View Full Version : Hyge-Cræft/Cosmology & the Soul/Nine Worlds

Sunday, October 30th, 2005, 11:08 PM
Hyge-Cræft: Working with the Soul in the Northern Tradition

In the Old Norse Rune Poem, we learn that man is an "augmentation of the dust". Of dust, certainly, the body is made, and yet the literature of the North is full of references to that which augments it-- the spiritual part or parts of a man. Not only is a belief in the supra-physical clearly demonstrated in Northern tradition, but the evidence, though fragmentary and often full of contradictions, suggests, if not the existence of a lost model of the hug, or psyche, which is of considerable sophistication, at least a traditional lore which can form the basis for such an analysis, as rich and intriguing as the doctrine of the soul in any theology.

I must emphasize that the discussion which follows should be considered speculative and exploratory. Despite the example of two thousand years worth of dogmatic Christian theology, it seems to me that when dealing with a subject as nebulous as the breath itself, to claim certainty would be a contradiction in terms. These questions will not be truly answered until we, like Gangleri, come to the High One's hall. As heathens, we can afford to live with uncertainty. However uncertain, Hyge-cræft, or the study of the soul, is an exciting area of speculation.

According to Kvideland and Sehmsdorf, in folk tradition, the "deliberate manipulation of the hug is the basis of all magic."(p. 41). In Scandinavian Folk Belief and Magic, magic involving or affecting the soul occupies the entire first section, a testament to its importance. The generic Norse term for the psyche is hug, Danish hu, Swedish håg, Anglo Saxon hyge. Usually "hyge-cræft" is translated as "knowledge, wisdom," but it could serve as well as a term for the "craft" of working with the soul.

Hug refers to elements of the psyche such as personality, thoughts, feelings, and desires. It can therefore be used as a term for the entire non-physical component of a human being. A more sophisticated (or perhaps simply more complicated) approach is to anatomize the soul into a number of subdivisions, as did the Egyptians and certain other occult traditions.

Most people are more concerned with getting their heads together than dissecting them-- an integrated personality is one which is does not have to spend time worrying about its components. A theory of soul anatomy can be useful, however, when dealing with psychological problems such as multiple personality disorder or soul loss, or in preparing for spiritual practices involving changes in consciousness or voluntary, controlled dissociation. It also provides a useful framework for preparing for the experience of death and speculating on the afterlife.

In Futhark, Edred Thorsson begins his discussion of the soul with the external qualities of the physical body (appearance, movement and health) mentioned in the creation myth discussed below; and four spiritual entities: the hugr, hamr, hamingja, and fylgja. Gundarssson makes the same basic division between the lich (body), and the soul, which includes the hamingja, hide, fetch, valkyrja, and mind. I would like to propose a schema in which the component parts of a living person are identified as follows: the physical body (lich); etheric or astral body (ham); personal consciousness or mind; the breath of life or spirit (önd); the higher self (goði); and divine consciousness (öðr).

To each of these aspects one of the rich complement of spirit guides and guardians from the literature can be assigned. Unlike the physical body, whose parts appear and function in the same way regardless of race or religion, the parts of the soul can be divided up in a number of ways, depending on cultural or (as in this case) personal preference. I think that the approach to analyzing the soul presented in this essay can be helpful, but obviously the value of any particular way of dividing things up depends on its meaning for the person using it.

However the divisions are made, our analysis of the soul from a Norse perspective must begin with the myth of the creation of humankind.

In "Voluspá" (17-18, Hollander's translation) we read--

To the coast then came, kind and mighty
from the gathered gods three great Æsir;
on the land they found, of little strength,
Ask and Embla, unfated yet.

Sense they possessed not, soul they had not,
being nor bearing, nor blooming hue;
soul [ond] gave Óthinn, sense [oðr] gave Hoenir,
being, Lódhur, and blooming hue [lá, læti, litr].

In his summary of this story in the Younger Edda, Snorri interprets these gifts as: breath and life; consciousness and movement; and speech, hearing and sight. These primary components of the individual might be summarized as the breath/spirit, consciousness, and the physical body with its senses. This three-fold division of body, mind, and spirit, is a common one, but an expanded analysis is needed in order to understand how the psyche functions, especially in spiritual work or magic. According to this expanded view, the components of a human being can be described as follows.

