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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The Great Cow Mother

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

In heathen mythology, the first self aware being was Audhumla, the sacred cow. She licked the gods and giants out of the ice and nurtured them with her milk.

I live surrounded by cow imagery because my mom loves cows. I made a cow quilt top for her and my best friend’s daughter started quilting it by hand, but one day mom said she had dreamed of her cow Dolly and she couldn’t wait anymore and she was afraid she’d die before it was finished and she wanted to sleep under it right away. So it went on her bed unfinished. The middle part where the cows are is quilted but the edges aren't quilted and bound.

Mom named each of the eight cows depicted on the quilt. The first one was Dolly, her “dream cow.” That was the name of her favorite childhood pet cow. It was also my brother’s girlfriend’s nickname / stage name, which would be slightly awkward if girlfriend and quilt were ever introduced to each other, since mom likes to introduce people to each cow by name. Mom named the other 7 cows after friends of hers who were dead.

During the daytime I basted the edges down so I could take the safety pins out of it, and then it went back on her bed. When summer came, I suggested bringing it back to the quilter so it could be finished, and she said, “No. Nobody touches my cows.” So it stayed on her bed, and the batting started fraying a bit on the edges. A couple of times I invited my friends and their daughter over in the hope that she could work on the quilt but one thing or another interfered and the quilt remained unfinished.

It gets rather hot in the summer in southern Nevada. At night she slept under the quilt with the ceiling fan on. I heard her as she prepared for sleep, saying, “Goodnight Dolly, goodnight Francine…”

One day I did a rune reading over Facebook messenger which resulted in having to depower my rune set to close to reading. (One of the runes broke through the center and another fell off the table and bounced away into another timeline. It would make a great scene in an adventure novel, but since I’m the NPC fortune teller in that scene, I can’t really tell the story in a way that makes sense without revealing too many personal and identifying details about the person for whom I was reading.) Then I got the opportunity to have another set made for me, and the person who was going to make the set dreamed about me and a talking cow.

Based on that dream, I concluded the answer to a question we had had about what sort of wood to gather, and I also related that to my mom and her cows. I think I’m not meant to start using that rune set that will be made for me until after my mom passes. When I do start using it, that will be the way I’m meant to access the wisdom of the dead. I don’t currently do a whole lot with the ancestor aspect of heathenry, but I’ve been thinking about the impending future.

My mom is an atheist. She has told me about her final wishes many times recently, since she knows she is dying. She doesn’t want a religious funeral, and doesn’t want anyone to pray over her, and she doesn’t want a shrine after her death. So, I’m thinking that when the time comes, instead of an ancestor shrine, I’ll gather up all her various cow plates and cow pictures and cow pitchers and cow pillows and cow towels and cow mug and cow aprons and cow shirts and cow socks and cow statues and cow creamers and cow placemat and cow dolls and of course the cow quilt (after finally getting it finished) and so on and make a cow shrine. A shrine to the Great Cow Mother.

I talked to my mom about a cow shrine yesterday. She said her quilt is a shrine-- a shrine to her dead friends. I think she understands.

Image: My mom and her cow quilt, photo by Erin Lale.

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Erin Lale is the author of Asatru For Beginners. An updated, longer version of her book, Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path, is coming in 2020 from Red Wheel / Weiser. Erin 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, created the Heathen Calendar 2017 and 2018, and founded the Heathen Visibility Project.

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