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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Teaching Folk Dance at the Moot part 1

Folk dance is ritual. Dances are performed for holidays, weddings, the agricultural cycle, and to bring people together. I’m going to teach folk dance at an upcoming heathen gathering.

At the dawn of agricultural, newly settled villagers who needed to work together on farm tasks danced together to learn how to move as a unit and co-ordinate with each other, and to build team spirit. Those are also some reasons for military marching. There are folk dances that actually are forms of military drill, such as the vari hasapikos, a Greek men’s dance for a four man team, that teaches how to read a leader’s hand signals and follow them in unison.

Different ethnic groups have different dances, but some dances have spread throughout many countries. One of the dances common to many different nations is the Hora, which began as the Chorus of the sacred theater of ancient Greece. It is a round dance, in which the dancers hold hands and dance in a circle.

Round dances and line dances are the two basic types of folk dance that hark back to agricultural traditions in villages. In Europe, these dances are still performed mostly in the southern and eastern regions. In the western regions, such as in England, round and line dances have largely been supplanted by court dancing styles which are danced in squares or rectangles, and by couple dances. Today, these types of dances are considered country dances, but they supplanted the older round styles when court styles disseminated from the cities. In the northern regions, traditional dance mostly consists of couple dances, but also has some dances that mix round and couple dancing in the A and B parts.

There are also dances still performed in various countries that are meant to be danced as marches or processions, traveling from one place to another. Procession dances and round and line dances are the oldest kinds of folk dance, with court dancing emerging at royal courts in the medieval period, and couple dancing developing after that. (For more info on dance as ritual, see The Dancing Goddesses by Elizabeth Wayland Barber.)   

Image: dancers holding hands in a circle, photo by Erin Lale

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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 Saturday, 24 June 2017

    My local library has a copy of Dancing Goddesses: folklore, archaeology, and the origins of European dance by Barber. It's a fascinating book, I recommend it. They also have a copy of Rhythm of the Redman by Julia M. Seton, good luck finding a copy of that.

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Sunday, 25 June 2017

    Dancing Goddesses is a fantastic book. I recommend it.

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