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.

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Heathen Calendar and Slavic Calendar Projects

I'm creating a Heathen Calendar and a Slavic Calendar for 2017. I've accumulated holidays from various heathen traditions for the Heathen Calendar, including American Asatru, Icelandic Asatru, Theod, Forn Sed, Forn Sidr, American Northern Tradition, etc. I've also collected holidays from various Slavic traditions, including Old Slavic, Modern Rodnovery, and American Rus.

This is how I came to start this project. The company for which I work was recently purchased, and I'm now working for the same person who published my book American Celebration at Spero Publishing. One day Alan mentioned he'd like to start publishing calendars. And I emailed back, "Calendars, ay? You know what would be cool?" So there we are. Caliburn Press / Spero is going to start with two calendars, a Heathen one and a Slavic one, and hopefully add more calendars in future years.

When I started this project, I didn't realize how much work it was going to be. Now I know why no one has produced a modern calendar with all the different heathen holidays on it. Some holidays on old lunar calendars are set by moon phases, in the old Icelandic calendar all months started on Sunday, most of the historical records that provide Christian calendar dates equivalent to their country's then-current heathen calendar provide dates for the Julian calendar which then have to be translated to the Gregorian calendar, and there's a modern holiday for which I had to appeal to my friends to tell me how to calculate the heliacal rising of Sirius for future years. I've collected quite a list of holidays, but I'll be open to adding more right up until I turn the project over to the boss, which won't be until after I select 12 artworks for each calendar.

I'm looking for classical paintings to illustrate the two calendars. In future years, we hope to use art by living artists, but at least for the first year, we plan to use art that has fallen into the public domain due to its age. I've been deep in Google Image Search. I decided on paintings because I think full color art would look best on a calendar in print. These decisions necessarily mean most of the art will be from the Romantic era, but I promise: no horned helmets.

If anyone would like to suggest art, or holidays, for either the Heathen or Slavic calendars, please comment with your suggestions.

Image: Golden Tears by Gustav Klimt. I see this as an image of Freya, who wept tears of gold and amber while she searched for Odh ("Inspiration.")

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Not specifically, as far as I know. The American Rus holidays are only celebrated by American groups that honor multiple tradition
  • Jön Upsal's Gardener
    Jön Upsal's Gardener says #
    Can you point us to more information on the "American Rus" you mention? First I've heard of it.
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    American Rus holidays are modern additions to the Slavic pagan calendar which are celebrations of Rus heroes, particularly the ear
  • Jön Upsal's Gardener
    Jön Upsal's Gardener says #
    Are there any American Rus groups? Links would be helpful.
  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    How cool! Excited to see them when they are done!

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Planting Heritage Wheat for Sif

I lost 20 lbs. on the Goddess Diet. I've been avoiding GMO wheat and corn products because I received gnosis that the goddess Sif wants me to. I'll relate the somewhat amusing story of how I avoid them in another post. As I mentioned in the Fireverse 1 post, while I was writing my probably-unpublishable behemoth Some Say Fire, I received a scene showing that GMO wheat is fatal to Sif, the goddess of wheat. This is what I call novel-gnosis: information about the gods presented to me by them as fiction but which I think may also be applicable beyond the Fireverse.

Once my head was cracked open to hear the gods while writing, I received messages from them as well as being inspired with scenes for the book. I got a strong impression that she wanted non-GMO wheat in real life.

I said, "It would take a revolution to get that for you. An actual revolution."

Sif said, "Get on with it already. Aren't you already talking to Loki?"

It turns out, I was wrong. It didn't take a revolution. Heritage wheat still exists in the world. It might not be in the bread aisle at the grocery store, but one can grow some if one has land on which to do so. Native Seed Search (nativeseeds.org) has some. I ordered some of that wheat to plant for Sif.

When I planted the wheat, I did a ritual to have it blessed by Sif, Thor, and Loki. The what itself is Sif's sphere of influence, and rain is Thor's. The earth itself is Jord's, also known as Fjorgynn, Thor's mother; the place where I was planting already had a dedication to her on it, written on the bottle wall in runes. Clearing the ground relates to one of Loki's spheres of influence. I had to dig up the dead things that were in the planting bed. Also some live things had to be dug up and potted and moved. The ground had to be leveled. I added compost, and turned the soil over. Only then was it ready for Sif's wheat to be planted, and only after that was it ready for Thor to rain on it to make it grow.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I've been signing lots of online petitions for GMO labeling. I used to subscribe to Organic Gardening magazine so I know there ar

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Folk Dance Magic

Dance can be an ecstatic experience. Folk dances tell stories, preserve cultures, and draw communities together. Some dances encode history, preserve martial arts moves, or mimic work such as planting and harvesting. Mixer dances serve a social function, as do dances for specific celebrations. Some dances are forthrightly fertility rituals, and some are magic spells.

The song and dance Mayim Mayim (Hebrew for "Rain, Rain,") is a rain dance. That is, it is a ritual performed to make it rain. Rain Dance is a short film I directed featuring the Ethnic Express Folk Dancers of Las Vegas, Nevada, performing Mayim Mayim. 

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A Doll for Sif

I dedicated a small doll to the grain goddess, Sif, to keep in the Spiritual Souvenir Shrine on my wall. I had had the doll for years, having bought it in the Soviet Union when I was in college, but one day I suddenly looked at it and thought "Sif." It has pale yellow hair, but its hair was all messed up from the years, so I restyled it. While I was trying to smooth her hair down, some of it fell out!

