Me and The Troth,
We Go Way Back
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A description of my ongoing involvement in a fine Heathen organization
I can't really remember just WHEN I first became involved with The (Ring of) Troth or even when I first heard about the organization. I've seen it evolve a lot over time and hope that my personal reflections on our past will inspire you to become more involved, and make our future an even greater one!
Here are some key points of reference: the oldest Idunnas I have go back to 1994. I passed them on to a friend back when I had very little storage space, and borrowed them back recently to re-read them. So, I've been involved for at least seven years! I also remember corresponding with Kveldulf back when he was living in Sweden, but I don't remember the exact date. My membership and involvement have been continuous, with one brief break of less than a year. Here's the story behind that:
Some years ago, there was a big, nasty tiff between two Troth officers. I had already promised myself, once I had realized how nasty Heathen politics could be, that if they ever got bad enough that I started asking myself if there was something in the religion itself that was to blame, that I would put enough distance between myself and the politics to enable me to continue to practice our religion in peace. That's what I did, and I politely let folks in the Heathen community know what I was doing and why. That may well have been the end of the matter except for Lavrans. He was Wordsmith for The Troth at the time and emailed me asking that even though I felt it necessary not to renew my membership in The Troth, would I please consider staying on as a subscriber to Idunna? I realized that I would really miss the magazine, so that is what I did.
Soon, Diana took over as Shope. Idunna started coming out regularly. Nasty politics disappeared. I was training in Seidhr under her, and as a vote of confidence in what she was doing with The Troth, I rejoined the group and have been an active member ever since. So, when it comes to membership recruitment and retention, nothing beats a personal touch! Keep that in mind as you interact with your fellow Heathens. I've learned from experience that Heathen politics will flare every few years, and The Troth has proven its ability to weather them and let the quality people come out on top. We've weathered more than one bout of unpleasantness since the aforementioned tiff, and The Troth is still going strong. I truly believe that we have stood the test of time.
We have some wonderful accomplishments to boast of in The Troth. One of the finest is the massive Heathen book Our Troth. Out of print for the last several years, most of it is nevertheless online, linked from http://www.thetroth.org/, and it should be re-issued in an updated edition in the reasonably near future. Some chapters will need to be re-written, since we were not able to get permission from the authors of those chapters to re-use the material. In addition to Our Troth online, a great deal more useful information is archived on our website.
Another thing of which we can all justifiably be proud is Trothmoot. Current plans are to have half of them in Indiana, with the others alternating between the East and West Coasts. I encourage you to attend as often as you can. Being able to communicate in person with fellow Trothmembers, even if only for a few days, adds greatly to your experience in The Troth. You'll also find that once you have a face, a voice, and a personality to put with individuals you have met online, that the relationship in many cases deepens. Trothmoot has managed to maintain a very good balance between fun for adults and being a good place to bring your children to. While, for adults, there is plenty of mead and beer to go around, it is still a very family-friendly gathering. The wild goings-on seen at some Neopagan gatherings are not a part of Trothmoot. There is, in my opinion, no finer place to meet sane, decent, serious, honest, lore-wise, and well-grounded Heathens than at Trothmoot!
Our clergy program is another fine asset. While it is currently undergoing much-needed updating, we can be proud of what it has done in the past and look ahead to even greater things. While, in all honesty, it cannot be compared with a Master's Degree in Divinity from an accredited seminary, The Troth's clergy program can and does do is provide the individual Heathen with a solid grounding in the lore of Germanic Paganism, point out and assist in the learning of essential skills needed in running a Heathen group (liturgical and people skills among others) and provide at least enough grounding in counseling/psychology to enable a Godman or Godwoman (the titles of Troth clergy) to acertain whether or not a Heathen coming in for counseling needs to be referred on to a mental health professional. Since final exams are given orally at Trothmoot, and candidates work with mentors, there are chances to evaluate candidates personally as well.
The Troth's clergy program continues to graduate a small but steady stream of candidates who are serving as clergy with great enthusiasm and competency. The Elder program, which is much more academic, requires graduation from the clergy program as a prerequisite, and (I have occasionally heard) may be renamed the "Loremaster" program, does continue to function but not to the same degree as the clergy program.
While I decided not to graduate from the program due to a decreasing desire at this point in my life to function as public clergy, I remain a resource person for teaching skills useful in the program, including liturgics/blot construction, seidhr/spae work, runework (especially divination), and lore studies to members of The Troth's clergy program, "lay" Troth members, and others. One ongoing problem has been loss of application materials and long delay time in getting back to applicants to the program on the subject of their application to the program. Also, I would like to see the extensive reading list "prioritized" and annotated. I don't think anyone could read it all!
