Gnosis Diary: Life as a Heathen

My personal experiences, including religious and spiritual experiences, community interaction, general heathenry, and modern life on my heathen path, which is Asatru.

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Blessing at Pagan Pride Day 2023

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

At Pagan Pride Day 2023, I gave a speech about Asatru, signed my book Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path, and conducted a Rainbow Season offering to Heimdall and a Blessing of the Veterans. It was a wonderful day, and I'm happy to relive it by sharing this report with you.

After 4 years, Las Vegas Pagan Pride Day returned! Just like last time in 2019, it was held on Veterans' Day in Paradise Park, and included a Veterans' Blessing. Last time the Rev. Selena Fox did the blessing. This time it was me. I am deeply honored to have been asked to do this. It was very fulfilling, and I had a great time at the ritual.

Veterans' Day is an important holiday to some American Heathen groups, including some Asatru groups. Some Asatru groups call it Einherjars' Day, but some groups use that name for Memorial Day. The two days are often observed with elements of each other in American culture, and the same is sometimes true within Heathen and Asatru groups in the USA as well. Veterans' Day is about the living, or at least those who survived the war, and Memorial Day is about the war dead. But since Veterans' Day is in what is traditionally considered dying time of the year, when leaves fall, and Memorial Day is in the growing time of the year, when the leaves return, the general feeling of each of those holidays borrows from each other. Also, when a living veteran dies, he can be remembered as one of the dead.

Before I went to Pagan Pride Day, I made a separate toast to my late companion Tom Newman with his favorite kind of root beer. After Tom died in 2020, when I was cleaning out his stuff from his house I found his military papers and uniforms. He wore a Ranger patch on a black beret. The beret has a permanent place on my main house altar, next to a photo of Tom participating in a sport at a heathen festival which Tom kept next to his bed. 

Las Vegas PPD was held in Paradise Park, which has a large lawn area surrounded by walkways and trees. The weather was perfect. Most places hold PPD in September but Las Vegas does ours later because it's too hot in September for an outdoor event in the daytime. It was a fine, warm, still afternoon. Closing ritual took place during sunset so it was dark and getting chilly by the end but I had on my lovely Shieldmaiden shawl that Ingrid made for me so I didn't get cold. 

I didn't take very many pictures at PPD because I was doing my speech, booksigning, and then participating in the closing ritual, but the ones I did take I posted on my social media. A kindred member got a lot of great photos, though, and I have permission to share them for the Heathen Visibility Project.

I was unable to go all day due to my body, but my housemate and other kindred members enjoyed PPD all day. They all had full shopping bags by the end of the day. I'm pretty sure at least some of them contained Yule presents for me. The list of vendors included some that sell tea so I have a hunch what it's going to be. I serve tea almost every afternoon, mostly just to the ladies who live here but sometimes to guests also. I didn't get a chance to shop from the vendors because my limited energy level and walking ability at the moment meant that I planned to only be there long enough to set up, do my thing, and tear down. So I'm looking forward to seeing what my friends found. 

I had hoped to see a friend of mine perform with the witch dancers. I had missed many of their events due to my body. I finally got to see them, but she wasn't there due to a family emergency. My thoughts are with her family. I hope I get to see her perform another time. There were several friends I didn't get to see that day, but hope to see soon. 

I did a short talk about Asatru. As it happened, a lost and then found ritual object proved serendipitous. The pine branch I had cut from my sacred pine tree with which to perform the blessing didn't make it to the table with the other ritual stuff, and my housemate found it and handed it to me right before I was about to talk, so I ended up gesturing with it during my talk. The photos that another kindred member took of my speech ended up looking a lot like ritual photos, so I am able to use those for Heathen Visibility Project photos. 

At the end of my talk, I invited people to come to my booksigning for my book Asatru: A Beginners' Guide to the Heathen Path. My book is a longer, updated version of my out-of-print book Asatru For Beginners. I've been wanting to sign it at my local Pagan Pride Day since it came out in summer of 2020 and this was my first opportunity to do that, so I was really excited.

Jason Mankey generously let me share his table for my booksigning. I had met Jason before but this time I got to meet his famous photo subject, the stuffed goat Black Phillip, and we got a selfie for my social media. My kindred member Anne had just adopted a wolfhound puppy and Jason and I enjoyed seeing the photos of him. Anne and her family had lost a puppy dedicated to Tyr young, and the new one was their rainbow puppy dedicated to Heimdall.