1. The physical body (lich/lyke)

The soul, however defined or dissected, is generally associated with a body. We must therefore begin our discussion where the Elder Edda begins it, with the animation of the physical body by the gods. In the creation story, the gifts of Lódhur are, in Old Norse, lá, læti, and litr. Their meaning is problematic, but a reasonable explanation seems to be that "lá" is "appearance," "læti" is movement, and "litr" is "health"-- the "being, bearing, and blooming hue" of Hollander's translation. Lódhur gave, therefore, those things that identify the physical body and enable it to function efficiently. He is the protector of the "lich," or "lyke" ("likeness!"), the physical shape in which we walk the world. This is the equivalent concept to the annamaya kosa, the physical body, in Hindu theology.

The body, with its senses, is formed by cell division and multiplication. From the first joining of zygotes it develops and grows, its nature determined by the instructions carried in the genes, and environmental influences such as health and nutrition. Its senses are those which enable an individual to interact with the physical world, and provide metaphors for all spiritual experience.

"Death," as usually defined, occurs when this physical body ceases to function. Not only do its physical components return to the elements from which they were formed, but its spiritual parts (if any) are dispersed also. It survives as part of the earth, in which it may be transformed into flowers or trees (or the bodies of other humans, viz. Hamlet's analysis). It also survives by passing its genetic material along to the next generation through reproduction.

As Gundarsson points out, the physical body is the vehicle which carries the others, the means through which magic is manifested in the world. It is therefore essential to take proper care of it. Unlike eastern traditions in which enlightenment is achieved through the mortification of the body or the practice of austerities, earth religions, including those of Northern Europe, value and celebrate the body. Good physical condition is a prerequisite for serious magical work. Illness, exhaustion and lack of food may contribute to visionary experience, but make it difficult and sometimes dangerous to work magic. Whether one is using one's physical resources for physical or psychic work, it is important to replenish them.

2. The energy/astral body (ham / hide)

For the second component I choose to use the term ham, the "shape," or "hide".. The ham occupies a place somewhere between the physical and "spiritual". The existence of an astral body is a tenet of a number of systems of occultism, especially those influenced by Hinduism. This "body" appears to be composed of some kind of energy interpenetrating the physical body (or, according to the spiritualists, ectoplasm). Its radiance may be what is sensed by those who see auras. It is usually perceived as a radiant double or envelope, encasing the human form. In Hinduism, this would correspond to the pranamaya kosa, the pranic sheath of vitality.

Theories of astral projection hold that this energy body can be detached from its physical twin and sent out on journeys on the "astral plane" or even in the physical world. Stories of bilocation, Out of the Body Experiences (OOBE's), apparitions at the moment of death, etc., probably refer to this kind of separation. During the journey, the astral body remains connected to the physical vehicle by a silver cord attached at the solar plexus.

The glowing shapes recorded by Kirlian photography may be pictures of this "body". If so, the fact that plants whose leaves have been cut off still show "spirit leaves" in such photos suggests that it may survive the destruction of the physical form, at least for a time. In many traditions, a ghost of the deceased may hang around its old home for a considerable time after death, and must be persuaded to go on to its own place by ritual. I suspect that this energy trace, being dependent on the physical form, eventually disperses as well. Thorsson defines the hamR as the personal aspect of the plastic image-forming esence in the cosmos-- another way of saying it is that part of an individual which exists in and can journey through the astral plane.

In ancient tradition, the term which seems to correspond to this "body" is ham, which can be interpreted as "shape," or "hide". In the literature, the ham is the animal form taken by a practitioner of seidh for astral journeying. Old Norse literature is rich in stories of shapeshifting and vocabulary derived from the ham root. Some of the shapes cited in the literature include bear, wolf, swan, seal, mare and hare, but it can take almost any animal form. Perhaps the best-known story of such astral travel is that of Boðvar Bjarki, who fought in the form of a bear while his lich lay in trance (HrolfKrakisaga)

In Scandinavian folklore, each person has an animal shape which follows him like a shadow and can be seen by the second-sighted (although what is seen may be the hamingja, see below). Shamans can shape-change astrally into a variety of animals to go journeying. In the Ynglingasaga, Snorri tells us that among the seidh skills possessed by Odin was the ability to go forth in animal form while his body lay as if sleeping. His ravens may also be projections of his consciousness. Freyja can take the form of a falcon and possibly a sow or a mare (the latter are two of her epithets).

