Note: This history of Théodish Belief is an ongoing work. More will be added in the days ahead.
Dole One: Wóden and the Witan – The First Modern Þéod (1976 – 1990)
The following Théodish history is taken from “Kingship and Anglo-Saxon Théodism” as found in the unpublished work, The Géring Handbook: Géargerím of Géring (1991), and is reprinted here with leave of Gárman Lord.
In 1976, Gárman Lord was visited by Wóden and Fríȝe and began to rediscover the religion of his forefathers. The Coven Witan became the Witan Þéod and, giving up its Wiccan practices, began its worship of Wóden. Gárman was the first lord, and Wordsmith and Ælfwyne were his þeȝens. Their primary venture was to research and relearn the old ways, and to put into practice the new-found truths. In 1977 the “membership” grew by two, adding Werewolf and Æȝili, and 1978 saw two more, Sægæst and Wudorhiht.
The Witan rediscovered and put into practice much ancient wisdom and craft, including swine-tivering, trial by ordeal, true witchcraft, seiðʀcraft, berserkerism, battle ecstasy, and poetic boasting. It became a retro-heathen shamanistic cult for serious and dedicated lore-seekers, and at the same time began to widen the gulf between itself and the prevailing society. This was seen as a barrier between Wóden and the world, and steps were taken to build bridges across the gap. The concept of Théodism was then (re)born, but a lord and lady were lacking.
In the late ‘80’s, Sægæst and Wuldorhiht were in the process of their own rediscovering. Wóden came to each, telling Sægæst he was to be a lord and instructing Wuldorhiht to remember him and teach her people to practice his faith. Sægæst then became Ealdaræd Lord and Wuldorhiht his Lady, Túnhofe, and together they formed the Moody Hill Þéod, named after their recently restored mansion home.
Soon thereafter, Gárman received an important piece of wisdom through the runes. It was the first step in reinstating kingship, and with it the luck of the king for the people. The Wínland Ríce was created with Wóden’s blessing as a kingly instrument to bind the Théod, and in the future other Théods, to the gods. Thinking the title of king to be too pretentious for the scale of things at the time, Gárman took the title of Æþeling, or firstborn, of the kingdom. Ealdaræd saw in this concept a potential for difficulties among the people of this þéod, and Gárman runed on it, asking if he should step down, but Wóden said no.
In October of 1989 a þing was held at Moody Hill and Gárman was summoned. After several tests and ordeals, the question was brought up to vote, and the Wínland Ríce was given the go-ahead for a year and a day, beginning on Háliʒmæst. During the maðelung, Gárman read off his family tree going back to Wóden. After a year and a day, on Háliʒmæst of 1990 the troths were replighted, and the Ríce made permanent.
Dole Two: The Wínland Ríce (1990 – 1994) by Æscbeam WéofodÞýgen
The following excerpts are taken from A Short History of Anglo-Saxon Þéodism (1994) by Æscbeam WéofodÞýgen and is here, reprinted, with leave of Gárman Lord.
Under the Æthelingship, Théodish Belief began to grow and prosper. Moody Hill became very active and successful in recruiting new membership, and in time grew to between fifty and a hundred members. During this time of growth of Moody Hill and the Ríce, I myself had grown, developing a social consciousness about the suppression of our faith and our ways of life, and began public writing and classes, teaching runes under the mantle of the Ásatrú Rune Gild, plus other lore, as well as becoming a member in the Ring of Troth. I became something new to Théodism, a Heathen activist…
Two major growths came during this time period: kingship and the king’s luck and the philosophy of Géring. Gárman began to believe that some high-placed people in Moody Hill were “testing” the Ríce, and that the Æthelingship should have been instituted as a kingship in the first place, to make sure that people understood what kind of troth they were getting into. In the fall of 1991 Wóden told the Ætheling that he must blót. This blót, which is documented elsewhere, was carried out on Nov. 9, 1991, with instantaneous results for the Ríce. Wóden blessed the Ætheling with new insights and wisdom and as a result the Géring philosophy began to emerge. “Géring” (pronounced YAIR-ing), a runic pun that means “the offspring of the sprout” is the continuous growth from the original Witan that was spawned by Garman through his initiation with Wóden in 1976. Géring is, then, an authentic continuous thread of the divine kingship of Wóden, through which the luck of the Gods is passed to the folk.
Gárman had asked Wóden whether he (Gárman) was king or not, but Wóden just laughed and said, “You don’t want to be king!” Therefore Gárman merely declared that his office of Ætheling was to be that of a “warder” of the kingship, which acts as a regent, and has kingly authority and can be called king, but is not a real king unless so elected by a real Witan.
