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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Community Experiences Fall 2023

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

From kindred holidays to the return of my local Pagan Pride Day, I've had a lot of community experiences this autumn. It's been awesome and of course I am sharing my fun with my blog readers. 

American Celebration Kindred usually does our fall ritual as Rainbow Season, for two reasons. Firstly in honor of Heimdall, Tom's patron. Secondly, because we live in the Mojave Desert, where summer is the rainy season. After the rain comes the rainbow, so after the rainy season comes the rainbow season. This year we held Zisa Day in September and I did a Rainbow Season ritual at Pagan Pride Day in November. We'll probably return to doing our Rainbow Season ritual in September in other years, but we also try to do a least one or more new rituals each year. Last year my kindred's other gythia Amanda led Haustlong, a traditional autumn ritual, in September. This year we held Zisa Day. 

Zisa Day

Over the past few years, the goddess Zisa has become increasingly important to me. One of her titles is Undoer of Knots, which is also a title of Mary; the two were euhemerized in continental Europe. Zisa can be represented by a pine cone. Her traditional libation is stone pine liquor, so we toasted her with it on our Zisa Day.

The Urglaawe hold Zisasege on Sept. 28th, so I thought our fall ritual would be a great time to have a Zisa Day. My kindred members have more availability on weekends though so we scheduled ours on the closest Saturday. I try very hard to organize the ritual schedule for the year so everyone can get to do all the things but it isn't always possible. As it happened, only those who live here attended because others canceled due to illness. But unexpected guests came and brought pizza and serendipitous garlic knots. I felt that was oddly appropriate for Zisa Day, and might have it again deliberately next time I want to honor Zisa. 


Partial Annular Solar Eclipse

This year in October there was an annular solar eclipse that happened the same weekend as the local Renfaire, which was the same weekend as a first year new sf con in town. Lots of people may have seen it from those venues, but I was at home. I left the convention early due to my body. Also due to my body, I missed all of faire this year. But the eclipse came to me.

My family tradition was to howl at the full moon and at lunar eclipses. This was because of the family legend that our ancestor who was the first Lale in America was kicked out of France for lycanthropy. Further research showed that this legend was radically incomplete. Also, as I progressed on my spiritual path in Asatru, I came to view lunar and solar eclipses within the Asatru lens of the story of the wolves that chase the sun and the moon. So, I started howling at the wolves only during eclipses and on the winter solstice. During a lunar eclipse I howl at the lunar wolf to let the moon go. During a solar eclipse I howl at the solar wolf to let the sun go. So far they have let the moon and sun go each time. 


In between the weekend of the eclipse etc. and my next kindred ritual was Halloween, which the households on my street do up in style. My housemates and I and my neighbors did the American holiday of Halloween including a bonfire and marshmallow roasting. I was having mobility challenges again for the nth time this year, but with my housemates' help I pulled it off. 


Bear Day

I've made a separate post for Bear Day because it turned out to be more of a gnosis experience than a community experience.  I had some communication with bear spirit and with other spirit beings and gods, and also some insights I had after the ritual was over because I was reflecting inward on bears. Watch for my next post, Honoring the Bear Spirit, coming soon.


Pagan Pride Day

I'm also making a separate post for Pagan Pride Day because I wrote quite a lot about it and this post started to get a bit too long. I was excited that PPD came back after 4 years, and the day was wonderful. I got to sign my book which came out in 2020 at PPD at last! The ritual was awesome. It was great to be asked to perform an offering an blessing, and I had a great time. See my post Blessing at Pagan Pride Day 2023.


How we organize our holidays at American Celebration Kindred

American Celebration Kindred has one fully trained gythia besides me, and a couple more apprentice gythias coming along, so I'm not the only ritualist in the group and some rituals are done by others. Also we've had at least one gathering hosted by someone else, since Tom's passing (his house was used as our kindred temple, used pretty much just for ritual during the 2 years he lived in a care center. I did the actual prep over there for those rituals but it was sure easier to do when no one was using the house for anything else.) I'm still the only person who seems interested in organizing everything by seeing who can make it to what on which date and who might be interested in planning, leading, or hosting a ritual.

Whoever hosts the ritual does any prep and cleanup that can't be done at the gathering itself while everyone is there, such as moving furniture around, cleaning up the home and yard, setting up and taking down outdoor cooking facilities, etc. Participants often help with any prep and cleanup that can be done on the day of the ritual, such as doing dishes or reconfiguring structures to their overnight positions.

Pandemic era changes we've made permanent

Traditionally Asatru sumbel includes passing a drinking horn from which everyone drinks. Early on in the pandemic, we switched to having everyone drink from an individual cup. At first we used disposable cups, and these days we still sometimes use them if the gathering has enough people to make it impractical to wash an individual cup for everyone. When we weren't passing the horn it was hard to tell whose turn it was to speak, though, so we eventually went with passing the horn for people to pour from into their individual cups. 

We also tend to do more outdoor activities in the yard than we previously did, although we always did some outdoor activities in nice weather.

This year I did too many rituals. I had so many physical issues I needed help to manage many of them. Some rituals had no attendees but the people who live here. It makes no sense to keep taking on this many rituals next year, so next year I'm planning to only do one heathen ritual as host and gythia. I'll do regular events like birthdays and so on, and the most important American holidays I'll do just with my housemates and friends. I'm hoping other kindred members will plan, host, and perform some of the rituals next year, as they did for Ostara this year. I will let them decide which ones they want to do and then I'll pick one to do. 

Our next holiday is going to be Thanksgiving with a possible side of Wolfenoot. It's mostly going to just be modern American style Thanksgiving, which is a harvest feast with each person saying what they are thankful for, and I think that's a fine ritual on its own. We might do some wolf howling though if either we're outside and the cats are inside or vice versa, unless there's a service dog there-- there are two possible attendees who have them-- in which case we'll skip the howling.

Yes, I know the propaganda we were all taught in public schools about the First Thanksgiving and all that is problematic, but remember I spent most of my life thinking I was part Native until a DNA test proved my supposed Native ancestors were African. All the adapting my family did to make a nice family holiday out of Thanksgiving we did from the perspective of part Native people. Once in a while I think about that and how all that history hits differently now that I know my ancestors were Freedmen. But that's not what modern Thanksgiving is about. It's about food, family, and being grateful for what we have. And that's a pretty good thing to celebrate. 

After that we're doing Yule, which is a union of heathen and American customs. We do a full sumbel and blot for Yule but we also exchange presents and have a decorated tree and so on. After that comes birthdays, American style. And sometime before any more holidays arrive we will have to plan our ritual calendar for the year and decide which holidays we're doing and who is hosting and performing them.


 Stay tuned for my next post, Honoring the Bear Spirit! And then my upcoming post, Blessing at Pagan Pride Day!

Image: me speaking at Las Vegas Pagan Pride Day 2023

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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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