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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Heathen Visibility and Anti-Racism

One man who is a terrorist does not make a whole religion terrorists. I would have thought our society had learned that lesson by now.

Rolling Stone Magazine called the entire set of Heathen religions "code for white supremacy-aligned pagans" and we must resist this as strongly as we resist the fascists themselves, for two reasons:

Firstly, because to cede the words and symbols of our religion to white supremacists and neo-Nazis makes them stronger no matter who is trying to appropriate our words and symbols on their behalf. Battling for our words and symbols against white power gangs and neonazis has been the main reason for the Heathen Visibility Project from the beginning. See the history of the Project recently published under Heathen Visibility Project Year in Review 2020, on the link below:

Summary of Heathen Visibility Project so far: http://witchesandpagans.com/pagan-paths-blogs/gnosis-diary/heathen-visibility-project-year-in-review-2020.html

Secondly, because directing the hate and fear of the large and powerful society in which we live against our tiny religion hurts us in many ways. Already I've seen posts on social media from heathens, and other pagans who normally wear the same symbols as heathens, saying they are afraid to wear their symbols in public. We must make a world where it is safe for all people to wear their religious symbols and cultural attire.

What do I mean by heathen? Heathen is a broad term for a group of related religions, just like Christian. Individual sects of heathenry include Asatru, Forn Sed, Theod, Urglaawe, Forn Sidr, etc., just like individual sects of Christianity include Baptist, Catholic, Orthodox, etc. And just like Christian sects that have individual churches that might have a name like Unity Center or 1st Church of God, heathen sects have individual kindreds and hearths that might have a name like Mountain Kindred or Asatru Temple. Heathen is a subset of Pagan; the word Pagan doesn't refer to a specific pantheon of gods, but Heathen does. All the heathen religions share a core group of gods, stories, and cultural norms, even the ones in which the set of gods and myths only has a narrow overlap. Those gods generally include the gods for whom the days of the week are named, by various linguistic variations, for example, Thursday named for Thunor who is also Thor who is also Dunner. We use the term Heathen because it was used historically to refer to the traditional religion of the peoples of northern Europe; like Pagan, it was created by Christians, but we reclaimed it. Heathendom predates the modern social construct of race, but to the extent that historical heathens had any such concept within the ideas of tribe, nation, and species, the gods were very clearly descended of multiple tribes and thus are today a model of a multiracial society, as detailed in my essay Asgard as Multiracial Society, available on the link below

Asgard as a Multiracial Society: https://eternalhauntedsummer.com/issues/summer-solstice-2014/asgard-as-a-multi-racial-society/

Heathen leaders and heathen anti-racism groups have already roundly condemned the one man who was wearing our symbols when he participated in the Capitol Hill insurrection. That man is the man who calls himself Q-Shaman, who may not even be heathen. Here are some of the most prominent statements condemning him, starting with mine, which also explains what his tattoos mean:

My blog post Dishonor Upon the Man in the Horned Hat: http://witchesandpagans.com/pagan-paths-blogs/gnosis-diary/dishonor-upon-the-man-in-the-horned-hat.html

Official statement of The Troth: https://www.thetroth.org/news/20210106-192450
Official statement of Heathens Against Hate: https://www.heathensagainst.org/post/capitol-hill-statement
Official statement of Huginn's Heathen Hof: http://www.heathenhof.com/hhh-statement-attempted-coup-d-c/

After all those public statements were already made and were freely available on the net, Rolling Stone went forward with their article calling Heathen religions "white supremacy-aligned." This also occurred while my article Heathen Vs. Hate in the latest issue of Witches and Pagans Magazine was still on newsstands across the country, easily available to read if the reporter had bothered.

Responses to the Rolling Stone article came swiftly. I first heard about it on Twitter. Most of the responses have been by individuals on social media, which I'm not going to link here, but here is a public statement in response by an organization:

The Heathen Underground: https://www.facebook.com/heathenunderground/posts/3933159010030485

Heathen groups of various kinds have been fighting white supremacists and neonazis for a long time. Perhaps the broadest coalition of various heathen organizations, individuals, businesses, and local groups battling white supremacy are the signatories to Declaration 127. Declaration 127 references a verse in the Havamal, part of our sacred literature, which goes "Where you see evil, speak out against it." You can read the full Declaration and list of signatories on the link below. I'm one of the signatories as American Celebration Kindred, the small local religious community of which I am the priestess.

Declaration 127: http://declaration127.com/  

Another prominent heathen anti-racism group is Heathens United Against Racism (HUAR) which you can find on this link, although they do not appear to have made an official statement on this topic: https://www.facebook.com/HeathensUnited/

There is an ongoing annual international conference on heathen anti-racism called Frith Forge. Heathens interested in participating can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/frithforge/

The Heathen Visibility Project, now more than ever, must continue our mission. Part of that mission is to out-compete instances of our symbols being used as hate symbols that show up on search engines, in order to take our symbols back and preserve them for religious use. Every good, non-fascist heathen wearing our symbols in public spaces, especially on the net where the whole world can see, makes it safer for other heathens to wear and use them too. We must be loud and visible to counter the damage done by the heavy coverage by social media and professional media of Q-Shaman and his heathen symbol tattoos. We must continue to deny racists the cover of our religion by kicking them out of our spaces and talking over them until their message is drowned out by ours.

