Heathen Leadership Today: Historical Heathen Thingdoms vs. Christian Kingdoms
When people think of "Heathen" leaders, they think of Asatru leaders, not people who are leading the various reconstructionist communities, i.e. those trying to reconstruct the Old Ways. This is a very good thing, as two Asatru leaders have become synonymous with the names of their organizations. A true leader builds others. As "drohtin" and founder of a local community, it is my job to build the people of our community, make them stronger Heathens, to give them the fire to develop themselves, teach them to lead rituals (replacing me), and to build others, especially their own Heathen families. For the first year or so, I did 100% of the rituals. Now, I have helped our community raise a law-speaker, two thyles, a rune-meister, two alu-baru, a spahman, a volva, and two scops/skalds. In addition, over the last year, I have led only one ritual, while training others to lead the other rituals based on historical sources. We have several taking turns as Weofodthegns or Gothis/Gythias. We have also scheduled "home rituals" like Alfablot, where we are all doing rituals in our backyards at the same time as individual families. I have become more of an "admin" than a "drohtin" and I strongly prefer that title over "drohtin.” Like any historical Thingdom, all are equal in Thing, and all have an equal vote. We have two Things a year, one of which is at "Disting." (*Disting is comprised of the terms Disir and "Thing.") Disting was two full moons after Yule, which began on the full moon of Jolmanuthr, or Yule Moon. This dating is a historical dating, not one of our own choice or vivid imagination.
The Historical Saxon tribe, was one of several Germanic tribes in "Germania" that did not have Kings. They were a "Thingdom." It was the staple of the Germanic tribes to be led by clan leaders. Please note, the Old Saxon word for "clan" is "kunni." The Old Saxon word for clan leader was "kunning." Over time, as the Christian world view replaced the Heathen world view, the meaning of the word "kunning" changed from "clan-leader" to a "kingly (dictator)" in the Christian sense of the word. The Christian monks and the Frankish court of Charlemagne discussed the Saxon disdain for "kings" and the Saxon Thingdom. I will prove below that Kings and Kingdoms in Scandinavia were the biggest reason for the decline of Heathenry and the rise of Christianity.
Lebuini Antiqua 4, THE LIFE OF ST. LEBUIN, 9th Century AD “In olden times the Saxons had no king but appointed rulers over each village; and their custom was to hold a general meeting (Thing) once a year in the center of Saxony near the river Weser at a place called Marklo. There all the leaders used to gather together, and they were joined by twelve noblemen from each village with as many freedmen and serfs. There they confirmed the laws, gave judgment on outstanding cases and by common consent drew up plans for the coming year on which they could act either in peace or war.”
Bede - Ecclesiastical History of the English People (731 AD) “For these Old Saxons have no king, but several lords who are set over the nation. Whenever war is imminent, these cast lots impartially, and the one on whom the lot falls is followed and obeyed by all for the duration of the war; but as soon as the war ends, the lords revert to equality of status.”
Arminius or Hermann: (18/17 BC – AD 21) was a leader of the Cheruski tribe who led a coalition of Germanic tribes to a decisive victory against three Roman legions in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD. An auxiliary lieutenant to the Roman general Publius Quinctilius Varus, Arminius used his knowledge of Roman tactics to ambush and destroy the legions. The defeat at Teutoburg would precipitate the Roman Empire's permanent withdrawal from Magna Germania, and the Romans made no more concerted attempts to conquer and hold Germania beyond the Rhine river. Modern historians have regarded Arminius' victory as "Rome's greatest defeat" and one of the most decisive battles in history. Following Arminius's brief uniting of the Germanic tribes, and his extraordinary victory over Rome, Arminius tried to be a "Kaiser" or "Caesar" or "King" over the tribes who became the Saxons in the following centuries. Arminius was poisoned by his own family, as this was contrary to the future "Saxon" and current "Germanic Heathen" way of life: i.e. Thingdom.
Did the Scandinavians have Kings?
