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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My Name and the Elephant

I'm always alert to names that look or sound like my name. I have an unusual name that many people find hard to spell, pronounce, or guess the gender. If I didn't answer to Eric Lao, Erica Lane, or Erwin Laley I'd miss my turn at the dr.'s office sometimes. So my immediate reaction on seeing the name Erinle scroll through my Twitter feed was, "Me?"

Not me, of course. But perhaps someone some of my ancestors may have known. It's been almost a year since I took a DNA test and discovered my African ancestors. I don't plan to actually follow any African religion, since I have plenty with my own religion, but I do want to learn about my ancestors' ways. I can only guess which traditions my ancestors may have followed, but I can take a more specific guess than I could have before the days when a DNA test can tell me the names of the countries my ancestors came from. One of those countries is Nigeria.

I have been learning in very small bits of strictly public information, such as tweets. I don't want to intrude into anything where I might not belong so I'm only seeking information sent out to be seen by the general public such as on social media or dictionary type websites. I often see information, advice, pictures, and short video clips related to the ways of Nigeria on my Twitter feed, and I'm especially moved by the music, dancing, and clips of rituals. When I watch these videos, I am aware that the people in them are possibly distant cousins, hundreds of years removed.

So that is how I came to see the name Erinle on my Twitter. The name riveted my attention and I looked up information about this being. Erinle is an Orisa; they don't call them gods. Erinle is depicted as an elephant. On land, Erinle is he, strong and of the earth. By sea, Erinle is she, the flowing sea. Erinle is associated with wealth and is considered a patron of LGBT+ people.

I've had a few elephant connections over the years but nothing major. Years ago an artist friend offered to draw me as an elephant. At the time I wasn't excited by the idea so I didn't take her up on it. I'll be keeping an eye out for anything related to Erinle that I might happen across and see if that goes anywhere.

I've connected with Nigeria before, though. When I worked in tech I had some Nigerian co-workers and I thought Nigeria might be the future tech capitol, so when I set out to do the world-building for my science fiction Time Yarns Universe I had the Earth-based galaxy-wide culture be the Nigerian Empire. So I had already studied some things about their culture, and could hear the French-accented English of my co-workers in my head when I wrote Nigerian characters. I wonder if I was drawn to make Nigeria such a big part of my sf universe because of some innate connection I didn't know about?

I've been learning a bit about some of my other ancestries that I learned about via the DNA results. One of the surprises was a tiny bit from India / Pakistan. I wasn't pursuing it since it was such a small percentage, but the information found me anyway as a houseguest spontaneously gave me a book about old Punjab as a hostess gift. Altogether I approve of giving books instead of wine. East of Indus is proving to be quite an interesting book.  I don't know what adventurous road my DNA might take me down next.



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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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