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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No Less a Woman


I ran across a fascinating word while copyediting a book a few years ago. Naditum is one of the five genders in Sumerian paganism. It's a gender, a biological sex-- meaning those born female appearing who turn out after adolescence to be infertile-- and a social class, the priestess caste. The idea really resonated with me, even though that’s not my tradition. The various heathen traditions don’t have a specific gender word for those identified female at birth who cannot have children and instead become priestesses. In heathenry, that’s still a woman.

Around my first anniversary as a godspouse, I asked my triple god-husband what he thought about this idea. (See my previous posts for how I developed the ability to "hear" gods. Short version: it comes through the same brain channel that "hearing" character dialogue does when I write fiction, an ability I've always had.) 

Honir didn't respond; he rarely speaks. Loki and Odin said completely contradictory things.

Loki said, “Yes, that sounds like a good fit for you.”

Odin said, “You are no less a woman for not having had children.”

While both answers were affirming at the time, later, Freya and Odin both told me that it is important to them that I regard myself as a woman. My religious titles are women's titles: Priestess (gythia) of Freya, Bride of the Ninefold Odin (Odin / Honir / Loki-who-is-Lodhur).

Although a basic heathen ritual like sumbel or blot has far less gender specific theory at its core than Wiccanate style athame-in-chalice ritual does, there are still some things in heathenry in which gender matters. Some types of heathen magic were historically considered women's magic. Men who practiced that kind of magic were expected to perform femininity in some way (although the ancient heathen world's QUILTBAG categories didn't match the ones we acknowledge in America today.) 

In heathenry, unlike generic Wiccanate paganism, people are not divided into adult women = mothers and and adult men = warriors; the spectrum of womanhood can include parenting, fighting, both or neither, and so can the spectrum of manhood. Gender matters in Asatru less than it matters in Wicca or Wiccanate paganism, but there are still some areas in which it matters. It matters in particular devotional relationships with gods. 

Image: Woman Praising Sunset by Barbara Jackson via publicdomainpictures dot net

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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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