Gnosis Diary: Life as a Heathen

My personal experiences, including religious / spiritual experiences, modern life on a heathen path, community interaction, and general heathenry.

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Erin Lale

Erin Lale

Erin Lale is the author of Asatru For Beginners, American Celebration, and other books. She has been a sworn Priestess of Freya since 1989, and recently also formalized a relationship with the triple Odin. She has been a freelance writer for about 30 years, was the editor and publisher of Berserkrgangr Magazine, and is the Acquisitions Editor at genre novel publishers Damnation Books and Eternal Press. In 2010 and 2013, she ran for public office as an out heathen.
Las Vegas Pagan Pride Day 2015 at the Temple of Sekhmet

This was the first year we've held Pagan Pride Day at the Temple of Sekhmet, which is a couple of miles north of Indian Springs. There were a few metaphoric bumps in the road, but I think we'll flatten them out next time. PPD was a wonderful, exhausting, fulfilling experience of great community, great ritual, great entertainment, and all around awesomeness.

I picked up my old friend Prudence Priest at the airport the Thursday before PPD. She and Tom N. and I had a lot of fun in Vegas and in my home in Henderson. Saturday morning I headed into the desert with my truck loaded with a tent, tables, ice chest, books, and other stuff for our booth. Prudence sold her Lithuanian amber jewelry and my books, Asatru For Beginners, American Celebration, and No Horns On These Helmets. Because I'm still dealing with my knee injury, I could not have managed setup without the help of the wonderful volunteers. After putting down a rebellion by my body, I managed to get my energy together to teach my drum circle workshop, which was well attended and a lot of fun. The drum circle was the highlight of my day, but I also really enjoyed watching the fire dancers, Flameology (pictured) and having a fry bread taco for lunch. Our exclusive hot food vendor was the Western Shoshone Tribe.

It was great to see the replacement statue of Sekhmet. The old one was stolen last year and was never recovered. It was great to see so many old friends and meet new friends. Thanks to everyone who made this event happen.

The day after PPD was the Blood Moon Supermoon Eclipse. Prudence, Tom, and I tried to watch the onset from the viewing platform on top of the Stratosphere, but we only caught glimpses of it through the cloud cover. Prudence and I howled anyway, garnering a few odd looks from the young people with drinks who may have thought we were having a little too much fun even for Vegas. Then we went to my house in Henderson and had much better viewing as totality passed. Prudence and I and my mom and the neighbor dog all howled at the wolf to let the moon go. It must have worked, the moon came back (lol.)

Photo: a pic I snapped with my phone camera of the performance by Flameology.

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Time-Policing Our Holidays: Or, Why Americans on Social Media Are Hating On Pumpkin Spice

Pumpkin spice.

1. What is it?

A mix of spices used in autumn harvest celebration foods, including pumpkin pie, apple pie, apple pastry, apple crisp, squash pie, pear crisp, and things that are supposed to taste like them, for example, spiced cider, spiced hard cider, spiced coffee, spiced wine, spiced mead, and spiced ice cream.

The basic spices are:
(allspice, sometimes)
(cardamom, sometimes)

So, for those of you outside the USA, it's basically the same spices as Lebkuchengewürz except without the coriander and star anise. When one sees a Facebook meme mocking pumpkin spice that starts with "white girls be like" they are referring to the fact that this holiday spice mixture is similar to a German holiday spice mixture. The idea behind those memes is that only Germanic descended people go nuts over this flavor, but that's really not true. All kinds of Americans like pumpkin pie and apple pie.

2. Why is it a seasonal flavor?

It's used to flavor things made from seasonal produce like pumpkins and apples. The harvest seasons for pumpkins, squashes, apples, pears, and so forth in the USA extend from August to December, since different vegetables and fruits come on at different times and the USA is so large that it has many different climates with different dates of the onset of frost.

