Bédas Déaðsang (Bede’s Death Song)

Bede Urn

An Anglo-Saxon style funerary urn owned by Þórbeorht

On the night of his death, Thursday the 26th day of May 735 C.E., Béda shaped the following short lay, here wended from Old English into our nowtidely tongue by Þórbeorht.  Of its fittingness for Heathens, whilst Béda himself had the Christian doomsday in mind, we may well recall that “doom” speaks also to a man’s final gefrain (reputation), how he is remembered.  As such, all men, be they Christian or Heathen, have need to weigh the worth of their deeds and to think upon what their doom will be when dead.  Will one be soon forgotten, the worst of all dooms, or will one be forever remembered when men gather to raise horns of mead in the hall?


Þórbeorht’s Wending (translation)
Fore the need-faring (death)     none worths (becomes) as
wise of thought,     than when it is needful
to think about,   ere his hence-going (death),
of what his ghost,   of good or evil,
after his death-day     will be doomed (judged).

The Northumbrian Reading (version)
Fore thaem neidfaerae      naenig uuiurthit
thoncsnotturra,      than him tharf sie
to ymbhycggannae      aer his hiniongae
huaet his gástae      gódaes aeththa yflaes
aefter deothdaege      doemid uueorthae.

The Hague Reading (version)
Fore ðæm nédfere     nænig wiorðe
ðonc snottora,     ðon him ðearf siæ
tó ymbhycgenne     ær his hinionge
hwæt his gástæ      gódes oððe yfles
æfter deaðdæge     doemed wiorðe

The West Saxon Reading (version)
For þám nedfere     nænig wyrþeþ
þances snotera,     þonne him þearf sy
tó gehicgenne      ær his heonengange
hwæt his gáste     gódes oþþe yfeles
æfter deaþe heonon      démed weorþe

Posted in Ealdríce Hæðengyld - A Theodish Fellowship

On the Worth of Béda’s Witness

Saint Bede the Venerable

Ceiling mosaic from the Chapel of St George and the English Martyrs at Westminster Cathedral

Of the worth of Béda’s witness, one would well remember that his childhood overlapped the end of heathendom as the belief held by Anglo-Saxon kings. Though but a babe or young boy, the witans of Sussex, Wessex and the Isle of Wight would all seem to have sat their last heathen kings within his lifetime.  And, if he was indeed born in 672 CE as is widely held, then Béda would have nearly been a man at fourteen winters when the Isle of Wight, the last heathen stronghold, fell to the Christian sword in 686 CE.  Even within his homeland of Northumbria, Wóden’s holiness was, however quickly quelled, rekindled by heathen kings for some months in 633 CE.  Moreover, such speaks only of heathendom as the king’s heap.  As witnessed in sundry penitential, homily, and lawcode, the leavings of the old belief lingered on for many years thereafter amid the churls of the countryside.

It may well be thought then that Béda knew far more about the old belief than any churchman who followed thereafter.  Unlike Ælfric of Eynsham and Wulfstan II of York, who in their homilies De falsis deis, that is Of False Gods, muddled the godlore of the Danes with that of the Romans and Greeks, Béda wrote of the Anglo-Saxon heathen thew as a thing in and of itself.  Indeed, though fewsome and fleeting, the insights afforded by Béda may well baffle nowtidely readers long used to ready word-wended likenings of Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian godlore or at least some Interpretatio romana to atoken an English god or goddess with their Norse namesake.

Yet it is this very lack of likening in Béda’s work that speaks to the worth of his witness.   Béda’s betellings of the old belief are what we now might call “matter of fact.” Offhandedly given and as an afterthought to his reckoning of the Christian Easter, the straightforwardness of Béda’s sidetrack into the Anglo-Saxon year was neither written to trothwend, as the Anglo-Saxon kings were now fully Christian, nor to damn, as was the case with those who later wrote against the thew of the Danes. Indeed, that heathendom was within Béda’s living memory yet no longer thought a threat to Christian kingship sets him in a place uninhabited in history by any other Anglo-Saxon author.  No writer before nor after had such freedom as to speak so frankly of heathen belief.   Thus, whilst it is only shared as an aside to his reckoning of the Christian Easter, the heathen lore betold by Béda in his tallying of the Anglo-Saxon géarmæl should, in nowise, be taken lightly.

