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Evolved From?


Garman here.
>> .As a result of this dialog, I am beginning to understand that
>> Theodism is probably not a part of this metaphorical Tree of Greater
>> Heathenry of which I speak, but more properly a branch of the
>> entirely separate family of pan-pagan beliefs, being evolved from
>> wicca. Asatru heathens usually make a point of disassociating
>> ourselves from such hybrids as Norse-wiccans; if the same principle
>> applies, then properly speaking, Theodism should not be included in
>> heathenry.  Perhaps Garman's otherwise fine tome should have been
>> more properly titled "The Way of the Pagan".
If I may insert a point here: Speaking as the man who introduced the term "heathen" to the Reawakening community (as opposed to "paganry," which is what the PC types used to call their variants of Asatru, because they were afraid, in PR terms, of the "negative connotations" of "heathenry"...) I hope we have a sufficiently strict understanding here of the sense of Theodism "being evolved from Wicca."
In a loose historical sense, it is perhaps accurate enough to say that Theodism evolved from Wicca... if the process of mutating from "paganry" to "heathenry" can be called an "evolution." When it comes down to narrower definitions, however, it has been usual for me to say that Theodism "apostated" out of Wicca; in other words, a certain clique of us who were Wiccans at the time decided that Wicca wasn't it, and broke away to form Theodism, which we saw as a completely different path. It is perhaps worth frankly mentioning some of the particulars of that event back in 1976, such as that, in doing so, we broke certain oaths and such that one normallyswears in joining a Wicca coven. However, we did so with clear consciences, because we knew and could prove that such oaths as we had sworn had been exacted under false pretexts and were, accordingly, never contractually valid in the first place. And the Wicca of the time seemed to agree with us in most respects, such as agreeing that our new path wasn't Wicca, and in duly
excommunicating us, complete with casting the appropriate kinds of spells on us and our doings and the horse we rode in on and all that, which spells we ended up ferreting out and undoing with appropriate hocus-pocus of our own over time, needless to say.
Anyway, to come back to the point, it seems crucial to be clear on the topic of what is meant by anyone "evolving" out of Wicca. Anyone who knows Wicca, historically, will probably know that, as a troth, Wicca itself has changed and mutated pretty drastically over the years, in an historical process that has been fickle as th' inconstant moon-goddess, and hardly anybody, including the coven we broke away from, is doing anything today like they were originally doing back then or, in most cases, even calling it Wicca anymore. Back then, the coven we broke away from was Algard, and mostly following the gospel according to Alex Sanders/Hans Holzer and, later, East Coast pan-
Gardnerianism. The current incarnation of that early group is today doing what it characterizes as something along the lines of Druidic and Faerie, with perhaps a bit of trad stuff mixed in. At the same time, it has hauled along most of its old historical Wicca, which it today considers pretty much "outer court," tends to scoff up and absorb newer Wicca covens wherever it happens to come across and infiltrate them, and still has all that Book of Shadows stuff, such as the "ardanes," which it seems to still recognize as part of its overall corpus. In that sense, I suppose you could classify them as "historically agglutinative." My point though, is that, whatever it is, it certainly could be classed as an "evolution" of Wicca, in some useful sense... and a relatively conservative one at that.
Not, however, the only one, nor even the mainstream one. Since those old days of the late sixties/early seventies, Wicca has everywhere evolved into something-or-other, with the most usual kind being into ideology or identity politics, or what we Theodish call hyphenated Wicca: Dianic-Wicca, Feminist-Wicca, Gay-Wicca, Native American-Wicca, Qabbalistic-Wicca, Norse-Wicca, Klingon-Wicca, you name it. None of these variants, obviously, would have been acceptable or even intelligible to GB Gardner, Alex Sanders, Aleister Crowley or whoever. All of them, however, prove on even casual observation to be authentically and unmistakeably Wicca, even if they have had to redefine Wicca along the way to become and remain so, as such they are true "evolutions," and the general thrust of that evolution has been toward a general blend and melding with the greater neopagan sensibility.
