Thursday, February 25, 2010

Seidr and Soul

Imagine you're standing on the surface of the moon, looking across at the earth, all seas, continents and clouds. Imagine that you'd arrived from a distant world and your impressions of this world were based on the Voyager golden records from 1977 that you'd found floating aimlessly beyond the reaches of the solar system. Those impressions, while purporting to depict life on earth, are the product of one culture. Kind of like their version of life on earth as seen through their unique cultural lens.

You decide to look closer and start with the continent that's the most featured in the records - America. There is differentiation and some confusion because of that. Then you decide to look to the other cultures of the earth and find more differentiation - not everything is as uniform as it initially seemed. Some places are more interesting to you and so you decide to look closer and get subculture upon subculture upon subculture. You think of the records you found in that poor, rickety,aimless satellite and in some ways you feel sad that that's all others will see. In other ways though, you feel deceived.

That's how I feel about the Heathen community and especially Seidr. You have all your well-known folk, the people that make names for each other and write all the books - the Voyager golden records - if you will. Some of these are better than others. People flock to these, they flock to the Hrafnar method as if it's the only way of doing things and these people and the people they endorse are the only people that are capable of doing it.

But if only they would look further, they would find something much more interesting.

It's not a secret how I feel about the Hrafnar method. It goes something along these lines - cool if it works for you but please just own up and admit that it's basically Michael Harner 'core Shamanism' techniques with Northern European trappings overlaid rather uncomfortably on top.

This is the loud, this is the Voyager golden record of Seidr.

Out there, there are many Seidrfolk. Some have vaguely similar methods, others have vastly different methods. Like tiny lights in the darkness as seen from an aeroplane window at night. On different continents, with different cultures, backgrounds and speaking different languages.

My Seidr cannot be like the Seidr practised by an American or a Dane or a Norwegian simply because we are not the same. We do not come from the same land, the same blood, the same background or the same culture. It makes me sad that there's almost this kind of 'standardised' Seidr out there. What then of the real training of Seidr? That of walking the land, of dealing with the dead and the wights, of honouring tradition, of feeling things 'shift' and seeing where that shift will take you, of ecstasy and fear and sacrifice and joy? What then? Is it all to be swallowed up by the High seat? I'd take the mysteries of the burial mound anyday!

That brings me onto the soul. Another part of this 'Voyager golden record version' of Seidr is this idea of a 'soul complex', of a soul made up of many different parts when there is nothing to suggest that that idea is any older than the 70s. This wouldn't be a problem were it not for people acting as though it was some kind of divinely revealed truth and 'how dare you question it?'

Now I don't claim to know what the soul is or have a special handle on the truth. I was very convinced by non-dualism for a while but that doesn't fit with all the experiences I've had in the past - if anything it restricted me. If there is one 'truth' that Seidrworkers must accept, it's that the world is created by mind or what would be the point of doing any magic in the first place?

Belief is so important, belief opens doors but society makes us afraid to walk through them. We're constantly fed the importance of being 'normal' and having a grip on 'reality'. But you know what? While I'm the first person to laugh at someone saying that they saw the goddess Hela hanging out during the Black Death in a former life, I also keep in mind all the things that people believed to be true, were considered insane but were proven to exist by science years later. I guess it's a fine line - isn't everything?

I've mentioned it before but there is an interesting link between sanity and Woden/Odin, the God that constantly searches for Truth. We know the word 'Wodnesdaeg' in modern English as 'Wednesday'. Originally it was 'Woden's Day'. A word for insanity in Old English was 'Wodnes'. I found that interesting. It reminds me of something a Greek woman once told me about crazy people being those that were shown the door to the Truth ™ and were too afraid to step through. Instead of being made whole, they were driven crazy by what they knew and saw. They lost the 'middle-wise' ability to live a happy life.

But anyway - back to the soul and how I don't really know how to consider it anymore. No theory I've come across fits for me. I can't bring myself to believe in reincarnation, or soul parts and I absolutely don't believe that a person can be possessed unless they are complicit in that possession. I suppose it's just something that I can't name that goes along with my hamr (astral skin) and physical body as part of the package that is 'me'.

Thankfully for the extraterrestrial visitor, there will be commonalities to find across the board and in Seidr that commonality is trance. The ability to go into various types of trances.

For me, music has always been an important part of that and chanting combined with an Anglo Saxon narrative style charm usually sends me off. Music is magical. When I was studying psychology at college, we learned that brain scans had revealed that more parts of the brain were engaged while listening to music than during any other activity...period. Music can anger, bring peace or joy, can depress or lift a soul (whatever that is ) to the highest heights. Music takes us to memories, feelings and deities. Hell, according to string theory the universe itself is like some kind of gigantic orchestra of strings all oscillating at different frequencies.

If then that is the case, does it not make complete sense that so many forms of magic are linked to music in some form? Follow the theory through at its most basic level and you come to the startling idea that if you somehow can change the oscillation frequency of the particles then you can change the object itself.

Pure magic.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Embracing the Wódnes, Soul-ful Musings, Folkways and Fighting the Lyme

Sickness is never an easy thing to accept, especially when it looks like it won't be a quick fix and might leave you with lasting issues that could ultimately make you a burden on your friends and loved ones. Goodness knows I don't want that, I've always been so independent, the wild woman that would have probably never settled down had it not been for meeting a man that I feel such a connection with, that life without him is now not only unthinkable but unimaginable.

