Chapter XXX
Hearths and Garths
The Troth Hearth 
The Hearth is the Troth's Kindred-unit - a small group of folk who gather to worship, study, and keep heathen fellowship together. Whether the Hearth-folk are kin in blood or only in spirit and love, the title shows their relationship: they are gathered around the hearth, the heart of the home, together. 
Step I: Birth 
A Troth Hearth must have at least two adult members of the Troth. It is not necessary for any of the Hearth members to hold a title within either the Troth or the Hearth itself. Most Hearths, however, choose to have a leader. Some possible titles for such a position, which do not infringe on recognised Troth offices, are: Fro/Frowe (implying a peaceful land-ruler); Drighten/Drightine (a band with a specific goal, linked to a single leader by bonds of loyalty); or Kin-Leader. The choice of leadership and the level of authority which the Hearth's leader can exercise is something which only the Hearth can determine for itself. The Troth does not appoint local leaders at this level, nor will it support one person's claim over another's. If two people are incapable of working together, the Troth recommends that they found separate Hearths, which will be considered equally legitimate so long as neither engages in unsuitable behavior such as public attacks on the other. This principle applies all the way up to the level of the Troth Hof. Troth recognition of any group does not constitute a designation of exclusive legitimacy in its area. 
Large and highly organized Hearths may wish to create offices along the lines of Shope (secretary) and Steward (treasurer). These appointments, again, are strictly local choices. Unless the Hearth is highly active and dealing with large amounts of money, or has incorporated itself independently as a tax-free religious organization, they are probably unnecessary at this level. 
Step 2: Naming 
Any group with two or more adult members of the Troth may apply for Hearth status by sending its chosen name, a list of members, a brief description of its organization and activities, and the address of a P.O. box to be recorded in the Troth rolls; the Hearth name, address, and the name of your group's "contact person" (who must be a Troth member, and should be the leader of the group) will then be listed in Idunna, and the Rede will vote on chartering the group after 60 days following publication. Chartered groups will receive certificates and have their group name and contact addresses listed in Idunna. 
The possession of a P.O. box is mandatory: for the safety of all Troth folk, our publications will not print home addresses. Remember, there are always a few strange people on the edges of every path, and some of them, unfortunately, can be dangerous. When registering the P.O. Box, remember that mail sent to a name other than that in which the box is held will be returned by the post office, and choose the name by which your group wants to be known. 
Many true folk choose to take new names when beginning their work with the god/esses of the North - either for spiritual reasons (wishing a name which springs from our ancestral culture) or for the practical reason of concealing their identities. The Troth neither encourages nor discourages this practise. 
Step 3: Deeds 
The chief duty of a Troth Hearth is to perform the blessings of the year and to hallow the passages of life (birth, coming--of-age, death) for its members. At the very least, a Hearth must keep the feasts of Yule, Ostara, and Winternights. The full schedule of holy days provides for a greater or lesser blessing approximately once a month, according to the following schedule: 
January - Þorrablót or Feast of Thonar 
February - Disting 
Late March/early April - Ostara 
April 30 - May Eve 
June 20 - Midsummer's Eve 
August 1 - Loaf-Fest or Freyfaxi 
late September/early October - Winternights 
November, third Thursday - Wayland Smith's Day (modern) 
December 20 through January 1 - Yule 
Some heathens of the modern era have also introduced the custom of gathering for rites on the full moon and/or for special feasts to honour heroic wo/men of the earlier days, held upon the ninth day of each month. 
Prior to each feast, it is best to have at least a full day when the Hearth gathers together to discuss the meaning of the feast and, if the rite requires everyone's participation, to rehearse it. A good means for bringing the group together is to prepare for feasts with communal crafts - painting eggs for Ostara, making tomtegubbers (corn dollies) at the autumnal equinox and Winternights, tree ornaments for Yule, and so forth. 
Since no official qualification is required for Hearth leadership, there is no specific teaching requirement. However, the legal classification of the Hearth is that of a church Study Group, and therefore it is strongly suggested that the group to meet at least once a week for study of some sort - Depending on the group, this may range from simply reading and discussing the basic myths to discussions of the most esoteric matters. Members who have special skills or special lore should be strongly encouraged to share their capabilities with the rest of the group. Especially those who brew mead. 
All groups from the level of Hearth upward should have at least a few basic texts. The list may be found at the back of this book, in "Book-Hoard". 