I believe that even Scandinavians did not originally have "kings." The Norse peoples also spoke Germanic languages not all that different from Old Saxon. The Norse word for "king" also comes from the word "clan". The Norse society did see the rise of "kings" in the Christian sense of the term after constant contact with Christian Kingdoms got them away from Thingdoms. Turning the Germanic Peoples into Kingdoms ultimately lead to the downfall of Heathenry. Harold Finehair was the first king of all Norway. Harold reigned from c. 872 to 930. Haakon the Good, succeeded his father Harold to become king of all Norway. While Harold was an ardent Heathen, Haakon the Good (or Hakon the Good) became a Christian and forced Christianity on Norway. Kings are "dictatorships" that Norse christian kings used to dictate Christianity to the masses. The Saga of Hakon the Good chapter 16 documents the story of how Hakon the Good moved Yule from the full moon of Jolmanuthr to be on the Solstice of the Julian Calendar, which was on December 25th in the 10th century, as part of forced christianization. Moving Yule from the Full Moon of Yule Moon (Jolmanuthr) to the Solstice was a Christian act, that is still remembered in Scandinavia, as Xmas is called "Yule" (various spellings) in Scandinavia today. Xmas has "crushed" Yule. Christianity crushed Heathenry to become the religion of modern Scandinavia for the last 1,000 years. Yes, a King had too much power, the dictator of "spiritual affairs", like a pope. Heathenry cannot have "popes" or "dictators of its affairs." If it does, when the king decides to enforce something “un-Heathen” all will be forced into it. Please note, the Iceland Althing of the 10th century was already mostly Christian. This Christian Althing in Iceland followed the ways of Hakon the Good, moved Yule to the same time as Xmas, and changed their Heathen moon times from following the moon to be 12 fixed solar months of 30 fixed days, plus a leap week of 5-6 days. Hakon the Good, the second "king" of all Norway, was the first Christian king of all Norway, which started the avalanche of Heathenry disappearing in Scandinavia.
For my research on Hakon the Good chapter 16, and the text of Hakon the Good Saga chapter 16, please see this article: https://www.aldsidu.com/post/yule-celebrated-on-the-solstice-is-christian-wiccan-and-un-heathen
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jryjXzj54Xg Often people argue with me that Saxons left Saxony and went to Britannia, and the Anglo-Saxons had Kings. It is true that the British KINGdoms had Kings. But this proves that the "migrants" to Britannia were not Saxons. This is why the Saxons spoke Old Saxon, and the Old English spoke Old English. The Saxons in Saxony were too different from the "Anglish" or English in England to be of the same origin. The Anglo-Frisian Futhorc is only found in Frisia and England, and only the Elder Futhark is found in Saxony. Saxon ideals like Uurdgiscapou and the Irminsul (to name just two examples) did not find their way into England. Nor did "Thingdom" go to England. The Heptarchy was seven Kingdoms, with Kings who were following Kingdom and not Thingdom. Please note, most English scholars are rejecting the idea of an "Invasion of Britain" by Angles and Saxons. Dr. Francis Pryor, an English archaeologist, has a book and video out arguing that the "Anglo-Saxon Invasion was the 'Invasion that never was.'" Dr. Pryor's video can be watched here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jryjXzj54Xg Most English archaeologists today reject the view that there was mass Migration to England. Here is another article, from an archaeologist, Susan Oosthuizen. Susan has written a book of her findings as well, and like many, is calling on renaming the "Anglo-Saxon Period" in England to something more accurate based on the historical data. Her work is called "Time to Axe The Anglo-Saxons?" https://www.archaeology.co.uk/articles/axe-the-anglo-saxons.htm
Germany's history: Christianity brought about the First, Second, and Third Reichs
The reason why Germany has so many castles, is due to the nature of the First Reich, which lasted 1,000 years. The First Reich was founded by Charlemagne and his three grandsons. Charlemagne defeated the tribes in Northern Germany that became known as “The Saxons” who formed the Thingdom of Saxony. He forced as “Holy Roman Kaiser/Caesar” the Lex Saxonum upon the Saxons. The Lex Saxonum was a list of Saxon Heathen practices that were outlawed, and a list of Christian practices that were commanded. Rejecting baptism and conversion brought about the death penalty. The Lex Saxonum was issued in 802 AD. When Charlemagne died, Lious the Pius took over the First Reich as Charlemagne’s only surviving son. However, Louis the Pius had three sons, who each took a portion of Charlemagne’s empire at Louis' death. This led to the formation of the nations of France (ruled by Charles the Bald), Germany (ruled by “Louis the German”), Switzerland and Italy, ruled by Lothair. However, over time, as Louis the German’s descendants did not hold on to control of their inheritance, the German states went back to ruling themselves, disunited. There were so many nobles ruling, that they built many castles for their own protection. This is the reason for so many German castles, no central king. France continued its Kingdom for centuries, until the French had enough and executed their final King centuries later. Germany was in a flux of small city states and other regional districts. Therefore in movies, it appears only the French and British have Kings, as that was the historical reality. German “dukes” always feared unification, as it could lead to war in Europe. They were right. This state of flux lasted in Germany for literally 1,004 years until 1806 when Napolean put an end to it by conquering Germany in the name of France. This led to the Rise of Prussia, who conquered the German states under what is known as the Second Reich, which brought Germany into nationhood in 1871. This brought about the former German dukes’ fear of how the French and British would react to a nation forming in the center of Europe threatening their “power” over Europe. They did not react kindly. The Second Reich was defeated in the First World War. The Third Reich rose from the ashes of the Second Reich. In short, dictatorous “kingdoms” have been a complete disaster, not just for Germany, but for all Europe. Hence, Heathenry can't have a king, nor pope, even if the “Vikings” had later Kings. Norwegian and Swedish Kings led to the demise of Heathenry itself in favor of Christian Kingdom over Heathen Thingdom. Of course, the tiny remnants of Theodish Belief will argue strongly for "sacral kings." However, there are differences between Saxon Heathenry (Aldsidu) and Theodish Belief. Saxon Heathenry does hold that communities may raise up a Drohtin, which is far from "dictator" and different than a king. Drohtins are still leaders but all have an equal vote in Saxon Thing, the Saxon Marklo.