3. Why are people mocking it?

Americans have been conditioned to time-police our holidays by observing the practice of our large corporations to start selling holiday related merchandise while another holiday is still coming up (for example, putting out Christmas decorations before Halloween), and in the case of Christmas, the practice of piping holiday music into the stores starting so early that it is nearly universally acknowledged that it reaches homicidal levels of annoying by the time the actual holiday rolls around. Americans think September is too early to start selling harvest celebration flavors. The people are attempting to time-police our corporations over it and shame each other into not supporting the practice by purchasing the product too early. The purpose of this social shaming is to cause the public to wait to make holiday purchases until the correct holiday season, and thus to cause market pressure to influence corporations to wait to attempt to sell holiday products until the correct holiday season.

4. Why are people saying it's "too early"?

To understand why Americans think selling a harvest celebration flavor almost precisely on the date of the autumnal equinox is "too early" one must first realize that the USA has an official national holiday to celebrate harvest in November, Thanksgiving. It's not celebrated in other countries at all, but it's actually our biggest national holiday -- at least for adults. Kids get a week off for Christmas and Easter, but adults only get 1 day for those if they work at a place that closes for national holidays, or if they work at a place where they can request religious holidays off and have requested the Christian set of holidays, but we get two days for Thanksgiving, a Thursday and a Friday, making for a 4 day weekend for those who get weekends off. It's the only national holiday that's more than one day.

5. Where can I learn more?

To read more about the origin, functions, importance, and modern practices surrounding Thanksgiving, and other holidays celebrated in the USA, see my book American Celebration.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    The local Barnes & Noble had pumpkin spice muffins this Saturday. They even had free samples to entice people to buy them. I had

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Fireverse 3: Books Are Magic

Continuing my story of receiving gnosis through fiction writing, it was always obvious to me which parts were inspired, because they felt different from everything else. That feeling would not be obvious to the reader, though. In thousands of hours of writing and being open to receive gnosis, over the course of a year and a half, I had perhaps a few minutes of messages for humanity. They occurred at unpredictable times. There are mediums who contact a god, dead person, or other being and relay questions and answers for someone else, but I’m not one of them. I'm a writer. I receive poetic inspiration.

This is the gnosis I received about what happens to burned books. I sat down to write in my novel, and this came out of my fingers. 

What flowed out:

Loki was sitting on a marble bench reading a book. Odin sat down beside him. “Hello, Loki.”

Loki didn’t look up. “Hi.”

“What book is that?”

“Leaves of Grass. In German translation.”

“Is it any good?”


“Is it from my library?” Odin received many book sacrifices. Anytime a book was burned in the world, if it was not dedicated aloud to some other god, it always went to him. Sometimes there were whole piles of the same book all burned together. He had not gotten around to reading every title in his library yet. He was still working on all the ones burned together at Alexandria.


There was a long pause. “I’m going herb shopping in Midgard after lunch. Would you like to come with me?”


“Are you the father of Zisa’s new puppy?”


[redacted – unsuitable to print in a family newspaper]

“What?” Loki looked up, blinking in startlement. “Um, peeled, thank you.”

“Just checking to see if you were listening.”

What I think it means:

Unless specifically dedicated to someone else, burned books go to Odin. Books have an afterlife.

Further thoughts on this gnosis:

That was the original gnosis, the actual words which flowed from my fingers when Odin inspired me with this message. Later, I put in a scene in which burned books actually show up in his library. The talking scene was gnosis, and the scene in which a bonfire spontaneously shows up in the library, depositing a pile of books, came from my head based on that gnosis.

I haven’t heard of anyone else receiving the same gnosis, but it makes sense to me that books would have an afterlife. Heathenry is strongly infused with animism, and the wider culture in which we live treats books as objects of reverence. We are taught as children to respect books, and not to damage them. Authors sign books like artists sign artworks. The physical book has inherent worth in our culture, beyond the knowledge that is in it. In the US, the three guaranteed freedoms listed first in our Bill of Rights are speech, the press, and religion, of all which are related to books and knowledge. We have book temples; we love books and the knowledge within them so much we've had public libraries for centuries longer than we've had public health care. Our culture has elevated the importance of books above our own lives. Of course, with that much human energy directed at them, books aren't just inanimate objects.

