Sunday, 25 September 2016

Forn Seidr, Fermentation, and Witchways

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 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 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:


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 just might be surprised how much it teaches you.

Have a Blessed Autumnal Equinox!

Further reading:

"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

Monday, 19 September 2016

Betrayal of the Wild Self

I've been meditating on self-betrayal, lately. I've noticed that it makes challenges so much worse. So often we go against our own instincts to be liked by others, to get the job we want, to not be seen in a bad light. We give people what we think is "our best angle". We color the truth to be more palpable. We worry about what others think of us and we try to say and act to manipulate those around us. We sometimes even act more aggressive than we really are to show some illusion of force and violence...proving to others we are tough and not to be messed with.
I wonder at these small betrayals, how in the long run they can erode one's sense of self and confidence. Granted, there are times in our lives that we need to wear a mask to protect ourselves and those we love...but do we need to wear one all the time? Do we need to push ourselves to accept people in our lives just because "we should"? Do we need to consistently give up our own sense of who we are just to make others comfortable?
I have noticed that in times of chaos and hardship, the people who weather the storms are often the ones who do NOT betray themselves. They are those who are comfortable with who they are and who do not place so much importance on being accepted by others. They are those who stand up for those they care about, who are willing to and brave to be both vulnerable and fierce. They are often seen as wild and unpredictable and many people often talk ill of them. They often go about this world alone, but they have a center that is solid and when you are around them, you feel like you are free to be yourself. This freedom, this wildness is threatening to a lot of people...but it creates a powerful individual who knows their own worth.

Are you wild or are you tame?

Heckle Broom

A witch born with an in-turned eye;
Heckle broom, singing sigh
Dark moon rites under Ursula's sky
Orion Belt in her out-turned eye.

In a hare's warren a spell is placed
Bundle of Mallow, Mugwort, Milk Thistle
A waxen heart: sang over with a mother song
And in a nest it shall grow and grow.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Lord of the Animals

This month, I started a chakra workshop. The class has revived my studies of yoga and movement in general. I am dancing more in ritual and I'm delving deep into myself to face some truths that I was distracting myself from. We are spending a month on each chakra, learning about them, exploring them, seeing how they manifest in our lives. I find that this type of learning...this discovery learning...suits me best when studying any occult system. So often, we get caught in the ruts of our predecessors, thinking that we have to do it their way. While I agree that discipline and understanding the basic principles of a system is essential, we also have to remember that everyone approaches magic and occult healing systems differently and allowing students to experiment, journal, and approach ancient concepts in new ways can breathe life into some of our dogmatic Pagan organizations. It's all about balance. Too oppresive and dogmatic and the people drift to find life and vitality, too lax on historical teachings and then too much chaos ensues.

So I'm learning about the Root chakra this month, the base of the spine where the Earth energies (Called Shakti energies) reside. This is the part of us that desires safety and is concerned with all the basic processes of our body. It's also the chakra that can house our fight/flight response, which is why in Ayruvedic medicine it is connected with the Adrenal response. Touching into this chakra, I learned the value of cleaning up the food I eat and eating at the right times for my body. Each of us have a rhythm and we are trained from youth to eat at times that suit our parents/guardians, but we all have a basic clock and getting in touch with that is powerful for healing. I've also learned that the root chakra is connected to how I respond to people and situations. This is how we can create most of the chaos in our lives. So often we blame external forces for our actions, but really it is our choices and actions that cause us so much suffering. The Kundalini force that rises from our root chakra is like those base instinctual urges we all get. In the Vedic lore, this Shakti energy desires to unite with the Shiva or "Lord" energy of the crown chakra. Doing some studies into Shiva and the different aspects of him, I came across some artifacts found in the Indus River valley in Pakistan. The Image shows Shiva Pashupati, Lord of the Animals seated in the Yogi position.  (See second image below)

One of the things that struck me was the similarity to the Cernnunos figure on the Gundestrup Cauldron from Denmark. The second thing is that the position of Shiva is the Sukhasana pose of the meditating yogi. What I find interesting here is the title, too. Lord of the Animals. I showed this to my husband who is an avid fan of Art and History and his immediate response was "Of course he's lord over the animals, he's lord over himself. If a man can think and react in the right time, he can tame all that is around him."

