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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Poetic Inspiration

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Although I had not formalized a patronage relationship with Odin on the day I had intended to (see post The Day I Swore Myself to Freya), I received poetic inspiration from him. Some of the poems I wrote definitely felt like me writing them, that is, I was doing the work of writing. Others felt like I was just taking dictation. Some poems were in the heathen style, some modern, and some were ‘filk,’ which was the word among science fiction and fantasy fans for folk music related to the genres. It was my hand on the pen when the poem about the goddess Skadhi came into the world, but I've always felt that it was Odin who wrote it. 

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

     “At an Asatru festival I sang my filk version of a Canadian folksong by the campfire, and Vampyre Mike, the lead singer from the band who played acoustic pagan songs at the Festivals and hard rock in the mundane world, liked “Bajor’s Privateers” so much he sang it over and over for the rest of the festival.  His lady Pasha called to me, “You’ve created a monster!”

Bajor's Privateers was one of the songs I felt that I had actually written myself, although there might have been a touch of inspiration as well. It was a conscious parody of the folk song Barrett's Privateers, and I definitely worked at writing it. The poem Skadhi: Water Cycle was one of the ones I felt that Odin had written and I just noted it down. At this point in my personal journey, in the early 1990s, I was learning the bersarkr tradition (see post The Berserker Trance.) I was working with both animal spirits and with Odin and Freya. As I learned to open and close the door in my mind to admit Odin for the bersarkr trance, I grew closer to him and received more poetic inspiration. This is the way of the warrior-poet.

I received an invitation from Paul Edwin Zimmer to read at the Bardic Circle at Greyhaven. I had published some of his poetry in Berserkrgangr Magazine. I published that magazine mostly for the nonfiction, as a way for bersarkrs and others of similar traditions to connect and share information, but it was also a literary magazine, with fiction, poetry, and art. I published some of my own poetry in my magazine, and he must have liked it. We became colleagues and friends of the sort who gave each other our poetry chapbooks.

There were other heathens at the Greyhaven Bardic Circle, some of whom I recognized from the heathen festivals I had attended. Diana Paxson played the harp. I debuted my poem Skadi: Water Cycle at Greyhaven, and Diana liked it. It was an emotional high point for me for my poem to be appreciated by established authors. 

Of course, I felt that it was really Odin's poem, not mine. I had heard it in my sleep, woken up and written it down. I wondered, how can I take credit for what felt like taking dictation, not creating? Eventually I realized that it was not just my hand on the pen, it was my mind that Odin put this poem in. It was my effort and self-sacrifice that allowed me to open the door in my mind and let him in. (And the sacrifice to study the bersarkr tradition was hideous; more on that in my next post.) So yes, it is my poem, just like any other gift belongs to me once I've been given it, whether it is a poem from Odin or the flesh with which I receive it and write it down, flesh that began as part of my parents, flesh grown by the gifts of the earth through food and water and air, flesh that therefore also comes ultimately from the gods of nature, and yet is my flesh, my body, which I own entire. Everything I have comes ultimately from the gods, and yet is mine: my poem, my body, my breath, my mind, my soul, my life. I would not tolerate anyone trying to take my body or my life or my breath; I would fight. Even though my body is made by eating food, and food comes from the blessings of the gods, it is still my body; my art and writing and song come from the gods, too, but they are mine. Therefore, my poem:

Skadi: Water Cycle
by Erin Lale

Skadi scried the sky one day.
Blue was Baldur's beckoning eye,
Yellow as yew-wood the young god's hair,
The clouds that covered the coming sun.

All the east was ought but gold,
Blue below, the boss-shield snow,
Was Skadi. Sky-scattered clouds
Burned as beauty blazed forth

Down the deep snow-drowned ravines,
White-hot, whelming, whispering secrets.
She melted, and mickle and mild she found him.
So fair his fire she fain would go,

To marry the man, from her mountain home.
He unfroze the ice of her eyrie white,
Meltwater he made her, merry on stones,
Leaping laughing to the land below:

The gardened game-field the gods had made,
Where spirits spent in sport were happy.
A new game now, to net a husband,
Devised they very valiantly.

So fair of foot he fooled the snowmaid,
Niord named, not Baldur,
The gods' game gave to her.
The sun she sought, the sea she found.

To the ocean the icequeen overland went,
Merged at the margin of her married estate
With the salty sea as the sun looked on.
Her tears tended trees of kelp.

With watery waves wove she by day,
Niord's net-knotting daughters.
With women wily washed she by night,
Niord's nine naughty daughters.

Roamed with Ran to rend a dragon,
Long laughed loud jeers
At mighty men their maids never
Would welcome warm and winningly home.

She tried to tear her tears away
In making men meet their deaths,
A special sport a sport to forget,
From Baldur's bright beauty hiding.

But said she, "Sundered from the sun forever?
No more!" As mist, from her marriage-bed
At Ran's rim, she rose and flew,
Glad of a gull's gift of flight,

For Baldur abandoned the briny sea,
For Baldur broke in breakers white,
For Baldur bent her body up,
Climbing coastal cliffs as fog,

Sailed from sea to sundrenched air.
Yet the young god yearned she for
Too high held his head so bright
For a foamy flying maid.

Just one jutting jewelled place,
In all the upper air was there
Could Skadi skiff with skill and luck,
As crystal cloud keeping whole,

On land to lie and live all winter,
On rock and rowan resting, as ice
Spread, for spring to spring her up,
Waiting wan and wantingly.

The craigs and cliffs, kestrel-perches,
The spire-spears, sprite's castles,
The groves of granite growing high,
The meager meadows, less milch than stone,

The piney peaks she pined for strong,
Where first she felt the fiery sun,
Where last she lived a life of joy,
The much-missed mountains of home. 

This poem, along with other poetry and art, is available in the poetry chapbook Renaissance Woman. Link: 
 http://www.amazon.com/Renaissance-Woman-Collected-Poetry-Erin-ebook/dp/B004PLNLX8/ref=la_B004GLACQQ_1_8?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1417153012&sr=1-8

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Erin Lale is the author of Asatru For Beginners and other books. She 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, and is the author of the Heathen Calendar 2017 and 2018.

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