On Hréþmónaþ Also Called Hlýda

800px-Lathgertha_by_Morris_Meredith_Williams

Lagertha by Morris Meredith Williams,  from   The Northmen in Britain (1913)

Amid the twenty and seven Anglo-Saxon year-reckonings that are known to us still, two Old English names are found for the moon-marked month which fell nigh the Roman March: Hréþmónaþ and Hlýda, which is sometimes called Hlýdanmónaþ. Wordlorewise, Hréþmónaþ may be said to mean “fierce month” even as Hlýda may be said to mean “loud one” and Hlýdanmónaþ “loud month.” Such names hold well with what we know of the late English Lencten as the weather at that time is marked by winds both fierce (OE: hréðe) and loud (OE: hlúd).  Indeed, in an English saying recalled by Thomas Fuller in his Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings (1773 CE), the month’s weather is betold thus: “March balkham (Aries ram) comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb.”[i]  Moreover, the month is likewise marked by hailstorms.  As bewritten in the Old English Menologium:

Then it cometh forth,
after one night,   among us to town
rime-bedecked.  Hail showers fareth
yond Middle Earth.   Fierce March,
highly Hylda[ii]

With wordlore and weatherlore being so much the same, we would think no more on the meaning of month, finding it full well settled, were it not for Béda’s reckoning of the Anglo-Saxon holy year.   Of Hréþmónaþ, Béda offered further insight in his De mensibus Anglorum (725 CE) wherein he wrote that “Hréþmónaþ, from the goddess Hréþe to whom they gave blót, was so named.”[iii]  The namelore of Hréþe may well be that of the month, meaning fierce (OE: hréðe) in the she is the “fierce one,” a name befitting a goddess whose reach is the late Lencten wind and hailstorm.

As hap may have it, the name Hlýda, “loud one,” may also be that of a goddess – even the same goddess as Hréþe. Throughout the second and third hundredtides, along the Rhine and in Frisia, engravings were made to a goddess known as Hludana (Latin: Dea Hludana).  Whilst her namelore is unsettled amongst learned men, it is not at all unlikely that it stems from the Proto-Germanic *hlúdaz, meaning both “loud” and “famous.”  And so it is that, nigh the full moon of Hréþmónaþ, the Anglo-Saxon Théodsmen of the Ealdríce gather to worship and, it may be sometimes to blót, the Lencten storm goddess, whose fierce and loud begoing betokens the end of the bitter winter and foreshadows the blithe summer to come.

Anglish Wordhoard
Begoing – Procession
Betold – Described
Bewritten – Described
Blót – Sacrifice
Engravings- Inscriptions
Fore-elders – Ancestors
Hundredtide – Century
Lencten – The Anglo-Saxon season between Winter and Summer which means “lengthening” and is akin to the word Lenten.
Moon-marked  – Marked by the moon, lunar
Namelore – The lore or names, etymology
Thew – Custom
Weatherlore – The lore of weather, meteorology
Wordlorewise – The lore of words, etymology
Year-reckoning – A reckoning of the year, a calendar
Yoretidely – Ancient

[i] Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, 1732. Line 6473
[ii] Þænne he furðor cymeð
ufor anre niht    us to tune
Hrime gehyrsted     hagolscurum færð
Geond middangeard     Martius reðe
Hlyda healic.
Lines 33b-37a
Wended from Old English by Þórbeorht.
[iii] Rhed-monath a dea illorum Rheda, cui in illo sacrificabant, nominator.
Taken from De Temporum Ratione (725 CE), De mensibus Anglorum.  Wended from Latin by Þórbeorht.

Posted in Ealdríce Hæðengyld - A Theodish Fellowship

On Solmónaþ, Pancakes, and Ploughs

Daniel Stolz von Stolzenberg Viridarium Chymicum

Woodcut from Daniel Stolz von Stolzenberg’s Viridarium Chymicum (1624 CE)

Amid the Lenten traditions of the English[i], there may be found threads of yore-old heathen thew Christened long ago by the early Anglo-Saxon church. Indeed, such heathenish customs abide to this very day, though few who hold to them know from whence the roots of such rites spring.  Foremost amongst these folkways may be reckoned of those of the sun and plough which once belonged to the Anglo-Saxon month of Solmónaþ (more or less February). Of Solmónaþ and the heathen worship which followed, Béda wrote that:  “Sun-month may be said to be the “month of flat cakes,” which they, in that month, gave to their gods.”[ii] Such “flat cakes” betokened the sun itself whose again-faring drew out the day and so betokened the beginning of Lencten, “Lengthening, Lent.”

