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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Lord of the Monsters

Continuing my story of my early experiences that led me to my heathen path, I encountered a heathen god in my childhood, but I did not know who he was. I’m not sure what age I was at the time, but in my dream, I saw the town outside my window as having almond orchards like Ripon, California, where I lived until age 9.

The following is a quote from my memoir, Greater Than the Sum of My Parts: My Triumph Over Dissociative Identity Disorder. DID is a defense mechanism developed by children who were sexually abused before age 7, according to the latest edition of the DSM. My memoir is about how I recovered from that. This is relevant because it’s the reason I was more afraid of my father and brother than the goblins of the dreamtime when I encountered the monsters.

“One night, I saw goblins, small dark shapes coming up through the heat vent in the floor.  I saw their outlines distinctly, as if I were wearing my glasses, though of course I took them off to sleep.  I spoke to them in my mind, thinking at them as I had thought at the boy at school. 

“There’s no sport here.  I glad you came, though.  Let’s go out and have some fun.  Let’s make some mischief.” 


As I fell asleep, I saw them leap out the window right through the glass, without ruffling the Star Wars curtains.  I leaped with them, in my mind, and fell into a lucid dream of pranks.  They came to me often, just as I fell asleep, and I went with them.”

In my memoir, I did not detail my encounter with the Lord of the Monsters, because I did not realize at the time that the details were relevant to my later recovery. Recently, though, I wrote the details into a novel, assigning my personal history to the main human character. I’ll talk more about that when I catch up to the current year in this story of my personal journey and experiences.

In the following quote, the character Paulette is a Mary-Sue, an author insert character. (My middle name is Pauline, so she’s named after me.) She is having pretty much the same experience with the Lord of the Monsters as I did as a child, although I did not actually see him as having literal flames, and I don’t remember much about the pranks the monsters pulled, so I just made up the part about belling the cat for the sake of the story.

A quote from my novel in progress, Some Say Fire:

“It was night. Bright moonlight filtered through the curtains. Paulette could not sleep because she could feel the vortex in Claude’s room through the wall. It was sucking all energy out of the house, and it wanted Paulette’s soul.

Little shadow shapes came up through the heat register in the floor under the window. They had no eyes or mouths; they were all just made of black shadow. At first she was afraid, but then one of them pulled in part of its featureless face to make a kind of smile, and she thought it was funny. It gestured for to come with it.

Paulette remembered them now. She had gone with them before, many times. They were here to play! She remembered them all of a sudden, just like she had not remembered Claude that morning until he started slurping his cereal and she remembered being irritated at him many times before.

She floated out of her bed and drifted over to the shadow monsters. One of the shadow shapes jumped up and dove out the window right through the glass. The other shadows followed it. Paulette followed, too.

She and the shadows drifted over to a neighbor’s house and bent the tree limbs until the formed the word ‘Danger.’ Then they found a neighborhood cat up a tree about to rob a bird’s nest and they tied a bell to its tail. It meowed and hissed and clawed at the shadow monsters, but of course they were made of shadow so the claws did not hurt them. The cat shook its tail and the bell rang. The annoyed cat jumped down from the tree and ran away, for now. The monsters and Paulette drifted across town to the orchards standing in neat rows. The shadow shapes collected on the big white metal structure with the double doors padlocked closed. The little monsters started trying to open the floodgates.

“Wait,” said Paulette. “That’s a different kind of naughty. I don’t want to flood the orchard. Those gates are only opened in the winter, when the trees are in danger of freezing. Everyone in town will suffer if the crops fail. And anyway, I’m getting bored with these useless pranks. Isn’t there something we can do together that would be nice? Something that will help someone?”

The monsters slid off the floodgate and one of them nodded. They gestured for her to follow. They dove into the ground, and Paulette followed. She had never flown through the earth before, but she found it was as easy as flying through the air. Somehow she could see the shadow shapes in front of her, even though soil and pebbles and earthworms and garbage and the occasional buried skeleton were right in front of her spirit eyes as she moved through the ground.

Then they were in open air again, under the same moon, standing in front of a dark cave.

Paulette looked down at her white pajamas with plastic buttons on the front. Despite zipping through the earth, she was still clean. The ground had not affected her any more than the cat’s claws had affected the shadow monsters.

She followed the shadow shapes into the cave. Inside, there was a man lying face up on a rock. He was tied at the wrists and ankles with ropes that went underneath the rock. He had no clothes. He looked like he would be tall if he stood up. The cave was lit only by indirect moonlight from the cave mouth and by the man’s fiery hair. Paulette saw that it was not just fiery red, it was actually fire. She thought the color of the hair underneath might be black, or maybe that was char.

There were other shapes in the darkness, large and still, but Paulette could not quite make them out. Perhaps they were people, as big as Flame Hair.

“Are you the Lord of the Monsters?”

“Yes.” Flame Hair smiled.