I had to fix that somehow. So, of course then I had to make the hairstyle better than before, because in the myth where Loki cuts her hair and then goes and has the dwarves make her new hair, the renewed hair was better. So instead of retying the pony tails with the orange thread the doll came with, I retied it with gold thread. I completely unintentionally re-enacted the grain myth where her hair is cut and then replaced with hair of gold, symbolizing the harvest and regrowth of the grain. Now it's a Sif doll for sure!

Image: Sif by Relotixke

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Connecting with Frigga through Fiber Art

Like all the heathen gods and goddesses, Frigga is complex and has many spheres of influence. One is traditional women's crafts involving fiber, specifically spinning and weaving, but also including all the fiber arts.

Frigga's symbols include a distaff or spindle. The constellation which the majority society calls Orion was known as Frigga's Distaff. A distaff is a staff upon which a spinner wounds spun yarn or thread. Spinning and weaving were associated with magic and prophecy. In addition to Frigga's spinning the clouds, the Norns were also depicted fashioning fiber into cloth. The threads represent individual lives and the cloth represents the community, or history, which is made of individual lives, or the world. We reference that idea when we use phrases like "the fabric of the universe."

About a decade or so ago, I spent a weekend at my local Renaissance Faire demonstrating spinning with a drop spindle. I did these repetitive motions all day, and after a few hours they became meditative. Partly like the state of flow of creating art, and partly like the repetitive motion meditation of drumming, the act of spinning opened my inner awareness and brought me closer to Frigga.

Once I connected with her, I found all types of fiber art can bring me closer to her. Before the Great Recession and immediately following Not-So-Great Depression started, I used to operate a custom fabric dyeing business. I specialized in silk, but also dyed other natural fabrics, yarns, and so forth. I make quilt tops, out of both my own fabrics and other fabrics. I find making quilt tops can be meditative the same way spinning was for me. I especially enjoy making the simple, geometric blocks of traditional quilts. Making them has both the repetitive motions and the artistic feeling from choosing fabrics and appreciating the fabrics as I see and touch them.

All fiber art can be a form of dedication to Frigga, if one intends it to be. Even if I'm making a quilt with a topic that isn't one of her particular interests, or if I'm making it for someone else, the act of making fiber art is still a way to draw close to her.

Image: a traditional Log Cabin quilt I made from various silk fabrics which I hand dyed.


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5 Magical Novels of 2015

This is my list of novels published in 2015, which I acquired for publication, of interest to pagans, heathens, and witches.

 1. The Rishis: The Book of Secrets by Robert Delgado

(Also available in Spanish: Los Rishis y el Libro de Secretos)

Contemporary young people discover the secrets and powers of the Rishis, and the mystery of what happened in Gonur 3,500 years ago, while battling the Rishis' enemies the Mantris.

2. Jane by Rose Montague

(sequel to Jade)

Jane and Jade hunt evil before it hunts them.

3. Lucidity by Ray S. Kent

Lucid dreams can lead a boy to love, or evil.

4. Caloric by Trisha Barr

Four young people discover they are the elements bound in human form, and an ancient society plans to kill them and steal their powers.

5. Iona Kyle series by Ian Jarvis
Book 1: Dark Equinox
Book 2: Here by Dragons
Book 3: Witch Hunt

Iona Kyle uses her psychic powers to foil evil, and evil tries to foil her back.

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Fireverse 6: Mythology is Subjective

Mythology is stories, and stories reflect the mind of the storyteller. We acknowledge that when we talk about how a given mythological tale reflects a culture and its level of scientific and social advancement. The individuals who told the stories also projected them through their own personal lenses, not only as members of their culture but as people with internal psychology.

One of the things I learned while writing Some Say Fire, in which I retold as much of the heathen lore as I could find along with original material inserted interstitially, is that it is impossible to write objective fiction about the gods no matter how hard I try. Even though I relate to the gods either as people with personalities or as nature, when I wrote fiction about them they inevitably turned into archetypes. For example, the ways that Fireverse Odin differs from traditional Odin all turned out to be about my real life deceased father. I didn't intend to do that. I didn't even realize that until after I had enough of a draft completed to show it to someone else and my critique partner pointed it out to me; I knew I had turned my problems over to my higher power by giving them to Loki, but I hadn't realized how much that distorted all the other characters in the story.

Only after I had dealt with those issues was I able to get past them and reach the real Odin. In mythology or fairy tale, the father figure is your father, the road is your path, and the mountain is whatever obstacle you yourself must overcome. Everything turns into dream symbolism.

This same phenomenon must surely have happened when the lore that we have received in written form was first written down. The lore contained in Snorri's Edda must therefore reflect Snorri the individual as much as it reflects the lore as he had heard it in his lifetime, and as much as it reflects his culture and the times he lived in.

Fireverse Odin turned into my father and Fireverse Loki my wounded inner child because those are the personal issues I needed to resolve through my creative writing. Snorri's Odin turned into Yahweh and his Loki turned into the Devil. As a Christian with recent heathen ancestors living in the time of conversion, watching his culture be destroyed by the very thing he most passionately believed in--the Church-- resolving the cognitive dissonance between his Christian beliefs and his love of the stories of his culture must have been his greatest psychological need.

The subjectivity of story, even mythology from an oral tradition, is something to keep in mind in interpreting the lore. Some of my fellow Asatruars treat the Eddas as if they were the word of the gods. The Eddas were written by men; men have human needs, including psychological needs. The storyteller shapes the story even if he tries not to.

Image: image from publicdomainpictures.net

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