Sunday, December 22, 2013

Stingy Recons

If you read my previous post, you'll know that I have quite a lot to say about the state of Seidr/Shamanism groups online, especially with regards to the mental and physical health of some of the participants/leaders. To some degree, I did cover some of the gripes that some of the less informed have regarding those of us that study, but thinking on it, I did forget one main gripe that has amused me for the past week.

This gripe is twofold and it goes something like this, 'if you read, you don't/can't practice', and then 'reconstructionists are stingy with their sources'.

Now here is my question, why the fuck should we just dole out information that we spend huge chunks of our personal time digging up, to people that obviously see us as being somehow less 'spiritual' than themselves? Why would anyone in their right mind give in to such a blatant sense of self-entitlement? I bet to their minds, we're also 'put there' on this earth to serve as guides to their 'spiritual development' or some other such bullshit like that!

Well newsflash, we're not a public service.

Moreover, even if you do give information, depending on how well it fits with their UPG, you may find yourself getting all manner of crap for daring to come out with it, or being told that that is obviously wrong, and that 'we couldn't know that anyway' ( know...UPG).

So with this in mind, I put forth that by 'being stingy' with the information (but only the stuff they want to hear because it supports their fantasies), we are actually protecting them from losing their spiritual edge (because we know that if you read, you can't possibly do anything of a spiritual nature).

For those that want to sully themselves in this way, I propose adherence to a similar model as drug dealers do, i.e, you have what they want but it's 'bad' for them, and they pay you to get it.

Now, I'm off to go find a crowbar to prise that tongue from where it is firmly wedged in my cheek.

For those of you that celebrate Yule, I hope you have a lovely time, because I won't be, I'll be just reading, because that's apparently all people like myself ever do. Trollololololol.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Shaman Sickness, Scholarship, Discernment, and the 'Oh noes, someone I don't know on the internet said I'm not teh realz Seidrworkerz'

I don't often post about more esoteric items on this blog. For the most part, I'm very private when it comes to this stuff and far more comfortable talking about more 'tangible' subjects, at least with strangers, and especially on the internet.

However more recently, I've found myself participating in groups focused on Seidr and Shamanism (even though I don't practice Shamanism in any sense - traditional or Harner-style, of the word). I dunno, I just guess I miss not having people around that I could talk to about this stuff, and bounce ideas off (once an appropriate level of comfort has been reached, of course!). What I've found for the most part, however, has been a complete trainwreck. Seriously, it's no surprise that mainstream Heathen communities generally consider those involved in the more esoteric side of things to be absolutely batshit crazy. This blog post, controversial as it is, is going to look at what I consider some of the most damaging and ridiculous aspects of this type of group.

N.B: While I generally disagree with the use of the word 'shaman/ism' outside of an Evenk context, for ease of reference in this post, I will however use the term.

Shaman Sickness and the Wounded Healer Archetype

Shaman sickness is one thing that I've seen talked about a lot in these groups. I would even hazard a guess that the percentage of sick (either physically or mentally) people in these groups is far higher than in more mainstream groups. However, if this is the case, why could this be? Moreover, in many cases that I've seen, why is it that the same kind of resolution recorded in traditional societies that have forms of 'shamanism', don't also seem to occur in these people? Why is it, that in spite of their alleged 'shamanic' status, these sick stay sick?

Traditional accounts of 'Shaman sickness' tend to speak of it as being a way for the spirits not only to get the attention of the would-be Shaman, but an elder shaman who would then train the shaman. To quote the Circle of Tengerism website (

"The near-death experience of the shaman’s sickness is very traumatic. The would-be shaman suffers both mentally and physically. This is how the spirits get the attention of not only the afflicted, but of the local shaman. When the elder shaman is called to help, they would recognize the shaman’s sickness and take the afflicted as a student.

This does not mean that everyone who has a near-death experience is a shaman. It means that some people who have one have the potential to become a shaman. Those with the potential are called butur. Butur means “cocoon” in Mongolian. To grow into a shaman, they must accept the calling and be recognized and trained by an elder shaman."

Similar can be said of the Korean Mudang (shaman), and the shinbyeong (spirit sickness) that they exhibit, with the cure being the naerim-gut (initiation).

In other words, they don't stay sick, the sickness is temporary, as opposed to chronic, serving only as a vehicle for bringing a person to Shamanic practice.

However, in this new age sewage world, rather than being this vehicle to bring someone to the spirits, people seem to delight in the 'Wounded Healer' archetype, completely misunderstanding the original intent behind Jung's archetype. The person doesn't remain sick, the person is not constantly wounded in the sense of continual sickness or being physically affected, instead, to quote Jung's colleague, Kerenyi, the Wounded Healer refers psychologically to the ability “to be at home in the darkness of suffering and there to find germs of light and recovery with which, as though by enchantment, to bring forth Asclepius, the sunlike healer.” In other words, those that have not already suffered, cannot heal as they cannot understand suffering. It doesn't mean that the person still suffers personally (except perhaps through memories and striving to help others). It is not some kind of beacon for sick people to gather round.

Moreover, physical feats have been recorded of Shamans in various cultures, especially during trance. There is also an inherent danger recognised in traditional forms of shamanism, be that the exposure to danger of attack from other shamans or spirits, or death from some of the entheogens used. This suggests to me that the Shaman in these societies needs to be physically, as well as spiritually healthy and strong. Aside from issues of race and culture, I would posit that many apparent Western shamans wouldn't be considered as colleagues by shamans from traditional groups, simply on the basis of physical and mental health.

In my view, this also is bourn out from a Heathen perspective in that a person who is unhael physically cannot be hael spiritually. It's haelu across the board - but I'll get into more detail on that in the section on discernment.


Another trend I've seen in these groups has been a disdain for any kind of scholarship with regards to Seidr or shamanism. Obviously, one cannot practice Seidr and Scholarship, they're apparently not inclusive of each other...

Oh yeah, says who?

I see the charge that we can't possibly know what the Seidrworkers of old ever did, that we have no information about Seidr, and that no one ever asked a Seidrworker. This is one of best cop outs EVAR.

Because as we all know, NO ONE has ever relearned an ancient skill based on the descriptions or paintings produced by non-practitioners. The Danish archer Lars Anderson of course never learned how to fire arrows at a speed that modern master archers previously thought impossible, through looking at old sources and experimenting:

Go Legolas, go!

No, it's far better to go off UPG and the work of some white guy that basically ripped off a load of different shamanisms based in different cultures, and then plugged them into a framework provided by early 20th century scholarship by people like that Romanian fascist Eliade.

And of course, in order to sell more courses and books, you need to make it as inclusive as possible, right? Can't tell entitled rich Westerners that they can't be part of something that looks cool because of reasons like culture, and such like.

Once again, to turn to the Circle of Tengerism site (something which was founded to try and educate and preserve the native traditions of Mongolian Shamanism):

"One should also note that shamanism cannot be separated from the culture that it serves. It is interwoven into every aspect of the life and world view of the people. To take it out of its cultural context robs it of its power and meaning."

And perhaps more ironically:

"If anyone claims they can make you a shaman in one weekend for a fee, you should think twice. If you were to walk into a martial arts equipment store and buy a black belt, this would not make you a black belt. There are no quick fixes. Beware of spiritual consumerism."

I would argue that recovering the practice of Seidr needs to be a threefold process that involves experimentation, UPG, and as well.


Another curse of these boards seems to be the lack of discernment. Indeed, I would consider discernment to be a key skill for those involved in any occult activity - a skill that's as important as protection. And yet, it doesn't really seem to get much talk time.