As a holy housel shared between gods and men, such flat sun-shaped cakes, or as we might now call them, pancakes, were partaken of in great fulsomeness at this time.  As sundry Shrovetide traditions show, well into the early Modern Era did Englishmen fattened themselves with such pancakes so as to make ready for the leanness of Lencten. As betold by John Brand amid the leafs of his great gathering of English oldenways, Observations on The popular Antiquities of Great Britain (1777 CE):

“At Hoddesdon, in Hertfordshire, the old curfew bell […] has from time immemorial been regularly rung on the morning of Shrove Tuesday, at four o’clock, after which hour the inhabitants are at liberty to make and eat pancakes, until the bell rings at eight o’clock at night. This custom is observed so closely, that after that hour not a pancake remains in the town.”

Here, alongside the heathenish partaking of pancakes, we find another oldenway held until nowtidely time by the English which has seemingly sprung from the Anglo-Saxon Solmónaþ.  As betold by Brand, Plough Monday, now held on the Monday following Epiphany, once fell nearer to Lent.

In the North of England there is a custom used at or about this time, which, as will be seen, was anciently observed also in the beginning of Lent. The Fool Plough goes about, a pageant that consists of a number of sword-dancers dragging a plough with music, and one, sometimes two, in very strange attire; the Bessy, in the grotesque habit of an old woman, and the Fool, almost covered with skins, a hairy cap on, and the tail of some animal hanging from his back.

In so unseemly a rite as this, we may find some small remembrance of the heathenish Æcer Bót, the “Acre Remedy” of the 10th hundredtide. Within the Æcer Bót itself, the holy-bedding[iii] of a heavenly drighten and an earth goddess is recalled so that she might, by his plough and her plowing, be filled with his seed and bring forth the harvest from her bosom. As forespelled by that fore-old spell:

Then have a man drive the plough forth and the first furrow open, quoth then:
“Hale be thou fold (earth),     mother of men!
Be thou growing     in god’s fathom (embrace),
filled [with] fodder     for the use of men.”[iv]

Indeed, it is in this very spell that the Lenten traditions of the pancake housel and the plough’s begoing are seen together, having first arisen from the same rite. As forthwith follows in the Æcer Bót:

Take then each kind of meal and have a man bake a loaf as broad as the inside of the hand and kneed it mid (with) milk and mid holy-water and lay it under the first furrow. Quoth then:
“Fodder’s full acre     for mankind
bright-blooming,     thou blessed and worthy;
[May] the god, that wrought the grounds     grant us growing gift,
that for us every corn-grain may     come to use.”[v]

As may be reckoned by the lore-wise, the sun-cake sown by the heavenly drighten into the womb of the rime-cold earth goddess may well fit the Nordic godlore of Fréa’s (ON: Freyr) wedding of the white-armed goddess Geard (ON: Gerdr).  In such a way the plough betokens Fréa’s mickle manliness even as the furrowed mound betokens Geard’s waiting womanliness.   And so, when Englishmen play about the plough after Epiphany or partake of pancakes at the beginning of Lencten, they do so, knowingly or not, in keeping with a yore-old heathen thew sown long ago. Yet, among those who follow the Anglo-Saxon Théodish Belief of the Ealdríce, such oldenways they remember with advantages[vi], knowing full well as they do that, in such merriment, they fain the wedding of a sun god and an earth goddess,[vii] in the hope that such a holy bedding will bring forth a fulsome harvest – even as their fore-elders once did.