The other part of the Project's mission is to provide useful images of heathens doing heathenry that media could use to talk about heathens in stories unrelated racism or riot. We must continue to create non-racist and nonfiction heathen images that could be used by professional media and others to illustrate articles about heathenry, so that when we have a chance at positive coverage there is something there for reporters to see and use other than the racists or fictional characters.

Heathens who want to participate in the Project, and media who are looking for non-racist, nonfiction heathen images: the Project's hashtag is #heathenvisibility.

Media looking for news photos and stock images of non-racist nonfiction heathen images: Heathen Visibility Project folders on:
Shutterstock: https://www.shutterstock.com/search/heathenvisibility
Deviantart: https://www.deviantart.com/erinlale/gallery/64184335/heathenvisibility

My fellow heathens: Keep on doing the work. We can do this.

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  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Update: Rolling Stone corrected their article! Thanks to everyone who contacted them. You made a difference!

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A Question of Lucky Dice

Recently a forum member asked about what sort of lucky symbols he might put on a box intended as a gift to someone who would keep tabletop role-playing game dice in it. He asked about using lucky runes or the symbol of a god or other such being.

Here is my answer:

Luck is a more spiritually connected concept in heathenry than in modern culture. If one is lucky at gambling it's a sign of having good wyrd / orlog. Games of chance in which one can win money have some bearing on one's real life. It is appropriate to invoke luck to try to win money because it benefits the gambler and his family / household / village / warband / etc. RPGs aren't gambling though.

RPGs are a form of improvisational theater. Sacred theater was totally a thing in the ancient world, but the roles and plots were generally connected to mythology and were non-random. If you invoke a specific entity for what is essentially a form of theater, be prepared for that entity to at least watch and possibly interact. If things don't go well for that entity or the story doesn't follow the mythology the entity may be displeased. I wouldn't use any being's real empowered symbol for an RPG myself. There are Icelandic Magic symbols that are for general good luck, but again, I wouldn't connect that to an RPG. A human being's personal luck is tied to their wyrd and orlog, to their ancestors and descendants, and their family and community. RPG gaming is far too similar to ritual drama and has too much risk of character death or other negative outcomes to tie one's personal luck to a game. Rather than expending personal luck on something that does not bring prosperity, health, etc. to onesself, one's family line, or one's community, I'd suggest that if you want to put runes on a game dice box, instead of luck runes, spell out words to encourage social ties with the friends with whom one would be playing, which would be a positive for the player and community no matter what happens in the game.

Note: the forum to which I refer is the Asatru Facebook Forum, which I manage along with my team, the Trollslayers. Readers of this blog are encouraged to join. To apply, one has to fill out a short membership application and answer all 3 questions. We screen membership applications to exclude spambots, trolls, neonazis and white supremacists, and other undesirables. To apply for membership, go to this web address: https://www.facebook.com/groups/AsatruForum

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A man in a horned hat who displayed tattoos of Heathen religious symbols is among those who stormed the US Capitol. As an Asatru heathen I condemn him and his white supremacy cohorts.

For those who are new to my blog: a Heathen is a member of one of a group of related religions based on the pre-Christian religions and cultures of Northern Europe. Asatru is one sect of heathenry. Heathens share many religious symbols, although some are specific to certain sects.

The man is Jake Angeli, also known as Q-Shaman or Q-Anon Shaman. He had to have made a choice to show his tattoos since they would have been hidden if he had worn a shirt. It is winter and it would be normal to wear a shirt now. There are three sacred heathen symbols on his chest. He has a Valknut tattoo over his heart. In some forms of heathenry, that particular tattoo in that particular location is considered an invitation to kill him in battle. Showing this tattoo while carrying a spear into the Capitol may indicate that he desired to be shot and killed by police or National Guard, on the assumption that death in battle would take him to Valhalla.

In heathenry, that destiny is not guaranteed to all who die by weapons but rather is subject to the choices of the Valkyries and of Odin and Freya, so even if he succeeded in dying in combat that does not mean he automatically would get into Valhalla. It is a necessary but not sufficient condition.

However, a Valknut tattoo is considered by many heathens to mean "insert spear here." Angeli may or may not know that. The man may not be heathen at all considering that wore a horned helmet like a cartoon Viking, which is not what historically based heathen religious garb looks like.

I must mock his ridiculous hat since No Horns on These Helmets is one of my books. Since Angeli calls himself Q-Shaman, some commenters suggest that his hat is supposed to be a Native American buffalo headdress. It may well be that it is supposed to be buffalo rather that a Wagnerian silly opera hat, but as Shamanism is Siberian in origin, and influenced heathen cultures via mutual contact with the Saami, his chosen name does not necessarily refer to Native American spirituality. He may have chosen the name to refer to Northern shamanism, or an eclectic mix. He may not have meant it as a religious reference at all, and may have used it as some people use "wizard", for example "computer wizard," an expert in computers, "Q-Shaman" an expert in Q-Anon.

