On Wéofodsceorp (Vestments)

DSCN4231As to what wéofodsceorp (vestments) are donned by blóteras (priests) within the Ealdríce, our thew is drawn from that which was held by heathen blóteras of yore.  Of the first fore-century Cimbrian priestesses, ‘twas said by Strabo that they were “clad in white with flax cloaks held fast by brooches, belted with bronze, and barefoot.”[i]  And, of third to sixth century the Gothic blóteras, Jordanes wrote that they were cum citharis et vestibus candidis, “with harps and in white vestments.”  White, as the hue of blóterehád, ‘tis found throughout Indo-European thew, from the Hindu Brahman to the Roman Flamen to the Celtic Druid.  To these white wéofodsceorp, a red trim is often eked, recalling the rautt blótklæði, “red blót-clothes,” worn by Hrolleif in the Vatnsdæla saga.  In the Ealdríce, we have no inkling that the thew of Anglo-Saxon blóteras was otherwise.

To recall the barefoot Cimbrian priestesses, ‘tis of worth noting that, at the Anglo-Saxon Synod of Chelsea in 787 C.E., it was forbidden by the Roman papal legate that the Anglo-Saxon Christian priests fain the Mass, nudis cruribus, “bare legged.”[ii]  Such dress or undress may well have been a heathen holdover yet ‘tis unlikely though, that the blóteras of yore would have gone about barefooted at all times in a land wherein the frost may bite in winter.  Rather it seems as if such was thew only when blót itself was given to the gods or, mayhap, at May Day and other such summer fainings.  Within the Ealdríce the blótere’s wearing or forgoing of shoes or breeches is left  to the wisdom of each blótere as he or she will best know the weather and landscape of their holy-stead.

author photoOf what else the fore-old blóteras once wore, Jordanes wrote that their heads were hatted whilst worshiping.[iii]  Indeed, it may be that Coifi, the name of the Northumbrian ealdorblótere (high priest) thereat the Easter moot called by King Edwin of Northumbria in 627, meant “the coifed one.” And so, within the Ealdríce, our blóteras fain flax-capped and in white tunic, though when rouning they may well wend (trade) hat for hood.

To turn once more toward Chelsea, such was the same synod wherein it was deemed by the Papal legate that  “We forbid that a chalice or the paten made of ox-horn should be used for the sacrifice of God as they are of blood.”[iv]   T’would seem likely that such horny chalice were, in truth, the same mead horns once used in heathen drinking rites.  Shaped from the horns of livestock given to the old gods in blót, such relics of the old religion were now unfit for Christian worship.  Yet that the early Christian priests still held to an old heathen thew need come as no surprise.  It had been but only a hundred years since the belief of the bishops had fully uprooted the old religion from the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, with the Isle of Wight holding out until 686.  And so, bedecked in wéofodsceorp  much akin to that worn by their heathen forebears and bearing symbel horns to the housel, the first “Anglican” priests fained Christ in Mass much in the same way that their grandfathers had fained Wóden, Þunor, and Fréa at blót. As we say within the Ealdríce,  “As  they did then, so do we the same.”

Anglish Wordhoard
Blót – Old English for “sacrifice”
Blótere – Old English for “one who sacrifices,” “a priest”
Blóterehád – Old English for “priesthood”
Eke – Add
Fain – Celebrate
Faining – A celebration. A word used in Théodish Belief for a rite of worship
Fore-century – BC, BCE
Housel – An old word for the Eucharist, itself sprung from the Old English húsel, “sacrificial feast.”
Roun – To read the runes
Symbel – A heathen drinking rite
Thew – Custom, tradition
Wéofodsceorp – Old English for ” holy table clothing,” vestments.

[i] λευχείμονες, καρπασίνας ἐφαπτίδας ἐπιπεπορπημέναι, ζῶσμα χαλκοῦν ἔχουσαι, γυμνόποδες. Awended by Þórbeorht
[ii] Awended by Þórbeorht
[iii] Jordanes, The Origins and History of the Goths, Chapter 9
[iv] Vetuimus etiam ne de cornu bovis calix aut patina fieret ad sacrificandum Deo qui sanguineae sunt. Awended by Þórbeorht

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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