When you read a book, you are a telepath who owns a time machine. You see into the mind of the author, even if the author is long dead. When you write a book, you speak to the whole world, and to the end of time. What an awesome creation writing is! Books are magic.

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Fireverse Part 2: When I Challenged Loki to a Duel

Why? Because apparently I possess the common sense the gods gave a honey badger.
I had just run for office for the second time. I was exhausted and disillusioned. I had seen how the political sausage was made and felt that the system was rigged. I read an essay on Popehat, “Burn the [expletive deleted] System to the Ground,” and agreed wholeheartedly. That opened me to Loki in his aspect as Breaker of Worlds. I didn’t realize that until much later, though.

In November 2013, I went to see Thor: The Dark World. I enjoyed it, but I left the theater thinking, “I could write a much more authentic story about the heathen gods than that!” That opened me to Loki, too, and to Odin, though I didn’t realize that until later, either.

“Yes, you could,” purred that voice. Loki appeared in my mind as a fictional character, talking and making story. I didn’t think it was really him, though. For one thing, I was used to hearing fictional characters talking in my head; it’s how I’ve been writing fiction for decades. Like many other authors, when I get an idea for a story and the characters start talking to each other, it always feels like the characters are banging on the inside of my head trying to get out. For another thing, he didn’t look like I remembered him. I had met Loki as a child, in a dream, without knowing who he was, but by the time he showed up again, I had identified the Lord of the Monsters as Loki (see my previous post Lord of the Monsters for that story.) Now he was coming around my mind cosplaying as Marvel-Loki. It took me a while to realize, “Duh, shapeshifter.” Of course he can look like anyone or anything he wants.

Scenes played in my head. I saw chemtrails create the Fimbulwinter, and the Well of Worlds on fire because it was full of fracking fluid, and Sif lying dead in her temple, poisoned by her own worshippers who accidentally sacrificed unlabeled GMO grain. I saw myself die in a zombie apocalypse with a Smith & Wesson Shield in my hand – weeks before I actually was given one for Yule – the dead rising because the Rainbow Bridge was out. I heard Heimdall say it broke under the weight of dead cats and dogs.

“Look, there is dialogue, there are scenes, write.” His horns of flame tickled the inside of my skull, giving me a headache.

I told him, “Shut up in there or I’ll write a scene in which you get bitten by the Midgard Serpent.”

His eyes twinkled and he laughed at me, and—well, I wrote the scene. It is now in the book.

He was delighted. “You wrote something!”

Yes, I did, I wrote something. You win. Score one for Loki.

So, when I realized, “Holy *^(&^ it’s really Loki!” what did I do? I challenged him to a formal duel, using traditional Old Norse fighting words. I wrote a horrible little fanfic story in which the very worst thing that could ever happen to anyone happens – what I thought was the worst thing that had ever happened to me, that is. I wasn’t even aware that was what I was doing. It only became glaringly obvious in hindsight. At the time, I thought I was insulting him.

“Ha, ha! Look! You wrote more things about meeeeeee!”

He reacted as if I amused him, but months later, I realized that when I tried to insult him, what I was really doing was revealing my deepest unhealed trauma. Being a god, he saw right through me, and saw what I could not see myself. He resolved to help me heal it through writing, though I didn’t realize that at the time either.

I also realize now that reacting as if he was amused was the “laugh so you won’t cry or scream” phenomenon that I’ve seen so often before, particularly in myself. He deflected me with humor, and I didn’t realize just how very seriously he was taking my unconscious cry for help until much later. I also didn’t realize until much later that often the being who showed up to inspire my writing insisting that I call him Loki was really Odin, although I had a sneaking suspicion of it for months before it became really obvious.