Anglish Wordhoard
Again-faring – Return
Begoing – Procession
Betell – Describe
Drighten – Lord
Fain – celebrate
Folkway –Custom
Fore-elders – Ancestors
Fore-spell – Prescribe
Fulsome – abundant
Godlore – Mythology
Housel – To feast, from the OE “Húsel,” and a word which until lately was used for the Eucharist amongst High Church Anglicans
Hundredtide – Century
Leaf – Page
Oldenway – Tradition
Thew – Tradition, custom
Yore-old – Ancient

[i] The English here betokens the nowtidely offspring of the Anglo-Saxons as they may found throughout the “Anglosphere” so as to include Anglo-Americans, Australians, Anglo-Canadians, Rhodesians, and such.
[ii] Sol-monath dici potest mensis placentarum, quas in eo diis suis offerebant. Taken from De Temporum Ratione (725 CE), De mensibus Anglorum. Wended from Latin by Þórbeorht.
[iii] Known in Greco-Roman religion as a hieros gamos, “sacred marriage.”
[iv] þonne man þá sulh forð drífe and þá forman furh onscéote, cweð þonne:
Hál wes þú, folde,     fíra módor!
Béo þú growende     on godes fæþme,
fódre gefylled     fírum tó nytte.
Wended from Old English by Þórbeorht.
[v] Nim þonne ælces cynnes melo and ábacæ man innewerdre handa brádnæ hláf and gecned hine mid meolce and mid háligwætere and lecge under þá forman furh. Cweþe þonne:
Ful æcer fódres     fíra cinne,
beorhtblówende,     þú geblétsod weorþ
sé god, sé þas grundas geworhte,     geunne ús grówende gife,
þæt ús corna gehwylc     cume tó nytte.
Wended from Old English by Þórbeorht.
[vi] A play upon Shakespeare’s play, Henry V, made for the sake of being playful.
[vii] This is not to say that Ing-Fréa is “the” sun god nor is it to say that Geard is “the” earth goddess” of Germanic godlore. Indeed, there are sundry gods who might be called “sky gods” and sundry goddesses who might be called “earth goddesses” in our lore. Yet, in the rite betold in the Æcer Bót, Fréa and his wife seem most fitting.

Posted in Ealdríce Hæðengyld - A Theodish Fellowship

On Solmónaþ and Lent

Death comes for the Farmer or Husbandman, engraved by Georg Scharffenberg, from 'Der Todten Tanz', published Basel, 1843 (litho)

Detail of Death comes for the Farmer or Husbandman by Hans Holbein The Younger

The moon-reckoned month known to the Anglo-Saxons as Solmónaþ, that is “Sun-month,” fell more or less about the month now known as February.  As betokened by its name, Solmónaþ marked the again-fairing of the sun, her waxing, and the lengthening of the days. Of Solmónaþ, the Old English Menologium offers this: “Then about the fifth night, Winter is a-fared from the village…Lent hath sailed to town.[i]”  It must here be said that the word “Lent” springs from the Old English Lencten, that is “lengthening,” the Anglo-Saxon name given to the yeartide now known as Spring. As such, the Anglo-Saxon “Spring” of Lencten did not begin with Spring even-night but rather with the lengthening of the day at Solmónaþ.  Unlike the yeartides now known to us, the Anglo-Saxon Heathen did not mark their beginnings by the sunsteads or even-nights. Instead, such days marked the middle of each yeartide. This can readily be seen in the names given to the Winter and Summer sunsteads: that of Midwinter and Midsummer. Such may also be said for the yeartide of Lencten which began with the lengthening of the days at Solmónaþ with the even-night falling midway between the yeartide’s beginning and ending.

Long before Christianity came to our homelands and abanned a formal fast, Lencten was a lean time.  By Lencten the food-hoard gathered for winter had begun to wane and it would be some time still before anything newly sown could be harvested.  Whilst our fore-elders never “gave up” a food for Lencten as the Christians did for Lent, they did indeed eat less at this time as they sought to stretch their stores until the summer when they would be filled anew.

Though there is no call for Théodsmen to ape their Christian neighbors by foregoing food during the Lenctentíd, there may be those who, in seeking to follow the yeartides as their fore-elders once did, choose to know some small meting of hunger.  It is not unheard of, after all, for some Théodsmen to take it upon themselves to eat yeartidely food grown on their own land or upon that of some nearby farm.  This said, no Théodsman bereaves himself of meat or meal to be shriven of his sins as a Christian might.  Sin, true wrongdoing, is a thing for Thing that is set right not by shriving shame behind closed doors but, instead, by yielding shild as deemed by one’s lord and before the folk at moot. And so, as we keep the yeartide of Lencten, let us recall what it first meant to our heathen fore-elders: the lengthening of the day and the leanness of meat which lent itself to a longing for summer.

