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Swain Wodening

Þéodisc Geléafa * Swain Wodening (2007)

Þhéodisc GeléafaIf you want to read this book, you better first read the other book by Wodening that I reviewed (click on the “browse” link), because this book takes it that you are familiar with “Theodism” and in many cases even that you are part of a “Theod” or about to form one. Théodisc Geléafa is “a handbook on Germanic heathenry and Theodish belief” as the subtitle states. As stated earlier, “Theodism” is a reconstructionist pagan current with its focus on the Anglo-Saxons. The book offers a very formalised reference book on many aspects of the heathen faith. This goes as far as “law and virtue”, “theod structure”, “hierarchy”, “worship” and “symbel”. For more information and my ideas about the system, see the other review. This time I will let the book speak for itself.

[…]Theodism[…] has roots in both Wicca and Germanic Heathenry. (p.21)

The only thing truly agreed upon is that a single individual cannot be Theodish. Being Theodish requires a tribe. (p.6)

Theodism is about reviving not just the worship of the Heathen Gods and Goddesses, but also the entire belief system and social structure of the ancient tribes, to take all it can from the ancient mental culture. (p.9)

For that first step one must choose which tribe one wishes to revive, and whether or not there is sufficient information to do so. If there is not enough surviving lore, one may be better off founding a new tribe, or reviving another ancient tribe. (p.40/1)

One must keep in mind they are trying to develop the following things, a common identity, a common history, shared customs and traditions as well as a common ancestry. (p.43)

One cannot take a mishmash approach and hope to achieve anything. One cannot afford to pick and choose. (p.40)

There will be, and must be differences between the ancient tribe and the modern due to gaps in information, changes in our host society, and simply that we are not the ancient Heathens. (p.41)

There are two major forms of worship in Theodism. One is commonly called faining, and consists of a libation of mead or the giving of another gift such as a sword. The other is blót, the gifting of an animal to the Gods and Goddesses. […] The reasons for faining or blót are basically the same. We give to the Gods and Goddesses for gifts in return. (p.84)

Symbel is the other major rite of Theodish Belief. […] “With respect to the symbel, only three types of activity are central: drinking (and in related actions such as passing the cup), speech (with the related recitation and singing), and gift giving.” […] Symbel like faining consists of certain ritual actions. Primary amongst these are the gielp and béot. […] A gielp is a boast of one’s ancestry and past deeds. The béot is a vow to do something. […] A flÍ­tung is basically an insult contest between two members of the symbel. (p. 91/2)

Hold oaths bond people together in must the way kinship does, and therefor are seen as having the same strengths of kinship. (p.73)

Other misconceptions are because not all Theodish groups have gone the same direction as the majority, but have stayed with older, unauthentic forms of Theodism, thus placing them outside the current definitions of Theodish Belief. (p.8)

These quotes of course just give a minor peek into the content of the book, I just wanted to give a few quotes to show the tone and character of the book and the system it describes.

The book itself is about 100 pages, after that follow another 50 pages with appendices with alternative rituals or more in depth information about certain subjects.

“Theodism” is not my system, but I understand and sometimes agree with some elements of it. Also it is a more serious event than most heathen currents or groups. I hope my reviews the two books of Wodening give you enough of an idea if “Theodism” is something for you or not.

2007 Englatheod, isbn 1419671979

Hammer Of The Gods * Swain Wodening (2003)

Some time ago I was fooling around a little on the internet and I ran into the “blog” of Swain Wodening. I like his thoughtfull writings and practical approach to paganism so I have followed this “blog” since. I also followed some of the links, visited the main website and probably for the first time heard about “Theodism”. Later I learned that Swain has written some books too, so I decided to try two two find out if I would still like his writings if they were a bit more at length. I just finished Hammer Of The Gods and started Þéodisc Geléafa which I will of course review when I finished it.

