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.