Gnosis Diary: Life as a Heathen

My personal experiences, including religious / spiritual experiences, modern life on a heathen path, community interaction, and general heathenry.

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Erin Lale

Erin Lale

Erin Lale is the author of Asatru For Beginners, American Celebration, and other books. She has been a sworn Priestess of Freya since 1989, and recently also formalized a relationship with the triple Odin. She has been a freelance writer for about 30 years, was the editor and publisher of Berserkrgangr Magazine, and is the Acquisitions Editor at genre novel publishers Damnation Books and Eternal Press. In 2010 and 2013, she ran for public office as an out heathen.

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Poetic Inspiration

Although I had not formalized a patronage relationship with Odin on the day I had intended to (see post The Day I Swore Myself to Freya), I received poetic inspiration from him. Some of the poems I wrote definitely felt like me writing them, that is, I was doing the work of writing. Others felt like I was just taking dictation. Some poems were in the heathen style, some modern, and some were ‘filk,’ which was the word among science fiction and fantasy fans for folk music related to the genres. It was my hand on the pen when the poem about the goddess Skadhi came into the world, but I've always felt that it was Odin who wrote it. 

 A quote from my memoir, Greater Than the Sum of My Parts:

     “At an Asatru festival I sang my filk version of a Canadian folksong by the campfire, and Vampyre Mike, the lead singer from the band who played acoustic pagan songs at the Festivals and hard rock in the mundane world, liked “Bajor’s Privateers” so much he sang it over and over for the rest of the festival.  His lady Pasha called to me, “You’ve created a monster!”

Bajor's Privateers was one of the songs I felt that I had actually written myself, although there might have been a touch of inspiration as well. It was a conscious parody of the folk song Barrett's Privateers, and I definitely worked at writing it. The poem Skadhi: Water Cycle was one of the ones I felt that Odin had written and I just noted it down. At this point in my personal journey, in the early 1990s, I was learning the bersarkr tradition (see post The Berserker Trance.) I was working with both animal spirits and with Odin and Freya. As I learned to open and close the door in my mind to admit Odin for the bersarkr trance, I grew closer to him and received more poetic inspiration. This is the way of the warrior-poet.

I received an invitation from Paul Edwin Zimmer to read at the Bardic Circle at Greyhaven. I had published some of his poetry in Berserkrgangr Magazine. I published that magazine mostly for the nonfiction, as a way for bersarkrs and others of similar traditions to connect and share information, but it was also a literary magazine, with fiction, poetry, and art. I published some of my own poetry in my magazine, and he must have liked it. We became colleagues and friends of the sort who gave each other our poetry chapbooks.

There were other heathens at the Greyhaven Bardic Circle, some of whom I recognized from the heathen festivals I had attended. Diana Paxson played the harp. I debuted my poem Skadi: Water Cycle at Greyhaven, and Diana liked it. It was an emotional high point for me for my poem to be appreciated by established authors. 

Of course, I felt that it was really Odin's poem, not mine. I had heard it in my sleep, woken up and written it down. I wondered, how can I take credit for what felt like taking dictation, not creating? Eventually I realized that it was not just my hand on the pen, it was my mind that Odin put this poem in. It was my effort and self-sacrifice that allowed me to open the door in my mind and let him in. (And the sacrifice to study the bersarkr tradition was hideous; more on that in my next post.) So yes, it is my poem, just like any other gift belongs to me once I've been given it, whether it is a poem from Odin or the flesh with which I receive it and write it down, flesh that began as part of my parents, flesh grown by the gifts of the earth through food and water and air, flesh that therefore also comes ultimately from the gods of nature, and yet is my flesh, my body, which I own entire. Everything I have comes ultimately from the gods, and yet is mine: my poem, my body, my breath, my mind, my soul, my life. I would not tolerate anyone trying to take my body or my life or my breath; I would fight. Even though my body is made by eating food, and food comes from the blessings of the gods, it is still my body; my art and writing and song come from the gods, too, but they are mine. Therefore, my poem:

Skadi: Water Cycle
by Erin Lale

Skadi scried the sky one day.
Blue was Baldur's beckoning eye,
Yellow as yew-wood the young god's hair,
The clouds that covered the coming sun.

