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.

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Heathen Visibility Project How To

 

What is the Project?

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Heathen Visibility Project Getting Results

The Project has enough images now so that when a journalist asked what images were available I was able to direct them to the #heathenvisibility hashtag and to Project galleries on Deviantart and Shutterstock. We always need more images, though, especially images that illustrate specific ideas.

The Project works through search engines, keywords, and hashtags, so tracking our success in getting Project images into search engine returns is an important part of the Project, so we can see what to try next. A standard Google search for the hashtag yielded some great results, for example, these links:

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Recently there was a discussion in the Asatru Facebook Forum that evolved a subthread about Godan, the name of Odin among the Lombards. I received some gnosis, and so, since this blog is Gnosis Diary, I'm going to tell you all about it.

As background to the Godan discussion: The main thread had been affirming the original poster's exploration of Asatru as a possible path, which grew into discussion of Unitarian-Universalist style religion, which eventually branched into the Godan discussion. It was pointed out that the name Godan was the origin of the English name God for the Christian God. This led to a question of whether they were the same god.

At this point Odin spoke in my head. (Which is not unusual for me at all, as you see if you read the past few years' blog posts, and we had just been communicating during my daily morning coffee ritual a few minutes before, so this was not a remarkable occurrence except that he had a message he wanted conveyed.) "I am not the same god."

Since the original post was a new seeker's intro post, when Odin joined the conversation in my head I wanted to be sure to express it in a way that would not be received as argumentative or unwelcoming. I remember very well how people reacted to my first few reports of messages from the gods, like "Don't poison the Earth," which I had to completely recast as "Love nature and care for her" before people found the message acceptable, when I first started receiving this type of gnosis a few years ago when I was opened to the gods by writing fiction. So with that in mind, I crafted my comment.

Additional background: the comment to which I was responding also mentioned the "chosen people" thing, which I why I included a reference to it in my answer. One of the differences between Odin and YHVH is that Odin doesn't have a chosen people. Some of the heathen gods were patrons or ancestors of species tribes or nations in historical times-- the Lore specifically says the Langobards were named by Frigga who favored them in a war, for example-- but they never said other people couldn't worship them. So the comment to which I was responding started off by commenting about the name Godan being borrowed for the name of xian God, and also included a reference to YHVH having a chosen people.

So here is the comment I created to convey my gnosis in a way that other Asatruers would find unobjectionable:

True. So if people want to reclaim the name God / Godan for Odin that's fine. The being most people mean by the name God is someone else entirely, who may or may not be still the same god whose name was taboo; since that god did have a chosen people and most modern day xians are not from that people it begs the question who that guy really is anymore, but that's beyond the scope of a study of heathenry so I have no answers there. One thing I do know, well two things, firstly that all outlooks from atheist to unitarian-universalist to soft polytheist to hard polytheist are part of modern Asatru and are welcome here, and secondly that Odin is not YHVH because he told me so. That's another thing that is welcome here: gnosis. Because the gods are here now.

(comment finished with smiley face emojis.)

So, here is my opinion about what it's like to have gnosis like this: it's easy to communicate with the gods. What's hard is figuring out how to talk about communicating with the gods in a way that other people won't knee-jerk want to argue with. I think there are probably lots of people who have gnosis like this and just don't talk about it because it's so hard to talk about. That's one of the things I want to help with by writing this blog and also by running the forum: to normalize talking about gnosis so it will be easier in the future.

I know I succeeded in crafting my response correctly because my comment led to a nice discussion of the other person's gnosis and opinions. Which led to the related but distinct discussion of how different is Odin from Godan from Wodan, and how different is one person's Odin from another person's Odin. I think Odin, Godan, and Wodan are simultaneously different and the same. And for the second question, I like the metaphor of the godphone, where everyone has a distinct phone number and might get the wrong voicemails if they dial in from someone else's. When I receive gnosis I always know if it's just for me or intended to be conveyed to other people. The very few messages I receive to convey are such a small percentage of the conversations I have in my mind with my gods that they stand out like a red tree among yellow and green trees. Like looking a hillside full of trees in autumn and there is only one maple tree in the whole forest. Usually the only time I can just directly relay a message without trying to craft a way to say it nicely is when I'm giving a rune reading, in which case people already expect and want a message. This is a skill it took me years to learn, and I'm not sure I'd really say I've mastered it yet; if I had, perhaps it would be easy. lol.

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Heathen Visibility Project 2021 Year in Review

2021 was a challenging year for the Heathen Visibility Project for two reasons. One, adapting to the pandemic, and two, some of our symbols started the year with some bad PR.

This was the year that some heathen symbols were brought to the negative attention of the public on the body of a man who was not heathen, whom heathens referred to variously as Horned Hat Man and Mr. Fur-Brains. The event came soon after the publication of my article Heathen Vs. Hate in Witches and Pagans Magazine, which was still on newsstands at the time, so I was able to tell the public via my social media where to look for info on heathen symbols. Rolling Stone Magazine painted all heathen symbols as hate symbols but after an uproar by the public (including me and my forum members) and by organizations such as the UK Police Pagan Association, they corrected their article, although they did not publicly issue a formal retraction.

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Due to a certain popular show, people are confused about what Frigga's Handmaidens are. Frigga is the queen of Asgard, so her Handmaidens are a queen's ladies in waiting. A queen's handmaidens are other noblewomen who serve the queen as their brothers might serve as army officers.

