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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Circle of the 13 Moons

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

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. 


Early on in the process of getting official recognition as a college club so we could use college facilities for our meetings, we made what seemed like a good decision at the time, and decided to pass our bylaws by consensus process. Meetings kept happening, and no progress was being made, because one person kept blocking passage of the normal and required club structure, with the traditional president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary, because she was an anarchist and did not believe in hierarchy. We kept trying to explain to her that we had to have those positions to be a campus club, but she kept voting no. One time she did not show up for the meeting, we quickly voted in a rule that we could kick someone out with a consensus of all the others, kicked her out, passed all the required bylaws, ran them down to the administration building, and got approved to be an official club. 


This is an example of why consensus process is not a good way to get necessary work done. Majority vote has its issues, too, but at least if we had been using majority vote we would not have had to kick anyone off the committee in order to get past the bylaws stage and on to holding general meetings and doing the stuff we actually wanted to do with the club, which was to hold discussion groups for pagans and those curious about paganism. What we were trying to set up was a forum, much like internet forums, except in person. Back then, most people did not use the net. Finding other pagans depended on chancing on one of our flyers posted around campus on actual wooden posts, or looking up an occult bookstore in the phone book and going to it in person to see if there were any flyers or classes or if the owner could direct one to other pagans. Having a place for pagans to meet openly was a huge deal in 1990. Eventually, we would go on to hold public holiday rituals as well. 


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


     “The Circle of the 13 Moons got its charter and began to hold meetings in one of the larger club rooms in the new student center.  I was startled to discover that the biggest complaint of all the other pagans was that they had had to unlearn things taught by their parents, “it’s only your imagination” and “ghosts and fairies aren’t real” and “there’s no such thing as magic.”  When I described the wall color changing exercise dad had given me so many years ago, one woman said, “I’m jealous.  I wish I’d had a magic-friendly childhood like you.”

     One time a woman came to a meeting and said she had been involved with some witches of the South American tradition, and that they had been angry when she decided to leave their group and had placed a curse on her.  Feeling the responsibility of my new title of priestess, and confident of the talent that had allowed me to banish the thing [which I wrote about in my previous post on this blog] I offered to remove the curse for her.

     We set a time, and I prepared my things.  I could not detect any curse about her, but she clearly believed there was one, and it was that belief which was my true target.  I decided to put on a show.

     We went a little ways down the hill from my apartment, into the dormant grasses.  Knowing she was a witch, I reasoned she would be familiar with the concept of cleansing by water and salt, so I played on that familiarity.  I poured a clear liquid into the cauldron.  “Bless this water,” I termed it.  I poured white crystals of a salt into the cauldron.  “Bless this salt.”

     “Remove this curse, if curse there be, and send it back to its caster.  Let it return to its caster threefold, by the ancient law.  If this curse be broken, Lady and Lord kindle this water and salt in token of your holy miracle.”

     I dropped a match into the cauldron.  Whoosh!  A jet of fire sprang up.  The woman’s eyes went wide.  With the 'saltwater' burning, I cast rose petals on her.  “Blessings upon this woman and the protection of the Lady.”

     When the rite was done, the woman was trembling with the force of her relief.  “What can I do to thank you?” she asked.

     Not feeling needy at the moment, I replied, “Do good for others.  Pass on the blessings.”  She went away satisfied.  I never told her the cauldron really contained methyl alcohol and epsom salts.”


I participated in public rituals with Circle of the 13 Moons, including a Beltane dance on the beach using a volleyball net pole we rented from the campus rec dept. as the Maypole. We had fun, and it was great to have shared community ritual. Community rituals made me feel connected to the community. I also cast spells on my own, and it was when I was alone that my experiences with magic felt profound and spiritual.

Paraphrasing from my memoir:

     One time, I went out on the Lower Field, the soccer field where I had slept for a week after the earthquake.  Trace clouds made a moondog around the moon, a four pointed star like ice clouds in front of the Antarctic sun.  I felt the power of the moon in my hands.  Above, the naked stars; the moon thinly veiled by cloud; the shadows of trees black against the night sky. A pool of mist covered the bay, and there was a moonpath on the mist above the water as wide as a bridge.  Orange lights twinkled below, the atmosphere down there more inconstant than that between me and the steady stars.  Far out into the water, in a nebulous realm where ocean and sky have no ending and no beginning, there was a string of pinpoint lights that was Monterey.

     After the ritual I sat down in the soft, mown grass.  The aroma of the summer night was rich and red-brown, grassy and earthy and wholesome.  I caught a hint of redwood dust and the salt tang of the sea.  Nothing moved.  There were only the faint voices of people in another part of the field, and a cricket, and the breeze in the meadowgrass.  I looked at the moon, and I loved. 

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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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