Moody Hill, however, was not so much interested in the question of kingship as of my own role [as a public activist] in Théodish Belief and the Ríce, which had become an insurmountable issue with them. As the year 1992 wore on, differences increased between Moody Hill and the Wínland Ríce, to the point where it was feared that war would break out at any moment, and a ban was declared that would have gone into effect at Hallows. A peace treaty, however, was successfully negotiated and signed on Sept. 6, 1992, and Moody Hill. was set wretched and left the Wínland Ríce in peace.
My public fame [as a heathen activist] had brought about an increase in correspondence with other heathens during the early part of 1993. This correspondence has brought many heathen across the land into contact with Théodish Belief, many of whom are of Anglo-Saxon descent, or are interested in the Anglo-Saxon ways. In early 1993 it was felt necessary, by Géring Théod, to publish a journal for the Heathen community, and we began the planning and building of THEOD Magazine, with a launch date of February 1994.
Géring Théod, “the offspring of the sprout” of the Witan Théod, now began to give rise to new growth from the original root stock, in the form of thread-like runners or rhizomes, as if spun by the gods themselves. In mid-year of 1993, Wednesbury Léod, in Missouri, was instituted, with Swain and Eric Wódening as its Landlords. Gárman had been attracted to their penetrating writings on the subject of heathen morals and ethics, and realized that his earlier hard decisions had been the right ones and we were being rewarded with a gift from the gods. With the growing problem of how to teach people what heathenry is, and what is meant by oath and troth, Wednesbury Léod took the king’s charge of setting up a Heathen School.
Dole Three: Kingship, Ásatrú, and Outlawry (1994 – 2002) by Þórbeorht Ealdorblótere
In 1992, Lord Ealdaræd and the folk of Moody Hill Théod were outlawed from the Wínland Ríce and, having lost its luck, Moody Hill soon folded. Not long afterward Æscbeam of Gering Théod took membership in The Troth, making Théodish Belief and Ásatrú more fully known one to another. From this there was a great inswelling of Ásatrúar into Théodish Belief and, by 1995, the Théodish tréow (troth/tree) had so broadened that it began to branch out beyond Anglo-Saxon thew. Thus, at Solmónaþ of that same year, Gerd was given leave by Gárman Lord to found, Fresena Hall, a Frisian théod, as its Æþeling. Then, on the 8th of July, 1995 CE, the Théodsmen of the Wínland Ríce gathered at Þundersley Hall in Sandusky, Ohio to offer blót to the gods, raise Gárman Lord on the shield, crown him with a boar-helm, and height him their Hálig Cyning (sacral king).
Gárman’s Cyningscipe soon brought luck to the Ríce. THEOD began publishing booklets by Gárman, Æscbéam, Hildiwulf, and even the Wódening brothers before Swain was outlawed and Eric went wretched to be with his brother. Moreover the Ríce welcomed into its midst, Ælfric Avery, a scóp of great giftedness who began to produce albums of heathen song in the Old English, Old Frisian, and Gothic tongues. Soon Théodsmen were crafting jewelry, garb, pottery, and other such goods which were highly sought after throughout heathendom.
It was during this time that trouble began to brew between Ásatrúar and Théodsmen, their beliefs and thews being far more unalike than either had first thought. As early as 1993, an Elder in the Troth had begun a misinformation campaign of rumor mongering and gossip against the Wínland Ríce and against those Théodsmen who were then active in the Troth. To this, the Ríce responded in 1996 with the booklet, Gamlinginn: A Study in Evil. Not long after this, in the Lammas 1997 edition of THÉOD Magazine, Gárman issued a deeming, sometimes called the Wælburgas Þyle by Théodsmen, that marked the formal end of Théodish membership in Ásatrú organizations such as the Troth. As that deeming read:
Be It Known: … Þæt in Þrimilcimónaþ þe gods gave Gárman þyle, and Gárman he gave it to þe Þéodisc folk on first Séarmónaþ: þæt it is þe whim of þe gods, þæt eall þe Ríce’s connections wiþ Ásatrú sceal be broken.
The brief union between Ásatru and Théodish Belief was ended.
