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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Science Fiction and Spiritual Insight

One of the main draws of science fiction is that it can examine ideas outside of their normal cultural context. Hard sf always starts with a "what if" based on science or engineering, which goes something like "What if we had x technology, and how would that change society?" Softer versions of science fiction are basically just set in the future, though.

When we think of spirituality in sf, we usually think of various types of meditation, such as the Litany Against Fear in Dune or the Vulcan mantra against pain in the original Star Trek, or depictions of religious ritual, such as the rituals and customs of different Newcomer religious sects in Alien Nation, the religions of various aliens in Babylon 5, etc. There are religious elements in sf that are obviously drawn from real world religions, such as the obvious Eastern influences on The Force in Star Wars and the depiction of the world as illusion in The Matrix. 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Asatru FAQ: Organic and Non-GMO Food

There is no religious requirement to eat certain foods in Asatru. However, some Asatruars observe personal taboos. These personal taboos are based on personal gnosis or group gnosis, which are just as valid for determining an individual person's religious path as the teachings of the wider tradition of which they are a part. There are also traditional foods and beverages associated with holidays and sacrifices to specific gods in Asatru and other heathen sects, both in the Lore and in modern practice based on personal and group gnosis.

Some modern devotees of the goddess Sif avoid buying GMO wheat or GMO corn. This is a personal or group taboo observed as an act of devotion to the grain goddess. This practice is not about what the person eats, but about what the person supports with their purchasing power. Those who follow Sif can eat whatever random grain they are given or provided. When they have the opportunity to buy wheat products or corn products with their own money and make their own purchasing decisions, they will buy non-GMO wheat and corn if it is available. If certified non-GMO wheat and corn products are not available, it is also acceptable to purchase the waste products of a bakery, factory, or store, usually termed day-olds, markdowns, bakery leftovers, outlet goods, damaged, expiring, etc. The point is not about healthy eating, it is about refusing to support the damaging agricultural practices of GMO factory farming with one's money. Monsanto may be gone as a separate company, but everything it was still exists within the agricultural economic sector.

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A few days after our Ostara ritual, I finally looked for my stevia-sweetened apple cake to have for breakfast. It was nowhere to be found. I looked in the fridge, multiple times. In the freezer. In the pantry. More puzzling, the pan it was baked it was also missing. Had I eaten it and didn't remember? I looked to see if the pan was put away where my glass pans go. And where they don't go.

I posted about it, messaged people. Looked again. No square glass pan full of my first try at a sugarless version of mom's apple cake, which had turned out quite well. I pouted, and looked again. Checked my messages. My brother suggested making a sacrifice to the faeries.

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Adapting a Toasting Ritual for Pandemic Times

Usually the sumbel ritual we do in Asatru and other forms of heathenry involves passing around a horn. My kindred usually has two horns, one containing alcohol and one containing a non-alcoholic beverage. The cow's horn honors Audhumla, the Sacred Cow. We not only drink from the horn, but when we pass the horn, the horn is like a talking stick that tells us whose turn it is to make a toast.

These days we're using individual cups for everyone, for the sake of pandemic safety. We're also standing farther apart. Normally if we're outside standing around a bonfire we'd all pack in closely in a circle, or if we were inside we'd be sitting at a dining table, also fairly close together. Someday we'll return to passing the horn as a talking stick, because it's a lot easier than having the ritual leader call on people to ask if they want to make a toast. I think we might keep using individual cups to actually drink out of, though. Now that we're all aware of the germs that might get passed around along with the horn I don't think we'll go back to actually all drinking from the same horn. In the future we'll pour into the horn and then pour from the horn to cups or to each person's personal horn.

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I receive written letters in the mail from prisoners asking questions about heathen practices and asking about Asatru resources and books. (Most people who read my writing and want to contact me do so on the net, but prisoners often don't have access to the net.) I've received a few such letters recently in reaction to my latest article in Witches & Pagans Magazine, which was the Heathen Vs. Hate symbol guide designed to enable people to tell the difference between heathen symbols and hate symbols.

When I was asked to write the symbol guide, I was chosen because I had already done a lot of work on that topic for the Trollslayers' Guide, an internal document for the admins and moderators of my forum, the Asatru Facebook Forum. The article was an interesting challenge to write because the editor wanted a symbol guide without actually showing any of the symbols. The reason for that was because having a hate symbol like a swastika appear in the magazine would get the magazine censored and removed from places like prisons and schools. Print magazines and print books are some of the few resources to which prisoners have access, so making sure the magazine didn't get disallowed is important for that population. So, I had the constraints of prison censorship in mind when I was writing the article, and I'm pleased that some prisoners found it useful.

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I was asked a favor that necessitated my asking the landwight who lives in my garden and protects all within its territory if it was OK. I rarely speak in words with the landwight. My relationship with the land spirit predates my developing a godphone, so when I do speak with the landvaette of this place, I'm used to making statements and not receiving a reply in words. This time I got a reply, though.

A friend messaged me on fb that her daughter's pet snake had died. They were planning to move to a house but had not done so yet, and they asked me if they could bury the snake in my yard temporarily and then move it later. Before I could reply I had to ask the landwight. Up until then, everything buried here had lived here. The animals buried in this land had already been part of this land and the landwight's territory. I asked the landwight with nearly the same wording that I had been asked, which emphasized that this was to be temporary. The landwight agreed.

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Heathens in historical times did not have godparents. But that doesn't mean you can't. Although it's not based on historical heathen customs or rituals, there are Asatru organizations and individuals who do have godparent rituals. There are baby blessing rituals online that include godparents. You don't have to copy one of those, though. Pretty much any ceremony you want to do is going to be fine. The godparent part of the name giving ritual was made up, so you can make up your own version.

Like a lot of rituals we do-- I'm planning my kindred's Ostara egg hunt now-- godparents were included in that modern name giving ceremony because people wanted them, because the wider culture has them and it's a cultural expectation. The wider culture has godparents because the wider culture is Christian. If you want them, go ahead. There is no historical heathen ritual to follow for that. So just do it however you want.

If you prefer a more historically based version of Asatru, then design your name giving or baby blessing ritual without godparents. You can include adult friends, relatives, and kindred members in your child's life without having to copy a special type of relationship from Christianity.

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