Every night I dreamed of Ragnarok. Dreams in the twelve nights of Yule are supposed to be prophetic. I saw Thor’s head on a pike. Loki boiled tea from the flowers left at the graves of the dead, and held a tea dance. It was absurd and terrifying.

Finally I had my outline done and I started writing. The pressure eased. Dialogue poured out my fingers, into the keyboard, and when I saw it on the screen, I thought, “I just wrote WHAT about WHO?” I was afraid what I had written might offend Thor. When I went outside I expected a lightning bolt between the shoulder blades. I was mortally afraid to walk beneath the sky, until I raised a cup of coffee to the Thunderer and asked for a sign of approval if he wanted me to keep writing this story this way, and an out-of-season rainstorm arrived, a blessing from Thor.

On Yule 2013, I laid two fires, a bonfire for the ceremony and a barbecue fire for cooking the feast for after the ceremony. I lit both fires. The bonfire shed fire all around it and required much work to contain, and when I set the leaf-design iron lid aside to toss burning branches back into the fire, I burned my foot on the lid. I stood in the cold bucket of water. It was time to concede. It was time to admit that I could not win a duel against a god. Like the cup of coffee I had offered to Thor, I had to make some small gesture toward Loki. So I threw my hair-combings into the barbecue.

At once the fire popped and spat and threw off a great light in acceptance of my sacrifice. Not the fire I threw it into, but the great Yule bonfire, which suddenly stopped trying to get out of its metal confines and started burning merrily and throwing off a great white-yellow pyramid of herbal smoke straight up into the air. The rest of the ceremony went off perfectly, and the cooking did too.

That was when my head cracked open and I started hearing the rest of the gods, too. They inspired my writing. Loki’s laughter echoed down trunk of the World-Tree and shook dry rot from its heart. His voice moistened the dark between the stars, shivered through all the worlds and waited for me every night as I closed my eyes. I no longer heard it in dreams, but now, in that half awake, half asleep state as I drifted off to sleep. As I slipped into the state of consciousness called hypnogogia, I saw Loki standing in my room, and a large snake slithered into my bed. Nervously, I told Loki his snake was getting too close, but he laughed and told me it wasn’t his snake.

“That is my blood brother, Bolverkr, the mead of poetry in his mouth, here to help you birth a new world.”

Image credit: "Loke by C. E. Doepler" by Carl Emil Doepler (1824-1905) - Wägner, Wilhelm. 1882. Nordisch-germanische Götter und Helden. Otto Spamer, Leipzig & Berlin. Page 255.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    From reading "Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes" by Chris Knowles I would say that many of the best c
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Yes, it would be really cool if they let Sjofn and Lofn loose in the MCU. Maybe Marvel-Thor would finally get together with Sif!
Fireverse 1: Fiction Writing As Gnosis Generator

My path has taken a few sharp turns over the years, but I like to think of it as switchbacks on the same path up the same mountain. If I couldn't handle the turn, I'd be off my path.

In the Fireverse series of posts, I’ll be telling the story of how my relationships with the gods changed because of writing the unpublished, overgrown novel Some Say Fire. The book is a healing journey, and writing it opened me to receiving inspiration from the gods and to connecting with my own subconscious. The book is about the length of Lord of the Rings and took me about a year and a half to write. In writing it, I spent many hours thinking about the gods, retelling their stories, and being mentally open to receive their messages. There is more than I can put in a series of blog posts, even a rather long series. I’ll tell the most significant gnosis, and the most important events.

Here on the Gnosis Diary blog, I’ve been telling the story of my personal journey on my heathen path more or less in chronological order, and now we’ve caught up to where I was when I started writing it. I wanted to write Gnosis Diary because I have gnosis to share, messages given to me for humankind in the form of a novel that is at times horrifying, which some other heathens to whom I’ve shown it have found offensive, and which may be unpublishable. How can I share what I’ve learned if the book is never published, or if it’s published and never reaches a mass audience? How can I be sure people will realize which parts are actual gnosis and which are just part of the story?

