Theodish Thoughts

Musings on Theodism, religion, mythology, history, and contemporary Heathenry

Month: May 2019

Mummer’s Plays and Morris Dancing!

Well this was a wonderful surprise in my YouTube subscriptions today. Just in from Gering Heall, home of the King of the Gearings and founder of Theodism, Garman Lord, we have this wonderful Robin Goodfellow Mummer’s Play, with two pieces of Morris Dancing as entr’acte, from earlier this month.

Going through the content briefly, having the explanation not only of Mumming in general, but the specific themes present in this particular play, was perfect. Didn’t weigh down the audience with a lot of facts, but gave just enough to perceive the significance of what was being presented.

The interspersed Morris Dancing was also really nice, giving a quick break for the actors in the play to get ready for the next act, as well as giving the audience a diversion-within-a-diversion.

I personally find these sorts of activities wonderful additions to Heathen ritual events. Not necessarily as part of the ritual itself (although sacral dramas could certainly qualify), but as light-yet-significant entertainments (significant because of the hidden mysteries in the symbolism and dialogue of the plays themselves) to keep the assembled folk centered on the day, rather than on their phones. Plus it beats the monotony of yet another round of axe-tossing or kubb, while at the same time imparting wisdom for those who would seek it.

I’ve been banging this particular drum for years, of course, and have had some small success in bringing such things to my local community. I would love to see these sorts of traditions get much wider traction, and become a staple in gatherings both large and small.

As a caveat, it’s worth noting that there is nothing to indicate that Morris Dancing or Mummer’s Plays as we know them today date from the pre-Christian period. While there are some tantalizing possibilities, the threads are just too thin to hold up to casual pulling. But the pedigree of plays, guising, and dance as a general thing in Germanic Heathenry is undoubted, and when one is uncertain of the historical form, there’s no reason not to pull in something with deep roots in English custom.

EDIT 5/30/19 (and beyond): I replaced the original video with a longer version that was posted today on the same channel. It has the same Mummer’s Play and Morris dancing, but opens with a “Beating the bounds” ritual to hallow the area, shows a brief sumbl in honor of the King, and ends with a fire dance and a 19th century English garland dance.

Theodism as Mystery Religion

I was chatting with a good Theodish friend of mine, and the subject of hold oaths came up. Specifically, the reality that too many people who take (or even hear) hold oaths simply aren’t ready to do so, or don’t fully comprehend what it means, and yet do so anyway. The result is usually disaster, broken oaths, and a whole lot of misery on both sides.

It occurs to me that that’s a phenomenon we see not only when it comes to hold oaths in Theodism, but many other aspects as well. The whole concept of thralldom and rank, and of course sacral leadership, seems to be glossed over and accepted at face value, rather than truly being understood and internalized.

The specific causes for this sort of phenomenon are many, but I think ultimately it comes down to an attempt to teach Theodism as if it were a subject to be studied, rather than a truth to be realized.

This is where the concept of the mystery religion comes into play, in the context of Theodish Belief. The Greco-Roman mysteries are usually thought of in connection with initiatory rituals, and there are certainly initiatory rites in Theodism (the whole process of thralldom and freedom is, essentially, one long initiation ritual). But I’m thinking here of the way information is transmitted in a mystery religion.

Rather than rote lessons, or even intellectual understanding, in a mystery religion the initiate is exposed to knowledge using gnomic forms and allegory. Eventually, the initiate forms a critical mass of wisdom, and understands the mystery. Doing so internalizes the mystery in a way that merely reading it in a book, or even being taught it by someone mouth-to-ear, cannot. It is not merely knowledge, it is truth, and it is known to be so because the initiate has come to its realization on his own. All that needed to be done was to give him (or her) the proper groundwork, and let him put the pieces together themselves.

Of course, that doesn’t do any good unless the person(s) doing the initiation can recognize when this A-HA! moment happens and the student is really ready to be initiated. In the particular case at hand, that would be recognizing when the thrall is really ready to be freed. If the initiator/owner isn’t willing to have the combination of hard love and patience necessary, then the thrall is going to be freed too early, and end up taking a hold oath too early, with the result mentioned at the top of this article.

It’s also worth remembering that sometimes the student never achieves the realizations needed to become an initiate. Sometimes one remains a thrall forever, or drops out. That’s a necessary part of the process, too. That’s why thralls have no luck, and cannot pollute the luck of the tribe or the lord. If they “fail to launch”, no harm has been done.

One never does a favor to a thrall by freeing them early. One should never free a thrall merely to boost numbers. Thralldom is an important part — an argument might even be made for it being the most important part — of the Theodish experience. By reminding ourselves that thralldom should only be left once we recognize the thrall has finally come to the essential truths of Theodism on his or her own (i.e., has encountered the Mystery of Theodish Belief by being exposed to its practice), we go a long way towards ensuring that Theodsmen in general maintain the highest standard.

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