Gnosis Diary: Life as a Heathen

My personal experiences, including religious / spiritual experiences, modern life on a heathen path, community interaction, and general heathenry.

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Kung Fu, Chi, Magic, and Fear

In my teens, I lived in a martial arts school. My brother Jay was the Sifu of Lale's Kung Fu Academy. I did not become a black belt because I would never take the oaths that went with high rank. Something in me knew Kung Fu wasn't my path for life, even though I was so fully immersed in the world of martial arts that I identified myself as a Taoist at the time. I learned the entire system, though, even the secrets that were supposed to be reserved for the black belts, including the Poison Hand. As the Sifu's sister, I was always available and would always be part of the family tradition even without taking any oaths, so when Jay started developing his own system, evolving a proto-MMA, I was his sparring partner. Formally, our family style was known as  Shaolin Sho Shu Kung Fu Way of the Beast.

Long before Jay started teaching, I had already learned Eastern-style meditation from the same place Jay learned it, our father, who had learned it in Japan. I learned to meditate before I learned  to read. Eastern-style meditation has been the foundation on which I built all my magical practices, even the heathen and pagan ones, because mental discipline, the ability to visualize, the ability to quiet my mind, and the ability to feel and direct the flow of chi are applicable to any type of magic from any system.

There is still a traditional school in California teaching the system of 7 Beasts Sho Shu Kung Fu as my brother learned it from Master Al Moore before Jay dreamed up his proto- Mixed Martial Arts style. I learned both the original system and the new system, and also saw every point along the way as Jay worked on it. The traditional seven beasts are Bear, Cobra, Crane, Dragon, Mantis, Mongoose, and Tiger. The three beasts I favored were Bear, Mantis, and Tiger, and those later became my three "skins" in the Bersarkrgangr martial arts system as well.

Having grown up with Kung Fu, my life has been shaped in many positive ways. Because of Kung Fu, I carry myself in a way that projects physical confidence, such that I've only experienced a handful of sexual attacks by strangers, all of which I escaped from physically unscathed, and I am hardly ever subject to harassment on the street or at a convention, no matter what I'm wearing (even a hobbit costume with a corset), which I'm given to understand is not the usual experience of women. Kung Fu provided me friends, physical exercise, the development of mind and body, the opportunity to enter organized competitions, and an outlook on life and self-discipline that has stayed with me even after I discovered that heathenry is my path. By the time I encountered other magical systems, I already possessed the basics for learning advanced magics. By the time I encountered the martial art of Bersarkrgangr, I already possessed fighting techniques to which I could apply to Bersarkrgangr, which is an entirely internal form and has no actual fighting moves of its own, so its practitioners must know other arts first.

Hanging on the wall of my family home / martial arts school when I was in high school was a quote that has been a touchstone in my life, and which I still live by today. It has been variously ascribed to Lao Tzu, Confucius, and Buddha. I have pushed myself to live up to this ideal all my life, and I believe it is completely compatible with a heathen outlook on life despite its Eastern origin. That quote is:

"He who conquers fear, conquers himself. He who conquers himself is the greatest of warriors. Never again walk in fear."

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Erin Lale is the author of Asatru For Beginners, American Celebration, and other books. She has been a sworn Priestess of Freya since 1989, and recently also formalized a relationship with the triple Odin. She has been a freelance writer for about 30 years, was the editor and publisher of Berserkrgangr Magazine, and is the Acquisitions Editor at genre novel publishers Damnation Books and Eternal Press. In 2010 and 2013, she ran for public office as an out heathen.

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