There are so many angles to this topic too, it's really huge, and covers everything from discernment in more esoteric work (e.g questions like 'What does this entity project itself as vs what is it really?', or 'what is really going on here, is another practitioner pulling the wool over my eyes in order to make a claim?'), to discernment in the people you work with (e.g their motivations, their actual abilities, their knowledge basis, and their intentions).

In other words, discernment is one of the most basic and important skills we can learn to protect ourselves - yet we often overlook it for things like a sense of belonging in a group.

Scholarship can also be very useful when it comes to discernment in a more esoteric sense. For example, your UPG says that the Morrigan is a kindly old grandmother that rides on a unicorn, but all the lore on the Morrigan says she's a battle goddess. Chances are, in cases like this, you're deluding yourself. You're not discerning between your own personal fantasies and genuine spiritual experience. This doesn't mean you're a terrible person, just your monkey brain got away on you and you need to work harder on more basic skills designed to harness the monkey brain.

You know, as opposed to having a temper tantrum that nothing is how you want it to be, and then blaming the 'inaccuracies' on 'those damn Christians'...again.

Other types of esoteric discernment are harder, and not really something that can be rendered in text. This is really where having a teacher of some kind would come in handy, and this leads us to perhaps the most important type of discernment of all - the discernment of people.

People involved in esoteric practices are often possessed of complex motivations, some of them are good, some not so good. For example, the 'teacher' of a friend basically used 'teaching Paganism' as an excuse for having sex at lots of different burial sites. These stories of people being taken advantage of are ten a-penny too. When it comes to people that you may end up working with on as intimate a level as esoteric work often demands, the need for discernment grows one hundred-fold. So, how can you tell the real 'teachers' from the fakes?

Here are my main questions when it comes to discerning people that would be good teachers:

* How are their lives? Messy? Productive? Is there growth in their lives or only decay? Are they healthy and robust, or are they constantly sick? Are they always having to 'fight spirits' or claiming to have been cursed over the most minor slights (real or imagined)? Generally speaking, good teachers have their lives in order, they're hael. Never follow an unhael teacher under the misguided belief that they are some kind of wounded healer, as we've already said, the wound doesn't continue, it's more of a reference point for helping to heal and build.

*How do they deal with disagreement? Do they cast the person they disagreed with out, or do they take the disagreement and respectfully continue to disagree? The reaction a person has to disagreements gives you a good clue to the egos involved, and whether or not they need validation from others to feel good. This need for validation and to be considered a great _____insert title here_____, may also point to a narcissistic personality. Pro-tip: These are to be avoided at all costs, because they often turn out to be worst abusers.

* How often do they employ 'Checksums' in their work? Be those Checksums from historical sources, or in terms of follow up/questioning of witnesses to different events. This can also go for a tendency to blame all things on spiritual causes and a lack of acceptance that 'shit happens', or even any kind of rational explanation.

*Have they ever claimed to speak for a god in order to tell people what to do (especially if what the 'god' is telling you to do is suspiciously what they themselves have tried to tell you)? If so, run like hell.

"Oh noes, someone I don't know on the internet said I'm not teh realz Seidrworkerz

Finally we come to the final thing I've seen on these groups - that of trying to discredit the abilities of those you disagree with. Of course, when ego is attacked, it's an easy fix - as good as claiming those you disagree with are really sekrit Christians in more mainstream Heathen groups.

And really, it's pathetic, it screams a level of butthurt and injured ego on the part of the accuser, that one almost has to feel sorry for. I mean, if your ego is so delicate that you need to try and remove a person completely from the equation because you can't deal with them being around, then you have issues. Moreover, what the hell is this need to be validated by strangers on the internet that have nothing to do with anything concrete in your life? It's ridiculous. If they don't contribute to your house, or your life (and you theirs), then why the hell should you care?

Really, why do they matter?

Simple answer: They shouldn't.

This rant from a random nameless person on the internet that you really probably shouldn't listen to was brought to you by the letters 'K' and 'X', and the numbers '3' and '9'.

Toodle pip!

Saturday, August 3, 2013


Open Halls Project Supporters! HEAR OUR CALL TO ACTION!!!!

Now that we have your attention.

The Open Halls Project is about to begin an endeavor, and we would appreciate any assistance and support that we can muster. Recently, the VA approved the Thor's Hammer as a headstone emblem. However, we still cannot choose Asatru or Heathen as our religious preference! We have attempted to process the request to add those terms, but CH(COL) Bryan Walker, of the Chief of Chaplains, has stated that the US Army and the DoD are preparing a new system that will allow philosophies and other religious preferences to be added more efficiently. However, his expected ETA for this change is 'several years.'

We've already processed this request twice, with the support of the Asatru Alliance and the Troth. That was over two years ago now and we are being told we will have to wait even longer. The OHP would like to initiate a letter writing campaign to our legislators, in the hopes that putting congressional pressure on the Department of the Army and the Department of Defense will have some positive effect. We specifically are calling on those who live in a district run by a member of either the House Armed Services Committee or the Senate Armed Services Committee. These are the folks that can really bring some political muscle to bear for us!

I've drafted a standardized form letter for folks to use, if you so desire. We have also been in communication with several of our allies, to help begin publicizing this action. We are hoping you will write to your Senators and to your Congressional representative, we have tried to be patient, and allow the system to work, but there is no need for us to wait several more years for our service members to have the ability to choose their religious preference on their official paperwork! We want to make sure that the religious needs of our service members are ensured and we hope that you will help us take action.

The form letter is posted as a link below.">Form Letter

Please let us know of any interesting developments you hear about, by emailing us at

Josh Heath - OHP

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Finding Common Ground With Ancestors

When it comes to the question of ancestors and ancestor worship, the modern Heathen is in a peculiar situation. On the one hand, we know from archaeological evidence and various laws prohibiting the worship of the dead, that people in the Heathen period worshipped their ancestors. However, on the other hand, judging by the frequently asked questions that tend to crop up on ancestor worship, it can be hard to figure out how to honour your mostly-Christian ancestors, and still be a Heathen.

Indeed, if we are to honour our ancestors, one thing that we all need to face is that large numbers of them might not approve of us walking away from their religion. In a lot of ways, this is no different from navigating that ground with living relatives, and I think there are very few modern Heathens that haven't had to do this. Admittedly, I have been very lucky with my family in this. My family has a peculiar heritage of its own in that large chunks of my father's family were Spiritualists, and claimed clairvoyancy or healing. Having grown up with my own slew of strange stories linked to that heritage, I don't doubt any of those claims. Now one thing about spiritualism is that dead family receives a type of reverence. There is the sense that they haven't really gone anywhere after death, and that they're all still just hanging out watching over you. Or at least that's the mindset I grew up with when I was a kid. So with this in mind, ancestor worship should be easy for someone from a family like mine, right?

Well, in my experience, this isn't always the case. For while they may have believed in things like talking to the dead, and healing, and magic to some degree, they also had very definite ideas on *how* to do those things, and what lines should never be crossed.

When I was a kid, I would learn these lessons during my many chats with my father either late at night, or when he and I were travelling the country in his truck. As my father was mostly a healer, his lessons were based in that, and were something that I struggled with. It wasn't the kind of energy exercises he would teach me, or the surprise psychometry tests, or the going into trance thing, but the idea that I would ever have the same knack for it. Moreover, I thought their stuff, the stuff from my family was more than a little batshit crazy. After all, Spiritualism has all this weird turn of the century stuff going on in it, and it all seemed far too love and light for what I thought I needed to learn for dealing with the things in my bedroom that made it hard to sleep at night.