Here on Gnosis Diary, I can pick out the parts of Some Say Fire that are genuine gnosis, and not only relate what flowed out when I was writing, but also interpret it outside the context of the story and tell what I think the message means. I already did that with the early post on this blog where I quoted part of a scene inspired by Sif and interpreted it as a message to humanity to stop using GMO Roundup Ready grains that poison the land. Hardly anyone liked that post, so I felt I had not gotten my message out enough, and that I needed to do something else to help the earth, and that was what led me to participate in the editing of A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.

I also already relayed a message to humanity to please stop misusing the Rainbow Bridge, and that it is not a destination but the way to Asgard, and if one intends to go somewhere else, to please direct one's companions to where one expects to go, and if one wishes to direct one's animal companions to the Northern gods, to send them to the gods associated with them, such as cats to Freya and dogs to Nehellenia or Zisa. I concluded with a list of animal associations with the Norse gods. No one much liked that message, either, but people did like the list, so I expanded it and worked it into the new, expanded version of Asatru For Beginners that I'm working on.

When I write fiction or poetry, I often hear lines of dialogue or lines of poetry in my head. That’s quite common among writers. Over the decades that I’ve been writing, I have sometimes felt that what I wrote was inspired by Odin. For example, I wrote the poem Skadhi: Water Cycle by hearing it in a dream, waking up, and copying it down verbatim. Like a lot of other writers do, I’ve often heard fictional characters talking to each other in my head. So when I set out to write Some Say Fire, at first I didn’t realize that sometimes I wasn’t just hearing characters with the names of the gods talking, sometimes I was hearing the actual gods. I had never heard them speak before. Some people possess a “godphone,” but I’ve never been one of them. I didn’t even realize it when they started talking directly to me rather than each other. I just thought that meant there was a character that represents me in my book, so I put in a human protagonist. I didn’t realize it was really them until they started doing real things, and then it terrified me, because of some of the things I had written about them by then. In the 25 years between when I became Priestess of Freya and when I started writing Some Say Fire, I had never heard the gods speak to me. Writing this book cracked open my mind to them so that I could hear them. I usually don’t experience automatic writing, either, but I did sometimes while writing this book. I put my fingers on the keyboard and things flowed out.

I call the universe of Some Say Fire the Fireverse. It differs from our own world in some ways. Many of the things in the book are meant to show how messed up that universe is, so as to show why the Fireverse needs to end and be restarted so a better world can come about, which is the goal of the heroes of the novel. Some of the gods are different in the Fireverse, too. For example, Fireverse-Odin is as different from Asa-Odin as Marvelverse-Odin is. Nonetheless, writing the book became both a healing journey and a vehicle for receiving gnosis. I’ll be writing about those things in this series of posts.

Image credit: Francisco Farias Jr. via Public Domain Pictures

Today is the 28th. This date has personal significance for me, which will be explained in a later post. This is the date on which I honor the northern trinity each month, so it's an excellent day on which to begin the Fireverse blog series. Odin and his brothers are separate gods with distinctly different personalities, and yet they also appear in fused forms and borrow each other's powers and appear as each other. In honoring them, I have learned to embrace mystery over taxonomy. I'm learning to be comfortable with paradox. Today, I hail the tripartite god by all of his names: High, Just-as-High, and Third, Odhinn, Vili, and Ve, Wotan, Wili, and We, Odhinn, Honir, and Lodhur, Odin, Honir, and Loki, and by all his other names aspects and all possible combinations thereof. On this day I say: Hail the ninefold Odin!

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  • Leslie J Linder
    Leslie J Linder says #
    awesome! I just looked at eternal press. looks great! I may have something to dust off. have a great day.
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Excellent! You have a great day, too!
  • Leslie J Linder
    Leslie J Linder says #
    Good idea for a project! I also have (more than one) large novel sitting in a dusty box, and they also were very spiritual process
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Thanks! If it's genre fiction, dust it off, I might want it for Eternal Press.

