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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Heathen Visibility Project: part 1 Why Heathen Visibility?

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Last month I had to search for public domain or creative commons license images of heathen or Asatru related rituals, gods, altars, etc. to fill up the upcoming Heathen Calendar 2018 because I didn't manage to get 12 images from living artists for various reasons. (Some artists didn't finish on time, some didn't want to sign the tax form, whatever.) I had searched for public domain classical art last year for this year's calendar, and I had previously searched for some public domain heathen related images to illustrate my blog, but this was the first time I had searched for contemporary images that might be photos of actual people. I did not find much. Artists have uploaded tons of various images to sites where people can license their images, either for money or for free as the artist prefers, using a creative commons license or another type of license. So there are places to put such images where the artists could possibly get something back for their work, if they wish. I don't know yet whether I will do another Heathen Calendar next year; it depends on how many people want one. But if I do, it would be great to have some good stock photos of heathens doing heathenry to choose from. 

Just before I did those image searches for the Calendar, I had been doing image, text, and guide searches for guides to how to tell heathen symbols from hate symbols, to create the Trollslayers' Guide, which is a guide for the group moderators of the American Asatru group on Facebook to use to do background checks on people applying for membership. (We have a strict no-Nazis rule.) The publicly available guides all have various flaws and none of them were written by heathens. I'm actually thinking of trying to expand the Trollslayers' Guide into a full blown public guide to how to tell heathen symbols from hate symbols, written by heathens for heathens. The terrible thing that I discovered while looking at all that is that some of our actual religious symbols that are not inherently hate symbols are being used by haters, publicly, where they are being photographed as news and the images propagated at the speed of news. I'm tired of the loudest voices using our symbols being the hate groups. I want to drown them out in a sea of louder voices. 

When a time-pressured intern at a newspaper does a cursory google image search for heathen or Asatru pictures to illustrate an article with, using the search feature that only returns images that are "free to use or share," I want the entire first page of search returns to be actual heathen and Asatru images, not tiki Nazis waving the runic letter O around. Non-heathens illustrating newspaper articles about Asatru have been known to use pictures of Marvel-Thor from the comics or movies, probably because that was what was on the first page of google image search returns for the search term "Thor." We aren't going to be able to displace an image-generating powerhouse like the Disney megacorporation, but we can surely drive gangs and hate groups down off of the first page of returns for various heathen related search terms like rune and Othala and Mjolnir and Thorshammer. We can deny the haters cultural space by occupying that space ourselves.

When it comes to written material, heathens are pretty loud. We have lots of books (like mine) and blogs (like mine) and articles and so on. We don't have nearly the number of images of contemporary heathens doing heathen things, or people publicly identified as heathens doing regular life things. It has not been very long since most pagans, including heathens, were not comfortable being really publicly "out." Pagans and heathens used names other than their legal names routinely, both on the net and in meatspace. Even now, most pagan events, even Pagan Pride Day, which is ostensibly all about being "out," don't allow photography of the crowd. That is because many people attending rituals and other pagan events don't want to be photographed, because they are worried about being identified as non-Christians. For that reason, if we want to increase heathen visibility, instead of trying to photograph real rituals and events we will probably have to stage them. 

How to participate is coming in part 2. 

Image: my photo Stacked Heathen Sacred Pendants is one of the first images participating in this project. It is a cell phone image I uploaded to Deviantart and tagged heathenvisibility. It shows four pendants, including a Thorshammer, being worn on gythia robes that are based on Viking Age women's clothing. 

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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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