Friday, April 26, 2013

Tribal Organization


While it is the case that most Pagans who are inspired by Wicca tend to organize themselves into covens (when they choose to belong to groups beyond themselves at all), this is most certainly not a universal thing amongst those who are most often held to be under the Pagan/Heathen umbrella. Take, for example, the phenomenon of modern tribalism.

Many people who practice Heathenry today organize themselves into tribes of one sort or another. This sort of organization into inangards and utgards (within-the-boundary and outside-the-boundary) is essential to the historical Germanic mindset, and sets the tone for many, if not most, Heathen forms of organization today.

The most obvious and ubiquitous of these organizational types is the kindred. Seen mostly within the Ásatrú community, kindreds are a basic form of tribalist grouping. The term “kindred” itself implies a sort of pseudo-familial organization; through oaths or less formal mutual agreement, the individual members deem themselves to be “kin” with the other members of the group. This forms the most basic arrangement for identity among the members of the group; those who are kin, and those who are not. This also applies to other terms also used for the same purpose, such as sippe, which comes from the German word for “clan”, or théod, which is derived from the Anglo-Saxon term meaning “tribe”.

Within the tribal structure, there are a variety of different models of organization. Some, such as those who practice Théodish Belief, use a sacral leadership model. In this model, the sacral leader (in some cases, an actual sacral king) is the intermediary between the Gods and the folk, and a semi-feudal structure is employed to bring the Luck of the Gods to the individual members of the tribe (done through a series of oaths that ultimately lead up to the sacral leader).

Others have a less feudal system and simply have one member of the tribe in a position of goði (an Old Norse word for chieftain/priest). In this model, the leader is usually the one who conducts the actual rituals and possibly does other organizational work, but the position is much more fluid. Others can perform rituals for the tribe as a whole, and there is no implication that the individual members don’t have a more direct line to the Gods.

Still other tribes are more democratic in nature, with elections of leaders for specific periods of time. In such situations, the leader is usually less involved in sacral matters such as the conduct of ritual, and more in the more mundane aspects of administration (maintaining a bank account, making sure permits for using public spaces are obtained, etc.).

In all of these models (and there are of course others), it is also the case that sometimes a pair of leaders is chosen. Rarely, if ever, is there the sort of male/female duality implicit in such an arrangement that might be commonplace to other forms of Pagan religion.

Just a reminder that it's not all covens and high priestesses out there. There's a big, beautiful, diverse world under the Pagan/Heathen umbrella.

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