Anglish Wordhoard
Atoken – identify
Betell – describe
Betelling – description
Churls – freemen, commoners
Fewsome – rare, uncommon
Géarmæl – calendar
Godlore – mythology
Heap – cultus, religion, following
Holiness – religion
Leavings – remanents, holdovers
Nowtidely – contemporary, present day
Thew – custom, tradition
Trothwend – convert
Word-wended likenings – translated comparisons
Winters – years
Witan – council

Posted in Ealdríce Hæðengyld - A Theodish Fellowship

On the Right Reckoning of the Moon and its Month

MOONAmid the leaves of Béda’s De Temporum Ratione (725 CE), there is found the heading De mensibus Anglorum, or as we may wend it from Latin into our nowtidely English, On the Months of the Angles.  Of the Anglo-Saxon heathen gearmæl (calendar) there is no earlier written witness nor, thereafter, did any church father fathom the fore-old reckoning so fully.  Indeed whilst hints of the heathen year may be found in the Old English Martyrology (800-900 CE), Ælfric of Eynsham’s De Temporibus Anni (1005 CE), Byrhtferþ’s Old English Enchiridion (1010-1012 CE), and the Old English Menologium (1044-1066 CE), such tell-tale tokens might well have been drawn from Béda’s earlier betelling.  Of this Anglo-Saxon heathen year and how its months were meted, Béda wrote that:

The English folk of olden days (for to me it only seems fitting that, if I should speak of the yeartides of other folk, I should not be silent on that of my own) reckoned their months by the begoing of the moon.  As with the Hebrew and the Greek, [the months] took their name from the moon.  Thus, as they named the moon móna, so they named the month mónaþ.[i]

One may well ask then whether the beginning of the month is marked the by the falling of the full moon (OE: full móna) or by the renewing of the new moon (OE: níwe móna).  Yet this is an asking already answered by Béda four headings before in De mensibus, that is to say The Months.  As bewritten by Béda, “it may rightly be said that the moon’s month is the begoing of the moon’s light as it is renewed from new [moon] to new [moon].”[ii] Likewise, in De Temporibus Anni, Ælfric of Eynsham marked the moon’s month as “when he turns, new, from the sun till he comes back before her again, old and weary, and then through her is tindered again.”[iii]  Moreover, in his Old English Enchiridion, Byrhtferþ went so far as to draw the begoing of the moon’s month from new moon to new moon.

Here it should be said that the new moon as known to our Anglo-Saxon forebears was not what nowtidely men now call the new moon.  Rather, for our fore-elders, the new moon was betokend by the first light of its waxing.  As betold by Byrhtferþ in his Old English Enchiridion (1010-1012 CE), “a moon of one night shines for four pricks, but we will say five pricks after that which was set forth by Béda;[iv]” a prick being a mark upon a sundial, four or five of which made what we now call an hour.  Indeed, the Oxford English Dictionary still recalls this older meaning, marking the new moon as “the first visible crescent of the moon, after conjunction with the sun.”

Of the month’s beginning and its begoing from new moon to new moon we have not only the witness of churchmen but that of wizards as well.  Written betwixt and between 900 CE and 1100 CE, there abides a body of Anglo-Saxon booklore oft called the Anglo-Saxon Prognostics whereby sundry means of soothsaying by the weather, the weekday, the sun, or the moon are given.  Such prognostics, or wilings (OE: wíglung) as we may call them, were banned by both churchman and king as such witchery was believed to be a holdover of heathendom.

Amid his reckoning of the month’s wending in De Temporibus Anni, Ælfric was mindful to forbid foretelling by the moon, writing that “Nor shall any Christian man wile (divine) anything thing by the moon; if he does such, his belief is naught.”[v]  Moreover, before ending his homily Octabas et circumcision Domini nostri, Ælfric bemoaned that heathen customs (OE: hæðenum gewunan) and manifold wilings (OE: menigfealde wígelunga) that were still found in his lifetime, writing that “There also many taken with such mickle wrongness that they keep their faring by the moon and their deeds by the day.”[vi] But a few years thereafter in 1018 CE, King Cnut forbade by law any lingering worship or wiling of the moon, deeming that:

We earnestly forbid all heathenship.  Heathenship is, that men worship god-poles, it is that men worship Heathen gods and sun and moon, fire and flowing water, water-wells and stones and any kind of tree of the woods, and love witchcraft, and wonderworks perform, either in blót or foretelling…[vii]

Foremost among the Anglo-Saxon Prognostics are those works known as lunaries which we may call moonwrit.  Such moonwrit both foretold wyrd’s weaving by the night of the moon or, by such meting, forespelled what deeds might be lucky to undertake. Moreover, it should be noted that not one of these moonwrit began its soothsaying by the full moon. Rather each may be said to begin, as found in the Dream Lunarium and Agenda Lunarium alike, “upon a moon one night old.”[viii] Moreover the Prognostic for Weekdays of the New Moon[ix] leaves little room for inkling that the new moon marked the new month.  As it begins, “when the moon is new on Sunday such betokens three things in that month…”[x] Likewise the same reckoning follows five days thereafter with the rede: “if he [the moon] is new on Friday, there will be good hunting in that month.”[xi]