Step 4: Growth 
Hearths usually begin as gatherings of a few family members or friends. For the reasons discussed above, the Troth does not suggest that you advertise directly for members when you feel that the time has come to expand. A better method is to begin a study group or set of classes for interested folk on neutral ground, such as your local library or metaphysical bookstore. If there is a Unitarian church in your neighborhood, you may be able to arrange for use of their facilities; should you have access to some sort of neutral ground on a regular basis, you can also put out flyers inviting interested folk to come to open rituals and/or to contact you via your P.O. box. 
Once you have gotten to know new people well, you can think about inviting them home. The Troth does not require any screening procedures or time of trial, so the novice can join the Troth itself right away. However, most groups wait for a period of three to six months between a candidate's request for admittance and full recognition of that person as a Hearth/Garth member. An individual Hearth, Garth, or Hof may choose to shut a person out of its own fellowship so long as this is not done for reasons of ethnic background, gender, or sexual preference. Groups found to be excluding candidates for any of these reasons will have their official status revoked and the member/s responsible will be expelled from the Troth. 
When new members are accepted into a Hearth, it is usual to perform a ritual of adoption by which that person states her/his will to take up the ways of his/her forebears and ties the bond of fellowship with the other kin of that Hearth. Such a rite is given in this book; other forms may be found in Kveldulf Gundarsson's Teutonic Religion and Edred Thorsson's A Book of Troth. 
5. Miscellaneous 
Although Troth writings most often use Anglo-Saxon or West Germanic god/ess names (Anglo-Saxon Woden or Old High German Wodan rather than Old Norse Óðinn/Anglicized Odin, for example), this is only a trend, not a mandate. The individual Hearth or Garth is free to emphasize any area or period of the Germanic world, or no specific focus. For aesthetic and ritual purposes, consistency in name-forms is nice (you might, for instance, want to call on "Woden and Thunar" rather than "Woden and Thor"), though, where recorded forms do not exist in your chosen time/place, non-philologists may simply adopt a name or simplified form from elsewhere without offense (thus a toast might be made to "Woden and Freya"). 
Often a Hearth or Garth chooses a particular symbol to bind the awareness of its members together and to represent that group to the outside world. The battle-flag was known to all branches of the Germanic people, and often individual flags such as the Jarl Sigurðr's Raven banner were thought to be especially magical or holy; Tacitus also reports how the Germanic tribes took certain totems and emblems from their hallowed groves to bear into battle. The easiest ways to make a banner are to sew cloth cut-outs onto a background piece or simply to paint the emblems onto cloth with acrylic; more dedicated folk may undertake the time-consuming process of embroidering a banner. When choosing fabrics, keep in mind that such an item, as well as being rolled up and hauled from place to place on occasion, is likely to be splattered with ale and mead once in a while, and try to pick something washable and durable. 
Some kindreds also like to have uniformly coloured tunics or some sort of insignia of rank within the group. The Troth as a whole does not recognise any emblems of rank, nor is there any evidence that (outside of certain tokens of rulership such as the Sutton Hoo sceptre) the Germanic people used any such thing. However, the Troth does not discourage the use of specific clothing or insignia by individual groups, and some have found that these things help to structure a kindred and bind it together. The only difficulty they have caused thus far is that one well-coordinated and -organized group with matching tunics coloured by rank has been inaccurately and unfairly described by outsiders (and even a few insiders who should have known better) as "Nazis" - an impression which, of course, we want to avoid at all costs. 
The easiest way to handle feasts is to hold them as potlucks, BYOB. The co-ordinating host/ess should make sure that appetizers, main dish, bread, and dessert are all provided for, and that no member comes in with empty hands. Alternatively, the cost of food can be calculated beforehand and a set entrance fee paid; this works best with larger groups (over 12-15). In the old days, the local leader was responsible for supplying the feast out of his own stores. This even works today, if you have a rich local leader who doesn't mind feeding everyone else. DO NOT let one person supply all the food in hopes that s/he will be paid back by donations after the feast. It seldom happens thus. 
The Troth Garth 
Step 1: Birth 
The Troth Garth must have at least three adult members of the Troth, and be led by an Elder, Elder-in-Training, or fully certified Godwo/man. For Troth purposes, this title is the one that should be registered. If there is more than one person qualified in your Garth, you must decide among yourselves which should be registered as the leader (or whether you wish to maintain multiple leadership). In this respect, the same principles of Troth non-interference apply as in the case of Hearth leadership. 