Someone who changes form easily is hamrammR-- "shapestrong"; a journey taken in another shape is hamfarir; hamask means to fall into a state of animal fury; hamslauss to be out of one's shape; and hambleytha is the act of leaping out of one's skin. One is reminded of the Navajo term, "skinwalker" for a witch who takes wolf form. For simplicity's sake, I favor referring to a spirit guide who appears in animal form as the hamingja, and the shape which an experienced practitioner of seidh uses for astral travel as the hamR.

The term hamingja, translated variously as "luck, fortune," or "a guardian spirit," is often used interchangeably with fylgja. In "Vafthruthnismál":49, the hamingjur are Jotun-maidens, possibly to be identified with the Norns. The root -- hamR -- supports an interpretation which identifies it more closely as an aspect of the individual to whom it belongs. In the sagas, a person's luck is sometimes transferrable-- permanently from a man to his heir, or temporarily from a king to his follower.

Gundarsson, following Thorsson, defines the hamingja as a personal reserve of energy, the source of the fylgja's power. In folklore, however, the hamingja may take the form of the individual him/herself, or it may appear in the shape of an animal. If the hamingja is defined as an entity as opposed to an energy pool, it would seem logical to identify the it as the guardian of an individual's hamR. If so, the power animal or ally who assists the practitioner of contemporary shamanism would be an example of this kind of guardian.

3. Personal consciousness or personality - Mind

Personal consciousness is the mind, the aspect of the psyche of which we are most constantly aware, the part which we identify as "I". It is generally divided into two components, which are however defined in a variety of ways by different cultures and schools of psychotherapy. The Norse seem to have personified them in the two ravens of Odhinn. In Hinduism, they are manomaya kosa, the "instinctive-intellectual sheath," and vijnanamaya kosa, the "Mental, or cognitive, sheath". Other versions might be "right" versus "left" brain function, the id and the ego of Freudian psychology, or even the conscious and unconscious (linked to the collective unconscious as described by Jung). Whatever terms one chooses, there seems to be a general agreement that consciousness consists of the hug a part which does the thinking, and knows itself with on-going, active awareness (note that Thorsson makes this a separate part, defining it as the conscious will and intellect), and a second part, (minni) which is less accessible and which includes memories.

When people discuss the possibility of individual spiritual survival, it is generally the survival of the personality to which they are referring. In a "normal" individual, personal consciousness is perceived as an integrated whole. We know, however, that personality can be fragmented. When this happens involuntarily and has a negative impact, it is considered a personality disorder.

However dissociation may be induced voluntarily in certain kinds of artistic or magical work. The actor who "becomes" a character on stage is allowing his body to become the vehicle for another personality. Writers "become" their characters while they are creating them. In some spiritual traditions, the initiate deliberately creates a "magical personality," or allows his or her body to become the vehicle through which a spirit guide may communicate, or to be possessed by a god. The distinction between spirituality and pathology seems to depend on context, control, and results.

In multiple personality disorders, a traumatized psyche splits off personalities to deal with specific situations. The process of splitting may continue until dozens of "people" are sharing a body, each with his or her own sets of memories, speech and movement patterns, likes and dislikes, knowledge and skills. Some of them know about each other, but there is usually one which is ignorant of all the others, and who in really unpleasant situations gets left to take the rap. Therapy strives to get all these personalities to reintegrate, or to abdicate in favor of a new core personality which includes most of their abilities, or to become subject to the control of one of them.

The shamanic practice of soul retrieval appears to be directed towards a related kind of personality disorder, in which the fragmented parts of the personality, rather than taking over, are "lost" in the spirit world. In traditional cultures soul loss is diagnosed as the cause of certain kinds of illness, depression and the like. Coma is the ultimate soul loss, in which the entire conscious personality has withdrawn.

Observation of individuals with short or long-term memory loss shows that a recognizable personality may continue to function without the memories and knowledge that formed it. Spiritualism and other traditions which feature communication with the dead believe that personal consciousness survives the death of the body. Messages from the dead are validated by the display of recognizable personality traits and knowledge that only that individual would know.

One way to account for this is the possibility is that the personality (or personalities) remains as an imprint on the astral plane, which we may imagine to be something like an energy matrix which encompasses physical reality. This pattern can be accessed, and if energy is directed towards it can, like other thought-forms, become an active entity. This hypothesis would explain how ancestral spirits can become demi-gods.

