning "custom or virtue". In the Theodish community thew is the unspoken law which is the basis of society. Dan O'Halloran explains::"Thew is situational: circumstances can and do dictate how we, like our ancestors, deal with each individual event. As Theodism is a human endeavor, it is prone to all the failings, fragilities, and frailties of man. However the Theodsman trusts to the overarching Thew, that thew is the Great Thew of Hope. The theodsman has hope, hope in his lord, in his men, in his troth, in his gods and ancestors, and in his fellow tribesmen. A Theodsman strives for the goal, even knowing he will likely fall short, because it is a worthy endeavor, because it is innately lucky, and thus "Weh" ("holy")." [O'Halloran p.31]

Rituals

In general, Théodish religious festivities are referred to as 'fainings' (meaning 'celebration'). As a rule, there are two sorts of rituals; blót and symbel. They are accompanied by a feast in between.

Blót

Blót is a term denoting sacrifice (cognate to blood, blut, Blót). In Théodish context, it can refer either to an actual animal sacrifice or to the sacrifice of valuables. [Garman Lord pp. 23-26] In the case of an animal sacrifice, the meat from the beast is used in the feast for the assembled worshipers. Any excess is burned as a direct offering to the Gods. Whether the sacrifice is of an animal, fruits of the harvest, or other valuables, it is always treated with the utmost respect, as it is a gift to the Gods Themselves. Some groups differentiate between a blood sacrifice and other sorts of sacrifice, reserving the term blót exclusively for the former, and using the ON term "fórn" to refer to any other form of votive sacrifice.

Húsel

Húsel is technically part of blót; it is the sacred feast that takes place after the sacrifice. It opens with three toasts, one to a god or goddess each, and then is followed by the mynne full (ON minifull), or memory cup. The bragafull or "leader's cup" may follow. Toasts may follow as in symbel, but these are to the gods and ancestors, and therefore of a different variety. Once all are through eating, then left overs, and any special parts of the sacrificial beast are given to the Gods. [Swain Wodening, p. 100]

ymbel

Symbel (ON sumbl) is normally held after the feast, inasmuch as it is custom not to have food present. Symbel consists of rounds of ritual drinking and toasting, and invariably takes place within an enclosed space of some kind. [Garman Lord, p. 27] It is usually inaugurated by three formal rounds, as determined by the host; often led by toasts in honor of the Gods, then ancestors and/or heroes, and then a general or personal boast. Other boasts may take place as necessary. Symbel is always formally closed once the formal boasts are completed, in order that the symbel might maintain its dignity and not degenerate into "mere partying" [Garman Lord, p. 30] . The two types of boast are the ʒielp (pron. 'yelp') and the béot (pron. 'BAY-awt"). The former is a boast of one's own worthiness, such as one's accomplishments, ancestry, etc. The latter is a boast of an action one plans to undertake. In order to protect the luck of the hall, such boasts are subject to challenge by the thyle (ON þulR), whose job it is to make sure that unlucky boasts do not contaminate the luck of all present.

Notes

References

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External links

* [http://www.axenthof.org/ Axenthof Thiad] Frisian Theodish Belief
* [http://www.englatheod.org/ Englatheod] Anglo-Saxon Theodish Belief
* [http://www.centrice.350.com/ Centrice] Anglo-Saxon Theodish Belief
* [http://normannii.org/ Normannii Thiud aet Reik] Dansk-Norman Theodish Belief
* [http://svithjod.angelfire.com/Home.html/ Sweþiuð ] Svensk Theodish Belief
* [http://www.oethelland.org/ Œðelland] Jutish Theodish Belief
* [http://homepage.mac.com/mossmuncher/Sweartfenn_Theod/index.html Sweartfenn_Theod] Anglo-Saxon Theodish Belief


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