Archive | March, 2013

Seidr

28 Mar

seidfrau

Seidr is a norse pagan practice of magic related to shamanism. Since we know very little of it, we can speculate and revise and revive it however we feel intuitively compelled to do so.

Some might see the practice of Seidr in the hypnotic chanting around a fireplace. Voices raise together in song to invoke a particular energy. Others go into deep trances to seek answers and healing, much like native shamans practice around the world still today. Others see Seidr in the ritual invocation of the gods of the north. Still others might see Seidr as part of their practice with runes.

An interesting feature of the word Seidr could lie in its etymological roots. The word is perhaps related to the German term “Saite”, which means string or cord. The term “silver cord” is known in the esoteric school of thought as the cord which connects the spiritual, etheric self which wonders the astral realm to the body, so that the astral body may return safely. Does this term have something to do with that?

Did early Seidr practitioners astrally travel to seek answers and healing? They probably did, if we compare them with the native cultures that practice shamanism today. Before modern medicine existed, people went to healers in order to get well. The healers had to seek answers in the spiritual realm to treat their patients appropriately. Manly P Hall writes in his book, “The Secret Teachings of the Ages” that native shamans would put themselves into a trance state, and then walk the forest seeking answers. When  a particular plant began to glow, the shaman knew that this was the correct plan to use in treatment for the person who had come to them. Many folk medicines are known in the greater Germanic region. In Germany, St. John’s Wort has been used for a long time, as many other herbs have been. How did they get the knowledge that this plant could have a healing effect?

Seidr is also associated with women, although men sometimes also practised it. Women are usually thought of in the Indo-European regions, to have been the ones gathering the herbs, making the medicines that the villagers sought. They were usually the ones thought of as “witches” and burnt or hung during the witch hunts which took place throughout Europe. Why? They were seen as wielding dangerous magic.

It was Freyja who taught Oden, the shamanic god of sacrifice, Seidr. What exactly did she teach him? Here, we also see a woman in the main role of passing on the wisdom of a deep, esoteric practice.

Whatever we choose to interpret into the word “Seidr” there remains much to know, whether we are reading about others’ experience and interpretation of the practice, or whether we are using the inspiration that the word sparks to delve deeper into our own hidden realms. We can gain more insight by going inwards than we can by looking to the outer world for answers, so surely the key to understanding the shaman is to go inward.

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Heimdall, the Watcher

26 Mar

Heimdall is the entity credited with alerting the gods to the onset of Ragnarök via a resounding blow of  his gjallarhorn. He sits in his home, just at the brink of the rainbow bridge, where it connects with the home of the gods. He is an alert god with acute senses, which an observant individual surely must have.

Some say Heimdall sacrificed his ear to the well of Mimir, much as Oden sacrificed his eye. He is apparently less involved with daily workings and action than, for example, Thor. He is holding vigil for when the clash of the gods should occur.

That his home is at the edge where transport to another world can take place, just at the cusp of the dwelling of the gods, he is equipped to be the ever- watching observer.

What can we learn from Heimdall specifically? Well, if we are more observant of our lives and our world, detached yet present, we can also hone our senses to a more acute point. Most of us are not aware of the things we say and do and their effect on the world around us. If we simply stopped to observe ourselves, we could find out there are points to work on, and things to be wary of; things that are perhaps better not said.

Heimdall does not indiscriminately sound the gjallarhorn; he waits for the appropriate moment. If we are constantly blowing our proverbial horns at every last circumstance, no one will take us seriously and there will be no point in even saying anything at all. We can learn, through this example, to choose our words wisely and to take care and heed of all that happens.

Awareness is key to finding truth in the self and the world. If we are asleep, passive and easily lead in life, we will not even know how we are acting ourselves in order to judge that, let alone to know what is actually happening in the outside world. Watching, being observant does not mean passively allowing garbage to come into our eyes and ears, it means actively, yet neutrally watching everything. If we take in the events around us without passing quick judgement, we can get a better view of the big picture. We should listen to what people say, and think first, before speaking. Our awareness will keep us active in the process, and not just let us accept or reject what is being said, due to some previous programming.

To be a watcher means to have clarity. Clarity is only achieved with a sharp mind. We get a sharp mind through exercise and a diet that consists of fresh food (organic not genetically modified or containing pesticide) and with the consumption of good water. We hone our minds by seeking out a variety of books and sources to expand our minds and horizons. We appreciate the finer points of life by getting into aesthetic realms, like art and music. Heimdall enjoyed fine mead, he wasn’t slugging down bad beer. He sipped on something well prepared with thought and care. If we do the same with our minds, our ears, our eyes, then we can hone the watcher aspect that exists in us as well.

