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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The Day I Swore Myself to Freya

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Continuing my story of my personal journey on my heathen path, 1989 was the year when everything happened: my formal dedication to Freya, my father’s death, my study abroad in the Soviet Union, and finally the earthquake. I went out in the woods that day fully intending to swear myself to Odin. Since I was drawn to heathenry via rune magic and he was the patron of the runes, it seemed natural. Also, although I had not yet encountered the idea of sacred wounds, I felt close to Odin because of growing up visually impaired. When I was ready to dedicate myself to a patron god, Freya showed up instead. It would take many years before I understood why. I believe now that I was opened to Freya by sacred wounds, also, but at the time I could not even remember what had happened to me as a child.

I’m going to lump all the stuff about my dad into my next post, even though some of it happened the summer before my junior year and some of it happened at the end of my junior year. At the time, I didn't associate my father's death with becoming dedicated to Freya; now I wonder if she removed him from my life so that I could heal in time.

The dedication ritual I designed for myself was rather crudely made, since I had never met another heathen at that point in my life, and the only things I knew specifically about heathenry, as distinct from general paganism, came from books: Futhark, the book of rune magic I had been given for my 17th birthday, and academic works on mythology and other heathen related disciplines from the UC-Santa Cruz library. This was long before the time when one could simply look up what one wanted to know on Google. The ritual I designed was the best I could do at the time, and it was enough. I know now that the gods respond to sincere desire for contact, and whether in magic or in relationships with holy powers, what's going on inside is more important than the outward forms of ritual.

A quote from my memoir, Greater Than the Sum of My Parts:

     “Since there was no ready group practicing Asatru that I knew about, except for the one I’d written to years before and which had never written back to me, I decided I would design my own initiation, borrowing from what I knew of Native American shamanism, Wiccan solitary practice, and the runic model of the creation of a rune tine, or magical talisman.

     I decided I would fast, since that was common to all the practices of which I knew, though it was dangerous for me.  In acknowledgment of that danger, I prepared hiker-style cakes to bring with me and incorporated them into the ritual, and decided my fast would just be overnight, the ritual taking place in the early morning.  That sounded safe enough.  I did not want to pass out in the middle of one of the most important occasions of my life.

     I wrote an oath to speak, at the point in the tine-style ritual where the tine is generally given its purpose in poetic form, and then “born” from its dark wrappings.  I promised to follow “the road of the runes”, and since rune means mystery, it was an oath to seek knowledge, in imitation of the chief god of Asatru, Odin.

     I rose early that day.  Dawn pink shone gently down on the redwood forest.  I walked far north and east into the campus reserve, toward that area the students called Elfland.  Each time I came to a branching of ways, I looked for a stick on the ground which pointed one way or the other.  Soon I turned from people trails down a rabbit run, dropping to hands and knees to get through the brush and silvery spider webs.  I emerged in a little clearing and set up to meditate.  I lit incense, and the smell was a taste of manzanita blossoms, and then blood, and then redwood dust, and then steak grilling over mesquite, but it didn’t make me hungry.  I appreciated the sensation for itself.

     A sunbeam touched my face.  The rest of me shivered in the morning chill.  The light transformed me.  I felt my cheeks begin to shift.  There was such an outpouring of love, even I, a poet, cannot describe it.

     I stepped fully into the light, and was dissolved.  [I became a series of ancestors stretching back to early primates.] Then I had no body at all.  All the universe was warm and bright.  I visited the Nine Worlds of Asatru, places of the dead and of otherworldly entities.  Then I saw that all such myths were but approximations.  Words, just words.  No name, no legend could capture this feeling.  I could call this love Freya, which is not a name but a title, meaning Lady.  I experienced the light as female.  Yet even this name could not encompass what I saw and knew.

     I was a being of light, transparent to the light shining through me.  The ultimate truth was this:  “I love all life and all life loves me.”

     Then my body reconstituted.  It was a pattern of light and power, nothing more.  I knew substance for an illusion.  All was a dance of energy.  I saw my arm, bright in the sunlight, and knew it for a temporary pattern of collected energy, no different at its most basic level from the trees, or the caterpillar on the branch, or the sunlight shining on me.

     Later I would say to other pagans, “The Goddess Freya came to me at my initiation, and claimed me for her own.  I am dedicated to her in her solar aspect.”  But I always knew how inadequate that description was for this all-light, all-love, all-peace.

     The oath I had written previously seemed hollow as an old dry snakeskin.  No words could embody the communication, the communion, I had experienced.  I gathered my things and headed south toward civilization...

     In the coming weeks and years, I tried to recapture that experience of light.  I could see it but I couldn’t really touch it, not the way I had.  I became resigned to that, figuring that initiation was supposed to be a powerful experience and I should not expect to be able to call up that feeling at will.  Still, the joy remained with me.  I felt Goddess as a living presence any time I cared to look.  She was the leaves stirring in the breeze, and the taste of bitter chocolate, and the way the sand on the beach sparkled, and the trumpeting of elephant seals, and the color indigo from a light across the water, and a silk pillowcase against my skin, and the purring of cats, and the solar wind in the dark between the stars.”

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Erin Lale is the author of Asatru For Beginners. An updated, longer version of her book, Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path, is coming in 2020 from Red Wheel / Weiser. Erin was sworn to Freya as Priestess in 1989, given to Sigyn, and is a Bride of Odin and his brothers (Honir, Lodhur, Loki.). She has been a freelance writer for about 30 years, was the editor and publisher of Berserkrgangr Magazine, is gythia of American Celebration Kindred, and admin/ owner of the Asatru Facebook Forum. In 2010 and 2013, she ran for public office. She is a dyer and fiber artist, was acquisitions editor at a small press for 5 years, created the Heathen Calendar 2017 and 2018, and founded the Heathen Visibility Project.

Comments

  • J'Karrah
    J'Karrah Thursday, 02 October 2014

    A beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing it :)

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Thursday, 02 October 2014

    Thanks and you're welcome! When Anne discussed with me what sort of blog I should do, what she had in mind was a look at what it actually feels like to "do" heathenry, because few people talk about that part of it, so I hope I'm providing that. It's always great to see that I'm reaching people!

  • Amber Drake
    Amber Drake Thursday, 09 October 2014

    I have nominated your blog for a blog award.
    Se more details about it here: http://darkamberdragon.wordpress.com/2014/10/08/blog-award/

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Thursday, 09 October 2014

    Thank you!

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