Anglish Wordhoard
Abann – announce, formally proclaim
Bereave – deny
Even-night – equinox
Meat – From the Old English mete, which meant any kind of food and not merely flesh.
Meting – measurement, that which is meted out.
Moot – the law assembly
Moon-reckoned – determined by the moon, lunar months
Shild – a debt incurred by wrongdoing, a legal fine
Shrive – to confess and perform penance
Sin – a word wrought from an ancient Germanic legal formula meaning “to be” as in “to be guilty of a crime.”
Sunstead – solstice
Thing – the law assembly
Yeartide – season
Yeartidely – seasonal

[i] Ðænne þæs emb fíf niht     þæt afered byð
Winter of wícum     Lines 23,24a
Þæs þe lenctun on tún    geliden hæfde        Line 28
Wended from Old English by Þórbeorht.

Posted in Ealdríce Hæðengyld - A Theodish Fellowship

On the Holding of Holytides and the Gathering for Moot

Les Delices des Pais-Bas

Anglo-Saxon gods as drawn in Les Délices des Pais-Bas

Whilst the new moon betokened the beginning of the new month, it may well be asked when, in a given month, did our fore-elders fain the holydays?  The worship of Midwinter and Midsummer are stapled by the sunsteads and were thus held without heed to the moon’s wayfaring.  Of the other holytides, however, we might well believe that they were marked by the moon. Indeed, hint of such may well be found in the name of Winterfylleþ, “winter full moon month,” as it is believed that the elves were given worship at this time as witnessed by the Norse Álfablót.

As told by Tacitus in his Germania, “They gather, lest it be by hap or for sudden need, either at the new moon or the full, as they believe that these tides are lucky for the beginning of business.[i]” Indeed, though it was of Thing that Tacitus wrote, law and holiness were wholly entwined in elder heathendom with Moot itself often tethered to a high holytide. ‘Twould then seem most likely then that the holydays, like moot, were held either upon the new moon or the full.

Within the Ealdríce itself, we have chosen to follow that Théodish thew handed down from the Witan Théod and the Wínland Ríce whereby all fainings, but those of Midwinter and Midsummer, are held nigh if not upon the full moon.  Of moot, which we hold monthly, we gather nigh if not upon the new moon, that is, by sight of its waxing horn. In such way we give the fullness of our worship to the gods when the moon is full yet we begin new guild business at the month’s beginning when the moon is new.

[There is, however, no thew that forbids our mooting on the full moon or even upon the sunsteads. Indeed, it may be that, upon a high holytide, the Ealdríce might both fain the gods and hold moot should it seem fitting and needful to do so.]

 

Anglish Wordhoard
Fain – to celebrate
Faining – A Théodish rite of worship
Holyday – Holiday, literally a “holy day”
Holytide – A holy tide, a holy occasion
Moot – a law assembly or court, interchangeable with Thing
Sunstead – Solstice
Thew – tradition, custom
Thing – a law assembly or court, interchangeable with Moot

[i] Coeunt, nisi quid fortuitum et subitum incidit, certis diebus, cum aut incohatur luna aut impletur; nam agendis rebus hoc auspicatissimum initium credunt. Wended from Latin by Þórbeorht.

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Our Old Home Page

[Below is our fellowship’s former “Home Page.” Originally written in 2010/11, it changed some over the years but the bulk of it more or less remained the same. Having recently retired this “home page” and replaced it with a more streamlined “home page,” we have decided to post it here for posterity.]

 

ealdriceemblemgoldcenterMid Rihtum Gódum Willan
With a Right Good Will

‘Twas over forty winters ago, in a small, sleepy town, tucked away in a near forgotten corner of the country, that a fellowship of friends, young men and women bold by their youth but wise beyond their years, awoke in their hearts and minds. As if roused from an evil spell that had set them to slumber, they heard the clear calling of the Old Gods, echoing across the ages, resounding from the ancient Saxon forests that their forebears had once called home. These were the first contemporary Heathens, a merry yet mysterious band who dedicated themselves to reviving the religion of Wóden, the father of gods and rider of the World Tree, and Fríge, the mother of earth and lady of love. They believed that their renewal of the old belief was a return to a holy, affirming, world accepting, life giving, and joyous religion. This renewal they named Théodish Belief, the belief of the folk, the belief of the tribe.

