I was chatting with a good Theodish friend of mine, and the subject of hold oaths came up. Specifically, the reality that too many people who take (or even hear) hold oaths simply aren’t ready to do so, or don’t fully comprehend what it means, and yet do so anyway. The result is usually disaster, broken oaths, and a whole lot of misery on both sides.
It occurs to me that that’s a phenomenon we see not only when it comes to hold oaths in Theodism, but many other aspects as well. The whole concept of thralldom and rank, and of course sacral leadership, seems to be glossed over and accepted at face value, rather than truly being understood and internalized.
The specific causes for this sort of phenomenon are many, but I think ultimately it comes down to an attempt to teach Theodism as if it were a subject to be studied, rather than a truth to be realized.
This is where the concept of the mystery religion comes into play, in the context of Theodish Belief. The Greco-Roman mysteries are usually thought of in connection with initiatory rituals, and there are certainly initiatory rites in Theodism (the whole process of thralldom and freedom is, essentially, one long initiation ritual). But I’m thinking here of the way information is transmitted in a mystery religion.
Rather than rote lessons, or even intellectual understanding, in a mystery religion the initiate is exposed to knowledge using gnomic forms and allegory. Eventually, the initiate forms a critical mass of wisdom, and understands the mystery. Doing so internalizes the mystery in a way that merely reading it in a book, or even being taught it by someone mouth-to-ear, cannot. It is not merely knowledge, it is truth, and it is known to be so because the initiate has come to its realization on his own. All that needed to be done was to give him (or her) the proper groundwork, and let him put the pieces together themselves.
Of course, that doesn’t do any good unless the person(s) doing the initiation can recognize when this A-HA! moment happens and the student is really ready to be initiated. In the particular case at hand, that would be recognizing when the thrall is really ready to be freed. If the initiator/owner isn’t willing to have the combination of hard love and patience necessary, then the thrall is going to be freed too early, and end up taking a hold oath too early, with the result mentioned at the top of this article.
It’s also worth remembering that sometimes the student never achieves the realizations needed to become an initiate. Sometimes one remains a thrall forever, or drops out. That’s a necessary part of the process, too. That’s why thralls have no luck, and cannot pollute the luck of the tribe or the lord. If they “fail to launch”, no harm has been done.
One never does a favor to a thrall by freeing them early. One should never free a thrall merely to boost numbers. Thralldom is an important part — an argument might even be made for it being the most important part — of the Theodish experience. By reminding ourselves that thralldom should only be left once we recognize the thrall has finally come to the essential truths of Theodism on his or her own (i.e., has encountered the Mystery of Theodish Belief by being exposed to its practice), we go a long way towards ensuring that Theodsmen in general maintain the highest standard.