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Posted by on in Paths Blogs


In the days leading up to Tom's sumbel via zoom, I had some encouraging signs. I posted this on my social media: "Dragged out to the store and look what I saw lol pine cones! Pine cones are a Zisa thing. And then guess what? I went to [name of liquor store] but apparently the nonalcoholic sparkling wine is a specialty winter holiday item and they didn't have it. But guess what they did have? Zirbenz! The drink of the goddess Zisa! I had been looking for it last week because I had a radio appearance on Sept. 28th which is Zisa's holiday, and had asked for it by name there. They hadn't had any then, but this is how capitalism works lol because I had asked for it by name last week, this week they had some. Even though I already had made a toast to Zisa on the air with something else and today is a few days after the holiday I bought it and went home and had some. It's remarkably similar to the de sapin that I had instinctively offered to Tyr, Zisa's husband, years ago. Then I went into the kitchen and there was a rainbow on the wall, symbol of Heimdall, Tom's patron. I looked where it was coming from and it was from the tiny crystal ball on a wizard statue that I had put in the window because I had been setting up Tom's idols on the back porch this morning."

Before the sumbel, I had already confirmed that Tom made it across the Rainbow Bridge to join Heimdall's company. He had new things to learn, new friends, new duties. Heimdall is the Guardian, and the humans he attracts and to whom he is attracted as patron are likewise guardians. Tom spent most of his adult life in a career he saw as being a sheepdog for his country and countrymen. That's a common metaphor in his profession, but it has a special resonance for a Heimdall's man, as one of Heimdall's sacred animals is the ram. About a week after the sumbel, Tom became my personal guardian spirit. The dead can still affect things in the living world under certain circumstances, and being one of Heimdall's is one of them.

The sumbel itself was not a positive emotional experience for me. Although I'm pretty tech savvy under normal conditions-- I actually worked in cell phone techsupport for a while--, I did not have the brain space to learn anything new, so I asked a kindred member to handle the technical aspects for me. The zoom format was just alien enough so I did not interact with it well, and I have a mental blank spot for everything anyone said via the net. There were a few local people with me in person, and I remember the in person portions of the ritual. I also remember singing along to a song written by one of Tom's and my old friends, who had called in via my phone and was on speaker. I'm not a digital native and whatever made it so I either didn't hear, didn't process, or didn't encode in memory what was going on via zoom didn't affect my ability to listen to a landline. (My kindred member is making a file for me of the recording she made, so I hope to be able to hear what I missed eventually.) I made a couple of embarassing mistakes in non technical areas that seem to point to my reverting to just the knowledge I had as a teenager or in college. I could not handle performing as gythia at this sumbel and ended up handing off the ritual to a kindred member right in the middle. A few days later, it caught up with me that she is also a gythia now, and I communicated that to her via fb chat, because the kindred isn't meeting regularly during these times; a very few of us got together just for that one special occasion.

We held the sumbel on the back porch. I had held some rituals on the back porch before, when the kindred consisted of just me and Tom. I also often hold my coffee ritual out there, both my everyday morning coffee and the spontaneous coffee or other toast I raise to Thor when it rains. A porch is a liminal space, neither fully outside nor fully inside, so it seems like an appropriate ritual space. Also, it's a great place to watch the rain, because it's under the house roof and thus protected from lightning, yet I can hear, see, and smell the storm as if I were outside. In any case, Tom's sumbel was not the first back porch ritual, but I did choose to have it outside due to the necessity of taking precautions against Covid. Since that's what Tom died of, it would not honor him to take foolish risks.

I'm doing my best to handle Tom's estate as the executor of his will. I thought we had gotten all the religious items out of his house before he died, but the next time I went to his house to collect the mail and do other necessary tasks, there was a box sitting right in the middle of the room formerly used as a storage room, which my helpers and I had already cleared out. The box contained candles, cups, an iron cauldron, and a marble cauldron stand deeply carved with a pentacle. Tom's Strega supplies. Tom had been Strega before becoming Asatru. The box also contained a pretty shell, presumably picked up on the beach near where he used to live in San Diego before he moved to Las Vegas. Who knows where it came from or how we missed it before, but it was like it was just put there for me to find, as a kind of sign of approval. I had been feeling like a failure for the dumbass mistakes I made and for having to get my kindred member to finish the ritual for me, but everyone told me I did fine and should not expect too much of myself in my grief, but that was words on fb and on the phone and it didn't register for me like finding a literal box full of witch supplies where there had been empty floor. That was Tom making sure I had his full magical legacy. I took the supplies home, and out of the box I took a glass candlestick and a black candle-- for mourning and also to dispel negative energy-- and lit the candle. I watched it burn and it was red underneath. Love shining through the mourning.