It is in the sense that Theodism never did anything of the kind, then, that to characterize Theodism as "having evolved out of Wicca" could only be pretty misleading, since in 1976 the breach that was made was theologically radical and epistemologically complete, and by the end of the seventies it was existentially complete, to the point where no one at that time who knew anything about both cults could ever have guessed that the core people in Theodism used at one time to be Wiccans unless he were told so... which, of course, everyone always was; Theodism has never made any secret of its proto-origins in Wicca.
Truth to tell, in 1976 it would even have been existentially complete, had there been any way for it to be so. But of course there wasn't. In 1976, any idea of "heathenry" on American shores, or how to practice it, was still total terra incognita; European heathenry, such as it was, was still unknown in America, Steve McNallen was still in the Army, and even Asatru hadn't been invented yet. In order to practice heathenry at all, Theodism had to start from scratch with an almost totally blank slate and simply sketch out the whole picture ourselves as best we could with our own strenuous researches, a task which took us pretty much the rest of the seventies to whip into any kind of useful shape.
We really did start from nothing. Theodism was built up entirely from the heathen bedrock, and has certainly evolved alright, but from Theodism itself Theodism has never been anything but Theodish, and owes absolutely nothing to any other extant tradition. As to Wicca, none of us ever looked back, from the seventies til now, and today's Theodsman is no more than intellectually aware that there was ever a Wiccan origin, to the extent that the subject seems a curiosity when it does come up in story-telling and discussion. I remember it once coming up in a conversation with Valgard Murray, where he surprised me by remarking to me that the thing he liked best about Theodism was its complete lack of any traces of its Wiccan origins other than on my say-so; he even remarked, shaking his head, that he rather wondered how we had done it. Considering both Valgard's opinion of Wicca and the opinion he had originally had of Theodism, and considering that if there is any Asatruer who knows and could speak for Asatru it would surely be Valgard Murray, an Asatruer's Asatruer if anyone ever was, I could only regard that as a highly positive epistemological endorsement!
I could certainly go on to substantiate, in various ways, everything that I have said above, but only at the price of boring this hall even more than it must be bored already at so much over-nice scrutiny of what would doubtless appear to be, and doubtless really are, mainfestly specious issues. Paganry? In Theodism? No; of course not; we ain't that dumb, and never were. If we ever were, on the other hand, no one could really accuse us of anything like that without first coming up with some useful standard of definition for such a thing, and that is not something that anyone could reasonably expect to see coming out of Asatru as she stands today. Asatru has the historical experience to know and understand such things, but what it lacks is the epistemological coherency to be able to plainly declare and demonstrate them.
In fact, any informed heathen of any stripe already knows, personally and officially, what Theodism is; it's a subject that has by now almost been beat to death. Any well-read heathen could probably cite a half-dozen sources in heathen community standard literature which, taken severally or together, define authoritatively, comprehensively and fairly exactly what Theodism is and isn't. Until Asatru could make some similar claim, however, it could make no similar case.
It has not been unusual for us all, unfortunately, to see instances of individual Asatruers occasionally claiming to define for us all, inclusively or exclusively of Theodism, what heathenry is or is not, though in most cases accompanied with the necessary cavil that they are not speaking for all of Asatru but only expressing one man's opinion. As a footnote to that, I think even most knowledgeable Asatruers, having themselves encountered many such attempts at "What Is Asatru" -type definitions, would agree with me that they are not only non-authoritative, but inevitably too self-servingly narrow, limited, epistemologically off-topic and even ill-informed.
Does Asatru possess, in its vast teeming ranks, any experts on the subject of heathenry, or even Asatru? Yes; in fact I think it does. Does it have any useful mechanism for distinguishing, recognizing or even regularly acknowledging such men, and the usefulness to itself and the rest of us of their contributions? Quite manifestly, it does not. Meanwhile, even in these best of cases, until it becomes possible for someone to authoritatively tell us what Asatru itself is, any essays by an Asatruer to define for us what Theodism is, or even what heathenry is, will be bound to be disadvantaged and wide of the mark.