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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Erin Lale

Erin Lale

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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Due to a certain popular show, people are confused about what Frigga's Handmaidens are. Frigga is the queen of Asgard, so her Handmaidens are a queen's ladies in waiting. A queen's handmaidens are other noblewomen who serve the queen as their brothers might serve as army officers.

The hand part of the word means close at hand. Hand maid and hand thegn (thane) used to be words for a female and male personal attendant, respectively. The idea is that this is someone usually to be found in the same room during work hours, which would be while the monarch is holding court, unless sent on some errand. It is in this sense that older Christian writings sometimes use the title Handmaiden of the Lord for the Virgin Mary.

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I had a conversation in my head with Odin today. That's not unusual for me since I opened my mind while writing Some Say Fire, but this conversation illustrates an important point in heathenry and this blog is all about what it feels like to do heathenry, so here goes.

First, a little background. I don't usually talk about my health problems on my blog because they are usually not relevant to my religious experiences and activities, but this time they are. I have had various health problems generally classified as autoimmune disorders throughout my life. Last year I had the best allergy year of my life because of wearing a mask everywhere, and after talking it over with my allergy doctor, who is an immunologist and an expert on vaccines, this spring we decided I had managed to fight my immune system down far enough so it might be safe for me to get a vaccine this year. We developed a plan for me in which as soon as I was eligible for the covid vaccine in early summer, I first had an antibody test to see if I already had antibodies to covid, and since I did not I got one jab. I became very sick. My tests indicated I had gotten a laundry list of problems, including another infectious disease, worsening of my existing problems, a neuro issue, and a brand new additional autoimmune disorder. For these reasons I am unable to have a second jab. I might never be allowed to travel, it may never be safe for me to work except from home, and I am aware every time I go somewhere where there are other human beings that I am taking more of a risk than most other people do.

I still go places, but I'm cautious. I wear my mask whenever I'm in public indoors. I don't go to restaurants where people have to take their masks off inside to eat. But I still get out sometimes.

The high point of my week was being interviewed for Ed "The Pagan" Hubbard's podcast. I'll post a link when I have one to share. That took place at an event at a local witch shop, Realms Within. My housemate and I went together and we had a great time. I met a new friend who introduced herself as being in the photo with my late fiancee Tom that Selena Fox had shared about her previous Veterans' Day activities. It was a great evening.

At the end of the week my housemate had cold symptoms. In any other decade, we would both have just brushed it off and gone about life as usual, but now my first reaction when she told me was, "Oh no! I hope it's not covid!" There were some practicalities I had to think of before I had time to just deal with my emotions. It was way harder and took way longer than it should to schedule her for a covid test. Most test sites require a car, which means I will have to drive her (there are some sites she could reach with Paratransit but she chose not to use the bus), and signing up was so hard I ended up having to do it for her on the net. With those tasks out of the way, my mind quieted enough to just think my own thoughts and hear my own inner voice.

And what my inner voice had to say was "Oh no! We're going to die!"

That was when Odin spoke. "You are not going to die this year."

Well it's the middle of November so that was not quite as reassuring as he meant it to be. He heard that too.

"Whenever you need breath, I am here."

And I found myself so reassured my fears melted away. Because I have experienced precisely that, due to asthma and allergies, especially if exposed to smoke or other bad things. I've experienced Odin or one of his brothers coming to me with breath to fill my lungs. I know I can rely on them to be there when I need them.

That's the important point about heathenry that I wanted to tell everyone about. Well, two points, actually. Firstly, that my faith in my god-husbands comes from personal experience. Secondly, that even though Asatru actually has a healer deity, Eir, it's the gods I'm personally closest to who come to me to help me with both my chronic health issues and my nervousness about further health problems. Odin, Honir, Lodhur who is Loki, all have come to me with breath at some point. If I had a serious health emergency I would not hesitate to contact Eir about it, but it's the gods who are close at hand all the time who come to me without being called.

Thus reassured, and not too spun up in myself to think of the community, my next thoughts were that I should stay home from the memorial service I had planned to attend this weekend. I'm disappointed about that, but they say that someone exposed to covid can spread it even if they have no symptoms, so the most responsible thing to do is to not go. I also delayed the stitch-n-bitch party I had planned to hold that was for the purpose of seeing some friends I often only see at the renfaire that I missed seeing this year because I had not been physically able to make it through the whole weekend of faire. I'm disappointed about that too but I will see them another day. I have no fears now, just rational choices, because of my relationship with my gods.

I've spent a lot of effort in my life learning to be calm. To be logical. To think first, act second, and feel third. Now, it's so much easier, because my gods are with me.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Ms. Lale, I'm glad the test was negative. May the Goddesses and Gods be with you whilst you deal with your health challenges. Pl
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Great news! The test was negative. All fine here.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Remember the silly Blank Rune? At least one person on the net does, since someone was recently ranting about Ralph Blum's rune book in my forum. His new way of beating that dead horse was to insist the problem was "cultural appropriation" rather than that the whole idea of a Blank Rune is poppycock.

For those who don't remember those days: Once upon a time, there was hardly anyone on the net and it was not a place to buy books. The only readily publicly available information on modern day Heathenry / Norse / Germanic paganism was in rune magic books in general bookstores. Rune sets were not easily available for purchase. Along came Ralph Blum with a book on rune magic packaged with a rune set. Of course the market gobbled it up. The trouble was, Blum's rune system was mostly bunkum, and the rune sets included the 24 Elder Futhark runes plus an extra Blank Rune.