All the east was ought but gold,
Blue below, the boss-shield snow,
Was Skadi. Sky-scattered clouds
Burned as beauty blazed forth

Down the deep snow-drowned ravines,
White-hot, whelming, whispering secrets.
She melted, and mickle and mild she found him.
So fair his fire she fain would go,

To marry the man, from her mountain home.
He unfroze the ice of her eyrie white,
Meltwater he made her, merry on stones,
Leaping laughing to the land below:

The gardened game-field the gods had made,
Where spirits spent in sport were happy.
A new game now, to net a husband,
Devised they very valiantly.

So fair of foot he fooled the snowmaid,
Niord named, not Baldur,
The gods' game gave to her.
The sun she sought, the sea she found.

To the ocean the icequeen overland went,
Merged at the margin of her married estate
With the salty sea as the sun looked on.
Her tears tended trees of kelp.

With watery waves wove she by day,
Niord's net-knotting daughters.
With women wily washed she by night,
Niord's nine naughty daughters.

Roamed with Ran to rend a dragon,
Long laughed loud jeers
At mighty men their maids never
Would welcome warm and winningly home.

She tried to tear her tears away
In making men meet their deaths,
A special sport a sport to forget,
From Baldur's bright beauty hiding.

But said she, "Sundered from the sun forever?
No more!" As mist, from her marriage-bed
At Ran's rim, she rose and flew,
Glad of a gull's gift of flight,

For Baldur abandoned the briny sea,
For Baldur broke in breakers white,
For Baldur bent her body up,
Climbing coastal cliffs as fog,

Sailed from sea to sundrenched air.
Yet the young god yearned she for
Too high held his head so bright
For a foamy flying maid.

Just one jutting jewelled place,
In all the upper air was there
Could Skadi skiff with skill and luck,
As crystal cloud keeping whole,

On land to lie and live all winter,
On rock and rowan resting, as ice
Spread, for spring to spring her up,
Waiting wan and wantingly.

The craigs and cliffs, kestrel-perches,
The spire-spears, sprite's castles,
The groves of granite growing high,
The meager meadows, less milch than stone,

The piney peaks she pined for strong,
Where first she felt the fiery sun,
Where last she lived a life of joy,
The much-missed mountains of home. 

This poem, along with other poetry and art, is available in the poetry chapbook Renaissance Woman. Link: 
 http://www.amazon.com/Renaissance-Woman-Collected-Poetry-Erin-ebook/dp/B004PLNLX8/ref=la_B004GLACQQ_1_8?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1417153012&sr=1-8

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Festival Memories

Continuing my story of my personal journey on my heathen path, it was the early 1990s and I was still living in Sonoma, California. I had some great times at heathen festivals Ravenwood and the Ostara gathering in the Marin headlands, and the CAW Convocation.

A quote from my memoir:

      “There were two campout festivals a year, one in the spring on the beach, where we rolled out our sleeping bags on metal cots in an old World War One bunker in the Marin headlands, where we gathered at dawn to ignite a model longship loaded with eggs and nickels and push it into the sea as an offering to the goddess Ran, the other in the summer, where we pitched tents in the redwoods, held toasting rituals called sumbel, and a general rite to all the gods.  At the summer festival, the feeling was very much that the rituals were an excuse to get together, hold discussions with people who actually knew what we were talking about when we spoke of our personal discoveries and academic theories about our religion, and of course to sing pagan songs by the campfire all night, the selections becoming progressively more bawdy as the night wore on.  One year the summer festival happened to be Fourth of July weekend, so we all drove up to the bare top of the hill in a van and sat in the warm breeze, looking across the water to San Francisco.  All we could see of the fireworks display was colored lights in the heavy fog that clung to the City, though the rest of the bay was clear.  Pink, green, blue, yellow, the fog flickered.  We called it “wizard lights” and made jokes about how our primitive ancestors would have interpreted them.  We laughed all the way back down the hill.  I was one of very few who did not pair off for the evening, either with someone they brought with them, or an old acquaintance from other Festivals, or a perfect stranger they would not recognize in the morning.

