Theodism, Theodish Belief, or Þéodisc Geléafa ("tribal belief") is a North American variant of Germanic Neopaganism which seeks to reconstruct the beliefs and practices of several historic Northern European tribes. Initially, Theodism referred solely to Anglo-Saxon polytheism, the religion of the Anglo-Saxons which had settled in England. Now, however, the term Theodism encompasses Angle, Continental Saxon, Frisian, Jutish, Gothic, Alemannic, Swedish, Danish and other tribal variants. þéodisc is the adjective of þéod "people, tribe", cognate to deutsch.
Reconstructionist beliefs are dependent on the material record. Reconstructionists have a very strong scholarly and academic bent which emphasizes the intense study of history, languages, archaeology, anthropology and folklore. Importance is placed on cultural and historical authenticity. The primary focus of Theodism is an attempt to reconstruct the pre-Christian religion of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European peoples, within the cultural framework and community environment of specific tribes.
History[edit | edit source]
Garman Lord formed The Witan Theod in Watertown, New York in 1976, which was the first Theod group. Ten years later, the Moody Hill Theod emerged as an offshoot of the Witan Theod. Theod attempts to adhere to a more historically accurate reconstruction of Anglo-Saxon religion in a distinct contrast with Wicca. The other extant North American heathen organizations such as the Asatru Free Assembly and the Odinist Fellowship were then focused primarily on the Viking Age and the Icelandic pre-Christian religion.
Theodism is focused on the lore, beliefs and social structure - particularly the concept of thew or customary law - of various specific Germanic tribes. The most glaring distinction between Theodism and other modern manifestations of Germanic Neopaganism is that while many groups are attempting to reconstruct the pre-Christian religions, the Theodish are also attempting to reconstruct the tribes, hierarchical social orders and even languages of the pre-Christian Northern Europeans.
In 1983 after a hiatus, the Witan Theod became the Gering Theod (pronounced 'yerring'), a play on words, meaning "the Sprout of the Sprout". In 1989 the Winland Rice was formed which was an umbrella organization of Theodish groups, with Garman Lord chosen by consensus as the Æþeling or "lord". The Rice, as it is known, is now the oldest surviving Anglo-Saxon Heathen organization in North America. One of Garman Lord’s earliest gesiþs or retainers, Gert McQueen, went on to serve as an Elder and Redesman of the Ring of Troth, an international organization serving the Heathen community. Gert McQueen was successful in lobbying the U.S. Army Chaplain’s Corps to adopt guidelines for recognizing Heathen religions and Theodish belief in particular. Together they operated Theod Magazine - and Theod Publishing also ran a successful small bookshop venture. In 1995 Garman Lord was raised on a shield at Cynehelmung and presented as king by his followers. After some tumult within the Theodish community in 1996, Troth Elder Swain Wodening and Troth Godwoman Winifred Hodge left the Winland Rice to found the Angelseaxisce Ealdriht, to establish a more democratic alternative to the Winland Rice. The Ealdriht became the largest Theodish organization in the Heathen community, until it was dissolved in November 2004. The dissolution was necessary to facilitate the growth of two emerging communities of slightly differing tribal beliefs: the Mercinga Ríce and the Neowanglia Þéod. In August of 2007, Neowanglia Theod dissolved.
Other Theods which derive a direct lineage from the Winland Rice are:
- The Fresena Rike formed in 1994 and remanifested in 2005 as the Axenthof Thiad - practices Frisian belief
- "Visigoth Thiudisk" formed in 1997 organized by Odinist Brotherhood of Sacred Fire - practices Visigothic belief
- The Ealdríce formed in 2010 as a successor to the Sahsisk Thiod (2001) - is an Anglo-Saxon Théodish háliggyld (holy-guild) of the Wínland Ríce which was chartered by Þórbeorht Ealdorblótere and Gárman Lord Cyning in 2019.
- Œþelland þeod formed in 2004 - is a Texas based þeod.
- The Visiguthiuda, or Visigoth Thiud - Formed in 1997 in Mexico by Sacred Fire Odinist Brotherhood, today have focus in Brazil and all America, frim south to north.
In addition to these Theods, there are numerous Greater Theodish groups in the Heathen community, who do not have a direct organizational lineage to the Winland Rice, but were inspired to organize based on Garman Lord’s seminal work, The Way of the Heathen. These groups include The Frankish Leod and the Ostrogothia Thiod, among others. The Ring of Troth continues to have numerous members from the Theodish community, who contribute heavily to periodicals such as Idunna.
