Friday, May 27, 2016

Troth Logo

The Banner of The Troth

The Banner of the Troth is a ring of four golden apples (at the cardinal points) and four raven-heads (at the cross-points) linked by a ring of twisted gold wire with three twists between each apple/raven pair. In the middle of the ring is a golden-white Hammer with the Troth bind-rune in red upon the haft. The background is deep blue.

The eight elements of the ring show the ætt of the winds; they also show the eight worlds ringed around the Middle-Garth (Miðgarðr) - four shining, four dark. In this reading, the Hammer shows the might of their holiness brought forth into the Middle-Garth.

The apples are the golden apples of Iðunn, which give new life to the god/esses. In a larger sense, they are that life-might embodied by all the goddesses (Iðunn, Freyja, Sif) whom the etins keep trying to steal from the Ases' Garth (Ásgarðr). They are also the apples placed in the howe (as with the Oseberg ship-burial) as a sign of rebirth.

The ravens are Wodan's birds, Huginn (Thoughtful) and Muninn (Mindful); they are the sign of the wisdom and memory which shape the Troth. They are also the sign of the faring between the worlds which brings lore, life, and might into the Middle-Garth from the hidden realms - the faring of the thul and the völva, and the folk-leader who sits on the mound to speak rede.

The Troth of our folk is grounded on this matching of brightness and darkness: we, the living, draw all that we are from our dead kin - from the hidden roots of the World-Tree - and in turn, strengthen them with our life, the blessings that we pour to them and the toasts that we drink to their memory. Among the Northern peoples, there is no sundering between those who still dwell alive in the Middle-Garth and their kin who have fared to the halls of the god/esses before them

Together, the apples and the ravens also refer to the key scene from Völsunga saga, chapter I, in which Óðinn's grandson Rerir and his wife, who have had no children, pray to become fruitful. "That is now said, that Frigg heard their prayer and told Óðinn what they asked for. He was not confounded, and took his wish-maid...and put an apple (or "fruit" - KHG) in her hand and bade her go to the king with it. She took the apple and drew her crow-hide (the birds "kráka" and "hrafn" are not distinguished in Icelandic - a big black corvid is a big black corvid - KHG) upon herself and flew until she came there where the king sat upon a howe. She let the apple fall onto the king's knee. He took that apple and it seemed to him that he knew what must be done. He now went home from the howe and to his men and found the queen, and they ate that apple together", whereupon the queen became pregnant with the son who became the hero Völsi, the father of Sigmundr and Signy, after whom the Völsung line was named. For the Troth, this stands as a sign that, though the ways of our folk seemed to be barren and our god/esses gone from the earth, they heeded us when we raised our call to them again, and the heroes and heroines of our folk shall be born again, mightier for the many years of hiding and the need that has called the souls of the North to life once more.

The ring of wound gold that binds the apples and the ravens is the holy oath-ring, which is also the sign of the ring of our fellowship - truly the Ring of Troth. Three windings show between each apple/raven pair; three are hidden behind each apple and raven, so that there are twenty-four shining coils and twenty-four mirky coils. These show forth the might of the runes, both bright and dark - of that wisdom which was brought up from Yggdrasill's roots in elder days. The pattern of the thrice-wound oath-ring also calls on those three great oath-gods, Wulþur (Ullr), Tiw (Týr), and Thunar (Þórr), or, as another reading may show it, the triad of "Freyr, Njörðr, and the almighty Ase". In either case, these holy ones keep the words and deeds of the Troth true to the ways of our forebears and our own honour.

The Hammer itself was the sign of the elder Troth among the Norsemen, when our folk strove to keep their own ways whole. It is the sigil of all who follow the god/esses of the North, marked for us by the Troth's bind-rune.

The bind-rune of the Troth is formed of eihwaz, the yew-tree which has kept the fire of our folk ever-green through the long winter; nauthiz, the need-rune which has kindled that fire forth again; wunjo, which binds us all as a single clan in joy and love; and raidho, the rune of right measure, by which we are held true and following which we keep the round of the seasons and the blessings of the Troth.

The deep blue background is both the night sky and the sea - the might both of the Ases and of the Wans, who stand matched in strength, in wisdom, and in the love we bear them.