Over the years, I got further and further away from the ways of my father's family, and this wasn't a bad thing, I am who I am, my dad is who he is, and they were who they were. However like with living family, a gulf can arise where you feel their disapproval as surely as if they'd called you and screamed at you down the phone. Things don't feel 'right', offerings don't seem to go down well, and there's this sense of loneliness that comes.

With the living, the grievances are aired, and if your family is anything like mine, we all shout at each other, and then we're back to business as usual five minutes later. However you can't really do that with the dead, and sometimes, it might even take years to figure out what's not going right. At this point, some might say that some form of divination should have been done, or a Ouija board cracked out...except my family were against those things. For them, the only 'divination' acceptable was 'spirit', Hell, I've seen a ouija board session go really really well, and then when I've tried to call my family forth, it's gone completely dead. Nothing, nada, zilch.

The breakthrough came last month when my husband hurt his back, and I got the crazy idea to try and heal it by using some of the old family tricks. Settling down with him laid before me, I went into trance and began to channel the energy through me as my father had taught me, but then came to a point where I wasn't quite sure what to do. In spite of the whole 'not really feeling my family too much for a while and especially since I came to America' thing, I called out of them all the same. What I wasn't ready for, was 'hearing' my grandmother say 'FINALLY SHE GETS IT!', and Josh complaining I was prodding him in the back even though my hands were inches away. After I was done, he said it actually felt better, and by the end of the day, he was fine again.

So healing, the act of restoring haelu, of manipulating haelu for good seems to be the thing, the common ground that both I as a Heathen, and they as my ancestors can stand on.

And I think that's the thing, when we have those disconnects, as with our living relatives that we disagree with, I think the only way forward is to try and find our common ground with those ancestors that we feel in our lives, be that common ground a love of car racing, or healing, or a love of fine malts!

Our Ancestral Shrine

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Rites of Spring

These past few weeks have been busy attending to what I can only describe as the 'rites of spring'. Spring is one of those times of the year that leaves me feeling conflicted. On the one hand, I love the life returning to the world, the new shoots, the warmth... the green. But on the other hand, I know that all the green comes with a price for me; namely that the green stuff often makes it hard for me to breathe.

Last year was hard, I was a new person in a new land that seemed to hate me. I know that's an illogical thought, but there were times when my asthma and allergies were so bad that I thought this land would be the death of me. I really didn't want to be here.

But this year has been different, I still have the allergies and asthma, but I don't feel quite so strange in this land, and I think a chunk of it is the garden. I don't think I'll ever get to the point where I can run again, or to the point where I was training for a 5k, but the simple acts of pottering in a garden, trying to grow food, and putting hands to dirt have been game changers for me. Our home at the moment isn't a forever home, but it's definitely a home as opposed to somewhere to lay our heads, and although it's still pretty strange and foreign to me at times, it's more of an adventure now to try and figure out what it all is.

This past couple of weeks have been one of working on a new god post, a birch post in honour of Frija. We found the wood for it in New Hampshire when we were visiting friends and in spite of having to largely improvise tools or work that bit harder to do certain tasks (like for example, using an axe and hammer instead of a chainsaw to trim it down), it's been very good experience. The biggest concern when doing any kind of carving for a holy object (at least for me), is that your work will not dishonour the deity you're attempting to honour. And it may seem kind of strange to be so detail-oriented for a post that is going to be veiled (I'm also embroidering her a veil because in our cultus, Frija is veiled and we are not to see her face), but again, it's about doing right by the deities you love, regardless of how many times you get 'bit' by your knives, gouges, and chisels. Once she's finished and ceremonially offered to/veiled, her face will not been seen again - except potentially at certain times of the year by members of the cultus. Along the line, I would also like to create a wain for her, but this is an ambitious project.

This time of the year seems perfect for this too, and there is something about this birthing a new statue at the same time as the world is coming back to life that seems particularly apt to me.

Last week/weekend, we celebrated Beltane, both at home and at a marvellous local Pagan festival which was as raucous and as fun as Beltane should be. For me though, the highlight of the weekend was our planting ritual that we had yesterday, and which I'm going to talk a little about because I don't think we do that enough - talk about the 'small' rituals of our lives. We all talk about the big rituals and the big blots we go to and participate in, but it's far rarer that we talk about the day to day honouring of our gods, ancestors and the local landwihts. And for me, that is the 'meat' of Heathenry. It's in the everyday, it's in how you see what you do when you're doing the most mundane of tasks, it's in how you try to make your lives/families/communities hael/more hael through your actions and it's the millions of small actions repeated over time that count far more than the occasional large acts. At least in my opinion, for the first is indicative of a lifestyle and worldview as opposed to a weekend activity choice.

For weeks, we've been preparing for our garden, getting the seeds, learning, and planning how we were going to do it. We'd had our tomatoes and herbs started indoors, and our potatoes planted before the last frost of the year. To say we were excited about the actual planting would be an understatement. But we really wanted to do something to honour the land, the Eorthan Modor, before we touched tool to earth to dig the plot, and so we decided on an adapted version of the Old English Aecerbot charm.

The actual charm is really quite complex, and has Christian overtones, but the idea of burying offerings in each corner of our growing land was one that felt very right to us and so our simplified version involved the blessing of eggs, apples and tobacco (eggs for new life/new starts, apples as an offering to our ancestors - common in our families, and tobacco for the spirits of this land), a blessing of our tools, and burying the offerings before digging the plot.

We began just before sunset, saying prayers of blessing over our offering items and the tools we would use to work the land with, and then processed to each corner where I had pre-dug a hole with a completely different spade than the ones we would continue to use. Adding the items to the hole, I then chanted a section of the 'Erce, Erce, Erce' refrain before we buried each carefully. Once this was complete, we grabbed our tools and began to dig and today we planted seeds.

A little blurry, but you get the idea!

We're hoping for potatoes, beans, carrots, squash, pumpkin, scallions, tomatoes and herbs. We're hoping to put good, hael food on our table instead of the crap that is sold at the store, what's more, we're hoping for yet another fulfilling tradition we can pass on to any children we have.


Happy Spring!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


I have a confession to make.

I have a LOT of Pagan friends, friends that I hold dear and value, friends that I've known for years. You see, I'm from that weird little island in the North sea where people drink a lot of tea, Druidses like Ed Prynn collect standing stones in their back yard, and Pagans and Heathens often hang out together.

Or at least they did when I was last living there.

But there is one wee bugbear I do have with some Pagans, and that's the assumption that Heathens are just a slightly different flavour of generic Paganism...or Paganism with Norse trappings. I don't blame these people, they're generally good people and a lot of the information out there about Heathenry from things like those Heathen 101-type books really don't do us any favours.

There are also certain assumptions within the Pagan community of what a Pagan is to contend with (note, this is all going to be UK-specific, or based in experiences with UK Pagan communities); for example, there's the assumption that everyone is a soft polytheist that worships 'The Goddess', or that all Pagans cast circles, or hell, even that the pentacle is a universal symbol!

These were all things that bugged me when I used to hang out with my Pagan friends in the UK, in all honesty it bugged them too, because just like Heathenry, Paganism is a vast and varied beast of a term that encompasses many different worldviews. One term we had for this was the 'wicca-borg', and note that I spell 'Wicca' with a small 'w' in that term! Which is yet again another UK differentiation...the practice of spelling lineaged Wicca with an uppercase 'W', and non-lineaged with a lower case. A far more derogatory term for the small 'w' wiccans is calling them an IRAB, which is an acronym for 'I read a book'. All this sounds quite nasty, but so is not having your differences respected, or even patronised for your differences!

