Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year

It comes like a whisper, so silent an entity in of itself. We are the ones that mark it with our fire and noise, alcohol and drunken sex.

This is fitting.

After all, we are the ones that decided that the end of the old year would be on December 31st as opposed to any other day in the year. We humans, yes, we did this.

And we've done this for years.

Every year about two hours before the end of the year, I feel that strange shifting of the old dying and the new coming and no matter how bad a year it's been, I always think that it's happening too fast and wish I could tread water a little until I can get my head around the fact that yet another year will have passed. On the threshold between the years and for maybe about a minute either way, I get emotional as I feel this quiet whisper of a shift that makes the world feel special and new again. We've made such a big thing of new year celebrations for years now that I'm almost surprised that it's not louder, stronger, clearer...more tangible. But no, the entity known as 'New Year' doesn't need to be loud.

Back home, we would cross our arms and join hands in a circle to sing 'Auld Lang Syne'. This would be done with family and friends. This is our way in participating in the change, warding in the new year and trying to bring in luck by singing a song of frith. At the conclusion, we all move in to the centre of the circle while our hands are still joined before breaking the circle to go round hugging each other and wishing each other happy new year. This always makes me tear up.

Not long after that is when friends from other homes will knock on the door with a bottle of alcohol and they are invited in and we share before taking some of our alcohol and going to theirs and other people's houses. We wish each other luck and renew the bonds of frith with each other. The street comes to life as we mill around outside and in and out of each others houses. Friends of mine more recently started fire dancing on the green space across road from my parents' house. We'd also set off fireworks in our too-small gardens and not caring about the safety advice about things like 'safe distance'. The whole night would be a cacophony of bangs and sparkles and life.

This year this didn't happen. This year I was a spectator, watching with my cup of Glühwein clutched in one hand and my other arm around my husband, watching other people's fireworks. I'm glad to have my husband home this year. So very very glad. Last new year's eve, I dreamed about seeing in the New Year with my husband, of him being home from Iraq safe and sound and now I have that I dream of seeing in many many more with him but I also dream of doing that while still observing the old traditions that I grew up with.

Since moving to this army base in Germany, I've noticed that around the Americans, I don't seem to have as much space and time for the traditions I grew up with, their traditions take precedence and mine just seem as though they'd be considered 'quaint' or just plain weird by them. In Denmark, I went to a friend's house that was full of traditions observed and I realised that I've missed that. I've missed having traditions in my life because I have traditions too, I come from a place full of them and I need to stop letting them slide. I need to keep them alive as a link to my land and my family.

So that is my first resolution for the coming year, I'm going to try and observe traditions that I was too lazy or too shy to observe last year.

My second resolution is that I'm going to try and improve myself in all things.
I stand on the 'string' in that place that is so simple it almost defies understanding. There is a splendid nothingness here and that in itself is so complex for modern minds that are used to space and time being filled with a myriad of various distractions. I don't know that it is the ginnungagap but it does fit the description of a yawning nothingness. Well, except for the 'strings'

The 'string' I'm standing on isn't the only 'string' here either and I just *know* that I'm looking at different times and different realities running parallel. To travel in time is as simple as finding the right 'string' and picking it up. 'Stepping' into it. Somehow it is hard for us to think about time as being like this and I'm reminded of L.P Hartley's famous quote that 'The past is a different country:they do things differently there'. We have no problem thinking about millions of people in different countries all living their lives parallel and unseen by us, maybe we should think that way about time too.

It's time to decide where to go and I think about the much debated scene in Eiriks saga rauða in which the people of the farmstead invite the Seiðkona to come and tell them their fortunes. I walk along the 'strings', careful not to step on one that I do not want. When I find the one I want, a time before the arrival of the 'white christ' in the North, I pick it up and then 'see' myself somehow stepping into it.

The hall is long and glowing with light from fire, I'm jostled and look at the people around me. They are all gathered to see the Seiðkona and all are washed clean and dressed as tidily as they can manage. They do not wish to offend. They are expectant - both excited and afraid at what they might find out. They are afraid of the Seiðkona too and talk about her in hushed voices. She is but a woman but she has skills that can either harm or heal. This time, it's her words that they fear.

I try to see over the man in front of me, try to look at where I think the 'high' seat is but it's not as high as I thought it would have been. The door creaks and a hush falls over the people. The atmosphere becomes charged. She's small and carries herself with both tired resignation and pride to equal that of a king. Our crowd parts to allow her through. She walks as though she does not see us, as if she's unaware of all the eyes that stare at her or how much of an outsider she is.

From elsewhere in the room a rattling noise is made, accompanying the Seiðkona on her walk to the seat, the atmosphere becomes familiar. I've felt this before and look around, trying to see what is there, waiting - I only see the energy in the air beginning to buzz. Like the preliminary stages of a ghost manifestation.

The Seiðkona arrives at the seat and women that have offered to serve as her singers do something I cannot see because of the man in front of me. I'm being jostled and only see her again when she climbs into the seat because the man in front suddenly cares that I cannot see. Either that or he had tired of his previous position. The women stand around the Seiðkona in her seat and face her as they sing. It's a simple song and people in the audience join in. The women at the front begin to go into something of a trance state, stamping their feet and moving as their song grows in power. The energy shifts in the room again and the Seiðkona, her head bowed and eyes closed in concentration also sings but her song is different somehow.

Then finally there is a 'shift' and everyone falls silent now. Lifting her head, the Seiðkona looks to the audience with eyes that no longer see only one reality, glassy.

'We are ready now'

At first no one steps forward, no one asks but then what starts like a trickle almost turns into a flood until the Seiðkona can answer no more.