As Garths are usually larger and more highly organized, as well as more active, than Hearths, you are likely to require the basic Shope and Steward offices, though specific titles are up to the individual group. 
Note: Recognition of a group as a Garth or Hof does not give it any control or authority over independent Hearths in its area. A Troth group which wishes to remain separate from other Troth groups, be they Hearths, Garths, or Hofs, has the full right to do so. 
Step 2: Naming 
The Garth's leader must send its chosen name, list of members, general description of organization and activities, P.O. Box, and a personal statement of her/his own leadership role and goals in to be recorded in the Troth rolls; as with a Hearth, the name and contact address will be listed in Idunna, the Rede will vote on the group's status after 60 days following publication, and a chartered Garth will receive an official certificate. If the Garth is led by an Elder-in-training, s/he should send a copy to the Warder of the Lore or the Elder supervising his/her training programme as well. 
Step 3: Deeds 
In addition to keeping the feasts in the same general manner as a Hearth, a Garth is responsible for holding classes for the members on a regular (at least monthly, preferably weekly) basis. These classes must include basic teachings about the religion and culture of the Germanic peoples; other aspects, such as runes, archaic languages, and crafts, are optional, but recommended if possible. A Garth leader should also be in the process of accumulating a good book-hoard and keep an annotated bibliography. 
For the purpose of inspiring other groups, Garths are encouraged to make regular, though brief, reports on their activities to be printed in Idunna. 
Particularly large and active Garths should begin to consider the building or purchase of a permanent structure given solely to Troth religious activities. Under a Hearth leader, Godwo/man, or Elder-in-Training, such a structure is called a Holy Stead; when supervised by a fully certified Elder, the title of Hof may be applied for. 
If you do not have the facilities for a Holy Stead, the best way to create a ritual atmosphere in your living room (or where-ever you practise) is to have decorations which can be hung up or placed about at feast-times. The use of banners as a specific group-symbol has already been mentioned; a fine ritual atmosphere can also be created by the use of larger banners as "tapestries" covering the walls. Goðautgafn Publishers (Dunhagi 18, P.O. Box 631, 121-Reykjavík, Iceland, ph. # 621083) also produces beautiful, if rather smallish (15" x 20"), posters of some of the god/esses (Óðinn, Þórr, Freyja, Iðunn, Loki, and Ægir), which make first-rate ritual decorations. If the blót-drink is sprinkled freely, these posters should be laminated to protect them. Posters of holy animals such as horses, wolves, eagles, swine, and so forth can also be used. Planks of plywood can also be carved or painted to provide temporary panelling. God-images are excellent to have; these may be as simple as a post with a head roughly carved at the top or a large branch with mild trimming made to give it a generally human shape, or they may be full-scale works of sculpture if you can manage it. Although much of the ornamental carving of our forebears was highly elaborate and detailed, their figure-carving was ordinarily very stylized and sometimes quite crude - even an unpractised woodcarver should be able to produce a reasonable effect with an X-Acto knife. Statues of holy animals may also be used to represent the god/esses. Wisely used, recordings of natural sounds can enhance a ritual or even a study gathering. Some good ones are produced by The Nature Company (P.O. Box 188, Florence, KY 41022; call 1-800-227-1114 for information about store locations near you or to order, all available in CD or cassette): I recommend Mountain Stream, Distant Thunder, and Gentle Ocean. For wolf howls and other vocalizations without any human commentary, the best recording is Wolf Talk, Northword Press, Inc., Minocqua, Wisconsin 54548, 1-800-336-5666 (CD and cassette, carried by Nature Company stores). 
The library of a Garth should, in the course of time, include a few basic primary texts in the original languages, plus necessary supplementary works such as dictionaries. A selection of books which you should be looking out for is listed in the Book-Hoard at the back of this work. Some more advanced secondary sources are also suggested there. 
