The Norse Mythology Blog is conducting a census of Germanic Heathens in an effort to get an idea of the number of Heathens worldwide. There is only one question, “What country are you from?” No other data is collected. The current results of the census are displayed, and these numbers seem low to me, so if you have not already gone to the site and entered your country please do so. And by all means share the link with other Heathens. It would be nice to get an idea of our numbers even if it is just for curiosity’s sake. The URL to the census is:.
I am taking a sabbatical from public Heathenry. I am not sure how long this sabbatical will be. It could be a few months or it could be for years. I have been in the public eye of Heathenry for twenty years, and feel that it is time I step away and lead a more private life. It is time for me to reassess and reevaluate my Heathen life. That being so there will be no new posts to this blog for the foreseeable future. I am at a point I feel I must focus on kith and kin. I will still be active with my theod and I will stay in touch with the many friends I have made over the years. This blog will remain online as many people use it as a resource. It gets many hits per week from people reading the posts. I would like to thank my many readers, and wish them all the luck I can.
This is written from the viewpoint of a Theodsmen that is part of a theod, however, it can probably be just as well applied to a member of any Heathen group. Thanks to over one thousand years of Christianity we have been left with the idea that our deeds affect no one else, that they are something only between ourselves and our maker. That is, of course, not true. What we do affects those around us. In Theodism it is often thought that the leader of the theod has the most impact on the luck of the tribe. However, all members contribute to it or take away from it.
The acts of one person not necessarily the lord of a theod reflects on the whole theod. If someone commits a felony that affects the whole theod beyond the bad press it may bring, it can also affect the luck of the tribe. If the weight of the misdeed outweighs that of the good that has been done much bad luck can be brought on. It need not be this way. Every member of a theod needs to think of what they do and say, and if they do and only do that which is honorable, the luck of a theod will be maintained.
This should all be common sense, but often it seems overlooked. With the recent Halloran scandal though we see how important it is to only do that which is honorable. Dan Halloran is being charged with bribery and extortion, both felony counts. Thanks to this his religion Theodism has been ridiculed in the gossip journals both online and in print. Halloran has had a long history of not watching his actions, and this has reflected badly on him and the theod he leads. However, until recently this was contained to Heathenry. Now though that he has committed a criminal offence and is being charged in a court of law it has spilled over into the court of public opinion. Now many no doubt have a dim view of Theodism thinking his actions reflect on his religion. I too have done things in the past that have reflected badly on the groups I am a member of. Before I got treatment for my mental illness I would often lose my temper and mouth off in emails. While this behavior was not illegal, it still none the less reflected badly on the theod I was leading. Due to personal problems in my life I would sometimes get drunk at gatherings despite the warnings of the Hávamál about strong drink. While I never did anything outrageous this too reflected badly on my theod.
The point is one must watch their behavior in everything they do. What we do reflects on the groups we are members of. And like it or not, people do do guilt by association. If one Theodsman is a drunken brawler then they all must be is how many people think. We cannot afford to be of the opinion that we care not what others think. Even the appearance of wrong doing is enough for an individual to bring down woe on an entire group of people. We must by all means watch our deeds, and only do that which is honorable and just.
Today is Easter (Ostara) according to Wednesbury Shire’s reconstruction of the Anglo-Saxon pagan calendar. So with that in mind, here is a prayer to Éostre I composed a few years ago.
Wassail Éostre, go well Éostre,
Goddess of the dawn, bringer of day,
Lady in white bringing water from the wells,
Beautiful goddess, all pure and good,
Bringing waves of grass after winter’s chill.
Goddess of the spring, goddess of dawn,
All clad in white full of right good will,
We beseech you now, with this bede,
Give us wonderful days with your winsome smile.
We ask you now and call on your name,
Give us fertile fields and lives full of love.
