Trothmoot 2006: Odin Lives!

Troth logoI just woke up from a nice long nap: a true rarity on a Tuesday afternoon, but a necessary one in this case. It's taken me this long to recover from the weekend - not that it helped to come home to a buzzsaw of programming work for an important client. With a deadline of last night. But all is done, and all is well, and here's the tale I have to tell... if you're not a heathen or you're not up for some internal heathen politics, this'll probably bore you to tears, but it's a tale that needs told.

I arrived about 4pm on Thursday last, just in time for the landtaking ceremony that opens the show. This was a good thing, since I was carrying the organic, whole milk that was to be used in the libations to the wights. I immediately ran into a young gentleman named Arron, who had visited with Ravenswood some years ago, but had renounced his interest and returned to his Pentecostal home. He has now renounced his renunciation, and we are the better for it! Although I must say that he consumed enough alcohol to "speak in tongues" a bit on Saturday evening ...

It started raining Thursday evening about 7pm, and a steady downpour continued all night. The vendors had been told to set up outside - no one was to be allowed to set up in the hall this year due to overcrowding in years past. Imagine our surprise when one vendor who showed up Friday morning, and was not even a Troth member, was allowed to set up inside the hall! For me, this proved to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back - a minor irritation that acting as a culminating factor. I went off hook - became a loose cannon, a screed machine railing against, against, well, nearly anything in path. Perhaps it'd be a bit more understandable if you could see the other links in this series of unfortunate events...

A little over a month ago, Odin Lives Radio sponsored a concert in California hosted by the Asatru Folk Assembly. The group appearing was Vasen, a Swedish band of great talent. They were not ready at all for what they walked into when they arrived - a veritable whirlwind of Heathen politics. Steve MacNallen, the leader of the AFA was on his best behavior, but some of his associates were somewhat less than gracious when the dinner table conversation turned to the immigration debate. Apparently (I was not in attendance, but rather have this information on good report from a very trusted source who was at the table) the poor liberal Swedes were treated to a right-wing diatribe - which continued when the opening act for the concert, a Heathen comedian, kept making immigrant jokes.

Jumping to conclusions is one of the most universal traits of human beings, and these fellows leaped to the obvious conclusion that Heathens were a bunch of Nazis. The symbols, the "racism" (really just American political debate, but it sure can smell like that at times, even to somebody who's used to hearing it constantly), and the strange religious overtones proved too much for them. And they told their friends when they got home: their friends in other bands, that is. It was not long before both the radio show and the production company were receiving requests from bands in Scandinavia to disassociate themselves from us.

It didn't help when somebody in Europe noticed that Odin Lives Radio was mentioned several times on - a real neo-Nazi site. One of the posts was a "cut and paste" of my announcement of a new show posted to our website, and looked as though it had come from me (the idiot Nazi left my name and sig line intact). So I was personally being called a Nazi racist because of my religion...and the owner of Odin Lives Radio ordered the sites down. After three years of difficult work building up a heathen radio show and sponsoring concerts and actually starting to make a little money at it, we were dead in the water. Because of some political screeds by heathens. And because some heathens really are racist scum. No more so by percentage, I daresay, than many Christian sects, but there are some. And to use an analogy from that other faith, it seems to be our cross to bear...

Add to this the fact that the Troth itself had recently lost two leaders after one posted an anti-immigration rant to the members list and the other was in danger of having some former unsavory associations exposed. A kinsman of mine had also recently been removed as moderator of a list he helped found because he questioned Valgard Murray, leader of the (rather conservative) Asatru Alliance, when Valgard castigated a recent addition to the list as a "heretic". Karl didn't think we had those, and neither do I, but the list went ballistic. And a good man, who's only real crime was questioning a "folkish leader", was gone.

So the late non-heathen vendor being allowed to stay indoors was simply too much. It had nothing to do with anything, yet it tripped my trigger big time. I had remained completely quiet about all of these various events until then, but I really let'er rip after that, to the point of referring to the Troth Steersman as a "tin-pot dictator" and floating the idea of changing heathenry utterly to escape the black mark of racism.

I considered leaving - after a long walk though the woods I figured I'd at least stick around until Karl arrived. I remained set up outside in my booth, even though the Troth leadership offered everyone outside a place in the hall. I pinned a good friend and several folks from Evansville down and grilled them with the heathen version of the "race card" - being deliberately obscure and contradictory in my arguments. My point was to force them to re-evaluate their positions, and to see a heathenry under siege. Too often we wrap ourselves in a mantle of "let the good times roll" at these events, and this was not going to be one of them.

By Friday night I was still there, and after dinner attended the seith working by Hrafner in the field. Seith is a funny thing: I asked no questions of the seeress, but did feel myself transported to Other Realms. Call it a light trace state, a slightly altered consciousness.

