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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A Piece of My Father's Soul

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Continuing my story of my personal journey, this post is about my father’s death. Here I’m going to talk about visiting dad before my junior year of college, which happened before the events of the previous post in which I became a sworn priestess of Freya, and then go forwards to dad’s death at the end of my junior year. His funeral was on Father's Day, June 17, 1989. 

I had a problematic relationship with my father. He abused me in many ways. His death was one of three three traumatic things that happened right after my dedication to Freya, and I think she removed him from my life so that I could eventually heal. But he was still my dad, and his death affected me in more ways than getting a toxic person out of my life. He was not only the dad who touched me sexually while telling me I was too fat to ever get a man; he was also the dad who taught me to fish. He was not only the dad who hypnotized me and tortured me in ways that he had picked up from his North Korean captors during the war; he was also the dad who taught me how to communicate with the land spirits. 

Dad never talked much about his Native American beliefs, but once when mom and I visited him on his gold mining claim on Kelly Creek in Idaho, he mentioned wanting to die outdoors facing up.

A quote from my memoir, Greater Than the Sum of My Parts, in which I had asked him about his mining claim.

     “Well, there’s gold here.  Or, at least there was once, and it’s reasonable to expect to find it again.  That’s why they let people stake mining claims.  But there’s no rule about working the claim, I just have to live on it a certain amount of the year.  So I have my own stretch of the river where no one else is allowed to mine gold, and I can keep the water clear for trout fishing.”

     “Pretty clever,” I said.

     Mom worrywarted, “But you’re so far away from the nearest hospital.  What if you have another heart attack?”

     “I don’t want to die in a hospital.  I want to die out here, in the Bitterroot Mountains, with my face open to the sky.”  Alert to clues about his beliefs, I fastened on that phrase.  I knew from books at school that was a feature of Native American customs.  Dad continued, “If they find my bones in a hundred years with my fishing pole in my hand, that’s fine with me.”

On the way back from Kelly Creek, we stopped at a wood-paneled restaurant with a "check guns and knives at front desk" sign that was not there to provide atmosphere. We had fry bread with honey. That is my last memory of seeing my dad alive. I had a dream about a week before his death. When I had this premonition, I completely misinterpreted it. The parts of the dream that I focused on were the other parts, the exciting science fictional parts about a technology called Mutapple that caused mutations in human babies, which I wrote up as a short story for publication. It was only after I learned of his death that I realized my dream had been trying to warn me that he about to die.

A quote from my memoir:

     “I knew my initiation had changed me, opened me up to more of my inherent potential.  It did not occur to me, though, that I might have prescient dreams.  I ignored it when I had one.  I dreamt dad and I were in a maze, and then we succeeded in finding the exit door, and came out in Spokane, in dad’s parents’ yard.  Dad had a black-wrapped bundle.  He was walking to the garden, around the house, and kept turning back to look at me, impatient for me to catch up.  When we reached the garden, he took a shovel and buried the bundle.”

I was not told of his death until after my final exams for my junior year of college, because mom put my education over family business. After my exams, we immediately flew to Spokane for the funeral.

A quote from my memoir:

     “When I walked in the door of the funeral home and saw the metal casket on the other end of the room, the world tilted and spun away.  Everything but me had become two-dimensional.  There was an inrush of light and wind, a sensation of something entering my head.  Then I was back in the funeral parlor, and my foot came down on solid flooring.  All I’d sensed had happened in the middle of a single step, and no one else seemed to have noticed.”

I've interpreted that differently at different times of my life, but it was some part of my father staying with me, whether it was a soul part of his or whether it was generated from myself. During the time period when I was doing the work of recovery from childhood sexual abuse, a therapist convinced me that it was an 'alternate personality' named Craftsman that I had generated out of grief. After her influenced waned in my life, many years after completion of therapy, I went back to trusting my own feelings, and my feelings told me that it was something that had entered me from outside. Either way, my father's crafts talent and affinity for stones manifested strongly in me for several years. I still enjoy making crafts and having various stones around, and wearing jewelry he made. I already liked stones while he was alive, and of course, whatever talents he had, he could easily have passed them on to me genetically. I know what I felt, though. It was part of the spirit of my father, the part that had not gone on to an afterlife. 

Modern Asatru teaches that the human soul is multipartite, and that at death some parts go on to an afterlife, some parts are reborn, and some parts stay with the descendants or within the family line. I felt that talent part enter me. I felt the reality of it even though at the time I still had never met another heathen and had no idea that was part of modern Asatru practice. 

After college, I would go on a long road trip in search of my Native American roots because of my father’s death. But in the meantime, so soon after the funeral that I was still sick with something I’d caught there, I was off to the Soviet Union for a summer Russian Language course. That’s another story, for my next post.

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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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