I am in an airport, waiting. Airports are whirlwinds of activity with people rushing to make connections for their flights, or just to get out of the airport and back to the regular world. And like whirlwinds, they contain spaces, and people, for which they find a stillness. Today, I find myself in the still part at the center of the airport. My flight isn't for hours, and I have a time — not much time, but a time — to think and reflect on this weekend.
Seven years ago, when I first began exploring what has become the defining center of meaning around which all my life revolves, I was just coming out of the darkest period of my life, where but for the grace and love of friends, I cannot say that I would have survived. I had lost a job I hated, a woman I loved, a home that no longer felt like a home, and the only identity and life that I had ever known. I had climbed my way out of that pit, mostly crawling, and stumbling, but each day I was showing progress. I wasn't looking for meaning to redefine my identity, in truth, I was mostly following something out of idle curiosity. Eventually, I would catch a glimpse of something, and now I am chasing it every day.
Five years ago, having crafted a community, Iron Clay Shire, I met the man who would become my Lord and Friend on a swelteringly hot Labor Day weekend about an hour south of Atlanta, GA. That weekend, I self-proclaimed myself a weofodman, a priest, based on my deeds and my worth at the time. At the time, I believed I had worth, and I did, after a fashion, but it was self-crafted, self-taught, and self made. It was a thing built with clumsy hands not used to shaping it. And while it was a beautiful thing, it was a fragile one, and when it was put to the test, it cracked and shattered, leaving me to pick up the pieces and trying to figure out what flaw I introduced into the shape.
Two years ago, I was pretty sure I had knew the shape of the meaning that I wanted to create. I was sure I understood, and what I needed was technique to refine the raw meaning I was creating into something greater than it was, something greater than I was. Still, I knew to have worth is to have worthed, that to become someone of worth, one must undertake those things that make one worthy. Almost anyone can call themselves Heathen these days, even Atheists and Bast-worshipers, but to call oneself a Theodsman means that one must have become a theodsman. And so, in a mexican restaurant in Towson Maryland, I sold all the worth of the previous 5 years at a price of one lucky penny and entered into the service of White Marsh.
The thing about thralldom they don't tell you is that it is rarely the service that constrains you the most. The service is easy, because it is visible and expected. During my thralldom, my mother, who has long battled several health issues, was facing the amputation of her left leg. In my previous life, I would have offered on her behalf to the holy powers that I worship in hopes that they would speed her recovery. However, I accepted a penny and lost that penny, and losing that lost the ability to make that offering on my own behalf. I had to stand in petition to my Lord, and ask him to offer on my behalf. A small thing, but to me who is used to doing for others, doing for himself, or doing without, it was a hard thing. It was the hardest thing. It meant accepting my decisions, and admitting my vulnerability and fear. It meant leaning on others instead of simply being there to be leaned upon. It was the day I became a Theodsman and saw the worth in having a theod, because when every man is an island, then we are an Archipelago at the mercy of tides that may choose to rise.
Last year was a big year for me. I worthed my way into White Marsh's service and gave my Oath to her Lord. I watched my best friend and his lady wife ask for a penny. I took a thrall of my own and sought to teach what I had just learned.
The last year was one of the hardest and most rewarding years of my life. I learned what the Belief looked like at my Lord's knee. I learned how to live it by standing as Lord and teacher to a Thrall of my own. My experience in teaching a young mother, a ferocious and fearless intellect, and yet, someone vulnerable, needing their own strong arm to protect them while they went through the ordeals of living and worthing. While I dedicated myself to teaching her the things that I think one should know to be a Theodsman, she was teaching me what it meant to be a Theodsman. Her questions made me think about the tradition. The things she faced have taught me the nature of lordship, and breathed life and meaning into the form of our way of life.
This past weekend, we gathered in Maryland to once again celebrate our gods and each other. Like last year, I was once again looking at the culmination of a project, at enjoying the fruit of a year's long working. Ashli Thrall Autio was ready to Cheap her abraidness. She had woven hasty words into a material culture, giving birth to a gift for the Theod worthy of her freedom. Having her win her freedom so was a joy and a wonder, and I was privileged to see it done.
This Liða, two free men asked me to hear their oaths, and I in joy and duty could seen no reason not to hear them. My lord in jest and in love did terrify me by gainsaying the first oath to hight me a Thegn, and in so honoring me, terrified me even further. I have two men in my hold, another Thrall in service, and the religious education and action to oversee. Only now, some 2,000 miles and 3 days away from the event, is the ramifications beginning to settle. I am honored beyond words, terrified to the limits of good reason, and humbled by the love and respect of those whom I love and respect.
Before I was born, my parents lost a son in childbirth. Christopher would have been the firstborn, and just a year and a half older than I. But the Wyrdæ weave and all must bend to the pattern so I grew up having lost a brother I never knew. In the fullness of my adult years, I found the brother I always wanted. Derek Benton is a better man than I, stronger both in body and in morals, and in ease having beers on the back porch as he is discussing wine at a finely set table. He has been my companion for over 5 years, and has shared my joys and my pains all that time. This weekend, we mixed blood and earth and, in the witness of our Lord and folk, declared each other brother, to share our joys and our sorrows, our lines, our homes, and eventually our graves. He will never lack a man to guard his back, even if he takes forever to stab a man in the thumb.
To my Lord White Marsh, Brian Smith: your faith in me is fearless and unrelenting. For you I would move mountains and cross continents, my service is yours for as long as you so wish it.
To my Men, Jonathan Knoche and Ashli Autio: Your trust in me and your presence at my back are what keep me moving forward. I am humbled by it and will ever be your shield and shelter, in hard times and in ease.
To my new Thrall, Derek Autio: Make me proud, duder. You're capable of it so many times over.
To Hwítmerscingas eall: We are going to do amazing things together. I cannot wait to see the amazing things of which you are capable.