One may ask, why? Why renew a root so far forgotten in the past, one so buried beneath layers of Christian history? Because Heathens, then and now, verily believe in our heart of hearts that this “Way of the Heathen” is the surest, soothest, tried and true means by which men and women may be roused from the spiritual laziness, apathy, and savage selfishness that modern religion has afforded them. We believe that we, Wóden’s own, the descendents of the Anglo-Saxons, Norse, and Teutonic tribes, might yet renew the old belief . Furthermore, we believe our gods deserve no less. Our Heathen belief is, now as it was then, one worth believing. This world, despite the Christian’s denial and Atheist’s disbelief, is in truth a magical world, a world full of gods.

Though it may very well be difficult to imagine, you may be surprised by how much of the old religion you know already. You do, after all, know the names for the days of the week, Sunnandæg Mónandæg Tiwesdæg Wódnesdæg Þúnresdæg Frigedæg Sæturnesdæg – Sun’s Day/Sunday, Moon’s Day/Monday, Tiw’s Day/Tuesday, Woden’s Day/Wednesday, Thunor’s Day/Thursday, Fríge’s Day/Friday, Saturn’s Day/Saturday. And it would probably not be too great an assumption to think you know the goddess of the Spring, Eostre/Easter, and the hares who so openly show her fertility and fecundity, the new life that she brings to the land once Winter has begun to wane. Dare we say you’ve mostly likely heard of Lent, the lengthening of the days that comes with the Spring, and May Day as well. Our friend, you already know of Yule/Christmas, its yuletide carols, the decking of the halls with balls of holly and evergreen, the tree, the log, the gifts, and the joyful wassailing thereof. In the late Autumn, you already gather for a thanksgiving, to give thanks for the harvest. Mother Earth, Robin Hood, King Arthur, and Beowulf are already known to you, even if John Barleycorn and Weyland the Smith should require reintroduction.

No matter what you may have been told, the old gods are not dead, and the old religion has lived anew for quite some time now. Should you find your soul stirring, should you find your taper lit, and should you hear the winds as they blow through the forests of old, by all means friend, speak up. There are others who have gathered in the forest before you.

To contact us: Click here
The Ealdríce Théodish Fellowship • PO Box 13961 • Richmond, Virginia 23225
You can also check us out on Facebook at The Ealdríce: A Théodish Fellowship

Hǽðendóm • Þéodisc Geléafa • Ésatréow
Heathendom • Théodish Belief • Ásatrú
Heathenry • Theodism • Asatru
Eald Geléafa • Old Belief
Ealdriht • Old Rite


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Writings, Wordlore, and Holy Work 

The blóterehád of the Ealdríce is forlain upon the elder heathen priesthood as it was found throughout Germania during the Folkwanderingtide.  Within the Old English writ-hoard itself, written witnesses to the Anglo-Saxon blóterehád are few, though not as fewsome as many have been misled to believe.  Yet from the loresprings of other thentidely théods such as the Suebi, Burgundians, and Goths, much may be learned of the blóterehád that the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes brought with them when they fared forth from their homelands mid the 5th hundredtide.

Of the elder blóterehád, most Medieval writers, being Romans or churchmen, wrote of sacerdotes, “priests” or even pontifices, “pontiffs.”  Yet, among those who wrote in the Anglo-Saxon tongue, we find them called æweweardas, “law warders,” þingere “intercessors or those who speak at þing,” wéofodþegnas, “altar thanes,” wígbedwígleras, “altar seers,” heargweardas “temple warders,” hylteras “lot casters” and, as they are most oft spoken of within the Ealdríce, blóteras, “sacrificers.”

