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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Coffee with Odin

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Recently, it occurred to me that when I speak with the gods, and they speak back to me, they are using my brain to communicate with me, so they use whatever they find in my brain. I speak to them in my native language, English, and they speak back in English. Or, they might speak in symbols with which I am familiar, and therefore may understand. They speak in the sounds, sights, and smells that have meaning for me. For example, I might see an animal I associate with a specific god, such as a butterfly for Sigyn. The gods don't really need to communicate with signs, since I have time set aside every day for communication with them. But they send them sometimes anyway, because it brings me joy, awe, and wonder.

Daily ritual anchors the gods in my life each day. There are rituals meant to be unique and only done once and there are rituals meant to be the same every time, and both have value. My small daily rituals are meant to be similar to each other every time. 

My morning routine includes coffee as my meditative time, in which I toast the gods and communicate with them. We discuss any issues I might be having, they might give me messages or advice, and I might ask them questions about the way the world works. Sometimes I critique my beta testing of Human Body and give my opinion of it. 

Here are some recent gnosis experiences I've had and things I've discussed with the gods over coffee. 


I had a positive gnosis experience during a time when I was having a really bad medical experience. Without getting into the medical details, the story is pretty short, so here is the short version. I saw 3 expressions of support from 3 different gods in the form of animals, and had a brief mental conversation with the goddess Eir.

I had not called upon Eir; I was actually rehearsing how to express my problems when I saw my doctor. Since I had to get a lot of details right in just a few minutes and I have memory problems I always note down and mentally go over what I need to say, since I always end up seeing someone I don't recognize and have to guess how to approach them and my experience with medical types is that even if I write out a timeline they still want patients to recite it all perfectly in order and not leave anything out but also not take too much time or catastrophize or sound too womany. Seeing a doctor or nurse is a one shot high stakes interview I have to nail on the first try every time or suffer. So, I was thinking about how to express myself, as one does. And apparently thinking about talking to "the doctor," in general, without picturing a particular person, can attract Eir's attention. She told me that the thing I was thinking about could be done but I would be miserable. I trust her judgement so I dismissed that idea. 

Although I did not pursue the idea or Eir any further, the process of thinking and talking about it caused me to worry that I had disrupted my relationship with other gods. I was reassured and awestruck to see three signs that they were all still with me. First I saw a whole bunch of Checkered White butterflies, in my garden, as I was on my way to an appointment. Those represent Sigyn, for me. The next animal I saw was actually on a screen in an urgent care waiting room. It was a red fox, filling the giant screen, looking right at me. That was Loki. It would be unnatural to see an actual red fox here in the Mojave Desert, so he commandeered some technology for the purpose. A few days later I saw a raven again. I had just seen the one that was being bird-bombed by the mockingbird a week or so before so it might have been the same raven. I heard its loud "awk" in the back yard and looked up and there it was flying. I hailed it, as Huginn or Muninn, the mind and memory of Odin. 


Most of the time, when I start my morning coffee toasting ritual, I come to the gods with a clear mind, having just woken up and usually having not even had breakfast yet, starting my morning coffee time when I'm still slightly sleep-muzzy and maybe a bit dreamy. Usually, we don't even really say anything to each other except for the ritual words. Sometimes I ask them if they have any messages for me or for humankind. The messages for humankind go in this blog. Most of the time they tell me I'm doing fine. (Knock on wood.) 

Sometimes I have a question about things I've experienced. Sometimes, though, I have a question about something I've read or heard about. Sometimes I'm in a grumpy mood. The gods still answer. (Knock on wood.)

One morning while reading the Sunday paper I happened on an article about green funerals. Which is to say, actually it was about body disposal. There are various practices called green burial, the simplest of which is to forego embalming, caskets, and vaults. Instead, people can choose a shroud or an eco-friendly type of coffin. There are a variety of other options that might include tree planting or other practices that would not be compatible with a normal cemetery. They all sounded green enough, and from a historical perspective more traditional than the modern way of chemical preservatives and watertight containers.

