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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Tea with Frigga

I intended to make it more elaborate. I thought of getting out the embroidered round altar piece with Frigga spelled out in runes, at least. Possibly a decorative spindle. Find and bring out a matching tea pot and tea cup and even a saucer. Get or maybe even make some tea cookies. In reality I just made the tea in the usual pot that was already sitting on the kitchen counter. Instead of a beautifully arranged altar setup we just had our tea at the table, without even a table cloth, like a friend had dropped over to help out and express support.

Who knew the sovereign goddess, the queen of heaven, the goddess most associated with the running of an efficient estate, could also be the sort of friend who ignores the mess when one is overwhelmed?

I already had linden tea in my cupboard. I had not been super close to Frigga, but I had already had something specific for her around, so I was not starting from zero on a relationship with her. I made the tea, and selected a teacup with a blue flower on it. There was something restful about waiting for the tea to steep. I slipped into a light doze sitting up at the table. When I woke up, blinking away the dryness in my eyes from having stayed open while I slept for a few minutes-- which is not something I normally experience, I was more than just tired-- I was still partially in that half awake state that makes it easier to communicate with the gods. The tea was ready to pour. My arm moved slowly as I fought the tiny touch of sleep paralysis that clung to me for a few moments.

Most of the leaves and flowers stayed in the pot, but a swirling vortex of tiny linden bits poured into the cup along with the tea. I waited for the chaos to settle into order. It was easy to have patience in that moment, knowing that time and gravity would make the leaves settle to the bottom of the cup. I might have drawn a parallel with my recent life, the spiraling leaves being like all the myriad tasks I had to perform, or perhaps the laundry list of spiritual changes since mom's death, if I had thought of it. But I didn't think about trying to read anything in the leaves until after they settled down.

My mom had told me that her mom used to read tea leaves, but stopped during World War Two, because she saw too much death. I looked at my tea leaves. My leaves and flowers and stems.

Prior to my mother's death, the only time I felt really close to Frigga was when I was spinning at the Renfaire, which I did only rarely; my main fiber arts are dyeing, quilt top making, sewing, and embroidery, all of which I regarded as a low level honoring of Frigga, but which weren't intensely magical like spinning. But now there she was, inside my mind, having come through the special door in my mind that the gods used, which opened only from their own dimension. I wondered why I was growing closer to her now.

A phrase occurred to me. "House holder." This will be me, soon. I had thought on and off over the years about the heathen ideal of the husfru / hausfrau-- the land owning woman with the keys to the house and the responsibility of managing and defending the property-- and how that didn't really translate that well into English, and yet when I needed authority to do something for Tom to manage his house or his life, I always got farther saying I was the "girlfriend" rather than the "property manager." Society still lent a certain legitimacy to the old gender roles. And husfru was a very gendered idea, which made me a bit uncomfortable, and yet it applied.

I've been uncomfortable with how magic and religion get seen as gendered. One of the reasons heathenry feels right to me and generic Wiccanate paganism makes me squirm inside is how much cisheteronormative biological sex and gendered constructs based on it are at the root of their magic and ritual, while most Asatru rituals aren't like that. Yet, Freya and Odin required a woman to do the magical and religious work I've been doing. The non magical and non religious work I've been doing, caregiving for mom, is also traditionally seen as women's work. Writing is not traditionally envisioned as women's work in our society but in the age of the internet it's most commonly done by people who can't leave the house for work, so that includes a large portion of moms of small children, caregivers for the elderly and disabled, and of course the elderly and disabled themselves. Recently I've also finally entered the crone stage of life, and for the first time my body is more similar to a normal woman's body than it is to some sort of in between, aberrant thing. In the forty or so years when PCOS defined my ability levels I've experienced being a woman mostly as a disease state. Yet, here I am on a woman's path. I've been gythia (priestess) and runovitki and bersarker for a long time, became godspouse a few years ago, and recently have been spontaneously (that is, I didn't ask about it first) told that I'm also a volva. That the magic I do based on what I learned in the bersarkr tradition is a type of seidhr. I've been struggling with accepting all this gendered stuff. Finally I realize now: It's not that the magic has gender, it's that our attitudes are shaped by gender. That I could take the instruction of the bersarkr tradition and use it in a non warlike manner is a womanly way to do things. It's like what Sigyn does in taking a warrior virtue like perseverance and use it in the service of love, also a womanly thing to do. Recently replacing my old rune set, the one with a piece missing, with a new one made of elm is a way of accessing female ancestral wisdom in addition to my previous rune reading ability. I know that one of the things I am supposed to be doing as a heathen is tipping the gender balance on the energy and attitudes of the heathen community as a whole away from excessively masculine and more toward the middle. I am on a woman's path, like it or not. I accept that, and I plan to have a small ceremony when I receive my share of the title to the house, and formally pin a key to my ritual garb. But I don't have to just accept that a concept like land owning has to be gendered in other contexts besides a heathen ritual context. That still makes me uncomfortable. Even without using an ancient heathen concept like husfru, the words I might use in modern English are also gendered: lady of the house, or landlady.

My inner voice now said "house holder." Same idea, without the gendered stuff. A phrase I could actually say out loud in English without wincing or giving people the wrong idea. A very good phrase.

And yes, becoming the land owning woman with the keys was one reason I was growing closer to Frigga now: because I had more reason to identify with her, beyond doing fiber art. But there was another reason. In the past, when I had tried to reach her, I could not grow close to her aspect as a mother goddess because the mom place in my heart was full. Now it was not as full. Frigga would never replace my human mother, and was unlike her in many ways, but she was there to fill the empty place. The mom place.

Image: Frigg by Carl Emil Doepler (1824-1905) / Public domain.

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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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