I left the rite before it's conclusion and wandered by the lake. I became aware of a presence - not physical - walking with me. Eventually the presence leaned over and spoke a bit of poetry into my ear:

Cattle die, kinsmen die,
one day you yourself will die;
but the words of praise will not perish
when a man wins fair fame.

Cattle die, kinsmen die,
one day you die yourself;
I know one thing that never dies -
the dead man's reputation.

Which is from the Havamal, and is my favorite verse from that bit of lore. An observer would've seen a light bulb going on over my head.

Heathenry is not dead: I had just attended a seith rite with nearly a sixty other folks (and many mooters didn't attend). There were well over a hundred folks on the grounds, hailing the gods and sharing a horn. The leaders who'd left with their panties in a knot had been replaced, democratically. There was no one person who could be "taken out" that would kill the Troth. Warts and all, it was a heathen organization that will survive.

And reputation - well, that's a function of deeds, not words. Nazis can blather about all they want, but their reputation is eternally stained by their crimes. Ours is not: we are not Nazis. It would be as idiotic for me to abandon my faith because of them as it would be for the Pope to become Jewish because of the Holocaust.

So what was the net effect of my "screed day"? I was calling my own reputation into question, and had actions followed my words, it would've been tarnished beyond repair.

The Troth is the "last, best hope" for heathenry - if a meteorite takes out MacNallen's apartment, the AFA is dead. If Valgard takes a wrong turn on a mountain road the AA will have held it's last Althing. The Troth can survive turmoil in the leadership and carry on - it's never easy, but then again, nobody ever told us it would be.

It was Odin walking with me by the lake that evening - the god who's service I initially swore as a goði (which the Troth calls a Godman), but whose service I abandoned after the death of my son. He has obviously not abandoned me. True, weregild was exchanged (which is how we came by Hammer, our horse), and I would boast him in sumble, but I had taken up with Ingvi-Freyr, and had been calling myself a Freysgoði since 2000. Despite the fact that Frey always seemed distant to me, and had never spoken directly. Perhaps he knew that Alfather hadn't given me leave- but in any event, I call myself a Freysman no longer. My path is clear as a bell - Old One Eye has his own again. My faith - in myself, in my gods and in my people, had been utterly renewed.

The main reason for my attendance at Trothmoot this year was to take the oath as a Godman of the Troth - this was to be held Saturday evening before the Grand Sumble, but I had to face questioning by the Godmathlers Board prior to taking the oath. Most of their questions concerned my loose cannon act of Friday: would I leave the Troth after six months when I got depressed again? My recounting of my adventures by the lake must have reassured them, as they accepted my petition and recommend that I take the oath.

This was to be a self-written oath. It would only be the third Holy Oath I've taken - the first was to my kindred, the second was to my wife. So this is not a terribly common event: think of it as an ordination.

I was approached by several folks before the oath-taking, wanted private assurances that I was not merely following protocol and that I would indeed hold fast to my oath. I guess my assurances worked, as my oath was ultimately not challenged.

I arranged that I would be the last to oath that evening, and before taking the oath subjected the audience to a short speech, about 15 minutes, of which this post is a basic reworking. I explained that while I had passed the tests, and been approved by the Godmathlers, it was the membership who was ultimately "hiring" me as a godman - and I wanted to be sure they knew what they were getting before they said yes.

At the end of the speech I got quite the ovation. I guess I was hired, after all. So here's the oath I swore, on the Oath-ring of the Troth:

I, Daithi MacRae Haxton, do swear to serve the Shining Gods and Goddesses of the North, and the Folk who follow them, for so long as my spirit strides the plains of Midgard. I swear to serve the Troth in whatever religious capacity you deem fitting, for so long as you deem me fit to hold such position. I hereby forswear ever seeking any elected or other political office within the Troth or any other heathen organization. By Freyr and Njord I swear this oath, and ask all the Holy Powers and Assembled Folk to witness and mark my words!

Hail the Shining Gods and Goddesses of Our Folk: long may they ward our steads, long may they guide our paths!

So I'm offical: a Godman of the Troth. And I came home about $200 dollars richer than when I arrived, as I sold most of my books, horn and bone. But the best thing about Trothmoot 2006 was the comment I received from Ulrich of Wolves Wod Kindred, one of those who thought to challange my oath before speaking with me privately. He gifted me with a beautiful Hammer of his own craft and design and then told me (and this is a paraphrase): "It made me angry initially, but you've made me question my path, and think about heathenry, more deeply than I'd done so in many years. I thank you for that, for now my faith is stronger than ever. If you ever need me, I'll stand with you!"

And that, folks, is what it's really all about.

20:46 /Asatru | 12 comments | permanent link