Alas, this did not end the Wínland Ríce’s woes. Théodism continued to grow but, as it did, new difficulties arose. The Ríce’s théods were all based upon the warband of the Folkwandering Tide (Migration Era). While this framework made for an authentic RetroHeathenry, it also attracted triflers, adventurers, and agenda mongers who, once within the Ríce, cultivated intrigue and sowed the seeds of treason. Many of the Théodsmen who had come into Théodism from Ásatrú were either wolf-headed or out of thew within a handful of years. Swain Wódening of Wednesbury Théod, Winifred Hodge of Gering Théod, Ingwíne of Godastede Hall and others were outlawed in 1996 upon sundry grounds such as endangering the king’s luck, treason against the king, or raising hand or word against the king. Many of these outlaws then gathered to found Þæt Angelseaxisce Ealdriht, a broadfolk (national) fellowship which lasted until 2004. In 1997, a Norman théod, the Normannii Thiud, was founded by Dan H yet by Winterfylleþ of 2001, the Normannii Thiud withdrew from the Wínland Ríce as rumor of treason began to reach the ears of the king’s thanes. Yet in leaving the Ríce, Lord Normannii did not outrun outlawry and was wolf-headed by the summer of 2002.
In 1999 Fresena Thiad honorably ended its fostership to the Wínland Ríce and left to become a self-standing fellowship with Gerd as its Æþeling. Though its departure was done with a Right Good Will, the loss of the Frisian théod was fully felt in the Ríce. Alas, Fresena was soon overcome by its own inner turmoils and disbanded not long after it had left the Ríce.
It was in the midst of this upheaval that, in 2000, Gárman Lord wrote Way of the Heathen to allow for a kind of Théodism to grow up outside the Wínland Ríce. This he called “Greater Théodism” with the Théodish Belief of the Wínland Ríce being hight “High Théodism.” Though Greater Théodism did not thrive, a handful of léods sprang forth from it, the foremost of which being the Sahsisk Thiod which was founded by Þórbeorht in 2002.
Dole Four: The Wisdom Roundtable, Fallowtide, & Pretendership (2002 – 2019) by Þórbeorht Ealdorblótere
[This section incorporates material from Our Story.]
Thus it was that in 2002, Gárman Lord sought to rethink the structure of Théodish society. To help him in this, Gárman established the Wisdom Roundtable and welcomed to it sundry Heathen sages, both within and without the Wínland Ríce. The charge that Gárman gave to the Wisdom Roundtable was this: to search through Heathen lore and Anglo-Saxon history and to find another framework for Théodish fellowship. Alas, the Wisdom Roundtable failed to fulfill the charge that it had been given and so, in 2004, the Wínland Ríce went fallow.
During this time outlaws of the Normannii Thiud and Angelseaxisce Ealdriht established a Théodish pretendership under the guise of an Affirmation of Thew which Gárman had previously rejected in 2002 as unthewful. From this wearg samnung (outlaw assembly) spread much misunderstanding about Théodish belief and thew. Yet “treason doth never prosper” and this bid to take over Théodish Belief proved unlucky. By 2004 the Angelseaxisce Ealdriht was no more, having split in two halves: a Miercinga Théod helmed by Swain Wódening and a Néoweanglia Þéod helmed by Cynemund S who, within months, brought it beneath the outlawed Normannii Thiud. In 2005 Swain stepped down from his lordship of Miercinga and turned the Théod over to his then wife, Tee. In that same year the folk of Néoweanglia Þéod, wishing to leave Normannii, left their lord who chose to remain Dan’s thane. Yet by 2007 Néoweanglia was no more. In that same year, Eric Wódenning, having left the Wínland Ríce, formed Englatheod in which his brother Swain soon joined him. In 2008 Miercinga disbanded and by 2009 the Normannii Thiud was in ruin as it splintered into sundry offshoots as Dan’s thanes abandoned him. Two of these fellowships, Arfstoll Church of Theodish Belief helmed by Lou S and Álfröðull þjóð led by Conn H were short-lived and folded soon thereafter. More noteworthy were those fellowships which the Normannii Thiud had fostered during its outlawry, namely Daniel F’s Œþelland Théod, which had been beneath the Normannii banner since 2004, and Cynemund’s newly formed Hwítmersc Théod. In that same year the Wódenings’ Englatheod was brought beneath the Hwítmersc banner and became Wednesbury Shire.
Among the few glad tidings to come from this Dark Age in Théodish history was Gerd’s reforming of the disbanded Fresena Thiad in 2005 as Axenthof Thiad which took no part in the aforementioned Affirmation of Thew.
