A Progressive Heathen Blog

Month: January 2018

Unverified Personal Gnosis: Mediating the Supernatural Among Heathen Women

I undertook a bit of primary research last semester on the topic of unverified personal gnosis among Heathen women. The results of that research became the underpinning of a PhD term paper I’ve uploaded to my account. Here’s the abstract:

Contemporary Northern European-inspired Neo-Paganism (also called Heathenry) is a vernacular religion practiced by individuals and small groups which thrives, in part, on gnostic experiences mediated by the individuals who have them. This gnosticism, sometimes labeled “unverified personal gnosis,” is a nuanced supernatural transmission of knowledge rooted in a substratum of supernatural beliefs and practices which are part of Heathen religion for many adherents.

My research on this topic synthesizes the surveys of six Heathen women about unverified personal gnosis with selected critical literature on the ethnographic study of belief. The gnostic experiences of these women are highlighted in the contexts of their various demographics, the syncretization of their belief systems, and the impacts of unverified personal gnosis on themselves and their communities of faith. Also explored in gnostic contexts are the role of shifting gender dynamics in these communities and the relationship of early Northern European literature to Heathen belief and practice.

As part of the aforementioned synthesis, I utilize David J. Hufford’s work on traditions of disbelief to draw conclusions about the contested nature of both the term “unverified personal gnosis” and the experiences it describes. I also utilize Diane Goldstein’s work on the structure of supernatural narratives to theorize that Heathen narratives about gnostic experience often conform to a four-part structure. Finally, I explore the ways Heathens contextualize discussions of supernatural beliefs and practices with the aforementioned early Northern European literature in mind and propose several directions for further research.

You can access the paper here.

Documenting the Creation of a Rune Set

During Yuletide, I made a set of runes using birch wood I brought back from Iceland in April of last year. Because I’m a folklorist, I thought it might be interesting to document the process in pictures and share them with you. The tools and the burning/soldering kit (not shown) were gifts from my husband (I’ve needed proper electric tools for a while now), the cutting board oil is made of coconut oil and essential oils that smell faintly of lemongrass, and the velvet comes from my grandmother’s quilting stash, which I inherited in the late nineties before she passed away.

I usually allow a set of runes to germinate for at least four seasons; two to cure the wood, one to make the runes, and one to let them rest before blessing them. I prefer to make runes at Yuletide, and I’ll bless this set on May 1st when I return from Newfoundland. Meanwhile, it sits on the altar in my studio at home in Nova Scotia, sleeping as the snow falls outside.

This is a particularly sacred set for me, since I traded an oath for the wood. Later, I laid that wood out under the summer solar eclipse to charge it. Given the creation of the runes at Yuletide and the blessing of them at Walpurgisnacht, they promise to be powerful conduits, and I plan to utilize them with that in mind.

Here are the photos. Click on the arrows beneath each one to advance the slide show.

Cut Rune Blank
Cut Rune Blank
Rune Blanks Cut With a 60-Tooth Mitre Saw Blade
« 2 of 10 »

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén