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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Good Knowledge, Bad Teacher: Part 1

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Trigger warning: sexual harassment, abuse


Prelude: We’ve come to the part of my story of my personal journey on my heathen path where it was time to relate a miserable experience of learning from an exploitative teacher. I originally told the whole story the way I've told other parts of my story on this blog, with a high level of experiential detail, but an incredible number and variety of internet glitches occurred. After the third glitch, I thought there might be something wrong with what I wrote, and I kept rewriting it, putting in more and more detail and analysis, backtracking to provide background on the wider pagan community of that time and place, until it grew to an unwieldy size. I was finally sure it was clear and could not be misunderstood, but it told more of my story than I had actually intended. After about glitch number two dozen, my friends and I have decided that version of the story was not safe to post and that the powers were keeping it off the net to protect me. So, I've just extracted the lessons I've learned, and am posting the lessons instead of the whole story.

I learned a new lesson in trying to write about this. I was nervous about posting the story with all the details left in, but all my life I have lived by the dictate I learned in martial arts as a teenager, that fear is something to be conquered. That to be a warrior is to overcome my own fears, and to refuse to let fear rule my life. Over the course of last year, I learned to listen to my subconscious. I now realize that the so-called “negative” emotions are part of the human toolkit and they exist to help us, and that sometimes it is appropriate to listen to my intuition rather than rejecting my fear. This post is about how to have a safe community, and one of the lessons is: an individual’s personal safety is important. Even mine. 


So, in the next two posts I'm sharing the lessons I’ve learned from the experience I can’t share: 


Lesson 1: Real Magic doesn't excuse a Bad Teacher

 The pagan and heathen communities have become wary of con artists. It’s much harder to reject a mentor/student relationship with someone who has real knowledge and whose magic really works. The exploitation works like this: Bad Teacher tells prospective student that student is special and qualifies to be taught secret knowledge that student absolutely must learn or student will end up self-destructing in horrible ways which may include killing people with student’s untrained powerful magic, and the only person in the world who can help is Bad Teacher. Bad Teacher usually doesn’t teach (women, non military, whatever) but student is so special he will make an exception and by the way Bad Teacher wants to be student’s lover. Student’s instincts scream to run away, but, Bad Teacher demonstrates that his magic really works and that student was born with the same type of magic and really, really has to learn to control it or will end up committing horrifying crimes and going to prison. Or some other such pressure story. It’s not so easy to reject this story when the magic is clearly real and the student really does have the same type of magical talent. It is to be expected that Bad Teacher ends up recruiting students who grew up being abused and who revert to childhood means of relating and coping when they feel trapped. 


Although the student may feel trapped in that situation, there is now an alternative. Thanks to the net, it’s easier to find information and other people than it was back then. Other people may already have learned the same knowledge, and may be willing to teach in a safe way, or may have already published the information. 


I feel that no one should have to suffer the way I suffered in order to learn, so I have published what I learned. As a heathen, I’ve long regarded Odin as a role model. Odin hung on the tree to learn the runes, and then he did not hoard his knowledge, but shared it. 

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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.


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