Hel, and Death

25 Mar

hel

“To go to Hel” means to die. Hel is a place, and seen as a figure. In most instances, she is seen as female, but rarely also as neutral. While Oden’s Valkyries take the victorious slain-in-battle, Freyja another portion of the dead, Hel presides over the rest. She is envisioned as a crone-like woman, fierce and dreary with half her face made of flesh and the other half made of darkness. Sometimes she appears in artwork with half her face a skull.

Hel is the unseen, Hel is the dark feminine of the unknown. The realms primordial and mysterious, frightening and yet certain: death comes to all. Whereas Valhal is the place where warriors so certain and confident even in death go, Hel is the resting place for most mortals, it is thought.

For warriors and other mortals alike, death is a certainty, but the human flesh fears what it has not yet experienced. We do not fear the abyss which came before our birth, oddly enough, but we fear the abyss which comes afterward.

In the nordic mindset, perhaps the hero’s death receives a more golden glow than that of the average man because the warrior is thought to have overcome his fear of death. He or she no longer worries about the abyss, instead embraces it as it comes. A Warrior in this regard is not necessarily someone who takes up a weapon, but someone who lives life without fear, and boldly breaks down walls to become more. Whatever the case, it is important to contemplate death.

Why? It is our obliteration. It is our abyss. It is where our ego dissolved and where our accumulation of wealth ends. We become dissolved in it, perhaps to walk the earth again in another form, but our existence, our reputation during this time on earth will cease for us. Hel is the guardian of this realm of darkness in which we are cleansed of all that we strove for in our lives. Death is not a punishment, it is not a reward, it is a part of life and a lesson for the soul.

Hel’s face is partly moral-like and partly shrouded, as in fact are all of us in a sense. We walk with one foot in the grave. We will know an end someday. But there is no reason to fear this inevitable aspect of life. It is as much our birthright as it is to enjoy life, and to embrace the light. How can we enjoy life if we fear death? We must not worry about death, for surely it will come for us.

“Hell” in christian-political terms is a place of punishment. It is not really used to make people more spiritual, but to modify their behavior so they will behave in accordance to whatever ruling body has in mind. Acting a certain way out of fear of “hell” will not make a person more spiritual, but smaller and fearful, shrunk to the point of not being able to learn and grow in life. Seemingly, this has passed on to our modern understanding of paganism where it is more favorable to go to “Valhal” than it is to go to “Hel”, so it is perhaps for this reason that the warrior, the viking is seen as the primary, principle archetype embraced in nordic heathenism? Are we so afraid of the cold depths of death that we must play the strongest warrior to overcome our fear of weakness and the unknown?

Whether we swing an ax, sow the fields, or seek the mystic path of shamanism, we must all acknowledge our dark side. We all have fears in our psyche, in our minds, manifested in our DNA from generations. We have inherited many good things from our ancestors, but also hidden there in our bodies, souls, genetic makeup, are the embedded memories of sadness and torment, of pain and suffering and fear. If we attempt to hide this part of our legacy, we are further damning ourselves to repeat the mistakes of our forefathers and foremothers. They would and they do want us to learn from what has come before. In order to evolve and become better people and a better people (group, civilization) we must bring our darkness into the light. This means not shying from the darkness. When we let our darkness come into light, our fears, our weaknesses become exposed, and we get to know what they are and THEN work on them. Until we know what they are, we can only pretend to be perfect, fearless warriors. We are not that until we can confront our own weakness.

The treacherous wolf, the wizened old Hel, the shaman, the warrior, these exist in each of us. We can learn from them. Hel is the guardian of the underworld and can inspire and guide us to our own darkness, weakness and inheritance of pain, which can then teach us once we confront it. We can then move beyond it, grow beyond it, and annihilate the ego to become larger in the spirit. Hel is the daughter of the trickster, Loki who is always doing things that force the other gods to grow out of their comfort zones. They are forced to see things in a new way, and change and become something more. As such, Hel can reinforce this hastening to evolution, and increase our spiritual growth through the experience of death, both figurative and literal.

The Heart of Frey

25 Mar

Frey is the nordic god of fertility, peace, of prosperity and wealth. He is associated with a giant boar the dwarves made for him, and once possessed a sword which fought by itself (good thing too, because he is a man of peace). He is a god of sensuality and of plenty who falls deeply in love with a giantess and sacrifices his sword for the love of her (and later on his life, as he is killed in Ragnarök without the protection of his sword.)

Very often in the realm of nordic heathenism, the role of the peaceful and sensual, life-affirming aspects of the gods are overlooked in favour of the rough, fighting, fearlessly seeking battle and embracing death aspect that we often think of Thor and others in terms of. It is very common to regard the gods as being connected solely to the viking times, since this was a very prominent period in history and very appealing for men and boys. And why not? The vikings rode their ships to foreign soil, traded and admittedly sometimes engaged in battle. This captures the imagination of the fighting spirit, and gives the will something to strive for- how to be a fighter in life who goes after what he wants.