Identifying and integrating all the various parts of the human psyche is the work of contemporary psychotherapy. But since we are approaching the problem from the perspective of Norse tradition, let us explore the traditional bi-polar division represented by Huginn and Muninn.

Muninn, usually translated as Memory, is presumably derived from the Old Norse munR, meaning "mind," like the German minni, which carries with it connotations of feeling or preference as well as of mentation. Phrases such as "to bear in mind," or "remind me" clarify the meaning. As such, it can be used to refer to right-brain and unconscious mental functions, including memory.

It seems most appropriate to assign the ancestral spirits as guardians for the Memory aspect of the psyche. In the sagas, which mostly focus on masculine protagonists, ancestral spirits appear in the form of the female guardians of the family line, the disir. Descriptions of cult-worship offered to ancestors in Sweden and Denmark suggest that the male ancestors should be referred to as the alfar. Since they are not described interacting with females in the sagas, it is not clear whether ancestors guard descendents of opposite genders to their own, or whether, as seems more likely, their functions are related to gender-specific social roles. My guess is that the disir played a role consistent with the powers ascribed to women by the culture, being concerned with birth, death, and prophecy, while the alfar might have had more influence over prosperity and problem solving.

Another option, suggested by Gundarsson, would be to identify the guardian of minni with the kinfylgja, repository of a family's ancestral luck and wisdom. However defined, these figures would be the logical guardians of the collective unconscious-- those cultural memories which are the spiritual equivalent of genetic material. They are the obvious spirits to call upon for help in retrieving any memories which are buried, whether personal or inherited.

If we continue to consider the mind as a bipolar entity, the second component would be represented by Huginn, usually translated as "thought," but derived, in Old Norse, from hugR, which also means "mind". Like munR, this word has connotations of feeling, and as we have seen above, in later Scandinavian folklore it became the catch-all term for everything relating to the soul. To assign it to the intellect and "left brain" thinking, is therefore somewhat arbitrary, but possibly useful.

The guardian whom I would assign to the thinking part of the psyche is the fylgja, whose English cognate is "fetch," an Old Norse term for a personal guardian spirit. A "fetch" in the shape of human, an animal or a crescent goes before its owner, but if he is fey, it comes after him. "Fylgja" is cognate to a verb, meaning "to follow" (Old English folgjan), which is used in the sense of backing up or siding with someone, hanging around, belonging. According to Thorsson, the fylgja is ". . .a numinous being attached to every individual, which is the repository of all past actions and which accordingly affects the person's life; the personal divinity. Visualized as a contrasexual entity, an animal, or an abstract shape." (Well of Wyrd, p. 119). Gundarsson defines it as an animal form which shows the soul's inner nature and the person's condition, visible to those with second sight.

One's fylgja is always around, although it can ordinarily be seen only by those with the astral vision or in emergencies. All of the references in the sagas are to female fylgjur attached to men. It is not clear whether the spirit always appears as a member of the opposite sex to its owner (like the Jungian animus or anima), or whether the fylgja is simply a personal form of the matrilineal spirit guardian.

In some of the Eddic poems, the protecting role of the fylgja is taken by a valkyrie, who is a human or supernatural woman skilled in battle magic who becomes the protector and lover of the hero. Some of these stories share the motif of the "spirit-wife," who can assume beast shape by putting on an animal skin. For valkyries, the most common shape is that of a swan. Such spirit-spouses are also common in the lore of Siberian shamanism, in which they can be of either sex.

The terms norn, dis, and fylgja are used interchangeably in some of the sagas. Probably their meaning varied from district to district, or from individual to individual. Definitions vary among modern writers as well. In practice it may be wise to develop relationships with different disir or fylgjur for specific kinds of work, or to simply establish contact with a "spirit guide" who will guard the integrated personality. When working in a Norse context, I prefer to refer to the spirit guide as a fylgja if it appears in human form. If you want to be gender-specific, you could use fylgju-kona for a female spirit, and fylgju-madhR for a male.

4. Breath/spirit (önd)

In the Eddas, the gift of Odhin is önd, literally "breath," whose metaphoric meaning, as in so many languages, is "spirit" or "soul". The concept expressed by önd seems to be equivalent to the Hebrew ruach, the Greek pneuma, and other terms of this kind. It is one of the most pervasive in religion. The winds are the breath of earth, and planetary life depends upon our atmosphere. Inspiration is the drawing of the first breath which signals the beginning of a life; expiration is the rattle of breath at its end. Re-spiration enables the body to metabolize food and oxygen in order to survive. Breathing is thus the act that animates the body, the dynamic, invisible, transforming power that signifies the transition between two states of being, the link between the physical and spiritual worlds. It is perhaps to be expected that this should be the gift of the god who walks between the worlds, and that he should be invoked as its guardian.