Though it should now be well shown that the Anglo-Saxon heathen month was reckoned by the new moon, rather than by the full moon, it must be said that amongst nowtidely heathens, such thew has seldom been held. Indeed, even among Théodsmen it has oft been found that the months have wrongly been reckoned by the full moon. Such murkiness is born from a misunderstanding of Béda’s wordlore of the month known as Winterfylleþ.  Of that month and the name that it is given, Béda wrote:

Likewise they sundered the year into two tides, namely winter and summer. The six months wherein the days are longer than the nights are called summer and the other six, winter.  Thus the month wherein the tide of winter begins is called Winterfylleþ, a name born by binding of the words “winter” and “full moon,” as it is from the full moon of that month that winter is allotted to begin.[xii]

From such wordlore many have mistakenly foreguessed that it is the month itself which begins upon the full moon, yet such is in no wise what Béda wrote.  As already shown four headings before in De mensibus, or as such may be wended from Latin, On the Months, Béda wrote that the moon’s month began upon the new moon. Such was the understanding of the moon’s month that Béda had set forth before he even began to recall the géarmal of his heathen forefathers. Rather, in De mensibus Anglorum, Béda wrote no more than that it was from the full moon of Winterfylleþ that the tide of winter began.  To say that the moon’s month begins at its fullness, rather than at its newness, is akin to saying that “the man in the moon” begins his life when he is already middle-aged rather than when he is born.

As such, in the Ealdríce, it has always been our thew to mark the new month (OE: níwe mónaþ) by the new moon (OE: níwe móna).  As our Anglo-Saxon heathen fore-elders once did, so do we the same.

Anglish Wordhoard
Asking – a question
Begoing – a procession
Betell – to tell about, to describe
Betoken – to signify
Bewrite – to describe
Blót – Old English for “sacrifice”
Booklore – literature
Fathom – to delve, to embrace
Foreguess – to assume
Fore-old – ancient
Forespell – to prescribe
Heading – chapter
Inkle – to doubt or be skeptical
Leaf, leaves – page, pages
Mete – to measure
Mickle – great, large
Moonwit – a lunary
Nowtidely – contemporary, modern
Rede – counsel, advice
Thew – custom
Wend – turn, translate
Wile, Wiling – From the OE: wíglung, with wíg being a variant of wéoh, “holy.” Whereas wíglung meant to “cast lots” or “practice divination,” in such NE words as wily, guile, and beguile, it has come to mean “to deceive,” itself a fascinating insight into what the church thought of heathen wíglung. Here it is here used in its original heathen sense.
Wordlore – etymology
Wyrd’s weaving – a kenning for “the future”

[i] Antiqui autem anlorum populi (neque enim mihi congruum videtur, aliarum gentium annalem observantiam dicere et meæ reticere) iuxta cursum lunæ suos menses computavere. Unde et a luna hebræorum et græcorum more nomen accipiunt; siquidem apud eos luna mona, mensis appellatur monath. siquidem apud eos luna mona, mensis appellatur monath. Wended from Latin by Þórbeorht.

[ii] De mensibus Ideoque rectius ita definiendum, quod mensis lunae sit luminis lunaris circuitus, ac redintegratio de nova ad novam.  Wended from Latin by Þórbeorht.

[iii] Ac his mónað is máre, þæt is ðonne hé gecyrð niwe from ðære sunnan oð þæt he eft cume hire forne gean, eald ⁊ ateorod, ⁊ eft ðurh hí béo ontend. Wended from Old English by Þórbeorht.

[iv] Anre nihte eald mónan scynð feower prican, ac wé wyllað secgan fíf prican æfter Béda gesetnysse. Wended from Old English by Þórbeorht.

[v] Ne sceal nan cristenman nan ðing be ðam mónan wiglian; gif he hit deð, his geleafa bið naht. Ne sceal nan cristenman nan ðing be ðam mónan wiglian; gif he hit deð, his geleafa bið naht. Wended from Old English by Þórbeorht.

[vi] Sind eac manega mid swa micclum gedwylde befangene, þæt hí cepað be ðam monan heora fær, and heora dæda be dagum… Wended from Old English by Þórbeorht.

[vii] Wé, forbeódaþ eornostlíce ǽlcne hǽðenscipe. Hǽðenscipe byð, þæt man god-gyld weorðige, þæt is þæt man weorðige hǽðene godas and sunnan and mónan,  fýr and flód, wæter-wyllas and stánas and ǽniges cynnes wudu-tréow, and wiccecræft lufige, and wundorweorc gefremme, oððe blóte oððe fyrht. Wended from Old English by Þórbeorht.