A couple of weeks ago, I was officially diagnosed with Lyme disease and it looks like I've had it for a while. By my calculations, my lovely man first noticed the mark on the 27th of September. I really wouldn't normally remember were it not in the same week as a particularly traumatic medical appointment. It was at my friend's house when we were getting dressed one morning that he noticed it and at the time, I just thought it was a bruise - after all, I had walked into a dresser the previous day in a furniture showroom, hadn't I? But over time, it began to spread and spread and then my breathing became difficult and I spent a lot of time with my right hip in pain. Then my right elbow, then my right shoulder and right knee. I finished my first course of treatment last week but need to go back for more but I'm not going to just be one of those folks that lets the disease take everything away from them. I've started a program of 'FUCK THE LYME'. The plan is simple, do stuff. Exercise, go to the gym, do yoga, just get off the sofa and get one over on the disease that would keep you there! I will make roses from this shit, just watch me!

As for the more mental/spiritual aspect of Lyme that I was worrying about, I'm going to embrace it. I don't know that the things I see and hear aren't hallucinations caused by possible late stage disease but who cares if they are! If it becomes distressing then I might reconsider my position but if it doesn't then what is the harm?

Incidentally enough, there is a word in Old English - 'Wodnes' and it means 'madness' or 'frenzy', it's also the possessive form of the name 'Woden'. For example, take the original version of the word 'Wednesday', it was 'Wodnesdaeg', literally 'Woden's day'. Woden is a god of truth, or at least searching for the truth and in many cultures the link between a form of madness and then enlightenment is unquestionable. Who knows, through embracing any Lymey Wodnes, maybe I'll learn something of use? Or maybe I'll just go crazy but at least it'll be interesting.

So in light of this, I'd like to share my potential Lymey brain wank from last night with you. Part of my FTL program is meditation and sometimes chanting motivational affirmations with Buddhist prayer beads to try and brainwash myself into doing everything I want to do. Last night I ended up talking to my dead Grandmother again. I haven't done this for a couple of years and it was great, very interesting. I've had a non-dualist standpoint for a while now but now I'm not so sure. I think there's a degree of choice involved in where we go when we die. If we want to be non-dualist, we will be. If we want to go somewhere else or think we have to spend eternity in some big, burning pit then that's also what will happen. It's not reconstructionist but it's what I'm coming to believe.

Which brings me to the matter of belief and folkways.

There's been talk of the existence of some kind of 'over-arching Northern European folkway', you may be wondering what this is - I know I was. Basically, it's the idea that "our Northern European ancestors shared a common over-arching world view, common language root, common gods, a common focus on ancestors and land spirits, and other commonalities" and that that is our link or something to the ancestors. We should follow those older ways to honour the ancestors.

This concept is problematic for me in a few ways. First is my definition of who I consider to be 'my' folk. For me, my folk are people in my community that have proven themselves to be valuable and trustworthy members of our community and nothing to do with their ethnic origins. Actions and deeds, not amount of melanin. Also just a quick note on the word 'folk'. I come from a place where it's used in common, everyday parlance with no racist overtones. It just means people - any people. People in a different country might be called 't'folk frum o'er thee'r' (the people from over there, meaning the sea).

Secondly, the biggest issue I have with the 'folkway' thing, is that this whole idea of an overarching folkway for a group of peoples as diverse as those of Northern Europe confuses the hell out of me. If there is just one big over-arching folkway with the Gods, ancestors and vaettir then what would it be? We're all kind of mixed in Northern Europe and you have all these different layers of different folk that intermarried and shared ideas with each other. For starters in England, there would be the Celtic gods and then the Romano-British gods, then the Roman gods and genus loci that are still knocking around, then there are the sets of gods that came with the various tribes collectively known as Anglo-Saxons and then there are the gods that came with the Vikings (but only really predominantly in the Northern areas). Now we're still discovering gods and goddesses from the Celtic and Romano-British period - we really have no idea how many there were but I once read a study that said that in Europe, evidence of more than 400 Celtic deities had been found to date. Just from the gods and beings that I know from my local area and upbringing (because it really is surprising how much has survived and just been absorbed into the church and local lore and customs) what I would consider to be my folkway would probably be very different to what others would consider theirs to be. My husband, an American Heathen and I see this all the time. I have different traditions that I follow and have followed for years that people from my area have followed before me. That to me is my folkway. That is the heritage of my folk passed down to me and kept alive by following all the different traditions. Sometimes I have to adapt those traditions because they're linked to a place in my local area but they are still kept.

So do I believe in an 'over-arching Northern European folkway'? No, I haven't a clue what that would be in any kind of real terms. However I do think that there is a folkway, a kind of 'universal language' of folkways that is the product of a few Northern European folkways that tends to be used by US Heathens. Kind of like how a bastardised form of wicca became the kind of universal format for a lot of Pagans and 'ecumenical' Pagan gatherings. Not saying this newer folkway is wrong or lesser, just that I think it's a product of, rather than an expression of some common thing.

Ok, I'm going to stop there. When I start using the word 'thing' when I *know* there's a perfectly good word for that concept and that normally I would know it, that is a signal to go to bed.