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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Candle Augury

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

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.)

A second possible reason: perhaps he just doesn't want to be honored by me. I have plenty of gods I normally honor, a group within the Asatru pantheon which I call the gods of my god-pile. He's not in my god-pile. But I had that mistletoe ornament candle, so I gave it a try over several days, and each time the candle flickered like it was about to blow out while other candles burning in the house were steady as electric lights. So perhaps he does wish to be honored by living people, but just not me. That's completely fine. I have enough gods I interact with a lot, and I'm not greedy for more. If I was convinced that was all it was, I would just stop burning this candle for this season and next Yuletide if I wanted that old family decoration I would just use it as simply that, an old family decoration, not dedicated to Baldur.

But it occurred to me there might be a third and very good reason he might not be happy. He's widely misunderstood and many of his modern followers have a bad reputation. Perhaps ironically, that means he has a lot in common with Loki, whom the Baldur Rising movement villainized.

There is a group of Baldur worshipping folk in the USA that derive their ways from a completely different source than modern Asatru and heathenry, and of which I was unaware until I read Richard Rudgley's The Return of Odin. I read that book to review it; my review was published in Eternal Haunted Summer Magazine a while back. I'm glad I learned what I learned from it, because it's made it easier to understand and spot the constant influx of member applications to my forum from people who appear to be trying to follow a god of light and pure goodness, Baldur, but who paradoxically turn out to be at least white supremacists and a sometimes actual members of criminal gangs. I do recommend the book but once you read it, it's a history you won't be able to unsee. The short version is, while normal Asatru in the USA goes back to the early 1970s and the rise of environmentalist and feminist movements after the peace movement of the 1960s, and is influenced a lot by Tolkien and also by Wicca and other pagan and occult traditions of the time, the Baldur Rising movement derives from the religious visions of Karl Maria Wiligut, an SS general, filtered through the organizational leadership of the prison gang leader David Lane. Wiligut saw Baldur as White Jesus and Odin as his adversary, a devil figure. Lane substituted Loki for Odin. That's the source of a lot of Nokeanism (anti-Loki evangelism) in modern heathenry (although not the only source; some heathen traditions genuinely don't include Loki because they are derived from cultures in which he did not appear in their stories. That's another topic.)

Now it's easy to see why someone would identify Baldur with Jesus, as they are both Dying God figures. Like Tammuz, like John Barleycorn, like a lot of other figures in various world mythologies, they symbolize cycles of death and rebirth. Most of these myths are centered on agriculture and / or the sun. Unlike other such figures, both Jesus and Baldur represent not a seasonal or annual cycle but a cycle of the universe in which they are born and die in this universe only once and arise with the end of the world and its rebirth. So it's not wrong to compare them. Where Wiligut and the Baldur Rising movement went wrong was in assigning Baldur to be the Jesus of white people only, and casting about in heathen mythology for another god to assign as a Christian style Satanic figure, neither of which are supported by heathen lore nor part of the traditions of Asatru and heathenry derived directly from the lore rather than via Wiligut's visions.

In short, literal Nazis followed him. And today, neonazis and other white supremacists are following him. I wouldn't be happy about that if I was him. But of course, I'm not him, and I'm not a god so I don't always understand their point of view, and as he's not one of the gods of my god-pile I can't really ask him either. So, I am left with the candle augury, a flickering flame where I might expect steady light. If I wanted to pursue a relationship with Baldur my next step might be divination or asking another god for an introduction, but I am quite content with the number and quality of the god relationships I already have, and I don't feel drawn to him, so I'm just going to leave this be for my own personal practice.

I don't know which of these three reasons is the reason the candle guttered. Perhaps all three. As for reason 2, I am already planning not to bother him again. As for reason 3, I am doing my part by keeping neonazis out of my forum, by creating the Trollslayers' Guide by which my forum mods and admins screen memberships, and by publishing the Nazi-screening portion of it as the sidebar to the article by another author on white supremacy that was published in the latest issue of Witches and Pagans Magazine (get yourself a copy if you want to learn how to tell the difference between heathen symbols and hate symbols.) As for both reason 1 and 3, I decided to blog about this so that other people might become aware that these possibilities exist, so others can consider those questions when they decide what to include in their personal and group practices.

The Baldur candle was not a happy candle. I explored 3 possible reasons why that might be. I leave it to my readers to decide what to do with this information for their own paths and groups.

 

 

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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.

Comments

  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Saturday, 26 December 2020

    4. Someone else identified with mistletoe; Hodur perhaps, is trying to get through to you.

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Sunday, 27 December 2020

    hmm interesting thought.

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