Monday, February 17, 2014

The gap in Norse tradition I fell into

I once considered myself to be asatru. I was true to the Norse Gods, studied the poetic Edda in 3 different translations, discussed the lore with heathens from all over the world on the (then rather new) internet and read every book about Nose mythology and European folk traditions I could get my hands on.
Me being what I am, I've always been a somewhat out of the box asatru of course.  Shamanism and direct spiritual experiences don't go well with many members of the heathen community.

About 14 years ago something happened with me, that caused immobilizing chronic pain. After seeing dozens of doctors and therapists for many years , I gave up the fight and just learned to live with the pain and accepted life would never be the same again.
I had lost my job, walked with a crutch, could not ride a bike (disaster in the Netherlands) and had to rest many hours during the day.

One day I went to get some incense in the Botanica in Amsterdam, where I live,  and was invited to attend the Misa Espiritual. I had told the Santero that I was true to the Norse Gods,  but I was welcome anyway, so I went. I had no idea what to expect, but was very, very curious. It was a strange experience, with a lot of roman catholic prayer and me not understanding at all what was going on.

That afternoon I was told that I was the daughter of San Lazaro.  And that he could heal me, if I did a little ritual for him.
I Was terribly confused when I got home. How could I be the daughter of a South American saint, or even worse: an African God, while I had already been called by the Norse Gods?!
It had never occurred to me before, to ask my Gods for healing. People don't easily talk about these things in the asatru community.
At first I thought that maybe San Lazaro,  would somehow be connected with one of the Norse Gods. But San Lazaro is Babalu Aye, "Father Earth", Who lives at the gate of the graveyard. There is no Norse Deity that even comes close to this African God.
I fell into a serious spiritual crisis.

Eir is the only one in the Norse pantheon known for healing powers. But we know hardly anything about Her.  Scholars are not even sure if She is a Goddess or a valkyrie. We just know the name and nothing else. I had no idea how to approach Her,  what to offer,  how to address Her. And none could tell me,  not in Holland and not on the international email lists.
While the Santero had given me detailed information about what to get for San Lazaro,  colors,  numbers, offerings, even a special kind of fabric.

After months of research, doubt, distress and even feeling guilty,  I decided to cast the runes. They indicated no problem at all! So I went to the botanica, bought the purple candle. I got the red unions, the sack,  black eyed peas, etc and set up a little altar for this Saint who represented an African God.
The candle burned for 7 days and one morning during that week I woke up with the inspiration to do some very subtle, micro level, stretching exercises.
To cut a long story short: I ride my bike again, walk without crutch and can do much more than I could ever dream of in the days before I met  Babalu Aye!

This happened years ago. I've been a regular visitor of the Botanica for a long time and I observed how effective their way of doing things is. I adopted some of the customs I saw there into my own daily practice, after adjusting them to my own ways and my Gods are not complaining at all.
The most important and beautiful thing I learned from Don Azito was how to reconnect with my ancestors. The Norse tradition had never given me the tools to overcome the trauma of a very difficult family history. He taught me how to make peace with myself and the deceased.  The threads were once cut, but my ancestors are standing right behind me now.

I learned all I could in the Botanica and then had to leave,  things were getting uncomfortable. I guess my Gods felt it was enough, I had learned what I had to learn.  I don't go there anymore, but I will always be grateful for Don Azito's wonderful lessons and support. And I keep a little shrine for Babalu Aye in my bedroom.
And you know what?  I've been discovering the healing powers of Thor lately,  Who has been my patron God for so many years. I had to go through all this,  to get to a level of faith that is hardly ever talked about by heathens. Isn't life wonderful!

In another post I will write about how the Goddess came into my life to stay. Another thing most people in the asatru community can't understand. You can find it here: About Freya and The Goddess
I'm OK with that. I just walk my own winding path. I never chose my Gods,  the Gods picked me. And I don't want to call myself asatru anymore, or heathen. I'm proud to be just myself.


  1. Truth, congruity, the stream of healing...whatever we call it when we are aligned with mystery in a way for there to be healing in whatever form; this transcends the boundaries of belief or ideology. I love how you describe your experience, how surprised you were at what you experienced when you stepped outside of your beliefs.

  2. My dear Baruch, I was more shocked, than surpirsed ;-)