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


Posted in Ealdríce Hæðengyld - A Theodish Fellowship

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

Posted in Ealdríce Hæðengyld - A Theodish Fellowship

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.

 

Posted in Ealdríce Hæðengyld - A Theodish Fellowship

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

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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

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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”

Endnotes
[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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