[viii] on anre nihte ealde mónan. Wended from Old English by Þórbeorht.

[ix] MS Cotton Tibrius A.iii. T10

[x] þonne se móna bið acenned on sunnandæig þæt tacanð iii þing on þam mónþe Wended from Old English by Þórbeorht.

[xi] Gif hé bið on frígedæig akenned, þæt bið gód huntoð on þam mónþe. Wended from Old English by Þórbeorht.

[xii] Item principaliter annum totum in duo tempora, hiemis videlicet et æstatis, dispertiebant—sex illos menses quibus longiores sunt noctibus dies æstati tribuendo, sex reliquos hiemi. Unde et mensem quo hyemalia tempora incipiebant Vuinterfylleth appellabant, composito nomine ab hyeme et plenilunio, quia videlicet a plenilunio eiusdem mensis hyems sortiretur initium. Wended from Latin by Þórbeorht.

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Þéodisc Hálignes – Théodish Holiness

Théodish Belief is Wóden’s religion or, as we may call it in our Anglish tongue, Wóden’s holiness (OE: hálignes).[i]    At each holytide, the folk fare forth to the holystead to worship the gods and ghosts of their fore-elders and the good wights of the land.   As they be-go, they bear with them goodly gifts, such as that which hath grown upon garden or grazed upon field:  ale brewed from broad barley, bread baked from white wheat, honey of the hive and mead made therefrom, or some livestock brought for blót.  Such godyield (OE: godgild) is given by Théodsmen in the belief that the gods, elves, and fore-elders will, in kind, bestow upon them the gift of godly hǽl, that mighty main which is oft called godspeed or luck. ‘Tis from such hǽl that folk and field alike are sped (OE: spéd, “prosperity”), given health (OE: hǽlþ) and made hale (OE: hál, “whole”).  And so it may be said that Théodish holiness is this: gift-giving.

[i]  “We are not talking about your religion here; we are talking about my religion.  My religion is gift-giving.” Wóden to Gárman Lord as bewritten in The Géring Handbook: Volume I: Géargerím of Géring: “That Gármanspell,” Chapter 7: Noumenon, page 51, an unpublished draft from the early 1990s as recalled from the night of July 4th, 1976.


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On the Right Reckoning of Módraniht

Amongst nowtidely heathens, it happens from time to time that the right reckoning of Módraniht is made murky by a misreading of Béda’s De Temporum Ratione (725 CE). In De mensibus Anglorum, the fifteenth chapter of that reckoning of time, Béda betold the old Anglo-Saxon géarmæl and named the months as they were known to his heathen fore-elders. Of the holytide of Módraniht itself, Béda bewrote it thus:

They began the year on the 8th day before the calends of January (December 25th), the day upon which we now celebrate the nativity of our Lord.  That which is now the most sacred night, was then called Módraniht by the heathens, that is, “the night of the Mothers,” the cause of which, we suspect, being the ceremonies over which they kept vigil.[i]

Théodsmen have ever held Módraniht upon the eve of the midwinter sunstead, that is to say the night before the winter solstice. As reckoned by the Catholic calendar, the midwinter sunstead may, from year to year, fall upon either December 21st or 22nd whereas Cristesmæsse, that is to say Christ’s Mass or Christmas, is held upon December 25th, some three or four days after the midwinter sunstead.  To some, this would seem to gainsay Théodish thew.  Yet on this thew, as with so many others things, Théodsmen are not mistaken.

At the time that Béda wrote De Temporum Ratione, much of the western world held that the midwinter sunstead fell upon December 25th.  In De aequinoctiis et solstitiis, the thirtieth chapter of De Temporum Ratione, Béda drew from both Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis Historia (79 CE) and Pseudo-Hippocrates’s Ad Antigonum Regem to thus reckon the midwinter sunstead:

Of the equinoxes, which are the 8th day before the calends of April (March 25th) and the 8th day before the calends of October (September 25th), and of the solstices, which are the 8th day before the calends of July (June 25th) and the 8th day before the calends of January (December 25th), the days of their observance are clearly agreed upon by a wide multitude, both those worldly wise (the pagan philosophers) and Christian.[ii]

Moreover, after quoting these ancient authors, Béde went on to further tether the godlore of the Christian belief to the heathen worship of the midwinter sunstead by writing thus:

This is what the heathens say of time, which is not dissimilar the traditions of many Church masters: That on the 8th day before the calends of April, the spring equinox, the Lord was conceived and, on the same day, suffered (the Passion), and that on the winter solstice, the 8th day before the calends of January (December 25th), was born (the Nativity).[iii]

