Social Classes of Wednesbury Shire

White Marsh of which Wednesbury Shire is a part, tries to reconstruct every part of ancient Anglo-Saxon Pagan society. This includes the social classes. Within the theod, social classes reflect several things, primary amongst these are experience, and dedication to the theod. Rank is based on one's deeds that have been done to build the community, and further the religon of Paganism. Social classes are referred to as įrungas or "honorings."

In ancient pagan Anglo-Saxon England, everyone was upwardly mobile, and downwardly as well. The earliest Anglo-Saxon laws divided the social classes into two groups, the twelve-hynde and twy-hynde (see Seebohm, pages 406-410). This idea of two major social classes is also seen in the use in poetry of eorlas ond ceorlas (see Whitlock, page 83). As stated, one could be upwardly mobile, if a churl in ancient times were to buy or otherwise obtain five hides of land (roughly between 200 and 480 acres depending on which kingdom one was in), and oath into service to the king, they would be thought to be a part of thegesišcund, in other words a žegn(see Seebohm pages 365-369). Within Wednesbury Shire this is true as well. One can move up the classes through one's dedication, knowledge, and abilities.

At the lowst level, that of entry level into the theod is the þéow. þéowas have no rights in the theod, and are overseen by full member. They have no voting rights and are limited in what they can do in ritual contexts. They are required to learn as much about the theod and its traditions as possible, and are tested on such. One must remain a þéow until such as it is decided they know what it means to be a member of a theod. They must meet personally with the members of the theod or some portion of the membership. Then there is the leising. Leisingas have many rights within the theod, but are not quite full members. One can be a leising no more than a year and a day. The lowest level of full membership in the theod is ceorl or churl. Upon becoming a ceorl, one pledges their service and self to the theod. ceorlas are the backbone of the theod and consists of the majority of the membership. They are responsible for nothing beyond their own sibb, and have little to no duties beyond that. Ceorl is broken down into three tiers. These are gebur, cotsetla, and genaeat. Genaeatas are a special type of ceorl in that they perform special services for the shire. Above the ceorl is the gesiža or žegn. A gesiža is a member that has went above and beyond the deeds of the average member to further the theod. They are always oathed to an ealdorman or lord. Gesižas are likely to lead a dryht or guild, or otherwise hold office in the shire. They are service oriented, seeking to somehow serve the folk. A gesiža that leads a shire is called an ealdorman, as is the highest gesiža that leads the theod. A special class is that of ęželing. An ęželing is a gesiža that can document that they are descended from one of the ancient kingly lines of Anglo-Saxon England. Only an ęželing can lead the theod. The highest social class is that of cyning or king. However, numbers do not warrant this class/office at this time. It will be many years before Hwímesc chooses to practice kingship.


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