Tag Archives: shaman

The Oseberg Ship: Pagan Ritual Tool or Means of Transportation?

14 May

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The Oseberg ship, along with several other ships found in Norway  during archaeoogical excavations, is on display at the Oslo Viking Ship Museum (Vikingskipshuset). Visitors from all around the world flock to the exhibitions to catch a glimpse of real Viking history. They imagine fierce warriors poised in the ships, navigating the high seas in search of adventure and mischief, commerce and crime. Perhaps their thoughts wander to the image of heathens of yesteryear, as the Vikings became christianized only after their misdaventures began.

Besides the aforementioned Oseberg ship, the mighty Gokstad ship (in its well-preserved state measuring  23.8 meters long and 5.1 meters wide) stands to be viewed. The Gokstad ship was found at the site of the “Kings mound” (Konungrhaugr in old Norse)  or Gokstad mound in Sandefjord Norway. The skeleton of a man in his 40s or 50s was found buried along with this largest of ships found in Norway. The skeleton is thought to have belonged to a powerful king or chieftain. The ship and mound date back to the 9th century.

Similarly, the Oseberg ship date back to the 9th century and is believed to have also been involved in some sea voyages.  The length of the ship was measured to be 21.58 meters and was 5 meters wide. In contrast, the Oseberg ship was ornately decorated with intricate knotwork, as compared to the more simple and utilitarian build of the Gokstad ship. The skeletons of two women were unearthed. The exhibit text refers to one of the women having been a queen.

Upon closer look and some mental “reading in between the lines”, you might come to notice some curious points not clearly discussed in the exhibit’s accompanying text.

While the Gokstad ship is somewhat larger than the Oseberg ship ( a good meter plus) the Oseberg ship features carvings decidedly more ornate. The amount of time and care that such demands is not insignificant. The Oseberg “queen” was likely not just a queen, but a priestess whose status was based on the role she would have played for her people.

Items such as a ritual rattle (seen below) , a meditating figure seated (reminiscent to a Buddha figure) and other unusual things besides jewelry and vauables indicating status were also uncovered.IMG_1932

 

Such a rattle would have been wielded and used to create rhythmic sound, perhaps similar to that of beating a shaman drum (several of which were found in Finland and also Norway, belonging to the Sami peoples )

The only individuals accorded higher status than a king would be those holding spiritual power within a society.  In indigeneous societies even today, the shaman is charged with traversing the other world, navigating the world of the spirit, gleaning information or helping the dying cross over, or to bring back the sick or wounded. Similar in function in Norse mythology/legend were the Valkyries, women who helped the dead find their final resting place. This coincides with the thought that the Volva, or seeress/shaman-like figure was a woman who could divine using runes and other instruments and go into trance-like states to obtain useful information for her tribe.

The Oseberg ship served as the priestess’ burial vessel and contained many items that would serve her in the afterlife. Perhaps symbolic, or recepticles containing energetic residue that would resonate with her while she and her companion (a family member or perhaps a helper) found their way to the afterlife.

It is still a shame that museum authorities do not see the evidence for the Oseberg “queen” being compelling enough to refer to her as a priestess. Enough artifacts are present to deduce this however as private persons visiting the site. The curious can take their travels to the site where the ship was found and observe whether it “speaks” to them, if they are intuitively inclined or sensitive to energy.

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What is Shamanism? Shamanism in the north?

21 Feb

Core to understanding shamanism is the acknowledgement that the universe is alive, aware, and interconnected. Usually, one thinks of rhythmic drumming, perhaps around a fire, which leads to an altered state of consciousness which in turn leads to the acquiring of knowledge which is used for either healing sickness or states of unwellness or for obtaining knowledge for expanding the consciousness or growing as a spiritual being.

 

Also common to thoughts of shamanism, is the theme of native american shamanism. Here we especially see the image of people dancing around a fire, chanting and drumming to move their consciousness to higher, unseen realms. Today, in Peru, people practicing shamanic journeys use the spirit plant blend ayahuasca to reach realms of consciousness and subtle energy.

 

The active ingredient of this plant blend, taken as a tea, is DMT.This tea is made with Banisteriopsis caapi. Typically with an accompanying plant ingredient such as Psychotria viridis, Psychotria carthaginensis,or Diplopterys cabrerana. In fact, many people from the west are attracted to these spirit journeys using this bad tasting but powerful plant concoction and describe the experience as either enlightening, beautiful, terrifying, intense… a wide array of emotions. Many people report addictions and depression being conquered as a result of their intense inner journey initiated by the substances. The important aspect of the scenario which leads to such great liberation is not merely the substance, but the atmosphere and shamanic guidance. Shamanism seems to be associated only with the tribal cultures today, but we forget that Europeans, before becoming so addicted and illusioned by materialism also had a tribal culture connected with the earth, which also recognized the universe as living, interconnected and aware.

 

Before superficiality took hold of the west, we know from the myths that Oden the nordic god undertook a shamanic journey in order to divine wisdom that was to become the runes. While scholars argue about the origins, the myths tell off shamanic wisdom obtained through an ordeal. Oden hung for nine nights from a tree, upside down, with no food or drink. What we can take from this, even as skeptics, is that shamanic practices were common in Europe and that our ancestors knew that unusual circumstances and frames of mind were conducive to obtaining new insight and knowledge.

 

Cave drawings and strange sites of worship have appeared throughout Europe upon inspection and archaeological excavation. Herbal healing was practiced effectively throughout Europe since ancient times, and continues today (however suppressed by the profit and power driven large pharmaceutical industry of the west) . Manly P. Hall in his book Secret Teaching of all Ages, describes how shamans knew to isolate particular plants for particular individual’s ailments. They placed themselves in a trance-like state and then went walking where the plants grew. When they saw a particular plant glowing, the shaman knew this plant was the one to use for the ailing individual, and indeed, this worked time and time again. With such precise practices toward finding appropriate healing tools, one would not need to resort to the haphazard methods of testing, of trial and error. We can then see that our ancestors possessed mental faculties of a nature that allowed them to identify clearly plants for healing without fatal error.

 

Although western civilization in modern times has become a monster of consumption, competition hungry for money and power, we can see from our roots as nature bound people who recognized that all life is interconnected with the rest of the universe possessing intelligence and awareness, from the human to the blade of grass, that we also have a spiritual legacy extending far deeper than mere tales of vikings and gods, or of worship to dogma in a house built by human hands. We can see reflected in the universe itself the core of the human spirit, if we decide to look deep enough. The key to our own tribal past and to shaping a future beyond materialistic back-stabbing and temporary notions of achievement and wealth can perhaps be learnt by looking into the shamanic practices which are active today. The shaman recognizes that life starts at the level of energy, and that all of material existence is built upon that energy which exists in all of us. There is a higher power we are connected to, that is within, and without.