And yes, that does happen! I've actually had the experience before now of being told that I wasn't as 'enlightened' as this particular individual because I'm a hard polytheist!

Moreover, it's not just we Heathens that feel this way or have these experiences, I know Hellenic Pagans and Tradcrafters that have had the same issues (using the term 'Tradcrafter' in the UK sense here, as opposed to the American usage of British Traditional Wicca). And talking of Wicca (note the upper case), I've had Gardnerian friends express dismay at the way that parts of their practice (as corrupted as those parts are so as to keep within the bounds of Craft oaths) have formed the basis for this ecumenical wicca-borg.

There are reasons why we Heathens tend to get on well with Wiccans as opposed to wiccans. Part of it is the years of study they put in, but another part is the awareness of group to group differences. Wiccans get that we don't see things the same and they often enjoy talking about and debating those differences.

And that's what it comes down to at the end of the day, acknowledging and respecting our differences while finding the common ground we do have and partying heartily on it!

We Heathens are hard polytheists, for us it's disrespectful to consider our gods to be aspects, but I'm cool with you doing that in your practice because it is your practice and I'm cool with other people having different traditions and beliefs.

We Heathens don't generally cast circles, but there is some literature out there from the older generation of Heathens that was admittedly far more influenced by Wicca/wicca than we tend to be now that feature something called the 'Hammer Rite'. Most Heathens don't cast a circle (except for groups that have been around for years and for whom it's become traditional), for example some of us walk the boundary of the area we're working in with flame while singing a chant, and that boundary doesn't have to be a circle, it can be any shape!

We Heathens have a myriad of symbols but the pentacle isn't one of them, nor does it have any meaning to us.

We also don't believe in reincarnation...well a minority of people do, but they're a minority and it's not a widely held belief.

But most importantly, there is no such thing as 'we' Heathens and I've been very naughty to write using the term 'we Heathens'as we have neither orthodoxy nor orthopraxy and each group varies from the next. Each group of Heathens has its own culture, its own ways of worship, its own worldview when it comes to how the gods are seen, what role the gods play, the etiquette that should be observed around a Ve/Weoh/shrine,its own rules and its own traditions. Unfortunately these differences aren't always respected within Heathenry, but things are changing, more Heathens are actually asking each other what their ways are are and respecting the difference as opposed to just assuming that because person A is a 'Heathen', they're the same.

To me, this is a very positive change, and a direction that I hope Pagan communities are also moving in. We don't all have to be the same to stand shoulder to shoulder as allies, and our common ground is quite a large and fertile patch. It's one that is seeded with friendship and marriage, it's one that knows the same pressures of living in a larger society that can be downright hostile to us, it's one that appreciates the value of good friends and good times, and it's one that I've personally missed since moving over here.

So I'll be getting my Beltane on at a local festival, which I know...isn't considered particularly Heathen, but this Heathen is from that island in the North sea that drinks entirely too much tea, and that has Beltane celebrations all over.

I'm sure they won't set literally everything on fire like they do back home, but I'm sure it'll be a load of fun all the same :).

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Disposable People

So guess who's bringing the polemic again?

Over the past few weeks, I've been musing over the nature of community, and more specifically how modern Heathen communities function.

Even *more* specifically, I've been paying special attention to how communities deal with those among their number that are different, or contrary to the general sidu of the community.

Generally speaking, most Heathen communities strive to work on the basis that they're a group of people who are vaguely co-religionists, that also share common values. We often talk about only allowing 'people of quality' into the community, like the community we're talking about is some fancy schmancy gated community in some posh into which no riff-raff shall be admitted.

The reality is that we're actually many separate individuals, couples and groups that are separated by distance. We generally spend more time with those closest to us geographically, but our interactions with the rest of the community are far fewer; perhaps a yearly Thing.

But then there's the internet..

Oh boy, and does it cause trouble!

In person, we can see the person we're talking to, we can see their facial expressions, and body language. We can't just pretend that it's a name on a screen and 'not a real person'. In other words we're far less likely to be dicks to each other, because in person, the consequences for being dicks are far more immediate (not to mention unpleasant!).

But the majority of Heathen interaction - even among established communities - tends to take place online.

This isn't automatically a bad thing, but I think it's been harmful in some ways.

Ladies and Gentleman, I give you the concept of the 'Disposable Person'.

So what is the 'Disposable Person'?

We Heathens are community animals, we're also animals to whom reputation and worth mean so much. This isn't a bad thing - after all, it's our way of protecting ourselves against people coming in that would harm the wider community - our way of weeding out the monstrous.

However, have we lost sight of what 'monstrous' really is? Moreover, is this causing us more damage in the long run?

If you spend time around any community, you'll find that some people seem to have far more of a leeway than others, and that a trait that's considered to be far too negative for inclusion in the community in one person is completely overlooked in another. Communities are full of contradictions like that - it's only natural - we're humans, we network, and we're always more likely to overlook when our friends fuck up than people we barely know.

Two traits in particular, which seem to make a person more likely to become one of these 'disposable' people are being anything resembling a Seidr-worker, or being a 'Lokean'.

People that first come to a community claiming to be Seidr workers or discussing related topics tend to be treated in a far more guarded way than those that don't, and will probably find it much harder to even get into a community in the long run. I get it, it can be annoying being told how someone can do all this magic woo woo when you haven't even got a clue what type of person they are in more concrete terms. But often times, people that do this are just *so* damn excited to come across others that might have even the slightest idea of what they're on about. We all want to belong, we all want community, and if people can't find that community with decent folk, then sooner or later the chances are that they'll find it with folk considered to be far less scrupulous and become part of a larger problem. Ironically, more often than not, in the communities that hold the reputations for being more against Seidr, some of the most prominent members are Seidr workers themselves! So what gives? Is it a case of 'Witch Positions Filled: currently not accepting applications from newcomers!'? Or is it just that those people became a part of the community in a time when the pendulum of opinion was slightly less on the 'anti' side of things?

Even worse than being a Seidrworker though, is being a 'Lokean'.

The more I think about the term 'Lokean', the more it annoys the shit out of me. It's an almost henotheistic term (putting aside debates about Loki's alleged godhood for a moment), it implies that Loki is your personal Jesus as opposed to a god you also offer to, or even predominantly offer to. It's like drawing a big fat line between yourself and everyone else, then putting up neon lights with 'LOOK AT ME, I'M DIFFERENT' on them.

Now I'm not saying that if you worship Loki, that you should hide it, that you should crawl into a hole and just disappear - not at all. It's that the entire point of your Heathenry; being a 'Lokean'?

And this is a great point, all of us, both in community and out, 'Lokean' or not, focus on the point of difference rather than commonalities.

Common ground is a great thing, common ground can be built upon, whereas just drawing some big-ass dividing line between two camps does nothing but cause trouble and eventually persecution complexes among the smaller of the two groups. Sooner or later that persecution almost becomes the identifier of the smaller group, their rallying cry, and the romance of the underdog is gained.

When we deal with people that say that they offer to Loki, the instant reactions ranging from long explanations of why people shouldn't offer to Loki, to expletives, are really not helpful. They do nothing for any of us. It is not the place for us to tell others what they do in their own homes. At Things we host, yes, we can stipulate which deities and practices are within keeping with the sidu of the Thing, but we can't tell others what they do in their own halls.

