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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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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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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My daily life as a gythia includes both surprise duties and surprise rewards, as well as the more usual planned variety of each. Within the past few weeks I've found myself staying up late to help someone get rid of or get closer to entities she brought with her. I've helped a lost spirit that had attached himself to a living person to finally cross, for which he was thankful. I've sent a being that didn't belong in this world where he belonged. I've confirmed that a god was with someone, via my own connection with Odin and Loki, although they would say no more about it, firstly because if they interfered then the person would not have a chance to form the kind of connection the other god desired, and secondly because my gods did not want to encourage me to form any accidental connections with a pantheon outside the Asatru one. I'm glad to help, and helping people like this is one of the reasons I have these abilities. But sometimes the surprise is a present just for me.

The local landwight has been eating well this month, as my household generated an unusual amount of vegetable matter to compost. And there has been a lot of rain, a blessing from Thor. One day I was looking at my lovely mimosa tree and I remembered that out of the two decades I've lived here, the tree dropped live seeds that sprouted only once. They had been growing in inappropriate places-- the lawn, namely, and I had tried to transplant them, but they didn't survive. I suppose I made a silent wish in that moment-- I wished to grow a seedling of my mimosa tree. A few days later, when I went out to check on the area near the garden gnome statue, which is my icon of the landwight, I saw it: a tiny, tiny seedling, with tiny little mimosa leaves. Right behind the statue.

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1st anniversary of book launch!

Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path was published on August 1st, 2020. I put off doing a book tour hoping I'd be able to go on a post-pandemic belated book tour in 2021 but it's not yet time for a lot of in person events this year either. Hopefully next year! So, instead of a book tour:

Review party week!

Post a new review of my book on Amazon, Storytel, etc. (wherever you bought it) or your blog, post the link as a comment here, and win a surprise prize! (You'll get a choice of 3 different surprise prizes. Must message me on social media or email me in order to choose and claim your prize.) Or if you've previously posted a review on Amazon, your blog, etc., post a link to that review and you still win a prize! Because what is time? (Oh but that's another story lol.) I'll share your review link across my social media platforms (that includes a link to your blog, magazine, podcast, etc. if that's where your review is.)

Review party week goes from today (Saturday July 31, 2021) to next Saturday  (August 7, 2021.) Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path is the new, longer, updated version of my out of print book Asatru For Beginners.

Find all the links to buy the ebook, paper, or audiobook on the following link, or ask for my book at your local bookstore or library.

https://www.erinlaleauthor.com/asatrua-beginners-guide.html

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Humor, Rain, and Lokigator

A quote from Dane Willerslev on humor in Yukaghir hunting rituals has been circulating on the net. It got me thinking about how our Asatru gods might view silly human fan activity related to the Marvel versions of themselves as similar humor.

When the first few Marvel movies featuring Thor, Loki, etc. came out there was a big debate about them within Asatru communities. One of the subjects of that debate was whether the Marvel versions were full fledged new versions of the gods, created by and for our modern culture, in the same way that Odhinn differs from Woden while still being essentially the same god. People were examining the depiction of the gods in the movies but largely ignoring the massive presence and activity of the fans, which I thought was a mistake. It's the humans watching that make a play either a form of sacred theater or just a play, even if it's the same play.

The essential action related to the first Thor movie was not the movie itself, it was millions of children raising toy Thor's hammers and yelling "Hail Thor!" When that first movie came out in theaters, Thor blessed my local area with a lot of rain. There was similarly an unusually large amount of rain every time a new movie with Thor in it came out. Clearly he approves of more people hailing him, even if they don't really know much about the real him.

So, when a new Marvel show was about to come out, although not in theaters and not with Thor in it, I wondered what would happen. Would there be more rain?

Rain is precious where I live, in the Mojave Desert south of Las Vegas, Nevada. 2020 was an exceptionally dry year even for the Vegas valley. For the past several years I've been growing wheat which I turn into Northern Lights Goddesses Brew. I plant in December and harvest in June, usually. It's usually a really reliable crop, easy to grow, but this year I had a total crop failure. It was just too dry. I was hoping for a good wet monsoon season this summer, and not just for my garden. The water that comes out of the tap in my house comes from Lake Mead, which depends on the Colorado River, but city storm runoff refills it too. Lake Mead was way down. Lake Mead also provides a lot of the power in this area, via hydroelectric generation from Hoover Dam. Water in the lake literally keeps the lights on in Las Vegas.

So, there has been a lot of precious rain every time America honored Thor with a movie. How would he respond this time? Fan activity online has strongly associated Lokigator with Throg, the frog version of Thor. Frogs are associated with water and rain. At this point the main character of the Loki series is very connected to the Thor character in the minds of fans, as anyone watching online fan activity could tell. (Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD.) When the episode featuring many variants of Loki from different timelines appeared, fans responded with art and stories depicting the childhood and early history of each of the variants, mostly featuring Thor, although some featured Odin and Frigga.

A big fan favorite with the art and stories and jokes was Lokigator. I too found Lokigator delightful. I like Lokigator because he is just so random. Loki meets all the Lokis, some are younger, some older, one is a woman, one is an alligator. It's like a little piece of actual chaos. Very Loki.

I participated in the Lokigator fan activity by inventing a dance motion I call the Lokigator Chomp. I posted a short video of it on my social media (Facebook, Twitter, and MeWe.) Immediately after I recorded the video, within seconds of turning off the camera, it started to rain.

So of course I raised a toast. "Hail Thor! Thank you for the beautiful rain."

Image: Lokigator fan art I made to illustrate this blog post

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