Heargweardas or Wéofodþegnas

Those already versed in Anglo-Saxon Heathen thew (custom) may have noted that we in the Ealdríce Hæðengyld have taken to naming our priests Heargweardas when fellow-timed[1] Anglo-Saxon Heathens have, for nearly forty years, spoken of them as Wéofodþegnas.  The wherefore of our choice rests solely in following the rightwise end[2] of Eft-building[3] and, by no bit, upon of the leaning that many have to be unsame and untruely unmatched[4]  The wellsprings of lore[5] that were ready[6] to our new-forebears[7] were but a trickle when set beside the mighty flow from which we now draw our cunning[8].  Wyrd has given us much over the years.  So many more layers have been set within the Well.

As with all thew, when lore and wisdom have heaped up enough, we must set aside those things we once said and did for that which is even truer.  Our thew, like the brook, must wend a new faring when such is meet[9].  And so, with no further foreshilding[10] let us bespeak[11] the wherefore of our choice.

Wéofodþegn is a meet and good name by which we may name our Heathen “priests.”  The wordbirthlore[12] of Wéofodþegn is thus: wéofodwéoh “image” + béod “table”, i.e. “an altar” and þegn “servant.”  A wéofodþegn might rightly said to be “the thane of a table upon which holy images are set.”  As such, wéofodþegn would be a seemly name for both Christian and Heathen “priests” of elder-times, as both were given to setting wéoh upon their holy tables.

Yet, in the wordlore[13] of Old English, wéofodþegn is, more often than not, used to mark a Christian “priest.”  There is a name, however, that was only used to mark a Heathen “priest”: Heargweard[14].  The wordbirthlore of heargweard is such: hearg “heathen temple” and weard – “warder, guardian.”  As such, a heargweard is “one who wards or forsits over a heathen temple.”

Thus it is for this rightwiseness[15], that hearg is nigh always and only used for a Heathenkind thew and that wéofod is so often used for Christiankind thew, that we have chosen to name our own “priests” Heargweardas rather than Wéofodþegnas.  Though both be right and seemly, to us Heargweard is more befitting the Eft-building of Anglo-Saxon Heathendom.  This said, each and every fellowship is free to deem upon this as they may, with no unlikeness of worth insofar as we hold stake[16].  A Wéofodþegn is a Heargweard as we are so minded.


[1] Anglish for “contemporary”
[2] Anglish for “logical conclusion”
[3] Anglish for “re-construction”
[4] “The reason for our decision rests solely on following the Reconstructionist approach to ASH  and not, in any part, upon the inclination that many Heathens have to be “different” of falsely “unique.”
[5] Resources of learning – scholarship
[6] Anglish for “available”
[7] Those our “recent ancestors” – those who began eft-building Anglo-Saxon Heathendom in the 1970s and 1980s.
[8] Anglish for “knowledge”
[9] Anglish for “appropriate”
[10] Anglish for “apologizing”
[11] Anglish for “explain”
[12] Anglish for “etymology”
[13] Anglo-Saxon corpus of literature
[14] Andreas line 1124, hæðene herigweardas, “heathen temple-warders”
[15] Anglish for “reason”
[16] Every Anglo-Saxon fellowship is free to decide which term they prefer, insofar as we are concerned they are the same.