Dole Five: The Ríce Renewed (2019 – Now) by Þórbeorht Ealdorblótere
To many, this seemed to be the end of Théodish Belief. The gods thought otherwise. Though the Roundtable had disbanded in 2003, one of its members, Þórbeorht, took the king’s call to heart. Having disbanded the Sahsisk Théod in 2008 to carry on the Wisdom Roundtable’s work, Þórbeorht began reading through sundry Anglo-Saxon laws and charters. Believing that he had found a more sound framework for Théodish fellowships, Þórbeorht founded the Ealdríce in 2010 not as a warband but, rather, as an Anglo-Saxon holy-guild (OE: háliggyld). By 2014, Þórbeorht and Gárman both felt that the Ealdríce’s framework showed enough promise that the Ealdríce could begin to call itself a Théodish fellowship. And, at Þrimilce 2019, after the Ealdríce had proven its steadfastness in the wake of great ordeal, Gárman Lord heard Þórbeorht’s hold oath. For the first time in fifteen years, the king donned his crown and the Ealdríce became the first holy-guild of a renewed Wínland Ríce.
In the months thereafter, the Wínland Ríce began to grow anew. Ælfric soon returned to its fold and founded Hræfnscír Heall in British Columbia. Likewise, the Ealdríce brought with it Æppeldor Friðstów in Tasmania. At Háligmónaþ a moot was held at Géring Théod Hall in Watertown at which time Gárman Lord Cyning seated his new Witan, signed the charters for the Ealdríce and Hræfnscír, and put it forward that Þórbeorht should be made the Ríce’s Regent (Healdend) which was deemed so that Géol. Moreover, at this time Ælfric was named High Wita. THEOD Magazine, having ceased regular print in 2000, was succeeded by the quarterly Spellstów and Háliggyld Books was established for the publication of new Théodish works. Once more Gárman’s kingship had brought luck to the Ríce. So ended 2019, the first year of the Ríce’s renewal.
At Þrilíða 2020, a twelve-day Hláftíd moot was held to work out the framework of the renewed Wínland Ríce. It was deemed then that the Ríce would shift from being a banding of warbands to a gathering of théods framed as háliggyld (holy guilds) and as other such fellowships that were once known to our heathen fore-elders. Likewise, thralldom was traded for learnership (apprenticeship) as the means by which men might worth themselves to become Théodsmen. So too at this time were the Théodish sacral craft guilds renewed with Ælfric of Hræfnscír named lord of the Smiþ and Scóp Gilds and Þórbeorht of the Ealdríce named ealdorblótere (chief priest) of the Théodish Wéofodþegn Gild (priest guild).
Moreover, the Cyning made use of the moot to settle sundry questions of Théodishness which had arisen during the Fallowtide. To quell rumors otherwise, Gárman Lord Cyning deemed upon the unthéodishness of outlaws and their so-called Affirmation of Thew. Lastly, the Cyning, in his wisdom, ended the trow of Greater Théodism as found in the book, The Way of the Heathen.
That Blótmónaþ, Ælfric Þegn of Hræfnscír Heall was raised to the árung of Hláford (lord) and Hræfnscír was hight a Théod. So ended 2020, the second year of the Ríce’s renewal.
Soon after the twelve days of Géoltíd had ended, the Wínland Ríce and Axenthof Thiad held moot to remember the frith that was pledged when Axenthof was the Fresena Hall of the Wínland Ríce and to renew the Right Good Will between them.
Upon the first of Hréþemónaþ Þórbeorht Hláford Ealdríces and Ælfric Hláford Hræfnscíre swore an oath of friendship (OE fréondscipe, Latin amicitia) to each other and thereby pledged that each should be a friend to the other’s friends and a foe to the other’s foes. This was the first such fréondscipe oath sworn between Théodish lords.
In that same month, “the heathen fellowship known as Ondheim beseeched the Wínland Ríce for griþ (truce) in the hope that it and the Wínland Ríce might be on terms with each other ‘as Théodsmen.’” On this the Wínland Ríce’s Witan deemed that, as “Ondheim was founded by men who followed the Normannii hláford (lord) into outlawry and also by men who became that outlaw’s followers thereafter […] it is not a Théodish Théod nor are its folk Théodsmen.”
That Éastremónaþ, Þórbeorht Ealdorblótere reopened the Théodish Wéofodþegn Gild (Priest Guild), so that the Théodish Ríce might have a blóterehád (priesthood) and háligu scolu (holy school) for the worthing of new wéofodþegnas (priests).
At Æftera Líða, the Wínland Ríce held its Ærest Gemétung gathering at Géring Théod Heall in Watertown, New York to mark the forty-fifth year since Gárman Lord beheld Wóden and our Théodish Belief was begun. At this gathering a faining to Wóden was held which was then followed by moot and symbel. It was at this gathering’s moot that Gárman Lord Cyning bid his Witan to begin a Witenagemót for the choosing of a new cyning. Moreover, at symbel Gárman Cyning gave his cynehelm (crown/boar helmet) to Þórbeorht Healdend to hold in trust for the Théodish Ríce’s next cyning. He also bestowed upon Sǽfriþ Ides the first Théodish hearp (lyre) which he himself made in 1994.
