Ok, so possession is a strange thing. When I think about the image of a berserker triggering a violent trance by biting at a shield, I guess I figure something more primal than the berzerker’s everyday personality is at
You might have heard of a chap called Justice Yeldam, an experimental musician. He attaches microphones to pieces of glass, then manipulates the glass with his mouth. The sounds this creates are pretty wild, and his performances seem to involve a lot of blood.
The funny thing is, he says that despite how gory it all looks, he never really hurts himself very much. He goes into a very altered state and somehow in that state no harm comes to him.
In fact I recently I read an interview with him in which he laughs about the irony of a time when he badly cut his foot in a safe environment after a doing a performance that involved putting broken glass in his mouth for half an hour to no negative effect.
Think that sounds like berzerkergang? You bet, except this chap isn’t killing someone, he’s just putting himself at risk in order to create some very strange art. Which suggests that 1) violence is only one use for a berserk state and 2) berzerkergang has an awful lot in common with seidh.
The physiological science of all this stuff isn’t at all controversial – it has a lot to do with activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which regulates all the bodily functions you can’t consciously control.
In other words, back we go to my good friend and writing partner the unconscious. The Uppsala Berzerkergang article goes into all this stuff in a lot more detail.
This is probably part of why in historical battles it was very helpful to surprise your enemy. While your side has had plenty of time to get itself all riled up and psycho-physically primed for conflict, the other side is still in a more sustainable, everyday, vulnerable conscious state. It is anything but a fair contest.
Of course today warfare seems to be more about having lots of bombs that you can bravely drop on the foe from thousands of miles away.
My reason for recounting all of this is to underline very strongly that there are many, many different shapes in which altered states can manifest, and those shapes are highly plastic. Thus the practices surrounding Heathen battle magic and the practices surrounding modern experimental music produce some comparable psycho-physical changes.
Some folks in modern Heathen argue that we absolutely must reconstruct the archaic practices as closely as possible or else we are somehow letting the Heathen side down. Well I agree that this is a fruitful and inspiring thing to do.
But it is also pretty clear that if we have different (perhaps even more) options available to reach the desired conscious states then that is no bad thing.
It certainly lacks any historical validity for me to use black metal as a consciousness altering tool, but somehow I think my ancestors would approve (at least once their ears recovered from the onslaught).
These comments serve as a pre-amble to the introduction of two possession forms that have entered my life in the last few months – namely Top Dog and Woki.
Top Dog is – well, he is THE dog. Class all the way. People get out of his way in the street when they see him coming. He like sunglasses, expensive alcoholic drinks, walking sticks and snappy clothes. Its hard not to love Top Dog because, damn it, he just loves himself so much!
Top Dog entered my life to help me in promoting my business, since I am naturally an introverted and retiring person (unless I am screaming my guts out on a stage – see above comments about using modern contexts to produce ancient trance states).
Since I am not a typical sunny kind a guy who thinks nothing of telephoning one thousand total strangers a day in the chase for referrals and work, I prefer not to be involved. Top Dog very kindly shadows me when I have to do this sort of thing.
Since Top Dog is undoubtedly THE dog of dogs, the classiest of class, he has no problem in selling us both to potential referral sources. Top Dog used my anxiety about promoting myself as a door to take over the reins – it was that anxiety which put my bodymind into the appropriately receptive state the first time we met.
He is in fact quite subtle in his presence when I am working with him (after all they are ultimately buying my services, not his). But during times of recreation he loves to put on the whole show, dancing, howling and amusing my somewhat dumbfounded wife with his antics.
He also likes walking around the neighbourhood, just so he knows that people have seen him around. And when he wants he can effect a total submersion ofmy ego, whereas usually when gods or spirits ride me I retain some sense of separate identity, watching as it were from the back of my skull.
Don’t tell anyone, but Top Dog seems to me to be an Odinnic identity. In fact, not long before Top Dog arrived on the scene my wife and I both noticed independently in Simek’s Dictionary of Northern Mythology an intriguing Old Norse mythological name which I think is related to Odin – namely Hundalf/Hundulf.
There are debates about how this is translated – Dog-Elf or Dog-Wolf are the most common. I like to think Dog Wolf is the correct meaning – he is so purely Top Dog that one word for canine is not enough, so in Old Norse he gets two! I hope to get more of Top Dog into my life and to put together some really Classy
outfits for him to dress up in. It’s the least I can do in return for the help he gives me!
Oddly, Top Dog also reminds me of the Vodoun deity Baron Samedi, thought the Baron is admittedly a little more macabre than Hundulf is. Clint observed to me recently that there are many odd similarities between Heathenry and Vodoun. Weirder things have happened!
As for Woki – well let’s just say that WOden-loKI is a pretty natural concatenation is it not? But in truth I have had only limited experience with Woki thus far – though I must say that he turns up extremely quickly when invoked. He too is very energetic and a bit of a trouble maker.
I’m not sure how the deities in question arrange for this sort of alchemy to work out but I hope they continue with it. I love it! I also hope they teach me to get better at better at opening into their presence because really the average Odinnic or Loko personality is much more interesting than the average conventional me.
Or to refine that point – the most interesting parts of me get greatly amplified when these beings/patterns/mental states/trances/illusions/truths/insert-your-own-metaphyiscal-term start loitering around my bodymind.