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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An Experience with an Umbilical Cord

During one of the many monsoon storms this summer, after my usual coffee toast to Thor, I lit some candles. Mostly I lit them because during the previous evening's storm the lights had gone out momentarily, but of course the candles are also beautiful, and I lit some of the ones on the main house altar too, so it became a bit of a ritual also. Usually during a storm my housemate and I watch the lightshow and the rain, but this time I felt restless. I was also physically in need of some relaxation due to having fallen trying to take a walk the previous day, so I decided to take a lovely bath to try to relieve some hip pain and so on. I was not intending to take a ritual bath or do anything with spiritual significance, but sometimes these things just happen. The last tiny bit of my umbilical cord fell off. It came right out of my belly button. And no, it was definitely not lint. 

There is an old saying, "cutting the cord," meaning becoming an adult, stopping being dependent on one's parents. I felt that having this tiny bit of paper like skin come off meant that I'm completely free now. It's been about two and a half years now since my mother's death. She was not interested in an afterlife with gods, and stated many times she did not believe in gods, and did not want to participate in religion after her death, so she reincarnated rapidly after her death. I only communicated with her afterwards enough times to know she was happy with where she went and that she knew I was doing ok without her, and we have not maintained contact. She has literally passed on. And I have gone on with my life, as much as I could during the pandemic. I've become the house holder, and the decision maker of the household, and I like it. This was a symbolic sloughing off of the last vestiges of childhood and dependence. How odd to have this feeling at 53.

I felt it was wrong to just throw it away, since it was not only a connection with my mother that I no longer wanted or needed but had also been part of my body. I felt that I should give it the same respect in its death that I would give to a bird or butterfly that died within the boundaries of my land. I checked to make sure it did not hold any of my personal soul parts. I felt my gods, Loki and Odin, were with me, standing by if I needed them. My mom had been cremated and I plan to be cremated after death also, so I decided to give the bit of umbilicus a token cremation in a small flame and then bury it in the garden. I placed the tiny bit of flesh on a wooden matchstick and passed it through a candle flame for its token cremation. When it scorched, I felt a sudden prickling sensation in my whole scalp, and for a moment I was afraid I had done something wrong, but Loki and Odin assured me I had done it right and everything was OK. 

I buried it after getting the landwight's permission for the burial. I was out in the darkness lit only by lightning, in the rain, in my robe, with a spoon, to bury it. I didn't say any words; I didn't think any were needed. After, I raised a toast to Hel. I had a silent mental vision of Hel cradling it and then letting it go, and it flew away in the form of a bird. It was both beautiful and also slightly disconcerting. I briefly wondered if that was something I should have hung onto, but the gods again assured me I had done well. 

I poured and set a toast offering before Embla, which includes the disir and the female ancestors generally, but does not include my mom. Now, thinking about what religious things I've had on the altar for my mom, I realize there is only one thing for her on the main house altar and it is a plush cow doll mom owned, which I honored as both Audhumla and as something for mom, kind of a way to sneak in something for mom without it being explicitly for her since she didn't want any religious services. I realize now that it is time to take the cow doll off the main house altar. There are things on the altar that are only for Audhumla, not for both Audhumla and mom. The things that are for Audhumla herself and no one else are the ritual drinking horns. The drinking horns are Asatru ritual tools, also used by other Heathen sects, and never belonged to my mom. I am taking the doll off the altar as soon as I finish writing this post. It is time. 

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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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