AlThings-Past, Present and Future
by Valgard Murray
The Thing is defined by The Dictionary of Northern Mythology as "The legislative and executive assembly of free men in Germanic antiquity...In the free state of Iceland the Althing was the latter day successor of the Germanic Thing and was a proper legislative and jurisdictional parliament...."
We know from numerous ancient accounts that our ancestors held the legislative body known as the Thing to be sacred. The Germans, according to Tacitus, allowed the whole community to debate major isues at the assembly where the priests were in charge of the proceedings. Tacitus wrote in The Germania , "The Assembly is competent also to hear criminal charges, especially those involving the risk of capital punishment. The mode of execution varies according to the offense. Traitors and deserters are hanged on trees; cowards, shirkers, and sodomites are pressed down under a wicker hurdle into the slimy mud of a bog...Less serious offenses, too, have penalties proportioned to them. The man who is found guilty has to pay a fine of so many horses or cattle, part of which goes to the king or the state, part to the victim of the wrongful act or to his relatives."
We also know that the Thing elected judges and magistrates to administer justice in the villages. Also, the Thing was the proper place to present a young man with his weapons, a public recognition of his manhood.
The Swedish Thing had the power to elect or depose a King. With the final evolution of the thing principal in Iceland, they extended the mandate of the Thing to become a governmental body of freemen. The concept of Lords and Kings had now become obsolete.
By the time that Tacitus wrote of the Germans in the year 348 Runic Era, it is clear that the concept of the Thing, and its sanctity in the culture of the Germanic people was already quite ancient. So one would surmise that the ideal of self government, the sacred respect for tribal law, and the sacredness of the Thing itself, evolves from the primal past of our ancestors. Only the ancestral soul knows how long our Folk practiced self rule.
Ancient Thing sites have been identified in Continental Europe, the British Isles, Scandinavia, and many of the North Sea Islands peopled by our Folk. Most often they were marked with a circle of stones. The old accounts tell us that the actual Thing site was protected by a marked boundary. Most often a rope was used, perhaps strung around poles. Once you entered the Thing boundary, you were bound by tribal law to respect the proceedings and conduct yourself in such a way that lent dignity and decorum to the proceedings.
Some of the most well known Thing sites of ancient times are; Frosta and Gula in Norway; Uppsala and Skara in Sweden; and Viborg and Oresund in Denmark, The most well known of such sites though is Thingvellir in Iceland. Located about 25 miles East of Reykjavik, it is a National Park and fully protected for future generations.
In the book Thingvellir written by Thorsteinn Gudjunsson, he defines the three main factors that constitute a valid Thing;
1. The recitation of the Law, the pronouncement of sentences, issuance of summons, and public announcements.
2. Judicial proceedings and decisions about the validity of Law, and the Law Council.
3. The audience of Thing people (the Folk).
The first AlThing was held at Thingvellir in the year 1180 Runic Era, and was believed to be a continuation of the Norwegian Thing presided over by Law Speaker, Thorleif the Wise. The three Icelanders who were given credit for the founding of the AlThing in Iceland are; Ulfljotr, Goat hair, and Thorsteinn Ingolfsson who was the son of the first settler of Iceland.
The judicial body that composed the first AlThing was the Gothar of Iceland who sent 36 of their number to form the first law body. This was after the custom of the Norwegians, except in Norway, Jarls and Chiefs shared the law making decisions with the Gothar. In Iceland, it would be different. Thus the Godic Republic was born. Free of the fetters of Kings, Earls, and the wealthy who had taken control of the law from the people earlier on.
The first order of business at the first Icelandic AlThing, was to choose a Law Speaker. Of special note was the first law passed, which prohibited warships from scaring the Land Spirits with their dragon head prows.
The ancient AlThing was called to order by the Allsherjargothi. This means "every man's priest". The Allsherjargothi was considered first among equals. But other than opening the AlThing with Blot, he had no more power or duties than any of the other members of the Gothar. Although we do not know for sure which of the High Ones was honored with Blot at the Icelandic AlThings, place names survive to this day in Norway and Sweden which attest to Njord's, Freyr's, and Tyr's Law being in force in local districts.
The Icelandic Althings soon progressed into both a judicial and legislative body which became the government of Iceland. This historical feat was unprecedented anywhere else in the Northern world, and became the model for later AlThings in Greenland and Vinland. I have no doubt in my mind that the Constitution and form of the government of the United States is soundly based upon the principles of the early Heathen AlThings, not upon the monarchies and king's law espoused in the Christian bible. That the law of the United States is founded upon Semitic law is one of the biggest lies ever told.
Although the Godic republic thrived for thirty years in Iceland, this all came to an end with the coming of Christianity. King Olaf of Norway seized a number of hostages, the children of many of the leading citizens of Iceland. He sent word to the AlThing of 1250 Runic Era, that unless the Thing recognized Christianity as legal and above par with Asatru in Iceland, he would execute the children.