Over the next week I did a few other things to get rid of bad energy, and so did my friends. I think I'm doing better now. The key for me is I can't keep up the pace of working on handling the estate all day and trying to handle all my own business in the evening that I was frenetically pushing myself to starting the week before Tom died when we started getting the religious items and weapons out of his house and turning the storage room upside down looking for his DD-214 (which our kindred member found) that I kept up right up until the sumbel. I have to give myself time to just be. To cry, if I feel like it. To just sit around listening to old songs on the radio, if that's what I feel like doing. To go do something fun with friends, if I can manage to do it safely (as I write this, I'm planning to attend a Renfaire Picnic held by a few of the guilds in lieu of the actual Renfaire, which was canceled. The Picnic is outdoors where the Faire usually is. I made myself a new costume that includes a full silk veil that goes down to my waist. It should be at least as effective as the cotton masks I've made, but looks Faire appropriate. I'm planning to take pics and post them on my social media.)

We held Tom's funeral sumbel via Zoom because many of his oldest friends and his kindred members from when he used to live in California could not come to Nevada for his funeral, due to travel restrictions related to the pandemic. I polled the people who wanted to attend to see what sort of online function would work best for everyone, and Zoom won because it could be accessed both via the net and by people who did not have internet and needed to use a phone. An online funeral just is not a good substitute for holding one in person. The extreme emotions present during a mourning ritual just don't mix well with trying to use cutting edge technology.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
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.

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Taking Over an Asatru Internet Forum part 2

When I first became a forum admin on the American Asatru group several years ago, I was invited to do so because the group creator liked my book Asatru For Beginners.  I said yes because I had just had a bad online experience in a different group and wanted to help create a space that would be better. I wanted to create a troll free space where heathens could talk about their heathen religious stuff free of mockery by trolls and safe from online harassment and stalking and other internet ills. I wanted to create a group which would be a supportive religious community where people could find friendship and advice about life in addition to religion. I envisioned a space where there would be fun things to do, and which would be especially supportive toward creators such as authors, artists, and musicians. The group became that.

Before I joined the management team, the American Asatru Association group was already a space that screened membership applications to keep out neonazis and white power gang members and other such undesirables, in addition to keeping out trolls. It was also already a group that welcomed heathens of any sect, not just Asatru, and from anywhere in the world, not just the Americas. It welcomed universalist, tribalist, and folkish Asatruars, and was a Loki-friendly group. Those policies stayed the same while I was adminning under the original group owner, and I plan to keep them in place. 

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    You're welcome!
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Thank you for the link. I think I became fascinated with Norse Myths from reading D'Aulairs' Book of Norse myths as a child and t
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Also Anthony, if you're interested in posing a discussion topic to the group, you're welcome to join and ask the members. How one'
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Hi Anthony, there might well be some members who started with that book. The recently completed Heathen Demographic Survey, availa
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Congratulations on your new position, I hope you have fun with it. One of the books I have on my computer desk is "Norse Magic" b
Taking Over an Asatru Internet Forum part 1

Once again, as I did before when I became manager of the old MSN Asatru group, I've just taken over management of an Asatru internet forum. There are a few notable differences from the last time. Firstly, this time I'm fully prepared and qualified to run an internet forum. Secondly, this time I wanted the job. Thirdly, the internet is different than it was back then. Fourthly, MSN Asatru had about 200 members, and the American Asatru group on Facebook, formerly known as the American Asatru Association, has about 4,500.

