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.

No comments: