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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Disambiguation: Asatru For Beginners and Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

The only official, authorized new version of my book Asatru For Beginners is my new book Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path. It was published on the 1st of this month by Weiser Books. The upcoming book announced on Facebook by Mathias Nordvig last Sunday titled Asatru For Beginners: A Modern Heathen's Guide to the Ancient Northern Way is NOT my book. I don't know the man, he is not my heir or apprentice, and his book is not my book's successor. Do not be confused.The only successor to my out-of-print book is my new book.

Look for my name, Erin Lale, to be sure you're getting a genuine Erin Lale book. My name is a brand. Erin Lale is a brand you know and trust. I've earned it over the past 2 decades since I first published Asatru For Beginners. Here follows a more detailed timeline for those interested in more of the story.

Before I Wrote Asatru For Beginners

The story of my publishing success really starts before I was born, because getting my book published by a major publisher that can place it in bookstores is a two-generation achievement. My mom was a public school teacher, but when I was little she stayed home to take care of me, and had a second career as a freelance writer. When I started composing poetry as a child, mom showed me how to submit it to publishers. I learned how to touch-type, how to prepare a SASE (self addressed stamped envelope), how to read the Writer's Market in the public library, and how to write a cover letter, all before high school. I had a computer in the 80s. These were the skills and tools of an apprenticeship in writing. More than that, I sharpened my mind by reading my mom's Master's thesis when I was 12. I started publishing fairly regularly in high school, though mostly in poetry anthologies.

1986

On my 17th birthday my brother's Wiccan girlfriend gave me a copy of Futhark: Handbook of Rune Magic. I knew that was my path. I started practicing rune magic and rune reading.

1989

In college I was publishing science fiction short stories on a regular basis. I helped found Circle of the 13 Moons, the campus pagan club at UCSC (University of California at Santa Cruz.)

After college I wrote for The Sonoma Index-Tribune before I moved to Nevada. I wrote a huge variety of stuff over the course of my writing career, and also published Berserkrgangr Magazine while I was studying the art of the bear sark. While I still lived in California I attended Ring of Troth festivals, including Ostara and Ravenwood.

1995

I moved to Las Vegas to start The Science Fiction Store, a bookstore. After moving to Nevada and not finding a local Asatru group to join, I started Sunnasfolk as its gythia, which broke up when core members moved away. After that I belonged to Silverhof, which was led by Eric Hammers, who gave me that carved bone hammer I wear when he left town and passed his authority to me. Core members of Silverhof ended up joining Hammarheim, a combination Asatru and Renfaire group; I've had good relations with it and its various hives, and have attended some gatherings regularly, although I preferred a more modern style for my heathenry and didn't actually join.

The Turn of the Millenium

I finally got on the internet at the turn of the millenium. I joined several MSN Groups, including ASATRU (it was in all caps, though I usually write it as "the MSN Asatru Group.") One day the group's manager left without warning and I signed in and discovered I had been made the manager. I was still a net newbie. I had to learn how to manage a forum. I kept it going until MSN ended its Groups function.

Asatru For Beginners: the ebook, 2001 and 2002

Asatru For Beginners grew directly out of my service to the community as a forum manager. It began as the FAQ file I wrote for the MSN Asatru Group. The first chapter of Asatru For Beginners was the actual Frequently Asked Questions file. I decided to write a book because when new Asatruars would join the group and ask how to learn about Asatru, people were telling them to read The Poetic Edda and other classical literature. Many of the newbies were high school students who did not have the academic background to read such literature and understand it. The Eddas and Sagas are not only full of metaphor, allegory, and symbolism, but were also full of kennings, word puzzles intended at the time to test and reveal how much of an elite court poet's education singer and listener had. They were intentionally hard to understand if one did not have the cultural context. The people who were recommending academic papers instead meant well because at least those papers provided the missing interpretation, but it's asking a lot of a kid whose reading-level book options in school are The Hobbit and Huckleberry Finn to read a college level paper with footnotes and quotes from 6 different dead languages. This was right around the time when Wicca for Teens first came out. I thought, we should have a book like that for our teens. There was a sort of beginner's book available, the Book of Troth, but it was literally published by an actual sect of Asatru and so it was sectarian. It didn't cover all the things one might encounter in a random local group of Asatruars. Plus, it was long enough to be too intimidating to my target reader, and was written at a fairly advanced reading level. I could not really recommend that one, either. I decided to write my own book. I wrote chapters on history, the gods, rituals, etc. I began sharing early versions in 2001. In 2002 I was selling it on eBay as a sort of proto-ebook, although it was not formatted like modern ebooks are. I was hand emailing it in chunks of a few chapters at a time because the email of that era could not handle an entire 20k word doc file at once. My book and the turn-of-the-millenium online Asatru community co-created each other.

Asatru For Beginners: the print edition, 2010

8 long years after I started selling it on eBay, Asatru For Beginners finally got into print in 2010. I made some minor revisions but it was essentially the same book as the 2002 version. I went on my book tour in my pickup truck across the country from Nevada to Pagan Spirit Gathering in Missouri, where I was a Featured Author. I slept in my truck, ate from an ice chest, washed my socks in ice chest melt water, and hung them to dry on a clothesline stretched from my truck's tie-down ring to the tree it was parked under. On the way there and the way back I hit bookstores and other stops with my free lecture followed by booksigning, which I had developed for my local Pagan Pride Day the previous year. I did this book tour while I was also running for public office the first time.

I founded a more modernist focused local heathen group, American Celebration, which shared its name with another of my books. I served on my local PPD planning committee for a couple of years, and in other years fundraised for it with rune readings and was in the program singing in a band, teaching about Asatru, teaching folk dance, leading drum circles, performing an Asatru ritual (the sumbel), taking a role in main ritual, etc.

I joined what was later to become the Asatru Facebook Forum, and got several invitations to become a member of the admin and mod team until I finally accepted.

My book was pirated, and chasing the pirate copies across the net led me into the horrifying world of file sharing sites. I discovered things I reported to national and international anti sex trafficking enforcement.

2013 and 2016

The Worldwide Heathen Census showed me how much impact I'd had on modern Asatru. I was touched to see my name in the word cloud in the "Paths to Heathenry" question in the census analysis here: http://www.heathenhof.com/world-wide-heathenry/ (It's on the far right, but I'm sure that's a coincidence.) 2013 was also when I was running for office the second time. Asatru was getting some mainstream media attention because of my campaign. After my campaign was over, I wrote a novel based on heathen mythology, and the gods were my muses, and as a result I deepened my relationships with the gods to the extent that I became a godspouse to the triple Odin.

In other writing and publishing achievements, I edited several fiction anthologies, and was the acquisitions editor at a genre book press. Besides my Asatru books and this blog, I'm also pretty well known in the pagan and heathen communities for writing book reviews for Eternal Haunted Summer Magazine. I've even written a couple of academic papers, one on Bersarkrgangr published in Enheduanna Journal and one on Sigyn published in Witches & Pagans Magazine.

Recent work

As the admin / owner of the Asatru Facebook Forum, I developed a system for my Trollslayers (forum moderators) to screen membership applications to keep out neo-Nazis and white supremacists. I eventually turned that into an article on how to tell heathen symbols from hate symbols, informally known as the Nazi-hunting guide, coming soon in Witches & Pagans Magazine.

I took a deep dive into historical calendar systems, employing both language and math skills to translate dates to the modern calendar system, and researched holidays of heathen origin or which have heathen elements in modern day holidays still being practiced today in Europe, as well as new holidays unique to modern Asatru, to create the Heathen Calendar and Slavic Calendar in 2017 and 2018. This information eventually became a new chapter in the new version of my book.

As a reaction to looking for heathen related images for the calendar and not finding much except Marvel, Nazis, and classical art, and also as a result of getting tired of seeing serious journalism about Asatru illustrated with pictures of either Marvel Comics Thor or neo-Nazis, I founded the Heathen Visibility Project. Many people have joined the Project and created their own Heathen Visibility channels. At the last local Pagan Pride Day, in 2019, I gave a talk on the Project and was spontaneously invited to perform one of the blessings in Selena Fox's Veterans Blessing.

During this time period, as a forum manager, I saw the modernist movement rise within Asatru, and knew I needed to update my book. I worked on a new version for years. Each new thing I wanted to add to my book, I discussed first in the forum, and then my blog, and finally it went in the book after much polishing as a result of seeing in real time whether people understood what I was saying and giving me a chance to revise it until it was clear. Just like with the first draft of Asatru For Beginners, the new version of my book grew directly out of my volunteer service to the community of Asatru.

