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.


SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

"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?"

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Let us never lose the local, and, let us not lose the concrete texture of the land and its history to the imagination abstracted from engaged experience and exploration and now Easily Attained (TM) in the privacy of your own nature-shielded apartment, where you need have no actual relationship to any concrete wight!

When one actually bothers to spirit-walk the land, one realizes how difficult it is to say anything about the profundity one absorbs, and how long it takes to filter and sift all the information contained in one's feelings, which are a response to the landscape. The land speaks a language which is far more articulated with nuance than our polemics, so focused on contradiction, can encompass. Many things may be said about the land which on the face of their proposition seem contradiction, and yet are simultaneously true. If anything, experience should teach us to be humble. This place, this particular place, has particular things to say, and may ask for particular ways of dancing.

Your statement brings back in the mystery and the risk involved. We must put our own comfort and sometimes sanity on the line (much as we elsewhere must strongly tend to our health and wholeness) in order to engage the otherness. Rimbaud spoke of deranging oneself to gain visions. This is not far from the truth. Yes, we must be sensitive to shifts, and how those shifts may affect us if we follow them.

Our vocabulary is just beginning ...

Birka said...

Thank you for your comment SiegfriedGoodfellow! I think you made a lot of excellent points about some of the malaise that is affecting the Seidrworker and even the Heathen community at large. Everything has to come so easily and quickly these days or people just don't want it. I also really despise this 'one size fits all' philosophy that seems to be knocking about. That there's this 'overarching Northern European folkway'. There isn't, there can't be! Land and the wights that live on it are different wherever you go. I've spent the past 10 or so years living in different countries and really, there are no 'rules' except the ones you discover when you get there and start discovering the land. To do that, you have to walk on it. But even something as simple as walking is too hard for some. I used to run hikes for local Pagan and Heathen groups to local bronze age and stone age sites back in Britain. These places were just a couple of hours hike from the town and in the middle of the most incredible moorland you could imagine. Every morning before the hike, I'd get phonecalls of people calling off because it wasn't somewhere they could drive most of the way to and then just walk five minutes. There would be hard terrain involved and possibly wind and rain.

And you're right about the profundity that can come from walking the land and how difficult it is to express. There are no words for some of the things I've experienced out in those places. I try to give words to them but my attempts are fumbled.

"Our vocabulary is just beginning"

Never a truer word said SiegfriedGoodfellow.