Perhaps one of the most misunderstood and often maligned things in Theodism is the concept of thralldom. To some, just the idea of going by a word that means “slave” seems revolting. Thralldom is none the less a needed fixture of any theod. Theods have tried to do away with the institution in the past with disastrous results. Thralldom is at best misunderstood by most Heathens. In the least it is often much maligned because people do not understand it. Not all theods handle thralldom the same way. However, there are a few things that are true of thralldom in all theods. First, thralldom is a probationary period that one needs to go through before joining a theod. Second, thralls do physical labor in exchange for being taught about Theodism and Heathenry. Third thralls are without worth and have no rights. They cannot swear oaths nor have oaths sworn to them. They are limited in what they can do in rites. Fourth as thralls have no worth they are not generally held accountable for their actions though their are certain expectations of them.
Not all of these things will ring true for the thralldom in every theod. Each theod has its own traditions and customs regarding thralldom Similarly. thralls are treated differently in each theod. In White Marsh Theod the theod I am a member of thralls are treated with respect, not belittled or abused, and it is much more of an apprenticeship than anything else. They are expected to do physical labor or some kind of service in exchange for being taught the ways of the theod. In the past however some theods have demeaned thralls with forced subservience; thralls could not speak unless spoken to, were insulted in numerous ways, and always did the hardest labor at any gathering or get together without any help from the full members. It was more a period of hazing than it was training. Today however I know of no theod whose thralls are treated in this fashion. Times have changed. Indeed, in White Marsh “thrall abuse” is a serious offence for which one can be punished for.
It is due to this past that thralldom is maligned. Being a thrall packs its advantages. Garman Lord used to say that thralls were the freest people in a theod. They have no responsibilities to the folk, no duties to perform other than grunt work at gatherings, and they can leave the theod at any time with no questions asked. This is not true of a freeman (the term theods use for a full member). Freemen always have some duties to perform in service to someone or responsibilities to the folk. And they cannot leave the theod easily. They have oaths they must be released of and this may require a whole lot of hoops to jump through. A thrall has no such obligations.
The whole idea behind thralldom is that one needs time to learn to be Theodish. Unlike other forms of Heathenry Theodism is steeped in custom and tradition. Members are expected to conduct themselves honorably and to work towards the good of the theod or group. In addition to learning many new things, a thrall must also unlearn many things. Among the things a thrall must learn is how to serve the folk and this is done by performing physical labor. A thrall must also learn humility and this is learned by having no rights in a theod and being told what to do. Humility may seem an odd virtue for a Heathen to try to develop, but Theodism has had problems in the past with Theodsmen who had not gone through thralldom letting power go to their heads. I am among those who did this. Indeed, I can only think of one Theodish leader who did not have this happen to them that did not go through thralldom and that is my brother Eric. So humility is something that must be learned as a thrall. Desire to develop a name of renown can come later after they have learned that they always have the folk to answer to.
Thralldom is a process. This process is called worthing and is something all Theodsmen go through repeating it many times in their lives. Prior to beginning the worthing process the potential thrall will discuss why they want to go into thrall with a member of the theod. The Theodsman will then approach their lord or lady and discuss the potential thrall with them. Sometimes, the lord or lady will want to talk to the potential thrall. Not everyone is accepted. Those with backgrounds they do not want to give up that conflict with the beliefs of the theod are likely to be rejected. If the potential thrall is accepted into becoming a thrall they are “sold.” That is the person that wants to teach them gives them a lucky penny (a penny found heads up in a public place). It varies what a thrall does with this penny from theod to theod. In some theods the thrall saves the lucky penny. In other theods they must lose it in a public place. When a thrall becomes a full fledged Theodsman they must give a lucky penny to the one that taught them. Worthing consists of three steps 1) Learning. In this stage the thrall spends time learning about Heathenry, and unlearning Christianity, Materialism, or whatever background they are coming from. During this time the thrall tries to become intimate with the history, customs, rites, and traditions of the Germanic culture the theod is trying to reconstruct. There is much reading, and many discussions with their lord or lady on the topics being learned. 2) Enacting. The thrall begins applying what they have learned. In my book Þédisc Geléafa “The Belief of the Tribe:” A Handbook on Germanic Heathenry and Theodish Belief I have this to say about enacting: “Enacting is not an easy process, and may take years. It is, as much a learning process as anything. One can read about riding a bike. One can study the physics of it, and work out mathematically how it works. They can look at what muscle groups one uses when riding. Even ride a tricycle to learn how to pedal. But, until one learns to ride a bike, they cannot say they have become a bike rider.” Heathenry is no different. One can read about Heathenry, but until they start practising it they really cannot call themselves Heathen. 3. Becoming or worthing. This is the point at which one can consider themselves Heathen. They have Heathen ideas, Heathen virtues, and live a Heathen life. The thrall has become a part of the theod. This process is all about laying down deeds in the Well of Wyrd to make one’s self Heathen. It is a process that never ends for a Theodsmen and they may go through it many times after becoming a full member of a theod. Even today after twenty years as a Theodman I am still learning new things about Heathenry and applying them in my life.
