Right: news, sales spiels and housecleaning aside, its time for more on my Chaos Heathen adventures…
Grimms’ fairy tales. Clint gave me a marvellous hard bound copy of this strange treasure trove when we met up recently (thanks Clint)! I read the whole damn thing years ago but at the time – well I just didn’t get what the fuss was about.
Many of the tales are just rearrangements of the same elements, many of the characters and scenes have become hopeless clichés. Is this, I wondered, really a useful or relevant link between modern times and arch-Heathen times?
I used to think a lot of rubbish when I was younger (not that I’m exactly old or crusty as someone about to turn 29 … I hope).
I’ve come to realise that this book can be used for divination, depth psychological exploration, inspiration (and article of mine for the next issue of Hex is inspired by a Grimm tale), operant magic, and they even shed fascinating light on the more ‘authentic’ old school Heathen myths.
You can probably think of another 50 or so uses if you like. Given the magical connection I have with Clint it seemed only right to set his gift to magical purposes.
Let’s say I do a divination experiment right now with this hidden trove of collective unconscious-soaked imagery.
Here’s a question I have: a relative has recently received a potentially very dangerous medical diagnosis. When the possibility of this diagnosis was first raised I threw some runes.
They specified the precise physical location of the problem, predicted that the treatment would be a shock to my relative’s system, but that robust health was in store for the future.
Confirmatory lots indicated the importance of keeping busy and not getting lost in ‘why me’ sorts of self-pity.
Ok, so the reading so far has been very accurate – it predicted which way the diagnosis would go and where the problem would be (there were several possibilities). Its prediction on the treatment to be adopted looks also to be confirmed though we will not know until Monday.
If random assignment of ancient squiggles can ever be called a reliable basis for future prediction then this reading seems to be doing well so far and provides an adequate point of reference for our experiment in Grimm bibliomancy. Here’s how it works.
First, I dwell in my mind on the images associated with the outcome of this situation, on my relative, on the feelings of care and fear the situation evokes in me, on the medical paperwork generated thus far, on the various possibilities for what might come next. I try to dissolve myself into this pool of imagery and emotion.
Then I open my copy of the fairy tales at a random page. The King’s Son Who Feared Nothing. A story with a recurring motif of a courageous hero whose faithful allies are able to cure him of all ills with the Water of Life.
Freely associating this water that the king’s son’s lion companion draws from a magical well (Mimisbrunnr? Urdabrunnr?) I am drawn to thinking about wyrd.
My relative’s wyrd will save them. Their medical orlog – their health – is good; and they have good helpers. There may be pain or suffering but nothing that cannot be salved and healed. Indeed, they might in some fashion become stronger for the struggle.
As in the story, it seems to me the treatment will be swift and successful, though it may need several applications for full success unfortunately.
Confluent with my reading is the emphasis on a strong, positive mindset, an unwillingness to be defeated – this seems to be important.
A reading like this is difficult to do objectively of course, because the subject matter is so close to home. But the motif of overcoming sickness or injury in this story is unambiguous, even if there is some struggle involved as well.
Perhaps not the best possible future prediction with the repetition of treatment… but it could be a lot worse.
So there you have the basics of Grimm divination, if presented in a rather simplistic way. Many of the elements in this story seem to tap into elder mythology – trickster giants, arm bands that bring strength, animal familiars coming to the rescue, and an ordeal in which for three nights the hero is beaten by goblins and three times healed.
There is an apple from a magical garden (Idunna’s garden perhaps?), and the motif of a weaker man sending a stronger man as his emissary for some task necessary for the winning of his bride (consider Siegfried and Brunhilde).
There’s even a sleeping beauty variation in the story, with the princess in a dilapidated castle (it is for her that the king’ son must endure the nights of goblin violence).
Crossing to alchemical thinking for a moment, the king’s son is an important alchemical figure, the heroic deed-doer who is able to shatter stagnation but who must die his own death in order to enter dissolution and rebirth as a divine king.
Here we can dream into his captive princess as the feminine aspects of the world with which the masculine must embrace in union. She in turn is the key to a kingdom, so through their union she is healed and restored to power and he is transfigured from energetic but callow youth into wise and noble leader. Each guides the other into their destiny.
Do these metaphors mean anything? As I find myself writing I see myself, people I know, reflected in them. I find myself realising that this bit of bibliomancy is far from finished when the original question is answered. I see invitations of resolve, hope, healing, or shadow echoing out from the tale into the figures around me.
All that it takes is a little imagination, the willingness to suspend control over your mind and instead submit to its rumination. The technique is simple – whatever comes to mind, take it as significant, meaningful, not random. “One word led to another word.”
One of the great things about doing divination with Grimm’s fairy tales is that you have so much material to work with! Let’s say you are using 16 or 24 runes, or even a tarot deck. This book has two hundred and eleven stories and you could easily draw on several to weave together a reading.
The lateral connection between them might offer insights that you could not have gleaned from just one story on its own. This works with runes and tarot, right, so why not old Germanic fairy tales, loaded as they are with mythic resonance (like birches and their endless secrets).
What about psychological exploration? Well it is the same principle really! In a sense psychological exploration is a lateral, synchronistic process. Pick an element. Tug loose a thread or two, dive in.
The more grounded you are in Germanic mythology and history you are the more easily you’ll latch onto associations. This is just another reason why grounding yourself in historical and mythological lore is so helpful.
The fact is, these corpuses, these texts are so steeped in memory. We’d be daft to pass up such rich and inviting resources, we’d be daft not to gaze at our reflections in these wells.
I find that, reading these tales, a silence, as though the world had just been born or is holding its breath before bursting into being, comes over me. Sometimes when I’ve been working as a therapist and a profound shift occurred for the client there has been this sort of moment and feeling.
But maybe psychotherapy isn’t always all its cracked up to be if the same atmosphere can rise forth from a few pages of hackneyed folk tales. Well of course everything has its place. What matters is whether the wells of our spirits are open and whether we are drinking from the underworld’s dangerous but generously offered bounties.
Grimm’s tales and operant magic? You could use a story as a sigil, recite it with building passion to a fevered, seething pitch (perfect for launching an intention). You could construct a spirit servitor and bind it to the reading of a story.
You could use a story as the basis for a visualised adventure which incorporates seeding of magical intentions into wyrd. You could use fragments of the stories as magical rhymes, mantras to trip out on, themes to spring-board yourself into introspective trances.
But don’t let my limited ideas stop you from coming up with something better! I rather hope that folk will be inspired to try out a bit of Grimmnomancy and leave some comments on this post documenting their efforts. The stories are public domain so you can find them on the net easily if you don’t own a hard copy of the book.