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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My Ceremonial Key

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

In Asatru and other heathen traditions, receiving a house key can be part of a marriage ceremony, when a woman is starting her household by moving into a new place with her new family. For that reason, many people see it as a symbol of marriage, but it's really a symbol of property ownership. I've had the real life keys to the home in which I live for a couple of decades now, and my relationship with the landwight here is a strong and good one, but I haven't included a ceremonial key in my ritual garb. My mom was the homeowner.

Many of the adjustments I've made since my mother's death have had both a mundane and a spiritual dimension, and this is one of them. I'm not becoming the exclusive owner of my home-- my brother and I inherit it equally-- but it's close enough for me to feel that receiving the official title paper is the right time to put on the ceremonial key.

It's also obvious to me which physical object to use for the ceremonial key, but I unexpectedly have some emotional baggage yet to ditch on that subject. Because it's a piece of jewelry that used to be my gramma's. Physically, it's the perfect object. It's a brooch in the shape of a key, with a heart. I've had it in the back of my jewelry case since gramma died, but I've never worn it, because to me it has always looked like the sort of ceremonial key a heathen house holding woman would wear, and I wasn't yet a house holder.

When mom and I first moved into this house, her mom insisted on coming to "help" (meaning try to take control), and I was feeling vulnerable because I had hurt my knee trying to carry a sofa down the stairs from my old apartment. (Yes, the same knee I later hurt again trying to clean the pool.) I was limping around using a stick the day we officially moved in. Gramma had not yet mellowed with age at this point, and she was really mean to me. She never owned any part of this property and what she contributed to the move was largely stress. So, how could I use an object that belonged to her to symbolize my new partial ownership of the home in which I've lived for 20 years?

But, since then, gramma did mellow out, and moved from Arizona to an assisted living here in the Vegas area, and all three of us-- me and her and mom-- got along. Eventually she moved again, to a nursing home near other family, and when old age came for her at last, she had been a nice gramma for years. It's only the context of thinking about owning this house that brought that up again. I had thought I let go of that years ago. If I haven't quite let go of it, it's past time now. With mom's death I've made a commitment to honoring my female ancestors, and the female ancestors generally, back to Embla. Gramma is included.

Also, I've already had experience of repurposing a piece of jewelry belonging to a relative for a spiritual purpose that I was not entirely comfortable with at first: the ring I wear to symbolize my godspouse marriage to Loki belonged to my father. It was made by my father, actually, the fire agate cut and polished by him, the setting made by one of his friends. At first, using something that had reminded me of my dad for a wedding ring had been kind of cringifying, and yet, it was right, and perfect, and now I wear it almost every day, and I love that my ring for Loki was dad's ring. So, I know that if I used gramma's key jewelry for some of my sacred jewelry, I would eventually love that, too. I already feel that it's right and perfect-- I mean, it's there in my jewelry box waiting to be worn, and what have I been saving it for if not this?

The house and the key jewelry are both forms of inheritance, both things that could be symbolized by the rune Othala. The home and land are literally inherited real estate, which is what Othala literally means. These things are both related to honoring the female ancestors. The only object that could be more perfect for my ceremonial key would be key jewelry that my mom had, except she didn't have any. She wasn't heathen and never felt any need to have such a piece of jewelry.

I know this is the right decision when I picture saving this key brooch all this time, until it's time to start wearing key jewelry, and then selling it and buying some other piece that has no connection to any of my ancestors. That is clearly wrong. It's not even gramma's brooch anymore, really. It's been mine for years, and if I had ever worn it I would have started saying "this is my brooch; it used to be my gramma's" years ago, the way I have with other brooches that used to be hers. The costume jewelry pin I wear on my wool hat used to be gramma's, too. I love it. When people comment on it, I tell people it used to be my gramma's, just like I tell people this ring I'm wearing as I type this used to be my dad's. It's time for me to finally claim this key brooch that I own and which is really mine, and used to be my gramma's.

I wrote the above before I put on my key brooch for the first time. It took longer than expected to receive the title papers because the county recorder's office closed to the public due to the pandemic, but the specialist handling it must have found some way to get it done by mail or something because I eventually did receive the papers in the mail. That very day I held a ceremony to put my key on for the first time. I made linden tea and invited the goddess Frigga to share that moment with me. It was a nice ritual. It has not been very long, and already I am indeed thinking of this key brooch as "my ceremonial key" not as "gramma's brooch."

I asked the landwight that if there was anything he could do now that I was the house holder to reinforce his protections on the house and land and the boundary between it and the outside world, to please do it. I felt the reinforced protections lock around me almost immediately.

About a week or so after that I had a brief paperwork scare. The details aren't important now, but I discovered an issue on a weekend and couldn't try to fix it until Monday, and I was worried there might not be any live humans answering the phone in the government department I needed to reach because so many places were closed due to the pandemic. I knew the only thing that would really make me feel better was to do the thing, but I couldn't try right then. I told myself, "I will do my best and let the gods bring me the rest of the way." That made me feel better, and I distracted myself with internet cat content that evening so I could get to sleep. I got the thing done Monday and I held another linden tea ritual after to thank Frigga and whatever other gods may have helped me. She indicated to me that she hadn't actually done anything, it was all me. I told her that just knowing she was there had helped me get rid of anxiety and that was not nothing.

As a side note, there was a moment of humor during the linden tea ritual when my cat demanded to be fed while I was waiting for the tea to brew. I thought, well cats aren't Frigga's thing, they're Freya's animal, but I don't think she'd mind. As far as I could tell, she didn't mind. But the point of this story is what I thought of next. Frigga's animal is the goose. And if anyone thinks that's not a very fierce animal for the animal of a Viking god, they have clearly never met a goose.

Anyway. It was a lovely ritual. At one point I felt that all the goddesses were there, not just Frigga. In my novel gnosis-- my gnosis that I received while writing Some Say Fire-- the Goddesses' Tea is a repeating event in which Frigga hosts the other goddesses in an outdoor tea party. Invite Frigga for tea and I also invite the rest of the goddeses. It's always a special moment when I discover that something I thought I had made up just to be part of a story has some applicability outside the Fireverse.

Image: the second linden tea ritual, photo by Erin Lale. (The key is not in the photo because I was wearing it.)


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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.


  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Friday, 10 April 2020

    When the warehouse I work in was at it's old location near the airport there were retaining ponds both in front of and behind the warehouse. Geese were frequent visitors. We had goose crap on the sidewalks most of the time.

    Parks and recreation for Henrico county started posting signs not to feed the ducks because the geese were getting aggressive.

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Monday, 20 April 2020

    Geese can definitely be aggressive!

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