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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Metaphors for the Multipartite Soul

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

I like science metaphors when talking about heathen concepts that differ from the ideas common in our current modern American culture. In the Fireverse, my fictional universe based on heathen mythology (see previous entries on that topic), the main human character is an author stand-in who gets a guided tour to the worlds and time, like the main human character in Dante's Bible fan fiction. Like me, she likes science and especially physics as spiritual and religious metaphors, so, the Hel-Boat looks like a Viking longship but behaves like a spaceship, landing and taking off from the Nine Worlds as if they were planet type worlds rather than the dimensions the main character knows them to be. Metaphors for the multipartite soul didn't come up in Some Say Fire because the main character is already in her afterlife after the opening scene, but I'm thinking about them now.

Reading Heathen Soul Lore Foundations to review it (review coming soon), I encountered a metaphor for the various parts of the human soul based on alchemy, especially the idea of refining salts to transform substances into other things. This metaphor just doesn't work for me because I'm not into alchemy. During my daily morning coffee ritual I had a conversation in my mind with Odin about metaphors for the soul.

In the Heathen Soul Lore book, author Winifred Hodge Rose talks about the part of the soul complex that is the soul itself, called Saiwalo throughout the book, as holding onto the other souls such as the Mod, Hugr (heart) etc., keeping them together until it's time for them all to depart to their various destinations. I think she's onto something there. That resonates with me. But the metaphor she uses to describe that is salt holding onto things because it's salty, and that just doesn't do it for me. So I mentally asked Odin what metaphor I should use that would work for me.

At first I asked, wouldn't magnetism be a better metaphor than salt? I pictured magnets sticking to my fridge. There are all kinds of magnets on there. Some are made of stones my father cut and polished. Some are commercially made with little messages and shapes. Some are souvenirs. Some I made myself. Some are even clips that hold other things. That's a good image as far as it goes, but it has some problems as a soul metaphor: firstly magnets repel each other, secondly someone has to place the magnets on there, they don't just arrive by themselves, and thirdly the magnets don't fall off if the fridge stops working. 

Odin, knowing of my penchant for science and physics, suggested that my metaphor should be an atom. The things that make up an atom have independent existence. They stick to each other on their own, without outside intervention. If any of them leave, it's catastrophic for that specific atom, in that specific arrangement-- and possibly for anyone nearby, depending what exactly leaves and how-- but the individual parts just go coalesce into something else. A specific electron can be part of one atom today and part of a different atom tomorrow. There's no moral dimension to that, it's just how it works. The individual parts of the heathen multipartite soul work like that too. 

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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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