Designed by
KveldúlfR Gundarsson
Drawn by:

Excerpted from Chapter LVII of the 1993 edition of Our Troth, KveldúlfR Gundarsson, Editor.

This post represents official Troth policy or is an official Troth statement.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Urglaawe: Hexenkopf Pilgrimage 2016

This information has been posted for educational purposes and may or may not represent the beliefs and practices of many members of The Troth.

Hexenkopf is a strange and sacred place located in Williams Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania. Long associated with activity on Walpurgisnacht or Wonnenacht, this is Holle's home on this continent. For generations, people have reported seeing a White Lady on the mountain pillar or along the road, especially on the night of April 30. From the Urglaawe perspective, this is where the Wild Hunt ends and the Bright Half of the year begins.

The awesome sign at the barn of the owners greets visitors. We always arrange our visits in advance. The site is on private property, and visitors should always plan to be off of the grounds by dusk.

Young Mugwort plants announce the correct entrance into the woods. After a few more weeks, the growth will be thick.

Magnetite had been mined here, and there are said to be odd magnetic patterns here at times. Other oddities are the common sight of uprooted, upside down trees in locations where they could not simply have fallen. Some are at the very top of the pillar, clearly not having anywhere higher to fall from.

Photo credit: Bob Headley
There are four ponds or pools at the site, some of which have a history of being considered curative. That being said, though, two of them I avoid as they have radon (a common gas in Pennsylvania), one is a former magnetite ore hole that has no radon, and the last is a natural pool that is said to provide water sacred to Holle. This holy water is used at Distelfink's rituals throughout the year. 

The site is challenging because of the huge boulders and the rough brush. Indeed, the name "Hexenkopf" means "Witch's Head" because the rock formation appears like the head of a stereotypical witch depiction in the conical hat. None of us got a good pic of the "hat," but there are several large boulder deposits throughout the site.

Photo credit: Bob Headley

There are all sorts of nooks and outcroppings, including one which is a natural sanctuary, where Distelfink holds its rituals.

Photo credit: Bob Headley

In the middle of the sanctuary is a natural altar.

Photo credit: Michelle Jones
Poison Ivy does abound at the site... Fortunately, so does one of our best plant allies: Jewelweed. It came in handy several times for folks who brushed up against the Poison Ivy. 

This is a wondrous site that ties into the Hexerei myth of the Wonnenacht (Night of Joy) and the Wonnedanz (Dance of Joy, also known as the Witches' Dance).

Photo credit: Michelle Jones
Could this be the rock that the soul of Gedreier Eckhart slept in per the instructions of Holle? Hexenkopf sets one's imagination ablaze.

Our crew:

Photo credit: Michelle Jones

Hail Distelfink!

- Robert L. Schreiwer

Saturday, April 9, 2016

About The Troth

The following verbiage was passed by the Rede as part of The Troth's publications and web presence. It replaces earlier verbiage and is official Troth policy.

"The Troth is open to all who seek to know and honor the Gods, ancestors, and values of the pre-Christian Germanic traditions, regardless of gender, race, nationality or sexual orientation. The Troth stands against any misuse of Germanic religion and culture to advance causes of racism, sexism, homophobia, white supremacy, or any other form of prejudice."

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Rings and Troth

I have had the honour to perform a few marriages.  The question was recently asked about whether we had a policy about gay marriage.  I admit it struck me as a bit odd.  The Heathen Freehold Society of British Columbia has always had a very simple policy when it comes towards it membership.  We are a universalist group.  If you are called to the worship of our gods, and you have been a good and frithful member of our community, we do not care where you can trace your line of descent, nor do we care who it is that you love.  We do care rather a lot about oaths though.

Freehold Oath Ring

We don’t like oaths to be sworn lightly upon our oath ring, for that touches upon the luck of us all, and a broken oath is a thing that has real and sacral consequences, this we accept.  We do not make our decisions about whether or not we will marry you based on anything except your commitment to each other.  To stand before the community, to make your offering for your loves hand, and to have them accept it, this is a worthy thing.  To stand before your community, your kin of blood and oath both, and swear your love and troth to each other, this is a worthy thing.  For me to call the blessing of the gods and administer the oaths you exchange is something I take a profound and reverent joy in.