The first glance at the book shows a cheesy cover and a subtitle that is suspicious to some: “Anglo-Saxon Paganism in Modern Times”. The back calls this work “the most comprehensive guide to modern Anglo-Saxon paganism”. That focus on “Anglo-Saxons” is definately something new to me. It appears that “Theodsmen” follow the “belief of the tribe” (which is what “Theodism” literally means), which in this case are the tribes that inhabited what is nowadays the United Kingdom and who the “Theodsmen” apparently see as their ancestors. “Asatru” is seen as another branch of heathenry, being the Scandinavian version. I have alway had the impression that “Asatru” is just an umbrella term for Northern European paganism, but in America things are different. Wodening names all kinds of heathenisms that I never heard of. It is like anybody in the USA whose ideas are slightly different from somebody else, gives birth to a new movement with a new name. “Theodism” has roots in wicca with Garman Lord as founder, but the good man has been outgrown somewhat especially because of the brothers Wodening (Swain and Eric). Nowadays “Theodism” tries to “reconstruct the beliefs and practices of several historic Northern European tribes”. Read more in the nice Wikipedia article about “Theodism” where I took the quote from. Wodening starts with a history of paganism and of course works towards the Anglo-Saxons and “Theodism”. To separate it from “Icelandic Heathenry” he writes on page 13: “The Anglo-Saxon troth, Þéodisc geleafa, Theodish Belief, or Hæðengyld (as it is sometimes called) differs from Icelandic Heathenry in that it has been more innately “tribal” of Þéodisc in nature.”

When reading a book I usually have a pencil at hand to mark interesting or good parts, but just as well to make notes of another kind. Especially the first part of the book has a lot of stripings, sidenotes an marks of that other kind. The first things that shows is the need to make term Old English, artificial if needed. If a term is not available in the Anglo-Saxon sources, it is translated back and thus you get *Íormensyll for Yggdrasil or *Eotenham for Jotunhein. The writer is fair enough to use asterixes for the reconstructed terms. The book is full of smaller and larger errors. When speaking of the nine worlds, the writer gives ten. The descriptions of some parts of the myths are sometimes short and questionable. There are strange typos, some consistent (“none the less” and “its self”), sometimes obviously typos (Siedhr, “Þunor made have been…”) and other disarrays, such as “Bonfire Night” in England would have been on St. Martin’s day (11 November) while the rhime says: “Remember remember the fifth of November with bonfire treason and plot” (watch “V For Vendetta” to remember). When speaking of gods, godesses, giants, dwarves, etc. there is a strange list in a strange order (some lack, of some I wonder why they are named) and when we come to subjects such as afterlife, ritual tools, different rites, the runes, “spaecraft and moundsitting” my reading speed went up a few gears. There are a lot of “should”s in those descriptions, but also many “could”s, but I cannot rid myself of the feeling that these parts are for a large parts wishfull thinking/writing and a bit too artificial. On the other hand, a main obligation for a “Theodsman” is study. Throughout the book it is very obvious that as a native English speaker, the writer has missed an enormous amount of scholarly literature that could have a made things better. The sources are many American writers, and those writers are often not the best. A few exceptions are Ellis Davidson and Wodening has found a translation of the Deutsche Mythologie of the brothers Grimm; not bad, but this is one of the first works in this vein and much better have been written later, of course in German and unavailable for people who cannot read German. However the other book refers to Dumézil and Eliade, I find no trace of the ideas of these two writings in this book. Too bad, because Dumézil’s greatest works are available in English and could shed light on several subjects, even for people who do not agree with his main theories.

I know it begins to seem as if I want to burn this book to the ground. This is not the case. For Europeans who can read other languages than English and for people who are looking for a scholarly work about paganism, I do not advice to buy this book. It is by no means worthless though! The focus on other than the obvious sources such as the Eddas, the Icelandic sagas, etc. is at least refreshing. The writer also seems to be well acquainted with most of the material available in English, including a great many sagas and several Anglo-Saxon texts (of course there is a lot of focus on Beowulf but there is more). Also valuable is the practical approach. Whatever you may think of “symbels” and “blóts” (terms I never heard in Europe), reconstructed seasonal rites and the like, Wodening gives you an idea of what you can do with your life in a pagan perspective. This goes from very practical “thews and virtues” to far-reaching ideas about modern tribalism, the family and the community. “Theodism” aims to be heathenry in modern times, but to be as authentic as possible; so authentic that the notion of artificiality sometimes shows, but the ideas in the book are consistent, underbuilt, weighted out and not completely unreachable. However I disagree with much of this ‘system’ (democracy is authentic?), 25 years of “being pagan” has made a writer who knows what he is talking about, with interesting ideas, refreshing insights and as it seems, quite a following. The book is mainly for the American audience, but for a European it is not bad to read some other ideas sometimes.

2003 Global Book Publisher isbn: 159457006X