On Right Good Will

It is the mark of a true Théodish fellowship that its folk will go about all things mid Rihtum Gódum Willan,“with a Right Good Will,” each toward the other.  And yet what meaning is entwined within this wordstring, pulled forth from the Théodish wordhoard and seemingly woven into any thoughtful speech turned toward thew?

Spun upon a wordwheel at some time within the Middle Ages, the wordstring is a thread running through both English and Scottish folksongs spun thereafter.   Though a string fewfolded, straightforward and wholly as it seems, Right Good Will is the twine with which the tapestry of Théodish thew is hung.  Indeed, ‘tis this thread of a Right Good Will, the thewy yarn spun by the scóp at symbel, which wends its way through Théodish song and binds us each to the other in our aleship.  In the words of Robert Burns, which we still sing each new year:

And we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught, for auld lang syne.
And we will take a cup of kindness yet, for [days] old and long since.
And we will take a Right Good Will draught, for [days] old long since.

To slip our Anglish for a fleeting tide and draw from the Norman-wrought Roman wordhoard, a Right Good Will is a “just benevolent intention.”  No deed done, no layer set within Wyrd’s Well, should be marred by Machiavellian machination, ulterior motive, court intrigue, self-interest, or anything that might be mistaken or even rightly-taken for politics. As we recall from saga of Beowulf,

Such shall a kinsman do:
Not at all with ill-witted nets    for others braid
hidden crafts     to plot the death
of companions
Beowulf 2166b-21669b (Þórbeorht)

Within his own innangeard, each Théodsmen should think to speed his fellow Théodsmen.  Moreover, beyond the bounds of his hedge, a Théodsman must not be so poor in thew as to withhold Right Good Will from guests, sooth-seekers, or even welshland-wights lest they be ill-worded or ill-deeded toward he or his théod.  To the fiend, however, the Théodsman owes only his hate.

With wisdom Théodsmen must turn their eyes toward each other.  We know, by the straight-wit with which all men are born, how to mete thew to those who would do us, our folk, and our liege-lords wrong.  Wóden himself teaches the wise what right they  owe the ill-minded Eoten.  But what of those who name themselves Théodsmen cheaply, with no true-knowing of Right Good Will or thought-through depth of handed-down thew? What of the wooly wearg who gainsays Right Good Will so that he might make his play the heaping of hateful words and nithly deeds upon those without his own innangeard?

Such is not Théodish thew. It is not our hunt-play to mock men because they are unlearned, newly Heathen, or even mistaken.  The wise witty-one remembers well when he himself was without good lore and thinks he well of those who were kind to him then.  With worthiness of mind he deals the wealth of his wisdom freely to those who might seek out his rede.  And so, toward all welshwights we should be of a Right Good Will lest they, by ill-wrought deeds, prove themselves a fiend. The greatness of Right Good Will is such that those who are of a Wrong Ill Will soon find the fetters with which they agreed to be bound whilst thinking themselves wended toward Wóden’s Wald turned, all at once, to a gallows’ rope.  It is with this unthewful fetter that they hang themselves upon their hateful gefrains. With his own ill-witted net, the wooly wearg is ensnared.

[Revised 6/4/2016]

About Þórbeorht Línléah

Ealdorblótere (chief priest) at Whitthenge Heall of the Ealdríce, an Anglo-Saxon Théodish fellowship. Author of Of Ghosts and Godpoles: Theodish Essays Pertaining to the Reconstruction of Saxon Heathen Belief, Both Old and Anglo (2014). Author of Þæt Ealdríce’s Hálgungbóc: The Théodish Liturgy of Þæt Ealdríce (2015, 2016). Þórbeorht resides in Richmond, Virginia with his wife Eþelwynn and two daughters.
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