     Nighttime in the redwood forest, before the music and dancing started up for the evening, held an otherworldly quiet.  Fog came in like muffling cotton.  The torches under the trees cast rings of light through the mist, seeming to splinter into rainbow-edged crystals as from far away came the ancient, dragonish sound of drummers heat-tuning their bodhrans over the fire.  It was a moment of pure magic.  All seemed still and at the same time I saw air moving across the firelight, for the mist off the ocean looked like air grown visible.  The eldritch woods, black against the starry sky, the red flame of torches, the glowing gold mist; it was an elvish night.”

 I also attended pagan festivals as well as heathen ones.
 
A quote from my memoir, Greater Than the Sum of My Parts:

      “Because the heathen group Ring of Troth was based in San Francisco...I also looked for any pagans closer to home, and came across The Church of All Worlds, which was based on... a science fiction novel.  The devotees of Stranger in a Strange Land did not, of course, practice cannibalism, as did the Martians in the book.  Water drinking was their main activity, and nudity as weather permitted.  I did not actually join their group formally, but I did attend their meetings for a time, mainly because they were held in Sonoma.  I was originally attracted to them after attending one of their beach rituals, where the priest invoked the god into himself and I sensed power there.  It seems odd that there could be such eloquence in the mere flaring of nostrils, but that is what I chiefly remember:  when the god awoke within him, tasting the wind as if newly after a long time discorporeate, and then opened his eyes and spoke, I really felt I watched an entity larger than time squashed down to three dimensions.

     "The CAW Convocation was held on some private land north of Sonoma.  I went as a vendor. ... I spread my mummy bag right on the dry summer grass, and left my glasses on so I could look up at the stars before I fell asleep.  It was a wonderfully dry night, and I did not wake up covered with dew as I’d worried.  I joined a small group cooking by the edge of the flat area, looking down into the oak and madrone woods below.  Some fog was starting to roll up the hillside, which if it reached us would turn the whole Convocation dark and cold and wet.  A dark-haired man named Duncain positioned his folding chair facing the fog and announced he was going to stare down the fog bank and save the festival.  Several hours went by, while everyone else cooked, hauled water, put tents in order, and so forth.  Someone asked him to help with something, but he said not to break his concentration, he was pushing away the fog.  At midmorning the bank of ground clouds started receding, and by noon the whole woods below were visible.  Everyone cheered and proclaimed him a successful weather witch, and gave him the eke-name Duncain the Fog Bane, by which he was called from then on.”

Around '94 or '95, after I started studying the Bersarkr martial art and magical tradition, I performed the Bersarkr dance to festival drums one night at the Ostara gathering.

A quote from my memoir, Greater Than the Sum of My Parts:

      “In the evening, when Diana and her group set up for seidh in the bunker and most of the people at the festival went inside to watch, a small number of people were left around the campfire.  Some people started drumming, and I found myself tuned into Angela’s drum.  She was a heartbeat drummer, regular and unchanging as time.  I felt myself caught by the power of her drumming, and I began to dance.  The berserker trance came over me, and I leapt into the air, doing martial arts kicks and then coming back down to land growling and moving to the rhythm.  I got overheated and dumped my cloak and sweater on the table, and I was vaguely aware that I no longer had my glasses on, but I could still see, and that was a peculiar sensation.  Occasionally the drums stopped and I headed for the bench like a spent racehorse, but then they started again, doing a different style, but each time Angela’s drum caught me and held me and the trance returned.  Each time I jumped back up, feeling exhausted somewhere inside but unable to stop, unable even to moderate my movements as I would have if I had been dancing some other way than entranced.  I continued to dance at full force, leaping and gyrating and kicking.

     Berserker folklore says one does not recognize one’s friends while berserk, but I recognized Vlad when he approached within the thirty foot circle all the others had the good sense to give me.  Then he stopped cold and stared at me a moment, and retreated.  I continued to dance.  Then it was over.  I felt boneless as I staggered toward the water faucet to relieve the burning of dehydration.  Then I came back to the picnic tables by the campfire and sat down, and put my glasses back on.  I felt wobbly all over.  “How long was I dancing?” I asked.