And really, when it comes down to it, should we judge them for their Loki worship before their deeds?

I know a few people that offer to Loki back in Europe, they're friends, and I daresay some of you reading this blog will know some of them too. You'd also probably stand at blot with them and may even call them 'kin'. You know them to be good people, you know that their deeds speak for themselves.

I would love to see a day when the 'Loki thing' is a non-issue. I would love to see someone introduce themselves either in meatspace or online as someone that offers to Loki, and it to be met with something as casual as 'yeah Loki? Not my thing, kite flying, now you're talking!' . I would love to see those that offer to Loki accepting when it's not someone else's thing and I would love to see people looking for common ground and getting to know each other as people. Mostly, I would love to see certain groups that exploit the lack of acceptance of those that worship Loki lose members, eventually lose popularity and that underdog martyr mystique, and eventually disappear - no longer relevant to anything or anyone.

I would love to see us stop treating others as 'Disposable People'.

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Writer's Prayer To The Allfather

Oski they call you


Mouth, father of all language

His word-hoard unending
His skill, endless
Words come to life
their meanings he moulds well

Inspiration flows swift and clear
Though from a cool spring
Under the world-tree

A shock to the mind that quickens the heart

Inspire me wielder of words
Guide me, lord of language

Help me always find

Words to move the hardest heart and reach the toughest mind

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Spaces And Behaviour

Source: The Abstruse Goose

The artist that drew this comic, gets it. He or she gets it far more than a lot of Heathens I see in the wider community. We are the product of thousands upon thousands of years of struggle to survive. We are the product of courage, strength, persistence, heartbreak, joy, hope, survival, love, passion, and a myriad of other facets of the human experience. How do we compare? How would we measure up in their eyes?

That is something we each have to judge for ourselves.

As for myself, I've judged myself somewhat lacking over the past few years. Instead of building and growing, I've torn down and stagnated.

In the book, 'The Well and the Tree; World and Time in Early Germanic Culture', Paul Bauschatz wrote:

"For the Germanic peoples, space as it is encountered and perceived in the created worlds of men and other beings, exists, to any significant degree only as a location or container for the occurrence of action...whether of individual men, of men acting in consort or in opposition, of men and monsters, or whatever. In all cases, immediate actions are discontinuous and separable deriving power and structure from the past."

Read that quote, read it again, and when you're done, read it yet again.

The idea that space exists as a container for actions, and that the immediate actions that take place in that space derive their power and structure from the past, is something we should all take into account when considering the places and groups we frequent.

In the modern world, I believe that includes cyberspace, and that some particular spaces on the internet are nothing more than containers for unhael behaviour that just perpetuates itself ad nauseum. Perfectly decent people can go to these places and become perfectly horrible. The oft-mused upon question of 'why do Heathens behave worse online than in meatspace?', I believe is down to this. It's almost become tradition to eat our own. It's almost become desirable to act in certain ways on certain groups - and so the bad behaviour is perpetuated without apology or further analysis.

And I have done my fair share of this over the years, I'm not just standing here and pointing fingers. It's one of the main reasons I feel disappointed with myself, and the single main reason why I don't frequent certain groups anymore. I continue to lurk on some of these groups, not to mention the pages of certain characters that I think are harmful and going off the deep end. There are some truly unhael people out there that are sucking people in to their miasma and then playing victim when questioned. This won't last forever. Eventually the truth will out - it always does.

As for me, I'm focusing on building again, on trying to be hael, and on educating. It's an exciting time, and I very much feel like I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing with my life as opposed to fighting against the tides, conversely, if things go the way they should, this may even turn out to be far more efficient at getting what I was trying to do done, when I was fighting against the tides.

Gæð a wyrd swa hio scel.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013



What a beautiful piece of filming, and what an evocative depiction of Odin. It reminds me of standing atop the Neubuerg with my husband, making offerings to the Allfather.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Seidr and Haelu

The last time I wrote about Haelu, I wrote about how it might be seen as 'body acceptance', not in the same sense that Oprah Winfrey might mean it on her show - but in the sense of not rejecting the physical body as somehow being 'spiritually inferior'. For us, as children of a Judeo-Christian influenced culture that places the non-corporeal and the otherworldly over the physical and the worldly, this concept can be quite difficult. And while these concepts are beginning to filter through, a lot of Heathens find it hard to truly accept them and their implications. Especially where 'Heathen' systems have already been created based on the otherworldly and non-corporeal.

There is perhaps no better example of this than the modern manifestation of seidr, or Old Norse magic that is typically classified by the greater community as being a kind of 'Norse Shamanism'. Practitioners of this 'seidr' usually go on trance journeys to the other worlds of Yggdrasil in search of various answers, and deal with something called the 'soul matrix' (which has nine parts).

To put it simply, the entire basis of modern Seidr as the majority of practitioners do it, is completely inconsistent with what we know about their worldview.

But how do we know that the AS concept of 'Haelu' can be applied to the ON practice of Seidr? How do we know it's even relevant?

To put it simply, Seidr isn't merely an ON phenomenon, not only do we have cognates for Seidr in OE (Sidan/Aelfsidan/Sidsa), but there are enough similarities between accounts of the two practices that we can be pretty certain that Seidr was also an OE thing, therefore making information garnered from OE sources about Sidan and related concepts, relevant.

Haelu is one such concept. If we accept that Seidr is magic, that the majority of magical operations are centred around luck (healing being a boosting of luck and cursing being a taking thereof), considering the actual meaning of Haelu and how it means 'wholeness', 'physical health', luck , and 'holiness', it would only make sense that firstly health is linked to Seidr, and secondly, magical workings around a person will also either positively or negatively affect that person's physical health.

Moreover, with the worldview of the Old Norse and the Anglo Saxons being world-accepting, there is no reason why they would have gone journeying around the nine worlds. It would have made no sense to them, and indeed, there are no solid references to a human Seidrworker doing this.

So what can we learn about Seidr and Seidrworkers from this information? The main thing, is that a Seidrworker whose health was suffering would also have less haelu, and therefore lesser abilities. To put it in a crude and controversial way, if someone is claiming to be a Seidrworker, and they're some unhealthy blob of a person with a chain-smoking habit, sure, they might be good at journeying the worlds, but they aren't Seidrworkers and wouldn't be worth their salt as such.

So did Seidrworkers do trance journeys?

In a sense, yes. They would go into a trance in order to manipulate their 'Scin' or 'Hamr' - a phenomenon described in various tales about a person seemingly falling asleep, and while they're asleep, something else appearing that then disappears when they 'wake up' again - such as a huge magical bear appearing on the battlefield and fighting the enemy. Or the Gunnhild/bird that appeared in Egil Skallagrimson's jail cell that kept singing in order to distract him from writing the poem that would lead to his freedom. They would go to the burial mound to sit out, but this was a physical journey in the very physical midgard.

In other words, none of this 9 worlds thing.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


He’s sweating though it’s cold, the exertion from the digging winding him and keeping him warm. Tonight her name is ‘Phyllis Bagshaw’, and even though he knows her family will be upset when they find out, he can’t afford to care.

The voice in his head sees to that. An animalistic growl repeating the command to ‘DIG’ that he’d carried all day. At first, he’d tried to sleep through it, but it had been too loud, too distracting to him as he huddled in his shelter. Then he’d taken to running through the woods as fast as he could, as though he could leave the voice somewhere behind him. He’d known what it had meant too, where he was supposed to dig, and why; his dreams had seen to that. In the end he had simply sat, watching the trees watching him.