However if the loss of önd signals the end of physical existence, where does it go? It is no longer necessary to either the physical or the astral body, nor is it needed by the mind, in whatever form that may survive. It would seem to be relatively impersonal, not so much a part of the psyche as a process which links together all of the parts of the individual discussed so far. The önd animates body and spirit; it is the force which enables them to act in concert, but it does not appear to be personal, any more than the atoms which make up the physical body are personal. Like them, the breath (oxygen) is taken in, used, transformed, and expelled. Perhaps önd is not a thing so much as this process of transformation, the combustion which is the body's equivalent of fire. In that case, when it is released, it, like the body, would return to its elements.

5. Higher Self (goði/gyðja)

The components of the psyche discussed so far can all be more or less illustrated by the ancient literature. The concept of the higher self is more problematic, and yet I believe that the existence of such a thing can be argued. If the conscious personality with which we identify is susceptible to change or fragmentation, then what is it that lies beneath (or above) it? Even well-integrated personalities change over time. We are not the same people we were as children, although we retain their memories. But if all those people whom we have been have already lived and disappeared, how can we identify as "real" the people we are now? There is more continuity (and certainly a more demonstrable connection) between our child-selves and our mature selves and the people we become in age than there is between successive lifetimes, and yet the difference may be more one of degree than kind.

It is possible to rise above pain by saying "I am not this body," and above the emotions that shake the soul, or the changing thoughts and opinions of the mind, in the same way. But if we are not the body, or the mind, then what are we? What is it that moves from one incarnation to another, that exists between them, that throughout all our lives we are striving to become?

Perhaps what Freud called the super-ego can be identified with this higher self, which is the part to which we send energy to use for healing, and which we are addressing when we say "thou art god". According to the Hindus, the inmost soul body is "the blissful, ever-giving-wisdom," anadamaya kosa. I would suggest that there is indeed a higher component of consciousness, still identifiable in personal terms, which we experience when we "surpass ourselves," when we are functioning at our highest potential.

When the ancient Germans said their seeresses were reverenced "like goddesses," perhaps it was because when they worked they were able to let this divine personality shine through. Individuals of extraordinary impact and charisma, those who become demi-gods or saints or gurus-- or alfar-- are probably those whose spiritual development has progressed to the point where the divine personality becomes the "core" personality of daily existence in that incarnation. This is the aspect of the psyche whose "vibrational level," in channeling terms, is high enough to permit fusion with a god-form.

I suggest that this higher self must be the "immortal soul," the connecting link between fragmented personalities or the souls of various incarnations. It has the capability to become one of the attendant spirits associated with various deities, at least until the next incarnation, to which it brings the spiritual essence of the individual, but not (usually) the personal memories of previous lifetimes.

I would follow Gundarsson in suggesting that the spiritual beings which can serve as links between this part of the soul and various deities could be called valkyries (for Odhinn), a fylgjadis, for the Vanir, a thrudhmaer when approaching Thor, meotodu in relation to Tyr, and simply a mær, or may (maiden), for working with Frigg and others for whom the title of their attendants are not known.

6. Divine Consciousness (öðr)

In the literature of mysticism, a state of being is described which lies beyond even the perfected personality discussed above. It is this which Hinduism calls atman, the immortal soul. In sophisticated spiritual traditions, including those which are polytheistic, one finds the concept of a godhead which is not personified, an ultimate divinity which cannot be described but only experienced. In the ultimate form of spiritual union the mystic contacts this aspect of divinity, and in the process loses awareness of selfhood. In Eastern traditions, it is this Divinity, which is not so much a Being as a state of being, with which the soul that has gone beyond the need for incarnation unites. Can we find any traces of such a concept in Germanic tradition?

In the Norse creation myth, Hoenir's gift is ödhr, translated as consciousness, sense, and the like. However the word is the root from which we get the name Odhinn, usually translated as "ecstasy." This concept, like the nature of the god, is more complex than it might appear. Dr. Martin Schwartz of the University of California has traced the etymology of öðr and its older cognate, wodh, back to their Indo-European root, and demonstrated their relationship to concepts having to do with the activity of the mind .