The hand part of the word means close at hand. Hand maid and hand thegn (thane) used to be words for a female and male personal attendant, respectively. The idea is that this is someone usually to be found in the same room during work hours, which would be while the monarch is holding court, unless sent on some errand. It is in this sense that older Christian writings sometimes use the title Handmaiden of the Lord for the Virgin Mary.

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I had a conversation in my head with Odin today. That's not unusual for me since I opened my mind while writing Some Say Fire, but this conversation illustrates an important point in heathenry and this blog is all about what it feels like to do heathenry, so here goes.

First, a little background. I don't usually talk about my health problems on my blog because they are usually not relevant to my religious experiences and activities, but this time they are. I have had various health problems generally classified as autoimmune disorders throughout my life. Last year I had the best allergy year of my life because of wearing a mask everywhere, and after talking it over with my allergy doctor, who is an immunologist and an expert on vaccines, this spring we decided I had managed to fight my immune system down far enough so it might be safe for me to get a vaccine this year. We developed a plan for me in which as soon as I was eligible for the covid vaccine in early summer, I first had an antibody test to see if I already had antibodies to covid, and since I did not I got one jab. I became very sick. My tests indicated I had gotten a laundry list of problems, including another infectious disease, worsening of my existing problems, a neuro issue, and a brand new additional autoimmune disorder. For these reasons I am unable to have a second jab. I might never be allowed to travel, it may never be safe for me to work except from home, and I am aware every time I go somewhere where there are other human beings that I am taking more of a risk than most other people do.

I still go places, but I'm cautious. I wear my mask whenever I'm in public indoors. I don't go to restaurants where people have to take their masks off inside to eat. But I still get out sometimes.

The high point of my week was being interviewed for Ed "The Pagan" Hubbard's podcast. I'll post a link when I have one to share. That took place at an event at a local witch shop, Realms Within. My housemate and I went together and we had a great time. I met a new friend who introduced herself as being in the photo with my late fiancee Tom that Selena Fox had shared about her previous Veterans' Day activities. It was a great evening.

At the end of the week my housemate had cold symptoms. In any other decade, we would both have just brushed it off and gone about life as usual, but now my first reaction when she told me was, "Oh no! I hope it's not covid!" There were some practicalities I had to think of before I had time to just deal with my emotions. It was way harder and took way longer than it should to schedule her for a covid test. Most test sites require a car, which means I will have to drive her (there are some sites she could reach with Paratransit but she chose not to use the bus), and signing up was so hard I ended up having to do it for her on the net. With those tasks out of the way, my mind quieted enough to just think my own thoughts and hear my own inner voice.

And what my inner voice had to say was "Oh no! We're going to die!"

That was when Odin spoke. "You are not going to die this year."

Well it's the middle of November so that was not quite as reassuring as he meant it to be. He heard that too.

"Whenever you need breath, I am here."

And I found myself so reassured my fears melted away. Because I have experienced precisely that, due to asthma and allergies, especially if exposed to smoke or other bad things. I've experienced Odin or one of his brothers coming to me with breath to fill my lungs. I know I can rely on them to be there when I need them.

That's the important point about heathenry that I wanted to tell everyone about. Well, two points, actually. Firstly, that my faith in my god-husbands comes from personal experience. Secondly, that even though Asatru actually has a healer deity, Eir, it's the gods I'm personally closest to who come to me to help me with both my chronic health issues and my nervousness about further health problems. Odin, Honir, Lodhur who is Loki, all have come to me with breath at some point. If I had a serious health emergency I would not hesitate to contact Eir about it, but it's the gods who are close at hand all the time who come to me without being called.

Thus reassured, and not too spun up in myself to think of the community, my next thoughts were that I should stay home from the memorial service I had planned to attend this weekend. I'm disappointed about that, but they say that someone exposed to covid can spread it even if they have no symptoms, so the most responsible thing to do is to not go. I also delayed the stitch-n-bitch party I had planned to hold that was for the purpose of seeing some friends I often only see at the renfaire that I missed seeing this year because I had not been physically able to make it through the whole weekend of faire. I'm disappointed about that too but I will see them another day. I have no fears now, just rational choices, because of my relationship with my gods.

I've spent a lot of effort in my life learning to be calm. To be logical. To think first, act second, and feel third. Now, it's so much easier, because my gods are with me.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Thank you Jamie!
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Ms. Lale, I'm glad the test was negative. May the Goddesses and Gods be with you whilst you deal with your health challenges. Pl
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Great news! The test was negative. All fine here.

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Remember the silly Blank Rune? At least one person on the net does, since someone was recently ranting about Ralph Blum's rune book in my forum. His new way of beating that dead horse was to insist the problem was "cultural appropriation" rather than that the whole idea of a Blank Rune is poppycock.

For those who don't remember those days: Once upon a time, there was hardly anyone on the net and it was not a place to buy books. The only readily publicly available information on modern day Heathenry / Norse / Germanic paganism was in rune magic books in general bookstores. Rune sets were not easily available for purchase. Along came Ralph Blum with a book on rune magic packaged with a rune set. Of course the market gobbled it up. The trouble was, Blum's rune system was mostly bunkum, and the rune sets included the 24 Elder Futhark runes plus an extra Blank Rune.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Yep! Well the 70s and 80s are in fashion right now. Even some electric car makers are jumping on that bandwagon, lol.
  • Victoria
    Victoria says #
    Haha, I remember the days of the blank rune, what a blast from the past.

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