With both groups, I inherited an established forum with its own established procedures and expectations. MSN Asatru was a free for all. I didn't screen members or moderate posts, excepts to remove commercial spam, and to remove posts that violated the terms of use of the MicroSoft Network, which meant I removed anything even vaguely pornographic, including any nude images. Images were not used on forums very often back then, because posting an image in one of the one MSN Groups required an image host site and some basic knowledge of html.

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Can you work with the Internet as a spirit?

Recently, one of my readers asked me an intriguing question. She wanted to know if the internet could be a spirit in its own right, a deity that could be worked with. She had done some work on her own and that work seemed to say yes, but she was curious about my perspective on it, so I figured i'd share it through an article.

The first time I got on the internet, it was 1995. I was in my last year of high school and I got to use a computer for the first time and access the world wide web (as it was known back then). Why do I share that with you? Because I didn't grow up with the internet. I had to adapt to it. I fortunately did so, while I was still a teenager, and to be honest I took to the internet like a fish takes to water.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I tend to think of cyberspace as a biome like grasslands, deserts, and temperate forests are biomes.
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    That's anther good way to describe it.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Googlemancy

Seeing order in randomly generated patterns is the essence of fortune telling and interpretation of omens. Hundreds of years ago, people might expect to go outside and see many different species of birds routinely as part of their everyday experience. Thus, reading the first type of bird one sees after asking a question was something people could reasonably expect to do as part of their normal lives, because seeing random birds was part of people's normal lives. My everyday experience includes the internet. I see random stuff on my Facebook feed and on the day's Google Doodle as I'm sipping my morning coffee. 

Random stuff is exactly what's traditionally used for fortune telling and omens. Rune casting interprets the way lots fall on a cloth. The rune Perthro, the rune of destiny or wyrd, is shaped like a dice cup, which refers to rolling dice to read a fortune. The heathen art of reading bird omens derives a positive or negative answer from whether one sees a white bird or a black bird first. (Black is the good color, because Odin's ravens are black.) In other traditions, tea leaves make patterns in a cup, and a deck of cards has a traditional significance for each card in Tarot and in cartomancy. 

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Early Net Experiences Part 2: The Writing of Asatru For Beginners

I had only been a member of MSN ASATRU for a few months when suddenly one day I logged in and discovered I had been made the group's manager. The previous manager was nowhere to be found. There were no other managers, moderators, or admins. I was a still a near-total net newbie and I didn't know how to make a thread show me previous comments, let alone how to manage an internet forum. I had to learn how to use the back end controls of the time period. I had to learn some html programming so I could put text and graphics on the landing page and other pages, and create live links to photos hosted on host sites (yes, you had to known html to do that back then.)

When it came to actual content, though, I was on firm ground, having been heathen since 1986. I was always seeing newbies come on the group and ask for a beginner's book and people directing them to read the Eddas or academic papers, which can be intimidating even for adult readers, and a lot of the newbies were in their early teens, and just did not have the educational background to understand classical literature or college-level papers.

I started compiling a FAQ file on the group site. The FAQ page eventually became the first chapter of Asatru For Beginners.

At the time, my mom was a public high school English teacher. Sometimes she had free reading time in her classroom, and she kept a rack of books and other reading material for the students. I asked her what the typical American 14 year old boy read for pleasure during free reading, and she said Motor Sports Magazine. That's the reader for whom I wrote my book.

I kept Asatru For Beginners down to 20,000 words because mom told me that many average level teen readers found books longer than that so intimidating that they would not even start them. I kept the book entirely free of footnotes and quotes from foreign languages, both of which were typically found in any given Asatru related paper of the time period, since almost everything available was written for an academic readership. I wrote in American Family Newspaper style, with which I was familiar because I had written for newspapers.  I also filled my book with handy lists, so that as the book's owners became more advanced, they would still find it useful. I made my book non-sectarian, which set it apart from any other beginner's books available at the time, the others having been produced by sectarian organizations.

Since I first wrote it, Asatru has experienced some generational change, and some change sparked by the changing technology of the internet.  I'm working on a new edition to reflect these generational changes, which I hope to publish in 2017 when the book's current contract runs out. In the meantime, I still think it's the best and the easiest to understand of the beginner's books on Asatru.

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