His analysis makes it clear that for the ancient Germanic peoples, consciousness was not an intellectual process, but rather an ecstatic experience of connection and creativity. This aspect of existence is beyond all temporal relationships, and is neither born nor can it die. To me, this ultimate experience of consciousness sounds a great deal like the mystic rapture. I choose, therefore, to designate öðr as that capacity of the human pysche which is capable of identifying with and losing itself in the Divine.

Hoenir, the god who gave öðr to humankind, is the spiritual force with which it must be associated, not so much as its guardian as perhaps an expression of its nature. Hoenir is a mysterious figure in the surviving mythology. He appears a number of times in company with Odhinn and Loki, and in the Eddic account of the awakening of humankind takes the role ascribed in Snorri's version to the second of Odhinn's brothers (presumably Vili-- Will). In the Heimskringla, he plays a less noble role, being one of the hostages given to the Vanir, unable to function (to exercise his will) except in the company of Mimir.

Rather than following Snorri's characterization of Hoenir as stupid, I find it more useful to characterize him as a force (or as the aspect of Odhinn) which is so far abstracted from ordinary human experience that only when linked to the power of memory can it manifest in the human world. The silence of Hoenir would therefore result not from any lack of intelligence, but from the difficulty involved in translating the experience he represents into human words. He is the aspect of Odhinn which is pure consciousness, awareness experiencing itself. It is not surprising that the Vanir, the deities most concerned with the divine as it is made manifest in the physical world, would find him hard to understand.

Öðr, like ond, may be seen not so much as a thing as a dynamic process. The act of breathing animates the body and links its physical and spiritual elements into a single being. Its appearance and disappearence bound a human lifetime. Öðr, on the other hand, is recognized by most people rarely and by some hardly at all. And yet it is an innate human capacity, a gift to us from the gods, the process by which we experience our connection with the divine.

This is all very interesting-- even perhaps-- inspiring, but what is it good for? As I indicated earlier, a model of the anatomy of the hugR may have certain implications for spiritual work, especially that involving trance or voluntary dissociation. In work of this kind, one must be able to relax the body and focus the mind so that the spirit can fly free. A systematic approach to this process of relaxation and release allows this to be done with more precision and control over what is happening. When working with any specific religious system, it is of course essential to become thoroughly familiar with its deities and their characteristics, major symbols, cosomological map, and so forth.

Source (http://www.hrafnar.org/norse/hyge-craeft.html)

Tuesday, November 1st, 2005, 06:01 PM
The ancient Northern Europeans did not see a simple universe with a heaven above and a hell below. Instead they saw a complex of other planes and enclosures interconnected with our own. According to the Eddas, these planes or worlds were born when the realm of fire, Muspellheimr, in the south moved north to meet the realm of Niflheimr in the south. They met in what is known as the Ginnungapap "the yawning void." From this union sprang forth two beings Ymir the primeval giant and Audhumla, the primeval cow. By licking the ice, Audhumla made a new being appear, Buri. From Buri sprang Borr who married Bestla, who gave birth to Woden, Willi and Wéh. They slew Ymir and from him created the Nine Worlds and the World Tree that supports the worlds.

Although the Nine Worlds are linked by the World Tree, they by no means lie near each other, for there are hills, valleys, mountains, and even rivers between them formed by the bark of the tree. Beyond the Nine Worlds are unknown worlds resting in the Útgard "that outside the enclosure". Each world as well as the World Tree and the Well of Wyrd are described below with the Old Norse name followed by the Anglo-Saxon version or an Anglo-Saxon reconstruction where possible.

Yggdrasil/ *Éormensyll

Yggdrasil, also known as the Irminsul in Old Saxon (the Anglo-Saxon reconstruction being Éormensyll) is the World Tree and holds all the known worlds and rises out of the Well of Wyrd. It is often spoken of as an ash, though it was thought to have needles like a yew and also bore fruit. More likely than not the tree cannot be compared to any mortal species of tree, but may, indeed be a combination of them all. The World Tree gives the universe its infrastructure. The Nine Worlds rest within its branches and due to this the World Tree often serves as a pathway for travel between the worlds.

Niflheimr/ *Nifolham

Niflheimr "the misty home" was thought of lying in the metaphysical north of Miðgardr below Hell. It is a world of pure cold or ice, shrouded in mist. From it flowed the rivers into Ginnungagap at the beginning of time that now flow into Hvergelmir, a part of the Well of Wyrd. It is believed that the Nibelingen (MHG) or Niflungar (ON) of the Sigurd myth may have originated there.


Ásgarðr literally means "enclosure of the Ése (Æsir)" or "enclosure of the gods." It is possible it was also called Heofonríce in Anglo-Saxon, but there is no way to prove this definitely. Ásgarðr is centered on a higher plane above Midgarðr and can be reached through several means. Chief is Bífrøst or Ásbrú, the fiery rainbow bridge that links the world of men to the realm of the gods. It can also be accessed from Hell by Gjallarbrú "the resounding bridge." One can also reach Ásgarðr through the Myrkviðr the "mirk wood" which separates Ágarðr from Múspillheimr. Finally there are the rivers which flow around Ágarðr and these Thunor (Thor) must cross as he is too heavy for the bridges.

There are many halls in Ágarðr; Valaskjálf of Woden, Bilsskirnir of Thunor, Fensalir of Frige, Víngolf (AS Wyngeard) of the goddesses, Glitnir of Forseta and Valhøll (AS *Wælheall) of the fallen heroes.


Jøttinheimr was home to the Jøtnar (AS Eotenas) or ettins, the giants. Traditionally it is seen as north of Midgarðr. In Eotenham lie the fortresses of the ettins. Within its borders also lies the Jarnviðr or the "iron wood."

Alfheimr/ *Ælfham

Alfheimr is the home of the elves and was given as a gift to the god Fréa for his first tooth. It was thought of as a place of great beauty, as were its inhabitants. Many believe it lies near Ágarðr.


Midgarðr is the realm of Man and is thought of lying in the center of the Nine Worlds. It is surrounded by a vast ocean and about it lies a wall built by the gods to protect it. Several variants of the name survive, amongst them Middenerd and Tolkien's Middle-Earth.


Múspellheimr is a region of pure fire ruled by the ettin Surtr. Others like him inhabit the realm and are the closest thing to evil incarnate that can be found in Northern European mythology.


Hel is the lowest of the Nine Worlds besides Niflheimr resting below the World Tree. It is not at all a bad place, parts of it are an afterlife paradise while other parts are seen as dark and gloomy. Unlike the Christian purgatory, it is not an abode of punishment, but simply a resting place for the dead. It may be reached by the road Helvergr "the Hell way" or "Highway to Hell" if you like, a river of blood called Gjøll, or a cave called Gnípahellir. Hel's gate called Helgrind or Nágrind is guarded by the ettin woman Modgud and the hound Garmr.

Below Hel and in a northern part of it lies the mansion of the goddess of death Hel. It is called Elviðnir "misery" and is surrounded by a wall called Fallanda Forad "falling peril." Still deeper is Kvøllheimr, a place of punishment for the wicked. Within it is Nástrønd/*Nástrand "corpse strand" a dwelling made of adders for which there may be an Anglo-Saxon term in Wyrmsele "snake hall." Here the evil dead are sent to forever have burning poison drip down upon them.


Svartálfheimr is the home of the Svartálfar, the black elves. Their identity is unclear though a few believe them the same as the Dokkálfar or "dark elves." Still others hold they are the dwarves of Norse mythology. It is thought of as a subterranean region and folk tales suggest it can be accessed through caves in Midgarðr.


Vanaheimr is the home of the Wena (Vanir) the second family of Gods of which Fréa and Fréo are members. It is thought to be west of Midgarðr and like Ágarðr is said to have many mansions.

Urðarbrunnr/ *Wyrdesburne

Urðarbrunnr or the Well of Wyrd lies at the base of the World Tree. There lies the dwelling place of the Norns as well as the thing stead or assembly area of the Gods.

The various directions given in the above descriptions should not be thought of as literal directions. They come down to us from many sources and we can not be certain of their accuracy. Certainly Earthly directions would have little bearing on what are essentially metaphysical planes bordering our own. Still, it may be that these directions may give some idea of where the planes lie in relation to each other and which may be closest to our own.