They had known, he could tell by the way they shifted around him in a weird mixture of nervousness and excitement. They knew whose forest they resided in, and although the birches often protested it, they knew there was nothing they could do; unless of course they picked up their roots and found somewhere new, and that could take YEARS.

So they stayed, just as snared as he was, equally prisoners to the horned one.

He’d been coming to these woods ever since he was a child, he knew the stories, and he’d seen the bloodstains of sacrifice painted on the rocks by the waterfall. He’d never dreamed he’d become one to put the stains there.

But one day in the dead month of February it had all changed.
He had been hiking alone when he first heard them – those steps, those steps that sounded both like hoof and foot fall all at the same time. Putting it down to his imagination, he’d carried on, ignoring the growing sense that he was being followed, and that somehow, the trees themselves were changing positions.

Not that *that* was a surprise, people had told stories about the trees on this hill for years. It wasn’t even told in the hushed tones of people that were afraid they’d be laughed at were their story heard by the wrong people – but openly. It was an accepted fact of life for them.

They’d never been known to harm anyone, but he didn’t know he could say the same about whatever was following him. Hurriedly making his way down the other side of the hill, he’d breathed a sigh of relief when he came to the tarn and the feeling vanished. Later that night on his way home, he’d taken the longer way round home – round the hill, unsure he wanted to go over it in the dark.

But the steps had followed him into his dreams that night.

Gradually, he began to think about the nab more, in the same way a smoker thinks about cigarettes, and became braver. When he went up the nab, he’d try to turn around quickly to catch the steps, or even run after them through the ever-moving trees. The more he chased them in the woods, the more he thought about them when he wasn’t there, and the more they became the soundtrack of his dreams.

Over time, his family became alien to him, and the entirety of his spare time was spent chasing the footsteps. Eventually, he’d simply stopped going home and just stayed there on the nab. Survival wasn’t an issue - he had his shelter, his supplies and his snares, and his days of near endless running had made him fitter than he’d ever been.

But for all his speed, he’d still never caught the steps.

One night though, while settling into his shelter, he’d heard a voice, the voice that came to plague him, “COME”, it had said, and he had. Making his way down the hill to the place with the blood stains, he was met by three men and the voice in his head fell suddenly silent.

“Who are you?”, he’d asked, almost afraid of their answer. Looking between themselves, the oldest had stepped forward, “You are the one he has chosen.”

As if by wordless cue, the men had circled him, drawing closer. “You are his priest.”, said Oldest. “You are the one who must dwell.”, said Not-So-Old. “You are the one who must sacrifice.”, said Youngest.

Confused, he’d looked wildly about him, at the men who circled, the trees that moved, and the darkness that held only hoof steps. He was losing his footing, disoriented by the charged atmosphere, “WHOSE PRIEST?!”, he’d cried out.

And then a chant had risen up, the steps were getting closer, and the man was unsure he wanted to catch them anymore. Breaking from his brothers, Oldest approached with his hand outstretched and palm open, his voice full of reverence as he spoke.


At the touch of hand to head, he’d fallen back, the men and trees fading as he lost consciousness, and his mind filling with images of a horned being with goat hooves. Now he knew who ‘he’ was, he’d finally caught the steps.

From that point onwards, he’d joined them at their rites, the blood of small animals staining his hands as much as theirs. He was their unholy ascetic, their wise madman, the possessed one that ran through the trees that move. He thought no more of his family, nor of the job he’d had, or the friends he used to meet in the pub. His world was now the trees and always the steps.

He’d never minded killing the animals, nor spreading their blood upon his and the faces of his congregation. He killed to eat anyway, but this, this was different.

This was someone’s family, a loved one.

But still, the horned one wouldn’t let him rest and so he’d acquiesced. He’d made the first trip home in months for a shovel and lantern, then headed to the town cemetery to do as commanded.

He’d been digging for hours when they found him, the cemetery becoming unusually light as his shovel hit coffin and the ghastly scene was illuminated by the headlights of police cars and flashlights. Phyllis Bagshaw would continue to rest in peace, while he would know no such thing as the voice screamed at him, telling him to kill, to take their bodies instead and finish the rite. But they were too many, and he was dragged off in cuffs, his final strand of sanity breaking and the three observers in the distance going completely unnoticed in his fugue state.

“What now?”, says Youngest. “Another must be found.”, says Not-So-Old, a pensive note in his voice.
Oldest simply smiles, “It’s ok, he has a son.”

Friday, February 22, 2013


For those of you that know me in meatspace, haelu is something I talk about a lot. Seeing as it's a concept that permeates my worldview, this is only to be expected. For me, the concept that physical health is tied to qualities that are traditionally thought of as being 'spiritual' (such as 'holiness', 'wholeness', and 'luck'), is powerful.

No, scratch that, it's revolutionary.

Now I'm not going to bother going into the evidence for the term 'haelu', I already did that here. Today I want to discuss the reservations that I've seen when it comes to haelu and just why it's such a revolutionary term in terms of worldview.

If you grew up in the West, unless you have been living in a hole in the ground and never interacted with anything but wolves, you grew up influenced by Judeo-Christian culture. At this point, I don't want to hear any of that 'Oh but I grew up Pagan' or 'My family isn't really religious so you're wrong!' rubbish. Because it is rubbish. Judeo-Christian worldview permeates *everything* in the West. When it comes to matters of 'religion', or indeed the very concept of 'religion', it's especially dominant. No more so than when it comes to the question of what a 'god' is. For most people, be they Christians, Heathens, or Pagans, the gods aren't a part of this world and the main event is after death.

In such a worldview, the physical becomes useless,even something to be despised or punished. It doesn't matter if we foul up the only Midgard we've got, because this world isn't important either, right? Mmkay?

Well no, not if you're a Heathen. The gods are just as much of a part of the world as we are, and then there are the various wights to take into consideration...this Midgard is great, and our holy places are very much on her soil.

Most people are cool with those concepts, at least from what I've found. Occasionally, you still see some mentions of such-and-such talking about 'roid-raging' their way into Valhalla or whatever, but on the whole, the revolutionary idea of world-acceptance is spreading.

But what of body-acceptance?

In our society, there is the pervasive idea that the spiritual deny their bodies, that the human body is like some dirt pile of sin - part of the dross to be left behind when a person finally moves on to that 'better place'. In the Middle Ages, those wishing to become more holy and get closer to god would beat and starve themselves. Members of groups such as the Opus Dei continue to practice such privations with the same goals, with their veneers of modernity veiling their bloody cilice-adorned thighs and whip-kissed backs.

'Haelu' is the opposite of this mentality. Haelu encourages you to look after your body, to make it as strong as you can, and not engage in the escapism that is the mentality of the dirty body and the otherworldly salvation. The holy is in caring for yourself. The holy is in enjoying and accepting your body instead of hating and rejecting it. It's not just some skin suit, it's one of the most precious things you own.

Now I'm not saying that everyone has to have perfect bodies and perfect health, or that physical issues render a person invisible to the gods and useless to a community. Between my late stage lyme disease, asthma, carpal tunnel, and fat ass, I'd be condemning myself were that the case. And we know they didn't condemn people in this way or they wouldn't have even bothered to try healing people or continuing to care for the weaker members of society. It's about striving as opposed to just saying 'Oh well, the spirit is far more important anyway...'. It's about accepting who you are, what your limitations are, and then working with them.

