I was pulling out my motherdough this morning to prepare for baking this evening. The nights are getting cooler and they hearken to warm pots of soup and fresh bread. As I pulled the lid off this mass of living material I have been nurturing for a year, I was struck by the magic of it and it made me think about some mysteries I have discovered about Seidr.
While I am just a student now, so I cannot profess to know a great deal about this feral and beautiful practice, I'm starting to see some interesting patterns in lore and in Seidr practice. Let me start with lore:
The following is an excerpt on some notes I took about the Auðhumla and Ymir:
Then said Gangleri: "Where dwelt Ymir, or wherein did he find sustenance?" Hárr answered: "Straightway after the rime dripped, there sprang from it the cow called Audumla; four streams of milk ran from her udders, and she nourished Ymir." Then asked Gangleri: "Wherewithal was the cow nourished?" And Hárr made answer:
"She licked the ice-blocks, which were salty; and the first day that she licked the blocks, there came forth from the blocks in the evening a man's hair; the second day, a man's head; the third day the whole man was there. He is named Búri: he was fair of feature, great and mighty. He begat a son called Borr, who wedded the woman named Bestla, daughter of Bölthorn the giant; and they had three sons: one was Odin, the second Vili, the third Vé. And this is my belief, that he, Odin, with his brothers, must be ruler of heaven and earth; we hold that he must be so called; so is that man called whom we know to be mightiest and most worthy of honor, and ye do well to let him be so called." - (Gylfaginning.CH.6)
What I noticed when researching Auðhumla was that she emerged from the poisonous rime of Nifelheim...she also sustained herself on it. Auðhumla fed upon the world of the dead to feed the living. I looked up the origins of her name and Auð means abundant and humla - which is an old word for Wild Hops. The "abundant wild-hops" which led me to the brewing of ale and how ale and mead run throughout all the Norse myths as these life-giving and wisdom-giving symbols. I just couldn't shake this connection between feeding from the world of the dead to nourish the living. It made me think of how the decay of trees becomes the food for it's saplings. Then there is the case of how for three days (interesting number here) she licked Buri free from the world of the Dead. While Ymir formed, Buri was already formed in the ice of Nifelheim: The ancestor of Odin, Vili, and Ve. Also, I noticed that Ymir was formed of what is called "yeast drops" (kvikudropum) and Auðhumla is also a name for abundant wild hops (there is a lot about brewing in this metaphor!!) In fact, we see the juice from the hops (Auðhumla's milk) merging with the formation of yeast (Ymir) and both together create the known universe...Ymir's body becoming our world. I'm wondering if there is a hidden meaning here, about the power of brewing ale and the transformation from death into life. I had always saw Auðhumla as a being of nourishment, but now I think she might also have to do with the transformation of death into life...the reincarnation of souls and the ability for life to spring from death.
Furthering the brewing metaphor, when I was working on my translation of the Völuspá I noticed that a common translation for Gullveig, the seeress as "Gold Draught" or Golden Drink, referring to mead or ale.
Knowing that the Heathen people loved their metaphors, I don't think it was coincidence that all of these brewing and fermenting metaphors got associated with the creation of the cosmos as well as with the most powerful Seidrkona in our myths.
We also have the word Seidr which can be translated as "seething" or "bubbling...and if you have ever fermented anything, there is a magic in the seething mass of fermented dough or mash.
Since the brewing of ale and mead and the making of bread would have been performed by women , here we see another point to the culture around Seidr...that it was mostly performed by women.
So I'm brewing my morning tea and tending my dough and thinking about all these connections to fermentation and Seidr...to the way in which a kona would connect with the great Well of Memory (Urðrbrunner) of the Ancestors...and that is is somehow connected to this seething mass of dough in my hands, to the millions of little organisms eating the wheat, and giving my body nourishment.
Then I thought about my path and how I became obsessed after witnessing Seidr last year, which led me to finding teachers and new studies. Could Seidr be like fermentation itself, a type of organism where once we are exposed to it and if given the right food and nurturing, it could grow and "seethe" inside us? What if Seidr is like a spiritual living organism, that allows us to connect with the Dead and the Gods? What if, instead of elaborate rituals and special songs, all it takes is exposure and time to develop in us??
This whole year has been about me reclaiming Forn þreifa in my life, a returning to my roots of witchcraft that I learned in the Catskill mountains: herblore, land wight connection, honoring the dead, gardening, wildcrafting, baking, fermenting, spinning, and knitting....all of these are seen as simple domestic activities...but I wonder if they are something more old and more powerful than we give them credit.
As Pagans, I know we all seek to revive the ancient practices and keep them alive in our modern world. So often I see fellow pagans spending enormous amount of resources chasing after workshops, spiritual books, and pagan kitsch. What if all we need is in our local library and in our fields and rivers? What if we just need to make our own bread, brew our own ale and mead, and ferment our vegetables to learn the secrets of Seidr and Forn þreifa?
Last year, I was in Seidr, and one of the disturbing things that happened to me was I had all these voices in my head for about 12 hours afterwards. It was very disconcerting...so I figured I would just write what they said down and then figure out what it means later. I misplaced the journal after I got back home and didn't find it until last week. One of the interesting things I wrote was:
"NOTHING GOT LOST. IT'S ALL STILL THERE, YOU JUST HAVE TO LOOK FOR IT"
I didn't understand that until now...and I see that many of our ancient practices did not really get lost....they bent and formed into a way that could fit inside new religions, new eras, and new technologies....but they are all still there.
In fact, it is in the simple and the mundane things of this world, I am finding that have the most power.
What a beautiful lesson this is...this accessibility to ancient ways just by observing our world. It's all there, just look in your history books and woods!
Oh yes, and also, learn how to make your food straight from the Earth....you just might be surprised how much it teaches you.
Have a Blessed Autumnal Equinox!
"The Maiden with The Mead" by Maria Kvilhaug (University of Oslo Press)
"Forn þreifa: Ancient Healing Touch" by Valarie Wright
"Seidr As Wyrd Conciousness" by Yngona Desmond