Becoming a Theodsman is a serious process. Theods have experimented in other ways of bringing new members into the theod in the past, granting potential members more rights. What would happen is that seekers would come in wanting to go through the learning process and then drift off. Thralldom since it ties one to someone that teaches them mouth to ear is much more personal and only the truly serious are willing to go through a process wherein they have no rights and must do whatever is asked of them so long as it is not abusive. Thralldom because of its very name may sound bad. The idea of selling oneself into “slavery” may sound totally unappealing to most Heathens, but in reality it is not a bad process. It is not as bad as military boot camp (no one is yelling at you), and no different in some ways than the process of joining many organizations such as the Masons. It has come a long way from the time when thralls were demeaned and abused under the Wínland Ríce. It is no longer a process of hazing. If you have any questions about thralldom feel free to ask in the comments. I will be glad to answer any and all questions you may have.
Þéodisc Geléafa “The Belief of the Tribe:” A Handbook on Germanic Heathenry and Theodish Belief is now available on Smashwords for $2.99. This is a special edition formatted especially as an ebook unlike the Kindle version on Amazon which was processed directly from the book file. It is therefore a much prettier and easy to read version. It is available in formats for Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and most e-reading apps including Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions, among others. This version is also DRM free which means you can use it on all your devices without buying new copies. Get your copy today! The websites section by the way has been updated.
Whether or not to hold someone accountable for their actions has been a difficult lesson for modern Heathenry to learn. It seems some folks are held accountable for even the slightest offence, while others are let slide again and again. Recent events concerning Theodism have highlighted this flaw in modern Heathenry. If one looks back at the history of Dan Halloran in Theodism one can see he was let slide by many people time and time again. When he first joined the Wínland Ríce he convinced the leadership to waive his need to go through thralldom. Thralldom is a much needed process for anyone to become a full fledged Theodsman. It is a learning process where one learns humility and one’s place in the community of the tribe. Very few have not went through it and not turned out to be bad Theodsmen, myself included. Looking back I wish I had gone through thralldom when I first became Theodish. I could have learned a lot that would have saved me later pain and sorrow as a Theodish leader. Dan Halloran therefore started off in Theodism without a basic grasp of what it was to be a part of a tribe. This was the first time he was let slide. The second time came with a transgression with a female thrall. He was flogged for this when he should have been outlawed (I will not even go into how flogging has no place in a modern religion). Had he been outlawed a lot of sorrow for others later could have been avoided, but he was let slide. When he finally was outlawed from the Wínland Ríce he already had folk of his own in the form of the Normanni Reiks. And the poor folk of the Normanni Reiks let him slide on too many transgressions to count, looking the other way when he would have dalliances with women not his wife, when he lied about having his outlawry lifted (although it must be said most of the theod did not know he lied), and when he would start quarrels with other groups. Eventually, most of them had enough, the final straw being when he wrote the piece entitled “I Believe in God” for the Queens Chronicle during his campaign for New York City councilman. The point is though by then he had been allowed to slide on serious transgressions against others many times, and had he been stopped at any point we may not be dealing with the fallout now.
At the same time others are shunned for only one offense and this may be as simple as getting in an online argument with the wrong person. Heathenry as a religion needs to learn when to hold people accountable for their actions, and when holding them accountable what the appropriate punishment should be. Many times we treat the least little thing far too seriously. And often we do not treat the truly serious transgressions serious enough. We therefore need some sort of way to judge when and how much do we hold others accountable for their actions.