To balance this side out though, the masculine aspect of the nordic realm is more multi-faceted and complex than that. There is the beauty of Baldr, which inspires such love from all, whose wife mourns so that she would give her own life to follow him. There we see devotion and sacrifice. This too, though is tied with death, but also resurrection- the promise that even in the darkness lighter days will follow.

Further along these lines, we can consider Frey. He is often portrayed with his sword, but it is perhaps more remarkable that he gives it up- for the love of a woman. (A giantess, but still a woman). Instead of seeking battle, he seeks love. He is a god who presides over the fields, over good harvest, over the home and happiness. You can find him in the sensual warmth of the longer days of spring and summer.

It is important to give attention to the life-affirming, as the fields which provide us with their bounty are that which sustains us on our journey, respectively. Good, organic fruit and vegetables are the domain of Frey and his warm energy. Enjoying them and growing them ourselves can give us a means to understand our ancestors better, who worked well with the soil, and understood the connection between the nourishing of the earth with the nourishing of their own bellies. Frey would have been clearly in their hearts and minds as they lived from the land.

Now, we are more distanced from these aspects and tend to think more of the chaos around us. It seems harder to relax and listen to the earth, to our senses, to our feelings, to what we love. We can easily be lead about by hate, and see only battle all around us. Although we should never hesitate to be warriors in life, we must acknowledge and facilitate the peaceful and the life-affirming.

The heart of Frey is the energy of peace and of connection to the earth. It is being willing to sacrifice the material for the connection of love. Love is the energy of the universe, and is connected with that universal consciousness that is all gods, all beings, all things in life. Understanding Frey better can bring us closer to the forces that affirm the cycle of life and the common thread of the universe. We can delight in seeing the sunnier side of northern heathenism.

As spring draws nearer, it is a good time to slowly clear out the shadows and prepare for sewing the seeds of the future. It could be the literal seeds of the field and garden, or the seeds of mind and soul, where we consider what we want to cultivate for the days that are to come. We can choose to change our lives and surroundings for the better by focusing on that which affirms life. We can consider the importance of love, and the light side of the rune feh.

Idunn, the springtime Goddess

24 Mar

bjarkan

Idunn is the nordic goddess most associated with youth, the fertility of all things that grow and maintaining what is beautiful in life. A symbol which comes to mind upon contemplation of this fresh energy is the apple, as she is the keeper of golden apples which hold the gods young and healthy. She is also the wife of Bragi, who is the god of poetry. The two sew the seeds of lively enjoyment of life, and the refreshment of the senses.

During the spring and summer when the sun is seen and felt more often, we are warmed by the rays of forgiving and generous light that causes the plants to grow, which in turn nourish us with their bounty. The sun directly provides us with vitamin D, a hormone which helps metabolism and affects the mood positively. The more sun we get, the happier we are.

Idunn’s energy can be felt more during this warmer, friendlier times. We are inspired to be outdoors while the golden light warms the face and makes outdoor activities more pleasant and easier to sustain than in the colder harsher months. The fresh air and warm light might make us more cheerful and inclined to the poetic, the artistic, the aesthetic, the fine in life which keeps us young and active.

As the cold months approach, it is like Loki comes along and steals Idunn away, leaving us to wither to grey. The apples are no more, the warm sun shies away, while we seek shelter before a fire, reminded of our mortality and the temporary nature of every season. Although, Idunn returns, the times of suffering in the cold without the friendly sun are there to remind us that the wheel of the year continuously turns. Everything goes through phases, goes into the dark to return to the light. It rises and falls. We experience joy to experience deep lows. We learn from the pain and grow stronger. We experience the freezing cold to appreciate the wonderful spring. The frozen lakes thaw, sleeping gods awaken.

Although Idunn is a more beautiful, youthful goddess of the nordic pantheon, we could not appreciate her fully without contemplating the cold nature of lady Hel. Hel seems harsher, more foreboding, she is just as integral to the balance represented. Without the cold, we cannot fully appreciate how lovely the warmth is.

As spring approaches, Idunn slowly awakens from her slumber to make us feel younger and more alive. We will soon be blessed with fresh fruits and vegetables, green hills, and flowers growing everywhere. As the cold air still stings, we can appreciate the contrast and call upon inner strength to help us learn from what each season has to teach.

Rune jewelry

23 Mar

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome inspiration to wear, and invoke the senses to more: in search of ancestral wisdom and connection to nature and deeper inner truths.

http://northspiritrunesandstones.bigcartel.com/