Ken and Mary Joy Wedding

I have so far only married heterosexual couples, the reason is simple, I have only been asked to perform a small number of marriages for our community so far, and those who have asked have been heterosexual.  The next couple could be the same, or could be gay or lesbian, and again, the only questions that I will have are about the couples devotion to each other, and such specific questions about their spiritual practice so that the marriage rites performed will be anchored as firmly in their personal relationship with the gods and ancestors as in our own ritual framework.  A marriage has as much magic as you, the couple making it, put into it every day.  That is what the plighting of troth is, the promise that you will jointly labour to make this marriage a real thing, a true thing; in fact the one true thing you both can depend on in an ever-changing, and frequently hostile, world.  That being said, what you make together is made stronger by the ritual as it is by the presence of your community as witness.  The details of that are my job, the heavy lifting, and the rewards of the marriage itself, are yours.

Wedding of Aaron and Kate

We are a Troth KAP Kindred now, and the question will no doubt arise about whether the Troth stands with us in our commitment to marriage for all of our members.  In fact, the Troth Clergy program addressed this issue quite directly, making it clear that for Troth clergy, there is no question of gay marriage, or straight marriage, there is only marriage.

“The Troth’s position has always been to accept gay members, and furthermore to hallow bonds between same-sex couples, considering them no less valid than marital bonds between heterosexual couples. Troth – ordained godfolk are expected to be willing to conduct ceremonies for both same-sex and different – sex couples (with certain limitations discussed in the Clergy manual).”

p273-277 in Our Troth vol. 2

Troth Publications 2007

The Heathen Freehold Society of British Columbia springs from a land in which gay marriage is legal, and from a thew that judges people by their words and their deeds, not by the labels that the outer-garth society might apply to them.  Our community judges you by what you show us.  It is an honour and a pleasure to stand in the sight of the community, to call the wights of the lands and waters, to call the sacred ancestors, and to call the holy gods themselves to witness the binding of two people who have chosen to pledge their love and their troth to each other.

I have known a number of Heathen Freehold godfolk and Troth godfolk, none of whom I could ever see refusing this sacred duty on grounds of the gender of the parties involved.  To serve your community as priest is not something that earns us any money, rather the cost of fulfilling the obligations in terms of both time and resources is quite expensive for us.  This is a calling that we find rewarding because of the honour of the service, the pure and unquestionable joy of joining two worthy folk in the sight of their gods and community.

It really shouldn't need to be said, that we are here for those who need us, reguardless of such petty concerns as gender or sexual orientation.  I shouldn't need to be said, but in a world with so much casual ugliness, in which so many times peoples trust has been betrayed by those who owed them better duty, perhaps it is time it be spoken anyway.

The Heathen Freehold respects, and holds most holy, the tradition of marriage that binds a couple in love and in troth, together in the sight of the gods and of their community.  The Heathen Freehold does not recognize straight marriage or gay marriage, it recognizes only marriage.

Love is rare and precious.  Troth is a commitment that gives back rather more than the sum of what both of you put in.  There is magic in the rings exchanged at the time of the wedding; exactly as much magic as the two so joined put into them every day of their lives.  This truth transcends gender, orientation, race, and yes, even religious creed.  There is only one marriage, and that is the one we perform.

John T Mainer,
Western Canada and Military Steward
Redesman of The Troth
Freyr of the Heathen Freehold Society of BC 
(Troth KAP Kindred)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Gender Roles In Heathenry

There has been a recent resurgence in the discussion within Heathenry on racism and the role it has played, and is continuing to play. This discussion reflects on the way Heathenry is seen, not only by those who are unfamiliar with our ways, but to those who have recently come to Heathenry, as well as those who have been on the Heathen path for years or even decades. Let me be clear: there is no room in my Heathenry for racism.

This discussion has reminded me of a conversation I once had with a fellow Heathen about gender roles in Heathenry following a workshop on Seiðr given by the amazingly knowledgeable and gifted (now dearly departed) Rod Landreth. In the lore, there is a word, ergi, which is an Old Norse term of insult, denoting effeminacy or other unmanly behavior.The practice of Seiðr by a man was considered ergi in the Viking Age, as well as in Icelandic accounts and medieval Scandinavian laws. No one would deny Odin’s prowess as Seiðmaðr, yet he was still called ergi for practicing it.

