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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Butterflies Guided My Path

When I set out to scatter my mom's ashes in a place with trees in June 2020, butterflies literally guided me to the right place. I was driving along Kyle Canyon Road on Mount Charleston, Nevada, when butterflies started appearing, one after another. A lot of them. So many butterflies! So I pulled off the road. More butterflies appeared after I got out of the car. Different kinds, different colors and sizes.

I looked around: both evergreen and deciduous trees, check. Was there water? I didn't see water, but I saw a line of blooming wildflowers, reds and whites and other colors. That was clearly a dry watercourse. It would be a small creek when it rained or during snowmelt in the spring. In my mind's eye, it was flowing down to the larger river across the other side of the road, through a culvert. The butterflies were all headed in the other direction, though. I followed the dry streambed up to its source. It ended at cliff. There were many interesting rock formations and gnarled tree roots, and more flowers. That was the place. I decided to climb the cliff and scatter the ashes down onto the stream source from the top. I didn't realize it was going to be quite so difficult when I started out; it was loose scree and it grew more vertical toward the top, but toward the top there were also big sturdy tree roots to grab, which would have been easier to manage if I hadn't been carrying a box of ashes, leaving only one hand free. I managed it, though. I looked around up there, waited for a hiker and his dog to pass by (OK I petted the dog,) realized there was an easier way down-- of course! but that was alright. There was a breeze flowing from one side, so I positioned myself carefully to make sure the ashes would float away from me, opened the box and cut up the plastic inside. I spoke some words-- not a formal ritual, nothing actually religious since mom was an atheist, and realized I was smiling as I spoke. I was filled with an odd kind of joy at how perfect everything was. I let the ashes go and they sailed out over the edge and settled on the steep slope of the cliff itself. I was filled with peace.

I walked back down the way the dog had gone, and a raven's cry echoed through the trees. I went for a little hike on the other side of the road with the friend with which I had gone up the mountain. There were more butterflies over there, near the river. Or perhaps they were the same butterflies, and that was where they lived, but they had crossed the road to lead me where I needed to go. So many different kinds of butterflies, all in the same place! Mourning Cloak, Painted Lady, Weidemeyer's Admiral, Western Tiger Swallowtail, Mexican Azure, and some kind of butterflies with a red stripe on black wings that I could not even tell what it was.

In many cultures, butterflies are a symbol of the dead. To me, and many other heathens, they're Sigyn's messengers. It was fitting that signs from Sigyn guided me to mom's ashes' final resting place, as I leaned on Sigyn's strength so often when I was caring for mom. Before I left the mountain, I raised a toast to Sigyn with Dry Lavender Soda. I did so again a few days later, while attending an online Sigyn presentation at Virtual Trothmoot on the Summer Solstice. Although mom was an atheist, she was glad that I could find comfort and meaning in my faith.

Image: a Mexican Azure butterfly on a wildflower on Mount Charleston, Nevada, photo by Erin Lale.

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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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