I'm not saying go out and start some crazy fitness regime that hurts you, or start a crash diet. Neither of those things are good for anyone. Start simply, try to appreciate your body for what it can do for you more than what it can't. The human body really is amazing, from the ears that allow us to experience the most exquisite sounds, to the eyes that show us beauty that the most top of the line cameras struggle to capture, to the nerve endings that let us experience pleasure and pain alike - it's amazing. Look at what you eat, try to eat clean for the most part, and don't get upset if you have the odd treats. And *move*. Be that movement walking, dancing, armchair exercises (if your mobility is limited), or even skipping down the street like a big kid - do it. Go jump those puddles when it rains, have water gun fights, or play with your dog in the yard.

Don't be afraid to enjoy and experience your body.

And most importantly, live *in* it.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Marriage is a funny old thing, you (hopefully) get the guy/girl you love, a tasty cake, and years to figure out how it all goes together. However it isn't really like that, not for Heathens (or anyone else really), at least not when you think about it.

No, marriage isn't just about the couple involved in the marriage making their public declaration of union or whatever people say when they don't want to get married but live together anyway. It's not about a piece of paper that acts as a soopa doopa magickul doorway to tax breaks and being able to visit your loved ones in hospital.

You see, none of us really gets married for ourselves, but for our families and communities.

Yeah sure it's a big 'Hands off mah woman/man!' to everyone around you, that you're taking that step and formalising that commitment (something which should mean something), but you're also bringing two familial lines together and inheriting a whole new set of responsibilities.

Which can be unnerving, I mean we've all heard horror stories about those dreaded mother-in-laws, and I would be lying if there wasn't a period of adjustment that has to take place. It's all well and good that the couple are sympatico with each other, but (for the most part) your inlaws didn't pick you, and now they have to rearrange the family dynamic to accept the newcomer, or not.

The same goes for your spouse's ancestors. When you marry a person, you're becoming part of another entire line of people, stretching back to the beginning.

Lo do I see my father...

You're joining another tribe, you will be another entry in their genealogy (as well as your own). In years to come, people will look back on your name and include your story with those of your spouse's family (just as your spouse will with your family).

In Heathenry, we all talk about our ancestors, a lot of us have shrines to them and make offerings on a regular or semi-regular basis. A lot of us remember them in our prayers during every day activities, or call out their names in Sumbel. But how many of us do the same with our ancestral inlaws?

For a while I was reticent. I was always kind of convinced that my mother-in-law was pretty suspicious of me and didn't really like me much (a belief that was solidified by being 'attacked' by her old rocking chair a few times). However at some point, something changed. Without getting into the details, we seemed to come to an accord one day while I was sitting in her rocking chair, which left me with the strong impression that I should maybe offer apples to her and that those apples should be placed outside.

So I cut up the apples and took them out into the front garden, and stopped dead in my tracks.

Sitting there, in my front garden that goes onto the street, was a little wild rabbit. Quietly and carefully I walked to the tree where I wanted to leave the apples, placing the majority of them there, before scattering some nearer to the rabbit. The rabbit for its part, just stayed there. I left just as quietly as I came before coming back out to take a photo to show my husband when he got home.

Now a rabbit in the garden doesn't really seem much, or like an omen. After all, rabbits are everywhere, I mean, they breed like f****** rabbits! However, on our ancestor shrine, with the photo of my husband's mother, is a handmade felt rabbit that she stitched for my husband when he was a child. He's always had a soft spot for those furry little hoppers that goes beyond 'Aww they're so cute!' and has always resisted my attempts to buy rabbit meat and make rabbit curry. So, I took this to be an omen of sorts and now my offerings to her are chopped apples placed outside for the rabbit (or any other wildlife).

Since that day, she's felt very present to me, like she's keeping the things that lurk in our basement firmly down there and out of sight of her son. Not only that, but she's become something of a part of my more Seidr-related activities, the rocking chair that left me bleeding a few times, now my 'high seat'.

A year or so ago, I couldn't have imagined this, she was simply someone not to piss off, someone I wanted to reassure that I loved her son and would do my best to look after him. Now she's become a more immediate ally to a girl whose own ancestors lie far away over a vast ocean.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Ancestral Shores

On the day she came home, they’d been happy to see their daughter return. Communication had been difficult at times, sometimes even impossible. Like every child out adventuring out in the world, there were times when she simply hadn’t even remembered to check in, to let them know she was ok. But that was ok too, because she always did eventually. Full of life and happy to see home again even for the short time she’d be there before the next adventure.

This time though, things were different. When she’d arrived this time, they’d worried as she coughed, a dark shadow falling on her chest like never before. Watching her struggle to climb hills and moors that she’d climbed hundreds of times before with ease, they felt only sadness. But she always was a stubborn one and she’d carried on walking uphill regardless. They’d gone with her to see the doctor a week or so later, her coughing…no asthma had gotten so bad.

“I remember how bad that was for me”, Violet had said, “Marvellous what they can do nowadays with medicine.” Lillian had simply stroked their granddaughter’s forehead as she breathed the in nebulizer and her breathing stabilized.

Eventually though, she’d gone again, got onto the plane with her husband and left.

And after a few hours they couldn’t feel her anymore.

Late at night, when most people are comfortably ensconced inside, they would meet on the beach, the sometimes stormy Irish sea before them. Something about that direction, that place made them feel ever so slightly closer to her, their errant family member. Sometimes Lew would make comments like “She gets that from me, you know!”, and his sister and wife would slap him on the shoulder and tell him not to be so daft, and that he’d never literally disappeared before.

One of those nights, when the surf was up and they could almost hear what sounded like her voice on the wind, James came to the conclusion that this not being able to hear her thing had to have something to do with the sea and then the ocean beyond that. After all, she *couldn’t* be in Ireland, they’d know. They had family and blood there. At one point, Peter had even stood on the opposite shore and called to them that she absolutely wasn’t there. Thanking him, they’d engaged in a bit of banter before going back to keep an eye on the rest of the family.

It was finally when William was sitting next to his son, in the living room of 35 Primrose street that he’d heard Val say something about her being in America. It all made sense to them now, but still they missed her.

“It’s probably best if you go to Southport when the tide’s up” said Ken, he still wasn’t comfortable in his new role in the family, but he was doing well even though it hurt him to see his wife still so sad. “Take it easy, son. These things take time.”, his dad had said. He knew better than most how it was to go through that kind of separation, and Ken had always been the kind of big brother to take his responsibilities to his siblings very seriously.

So it was that they came to be sitting there on the beach during what was a horrible storm (for those that could still feel that kind of thing), straining their ears and trying to hear their long-lost daughter, they sat. They had all but given up, when they finally heard it, her voice weak on the winds.

It was their names in prayer, asking them to do their best to find her.

And right then and there, they decided that if the wind could find a way, so could they.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Recently, as part of the research for my book on Seidr, I've been reading Alaric Hall's book 'Elves in Anglo Saxon England: Matters of Belief, Health, Gender, and Identity'. The work is a very thorough, scholarly piece, that very much reminds me of Erika Timm's 'Frau Holle, Frau Percht, und verwandte Gestalten' in terms of the level of detail that the scholar devotes to the source material, the methodology for dealing with the source material and also even how the information is presented.

As an almost-preface to this post, I'm very aware of the potentially controversial nature of this information, especially given how some groups use practices which may be construed as being similar to what this term appears to suggest. However, I do ask that you continue to read to the end before replying as I will be attaching a rather large caveat which wasn't addressed by Alaric Hall in his book, nor was it within the scope of the work.