The forum is as safe a place for Asatruars to discuss Asatru as the Trollslayers and I could make it. People became comfortable bringing questions about their personal lives there as well as questions about lore and other more usual forum topics. Forum members and readers of my book contacted me for spiritual counseling on various topics. I've been called upon to help members of the community with everything from how to bless a baby to how to leave a domestic violence situation. I've talked multiple forum members through nights when they were considering suicide. I'm the priest for those who have no local priest, or no priest but themselves.

Asatru does not have paid clergy, so I support my gythia duties by sales of my book. I serve the community, and the community supports me by buying my book.

May 2019

I signed the contract with Weiser Books to publish a new, longer, updated version of my book Asatru For Beginners. I announced it publicly on my social media and blog.

The final title was chosen later. That title is Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path.

2020

Writing and managing the forum were both things I could do from home while staying home to take care of my mom. She needed me to be available all the time but she did not need me to be actually doing things for her every minute, so I was able to work on the new version of my book and do my forum management and gythia activities while caring for her. I planned to go back to work after she died but then the pandemic lockdowns started. I've recently found work over the net and am hoping it will work out long term. I had also planned to do another book tour for my new book. The pandemic lockdowns have delayed that indefinitely. The book tour had been my major plan for promoting my book so I'm trying to do as much book promotion on the net as I can instead.

August 1st, 2020

My new book Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path was published. (Some preorders had already shipped.) My book also has an audiobook version.

August 9th, 2020

A guy named Nordvig announced he was publishing a book titled Asatru For Beginners.

I am upset.

A look at his book cover shows the subtitle A Modern Heathen's Guide to the Ancient Northern Way, but he didn't even announce it that way on his Facebook post. He just said Asatru For Beginners. My title. The title I spent nearly 20 years promoting. I saw the post because an alert reader messaged me the link. I was not Facebook friends with him but I could see the post because it was public. My immediate reaction was to comment on his post: "Dude. I published my book Asatru For Beginners 20 years ago. I just published a new version with a new title a week ago. What are you doing?" He deleted my comment.

So I contacted my publisher, but it was Sunday so of course they didn't respond until Monday. I talked about this on my blog and so forth. I blogged about how upset I was in my prior post "I am Bear, I am Wolf: Anger Meditation." I'm calmed down now but I am determined not to let my loyal readers be fooled into thinking the other Asatru For Beginners is my new book.

This week

My publisher and I agreed my best course of action was for me to do a big PR push for disambiguation of my Asatru For Beginners from the other guy's and to let my readership know the name of my new book is Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path.

***

What you can do to help me and my book:

Review my book. Reviews on Goodreads and on sales sites don't have to be really long.

If you're talking about my book on social media that supports hashtags, use tags like Asatru, Beginners, Heathen, etc. Hashtag my name as ErinLale. If you're going to buy my book in addition to other heathen related books on Amazon, buy them all in one shopping expedition so my book will appear in the Also Boughts and Frequently Bought Togethers. This increases its visibility.

If you have a radio show, book blog, newspaper book column, morning TV show-- haha yeah I know a heathen book doesn't really have the mass appeal for broadcast TV, but there are niche narrowcast shows! -- I am available for interviews and guest appearances.

If you maintain any online lists of books and authors, or any heathen book related reference pages, wikis, etc. be sure the list includes both my original book Asatru For Beginners and my new book Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path. If your reference site doesn't already have a page on me and my books, create one. (And if it didn't already include me, are there other women authors being overlooked? Maybe tackle that project next after me?)

I'm available for virtual appearances at online festivals and conventions. Eventually, when, hopefully, there will be an end to the pandemic and we can gather in large groups again, I'll be available for in-person festivals and events.

I'm available as a media resource for journalists to ask about Asatru and related topics.

If you're a librarian, order a copy of my book for your library.

Buy my book! There are links to all the major places to buy my book online on my website erinlaleauthor.com It's also available in a bookstore near you!

Image: a photo featuring a computer disk labeled 2001, the book Asatru For Beginners by Erin Lale labeled 2010, and the book Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path labeled 2020.

 

 

 

 

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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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