I’ve not been well. I had my wisdom teeth out last week. In the last few months I’ve struggled with two flu viruses and some mind-blowing hay fever (I’ve never been physically incapacitated by allergy in anything like this kind of way before).
Not only that, my creative flow has been blocked these last few weeks. Among other things this has been impairing my ability to get my university coursework done. Not good when you have short deadlines and vast acres of work! Words have just been escaping me.
My only solace has been my improving physical fitness, though mouth surgery induced laziness for this past week has cut back into that again. Perhaps today I will clamber back on board the bodyweight bandwagon.
Recovering from wisdom teeth removal is not fun. Worst is not the pain, the inability to eat, the bleeding, or even the ridiculous swollen cheeks. It’s the abject boredom and isolation.
Until yesterday I had not been outside since I got home from the surgery last Tuesday. Almost a week indoors will send even a dedicated introvert such as myself into paroxysms. I even managed to bore myself with computer games, which once were my arch-nemesis in the realm of addiction!
Knowing that I’ve been sailing through dark corridors of ill health and misery in the last, say, three weeks especially, I resolved a few days ago to go on a journey, to fare forth, and see what I could see.
As a general comment on this aspect of seidh – for me faring forth is very different to what I more generally consider to be my style of seidh (and I will describe a lovely example of the latter later in this post). It’s more introspective, calm and hazy.
Sometimes when I’m doing it I question if I’m just having myself on if my focus is week or I am unable to detach my ego from the process. With my more natural style of seidh, well, once I get there there’s no doubting.
There are lots of sophisticated thinkers about faring forth in modern Heathenry (read the backlog of posts on the Seidh Yahoo E-List to see what I mean). I however lack such subtlety. I just do it.
I don’t have a working knowledge of the distinctions between the various old terms for this sort of magic, I haven’t built my practice out of precise reconstruction (though obviously I am informed about the limited evidence available and less obviously I don’t tend to willy-nilly mix in ideas from other traditions with my faring forth work).
Anyway, so I am lying in bed, in various degrees of pain (who knew that removing teeth at the back of your mouth could make every tooth in your jaw scream with agony?) And I guess that maked it easier to abandon the ship of my body and dive into the deep blue sea of projected consciousness.
I find myself in a valley shrouded by thick grey mist. The earth is barren; it’s like I’m in an abandoned World War I battlefield before dawn. Woden has come to guide me; I see his cloaked form flitting in and out of vision, luring me along dry riverbeds. And I follow his almost spectral form.
Until I come to a cave. When the river still lived it must have here flowed underground, but now there is only dust and frost to line its floor. I shrug and enter and a strange silver luminescence in the air creates just enough light that I can make my way through the crags and shadows.
I’ve no idea where Odin is at this point – perhaps he has seen out his role as my psychopomp for this journey. Seated on a rocky outcrop, however, is a woman. She is dressed in rotting finery and a tarnished crown rests on her brow. And she is a contradiction to behold.
One half of her face, her hair, her arm – I assume her whole body – is young, pale, the perfect frigid ice-maiden beautiful bitch archetype. The other half is rotten, shrunken, shrivelled and foul. This is Helja and I know now that I am in Niflhel.
Here comes the strange thing – I cannot recall anything detailed of my conversation with Helja. I know that she is cajoling, manipulative, abusive and arch. I recall her trying to bargain with me to cure me of my ailments and my loss of spirit.
But I also recall the deals she offers are just ridiculous. I would have to offer her more than I would gain in return. No point in that!
Why did Odin lead me here? I’m not sure, but perhaps it is to give me some perspective. Maybe it’s to show me how much I take for granted. Helja and I reach an impasse and I find myself leaving the way I came, trudging through the cold and lifeless mists. I clamber up an embankment and find myself back in my room with my pain-filled mouth.
And Frey is there with me. And he is frowning. And he says to me “you know, you’re not supposed to be pursuing me as you have. It’s not good for you. You are not made to accept my gifts. There is only one who is right for you, and he is a god of wolves, not boars”. (c.f. for example this post).
(Well he didn’t say it exactly like that, but you get the drift. Sometimes I admit I polish the words that divine beings say to me when I write these journal entries. Hey, they were off the cuff, we can’t all spontaneously speak like a character on Shakespeare’s stage! Arguably Herodotus’ History is more truthfull for its fabrications).