This setting of Christ upon the sunwheel and thus begodding him a sun-god, is a leave given to the old holiness which lasted long after Béda’s lifetime.  Ælfric of Eynsham, in his De Temporibus Anni (1005 CE), later wrote that “The sun betokens our Healer, Christ, who is the sun of rightwiseness.”[iv]  Since earliest days of the trothwending, the god of the Christians had simply assumed the names of sundry Saxon gods whose reach had long touched upon the worship of the sun or sky. As Bealdor (Andreas), Fréa (Cædmon, Rood), and Wuldor (Cædmon, Ælfric), Christ was a farland god made to feel familiar.   Indeed, as the earliest Anglo-Saxon Christians were given leave by their bishops to blót oxen and cattle at their old heathen holysteads to Þeoda Baldor (lord of tribes), Fréa Eallmihtig (lord almighty), or Wuldorfæder (father of glory), one may well wonder whether or not the laymen of that time fully understood that they were no longer heathens. As found in Béda’s own Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (731 CE), in an errand-writ sent in 601 CE from Pope Gregory to Bishop Mellitus:

The temple of that theod’s idols should not be destroyed, though the idols be destroyed; but rather let them be sprinkled with water, have altars raise and have holy relics placed therein…that they might adore the true god at a place already familiar to them, and because it was their way to slaughter many oxen to demons, let it be changed on this account, that some solemnity be given to them, that on the day of dedication, or on the nativities of the holy martyrs who relics are there deposited, they may make about those churches tabernacles from the boughs of trees, and therein fain the holytide with feasting; no longer offering animals to the devil rather but to the glory of god.[v]

Slowly, in the three hundred winters which followed Béde’s death, churchmen waxed in their own understanding of starlore.  And, as they looked to the heavens and meted the comings and goings of the sun, moon, and stars, it dawned upon them that the Roman calendar was flawed, being somewhat too short for the year.  Since the time of Pliny, the calendar had drifted ahead of the sunsteads.  By the eleventh hundred yeartide, Cristesmæsse, the eighth day before the calends of January (December 25th), could no longer be said to fall upon the midwinter sunstead as the heathen Módraniht had.  Yet by then, Christianity had long since darkened (eclipsed) the blithe brightness of the old holiness, and it was thus no longer needful to bedeck Christ in the guise of a sun-god.  Whereas Cristesmæsse abided on its daymark (December 25th), the midwinter sunstead was re-reckoned upon its true coming.  As bewritten by Byrhtferþ in his Old English Enchiridion (1010-1012 CE):

He shaped sun and moon and planets and stars, and he sat twain sunsteads, the one on the twelfth day before the calends of January (December 21st) and the other on the twelfth day before the calends of July (June 20th), and he wrought and ordained the twelve months and the twain even-nights, those are set on the twelfth day before the calends of April (March 21st) and on the twelfth day before the calends of October (September 20th).[vi]

That Cristesmæsse was no longer held upon the midwinter sunstead is seen in Byrhtferþ’s Computus, wherein the twelfth day before the calends of January (December 21st) is called in Latin, solstitium brumale, the winter sunstead.  As it now stood, the winter sunstead was matched with Saint Thomas’ feast day as bissenis celum cepit conscendere Thomas, “on the twelfth day before January, heaven received Thomas.”  Moreover, a few lines later Byrhtferþ remarked that “on the eighth day before the calends of January, the Lord was born to a chaste virgin.”[vii]

This is not to say that the tethering of Cristesmæsse to the midwinter sunstead was altogether forgotten by the eleventh century.  As seen in the opening line of the Old English Menologium (1044-1066 CE), “Christ was born, the king of glory (cyninga wuldor), on midwinter (midne winter)”[viii] with the Prose Menologium calling Cristesmæsse the middes wintres mæssedæg, “Midwinter’s Mass-day.”  Though Cristesmæsse, Midwinter’s Mass, no longer truly fell on the midwinter sunstead, the leave once given by to the old heathen holiness lingered on in wordlore.

Beginning the day, not by the Christian reckoning of midnight but rather upon the setting of the sun as betold of the Teutons by Tacitus in Germania (98 CE)[ix] and by the Anglo-Saxon thew of naming the new day by its eve or night before, Théodsmen begin their Midwinter’s day faining upon its eve, that is to say Módraniht, the eve of the Mothers. When else would we? After all, our fore-elders would have known nothing of the Christian calendar, much less whether their Módraniht fell on this or that day before the calends of some month with a Roman name.  They, after all, had their own géarmæl and did not reckon the months as the Romans or Christians did. As they did then, so do we the same.