This, I think, illustrates a long history in western culture of the delineation of the genders, and what happens when those lines are crossed. Women could do certain things that men could not, and in turn, men could do certain things that women could not. Historically, there were usually good reasons for this division. Women cared for the estate because the men were called away to war every season. The logic in this situation is that, if the woman cared for the estate, there would be a consistency of leadership within the household. The women literally held the keys to the kingdom while the menfolk fought to protect it and provide better resources for it.  

From the Viking Age moving forward, as the world changed due to the influence of Christianity, the role of women became more marginalized while the role of men expanded. I’m not saying that Viking women had it good, but they did have a lot more freedoms than many of their descendants (and even contemporaries) had. It wasn’t until the late Victorian period that women would make a push for equality, something that still hasn’t been fully realized in the western world.

Whatever our motivations for reconstructing Heathenry, there is one thing that we must come to terms with: our Heathenry is a modern one.  There is no unbroken line of Heathen practice coming down to us from the early medieval period. With that in mind, we are reconstructing Heathenry in a century very different from the last century it was practiced in. We have cars, computers, the internet...we put human beings on the Moon! Why then must we reconstruct the outdated gender roles of a long dead society in our own culture -- a culture that has fought for at least a hundred years to bring equality to the genders? Ergi is an insult. Calling someone a sissy is an insult. Equating somone to the “lesser sex” is meant to be derogatory. When men seek to learn how to weave, to sew, to be stay-at-home dads, society degrades them. “That’s women’s work.” The inverse is also true.  When women seek careers instead of kids, we call them selfish. When women assert that their skills and intelligence are equal to that of men, they’re called bitches and dykes.

This has to stop. To pigeonhole genders into specific roles in this modern age is archaic and ridiculous. Men can be stay-at-home dads. Women can have careers. Men can practice Seiðr. Women can be Chieftans.

Reflecting on the conversation that spurred this post, I found it surprising and disheartening to find a modern day Heathen that thinks there will always be areas that are “women’s work.” As a woman, I regularly experience gender bias. When I walk into the auto-parts store I have to assure the sales associates that I do, indeed, know what a socket wrench is. When I have to assert that I’m not a simple headed woman, that I actually know how to install my own GDDR5 SDRAM. When I have to fight for my right to control my own body, to insist that I have the right to ask for and receive a tubal ligation even though I have never had children. To hear a man insist that activities traditionally considered to be in the realm of women should remain that way, widens the gulf between the genders even further.

Gender based discrimination is not, generally speaking, something that men have to worry about. I do, however, recognize that men experience gender bias. Ask a dad who's changed his daughter's diaper in a public bathroom how many times he's been called a perv. What I never expected was to hear from a man that he can’t sew, not because he doesn’t have the ability, but because it’s in the realm of women. My eldest brother was taught how to sew. He made really good money in college fixing clothes for fellow students...and met a lot of women that way too.  The point is, there is no such thing as “women’s work” anymore.  Men are just as capable at sewing, knitting, weaving as women. Women are just as capable at fixing cars, grilling meat, and playing sportsball as men. We are past the point of reserving certain mysteries for certain genders. Such exclusionary, sexist beliefs have no place in a modern Heathenry, just like racism has no place in Heathenry. Our Heathenry is not perfect. There is no Heathen Pope, no central organizing authority, and therefore, no "wrong" way to practice Heathenry. That being said, it's a failing of society as a whole, not necessarily just Heathenry, that particular groups within our society experience marginalization and prejudice.

~Sara Gavagan Conley

Monday, February 8, 2016

New Corporate Address

The Troth has a new corporate mailing address!

The Troth
325 Chestnut Street
Suite 800
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Please keep this in mind when reading older publications.
Thank you!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The High Cost of Rhetoric

Stephen McNallen gives us the following question:
“Germany - that is the German people, not sellout traitors like Merkel - deserve our full support...Where are the Freikorps when we need them?”
I propose to answer this with a quick side step from rhetoric and dogma, and a little trip through fact. Now I was a soldier, which by definition means I am part of the clean up crew. What do we clean up? Failed states stuck cashing cheques written by men with bold words and colourful rhetoric that are paid in blood, suffering, horror, and most of all, waste.