And then he was gone. And he was right. I’ve been trying to stretch myself between the infinitely uncertain, variable, chaotic and disastrous hedge-sitting of my patron, Woden; and the vast, bountiful, fertile, stable and overwhelming hedge-sitting of Frey. I’ve been ogling that green, green grass just over the religious fence. And it’s been costing me.
I tried to call Woden then, but it just wouldn’t happen. Just no luck for me there. I realise I’ve been messing up our relationship by trying to force a relationship with another god. I realise that I just don’t really Know or understand Frey – especially when I consider the intimacy of my relationship with Woden.
It kind of reminds me of how I felt around the time I quit the Rune Gild – it’s getting close to 10 years ago! I just felt that for all the discipline of their practices, all their philosophy, all the rest of it – well, they just weren’t helping me forge any kind of personal or emotional relationship to runes or to Odin.
How can you emulate someone who is a stranger to you? My solution then was that I had to chuck out all thr intellectualism in order to find the seething wode. Anyway, enough of that digression, the point is clear to me – I don’t have the faintest idea how to forge such a connection to Frey, whereas instinct easily showed me the way to Woden.
Ok, so these faring forth experiences made me decide to perform a ritual to Odin. I needed to mend our fences, repair the channels that run between us. So last night I did it.
I arranged to have an audience of one, because the vulnerability of an audience helps with ritual as a performance. You are forced to either go there or not at all. I prepared offerings of beer, organic butter, organic sea salt, water, fire (from the candle Volksfreund and I used on our necromantic adventure), garlic, ginger and tissues soaked with my blood.
I set the atmosphere by putting on some ambient Odinnic music of my own (which, gods willing, should eventually see release [yes gods, that’s a hint!]) I opened the ritual by singing the singular rune Ansuz, getting progressively louder and more aggressive until I was purely screeching and screaming my guts out.
I also banged a hammer and my wooden “Daoist priest” sword (see again the necromancy posts on my journal) and used these rhythms to build the intensity of the moment.
Then I called Woden in all his dark aspects, as god of bloodshed, war, hate, fear, betrayal, violence, destruction and all that fun stuff. Then called him as god of poetry, song, sex, wisdom, hospitality, healing and all of that fun stuff.
I called him by many of his old names.. and a few new ones spilled from my lips too, like Elric of Melnibone, and The Raven King, and Saint Nick, and even Satan (who Goethe describes as blue cloaked, one eyed and raven-friendly in Faust, after all!) Yes folks, warning: Chaos Heathen At Work.
While all this was happening I was involuntarily writhing, staggering, thrashing, shuddering, shaking – “real” seidh, at least as I experience it as a Jan Fries-loving seidhmadr. My body was plunging into wild paroxysms of its own, my consciousness going right on with it.
Until I calmed a little. Then I just called “Woden” quite softly over and over. A most tremendous sensation, like stable lightning bolts, spread through my scalp and from my hands up my arms. It spilled down over my brow like a helm – I wonder if this was one meaning of “Helm of Awe”.
It’s very rare for me to get such a dramatic energetic and physiological response from my possession work. Such experiences are so beyond my ego and the domain of its power and they’re so reassuring, healing and humbling. I cried a little with joy that my patron would impose himself on me so strongly that I would feel it right there in my nervous system.
And then I was his.
I won’t say to much about what happened because it’s all very vague, but he accepted the gifts and gave my audience a bit of a freak out. My cat didn’t recognise me when He was in charge and avoided us. I changed in appearance. Things were made good between us. The rift, healed.
He cast some runes for me too – funnily the first rune to come out was Ansuz, His rune! And they portended lovely things – healing, positive change, hard work rewarded, blockages destroyed.
And – well, that is all I really want to say, except that I am feeling vastly better today, though still taking it easily and carefully. None of this is at all intended as a disrespect to Frey, either – it’s just that you’ve got to go with the course of the river you are.
I was made for Woden it seems, and while his inconsistencies and chaos sometimes cause me fear or frustration – well I have to accept it. The other option is slow withering.
He said something, I vaguely recall, about an irony of my personality. Namely that I give myself an awful hard time for not being perfect (and therefore a better agent for him.) Yet my imperfections arise because Woden is himself imperfect, and thus make me closer to him in nature. I love irony.