“Then you’re my friend. The monsters are my friends.”

“You made friends with my shadow monsters. You must be a very special little girl.” His voice was as high as Susan’s.

“I go out of my body and we have fun in the town.” She smiled, and her dark eyes sparkled in the firelight.

“I’m glad you have fun. I glad my monsters don’t scare you.”

“Monsters don’t scare me. Only scary people.”

His eyebrows rose. They were normal red hair eyebrows, not fire like his hair. His voice sounded concerned now instead of amused. “Do you know scary people?”

“Yes. I wish the monsters could protect me.”

“Monsters, protect this girl. Child, when you go to bed at night, call the shadow monsters and post them at the corners and they will guard you in your bed every night. They only exist in the dark, though. They can’t protect you in the daylight.”

“Thank you, Lord of the Monsters. I knew you would be my friend. It’s too bad they can’t protect me in the daytime, though. Could we go on an adventure together?”

“I’d love to. But I’m bound to this rock.”

The girl came closer and looked at the rock, which had three ridges under the Lord of the Monster’s back and was not smooth like a river rock but jagged. “Is it uncomfortable on that rock, naked like that?”

“It is. It’s awful. I wish I could leave. I can’t leave because of these cords.”

“If you could leave, would you take me somewhere fun and magical and safe? Somewhere no one could touch me?”

“Of course I will. Anytime you want to get there. I can only guide your mind there, though, not your body. You’re journeying in spirit form right now, and your body is still in Midgard.”

“I know.”

“No one has ever come to me like this before. People have called me to help them, but when they call me I go to them and then I end up back here. Can you free me? Really free me, I mean, free my body from these bonds, not just go on a mental trip?”

“I think so.”

“Free me.”

The girl concentrated, and Flame Hair passed through the bonds as if they were not there, or as if his body had become a thought-form, insubstantial as a spirit body. He stood in the cave and looked back at the rock. Someone else filled the bonds now. It was Claude. A shape in the darkness beyond the firelight moved, but Paulette could not see what it did. She heard the sound of something being set down on the floor of the cave.

Flame Hair held out his hand to the girl and she smiled and took it.

“I will show you Uppland.”

“It is up, up, and away?”

“It is. First we need winter gear. I will manifest us snow suits and boots.” Flame Hair concentrated, and they were dressed in matching white padded clothes. “It’s always winter there, because it’s in the land of giants, but it’s so far up the mountain that no one goes there.”

From somewhere in the cave, there was a hissing sound.

“There aren’t any giants there?”

“There are giantesses, but they live buried up to their necks in the snow, and they never go anywhere.”

“Why not?”

“They’re waiting for spring. Come on. Use the power you used to get here and to free me and let’s float away, and I’ll navigate.”

They floated off into the night sky. Paulette wondered if she would be able to breathe in space, but it was fine. Her body here was just a spirit form, and it didn’t really need air. Flame Hair’s body was solid and real, though, but he seemed to breathe alright and the flame on his hair did not go out even when they crossed the void between the stars.

They came to a world shining white like a pearl from all its snow. They landed in the snow. They were in a broad snow field, at the edge of the dark forest. Predawn light came from behind the hill like a light shining through an eggplant skin. “This is Uppland. It’s for you. Your private safe place. Do you like it?”

“Yes. It’s empty. It’s big and cold, and there aren’t any zucchini.”

Flame Hair chuckled. “Well, it’s not really empty. You’ll find the giantesses eventually. I’ll show you how to navigate from here back and forth to your house. Let’s practice.”

He showed her how to fly from the giants’ world to the human world and back, until Paulette could find Uppland by herself, and go back home by herself, too. They stood in front of her house. She knew her body was sleeping inside, and it would wake up soon when the sun rose. She knew she did not even have to be there when it woke up, if she didn’t want to be. Now she could go to Uppland. “Thank you, Lord of the Monsters. Thank you for Uppland.”

“Thank you, little girl. You don’t know what it means to me to be free, after all this time.” Flame Hair’s white snow suit rippled, and it turned into a black business suit. Then he walked off down the road, singing in a foreign language. He laughed and skipped around the corner.

Paulette rose into the sky, and out into the black of space, and back to Uppland. She walked in the sparkling snow under the sun until she found the snow field where the heads of women grew like cabbages. They had golden cups filled with water on top of their heads.

“Why do you wait for spring? You know spring will never come.” Paulette somehow knew that about the giant world. She did not know how she knew.

They just smiled. They did not speak, but they seemed kind.

Paulette bent down and drank some water from one of the cups. It was slightly warm, like it was the same temperature as their bodies. “Thank you.”

She went into the dark woods and found a sheltered spot in a hollow tree, with a soft cushion of pine needles.

There was a snow storm in the night, and Paulette was afraid the Snow Cup Ladies would be covered with snow. In the morning light she went out to their field, leaving her footprints in the fresh snow, but they looked the same as ever. Paulette asked them, “Did you grow taller overnight? Do you keep getting taller every time it snows?”