Implications for Today?
We have too many "leaders" who have not read the Eddas, not cracked open a Saga, and teach either modern made-up things, or Wiccan and/or Christian things as "historical Heathen belief and practice" when they clearly are not. We have too many leaders who have not done their homework. Would a Rabbi not know the Talmud and Torah, the "scriptures" of its movement? Would a synagogue even have such a clueless Rabbi? While Heathenry doesn't have scriptures, too many are followed that clearly have not done their homework. Seems to be a pretty unique "Asatru" problem. I am the founder of a “lite organization” that uses a website (Aldsidu.com). What is a lite org? An education and networking website attached to a Facebook networking and educational page with a mission statement. The Website and the Facebook page do act independent from each other. Over 500 Saxon Heathens have accepted the mission statement, and have power to vote for changes in it if later proven to be unhistorical in any of its aspects. The Mission Statement is very basic, and no one reading it will disagree it only outlines the basic tenants of Old Saxon Heathenry, or Aldsidu, outlined in historical documents from the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th centuries. Individuals and Saxon Communities apply the mission statement only as the basic tenant to ensure that there is a common demoninator in belief (so to speak.) The mission statement basically lists the Gods/Goddesses, the holidays attested in historical sources, the timing of such holidays, the rites/rituals, and how to do them based on historical source evidence. Those that do not accept the deities, the holidays, the rites of the faith attested in historical sources (and in the mission statement) are on a different path. Each family, person, and community governs their own affairs completely independently. All members are equals. Aldsidu doesn't take money from people, or mail out certificates of membership. Historical Heathenry was not an organized religion in the modern sense of the word. Why the creation of Aldsidu? Asatru’s “racist” discussions (universalist vs. folkish) have gone on for four decades now, it is INSANE to continue that discussion. Racism is outlawed, and we moved on. OVER. We cannot accept bigotry in our ranks, and we are SICK TO DEATH of discussing it. Also, the lack of historical research and reconstruction has been too embarrassing for those of us in Aldsidu. Asatru is a fine path (Norse Deities with Wiccan holidays, and Wiccan/Christian rites/days), but a different one from Saxon Heathenry, and Saxon Heathens must be seen as separate from the racism and lack of research of Asatru. The Association for Historical Heathenry was founded by four people. The original team was sixteen people. It is wider than Aldsidu, as Aldsidu is only about the reconstruction of historical Saxon Heathenry. The Association for Historical Heathenry allows all Germanic tribal Heathenries that are historically based. (Swedes, Geats, Danes, Norwegians or Norse, Saxons, Frisians, etc etc etc). It is an organization dedicated to individuals within it having their complete freedom, and to as a community of equals defining what Heathenry was historically as a community, not by an org leader, king, or dictator. I believe strongly the Association for Historical Heathenry would not have been founded (or needed) had it not been for the race issues and lack of scholasticism in Asatru. Too many borrowed non-Norse/Germanic traditions within Asatru meant a clear separation was needed. Discussions on Walpurgis Night, a christian holy day named after a saint who persecuted Heathens, from a family who chopped down the Saxon Irminsul, is offensive and ignorant, along with other Christian non-Heathen days being accepted as “holidays.” As well as an over-reliance on the Wiccan Wheel of the Year and bullshit claims that this wheel was the historical Norse/Germanic holidays, and a Celtic circle Wiccan Sabbat style sumble, which ignores historical Heathen sumble in the Heathen Historical Poetry. Bringing in other Celtic/Gaelic and Wiccan elements calling them historical “Norse” or “Germanic” elements is unacceptable. While we respect Wicca, we acknowledge that Wiccans are not responsible for Asatru borrowing from their base of tradition, and that Asatru alone is responsible for its own lack of research, and chosen reliance on Wicca, an independent tradition outside of the Germanic/Norse Heathen umbrella.
Today, Heathenry must not have Kings. While Historical Heathens were concerned about glory, and their names living on after their deaths, our goals are to do this by passing our Heathenry to our children and then grandchildren. Heathen organizations have a place, but they should only have limited ones. (Networking and defining historical practices as a community based on solid research, and the reconstruction of the Old Ways for today are the only points of such “orgs.”) Organization leaders, whose names get so big, their name is synonymous with their organization, is not the Historical Heathen Thingdom Way. Leadership is building others, unselfishly. In a Kingdom, the King has the power. In a Thingdom, Heathens all have power via the Heathen Community.