Then the article covered what is being touted as "green cremation." Which is not cremation. It's dissolving a body in water and chemicals. This was being held up as eco-friendly without comment. In the same newspaper where I just read my state is engaged in cloud seeding and is heavily advocating our neighboring coastal state start investing in ocean desalination. Because the "water rights" in the American West total up to rights to more water than exists. Because this is a permanent problem we've seen coming for decades. Hence, insterstate and international agreements like the one governing the Colorado River, which still grants rights to more than one hundred percent of what's in the river and is devolving into an intractable political issue. Someone writing here, in the Las Vegas valley, where the local water department built a new "straw" lower down in Lake Mead because the lake isn't going back up anytime soon. Where we have reached a nearly one hundred percent closed loop system years ago and still have to cut back more due to growth and politics. Where they've banned nonfunctional turf lawns. Where the impressive fountains that entertain the tourists and the golf courses are graywater. Where local business has made wastewater treatment a tourist draw with the Cactus Garden fed from the chocolate factory. Where local government made wastewater treatment a tourist attraction as well with the Bird Preserve. Here, where local homeowners have to obey a strict watering schedule dictated by the water authority. Here, someone writing here, uncritically wrote that if everyone switched from a process that uses fire to a process that uses water that it would be good for the environment. Because fire emits greenhouse gases. Because climate change.

I am so tired of all other environmental issues being erased and replaced by climate change. The problem of water rights in the American West is not solely a scientific issue, since it's also a political issue.  But using more water on purpose certainly isn't going to help.

Sigh. Grumpy, right? Not something I can do much about except complain here on my blog, though. 

Sigh, sip my coffee, try to relax and clear my mind. Because stressing out about this doesn't do anyone any good. Can't help but imagine hundreds of thousands of people switching from a zero water use process to a heavy water use process and thinking they helped. In my mind's eye I can see them in blue pods stretching to the shadowy limits of a large undercity, like a dystopian sf novel. Because that's just how my brain works. But suddenly, I wonder: aside from the environmental impact, would dissolving in water and chemicals even be considered a proper practice for handling the dead in Asatru? All other questions aside, is this even allowed?

So I asked the gods, is fire required for cremation for your followers? Loki said yes, fire is required for him. Odin confirmed it's fire for him too, but with an exception. Odin said it doesn't matter what happens to the bodies of his followers if they are bound for Valhalla. The point of Valhalla is that it's for people who might not have access to their preferred and customary body handling. The entire point of sending the Valkyries to carry away the souls of the battle dead is because those who fall in battle far from home may be just left lying there, cast into a mass grave, or handled according to local customs that are not heathen customs. So, for Odin's chosen, the soul rises to him regardless of how the body is handled.

Odin mentioned that Freya's people should be buried. Generally it's cremation for those who want to join the Aesir and burial for those who want to join the Vanir or other earth based deities, or for those who want to join the mound-dead and become ancestor spirits (disir or alfar.)

Later, I confirmed with her that her people need to be buried in the earth. She said yes. I asked her, what about the battle dead? The ones you choose? (According to our lore, Freya gets first pick and takes half the slain.) She replied that she chooses those who have been handled correctly according to her rites and given to the earth, and those that need the exception go to Odin. I asked her then, that's just for the battle slain though, right? You still take specific people you've chosen while they were alive, regardless. She said yes, that's correct. 


Recently Nevada got some rain from the tag end of Hurricane Hilary, and then the next weekend a big monsoon. As is my custom, I lit candles, including a Thor candle on the main house altar. I placed sheaves of wheat before the altar for Sif, Thor's wife. I put on perfumes to honor them, Thunderstrike and Bilskirnir, both scents from Cherry-Ka's Trunk. I also turned on some of my bottle lights, which are battery lamps I make from liquor bottles I've emptied. I make a toast to Thor every time it starts raining again, usually with coffee but sometimes with other beverages. During the most spectacular of the lightning and thunder displays, my housemates and I sit out on the back porch watching. We had 3 spectacular rainbows, once after Hilary, and twice after monsoons, all three times at sunset. I toasted Heimdall for the rainbows. I toast Heimdall with rum, and in between the two storms I went to get some more rum and ran across a spiced rum that referenced Austria on its packaging. That's where my mom's father was from. So of course I got that one. It was Stroh, a 160 rum meant for cooking or flambe, so I came up with a way to do a flambe drink, using dragonfruit. During the second storm, on one of the rainy occasions in which we were all on the back porch to watch the storm featured a flambe dragon drink made with Stroh. The third rainbow occurred after rain on a day when the weather forecast had said the storm was supposed to be over, and the local weatherman had even posted on his Facebook that the day was going to be "rainbow-free." lol. I feel that Heimdall sent us that third rainbow as a reward for making clever use of a rum that had a connection to my ancestors. 

image: a cup of coffee with steam coming from it, and orbs of light dancing around 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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