Anglish Wordhoard
Betell – To tell about, to describe
Bewrite – To write about, to describe
Blót – Old English for “sacrifice”
Daymark – Date
Errandwrit – a letter, epistle
Even-night – Equinox
Farland – Foreign
Fore-elders – Ancestors
Géarmæl – Old English for “calendar”
Holiness – Religion
Hundred Yeartide – Century
Midwinter – The winter solstice
Nowtidely – Contemporary
Righwiseness – Righteousness
Sunstead – Solstice
Starlore – Astronomy
Théod – Tribe
Trothwending – Conversion
Wordlore – Etymology

[i] Incipiebant autem annum ab octavo Calendarum Januariarum die, ubi nunc natale Domini celebramus. Et ipsam noctem nunc nobis sacrosanctum, tunc gentili vocabulo Modranicht, id est, matrum noctem, appellabant, ob causam, ut suspicamur. ceremoniarum quas in ea pervigiles agebant. Wended from Latin by Þórbeorht.
[ii] De aequinoctiis, quod octavo Calendarum Aprilium, et octavo Calendarum Octobrium, et de solstitiis, quod octavo Calendarum Juliarum, et octavo Calendarum Januariarum die sint notanda, multorum late et sapientium saeculi, et Christianorum sententia claret. Wended from Latin by Þórbeorht.
[iii] Haec quidem gentiles, quibus non dissimilia de tempore etiam perplures Ecclesiae tradidere magistri, dicentes: VIII Calendas Aprilis in aequinoctio verno Dominum conceptum et passum, eundem in solstitio brumali VIII Calendas Januarias natum. Wended from Latin by Þórbeorht.
[iv] Seo sunne getacnað urne Hǽlend Crist se ðe is rihtwisnysse sunne. I.33, 34 Wended from Old English by Þórbeorht.
[v] Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum 1.30
fana idolorum destrui in eadem gente minime debeant; sed ipsa, quae in eis sunt, idola destruantur; aqua benedicta fiat, in eisdem fanis aspergatur, altaria construantur, reliquiae ponantur….et Deum uerum cognoscens ac adorans, ad loca, quae consueuit, familiarius concurrat. Et quia boues solent in sacrificio daemonum multos occidere, debet eis etiam hac de re aliqua sollemnitas immutari; ut die dedicationis, uel natalicii sanctorum martyrum, quorum illic reliquiae ponuntur; tabernacula sibi circa easdem ecclesias, quae ex fanis commutatae sunt, de ramis arborum faciant, et religiosis conuiuiis sollemnitatem celebrent; nec diabolo iam animalia immolent, et ad laudem Dei… Wended from Latin by Þórbeorht.
[vi] He gesceop sunnan and monan and tungla and steorran, and he gesette twegen sunnstedas, þæne ænne on .xii. kalendas Ianuarii and þone oðerne on .xii. kalendas Iulii, and he gewurðode oððe geendebyrde þa twelf monðas on twam emnihtum, þa synd gesette on .xii. kalendas Aprilis and on .xii. kalendas Octobris. Wended from Old English by Þórbeorht.
[vii] Octauis Dominus natus de uirgine casta. Wended from Latin by Þórbeorht.
[viii] Crist wæs acennyd, cyninga wuldor, on midne winter. Lines 1, 2a. Wended from Old English by Þórbeorht.
[ix] Germania XI, nox ducere diem videtu. Wended from Latin by Þórbeorht.

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A Hláftíd Fægenung Abanning

By Æðelwulf & Þórbeohrt

Hwæt! Be it known unto all that on Sæturnesdæg, the second day of Weodmónaþ 2016 C.E., the folk of the Ealdríce gathered at Whitthenge Heall in Richmond, Virginia for the holytide of Hláftíd, or Loaf-Tide. Glad were we to have as our guests Hróþbeorht, his wife Crystal, their daughter, Kumari, and Xander.

With the barley-rent given to Béowa, god of the barley harvest, and to his wife Béole, goddess of the honeybee hive, a great gebéorscipe was held in the hall.  Amid the merrymaking, Hróþbeorht was welcomed into the Ealdríce as a leorenre.

May the gods speed the Ealdríce, Hróþbeorht Leornere, and our Théodish Belief and may Béowa and his bride Béola bless our path forward!

More pictures of our happy heathen gathering may be found here.

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A General Comment on Whatever Nonsense Warrants It

The Ealdríce is an independent religious fellowship that cleaves to the religion known as Anglo-Saxon Théodish Belief. Anglo-Saxon Théodish Belief itself is a revival of the pre-Christian pagan religion of the Anglo-Saxon théods, that is tribes, as it was practiced up until the end of the 7th century. As such, it is a folkhearted faith rather than a universal creed, much in the way that Judaism is the religion of the Jews, Shinto is the religion of the Japanese, and Native American tribal religions are the religions of said Native American tribes.

