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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Erin Lale

Erin Lale

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.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Rainbow Season is my kindred's end of summer ritual. Since summer is monsoon rain season the end of summer is rainbow season. We honor the mermaids in the summer and Heimdall at the end of summer. Heimdall was Tom Newman's patron. I don't know if we're going to keep doing that in future years but we're at least doing it one more time, this year, in honor of Tom. It's also 1 year since he died.

Heimdall is the Guardian of the Rainbow Bridge. The Rainbow Bridge is the path that leads from Asgard to wherever the gods want to go. When the end of the rainbow touches down on Earth (Midgard) it only goes one place, to Asgard. The gods can bring dead people to Asgard via the Bridge if they wish to select specific humans for that honor.

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There's a lively discussion going on across social media about the design of the new Thor character in the game God of War Ragnarok. Heathens and polytheists are making generally approving posts since the art follows descriptions in the Lore pretty closely. There are also a lot of negative comments from those who apparently expected a depiction close to the Marvel Chris Hemsworth Thor.

The Lore is what Asatruers and other Heathens call the body of literature we've collectively decided constitutes our religious cannon. Much of it is Norse Mythology and Icelandic Sagas and Eddas because that is what was written down, even though many American heathens are actually more Germanic than Scandinavian. In the Lore, Thor is described as having a red beard and carrying a war hammer with a short haft. One of his adventures in the Lore was a drinking contest in which he drank down the ocean so much he created the tides. This character looks like he could perform that notable feat.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Nods. Mythology Thor is 3/4 giant, physically big and strong, and married to the grain goddess Sif aka goddess of bread (and beer,
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I went over to that screenrant.com/god-war-ragnarok-thor-model-revealed-art-director place to take a look at the art. The charact

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
A Conversation with my Late Companion

It's been almost a year since my companion Tom died. I know he's around a lot, protecting me, but I hardly ever hear him speak to me through my godphone anymore. At first we communicated a lot, right after he died. Recently instead of actual conversations our communication has been limited to my setting out flowers and drinks for him on the main house shrine which has a permanent area dedicated to Tom. That counts as a form of communication for a noncorporeal being, including both gods and the dead.

The other day I saw some silly pun online and thought of Tom because he loved puns when he was alive. My thoughts connected with him and I found myself in a mental conversation with him. While he was alive, I could always tell when he was feeling good because he was a pun-o-matic throwing puns as fast as I could catch them. This time, he tried to make a pun and it came out a complete hash that did not even register as words to me.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

This morning my heart was breaking for the working dogs left behind at the airport in Kabul. The news about them is confusing because updates from different times all jumble together on social media. Speculation, memes, and even fan fiction crosses my social feed as often as actual news. The fan fiction is about what happens to the dogs after they die. People are imagining it because they don't know for sure and writing gives them comfort. Since I now possess a godphone, after my experience with writing the Fireverse opened me to the gods, I can simply ask the gods. What is my godphone for, if not to ask such questions and get answers?

I asked Odin, "Are there new war dogs in Valhalla?"

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Giving a Local Talk on the Net

In a week, I'll be giving a talk about Asatru at my local UU, which I've done a few times before. But this time I won't be behind the podium, but sitting at my desk at home. It's only an hour's drive away and yet I'm teleconferencing, because the UU has locked back down again. Even after a year and a half of pandemic related restrictions it still feels odd to be planning this. We left it to this week to decide if we were doing in-person or Zoom since there was no way to predict in advance whether the church would be open on a particular date. That's another thing that still feels odd to me even after all this time.

It's been a little over a year since the new version of my new launched, and I had hoped that by now I'd be planning a post-pandemic belated book tour, but it looks like I might have to wait a little longer for that. Or I might never be able-- or allowed-- to travel at all, ever again, since my health issues prevent me from getting the booster. What a strange world it is now. On the other hand, after solving the technological issues associated with videoconferencing, there is no reason I could not give similar talks like this all over the world, not just in my local area. Instead of a wall this might be a bridge; I might be able to virtually go all kinds of places to which I could not physically go. I'm available for talks at virtual conferences, festivals, book clubs, and of course earth spirituality groups like the one at the Unitarian Universalist Church I'll be addressing next week.

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There are a number of words specific to modern Asatru in the English language which were based on Old Icelandic or Old Norse and which differ from Modern Icelandic. For example, in Asatru a blot is a ritual sacrifice. In Modern Icelandic, a blota is a cussword. In Asatru in the USA, a fulltrui is a patron god, and in Modern Icelandic it's the word for a customer service representative.

There are also words in use in English that were originally based on Icelandic but have undergone Anglicization.
One of those words is the word Asatruar and Asatruars. In its original language, the word Asatruar is plural. Asatru is the religion of all those Asatruars over here in this room with the mead horn. That's how we say it in English. Sometime between when modern English speaking adherents of Asatru started calling themselves Asatruar, and today, we unconsciously regularized the word to the standard English plural S as Asatruars. So instead of the word Asatruar being understood as a plural word like in Icelandic, with -ar being the plural, we treat it like words like baker, trader, farmer, maker, with the -er understood as one who does. Asatru means faith in the gods of Asgard, so in English Asatruar has started to be treated like it means one who does Asatru.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Victoria
    Victoria says #
    No you don't I agree but if you are going to use or post Old Norse terms use them appropriately.
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    You do not have to speak Old Norse to be Asatru. You do not have to speak Aramaic, Ancient Greek, or Latin to be a Christian. You
  • Victoria
    Victoria says #
    blót/a v (acc/dat) (-aði) A. (acc) (dýrka goð) worship pagan gods B. (dat) 1. (bölva) curse, swear 2. (fórna) sacrifice full·trú