Step 4: Growth 
Garths are encouraged to keep a higher profile than Hearths, though obviously the same cautions about inviting strangers to your home and so forth apply. It is highly recommended that Garths open relations with groups from other traditions - looking up your area's Unitarian Church is often a good way to get started. If at all possible, you should find a location where you can hold rites which are open to the public. Parks and rentable halls are often a good choice, although you must be careful to find out about all local regulations concerning consumption of alcohol and/or carrying of weapons if you intend to perform rites anywhere outside your own home. If you are able to contact your area's Society for Creative Anachronism officers, they will probably know the best places to hold events where you will be allowed to drink and carry mediæval weapons. Do remember that the SCA - although they sometimes dress and act very much as we do and overlap with us in many ways (such as the practise of traditional crafts, the study of history, and early-period fighting), although their events are often good places to buy weapons and various types of ritual gear - has no official religious affiliations, and SCA folk who are Heathen while in Viking Age personas may well be Southern Baptists at home. This also goes for people who work at or attend Renaissance Faires: many are pagans of various sorts, but not all by any means, and there is no guarantee that a Þórr's Hammer at such an event shows the wearer to be a heathen in "real life". 
In many areas, seeking out either police or security protection for rituals in public places is a very good idea. Not only does this protect you from harassment by locals, but it also prevents official investigation from breaking up a rite in the middle (it's happened before, folk - just ask about "An Axe in the Park"!) and ensures that your group stays firmly on the right side of the law, as the Troth requires. Being on good terms with the "Cult Crimes" people in your area is also a fine idea on general principles and may save you much trouble later. 
When paying official visits to any group associated with The Establishment, it is highly recommended that you dress in a neat and quiet manner. A small Hammer, Sun-Wheel, or Valknútr, as pendant or collar-pin, is sufficient to establish your religious orientation. If you look like a Reverend, you are more likely to be treated like one. 
The main problems you are likely to run into with The Establishment are (1) being mistaken for a Satanist and (2) being mistaken for a Nazi. Neither of these will come as any surprise to anyone who has attempted to educate non-heathens about heathenry, but they do get old after a while. The important thing to remember is to keep calm, assuming that the person in question is not trying to insult you (even if s/he manifestly is!), and patiently and reasonably correct the errors, with as many legitimate historical references as you can bring in. No matter how tempting it is, do not overtly criticize christianity to non-heathens to whom you are attempting to explain our ways. Stick to basic clarifications of what we are and are not. Our purpose is to reconstruct the traditional religion of Northern Europe as part of the recovery of our cultural heritage. The Þórr's Hammer is not a reversed cross, but the sign of the good god who protects us against all things evil and destructive. Although the swastika was a holy sign among the Northern folk - as among many other peoples, including the Indians and Orientals - for thousands of years before the Nazis took it as their emblem, and we still consider it to be such, we refrain from using it in public as a sign of respect to all those people who are unfamiliar with its original history and would be distressed to see it, and also because we do not want to attract neo-Nazis or other types of racists and fascists to our religion. Pentagrams, reversed or otherwise, are not a part of our tradition. We do not normally go about wearing black; when we have special ritual clothing, it is generally reconstructed traditional garb (usually from the Viking Age), and is usually either white or brightly coloured. We do not practise black magic. We believe in respect and love for the natural world, our ancestors, and all human beings who are brave, loyal, and true. We support and honour all peoples who wish to revive or maintain their cultural heritage. We do not accept the Judeo-Christian Bible as absolute truth, though we do not criticize those who have chosen to accept it as an expression of their own spiritual ideals. However, we consider christianity to be inappropriate for the Northern European cultural context; we worship neither its god nor its devil. In turn, we do not try to force our religion or our ways on anyone else. We do not permit any sort of discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, or sexual preference, nor do we condone any group which does. We have no political agenda and never become involved in political issues as a group, except when the general issue of freedom of religion is called into question. We do not practise animal sacrifice for its own sake, although Troth members who own rural properties with their own meat animals bless the pigs and cows which they slaughter for their own food or to provide for large feasts. 
These statements, presented calmly and clearly, should disarm anyone with a shred of reason. The most important thing, however, is to come across as knowledgeably, sanely, and respectably as you can. Eventually (within the next year or two) the Troth will also have informational leaflets which you will be able to give out to help you in educating the doubtful and explaining who we are and what we are about. 
Of course, there will always be those who think that simply stating their belief that the Bible is Absolute Truth, and supporting this belief with quotes from same, is sufficient to prove the truth of what they say. The most sensible response is that you do not share that belief, nor do you consider the Bible to be intrinsically more true than any other spiritual pathway promoting itself as the Ultimate Truth, and nothing will be gained by two people simply repeating beliefs at each other. Arguing with someone who thinks that repetition of a work's self-definition as truth equals proof of its truth is essentially no different from arguing with a drunk, and will be no more fruitful.