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Lollus, Löhl, and Ursul din Lăloaia

Genealogical research led me to a god of which I'd never heard. My family name, Lale, was originally spelled Löhl. Lale is a phonetic spelling in English of the way Löhl would have been pronounced.

Back in the 90s when I became an initiate of the modern version of the Bersarkrgangr tradition (see my paper Bersarkrgangr: The Viking Martial Art) they told me my name was a Chatti name, and that the Chatti tribe were cat-type bersarkrs who followed Freya, just like me. The Chatti came from the area in Europe that was briefly Alsace-Lorraine, an area of mixed French and German influence. That meant I was from one of the right families, which was one of the two prerequisites to be eligible to join their group.

The internet era has enabled genealogical research with records from all over the world that have been scanned and are now available through this marvelous device right from home, without having to travel to every town and country and examine the records in person or pay someone else to do so. Family legend said the original Lale ancestor in America was kicked out of France for lycanthropy. That would have been in the 1700s, before the American Revolution. Recent genealogical research my brother did on the net turned up a kernel of truth. We did have an ancestor who was banished from a country, but it was Bavaria, not France, it was the late 1500s, and the charge was not being a werewolf but being a Protestant. That's a sobering example of how much oral transmission of information can change the story over time.

That's as far back as an unbroken line of records go, so with anything earlier than that, I'm just speculating about whether it has any connection to my family, but what I found is interesting nonetheless.

There is a river Löhle in today's Germany, near the town of Böblingen in the region of Württemberg. Württemberg is where the Lale ancestor who came to America was actually from (not France as the family legend said.) The river may have been named for Lollus, or the other way around.

Lollus was known as a god of the Franks, a Germanic tribe. There was a Saint Lollus in the 700s. Offerings of grapes and grain were given to Lullus or Lollus at the place called Löhle or Lölle. Whether these gifts were to the god Lollus or to Saint Lollus, or whether the people making the offerings drew any distinction between the two, is unclear. Did the god Lollus walk among the people in the 700s in the form of a human, Christian Saint?

Not much is written about Lollus in English. The book Barbarian Rites: The Spiritual World of the Vikings and the Germanic Tribes by Hans-Peter Hasenfratz, translated by Michael Moynihan, says Lollus was depicted as a naked young man holding his tongue. It suggests he may have been paired with Frija, a combined form of Frigga and Freya.

A name dictionary I consulted as a teenager told me the name Lale meant nothing in French, but meant "one who speaks" in German. This article on connects Lollus to speaking in tongues, and states that the opium poppy was sacred to him:

So, are people with the name Lale or Löhl descended from the people who worshipped Lollus, the people from the area bearing his name? I don't know, but I wonder.

The earliest reference my brother uncovered to a name that could be a Lale variant is a Roman soldier named Laleianus. The name is on Trajan's Column in Rome. Supposedly Laleianus helped conquer the Pannonians, a people that lived in what is today Romania and the Danube region. This did not seem to connect with Lollus the 8th century god or saint. There was however another Roman, named Marcus Lollius, a prominent political figure who was the patron of the city of Sagalassos in Turkey.

The story of Laleianus and the Romanians did not seem to connect with bersarkrs, either, until I ran across this video of a Romanian folk dance labeled Urs Laloaia:

Romanian Bear Dance Urs Laloaia:

With thanks to translator James Hoscyns: ursul din
Lăloaia means the bear from Lăloaia. Lăloaia is the name of a mountain and a village at its base in Bacău in Romania.

The music has this drum song:

Dum tek dum tek dum
Dum tek dum
Dum tek dum tek dum
Dum tek dum tek dum
Dum tek dum
Dum tek dum
(pause then repeat)

The dancers step on the dums. 