The collective energy generated by any given religion should theoretically be fairly well balanced between masculine and feminine energy, but it can go off kilter if there is a serious gender imbalance in both the membership and the amount of worship given to gods, goddesses, and non-gendered beings. During the modern revival of heathenry, heathenry in general and Asatru in particular has attracted more men than women, and it hasn't always been a welcoming place for people who don't fit into modern culture's gender binary, although things have been getting better. The Troth's recent Loki Blot was a huge step forward in growing leadership by non-binary people and in providing space for LGBTQ+ voices.

There's still more work to do, though. Big organizations like the Troth have their own processes to move forward, but individuals can do things too, both in public work and private work. By public work I mean things like providing information on the net. By private work I mean things like doing small rituals at home. Here are a few ideas about things you can do to help out.

Public Work

One of the things I have tried to do with my forum, the Asatru Facebook Forum, is make a safe, welcoming space for women and QUILTBAG folks. Getting rid of trolls and providing space for people to talk about their personal religious experiences and gnosis benefits everyone of all genders and gender expressions, but since in some online communities women and LGBT+ people have been targeted, it is especially important for them to have a safe place to express themselves. I encourage other forum owners and moderators to do the same.

If you're already participating in the Heathen Visibility Project, you can try to include more images of women, goddesses, and objects associated with them. Masculine and feminine are not the only energies, nor the only traditional roles in heathenry, so we can also include more traditional rituals and activities that include or highlight drag or ritual transvetism for religious or magical purposes, heathens engaging in activities that defy conventional gender roles or which show how traditional heathen gender roles differ from modern ones in the wider society in which we live, and people who are nonbinary, transgender, gender fluid, etc., especially when presented in strong roles and positions. Even just moving someone closer to the middle of a group photo rather than on the edge can psychologically make a difference to the viewer. For more info on the Heathen Visibility Project, read the text of my speech on the Project at Las Vegas Pagan Pride Day 2019 here: https://witchesandpagans.com/pagan-paths-blogs/gnosis-diary/speech-on-heathen-visibility-project-ppd-2019.html

A relatively easy thing to do which will have a tremendous impact is raising the profile of women and trans, nb, and gender fluid leaders, authors, musicians, artists, temple keepers, festival organizers, etc. to match the status and fame of men of similar achievements. Search engines and internal site search algorithms for sites like Amazon give prominence to products like books and art that have a lot of reviews and ratings. If you've read an book on Asatru or another relevant product, review it! It makes a huge difference.

Wikipedia is one of the first places people look for information about just about everything. To take a non-random example, I don't have a Wikipedia page, despite being the author of a famous book that is traditionally published (Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path, an updated version of my out of print book Asatru For Beginners.) There need to be more Asatru authors on the site in general. If you go to Wikipedia and put in "Asatru authors" the list is only one page long and an unfortunately large number of the returns are of white supremacists such as David Lane. You can help fix this right now by going to this link and requesting an Erin Lale page and a page for other notable Asatruars: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_creation

Articles on Asatru and heathenry both by heathen and pagan reporters in pagan venues and by non-heathen and non-pagan reporters in general interest publications tend to quote multiple men and ignore other voices. If you are a reporter, try to be conscious about balancing your interview subjects with regards to gender. If you are contacted by a reporter about Asatru, and you want to refer them to several Asatruars and other heathens, try to refer them to women and T/NB/GF people as well as men.

The same goes for assembling panels on heathenry at conventions, and inviting presenters, ritual leaders, and panelist for pagan festivals. When organizing a festival, convention, or other gathering in which there will be various presenters and leaders, try for a gender balance of the presenters and leaders, and consider LGBTQ+ presenters even if they are less famous than your other presenters.

When participating in sumbel or other rituals in which participants are allowed to choose whom to honor, try to include the goddesses as well as the gods. When designing a ritual, shrine, gathering, etc., try to achieve a balance between gods, goddesses, and other beings of various genders or of no gender.

Private Work

I have a small shrine dedicated to Embla and to the female ancestors generally, especially those who have become powerful spirits connected with their descendants, which we in Asatru call the Disir. I always have some food or drink on it for them. It's a corner of the top of the hutch of my writing desk. I encourage other heathens to honor them as well, in whichever way seems best to them. Asatru has an official holiday for the Disir called Disirblot. Whether on a holiday, in home shrine keeping, toasting during a general gatherings, or in some other way, remember the female ancestors.

If you have a personal practice that includes lots of gods but not many goddesses, or lots of masculine powers but fewer powers who are feminine, non-gendered, gender fluid, etc., consider adding some of those to your personal altars etc. and communicating with them more. If you don't know any of the feminine or nonbinary powers as well as you know the masculine ones, considering learning more about one or more of them. There's a handy list of the gods and goddesses and another handy list of the other powers in my book. Or if reading names on a list doesn't work for you to find one that strikes your fancy, try looking at either classical or contemporary heathen art or reading contemporary poetry in a pagan magazine, and see if you are intrigued by anyone new.

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