I wonder if this ancient symbol of the "Lord of the Animals" was somehow linked to the Kundalini awakening process, the process that a mystic goes through to know himself and tame himself; learning to act and not react.

I see reflections of the process and archetype in the myths of Odin hanging on Yggdrasil, falling down into the Well of Memory (that feeds the roots of the World tree) as he pulls from the depths runes that help him create a better world for him and the Gods. 

I see reflections in the process of the yogi who wanders into the wilderness to face himself; face the dangers of this world and his own inner demons so that he may return to his tribe with wisdom and new ideas.

Perhaps Cernnunos was also such a God of initiations in this manner: the initiatory rite for the young yogi who went out to "tame the animal inside himself".

While we will never know the true meaning, since time has eroded many of these things. I like to think that my journey is a part of all of this. The deep awakening as a Volva that I am undertaking, the seeking to free myself from all that constrains me and kept me less than what I am, and the building of mew magics in my life...magics that support and heal, making my body and my tribe a healthier and happier place.

(Gundestrup Cauldron)

(Shiva Pashupati)

The first image is of Cernunnos on the Gundestrup cauldron unearthed near Himmerland, Denmark. They dated the cauldron to around 150 BCE. It's one of the only two references we have of the God Cernunnos in Eurpope (the second being the Pilier des nautes found in France).

The second image is from The Mohenjo-daro Archeological site in Pakistan. It is of Siva Pashupati, which means "Lord of the Animals" in Sanskrit. The plaque is dated 2000 BCE.


Monday, 5 September 2016

Nadis of Prana

"Your Ancestors nurtured life and so learned the principles of Wod organically; by observing the tides of nature, of planting and harvest, of life and death.... among all these folk this life force is the central force behind health and well-being on every level of existence. According to Ayruveda (which means "life force, life principle knowledge") Prana flows through the body in currents called Nadis (rivers) which are conduits of this vital life-force of energy. So fundamental as this concept to the ancient mind that the idea of the old Europeans not having been drawn to similar conclusions is without rational sense." - Forn Threifa by Valarie Wright 

Wod, Odr, Odic force, orgonotic streamings, Qi/Chi, Prana....

This whole year has been about healing for me and seeking healing systems. My physical solace has been in the rivers here in town. I got obsessed with the rivers in Norse lore because I wondered if there was something magical about them just like the rivers here in town help me. I was reading about this concept of Wod and Prana and how the body energies flow in rivers...and my mind explodes....there are seven rivers in the Eddas. Seveon rivers... similar to the seven chakras, seven streams of energy which one must learn from and cross when you travel between worlds.

Thursday, 25 August 2016



Mál er at þylja þular stóli á
Urðarbrunni at, sá ek ok þagðak,
sá ek ok hugðak,

Deliberate speaking the song chant in the Bard's-seat
I called to The Sea-beach, the Earth-Slip, the Well of Memory
There I was in silence
There I was attending to my thoughts.

-         - Hávamál111

Monday, 22 August 2016

This Place Was a Shelter

This place was a Shelter
My body was a temple of Wonder.
Every day a delight.
Each breath was a symphony
I grew strong in the light.

Then in one crashing moment
You pulled apart every timber, every stone.
Crumbling dreams.
Crumbling home.
For years I wandered like a worm
Wasting in the harshness of the sun.
My songs were moans
From the injustice you've done.

Yet in the quiet moments, from the darkness I sought
I turned to witness others
I learned from those who had fought
And slowly my hands
Reached to find stones.

Now with each passing year
Stronger and stronger I build
A new shelter from the storms
And with each passing year
A new piece of me is born.
- Christina Marvel