As the Anglo-Saxons are a Germanic people, our religion is likewise related to that of other Germanic pagan peoples such as the Norse, Frisians, Franks, and such. Indeed, beneath the broad banner of Théodish Belief there are even found fellowships that practice Frisian Théodish Belief, Gothic Théodish Belief, and a Norse Théodish Belief.

Moreover, as the Germanic peoples are part of the larger Indo-European family of folk, our religion is related, albeit more distantly, to Celtic Druidry, Baltic Romuva, Slavic Rodnovery, Religio Romana (Roman paganism), Hellenismos (Greek paganism), and even the Hindu religion of India.

Ours is a manygodded (polytheistic) religion and our liturgical year is largely based on the agricultural seasons. Our religious celebrations, known as fainings, are occasions for great revelry with singing, dancing, feasting, and other such merriment being central to our practice. As such, Anglo-Saxon Théodish Belief may be thought of as both an ancestral religion and an agrarian one.

As odd as it sounds, ancestral worship and agricultural celebrations are sometimes mistaken by others as something else entirely, something sinister and nefarious. Quite honestly, as one who has held to Théodish Belief for nearly all of my adult life, I cannot fully fathom why this is. Yet the thought of an Anglo-Saxon singing to a plough or dancing about a Maypole somehow, for some, invokes associations with 20th century political ideologies. This is a problem with the perception of others rather than one of our own intentions.

Ours is a religious belief held by our ancestors from the day we were shaped by the gods from wood until our religion was suppressed in the Middle Ages. It may be that modern sensibility often runs counter to ancient wisdom, but any difference there is due to our sincere spiritual desire to revive the ancient religion of our Anglo-Saxon heathen forbears.

The Ealdríce is a religious fellowship. Any political ideology that we might hold would be an ancient, pre-modern one, intertwined with our ancestral religion, such as folkmoot, a noble and priestly witan, and sacral kingship. Moreover, such pertains, if pertinent, to the way in which we go about our own Théodish business. Canon law if you will.

All members of the Ealdríce are expected to obey the laws of the land, pay their taxes, fulfill expected civil duties, be gainfully employed if not a homemaker, retired, disabled, or a student, be a good neighbor, and, most importantly, be a jolly good fellow. Should a member of the Ealdríce fall short of this, we expect them to remedy the situation as soon as they are able.

Regarding the wrong doings, should they ever occur,  of members of other movements intended to revive the pre-Christian Germanic religion, such as Ásatrú and Odinism, or even of anyone who might lay claim to being a Théodsmen yet who is not formally affiliated with the Ealdríce, what can we say? What does such have to do with our happy ale-offerings? Ours is an independent fellowship. We can only speak to our own. More importantly, we don’t commit crime here.  Well aside from Morris dancing, Mummers plays, witchcraft, drunkenness, degeneracy, brawling in bars, indecency in public places, and the like. We are a deeply religious people after all.

Posted in Ealdríce Hæðengyld - A Theodish Fellowship

Since Watertown – Forty Years of Théodish Thew

It was forty years ago this very day, on July 4th 1976, that Gárman Lord beheld the therewithness of Wóden in Watertown, New York. Those who cleave to Théodish thew and speak of themselves as Théodsmen remember this day each year as it betokens the beginning of our belief. Where before our folk were wretched in their godlessness, thereafter were we many-godded and richly gifted by Ése and Ælfas alike.
Since then, Théodish Belief has shifted its shape and reframed itself twice or thrice, beginning as a witangemót, the Wódenic witch-heap that was the Witan Théod (1976-1979), and then becoming the many-théodded Wínland Ríce (1989-2002) over which there was an æðeling and, by 1995, a cyning.
DSCN2823It is that span of time, the Wínland Ríce’s tide, that many nowtidely Théodsmen look to as the “Golden Age” of Théodish Belief. Then there was but one Théodish Ríce, to which all Théodsmen belonged, one cyning over them, and one web of hold oaths that bound all Théodsmen together. This was our Saxon Camelot, a legendary place and mythical time, the sort of kingdom and bygone age that scóp’s sing about. Théodism was one. Frith abounded. Worthmind and Right Good Will waxed among all Théodsmen. Bealdor was not yet dead.
Sadly, the history of the Wínland Ríce did not measure up to its myth. This was a contentious time, one fraught with treason following treason and outlawry following outlawry. Indeed, many of the Théodish “greats” were either wolfheaded or out of thew within a handful of years. By the Wínland Ríce’s end, Théodsmen, once bound beneath a single banner, now gathered about so many smaller boar-crested caps. Camelot had fallen. The roundtable was broken.