Of course, they did not answer. They just smiled. She pictured their elongated bodies, a hundred feet high, and what they would look like if spring ever came. They would stand in the green field and they would just be too tall and slender as snakes. She wondered if they had arms and legs under there.

Paulette was thirsty. She knelt in the snow and drank one of the cups. It was snowmelt, pure and clean and surprisingly cool. “Thank you, Snow Cup Ladies.”

Interpretation

The Lord of the Monsters and I never told each other our names. I had no idea who he was until a couple of decades later, when I was already heathen and a sworn Priestess of Freya, and having read the Icelandic mythology and thinking back to that childhood dream, I realized that I met Loki.

I’ve been reluctant to talk about this with my fellow heathens, because I know that some sects of heathenry accept Snorri’s version of our mythology as some kind of Biblical revealed truth, even though Snorri was a Christian living in the post-conversion era. Snorri’s Edda is as much a personal version of the mythology seen through the lens of the author’s personal psychological needs as my novel Some Say Fire is for me. Snorri believed in the Biblical God and Satan and imposed those Christian values on the heathen mythology he retold. He literally demonized one of the heathen gods, assigning Loki as his devil figure, because as a Christian he felt the need to have Satan in the heathen pantheon. Not ever having read any heathen mythology or encountered any heathens when I met Loki in his Child Saver aspect, I was able to see him as he really is, as I’ve recently discovered he has always been seen in the folklore and fairy tales of continental Europe and the nearby islands: as a benevolent god who helps children, and as a complicated being who is both Child Saver and Lord of the Monsters, and many other things besides, but is certainly not the evil Satan-figure that Snorri made him out to be.

Nonetheless, I know there are many people who identify as heathen and yet hate one of the heathen gods, because a Christian told them to. I know some of them will be unable to accept that my personal experience is not like what they’ve been told about Loki, and will think I myself am evil because I have admitted to having a relationship with Loki. I have reached the point in my life where I am ready to share this with the public, even though I know it will make some people hate me. It might lead to a loss of sales of my books, upon which I depend for my living, since heathenry doesn’t have paid clergy. Having shared that I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and that I had to seek therapy for it as an adult, having spoken out about that in my published memoir, in online support groups, in public spaces both on the net and in real life, on national television, in political meetings, having advocated on behalf of my fellow survivors so strongly that I got appointed to serve as the consumer advocate on my state’s mental health board, having made that service experience and the things I accomplished there a major plank in my campaign both times I ran for public office, I have reached the point where I can say: I have told the whole world about being raped by my father; why on Earth should I be afraid to tell the world about meeting Loki? Loki’s monsters protected me, just like he told them to. The monsters did keep me safe at night. After I encountered Loki, the darkness of the night was a total safe zone for me. And even in daytime, or when the lights were on in the house, I could always send my mind to Uppland. I didn’t have to be mentally present on Earth at all. I

In the story of my life, it’s the humans who did evil. My father and brother sexually abused me. Loki protected me as much as he could.  Loki is the good guy.

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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.

Comments

  • wayne bates
    wayne bates Tuesday, 29 July 2014

    Any one who judges you for your relationship with Loki is an idiot . I have never expereinced Loki myself but i do feel close to Hel and i see her as a benevolent goddess's than she is portrayed . We should be grateful for Christian authors who wrote down our stories , because without them we would have no initial knowledge of the gods , but we should also be aware of their bias and world view and how that will have coloured what they wrote . I cannot even imagine what you have been through and i will keep an open mind about the trickster . I also think you are very brave and you have nothing but my respect

    Waes Hael

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Tuesday, 29 July 2014

    Thank you!

    I've gotten secondhand reports of internet trolls mocking me in groups I'm not a member of where I can't see them, but so far the only negative responses here on the blog itself have been downvotes on the star rating.

    Your message of support means a lot to me. Thanks again!

  • wayne bates
    wayne bates Tuesday, 29 July 2014

    You are a example of courage that we should applaud , not mock .
    If they have choosen to do so where you cannot see it , it just shows them to be dishonourable and cowardly
    I have no time or respect for folk like that

    But I respect you and your bravery at talking not only about Loki but what you have been through . Forget the Trolls

    Wayne

    Wayne

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Tuesday, 29 July 2014

    Thank you!

  • Brenda Caudill
    Brenda Caudill Friday, 01 August 2014

    You are beautiful and I am glad you had Loki to help you.

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Friday, 01 August 2014

    Thank you!

  • Amber Drake
    Amber Drake Thursday, 09 October 2014

    A powerful and lovely story about Loki.
    I think you're a great writer.
    I also think you are very brave to write about what you've been through.

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Thursday, 09 October 2014

    Thank you! I was nervous about blogging about this, so it's been wonderful to see all these supportive comments!

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