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  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Yep! Well the 70s and 80s are in fashion right now. Even some electric car makers are jumping on that bandwagon, lol.
  • Victoria
    Victoria says #
    Haha, I remember the days of the blank rune, what a blast from the past.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Why I Celebrate American Halloween

While a lot of Wiccans and other Pagans are celebrating Samhain, and some Heathen and Asatru groups celebrate Winterfyllith or Winter-Finding, I'm celebrating an old-fashioned American Halloween, participating with the neighbors on my street in the community ritual of decorating and giving away candy to costumed children. This is the first year I've done Halloween while my household includes a non-heathen pagan, but she is into American Halloween too, replicating the kind of Halloween we both remember from our childhoods.

The Asatru group Freya's Folk in San Francisco has been holding a Winterfyllith celebration for many years. They used to belong to the Ring of Troth, and when that organization split into The Troth and the American Vinland Association, they went with the AVA. I used to attend campout festivals held by that group back when I lived in California, but their Winterfyllith celebration wasn't an overnight so I didn't go to that one.

I personally celebrate seasonal changes that relate to the actual bioregion and climate in which I live, which is the Mojave Desert, so around the beginning of fall my kindred celebrates Rainbow Season, the end of the monsoon season. The first winter frost here usually coincides with Yule so that's when we celebrate the onset of winter here. My kindred, American Celebration Kindred, celebrates both heathen holidays and American holidays like Halloween.

As I did last year, I'm giving away candy from my driveway instead of having kids come to the door. I did that last year as a pandemic precaution, but I'm going to keep doing it because I like it better this way, and so does my cat. (Happy doesn't like strangers, so lots of strangers coming to the door is not on his list of favorite pastimes.) I like this better because when my neighbors and I all have tables outside we end up visiting with each other between groups of children, going to each others' tables like vendors at a slow fair. I also like this better because I get to see the costumes more, since I can see them as the kids walk up the street rather than only seeing them for a few seconds while we're trying to interact and complete the ritual phrases ("Trick or treat!") and actions (giving candy.) As I've been doing for the two decades I've lived in this house, I decorate around a different theme each year. One year it was moons and stars, one year it was Vikings, etc. This year's theme is fire. I'm hauling out the portable firepit and having a bonfire on my driveway, and toasting marshmallows.

One of the main functions of a culture's holiday celebrations is to bring a community together in shared ritual. American Halloween does that for the community of my street and neighborhood. By tradition, adults with homes participate in the decorating and giving half of the ritual, while children traditionally dress as the ghosts and monsters and fairies that arrive with the thinning of the veil between worlds on this night, enacting a propitiation of the dead and of otherworldly beings.

Now modern children often dress as heroes or other aspirational figures in addition to the fae, spectres, undead. For what is a hero but a monster who has chosen actions according to a personal moral code that aligns with society's in some way? Recently while shopping for candy to give away I noticed a child size Spiderman suit hanging forlornly on an otherwise bare rack, like the husk of a spider's victim still hanging in its web. It waited for a child who wished to dress as a boy whose hands turned into spider butts. Is this not monstrous? Is this metamorphosis any less a horror than Gregor Samsa's?

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  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Cool! This year my housemate carved a pumpkin. It's shortly going to be a present for the gnome a.k.a. compost. Her grandson came
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I handed out candy this evening as well. I find it comforting that children still go around trick or treating just like I did whe

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Witches Party in Vegas

A sea of black witch hats filled the hotel lobby. Outside, a drum circle on the fake grass below the lights of nearby hotels boomed its ever-changing rhythms into the night as the giant lighted name Trump peered down over the garden wall from across a dark No Man's Land of downtown. The mermaid in the hotel pool swished her tail and ate fish from the tapas bar.

I was at the Halloween Soiree put on by Sin City Witches. That morning, I was preparing for renfaire when I got a message on the book of faces inviting me to a witch event that night. I had not originally planned to go to the Halloween Soiree because it was literally the night before the Renaissance Faire started, and I did not want to poop out before Saturday night because that was when Phyllis's funeral was going to be held at faire (see my previous post for my adventure that night.) But they offered me and my housemate free tickets and sent a car for us, and said I could hang out with guest of honor Jason Mankey and be a surprise extra guest of honor, so how could I say no to that?

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An Inspiration on the Way to a Funeral

Several people important to heathens and pagans have died recently. Singer Andrea Meyer of Hagalaz Runedance was shot with a bow and arrow in Norway. I did not know her personally, so I don't know if she is now in the arms of Hel, or has been taken into Valhalla or Folkvang due to dying by weapon, but I think perhaps she went where poets go, which is wherever they want.

I placed a copy of a Hagalaz Runedance album on my main house altar yesterday, along with other mementos of the recent dead. It joined a fabric memento I had just placed there, which participants in the memorial for Phyllis Stewart of Ravenhold wore at her memorial service, which you can see in the photo that illustrates this post. I was on my way to that funeral when I had an inspiration experience.

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Kveldulf Gundarsson aka Dr. Stephen Grundy aka Sigmundr Hawkonson has gone to stay with the ancestors. As reported on social media and on various news sites, he died suddenly a week ago.

In a public post, Kveldulf's wife Melodi has announced a worldwide public event, Lift Your Glass, for the evening of October 8th, 2021.  It's not an online meeting, there is nothing to join or post, one just raises a toast.

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  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    I think so, yes.
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I know that one of Odin's titles was Lord of the Spear, and that he hung himself on Yggdrasil for 9 days. By any chance was Kveld

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