The Wínland Ríce spanned but a decade and a half in Théodish Belief’s now forty year history. As it now stands, nearly as many years have since gone by.  What has come of Théodish Belief in that span of time?  Théodish Belief, it is said, has always been a great experiment, an experiment in shaftcunning, the knowledge of shaping or reshaping things. Did the experiment fail when the Wínland Ríce fell?
Hardly. With the Wínland Ríce there was once one great Wóden-wrought experiment upon which the hope of men depended. Now there are many Wóden-willed sooth-seekings, each sparked from the same troth, yet each its own thew. When Gram broke itself against the edge of Gár, it was because the Allfæder had both willed it’s smithing and it’s shattering. In no wise was Wóden unaware. Indeed, such was Wóden’s whim to set cyning against cyning, tribe against tribe and, in doing so, to fill his hall with the worthy. Such has always been his way.

This is a time for many théods each with its own belief and thew though they each light their hall torches from the same Witanic need-fire. Indeed, this is the strength of Théodism. Where we were once one, we are now many. Where once there had been but one hope whereby men might rekindle the holy-fire, manifold sparks now spill forth from sundry sooth-seekings.  Wóden, in his wisdom, has seen to it that Théodsmen have borne bright brands far and wide.
Though there is now no singular banner under which we all march, Right Good Will  binds us together more surely than so many unheld hold oaths ever did when we were unhappily wedded as one Ríce.  Moreover, free to enjoy our own frith and unburdened by infighting, we set ourselves about the work of rediscovering Wóden’s religion.  And Wóden’s religion is this: gift-giving and glad we are Théodsmen to share wit, wisdom, rede, or even a ring with one another.

Posted in Ealdríce Hæðengyld - A Theodish Fellowship

Solmónaþ Fægenung (2016)

Hwæt! Be it known unto all that on Sæturnesdæg, the third day of Solmónaþ 2016 C.E., the folk and friends of the Ealdríce gathered at Whitthenge Heall in Richmond, Virginia to hold the holytide. Glad were we to have Oak of Arlington as our guest once again!

In keeping with the Ealdríces thew, our Solmónaþ gathering began with the charming of the plough and, with it, the rite of the Æcer Bót, the “Acre Remedy.” With the holy wedding of the eternal Drighten and Erce, the mother of earth, beheld by all, the merry band of heathens wended their way to the wéohstede where our heargward, Þórbeorht, fained the godling Scéafa. A fine horn-bearer was his own leornere, Æbbe!

A “ploughman’s platter” served as our evening’s húsel with a great gebéorscipe held thereafter in the hall. Happy were we to hear that Nicole Leornere has set herself to the task of waxing our song-hoard. And gripping were the words and thoughts that Æðelwulf Þyle and Þórbeorht Ealdorman shared on ealdormanscipe! It was a mighty gebéorscipe with many staying until the morning.

May the gods speed the Ealdríce and our Théodish Belief and may the sun-loaf which we laid into the furrow bring us a bright harvest!

More pictures of our Solmónaþ Fægenung may be seen here.

Posted in Ealdríce Hæðengyld - A Theodish Fellowship

An Éaster Abanning (2016)

By Æðelwulf

DSCN2620Hwæt! Be it known unto all that on Sæturnesdæg, the fifteenth day of Éastermónaþ 2016 C. E., the folk of the Ealdríce gathered along with their guests at Whitthenge Heall in Richmond, Virginia for the holytide’s faining. Oak, Rob, his wife Crystal and their daughter delighted us with their company.

Led by our leornere Nicole, the folk sang “Maiden in the Mor Lay” as they wended their way to the wéohstede to fain the goddess Éaster. Our other leornere Æbbe served as our heargward’s horn-bearer. Following the faining, the yeartidely lác of egg-tossing was held, with Oak victorious at its end.

DSCN2627Þórbeorht led those gathered in the heall in a sméagung, known in contemporary English as “a searching, a deliberation.” The subject was encounters with the gods, wights, or other thoughtforms, and knowing the difference.

A húsel followed in the open Spring air of rotisserie chicken, egg salad, assorted vegetables and cheeses, bread and butter. The folk returned to the heall for what our heargward declared was our best gebéorscipe yet for the Ealdríce, with many fine horns raised accompanied by merry and boisterous drinking songs! Many stayed to share drink and fellowship around the fire before retiring to our tents to camp out for the evening.

DSCN2655May the gods speed the Ealdríce and our Théodish Belief and may Éaster brighten our path as we continue into the next fire festivals of the year!

More pictures of our Éaster gathering may be seen here.

Posted in Ealdríce Hæðengyld - A Theodish Fellowship