     Angela replied, “About three hours.”

     “Hours?!  I usually can’t sustain the berserkrgangr for more than one song.  And why didn’t I have an asthma attack?”

     Angela asked, “Fox?”

     “Lynx.”

     “I thought it was something small and furry.”  She nodded to herself.

     “You saw?”

     “Yes.”

     “Most people can’t, you know,” I said.  “In old stories they say berserkers are shapeshifters, but only the psychically gifted can see the change.  Though I should have expected you could, since you’re such a powerful drummer.”

     “Thank you.”

     It was only then that I noticed the naked man.  He was busily cutting himself on the arms, legs, and chest with a straight razor.

     “What’s with him?” I asked Angela.

     She replied, “He says he’s letting the goddess Diana have her way with him.”

     “Hmm.  I’ve never met a male Dianic before.”

     Through all this, despite getting language back right away, I had had to work at slowly unbending my fingers from their clawed state.  Now the fire threw a loud popping spark and I jumped up and my hands clawed up again.  Vlad offered a sheathed knife as a pry bar to unbend my fingers, and it actually worked.

     “I forgot,” I said, “it’s Loki’s Day.  April first.  He had to show us he was around.”   

At the time, that was not a controversial thing to say. Like in Icelandic and European Asatru, there was nothing remotely controversial about Loki in the American Asatru that I first encountered in California in the 90s.

As I grew closer to Odin while studying the Bersarkr tradition, I started receiving more inspiration for my writing. That's another story, and will be the subject of my next post, Poetic Inspiration.

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Thanksgiving, an American Celebration

"Thanksgiving is celebrated as a family harvest celebration, and its origins are swept under the rug. Public schools of my era put up decorations of cutesy Pilgrims and Indians and indoctrinated children in the propaganda that Thanksgiving was a continuous celebration from the First Thanksgiving and had been celebrated the same way ever since, and that the First Thanksgiving was when the settlers had a great harvest and invited the happy, friendly natives to the feast."

That's a quote from my latest book, American Celebration. I decided to write this book for several reasons. One was because I decided to go in a more modernist direction in my personal path. I reached the point where I felt that heathenry had gotten enough reconstruction to have a firm foundation and it was time to build the rest of the house. Becoming a viable religion in modern times means we have to think about how we fit into modern culture. I wanted to spend more of my holidays with my family and friends who are part of my real life, and American secular holiday culture provides a framework for celebrating with friends and family of different faiths. 

Another reason I wrote this book is because I've heard all my life that the United States doesn't have a real culture like other countries do. It's not true. There are American folkways. I discovered things I never knew about my own country's customs while researching this book, which is new this year.

Another reason I wrote the book is because while I was running for office, one day a woman from another country who happened to be at a political event with her fellow asked me why Americans are always worshipping our flag. That got me to thinking, and I also wrote this book for foreigners who want to understand peculiar customs in the United States. 

I'll return to the story of my personal journey on my path in my next blog post.

Here's another quote from the entry on Thanksgiving in American Celebration:

"Thanksgiving as we know it today was created by Abraham Lincoln for the purpose of uniting the bitterly divided American people in the shadow of the Civil War. He created the mythology of Pilgrims and Indians feasting together as a model of how the North and the South ought to come together after the massive bloodshed which had just happened. In reaching back for a foundation myth that reflected a happier and shinier view of the real history of the colonization of America, he hoped to perpetuate a happier and shinier America in his present and the future."

Links to American Celebration:

Amazon (print edition): http://www.amazon.com/American-Celebration-Erin-Lale/dp/1304916138/ref=la_B004GLACQQ_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416415380&sr=1-2

Smashwords (ebook): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/400543

Barnes & Noble (ebook): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/american-celebration-erin-lale/1118328548?ean=2940045599979 

American Celebration would make a great Yule gift.

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A Book and a Cat

Continuing my story of my personal journey on my heathen path, I continued to learn various magical basics, not exclusively heathen. During the early 1990s, I studied the book The Way of the Shaman, and met a lynx. 

