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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Of Death and the Butterfly

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Shortly after my mom died, the goddess Sigyn told me our relationship would change soon. She did not elaborate, but I did not have long to wait.

(To recap: I became sworn to Freya in college, and Freya gave me to Sigyn a few years ago.) About a week or so after mom passed on, Sigyn told me I was free. She assured me that she would always be part of my life, and she would help me through my grief and would still send butterflies sometimes, but I no longer belong to her. I would never need her again the same way I needed her while caring for mom. This is a grief unlike any other. I would now grow closer to another goddess.

It did not take long until I learned who. More on that in my next post.

Sigyn came back strongly to help me through a particular ritual. Some background: I've done animal funerals that included burial, including at least a couple that I knew were intended as practice for me to do the same for a human later. But my mom had herself cremated. She had always said she wanted her ashes scattered, and that's not functionally different from burial, so that would be very similar ritually.That is, burial or scattering ashes both end up with the remains outside, in the earth, or on the earth, or in the water.

But when mom had arranged for her cremation she had also bought two mini urns, one for me and one for my brother, so that we would each have a permanent bit of her ashes. She still wanted the rest of her ashes scattered. So, I realized I had to be prepared to actually keep some of her body, not just bury or scatter it all. I was not sure how to do that. I mean, I was not yet mentally prepared to do that. Sigyn came to me and helped me practice an appropriate ritual.

Years ago, I had received a butterfly to keep, by finding it dead in my back yard. I had been keeping it in a temporary container, a cup, inside the glass wall shrine that I call the spiritual souvenir display. I needed to give it a permanent home, and do so ritually, so that I would know what to do when mom's ashes arrive. When I brought a truckload of my mom's things to donate to a local thrift shop, I also went inside and I found a lovely glass case decorated with a lavender colored flower, and I knew that was just right for the butterfly's permanent home.

With the guidance of the goddess Sigyn, I performed a ritual for setting this Checkered White butterfly into its new permanent display case. In this ritual, I honored Sigyn by picking an early lavender flower from my garden, and having some lavender tea. Then I made certain that no soul parts of the individual butterfly remained in its body, its soul having left long ago, but that the body was not too empty lest it attract a malevolent entity like an unburned butzemann. So, I made sure that it still had some butterfly energy, just not the soul.
 
When mom's ashes arrive, I will make sure none of her individual soul is still caught in this material plane along with them. I trust that with Hel's assistance she has already gone on to her next life, but I just need to be sure there are no fragments left. 
 
(I know there was no soul fragment left in her body when the mortuary team came to pick her up, because I was there, I helped the nurse wash and dress her, I said some words in the way of a goodbye after she passed on. But she didn't really look obviously dead, and for the first few days I felt like I was moving through cotton, so I can't say I'm one hundred percent sure I would have felt it if there was still something left in the body that shouldn't have been there. Something more than the mom energy that any of her other things in her room would have too, like her beloved cow quilt she was lying under.)
 
So, the ashes shouldn't have any soul in them. But the ashes should not be made too empty-- they can still serve as a way to contact her or feel her presence if some mom energy is still in them, just as there is still butterfly energy in the butterfly, without allowing any part of her to be caught in this time and place.
 
Thus, Sigyn helped me practice for what to do when I receive my mom's ashes. I expect to receive them soon. When I do, the ritual I do will be mainly in honor of Hel, although I will also honor Sigyn. The purpose of asking for Hel's assistance is to guide the departed to either their proper afterlife or to be reborn. For someone like my mom who did not believe in an afterlife-- the time she said she wanted to see her favorite cat again (see recent post Mom and the Neighborhood Bengal) was the only time in her life she ever expressed any sort of belief in any kind of afterlife-- finding her way on that journey could be confusing and upsetting. With the help of the goddess Hel, I am sure she skipped right to the front of the line to ride the ride.

Image: Butterfly in glass case, teacup, tea container, vase with lavender flower. Also in the photo are some candles, a jar of the petals of the Prank Rose which I received as a sign from Sigyn, a butterfly representation, a matchbook and match receptacle, and a vase with some fading flowers left from bouquets brought to my mom's wake.

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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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