The discussion of the term 'Ylfig' is to be found from p148 - 154, and just to give some background on the chapter in question, there is a lot of discussion on the roles of Aelfe in magic, how 'elves' were often cited as 'ailment' when a person was believed to be suffering from magical attack (especially when localised internal torso pains or mental delusions were concerned), and how magic-workers were also credited with getting their power from the elves in some sources.

This naturally led to discussion of the word 'Ylfig', there are few attestations to 'Ylfig, in two different sources from two different time periods: Aldhelm's 'Prosa de virginitate' from the end of the 7th century (relatively shortly after conversion, which occured definitively from 655CE), and a manuscript known as 'Harley 3376' that dates back to the 11th century.

Hall starts off by comparing a similar word, 'gydig', which survives to this day as the modern word 'giddy', the 'gyd' element pertained to 'god' and the word was used as a gloss for the Latin word 'lymphaticus', meaning 'diabolically possessed'. The word's primary meanings into the Middle English period were 'insane, crazy, possessed by a devil'. So, as a result, the broad meaning for 'gydig' was 'engaged with a god'.

To turn now to Ylfig, the earliest reference (and gloss) of the term comes from verses 697-698 of Aldhelm's 'Prosa', in which we see 'Ylfig' , (along with the Latin gloss 'garritor') as an OE gloss for the Latin word 'comitialis'. Generally speaking, we would now translate 'comitialis' as meaning 'epileptic', however we need to remember that our conception of epilepsy is far different from that held in 7th century England (or indeed the rest of Europe). The word 'comitialis' is an obscure word, one that has only been found in very rare instance and so Hall is pretty certain that Aldhelm took this word from Isidore of Seville's 'Etymologiae'. The entry in the Etymologiae, not only gives us the word 'comitialis', but a greater conception of how epilepsy would have been seen:

" is caused by the melancholic humour - how often it may have overflowed and been redirected to the brain. This is caused passio (suffering) and caduca (epileptic falling), because the epileptic suffers convulsions. These indeed the common people call lunatici (those made mad by the moon), because the attack of demons follows them according to the course of the moon. So also larvatici. That is also comitalian sickness, which is more significant and of divine origin/to do with divination, by which those who fall are gripped. It has such power that a healthy person collapses and froths. However comitialis is so used among the pagans, when it had happened to anyone on the day of the Comitia (assembly for electing Roman magistrates), the comitia were broken up. But the usual day of the Comitia among the Romans was during the Calends of January."

Just a footnote here before continuing, Bede gives the date for Mother's Night as being the Calends of January (24/25 December).

Given this gloss and the conception of epilepsy given above, on pages 150 -151 Hall reasons that "Ylfig must then denote some altered state of mind...We may set this alongside its pairing with the Latin gloss 'garritor'. This word is even more unusual than 'comitialis', but is a transparent deverbative formation from 'garrio' ("I chatter, babble, prate"), meaning 'babbler'. More precise connotations of this word as it was understood in Anglo-Latin, however, are suggested by chapter 44 of the Prosa de virginitate, which mentions 'a pithonibus et aruspicibus uana falsitatis deleramenta garrientibus' ('empty gibberish of falsity from garrientes prophetesses and soothsayers') suggesting that the root of garritor had (pejorative) connotations of prophetic speech."

To turn to Harley 3376, we have the entry:

"Fanaticus .i. minister templi" with the further following information "futura praecinens . I ylfig"

Roughly translated, the first section is 'Fanaticus i.e Priest of the temple' and the second section is 'one fortelling things to come, or ylfig'. In this entry, 'futura praecinens' and 'ylfig' are glossing 'fanaticus',

Hall takes these glosses, plus the meaning of the similarly constructed word 'gydig' to mean that 'ylfig' means in a very rough sense 'engaged with elves', for the purpose of divination. He also finds further support in an account from a related culture: the tale of the wasting sickness of Cu Chulainn. In this story, Cu Chulainn is afflicted by fae people who beat him while in a state that is perceived to be something resembling an epileptic fit by human observers (who see him writhing senseless on the ground). At one point, one of these observers goes to wake him, but is stopped with the words "Do not disturb him, it is a vision that he sees." Upon waking, Cu Chulainn recites a piece of perceptual wisdom that was uncharacteristic of himself at that time. This tradition of elf/fae-gotten wisdom is something that persisted into accounts from witchtrials with both the Orkney witch Elspeth Roach and Agnes Hancock of Somerset claiming power from the elves or fae (not to mention Issobel Gowdie's detailed and fantastical tales of interactions with the elves or the conceivably elf/smith-gotten arrows of the Haegtessan in 'Wid Faerstice').

The idea of being possessed by elves might sound quite funny to our ears, especially given the cartoonish image that elves have been reduced to in our society. They're either seen as cute typically green-wearing pointy-eared people that live in forests with their elf families living their little elf lives, OR, they're seen more like the elves from Tolkein's works, aloof otherworldly living in complete harmony with nature but sometimes also warlike. What Hall does in the earlier chapters is clear up these misconceptions quite neatly. To summarize some pretty extensive scholarship, elves can be considered to be:

* All male - female elves didn't appear in earlier sources, in fact, the word for elf was artificially feminised (according to Hall, I wouldn't know, I'm understanding more OE now, but I'm nowhere near his level) and there is no cognate for the OE word for female elf in ON.
* Considered to be otherworldly, yet firmly belonging to the 'non-monstrous' category of the otherworldly beings.
* Could refer to either people with qualities considered to be elf-like/people believed to have some elf-ancestry/the 'Vanir' ('Alfar' and 'Vanir' are sometimes used interchangeably and so share partial synonymy)/ localised gods.
*Beautiful, 'white', and even shining - all qualities considered 'unmanly' by the 'in-group' of mainstream human civilisation in that area and era - but that was cool, because you know...they were elves, powerful, respected and often badass warriors in spite of being very pretty.

Now if 'Ylfig' really indicated 'possessory' practices among the pre-Christian Anglo-Saxons, then there are some very real ramifications for modern day heathens. We have all railed at and mocked those that engage in 'horsing rituals', claiming them to be out of our worldview, some of those groups that have practiced those rituals have themselves, very definitely crossed over into the 'monstrous' category. After all, it's a very powerful thing to claim a god is speaking through you, and once you have consolidated the belief in your followers that that is indeed occurring, then it's all too easy to use that as a tool for control.

There are also very real issues in terms of just what would be meant by 'possession' in a society with a worldview so vastly different from our own. We know what 'possession' means in our society (a complete displacement/suppression of the possessed's soul), but we live in a society that is heavily influenced by dualistic ideas. Soul and body are easily separated, detachable for your ease and comfort. However we don't know if pre-Christian Germanic peoples considered there to be a soul. The only thing we could really solidly use as a gloss here is the 'hamr'.

From various accounts of 'mara'(in which the Seidr worker actually becomes the mara to inflict the harm on the victim) and Seidr's mind altering/influence applications, we have quite a strong case that people believed it possible that a person could be influenced 'supernaturally' by outside forces. We often see the argument that people never come across gods, because if you met a god, it'd be in the physical world, however if people believed that people could send their hamr forth in ways that were not only visible to others, but interactive, why would we not credit gods such as Odin (who was said to be skilled in Seidr), or goddesses like Freyja with the same?

Now I'm not advocating either way here, this is just a summary of the arguments presented in the book and the possible ramifications of that information. Either way, I figured it would make a good conversation topic :).