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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A Different Kind of Near Death Experience

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

When one hears the phrase "near death experience" most people think of an awesome spiritual experience in which one sees light or their god or ancestors. That's an experience very few people have. But almost everyone will have to deal with death sometime, their own or their loved ones'. The common way to be near death is to know a loved one is dying and to be trying to handle their affairs and set everything up for them to succeed at being a newly dead person. One succeeds at being a dead person by having one's cremation or burial, funeral and / or wake set up in advance. One of the major goals of a funeral is to provide the rites that help a dead person cross. If the dying person and the person doing the arrangements and the person handling the funeral are all the same religion it makes things a lot easier, but for many pagans and heathens this will not be the case.

There are things the dying person can do in advance, years in advance, to prepare for death. Among those things is to speak to one's patron deity or ancestors about where one is going and how to get there. There are also things one can do for another before the person actually dies. Most of those things will be mundane things in the mundane world, but one can also send blessings, even to someone one can no longer visit in person.

That is the case with me and my companion right now; due to the covid restrictions, I can't see him, only drop off cards and candy and whatnot at the front door of the hospital. I've said "blessings of Heimdall" on the phone-- Heimdall is his patron-- but I wanted to do a more tangible blessing. Being unable to see him in person, I decided to send a blessing in a greeting card.

I wrote a card and wrote "Heimdall's blessing" and then I physically put a blessing there, in the form of the Heimdall perfume from Cherry-Ka's Trunk which I had had custom blended for my companion long ago. (The perfumer is a friend and I've helped him get ideas for several of his Asatru fragrances.) Tom's personal Heimdall perfume roller was lost when the caregivers at his group home packaged up his stuff when he decided to stop paying rent there when the hospital told him he could be in the hospital up to 18 weeks. I had not been allowed in to gather up his stuff for him due to the covid restrictions. So my companion's own Heimdall perfume was gone, but I still had a small sample bottle of my own, and I carefully poured a drop onto the card. I sealed up the card and delivered it to the front door of the hospital.

I've delivered several cards, including one that arrived in the mail at his house from an out of state friend, and I've talked to him on his cell phone a few times but he has never mentioned the cards or any of the other items I've dropped off for him so I'm not sure he actually got them. I hope he at least got that one, though.

I've been taking care of his house and doing things for him like bill paying and errands for the past couple of years, hoping he'd be able to move back into his house someday, and trying to make it so he could do as many things for himself as possible. Now he's dying of Covid. After the hospital wanted to do a treatment he refused, I've been expecting him to die any time now, so I'm back in the mode of handling everything for him. As my companion asked, I had some fellow heathens help get the religious items and other things out of his house in case the state probate agency has locked it the next time I go over there. This weekend some other local heathens will be over at his house getting his book collection out. If by some odd chance he lives, we can always put everything back. But if we don't get it out before the state probate agent's cleaner team goes through it's likely no one will ever see any of his heathen related items or books again. Better to be safe than sorry. There's too great a risk random strangers drawn from the mostly Christian society in which we live would destroy or throw out pagan and heathen idols, altar tools, magic items, and books.

This is something all of us should think of, even those of you who are young and able. What will happen to my stuff after I die? What about magical and religious items that are charged or in some way partly conscious or linked to deities and ancestors? Have a plan. Have someone in place who can work your plan. This is as much a part of the standard planning we should all do for death as having an advance directive, healthcare power of attorney, will and / or trust, cremation or burial plan, and a person who is designated to handle your affairs and can handle your internet presence too if you have one. That person should have your contact info for everyone who should be invited to your funeral, the info necessary to get you your military funeral if you're entitled to one, and a way to get into your house, Facebook account, and everything else, and all the information that will be required for your death certificate, including not just your SSN and birthdate but your place of birth and parents' names too, even if they are long dead themselves, preferably all put on one piece of paper handy for your executor. You do have all of those things, right? You should. Preparing for death is not ONLY about developing a relationship with your gods, although of course that is important. This has been your pagan PSA on death.

Image: Mortality by Reimund Bertrams, creative commons via Pixaby, an image of a skull, book, candle, and hourglass.


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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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