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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Save the Butterflies

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Butterflies mean different things in different traditions, but in modern heathen practice they are sacred to Sigyn. There is significant established group gnosis on this (see my paper in a previous issue of Witches & Pagans Magazine.) Today I want to talk about some recent personal gnosis, and also about saving the butterflies. 

It's my custom to serve afternoon tea, which usually means the ladies who live here have a visit and talk about normal house things. I also usually have my first sip for the goddesses of Asatru. If it's quiet, especially if there's a minute before everyone else shows up after I announce tea time, I often ask the goddesses if they have any messages or directions or advice for me, or how I'm doing (meaning how I'm doing with their work and things they care about.) Most of the time they don't have anything they want to say, but recently Sigyn asked me to remind my readers that what she wants above all is not symbols or sacrifices to her but actual physical butterflies living in the world.

Specifically, she wants MORE butterflies. She wants people to help them, and refrain from harming them. Especially the rare and endangered ones, but all of them really. She wants more native wildflowers in peoples' gardens, less harmful pesticides, less land area used in ways that won't support local butterflies. That means less concrete, less asphalt, less lawn, obviously, but perhaps not as obviously, also fewer non-native flowers so more native flowers can be in their place. More "weedy" strips by roads and farm fences and in between fields, where native wildflowers can grow. Less herbicides dumped on unused areas just to keep them neat looking, when milkweed could grow there instead. And it also means less planting non-native milkweed, or planting milkweed in climates where it does not naturally occur. Because the monarch butterfly is migratory and doesn't need caterpillar food everywhere, only in certain places. It's not actually good for them to encourage them to lay eggs in unsuitable climates.

It requires a certain amount of reading, work, and asking questions to find out exactly what the best way to support butterflies is in any particular location. That's true of many projects that might look simpler at first glance. Of course, there is an easy way to help butterflies, or your charity of choice, and that's with money. Not everyone can give money, though. Deciding to maintain specific plants in your yard for wildlife requires that one first have a garden in which to put it, and that's not within everyone's reach.

One thing within most peoples' reach, though not everyone's, is to decide not to support butterfly killing agricultural practices with one's grocery money, but instead to choose certified organic or non-GMO products, especially those made from corn and wheat. When I started trying to avoid GMO corn it was hard to find any alternatives, but these days it's simple to look at the package and see if it has the butterfly symbol of the Non-GMO Project. The logo is a butterfly because the project protects butterflies from Roundup and similar chemicals. Although people in institutions can't choose what is purchased for them to eat, most adults who don't live in institutions can. 

One thing I choose to do is to photograph butterflies in my garden and elsewhere and submit my sightings to which maintains a sighting map for scientific purposes. An expert from the site identifies the species based on the photo, suggested ID, and other info such as the date and location. I try to indentify the plant it's on too when I submit my sightings. One of the reasons I bought my current camera is to take better photos of butterflies. Each person will have to figure out what they can do individually, based on where they live, what is native to their local area, and what their abilities are. 


Desert Black Swallowtail, photo by Erin Lale, sighting confirmed by 


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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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