This dance has been preserved as a festival dance in parts of Romania and Moldova. Here are a couple of videos where the camera was closer to the dancers:

Parade through town:

March through a snowy street and then dancing at a house:

More videos of this dance are found by searching the keywords Tot Ursi or Ursul de la Dărmăneşti.

The bear dancers in each of these videos make a strange trilling sound. It is not really a bear-like sound. It is unlikely to be a direct imitation of the sounds that bears make. This trill has some other origin. Could it be connected to the lalling of Lollus?

So far there does not appear to be any evidence beyond similarity of names and the strange trilling sound of the dancers connecting Lollus with bears, or with the bear dance, or bersarkrs, but this is an interesting avenue for further research. Eventually I hope to turn this quest for knowledge about my ancestors into a formal paper on Lollus. I would very much appreciate being directed to more information on Lollus, or the Lale name in any of its variations, or the bear dance.

Image caption:
Ursul de la Dărmăneşti dancer, photo credit Dan Duta via Mediafax Foto.

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Substituting As Gythia At a Baby Blessing

Hoarfrost sparkled on the dark ground, reflecting harsh nearby ballfield lights that did not illuminate the tree-dotted lawn of the park. It was winter 2009. Local heathens of the Las Vegas area gathered to welcome a new baby, who was wrapped in a large fur blanket against the winter cold. The kindred sponsoring the event consisted of a core group of heathens among a larger a group of non-heathens in a Renaissance Faire guild, so, some of the people gathered there wore modern dress, some were in Renfaire or re-enactor garb, and some wore a mix of both.

The kindred’s godhi, or priest, was going to perform a baby blessing and naming ceremony. The godhi was having a bad time with a chronic health issue right then, and did not feel up to calling power, so he asked me to perform the blessing.

I was there as a community member, so I did not have any of my ritual stuff with me. I looked around for things I could use, and saw that there was a bottle of mead for toasting (sumbel) and blessing (blot.) The baby’s family’s sword was firmly stuck point first in the ground. I could work with that. That would be the conduit for the ancestor honor transfer. The ancestors were under the earth, and the sword was part in the earth and part above it. In heathenry, there are many different traditions about where the dead go and what they become after death, since heathenry draws on a vast time period and many different, although related, cultures. In many of the ancient cultures, there was no clear line between the grave mound and the elf mound, and that idea survives in the modern saying that the dead have gone to stay with the elves. An early story about the interior of a grave mound showed the dead fighting each other in endless war, very much like the Viking age depiction of Valhalla. So, the direction of the ancestors is down, in the earth.

I mentally tallied what was and was not essential among the things that were not there. I could do without a blotbolli (blessing bowl.) I would pour the mead from the horn directly onto the asperger. I had to have an asperger, a tool with which to sprinkle the blessing liquid on the baby. Many dark shapes of pine trees stood out against the stars. I would cut a pine branch, except that I did not have my ritual knife with me either. Years ago, when I had been asked to make a rune stick for a friend, I had pulled on an oak branch and a stick had snapped off in my hand, cleanly as if cut. I resolved to repeat this feat tonight.

I went to a pine tree, and caressed its needles. I spoke to it, and asked it for the use of its branch for the holy ritual. The branch snapped off in my hand.

We gathered together for the ritual. In an Asatru baby blessing, the mother has already given form to the child, body from body, and now it is time for the father to give to the child. I directed the baby’s father to place one hand on the hilt of his family sword, which was firmly stuck in the earth, and one hand on the baby. I narrated, “You are the link between your ancestors and your child. The might and main and the honor of the ancestors is coming up from the earth, through the sword, through you, and into your child.”

All those gathered there toasted the child with mead in the sumbel ritual. I asked the parents what they named their child. I poured mead over the asperger and blessed the child by his name in the names of the gods, the ancestors, and all wights (spirit beings) of good will. As we did not have a blotbolli to pour out to the land wight, I poured the rest of the bottle to the land wight. I returned the pine branch to the land. The ritual was done.

Image: graphic by Karen Arnold. via

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