The other two heathen symbols among his tattoos are the Thor's Hammer, which is a protective symbol and also the symbol of Asatru, and Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life. The Tree tattoo is surrounded by a circle. His tattoos are real religious symbols, just like a cross tattoo would be for a Christian. It pains and infuriates me to see them in this context. His other notable tattoos are brick wall tats on his arms. Those are not heathen symbols. Brick wall tattoos represent prison life.

He also had his face painted like an American flag and was using his spear as a flagpole for an American flag. As an American I say: I had felt we had left the bizarre times behind us in 2020. I am tired of living through interesting historical events. Not that our system couldn't use a few changes, but not in that direction.

Here is a link to the best photo showing his tattoos: https://www.eluniversal.com.mx/mundo/quien-es-q-shaman-el-hombre-que-entro-vestido-con-pieles-y-cuernos-al-capitolio

Those interested in learning more about heathen symbols and how to tell the difference between heathen symbols and hate symbols can read my article Heathen Vs. Hate in the latest edition of Witches and Pagans Magazine. My fellow heathens who are interested in preserving our symbols, please check out my prior post Heathen Visibility Project Year in Review 2020, which includes a short history of the Project with links back to previous news and explanations.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    "Never trust a man with horns on his hat." --Granny Weatherwax

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Heathen Visibility Project Year in Review 2020

2020 has been a hard year for making visibility photos and pics because of the restrictions on gatherings and travel. Nevertheless, participants made some images of themselves, altars, objects, and other heathen relevant images.

I talked about the Project on the Witching Hour Spellcast radio show in September, in addition to talking about my new book Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path. If you missed the show, you can hear the recording on this link: https://www.blogtalkradio.com/witchinghourspellcast/2020/09/28/pammits-porch-erin-lale-asatru-and-the-heathen-visibility-project

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Old Books Part 1: Ravenwolf's Hex Magic

Having stacks and stacks of boxes of books that Tom had had in his box storage room, I have decided to read some older books for the first time. My professional book reviews are of brand new books, and I won't be going into the same kind of detail on these older books here on my blog that I do when I review a new book for a magazine. These reviews will be shorter and more casual.

First up is Silver Ravenwolf's Hex Magic. It's full of spells I do not recommend anyone actually try, because she has taken traditional Penn. Deitsch spells and Wiccanized them in odd ways, and if one wants to learn that type of magic I would recommend learning from Urglaawe magical folk of whatever kind, hexmeisters or whatever. However, Urglaawe wasn't on the net ready to teach people at the time her book was written, and a lot of the personal stories are fascinating snapshots in time.

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  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Thanks. Hadn't heard that story. I haven't thrown any review copies into the garbage but I did throw one across a hotel room once
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I actually have that book in my collection. I like your phrase "seeing the world through Wicca tinted glasses". Mark Stavish who

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Candle Augury

A happy candle doesn't flicker. Candles burning in a place with no wind shine with a light as steady as an incandescent light bulb. Or at least they do normally, so, when I had different candles burning in various places in my home during the 12 Days of Yule and one of them consistently guttered no matter where it was placed, it felt like a sign that the power associated with that particular candle was unhappy for some reason. The photo illustrating this blog is that candle, a red pillar candle nestled in a circular candle ornament of plastic mistletoe, an old family decoration I've seen my whole life. As I learned more about heathen mythology I came to associate mistletoe with Baldur so this became the Baldur candle.

Now there are many possible reasons Baldur could be unhappy, starting with, he's dead, and awaiting rebirth into the next universe, which will be better than this one. Like many of the residents of the quiet realm of the goddess Hel, he may not want to be bothered with human concerns and attempts at Yuletide cheer. Perhaps he just wants to be left in peace. I have certainly encountered human dead who don't want to be bothered by the living, even with small sacrifices of candles or toasting. My mom reached that stage fairly quickly, having already reincarnated, and having satisfied herself that I knew that. (See prior post on Reflections on Spiritual Changes Since My Mom's Death.)

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  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    hmm interesting thought.
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    4. Someone else identified with mistletoe; Hodur perhaps, is trying to get through to you.

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OMGS a 3rd Godspouse Wedding

Long time readers of my blog remember me writing about my 2 weddings during the year I was writing Some Say Fire, my unpublishable monstrosity based on heathen mythology. The 2 weddings both took place in that liminal space between sleep and waking, the first one to Loki / Lodhur and the second one to Odin and Honir. Neither time did I actually make wedding vows except to say "Yes, I want that." Neither time did I plan or expect them to happen. Both had been on a 28th of the month and I considered that my month-a-versary. Well, now I have an actual anniversary, and I didn't plan it that way lol. The gods know I sometimes just have random thoughts in my head and they've pretty much just ignored most of them over the years, but they didn't ignore it this time.

By the way, since this blog is Gnosis Diary and I was asked to write it to show what it feels like to do heathenry, I try to write about gnosis here at least occasionally, among my other topics. So anyway, on to the rest of my story.

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