In that same month and at the Cyning’s bidding, Þórbeorht Healdend called a Witenagemót “to answer by deeming whether or not fettered and jailed men might be given the ‘freedom of the Ríce’ and thus be hight Théodsmen.” As it was deemed by the Witan, “no man who is now fettered and jailed may be given the ‘freedom of the Ríce’ as he himself is not a freeman and thus has not the Free Right to thewfully swear a Théodish oath.” With that deeming, the Théodish Ríce’s foray into prison ministry was ended.
Come Wéodmónaþ, Háliggyld Books republished Wordsmiðes Angel-Seaxisc Grammaticcræft: A Beginning Anglo-Saxon Grammar. This long out of print introduction to Old English was written in 1992 by Wordsmið Þegn, who alongside Gárman Lord, Ælfwyne Þygen, Æᵹili Þegn, and Werwulf Þegn, was a member of Théodish Belief’s first fellowship, the Witan Théod.
Sometime that same month, Hwítmersc Théod, an offshoot of the outlawed Normannii Thiud, renounced its Théodish claims, renamed itself Hwítmerscynn and its troth Fyrnseġen.
At Háligmónaþ, Háliggyld Books published, From the Giftstool, a new collection of Gárman Lord’s classic writings.
On the waxing moon of Winterfylleþ a great gathering was held at Géring Théod Heall in Watertown, New York at which Théodsmen from the three eras of Théodish history — the Witan Théod, the early Wínland Ríce, and the renewed Wínland Ríce — met to exchange gifts, to discuss Théodish Belief’s past and present, and to plan for its future. Among those Théodsmen gathered were Gárman Cyning, Þórbeorht Ealdorblótere, Ælfgár Þegn, Gert Æscbéam Þygen, Wordsmið Þegn, and Æþelwine Þegn. It was also at this gathering that Gárman Cyning gave the shield upon which he had been raised at his 1995 cynehelmung (coronation) to Þórbeorht Healdend to hold in trust for the Théodish Ríce’s next cyning.
Nigh the full moon of Blótmónaþ, Þórbeorht Ealdorblótere of the Wéofodþegn Gild gave blót to Hearding (ON Haddingr, Njǫrðr) and to those gods and goddesses who are called the Wæne (ON Vanir). Also in that month, Ælfric Hláford Hræfnscíre, scóp of the Ríce, released Watlingstreet, a new album of hearpswég and songs in Old English. Moreover, before the month’s end, Gárman Lord Cyning lifted Ealhwaru Ceorl’s wretchedness and restored her to Géring Théod as a Théodsman in good standing.
As bidden by Gárman Lord Cyning, from Æftera Líða to the first day of Ærra Géola 2021 the Witan met to search for a new cyning. At fainings they sought rede from the gods by the runes and, between fainings, they sought signs in dreams and soothsaid by dowsing, by the songs of birds, and by other worldly wonders. Moreover, they sought wisdom from our fore-elders through the sagas, histories, and kingly dooms, to better grasp what elder thew had already been set into the Well for the wending of one cynescipe to another. Altogether they fathomed five godsprung candidates for cynescipe and, in the end and with the first Cyning’s blessing, they chose the Ríce’s Healdend (Regent) and Ealdorblótere (Chief Priest) to be the new Cyning. Thus, Þórbeorht Hláford Ealdríces was named the new Cyning of the Wínland Ríce; successor and heir to Gárman Lord. So ended 2021, the third year of the Ríce’s renewal.
At Éastremónaþ 2022, the Cyning and the folk of the Ealdríce Théod attended the Ásatrú Alliance’s 2022 East Coast Regional Alþing as the guests of Magnus, Law Speaker of the Alliance. This marked the first time since 2001, when the Ásatrú Alliance held an East Coast Regional þing in New Jersey, that Théodsmen had been guests at an Alliance gathering. Furthermore, at the full moon of that month, Ealhwaru Ceorl swore a hold oath Ælfric Hláford and bound her land, which is named Hælingstede, to that of Hræfnscír Théod. Moreover, in that same month Brádléahweald Léode pledged a yearly gafol (tribute) to the Cyning, for which they were given the griþ (peace) of the Théodish Ríce and named a gafol-léod, “a tributary tribe.”