Remembering Sage Nelson
As this year, and decade, ends, The Asatru Community would like to take a moment to honor our late Vice President, Sage Nelson. It has been a year since her passing and while she is no longer here in Midgard, we continue to honor her spirit and dedication to this community. The following pieces are written in her memory:
As Winter Comes, Life Goes
The world was spinning. Like the feeling you get when you turn in a circle ten times fast, not knowing where you’ll end up facing and then you stop. You open your eyes and you can’t look at just one thing, it keeps moving so you run for it, falling to your knees in the process and slumping over to your back, looking at the dense white clouds as they spin in circles on a crisp blue surface. Only, I didn’t do any of that. I got a call, my aunt died. It was lack of oxygen to her
brain caused by a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in the lungs, and then cardiac arrest. It was as if my body just shut down. Not a nerve pulsing, blood halting in my veins, and no activity in my brain or, maybe it was too much activity. I dropped to my knees in the cold snowy grass, rolling over my left shoulder onto my back. The sparkling, light, fluffy, snow beneath me melted
as my breathing quickened and I shivered. I paid no attention to the equally emotional teenagers stumbling toward me. My mind raced and I squeezed my eyes shut, looking for an answer. An answer that didn’t exist. “She was fine this morning when she left,” I whispered to myself. “She can’t be dead, not yet.” I opened my eyes, releasing a tear. As I looked into my best friend Malissa’s eyes, the dam holding back my emotions collapsed. I flung myself into her arms and let out all of my emotions, going through every stage of grief at once. I sat back on my heels, looking around at my friends who were arriving for my friends-mas party, greeting them with a weak smile before dropping my head. Malissa rose from her knees and adjusted her black sweater dress, in an effort to keep her cool, before she turned to the crowd and explained the evening’s events.
As soon as the words “she didn’t make it” fell from Malissa’s mouth, I leapt up and ran for my front door. Each footstep in the snow kicked up clumps of the solid, frozen, mush that hit the backs of my legs. The faster I ran the more I could feel my joints jolt from the impact of my feet hitting the frozen sidewalk. I stopped myself by slamming my hands onto the door and yanking on the brass handle. The door pried open and I shut it behind me, locked it, and pressed my back against the door just long enough to take in a deep breath.
A small, round, white and fawn spotted dog runs up to me barking as if I were an unknown intruder breaking in and he was protecting the house. I bent down scooping the small chihuahua up and holding him close to my body. It was Mugs, my Aunt's emotional support dog. He nuzzled his head into the crook of my neck, warming my ice-cold body. His breathing was slow and steady and my own breathing began to match his, calming me down. I released a shaky sigh and stood up, still holding Mugs at my side. I wandered into the living room and collapsed on the sofa in the semi-dark room.
The house was silent, so silent that my ears began to ring. I covered my ears with my cold hands, sending a swift shiver down my spine. Looking around, she was everywhere. Her knitting and crocheting tools sat on the side table and her current project was next to it, unfinished. Her laptop, the home of abundant memories, sat on a table by the couch, battery charging. I closed my eyes as a tear slipped down my cheek to my lips. It tasted so salty. The taste of bitter grief.
On certain days I still hear the same silence whirring past my ears. Sometimes I can smell her. The rich herbescent stench of patchouli passes through our home, upstairs and my bedroom [where she rarely went.] Pieces of her linger in the air, invisible, sticking to every surface. The blunt cold air seeps in through the cracks of the windows, I spiral. And even now, as winter comes, life goes.
- Zoey McWilson-Nichols, Niece of Sage Nelson
It has been a year since you passed. It was so sudden that I did not know what to do with myself. I was losing my number #2, my backbone; and fast. There was no warning, nothing. One moment you were there and in another you were gone.
Though, I know, I know you were loved. Not by just me, or your family, but the entire community. We did the one thing I am proudest of after you passed, paying for funeral services. We came together and also did a worldwide ritual in your honor. It was a very special time for the entire community. Together we honored a fallen spirit of such stature that it created a powerful moment in all those who participated.
I miss you. I miss your wit, your mighty will power, and your iron fist of “who gives a damn.” You were one of the wisest people I had ever come to know, and your leadership led TAC and myself through some hard times.
I know your life was not easy, and TAC sure didn’t make it easier, but you still are the most dedicated TAC volunteer there ever has been.
I miss you. I feel you sometimes, especially as we come to the anniversary of your death; your spirit seems even closer.
You have done so much for this community, we owe you more than we can express.
I have never met someone so dedicated to something in my life.
We remember you, Hail Sage!
-Seth Chagi, Founder of The Asatru Community
In honor of Sages anniversary of her Death; I am going to share how I said goodbye to her, one year ago today.