 A quote from my memoir, Greater Than the Sum of My Parts:

      “I worked through the exercises in a little paperback book called the Way of the Shaman.  From it I learned to read auras.  At first I had difficulty with the concept of aura reading, but then I figured out what it really was.  Learning aura reading is training one’s intuition to give information in visual form.  The color spectrum is capable of carrying more shades of meaning in a single data point than is a gut feeling.  It’s like trading Morse code for a videophone.  After that it was only a matter of practice, and in a few weeks I went on to the next exercise in the book.”

I had already connected to a spirit animal, cats of various species, but after reading that book, I went on a trip to Montana and connected powerfully with a lynx. The excuse for the trip was wildlife photography. I connected profoundly with an animal spirit that united the Native totem spirits, the Eastern martial arts animals, and the heathen bersarkrgangr animals, although I would not know about the martial of bersarkrgangr for another few years yet.

I photographed the lynx jumping over a log. The photo accompanying this post is one of the pictures of that very lynx, which I took on 35mm slide film. 

 A quote from my memoir: 

     “The lynx got tired and sat in the shade a while, panting, its cream and red-brown fur a liability in the summer sun.  It was not much bigger than my own cat at home, and I had to remind myself that it was not in fact a domestic cat and I should not pet it, despite the temptation.   As I stood watching the lynx, it looked back at me with spring green eyes.  I did not let myself physically move to touch it, but my feelings went out to it, to her, I realized, perfect hunter, emblem of every cat spirit I had ever known, from the lion roar of shenai practice to the little house cat spirit in the field on my first day at college.  She united the big cats and the small, the tiger of martial arts with the sweet kitten who comforted me when my father died.  I forged a connection with Lynx, not just this lynx but the archetypal Lynx.  She united within me all the cat spirits I had seen and heard, every catlike instinct I possessed, and something more, something hidden deep within.”

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Honoring Both Sides of My Heritage: A Festival and a Road Trip

Continuing my story of my personal journey, in the summer of 1990, after I graduated from college, I finally met other heathens. I went to a heathen festival in Northern California near my home town of Sonoma. I happened to find a welcoming group in its historically most accepting and diverse stage, so I was fortunate that my first encounter with organized heathenry was a group that was totally OK with me showing up in half heathen garb (Viking Age re-enactor clothes) and half powwow regalia (Native American dance attire) which was how I chose to honor both sides of my heritage and spirituality. The Asatru group I happened to encounter welcomed me, and if my being part Native American was even noticed, it was something to celebrate, not something for which to exclude me. My first impression of other heathens was of a fun-loving, friendly group of people who welcomed me with open arms and open bottles of mead.

To summarize the events of the past few posts, 1989 was an eventful year: I became Priestess of Freya, and immediately my father died, I got into a street fight in the Soviet Union, I was in the Quake of '89, and then my randomly assigned college roommates summoned Satan with a ouija board and I had to get rid of him.  Then I faced my most horrible opponent of all: bylaws (I co-founded the official UCSC campus pagan club, Circle of the 13 Moons.)

It had been about a year since my father's death. The chance to find out more about the Native American spirituality he had taught me as a child, directly from him, was gone. I decided to go on a road trip in my truck—my late father’s truck—to find my Cherokee roots. At the time, I did not yet know that dad also had Shawnee ancestors; it took the internet age to find that out. Back then, being of mixed European and Native heritage and trying to honor both sides of my ancestry was seen as more than a little odd. Even the government got in on the disapproval, by having no census category for “mixed” and by only allowing people to choose one checkbox among the standard categories. But since I only met other heathens in person after college, I already felt like I was in a category by myself anyway. As the only heathen among pagans whenever I was in any sort of pagan space, whether the college pagan club or the Spiral Dance or whatever, also having my family Native relationship with the land spirits, not to mention also the Eastern martial arts meditations that had become part of my spiritual practice before I discovered that heathenry was my path, plus all those American celebrations like Yule and Halloween and birthday customs and so forth, plus all the little Austrian family traditions from mom’s family, that was all just me and my path. That was just unique me, on my own path, unlike anyone else’s.

Paraphrasing from my memoir, Greater Than the Sum of My Parts, about my first heathen festival:

      The Asatru festival showed that heathens really knew how to have a good time, with lots of music and food and jokes and a welcoming atmosphere.  In the daytime there were seminars and discussions, and on the main day a ritual followed by a feast, with plenty of time to see the vendors’ booths and participate in shenai sparring.  Nighttime brought singing and dancing around the campfire, or for those who were curious or had a question about the future, Diana and her women apprentices performed seidh in a tent in the woods.  Seidh was an old word for magic which could mean oracular trance, shapeshifting, or bewitchment; Diana and her apprentices meant it in the first sense.  The remarkable thing about the seidh tradition was that it was specifically a women’s magic, and although men could learn it, it was considered improper for men to do so, unless they either were transsexuals (living as women) or transvestites (cross-dressing as women only for ritual performance.)

That was the old Ring of Troth, before it split into The Troth and The American Vinland Association. It was a very welcoming group of heathens. When I attended the old Ring of Troth's festivals in northern California in the early 90s, there were several other Native Americans in powwow regalia, a few black and mixed race people, several male-to-female transsexuals, and several gay and Lesbian singles and couples. Nobody even considered excluding Loki. Back then, if someone had proposed banning the worship of Loki during the festival, the Trothers would have stared at them like they had two heads, just like European heathens today scratch their heads about that peculiarities of American Asatru. I did not come to realize it until a couple of decades later, but all of those things go together. One can gauge how much racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia there is in an American Asatru group by its attitude toward Loki. How welcome is Loki? How welcome are gay people? How welcome are strong women who expect to be treated equally with the men? Where Loki is welcome, they are welcome. Where Loki is relegated to the sidelines, so are they. Where Loki is hated, so are they. I happened to encounter the Ring of Troth during the time when he was welcome, and so were people like me. It was lucky, or perhaps it was weird (karma/ destiny / the will of the gods / whatever.)

At the heathen festival, I met heathens who would become my lifelong friends. We sang around the campfire all night. Fog rolled in among the redwood trees, those trees that went up into infinity, their tops lost in the dark beyond the campfires over which the drummers heat-tuned their bodhrans. Flame lit up the fog in an orange glow. The night smelled like sea and smoke. We filled it with singing voices and the sounds of drums and guitars and laughter.

I was immediately part of the community. By contrast, when I went to a Powwow, I could dance the Intertribal dances (the dances that were neither competitions nor ceremonies) but I was basically alone in the crowd the entire time. At the heathen festival, I was included in all the activities and ceremonies, and was never made to feel that I was doing it wrong (although I probably was, at that point.) Heathens talked with me freely, and never once asked me my blood quantum.

It didn't matter to the heathens that I showed up to my first heathen festival never having heard the word heathen before. (Prior to meeting other heathens, I had not been using the words heathen or Asatru. In college I had been calling my path Germanic Paganism. Sometimes I called it the northern way, because I followed the gods of Northern Europe; this was long before there was a separate path called the Northern Tradition, but I imagine they probably came to use the word northern for the same reason I did.) I was instantly accepted by the other heathens there, just because I was there, and everyone was part of one big community. In contrast, at a Powwow, everyone is either there with their relatives or there alone, and only the vendors talk to anyone other than their in-group. I felt so much more welcomed by the heathens than by the Natives that it really affected which way I went with my religious life.

Going  to my first big heathen festival and then going on the road trip to Qualla Boundary, the Cherokee reservation in North Carolina, happened in the same summer. I was not consciously choosing between the two paths. I was already Priestess of Freya, chosen by Freya, initiated by Freya, and if there were no other human beings on Earth, nothing would ever change that. I was also already honoring the land spirits the way my father taught me in early childhood, and nothing else I learned about Native American ways would change that, either. I wished to honor both sides of my heritage, not choose between them. Every cell in my body is both Native American and Northern European. That would not change no matter what I found at the festival or on my road trip. However, which path I ended up working with the most did depend on how much I could find about how it was actually practiced and whether there was a readily available group of people that practiced it and were ready to welcome me into it.

