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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Asatru FAQ: Caregiving?

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Frequently Asked Question: How do I deal with a family member in hospice care?

My answer:

There are as many heathen practices about dying as there are cultures and time periods in history, including this one, so there are a wealth of customs from which to draw. One of the main things to understand about dying is what is death and where do we go. For that I recommend the book The Road to Hel.

Depending on what the person did in life and what their own religion is, various gods might be invoked to assist their passage, including their own god, even if it's not one of yours. Also, your own ancestors and theirs have a vested interest in seeing your relative join them as honored ancestors, or depending on the person and your particular culture, perhaps even as a dis or alf.

One thing many people overlook in dealing with a dying relative is to take care of themselves as well as the other person. The gods and spirits you are closest to may help you with a variety of matters, even outside their usual spheres of influence, but we do actually have a goddess of caregiving: Sigyn. She helps people with the beginnings and ends of life, with childbirth and hospice. In her example, we find going on with caregiving in hope and despair, in personal strength and beyond personal strength, to endure in the face of a duty that may seem endless, but she also teaches us that sometimes the caregiver has to go outside and empty her bowl, even if she feels that leaving the side of her loved one will make the world end.

Image: Sigyn by H.G. Theaker, public domain

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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.

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