Beliefs[edit | edit source]
- Theodism is a tribal movement, seeking to create a "folk" and revive the World view (weltanschauung) necessary to accurately practice the religion of their progenitors
- Theodsmen hold freedom of conscience as matters of necessity for all Heathens
- Theodism advocates the Germanic Heathen concept of Sacral Kingship as the gift of the Gods and expression of Luck, Might, and Main
- Theodish groups advocate a Web of Thew and a Web of Oaths to bind the community
- The goal of the individual is to struggle in life to build worth, which is something that will remain after death for the individual's family and community
- Theodsmen adhere to the Three Wynn's: Wisdom, Generosity, and Personal Honor
Important Theodish concepts[edit | edit source]
- Theodism is by its very nature a tribal or hierarchical group construct - the luck of the group is derived from the top down
- Nobility is defined by one's deeds and worth rather than any concept of equality or birth-right - everyone is born worthless and unproven
- Practicing the concepts of Innangarð and Útangarð or insiders and outsiders - placing ones' loyalty to family and community eminently above all obligations to those who are not bound by oath or blood relations
Oaths[edit | edit source]
Oaths are binding and are the glue which holds society together - betrayal and treachery are grievous sins which bring ill luck to the individual and the community. Oaths which are not fulfilled will actively damage the luck of not only the person who failed to keep the oath, but also that of those who were present when it was uttered. It is for this reason that at the Theodish ritual of symbel (the main ritual at which oaths are sworn over a sanctified alcoholic beverage such as mead or ale) there will actually be an appointed officer (the þyle (OE) or þulR (ON)) who is tasked with ensuring that un-keepable oaths are not made over the sumbel cup. It is also for this reason that thralls, in their capacity as "learners", might not understand what constitutes a bad oath, and thus in order to prevent them from inadvertently tainting the luck of the Theod, they are not judged capable of making any oaths until they have earned their freedom ("cheaped their abraidness"), and become free and full members of the Theod. A special class of oath is the "hold oath", which is sworn from one free individual to another of higher arung. The text is based on the ancient Germanic comitatus oath, and forms the basis of the "web of oaths" which lead up to the King, and which binds the Theodish group together. 
Right Good Will[edit | edit source]
The concept of Right Good Will states, simply, that Théodsmen will treat with one another in a completely above-board fashion, and will not willingly harm or do ill to one another without a compelling reason.  It is by thinking first of the well-being and best interests of other Théodsmen, as a matter of personal honor, that Théodish Belief attempts to address the problem of personal evil. Humans are flawed creatures, and it is only by the application of such a strict and comprehensively altruistic ethic, that a workable and sustainable society can be maintained.
Thew[edit | edit source]
Thew or þeaw is an Old English word meaning custom or virtue. In the Theodish community thew is the unspoken law which is the basis of society. Dan O'Halloran explains:
- "Thew is situational: circumstances can and do dictate how we, like our ancestors, deal with each individual event. As Theodism is a human endeavor, it is prone to all the failings, fragilities, and frailties of man. However the Theodsman trusts to the overarching Thew, that thew is the Great Thew of Hope. The theodsman has hope, hope in his lord, in his men, in his troth, in his gods and ancestors, and in his fellow tribesmen. A theodsman strives for the goal, even knowing he will likely fall short, because it is a worthy endeavor, because it is innately lucky, and thus Weh ("holy")."
Rituals[edit | edit source]
In general, Théodish religious festivities are referred to as 'fainings' (meaning 'celebration'). As a rule, there are two sorts of rituals; blót and symbel. They are accompanied by a feast in between.
Blót[edit | edit source]
Blót is a term denoting sacrifice. In Théodish context, it can refer either to an actual animal sacrifice or to the sacrifice of valuables.  In the case of an animal sacrifice, the meat from the beast is used in the feast for the assembled worshippers. Any excess is burned as a direct offering to the Gods. Whether the sacrifice is of an animal, fruits of the harvest, or other vaulables, it is always treated with the utmost respect, as it is a gift to the Gods Themselves. Some groups differentiate between a blood sacrifice and other sorts of sacrifice, reserving the term blót exclusively for the former, and using the ON term 'fórn' to refer to any other form of votive sacrifice.
Symbel[edit | edit source]
Symbel (ON sumbl) is normally held after the feast, inasmuch as it is custom not to have food present. Sumbel consists of rounds of ritual drinking and toasting, and invariably takes place within an enclosed space of some kind.  It is usually inaugurated by three formal rounds, as determined by the host; often led by toasts in honor of the Gods, then ancestors and/or heroes, and then a general or personal boast. Other boasts may take place as necessary. Sumbel is always formally closed once the formal boasts are completed, in order that the sumbel might maintain its dignity and not degenerate into "mere partying" (ref Garman Lord, p. 30</ref>. The two types of boast are the gielp (pron. 'yelp') and the béot (pron. 'BAY-awt"). The former is a boast of one's own worthiness, such as one's accomplishments, ancestry, etc. The latter is a boast of an action one plans to undertake. In order to protect the luck of the hall, such boasts are subject to challenge by the thyle (ON þulR), whose job it is to make sure that unlucky boasts do not contaminate the luck of all present.
Notes[edit | edit source]
- Garman Lord pp. 55-57
- O'Halloran p.31
- Garman Lord pp. 23-26
- Garman Lord, p. 27
References[edit | edit source]
- Lord, Garman (2000). The Way of the Heathen: A Handbook of Greater Theodism. Theod. ISBN 192934001X.
- McQueen, Gert Thygen (1995). A Brief History of Theodism. Theod.
[edit | edit source]
- Æppeldor Friðstów Anglo-Saxon Sanctuary of the Ealdríce Háliggyld, Wínland Ríce
- Axenthof Thiad Frisian Theodish Belief
- Ealdríce Háliggyld Anglo-Saxon Holy-Guild of the Wínland Ríce
- Géring Théod Anglo-Saxon founding Theod of the Wínland Ríce (new website under construction)
- Hræfenscír Heall Anglo-Saxon Hall of Géring Théod, Wínland Ríce (webiste coming soon)