Driving, I achieved a state of flow. I connected with the Southwest desert to which I later moved.

 A quote from my memoir ("we" is me and my mom. She invited herself along on my road trip.):

     “When we hit the deep desert, and the broad horizon opened up all around, I felt myself relaxing and expanding.  I had always thought I hated deserts, but I realized what I really hated was Ripon.  Deserts themselves were restful to my eye.

     There is a serenity in the desert.  It is bright, but not uncomfortably so.  The dry air felt good on my skin, and in my lungs.”

 When we reached the Qualla Boundary Reservation, I was incredibly disappointed. Quotes from my memoir:

     “I realized the costumed men posing for photos with tourists were all dressed in Plains Indians garb, not in traditional Cherokee dress... The shops mostly had T-shirts and the kinds of blankets and jewelry made in the Southwest." There was a re-enactor village for tourists and a stage play, both of which showed authentic history and culture, but they were performances, and the people performing were actors, even if they were portraying their own ancestors. It was like a less interactive Renaissance Faire: costumed actors performing for the public, not people living their authentic way.

"I failed to find a single non-Christian Cherokee.  I had been practicing Tsalagi, but I encountered no one who could speak it with me.  After days of this I finally asked a shopgirl if she knew anyone at all who spoke Tsalagi, and she directed me to the museum.  This 'person' turned out to be a machine which spoke a few sentences of Tsalagi when I pushed a button.  It was a cylinder recording kept behind a glass wall.”

There was nothing there for me. There was no path for me to follow, no group to join, nothing to learn that was not in books and museums.

I went camping in the Great Smokies, but the land felt strange and the humidity bothered my asthma. I hiked the Road to Nowhere and back, climbed over a huge fallen tree, followed a tree-lined river to a placid lake and watched the lightning bugs flick on in the evening. The green trees and hazy blue hills receding into the distance were beautiful, but I did not feel a connection to the land spirits.

I was born a creature of the desert. It was to the desert that I wanted to return, and if I was to formally belong to a religion, it would be Asatru. The Asatruars I had found had no problem with me being of mixed race, and I found that what my father had taught me about having a relationship with the land spirits fit perfectly into heathenry, since Asatruars in California were connecting with Native American land spirits anyway, since they lived in American land. I gave up on trying to find anything more of Native ways beyond what dad had taught me.

On the way back to California, we stopped in Missouri and I saw the log cabin where dad was born. I did not connect to the land there either, although I did meet some relatives. Then we passed through the Southwest again.

 A quote from my memoir:

     “Mom and I camped in Sedona in the red desert, at a site known as a spiritual power spot, and a double rainbow appeared over the river in a clear blue sky.  Other than that, all I sensed was people, the spiritual seekers full of longing and the locals full of hucksterism.

     The open desert was another matter.  Once again, as on the way east, I found a peacefulness to the desert that made little sense, logically, since trees and water were the usual things which came to mind when picturing a spot to commune with nature.  However, the most perfect test of one’s logic is whether one can accept data that do not fit one’s theory.  In this place where little lived, where rock stretched from horizon to horizon, I felt most keenly aware of the Life-force.  I loved the desert.”

I had found my place, the desert. It would be a few years after that before I finally moved to the desert in 1995, but from that summer I knew I wanted to live in the desert. I had no connection at all with the land on which my Native ancestors had lived. My connection was to the land I was born in.

I had reconfirmed that Asatru was the path for me. I had driven 6,000 miles round trip, and had come back to where I had begun

 

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Circle of the 13 Moons

Continuing my story of my personal journey on my heathen path, it was still my senior year of college, 1989-1990. I was 20, and still had never met any other heathens, but I knew lots of pagans. I co-founded the UCSC official campus pagan club, Circle of the 13 Moons. 

 

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The Day I Cast Out Satan

Continuing the story of my personal journey on my heathen path, I had to confront an entity that answered to a name of Satan-- I won't write the actual name here. This thing was dark, cold, and evil; it was definitely not an angel, fallen or not, nor any kind of light-bringer, so although it answered to Satan, it was not Lucifer. 

 

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