After days of heated debate, the AlThing delegates came to a compromise which would make Christianity the religion of Iceland, but at the same time allowing private worship of the old Gods. A few years later, with Christians in firm control, they made it the death penalty for anyone to worship the old Gods even in private. Asatru then went underground, and the Godic Republic effectively died.
In Iceland they still call their legislative body the AlThing, and it is the oldest continuous legislative body on the planet. Such is the legacy of our ancestors.
PRESENT DAY ALTHINGS
With the rebirth of Asatru in Europe around the beginning of this century, AlThings were once again held by the Folk. Not much is known about the revival of this most important gathering of the Folk, but the bombs and bullets of World War two soon silenced the new Thing Speakers. Asatru went underground again for a short period of time.
In the year 2238 Runic Era, Asatru was revived both in Vinland and Iceland by pioneers of the Folk. Stephen McNallen in Vinland and Sveinbjorn Benteinsson in Iceland began to publicly worship the old Gods and Goddesses and proclaimed to the Folk that Asatru Lives!
In Iceland, Sveinbjorn and Thorsteinn Gudjonsson went to the Icelandic Government and demanded that Asatru be recognized by the AlThing. After some predictable political maneuvering, and a lightening bolt striking the Minister of Religious Affair house (lightening is very rare in Iceland), Asatru was recogized as the official religion of Iceland on equal par with the other state religion, Lutheranism.
At the same time in Vinland, Steve McNallen, soon joined by Maddy Hutter and a handful of other Asatruar, worked to formulate and rebuild a religion long thought dead, burned, and buried. By diligently studying the ancient Sagas, Eddas, and supporting historical documents, Steve was able to piece together much of the lore and heritage of the past and document it for study and practice by modern day Asatruar. The Asatru Free Assembly was born.
In the year 2230 Runic Era, Steve announced plans for the First Annual AlThing of the AFA which was held in Northern California. This first national gathering of the Folk became a tradition which continues to this very day. Although the AlThings of the AFA were not really AlThings in the true sense of the word, there was no reading of the Law and no legislative body, there were members of the Folk present, so it was a good start.
At the AFA AlThings, there were Blots, formal Feasts, Sumbels, Ceremonies of the Folk, seminars, guided meditations, skaldic contests, and many other activities which made them both historic and memorable occasions. They could be favorably compared to the Folk Moots originally produced by the Odinist Fellowship, and later by the Arizona Kindred and Thorr's Hammer Kindred. There have been other regional gatherings which have been organized by independent Asatru groups and called AlThings, but they did not fit the criteria of an AlThing, so are in effect Moots. I'm sure there will be others who mistakenly call their getherings AlThings in the future, but are in effect holding Moots. This error on their behalf should be brought to their attention.
In the year 2237, the Asatru Free Assembly was dissolved. This was not the end of Althings, though, but really the beginning. Seven surviving Kindreds of the late AFA worked together to continue the AlThings and the religion of Asatru in Vinland. In the late Summer of 2237 they drafted a set of By Laws which in effect would become the first set of codified Asatru Laws in Vinland. They then invited every known Asatruar in the country to an AlThing to legally discuss and then vote upon these proposed set of By Laws.
On Midyear 18, 2238 R.E. AlThing 8 was formally opened with a Tyr Blot performed by Valgard Murray and Thorsteinn Thorarinsson. This first true AlThing in Vinland was called to order by an elected Thing Speaker. A delegate was chosen to sit on the Thing council from each Kindred present, and then the proposed By Laws were read, debated, and then voted upon. Asatru history was made the day that the Asatru Alliance was founded and The Annual AlThing of the Asatru Alliance of Independent Kindreds continues to this day.
While the Thing is the most important business of the AlThing gathering, and takes precedence over any other activity, time allowing, there are also many other religious, cultural, social, sporting, and other events at a modern day AlThing. It is without a doubt the largest and most important Asatru gathering in Vinland.
ALTHINGS OF THE FUTURE
As Asatru continues to evolve, so does the AlThing. As the ancestral Soul of our Folk strengthens, so will the devotion and dedication of the Folk. What once was a loose confederation of independent Kindreds, is now a closely knit Asatru Community developing its own traditions and heritage as it grows. The true Gothar of the Asatru Community are working together to build the Nation of Odin, and prepare the Folk for the Wolf Age soon to come.
I see in the future, the rebirth of the Godic Republic here in Vinland, with the AlThing as the legislative and judicial body as in times of old. I see the Nation of Odin growing and prospering as the Folk return to their ancient and sacred ways, and I see the Gods and Goddesses of Asgard pouring their blessings upon the Folk once again.