As the circle started forming for closing ritual, and I was gathering my ritual objects to bring over to the ritual, a tall Asian man with a very serious expression approached me. He asked if this was public and if he could join in. I replied, "Yes, you can join in." He went over and joined the circle. 

This is what Pagan Pride Day is all about. This is why it's Pagan PRIDE Day and not just Pagan Day. This is why we have it in a public park. To show the public who we are and what we do. So the public will know about us and have a positive view of us.

Pagan Pride Day is also a charity event. In previous years it was a benefit for Three Square, a local food bank. Some years it benefitted both a food bank and a local animal shelter. This year it was a benefit for Street Teens, a charity for homeless youth.

The closing ritual was great and many groups participated. Different groups or individual priestesses performed different parts of the ritual. I felt the power of the various ritual elements, especially the blowing of the shell. And I felt empowered. Sunset happened during the closing ritual, so one of the ritual attendees was a large pink cloud.

I did a Rainbow Season offering. I explained what the Rainbow Season offering is: the autumn rainbow comes after the summer rain, since we live in the Mojave Desert where we get summer monsoon. I also said my late companion's patron had been Heimdall who is the guardian of Rainbow Bridge, gatekeeper of Asgard. I mentioned that my kindred member had just dedicated a dog to Heimdall by naming him Heimdall.

I poured into the horn, letting foam run off the top as the Faeries' Portion.  Then I made a sumbel toast with the horn, to Heimdall, and to Odin and Freya. I made a second toast, raising the horn and calling, "To the Veterans!" The people in the circle responded, "To the Veterans!" Then I poured the horn into the blotbolli. Then I did the Veteran Blessing. 

When I was asked to do the Veteran Blessing I was told not to ask all the veterans to come forward for the blessing, presumably to avoid a long blank space in the ritual while everyone moved up. So I did not know which people attending were veterans, so I just blessed everyone. 

I did the Veteran Blessing using an asperger I had cut from my sacred pine tree earlier that day, to sprinkle blessings from the blotbolli. There were too many people there to bless everyone individually, so I cast the liquid from the bowl as far as I could toward the people standing in the circle. I noticed the member of the public who had spoken to me before the ritual, who still had a very serious expression. I blessed him along with everyone else who was standing in the circle.

There were two local heathens there who were not in my kindred, so I had not seen them in a long time, since the local heathen meetup had stopped meeting and never resumed and I had missed renfaire this year. They had said they came to Pagan Pride Day because I was doing the Veteran Blessing. They were not standing in the circle but sitting behind it on a picnic bench, but I could see them easily. So I asperged toward them as well. The liquid didn't reach anyone because of the size of the circle but I think the blessing reached everyone.

Then I poured out the blotbolli for the landwight, the spirit of the land on which we were performing the ritual, and returned the pine branch to the earth. My part of the ritual was done and I sat down with some of the other ritual leaders as others started doing their parts of the ritual.

The day after PPD I posted this on my social media: "Had a great time at Pagan Pride Day! Thanks to my friends who helped out so I didn't have to make too many trips to the car to bring / put away all my stuff, and thanks for the generosity of Jason Mankey who let me use one side of his booth. With the help of my friends I managed to do my thing and was still able to get out of bed this morning, a great victory!"

After PPD I got to see some of the parts of the day I had missed by viewing photos and videos on social media. I reviewed the photos of me that my kindred member Anne had taken, and selected some for the Heathen Visibility Project. The photo that illustrates this blog post is of me during the actual ritual, but there are also several photos of me holding the asperger when I was giving my speech, and I will share those for the Project.

Pagan Pride Day was wonderful, and I'm already looking forward to next year.


Image: the circle at Pagan Pride Day 2023. I am standing in the middle of the circle with a microphone in one hand and a drinking horn in the other. Photo by Anne Cameron-Zane.

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Erin Lale is the author of Asatru For Beginners, and the updated, longer version of her book, Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path. Erin has been a gythia since 1989. She was the editor and publisher of Berserkrgangr Magazine, and is admin/ owner of the Asatru Facebook Forum. She also writes science fiction and poetry, ran for public office, is a dyer and fiber artist, was acquisitions editor at a small press, and founded the Heathen Visibility Project.


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