Unfortunately, that is a difficult thing to learn to do. Dan was allowed to slide so many times as he could talk his way out of nearly anything. He knew the right words to say, the right buttons to push to get him out of any situation in which he had done wrong. It was therefore easy for folks to forgive him with the false promise that he will never do it again. Sometimes he was able to convince others that indeed he had done no wrong. Others, less skilled in the crafts of fast talk and double speak would find themselves punished far worse than their transgressions required. I have learned over the years how to handle situations in which a wrong was done. Granted these are not hard and fast rules, but more like guidelines. First, you must ask the question when a wrong is done is if anyone was hurt emotionally or physically? If they were hurt emotionally would a simple apology right the wrong? In most cases an apology will do. This goes for so called slights to one’s honor that seem to get undo attention in Heathenry. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” is a good adage to live by. If someone was physically hurt the question needs to be asked, “was it accidental?” If you hurt someone accidentally then you need to make restitution of some kind. That is pay any medical bills resulting from the injury plus a little extra for the wrong done. If it was a case of one being hurt on purpose the question needs to be asked should the law be involved? If the injuries are serious the answer is of course, “yes.” Once the law is involved nothing more need be done other than to wait for the wrong doer to be deemed guilty or innocent. If they are found guilty one can request scyld be paid them by the guilty party. If they refuse, one can then encourage that others shun them. At no time should one not demand scyld for a wrong done that is serious. To do so is dishonorable as it does not let the ancient way of Heathen justice to work. If the person that hurt you is of the same group as you you can request they be outlawed. If they are outlawed then no one in the group can associate with them. The final question that needs to be asked when a wrong is done is whether or not an oath was broken? If an oath has been broken that is a very serious thing, and I would think grounds for outlawry from a group. A lot of it depends on how and why the oath was broken, what sort of oath it was, and whether anyone was hurt in the process. If someone makes an oath to lose a certain amount of weight in a year and doesn’t do that they only hurt themselves, and perhaps it is not worthy of any sort of punishment. On the other hand if one has a hold oath (an oath of fealty) to someone as their lord or lady and then strikes them in a fit of anger this is a very serious offence and grounds for outlawry.
There are of course many other sorts of offences that are not as easily handled. For instance something that hurt someone emotionally may be serious enough for someone to be outlawed for it. For example if someone suffers PTSD from a house fire, yelling fire in a house that is not burning in their presence would be much more serious than saying someone is too thin. In the case of the person with PTSD and yelling fire scyld and not just an apology may be called for. Another case that might not be easily handled is cheating on a girl or boy friend. No oaths are involved so it is not as serious as cheating on a spouse, but many couples have an agreement to be exclusive and as such this would be serious enough to call for more than a simple apology and a, “honey I won’t do it again.” Again in this case some sort of scyld may be in order.’
Finally, offences that break the law of the land are best handled by the courts. One can only wait until someone’s trial is over and then depending on the outcome either shun them or accept them back in the fold. If scyld is paid, one may want to consider whether they would be allowed back in the group once their sentence is served. How much scyld one has to pay in a situation is difficult to determine, but is best set by the group one is a member of. What is most important is that the fines be consistent. One cannot make one person pay more than another for the same sort of offence. The Angelseaxisce Ealdriht for its fines went by the ancient Anglo-Saxon law codes translating the ancient amounts to modern currency. However a group wishes to do this is up to them.
Regardless, of what is done, one must always be held accountable for their actions. Serious offences must be dealt with in a serious fashion. Otherwise heartbreak may come later on down the road. In the case of Dan Halloran good Heathen folk are being drug down with him. Had he been required to go through thralldom or outlawed when he mistreated the female thrall there may not be undo and unwanted attention focused on Theodism right now. I know I myself have gotten away with wrongs in the past because of who I am, and I should not have. Meanwhile, I have had friends that maybe did little more than name calling wind up being shunned by an entire community when all that was required was a simple apology. We must learn when to hold people accountable and to what degree. There cannot be double standards, and one person’s punishment for an offense should be no different than that of someone else who has committed a similar offense. If we accuse someone of something we must be willing to go to thing to prove it unless the matter is being handled by a court of law. If we are going to hold folks accountable for their actions we must use the ancient time honored methods of our ancestors in determining guilt of trial by thing. If not we need some other form in place. Regardless of what we do, we must learn to hold people accountable for their actions.