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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Goddesses Brew 2019

Every year I've made the Northern Lights Goddesses Brew, I've added something to the recipe to honor additional goddesses. This year I added something for Hel and something for Sunna. This year's batch is going to taste similar to last year's, but sweeter. I think. I can never be sure how it will come out until I taste it. This is a story about the internal mental process by which I arrived at the ingredient to add for Hel (also called Hela.)

So there I was in my kitchen. I had all the usual ingredients out on the counter, ready to start this year's batch of brew. I had not decided on an ingredient to add for Hel yet. I usually like to plan ahead, but I had an hour of time to myself when I was not likely to be interrupted, and no more pressing task to accomplish, so I had decided it was time to get the brew going. I needed to figure out what to put in to honor Hel, and started considering and rejecting various ingredients. Nothing seemed quite right.

Who better to ask than Hel? I had only recently started being able to hear her a little (see my post A Present From Hel.) She seems a bit retiring, perhaps introverted, at least to me. As they say, YMMV (your mileage may vary.) I did not find it easy to ask her something and hear her answer. It took concentration and also stillness and a certain amount of quiet, almost as if her voice were a physical sound just on the edge of hearing.

It occurred to me that perhaps something from under the earth, a root or a truffle -- a real one, the mushroom kind-- might be appropriate. I stilled my mind and pictured a truffle. Nothing.  No response. A root? Still nothing. I was trying to listen for her to say yes to something I was proposing, but that was not working. So instead, I meditated and cleared my thoughts entirely. I emptied my mind and waited.

Then I thought: it should be something blue. The word blue came into my head, the actual word not the color.

I was still thinking of it in terms of a color, though, so I thought of things that might be blue, and couldn't think of anything. I opened my cupboard to see what was available and there was the word blue, in giant letters 2 inches high, staring me in the face. Blue Agave.

Now, blue agave syrup isn't blue. It's brown. It's the color of rum or maple syrup or root beer. But the word blue was on it, and I knew that was the thing I was being led to.

Then I remembered something from my novel-gnosis. Novel-gnosis is what I call a spiritual insight I gained while writing fiction. One of the first things to happen when the main character of Some Say Fire reaches Hel (the land) is she meets Hel (the goddess) and the goddess has a bottle of Patron. At the time I was writing it, I thought that was a pun on the English word patron, as in a patron god, as in the main character's patron or fulltrui is the goddess Hel. And I suppose it is that, too. But now I see that it also indicates that blue agave, or alcohol made from blue agave, is an appropriate offering for Hel.

There are a ton of things from my novel-gnosis that I don't know whether they apply outside of the Fireverse or not. Bit by bit, one thing at a time, I am finding out if something I've seen in the Fireverse applies in our current universe too. This one turned out to be applicable in our universe.

Blue Agave is not a plant that grows naturally in the northern European lands where the worship of the goddess Hel originated. It is indigenous to Mexico, a little south of the desert in which I live, but various agaves are planted all over this valley. Agave is part of the local landscape for me, so this affinity may not apply for people who don't live where Agave grows. That is, I don't know if Hel likes this plant in general or if she only wants it from me because I live where it grows. Blue Agave does have some characteristics that seem to set it apart from the average plant in a way that might appeal to Hel, though. It blooms at night, and is pollinated by bats. Hel is usually associated with the dark.

Then of course there is the word blue in the plant's name, which is unusual. The small symbol Hel gave me (reference the post A Present from Hel) is blue. Both in novel-gnosis and in another artistic vision which resulted in an artwork, I see the bridge to Hel as having a blue archway through which the dead pass. Hel's face is half light, half dark, usually depicted as half white and half black or half living flesh color and half skull, but it could also be half white and half dark blue like post-mortem lividity. Is it Blue Agave specifically that she likes, or just things named blue? I don't know those answers, because I have only one data point. This is why visions like this are called personal gnosis, while ten different peoples' visions all narrowing in on the same thing are called group gnosis. Perhaps other people with similar gnosis will comment and we will see.

Image: a bottle sitting on a table, backlit by a window. Photo by Erin Lale.

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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.


  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Monday, 05 August 2019

    I've seen agave leaves in the grocery store, but I've never tried to do anything with them. I have never been served a dish that includes agave leaves in it so I don't know what to aim for.

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Wednesday, 07 August 2019

    Anthony, the leaves can be roasted and eaten like artichoke but they're very fibrous. Around here people usually don't eat the leaves, just the syrup (the boiled sap) in various forms. Syrup can be used as a sweetener in smoothies or other recipes that call for liquid sweetener. And of course once the syrup is made into alcohol it has the usual uses (the margarita.)

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