As might be gleaned from such wordlore, and from sundry loresprings spanning a thousand years, ‘twas the blótere’s trust to see to the offering of livestock to the gods, the warding and work of the heap and holystead, the overseeing of moot, the casting of rune-scored lots, the wiling of what was to come, and the bidding of the gods for their blessings. Beyond this, blóteras were said to bear into battle graven godliknesses and other such tokens brought forth from their holy groves.[i]

Anglish Wordhoard
Blót – Old English for “sacrifice”
Blótere – Old English for “one who sacrifices,” “a priest”
Blóterehád – Old English for “priesthood”
Folkwanderingtide – The Germanic Migration Era (300-500 CE)
Forlain – Founded
Fewsome – Rare, seldom
Heap – A word which can mean “cultus” or “religious following” but here speaks to a hearg, an altar of stones “heaped” upon one another.
Hundredtide – Century
Godlikeness – an idol, the likeness of a god
Loresprings – Histories
Thentidely – Contemporary to that time
Théod – Tribe, people, nation
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.
Writ-hoard – Literary corpus

Footnotes 
[i] Tacitus, Germania, Chapter 7 – Effigiesque et signa quaedam detracta lucis in proelium ferunt

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A Guild of Greenmen and Woodwose

Hollow Tree at Pony Pasture

A tree not far from Whitthenge Heall in Richmond, Virginia

Unlike most other Théodish fellowships today, the Ealdríce is neither an offshoot of the Wínland Ríce (1990-2002) nor a sprout sprung from one of its outlawed lords. By the late 1990’s the Wínland Ríce had begun to weaken due to infighting and intrigue.   Lest Théodism be lost should the Wínland Ríce ever fall, in 2000 Gárman Lord  wrote Way of the Heathen: A Handbook of Greater Théodism.  It was his hope that the root of Théodish thew could thereby “escape the back garden, into the wild” where others, unchoked by the weeds that had grown up with the Wínland Ríce, might worth themselves as true Théodsmen.

In 2001, our own founder, Þórbeorht first founded the Sahsisk Théod, one of the few Greater Théodish fellowship’s that took root and thrived. In 2002, following Gárman’s outlawing of the Normannii Thiud’s lord and the apparent end of the Wínland Ríce, Gárman formed the Wisdom Roundtable, inviting Þórbeorht to be a member. The charge set by Gárman before the Wisdom Roundtable was to rethink Théodism entirely, particularly the form of its fellowships, so that it might  uncover whatever inherent flaw had lead Théoddóm to wither and, most importantly, to discover its cure.

Without answering that riddle, the Wisdom Roundtable disbanded. Years went by yet its charge still weighed heavily on Þórbeorht. At Midsummer of 2008, Þórbeorht disbanded his own théod, withdrew from public Heathendom, and set himself to completing the work of the Wisdom Roundtable. In Éastre of 2010 Þórbeorht re-emerged “from the woods” with what he hoped was a worthy answer, having founded the Ealdríce in the form of an Anglo-Saxon hæþengyld (religious guild) rather than as a Wínland Ríce style comitatus (warband). Yet it was not until 2014, after seeing to it that the hæþengyld form of fellowship worked and was indeed stable that, with Gárman’s blessing, Þórbeorht, finally agreed to call it a Théodish fellowship. Since that time, the Ealdríce has branched out with its own offshoot, fostering Æppeldor Friþstowe in Tasmania for Australian Théodsmen.

Woodwose

A woodwose (OE: wuduwása), “wild man” of English folklore.

To onlookers, the Ealdríce may well seem like something of an odd fellow amid the sundry  comitatus that have come and gone since the Wínland Ríce’s era ended.  Like its forefellowship, the Sahsisk Théod, which sprang up in the “wild” that grew beyond the Wínland Ríce’s garden, the Ealdríce could well be thought of as a gathering of Théodish  “Green Men.”  Yet, unlike the Sahsisk Théod, the Ealdríce was founded not as a  comitatus but rather as a hæþengyld, in answer to the charge given by Gárman to the Wisdom Roundtable.

From Gárman’s foresight to sow the seeds of Greater Théodism to Þórbeorht’s founding of the Sahsisk Théod to Gárman’s seating of the Théodish Wisdom Roundtable to Þórbeorht’s discovery of the Anglo-Saxon guild form of fellowship, the Théodish lineage of the Ealdríce is an ivy that wholly wends its way around the ruins of the Wínland Ríce’s unhappy history yet does not pass through nor spring forth from them.  More alike in wód (spirit, inspiration) to  Théoddóm’s first fellowship, the Witan (1976-1989), the Ealdríce may well represent a rewilding of the Théodish wisdom tradition; a guild of woodwose as it were.

 

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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.

Footnotes
[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

Posted in Ealdríce Hæðengyld - A Theodish Fellowship

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