I miss our Gythia chats and our talk as fellow Elders in this community on how to navigate 21st century living with an Old Norse mindset. Sage was my peer and my friend, as well as one of my most gifted students. Sage also was a good person with a very big heart.
Let’s all raise a Horn in her Honor and remember and speak of Sage Nelson’s wonderful deeds for this Heathen community; as is traditional to do within a Sumbel.
I went immediately to my Ve and I invoked the Shade of Sage at Hela’s gate; to say farewell and Gods speed into her journey of Death, and perhaps rebirth someday.
I saw a vital 30ish woman with sandy hair standing before me with a huge smile and fire in her eyes accompanied by a vibrant teenage boy.
Another woman, older and with antiquated clothing, was standing next to Sage in her youthful vestige whom I assume was a relative of Sage’s.
I was told by this woman that Sage could enjoy being present and might speak with me while she stayed through my visit to the land of the dead gates, but once the candle was extinguished, then Sage would be completely free of all bonds but love; and go within Hela’s realm where I cannot follow till my time has come to pass.
We spoke of much, yet not a thing. Before leaving, Sage asked that I keep up with trying to see some of the work she began as a Volva completed; after introducing to me her son who had died some years before.
I agreed, and sensing it was time to make my way back to Midgard, I said, “Hail, till next we meet.”
On my hug goodbye, Sage’s Shade whispered, “Tell folks how to find us: the Old way, the way YOU got here. Then we will never be lonely for home or each other-you know the dead and the not dead.”
So on her behalf, this is how I found her, and others, at Hela’s Hall entrance:
1) Hallow and create sacred space as you normally would.
2) Consecration of Time – 9 bell rings, in sets of three.
3) Consecration of Space & Participant by censing of the place, smudging the people.
4) Outdweller offering.
5) Calling on and sacrifice to the wights, gods, and ancestors.
6) Consecration of Intent and opening the gates by singing a Vardlökkur - a.k.a. going into Seiðr trance.
7) Sumbel with a ballad (Kauv) with the dead person being visited.
8) Speaking with the dead.
9) Thanking the spirits and leaving.
After creating space and doing Blot for Hela, begin by stating your intention to go via Seiðr to meet the dead and say: "this is the light of Sage Nelson in life, and I wish to meet her at the gates of Helheim to speak with her as she is just passed through the veil of life and death."
Then light a need-fire after enchanting the wood with runes OR get a candle and inscribe the entire words using Futharks: Need, Family line, and Magical words from the Gods on it.
Create a ballad (Kauv) about your loved one, including all you remember about their deeds in this life, and prepare to sing it when you arrive at the bridge on the river; guarded by Móðguð river Gjöll ("Noisy")
Also, begin to think on how you wish to sing your Vardlökkur, with the song saying: "I am a Volva and a friend of Sage Nelson and here to help her reach her next journey through Death, by giving her a proper Hail and Honor of her life lived in Midgard I wish to meet with her by the river Gjöll” : remember a Vardlökkur MUST be made up on the spot; but, I have found if you get your intention clear, it’s much easier to sing.
For me to meet up with Sage, it was to Release the grief and soothe the soul (Hers and mine) of her sudden death; and to feed in memory of a worthy life lived well to pave the way should The Dead wish to return soon in their families line.
At this point you, like me with Sage, should have a firm open line of easy communication; so say what it is you need to say!
After coming out of trance finish the blot this way:
Three pennies thrown outside to appease restless spirits.
Speak: “The toll is paid! Outsiders, you who will not help us, take these” (throw) “and leave us in peace!”
Opening the Gates
Singing with your Vardlökkur* to Mothgud to open the gates, if you get into a trance state and wind up at the bridge, offer a gift to Mothgud as you then explaining to her that you wish to see your loved one’s spirit one last time and the intention is for their Shade to return close enough to Midgard (The Gjöll river) so they can hear your hails to their spirit and life for as long as the need-fire burns. Here, you then sing or speak the ballad (Kauv) you have made in a “otherworldly” Sumbel for the dead, thereby possibly persuading Mothgud to allow the meeting of you and the dead. *Sing something like:
"We invite your attention , Mothgud opener of gates!
We invite your attention Mothgud, guardian of the dead!
Permit this meeting of two worlds overlapping
Where both the living and the dead can still speak.
You will reach us, you will teach us and reveal our fate
You will reach us you will teach us and reveal our fate"
Sumbel (Minnehorn): Horn of Memory
Using either Mead or organic apple juice as a ritual drink: Pass the drinking horn around, to not only Mothgud, but any other wight whom might be at the bridge; each time taking a gulp and passing the horn, while singing the dead persons ballad. Again, it can be about a memory you had of the Dead person being sought, make a toast to a quality of her deeds, make a blessing upon them in death, or anything else that seems appropriate.
Meeting the Shade
Now is the time to speak directly to the deceased spirit, saying everything that must be said before a final separation. These goodbyes are very intense.
When all has been said, say your goodbyes, and return back from a trance state the usual way for you.
Then close the ritual the same way you began, only no need to singing a Vardlökkur of ‘calling’ this time, just thank and release everything you summoned. Then, be sure to extinguish the need fire/candle so that the Dead’s spirit is released; this last step cannot be rushed. This can take a while, but it allows emotions to be sorted and released. You can say/sing:
“May the ways you walk
Bring you again to those you love
And may the cherished past
Never blind you to new loves.”
Don’t forget to thank every wight that aided you and ask them to be sure to close the gates; sending the deceased spirit on its way to the proper destination.
- Ivy Mulligan, Vice President of The Asatru Community
I miss you. I miss your passion for our religion, for our charter members, and for TAC. I miss your laugh, and weirdly enough, I miss you yelling at me when I did something dumb. I miss you as both a friend and mentor.
I don’t feel like I ever got to tell you how much your friendship, guidance, and belief in me truly meant; let me just list the ways in which you affected my life:
If it wasn’t for you, I would still be a silent, solitary practitioner of Asatru. My experience with you and Ivy while working to complete the Clergy training course gave me confidence to be out and proud about my religious beliefs.
You talked me into becoming an ambassador and gave me sound advice and motivated me to get out into my community, hold events, and meet other heathens and pagans in my area. You then talked me into becoming the Lead Ambassador for the North Central region and, then later, convinced me to take over for you as the Director of the Ambassador Program. It was an honor to assume that role and I worked hard to show you that I would take good care of your baby, the Ambassador Program.
You were always there to chat, whenever I needed it, and you always knew just what to say.
It is easy to see that without you I would not be where I am today.
Now, I have a large and eclectic group of pagan friends here in my community, and we have created the Ohio Pagan Alliance; with 13 different representatives of Pagan & Heathen religious groups.
I certainly would not be the President of TAC without you, and every day I strive to do good for the charter members of TAC, to honor you, and the Gods.
Thank you for being a friend. I know that someday we shall drink mead in a great hall together and laugh about how silly life can be.
I have been, and always shall be your friend.
With love and admiration,
-Topher W. Henry, President of The Asatru Community
In the small time that I knew you through TAC, I admired and cherished you as both leader and mentor. You, with your wonderful Ambassador Program, were the first one to train me in the way The Asatru Community helps other Heathens like us. You showed me the ropes to become an Ambassador and guided the program with determination and loyalty.
There were a few good talks we shared together, and you never let me down when I had a question and, as many here in TAC know, I often ask many questions. You never minded how many times I could email someone or how much I could put into one email. You only cared that we were dedicated, as you were, to TAC. I would believe it fair to say that there are very few who might come close to your commitment to our faith and our members.
I remember the night I was told; I was nearly asleep when on the phone another member told me, “Sage Nelson has passed away.” Such strange were these words, and still strange today. I was awake then and in shock to hear of how suddenly this had happened. I was not yet on the Board of TAC, nor was I as close to you as many other were. Still, for such a loss, it was felt deeply. I know that our whole community took part in mourning and honoring you and your life. I know that we still seek to honor what you have done for us all. Though I knew you shortly, I would like to share what I experienced when we held the TAC-wide Sumbel/ceremony in your honor:
I set my altar up with pieces to honor your life and to Hail Hela, Goddess of The Dead. I couldn’t burn a big fire, so I placed a cauldron in the middle of my altar and set aflame various herbs to stay lit throughout the ceremony.
The energy I felt was reverent and still, like a solemn calm had settled over me and the sacred space held for you. I knew you were at peace and that many of those who knew and loved you were honoring you in that same time. While the fire burned, I captured a moment in the smoke where it rose into an ‘S.’ I know for many this would mean nothing, but it was unmistakable to me as a sign that you had received the messages sent to you from Midgard.
In the months after, I would sometimes flip through old posts you had made or those you were tagged in, just to keep your memory close in your honor. I didn’t know then how to let go properly, though I knew you were already safe with Hela. Once, while looking through some old posts, I was feeling more sorrow than I had before when all of a sudden, I heard a laugh. It did not come from around me, like a normal noise would. I knew immediately that it came from you. In that laugh, I heard both the memory of you and the spirit of you as if I was being told that you were alright; more than alright, I could feel that you were happy. I know that we will meet face-to-face one day in Hel.
-Amy Flickinger, Director of Public Relations
This last year, your life and memory has been shown throughout our organization and kept alive in many of our minds and hearts. While we leave the year of mourning to end this decade, we will never leave your memory behind. We hail and thank you, for all that you have done. May our deeds and actions here in this community bring honor to your work. May those who knew you and loved you continue to find peace knowing that you are safe and happy.
With love from Midgard,
-The Asatru Community.