Raudhildr wisely points out from time to time that not all members of The Troth are online, and that many do not wish to or cannot be. For that reason, The Troth's services are available offline as well. Nevertheless, a great many of us are online. For online Troth members, we now have two lively, interesting, and very informative lists, Trothmembers and Trothclergy. Trothmembers is described on The Troth's website. If you write to The Troth to inquire about or apply to the clergy program, please be sure to ask about the Trothclergy list.
Another thing of which all of us can be proud is that The Troth does NOT discriminate based on race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. While we are not the only Heathen group to take this stance, we have taken it proudly, publicly, and from our very beginnings. I wish this were true throughout Heathendom but that, unfortunately, is not the case. There are groups out there ranging from mildly socially conservative to frighteningly racist. The gay, lesbian, bisexual, and non-"Anglo" members of The Troth are very active in and very well integrated into the organization and serve at the highest levels.
There is a definite consensus that Heathenism advocates a balanced and active life. Our membership includes individuals with a variety of trades and professions, and recently two members assisted at the site of the World Trade Center (Galina as a clergy volunteer and Gus as a volunteer worker).
Idunna has definitely evolved over time. On a mundane level, I am grateful for the slightly larger font size! The appearance of the magazine has also become more professional. One of the biggest changes I've noted since reading the latest issue of Idunna while re-reading issues from seven years back is that the magazine has gone from being a semi-scholarly journal to (in my opinion) a nice balance of scholarly articles of interest to Heathens, "how-to" articles on contemporary practice of our religion, and news from members and their groups. The sense of "community" in The Troth has greatly grown. I believe that that started at Trothmoots, was greatly enhanced by our two email lists, and has started to manifest in Idunna as well.
I believe that we will see The Troth continue to grow, evolve, and fine-tune itself as time continues go by. Here are a few dreams from my Troth "wish-list":
A continued growth in size of our community, without a decline in its quality, especially in the feeling of being in a very real way a family.
The eventual purchase of sacred sites, first in the USA, and as growth occurs elsewhere, in other countries as well. One site should be in the Midwest, probably Indiana. There should be one each on either coast, about midway down. Were a land fund established, I would contribute monthly and I suspect many others would too. While the purchase of land may be a long way off, preparations can and in my opinion should begin soon! Sales of burial plots would help a lot too. I'd love to reserve a niche for my ashes inside a long barrow. That way, you young folks could come sit out on the barrow and I could continue to distribute my sage advice from Alfheim, or Hel, or wherever I wind up!
A list of our personal websites on www.thetroth.org, so we can get to know each other better and give Troth members access to the information on Heathenism that many of us have researched, written up, and put online. I understand that this is in the works.
Lastly: the huge amount of information in old, out of print issues of Idunna needs to be put online. I didn't keep all of mine in the past, as I mentioned earlier, and others were destroyed by the nefarious actions of a very naughty cat! I hear the online Idunna project is also being planned.
Here are some final observations:
Our views of our religion change over time. Mine have remained lore-based, lore-inspired, and in almost all cases lore-feasible, but at the same time are more rooted in life in the present day. I'm still interested in picking up Icelandic one of these days but no longer think that we all NEED to learn it. I remember reading either in A Book of Troth or Teutonic Religion that the leader of a Heathen group should be learning German! I think that having a personal life, making a living, being active in the community in which you live, and running Heathen activities for others is quite enough for Joe or Jane Heathen to undertake, without detailed language studies too!
While there is plenty available in English, German and the Scandinavian languages, and perhaps French as well, Germanic Heathenism continues to grow and spread, often into unexpected places. I work from time to time with folks who need to be able to learn our religion in Spanish, French, and Portuguese. More needs to be available, in more languages both on and off the Internet, and I'd like to see The Troth continue to expand worldwide. Maybe one day I'll find time to translate my own writings, at least into Spanish. If you have language skills, you can help here! Please email me at Jordsvin@earthlink.net.
There is much that The Troth can do and can become, but one thing I DON'T see us becoming is a Heathen equivalent of the organized religions that many of us left in disgust. I don't ever see us organizing big congregations. We're too independent, and our religion and our approaches to it too personal, for that to work in the long run. I DO believe that Heathens will continue to buy and dedicate land and put up small hofs (temples), but a Heathen analogue to Notre Dame Cathedral is not something I see us ever doing!
Ultimately, the future of The Troth, and of Germanic Religion in general, is in YOUR hands. How can you be involved? First of all, be the best Heathen you can, both in your specifically "religious" activities and in your life in general. Second, help others learn about our religion. Build a webpage and put a link to www.thetroth.org on it. Write an article for Idunna. Please consider organizing a local Heathen group of some sort, and also consider applying to the Troth's clergy program for some very useful help, even if you are not sure you will graduate or be a godperson in the long run. And finally, wherever you meet interested people, be they Heathens, potential Heathens, Pagans, or whatever, show off your Idunna's and encourage folks to subscribe. They make GREAT gifts by the way!
Looking forward to many more wonderful years in The Troth, I remain,
Very sincerely yours,
last modified 07/21/2003