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 Quartz Metaphor

Too often, heathens who try to discuss their gnosis on heathen forums are met with derision. I created the Quartz Metaphor of Gnosis to show why I think we should be able to discuss religious experiences in a religious forum. This metaphor shows how personal gnosis becomes group gnosis. It can’t happen if no one compares notes.

Imagine three people are in a forum talking about quartz.

Jill says, "I have a piece of quartz. It appears to have x property."

Pete says, "I also have a piece of quartz. My piece also seems to have x property."

Betsy says, "Me too. I saw the same thing."

That is an informal application of confirmation, which is one of the parts of the scientific method of acquiring knowledge. No one thinks that's weird.

So let's say Jill says, "My quartz is uncut and mounted in a pendant, and it's clear, and it has x property."

Pete says, "Mine is raw and uncut, and smoky, and it has x property."

Betsy says, "My quartz is cut and drilled and strung in a necklace, and rose color, and has x property."

No one thinks that's weird either, right? Each person has a piece of quartz, and they are different pieces with different shapes, but they all have x property because they are all quartz.

Now let’s say Jill, Pete, and Betsy are members of an online heathen forum.

Jill says "I have a relationship with Odin and he seems to have x property. My Odin appears to me as a young man."

Pete says, "I saw Odin once in a dream and he was old and had the traditional cloak pulled down over one eye and had x property."

Betsy says, "I've seen him in different forms but he seems to have properties x, y, and z."

If one believes that gods are real-- as real as quartz or any other part of nature-- why would this be strange, and why would a religious community shame Jill, Pete, and Betsy for talking about it? 

This should not be a strange or shameful conversation within a religious community. Even if the religious community includes atheists, there is no reason the atheopagans within the community should try to tell everyone else they can't talk about gods as real entities. Within a religious group, people should be free to talk about their religious experiences. There is nothing wrong with believing in the gods. There is nothing wrong with having religious experiences. A religious group should be a supportive place for those who are religious.

One of the main reasons I accepted the invitation to be an admin on an Asatru online group several years ago was to help create a safe, troll free venue for discussion, where people could talk about their personal experiences and gnosis and find a supportive community. I think we’ve achieved that at the Asatru Facebook Forum.

Image: a photo by Erin Lale of an altar honoring Freya as patroness and initiatrix of Dwarves, with Freya represented by various objects, Dwarves represented by stones, and both represented in a classical art print. 

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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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