I leave that 'string' step back out into the nothingness and decide where I'd like to go next but it's late and I need to sleep at some point during the night and so I reach out for my body. When I feel it, I'm yet again shocked at how 'dead' my body becomes when I go into trance. I shouldn't be shocked any more, it's always been like this for me. It's just a little disconcerting to not feel your limbs and have a body that's barely breathing. Slowly I resurrect myself before sending myself off to the slightly different state of sleep.

The next day I take out my penny whistle and play the song I heard the Völva's helpers sing. My words are different because my language is different but the tune is the same. I draw a stave and I write it down, mentally remarking on the numerical values of the notes. Three. It all comes down to the number three and this makes sense to me.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Fire and Britannia

Once upon a time over 29 years ago, I was born on an island of myths and legends between the North and Irish seas. When the Romans came to settle Britain, they hated it. It was wet and cold and according to some of their legends, it was where their dead went. It was a haunted island full of tribespeople that painted their faces and bodies and lived among the mists and the shadows. Those tribespeople had their myths and Gods, as did the Romans

The groups of peoples that have come to be known as the Anglo Saxons saw a fertile land that was conveniently undefended and inviting them in. They brought their myths and Gods too.

Then came the desert god, the crucified one that so many look to today and left his imprint on the land. But somehow that imprint is less indellible than the others.

And then the Vikings came and settled the Northern part of England and brought their Gods and their myths.

Over the years, different spiritual heritages have come to the land and added another layer to the 'spiritual onion' as I call it.

At some point in all of this, fire, dance and ecstasy became a part of it. So much so that it's the bit that everyone has gone for again in the revival of Paganism.

Before I moved to Korea and Germany, I would go to the fires at Beltane, I would go to the fires at Lammas and enjoy the fires of Bonfire night (not ancient but I think the method of celebration is). No gathering is complete without a fire, or music or beer or dance or people enjoying themselves together and getting increasingly more and more ecstatic as the night goes on. I miss the feeling in the air and the passion of it all. I miss hearing the drumbeat that beats in my blood regardless of where I am.


The beach is long and I look out at the sea
The water of this beautiful fjord
Answers in blue back at me
I stand at the edge
On sea-rounded stones
And imagine I could, with just enough magic,
Walk across the salty foam

The sky grows dark and I walk a little more
Leaving my cares along the shore
Where the gentle fjord will wash all clean
Leaving me spare minutes to just sit and be me

I wonder about the tide,
If it's like the sea back home
Where within 20minutes lives are lost
And the beach is gone
Where stormy clouds rise over an inclement sea
And heading to warmth and safety we flee

Mors means 'Mothers' and I feel nurtured here
I wonder if this place will make me a mother too
I think of my man, my family and friends
I think of hospitality and warm meals
I think of the vaettir,
And wish I had more time to know them and their ways
I feel them at the edges - curious
But I don't have enough time in this place

The sun is now down and I head up the hill
I look for the road I was on before
I think about the day that is yet to come
And my wedding on this beautiful isle called Mors

Monday, December 21, 2009


In a cave far away
Up a mountain in an unknown place
Where dark trees gather in a shroud
Sits a lady upon the ground.

Her eyes are closed
As if she sleeps
And sometimes she smiles
But mostly she weeps

She's older than us all
Her years etched upon her face
Her skin is like leather
But still with beauty and grace

She's dreaming of us, her children
and how we live now
Each dream a live news report
To a mother disappointed and proud

She fears for the unborn
That sleeps within her womb
Who only waits to be born
Into a race bent on doom

Even in the winter of the world
And the winter of her life
She still gives and dreams
And watches her children die

Sitting in the past of the human race
She dreams her dreams and watches our ways
Sometimes blessing and sometimes cursing
The dreadful/wonderful day she pushed one of us out

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Standing At The Crossroads

Throughout human history, certain places in the physical landscape have been considered to be meeting points between this world and the other. Usually these places involve water, such as bogs, marshlands and wells but there is almost always something final about these kinds of places, they are almost always synonymous with death.

Not so the crossroads.

Crossroads are liminal places, meeting points between life and death, the mundane and the supernatural. But they are also places of potential, of decisions and new directions. At the crossroads everything can change.

And that is how I'm feeling right now, as though I'm standing at a giant crossroads in life. Maybe it's the yuletide season that's making me feel this way but I'm feeling very much that things are changing, that a new phase is starting and that decisions have to be made or I'll miss out. So there's a lot to think about, a lot to take stock of, to change and a lot of bitterness to lose. Because I do that a lot, I store bitterness up inside and trap myself in modes of behaviour that do nothing for me and just haunt my future until a time when I can find the peace, honesty and courage to let them go. I'm feeling such a time coming up right now.

So I'm going to use this yuletide to take stock of my life and decide which road on the crossroads I should take and to lay down the magic in the earth of my life so that it can manifest later on. The method I'm going to use would be labelled as being 'fluffy' and I would concur but it's not about getting 'cool points'. It just so happens that having a set list of questions to consider and meditate on is a damn good framework for this kind of thing. I want a direction, I don't want to be that woman whose dreams are dead anymore because people can sense that about a person I think. I notice it in the way people deal with my husband as opposed to myself and it's beginning to feel like my identity is being eclipsed by his. I'm becoming the forgotten one instead of the co-partner in my husband's life. Not by him, no, my husband would never do that, he's not that kind of person. It's other people you see and ours is a religion of community. I've whined enough about this situation, it's time to make changes.

A large part of doing this kind of thing is looking at where you've been, your history, the history of your family, in effect, your saga! We have to hear the voices of our ancestors in order to correctly plan our futures. That is what I'm going to focus on today - hearing those voices and revisiting that past. I need to reconnect with things that I've lost, reintegrate them into myself and then move forward.