The Freikorps that McNallen rhapsodizes about gave us much colourful history in the interwar years in Europe, Hitler’s failed Kapp Putch, and their street thugs and bully boys were the foot soldiers for the political machine that made the National Socialist Worker’s Party the answer to the Communist problem. All those right thinking folks had found a solution to the Communists, and when the Freikorps were done with Germany, a new power rose in Europe, and the Swastika which had been a sign of life and light would forever be a symbol of darkness and blood.

Freikorps then, and ethnic militia's in service to many causes today, do what governments cannot get caught publicly doing.  Attrocities.  Murder, arson, rape; all are tools of the ethnic militia to drive out, or wipe out those rival ethnicities they have targeted.  In Germany it began with the Night of Broken Glass, targeting homes and businesses of the German Jews, but we all know it didn't end there.

Ancient history. My grandfather and his generation put those monsters in the grave where they belonged and we swore never again. We meant it for about twenty years before we forgot the cost of rhetoric again and an old horror was free to live again.
Fast forward to Yugoslavia, the union of all the Slavs, a nation forged out of all those peoples littered across the Balkans by generations of invaders who used minority satraps to keep the locals in line. After a dozen invasions over as many centuries, it was a hodge podge of ethnic groups, similar to our own land in many ways in the level of its diversity, but different in that they remained largely self segregated into ethnic villages or towns. Yugoslavia was dying, Bosnia, Serbia and the other states to be were tearing themselves from the hide of the dying Yugoslavia.
What to do about those inconvenient ethnic enclaves inside what you are giving such stirring speeches about being the Serbian Heartland? What to do about the Muslim? The Albanian? Well you can’t use your troops to wipe them out or you will have to answer to the UN. Ah, but the Freikorps, the ethnic militia………they will defend the race.

Chosen method? Armed men slaughtering the unarmed, especially women and children, and leaving them dumped in mass graves. Ethnic cleansing; wiping out those odd coloured dots on the map of a racially pure territory.
The Serbs, Bosnians, Croats could all look at UN inspectors and say their troops did not do it, but their governments armed, supplied, and directed the activities of these groups to do the ethnic cleansing, the mass murder, the genocide done village by village that would have fit so perfectly into any sweep by Gestapo units in the bad old days of WWII.  Indeed, save for the fact the pictures this war are colour, the images of the starving victims as Belsen 1992 could easily have been taken in 1945.

We see similar groups in the Taliban, Isis, Hezbollah, and we see the tactics that such groups naturally employ. These are not soldiers operating under the rule of law, these are ethnic militia’s pursuing an agenda based on only one group (their own) having any human rights, and any an all actions taken in the service of that group are justified. The same tactics are being used right now by Russia as their ethnic Russian militias are waging a proxy war in the Ukraine.
There is no room for community, for reason, for acceptance. There is no room for diversity, for any form of personal freedom where that freedom fails to conform to both the perceived ethnic standard, and the obedience to the whim of the militia leadership who are operating without any constraint of law.
For an examination of what this looks like as a state, I suggest Syria, Somalia, Lebanon.
Take a good long look at what the end state of turning to the Freikorp and ethnic militias are, and then ask yourself if that is what you want for your community, for your nation, and for your family.
The rule of law is what separates us from the failed state. Our economy, our science, our culture, our great works and infrastructure, all these things owe their existence to one thing; the stability that comes from the rule of law. Our law is not perfect, and its enforcement is likewise imperfect. We struggle in every generation to move the balance the right way towards both justice and order, where freedom and security are balanced. Sometimes we get it more right than others.
It is imperfect, there will be people you do not like doing things you do not approve of. Freedom included freedom to wish it was legal to do things we have decided are wrong. As long as you keep wishing and refrain from doing, that is fine. The will of the people determines our laws, and limits the scope of our actions. Considering what some groups want to do, this is a necessary limitation. Again, we balance freedom to do what we choose, against freedom from having others do what they will to us. Some generations get the balance better than others.
Ethnic militias are not a good idea. They are not a new idea. They have a rich history of atrocity, of the corruption of the political system by mob violence. Such tactics go back in history to the classics, to the Demagogues of Athens, the street thugs of Marius and Sulla, the Hippodrome thugs of Byzantium, the Freikorps of what would become Nazi Germany, and the blood soaked fields of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia.
When you hear the call for Ethnic Militia, when you hear the Freikorp being called for, take a long look at where that road leads, and decide for yourself if you still want to take that first step.

John T Mainer
Troth Redesman