Source (http://www.ealdriht.org/cosmo1.html)

Saturday, July 1st, 2006, 08:21 PM
Soul Making:


Sunday, July 2nd, 2006, 04:33 PM
Modern Christian thought has the soul being a single entity somewhat divorced from the human body. The ancient Heathens did not see the soul this way, for them the soul was composed of many parts, each with a different function, and intimately tied to the mortal body during life. In the "Voluspa" from the Elder Edda, we are told Woden and his brothers gave man ønd or divine breath, wód or moods/emotions, lá or appearance, and likr or health. These gifts are paralleled in the Anglo-Saxon Dialogue Between Saturn and Solomon where God is said to have given man þang or thought, æðungem or divine breath, and modes unstadalfæstenss or unsteadfast moods. Finally, a twelfth century poem in Middle High German states God gave man muot or mood and a&aethem or divine breath.

Research of the various ancient Northern European tongues reveals that the soul can be broken down roughly into: 1) The Lich or body 2) The Hyge or high, the intellect 3) The Mynd or memory 4) The Willa or will 5) The Æþem or the breath of life, the "silver cord" 6) The Hama or the skin of the soul 7) Orlæg or one's personal wyrd 8) Mægen or one's personal energy 9) The Fetch or one's personal guardian spirit 10) The Mód or the emotions. 11) The Wód.

The Lich

The lich or in Old English lic is the human body, and it, like other parts of the soul requires special treatment. One should get plenty of exercise and eat the right foods. Humans are naturally omnivorous, that is they eat both meat and plants. It is for this reason we have incisors or canine teeth which are designed to tear meat as well as molars to gnash hard grains. One should keep in mind though that most meat on the market today is loaded full of fat that ancient man did not see in his diet. It is best for that reason to choose carefully what meats one eats. As for plants one should eat a variety of plant foods and not eat too much of one thing. One should be certain to eat a variety of green vegetables, nuts, and berries. For those that prefer a vegetarian diet, foods that are high in protein such as nuts and some types of beans should be eaten regularly. As for physical appearance, one should try to keep their hair long as the ancient Heathens held that one's power resided in the hair, thus kings and nobles always wore long hair. Nails on the other hand should be kept trimmed as the ship of the evil dead used to assail the gods' realms at the twilight of the gods is made of the untrimmed finger nails of corpses.

The Hyge

The high or in Anglo-Saxon hyge is the intellect, that part of the soul which rules rational thought. Its dominion is that of the "real world." While the hyge seems to rule the rational part of Man the ancients may have also felt it ruled some emotions. The word hyge itself is related to words meaning "to love" or "to care for." The idea of the hyge being connected to the thought of "caring" isn't quite far fetched. Caring is after all, an active emotion, that is it is one that requires deeds be done. "To care for" one's sick mother requires some activity after all, and it may be the ancients thought "caring" required some form of rational thought. The memory in the ancient soul structure is also linked to words for love, although this is in a more romantic sense. The difference could be between love that is of one's own free will, that of the hyge, and one that is innate, that of the mynd.

The Mynd

The mynd is the memory and all functions surrounding it. This includes all that has been learned, memories of one's life, and one's ancestral memory or instinct. Like the hyge, the word mynd is related to words meaning "to love," though of a far more romantic variety. Many of the words dealing with the human mind and loving or caring seem to have evolved with the sense of "keeping one in mind." That is the memory or mynd is linked to words meaning "to love" because one's loved ones will be ever present in the memory. Similarly the hyge is related to words meaning to care for, as one will actively think of one's loved ones often. These ideas of remembering or thinking about those we love or care for or even have been kind to us is deeply ingrained in the Germanic culture. The phrase "thank you" evolved from a sense of "I will think of you" meaning the kind act would be remembered. Heathen scholars have yet to explore these possibilities, the link between active rational thought and emotions such as caring or loving.

The Willa

The will is the source of voluntary self assertion or determination. Its is the ability to "wish" something into being by sheer desire, and be in control of one's self and one's wyrd. It is related to words meaning "to wish or desire " and deals primarily with what one wants instead of necessarily what one needs. However, unlike the hyge or the mynd, it is not linked to any words meaning "to love" or "to care for," strange for that part of the soul which rules self initiative and desire.

The æðem

The æðem is the breath of life, it is the animating principle of the body and is what links the body to the rest of the soul. It is roughly the equivalent of "the silver chord" of some philosophies. Without the æðem the soul would separate from the body and leave. At death, the æðem dissolves setting the soul free to fare to the afterlife. Another term for the æðem is the ealdor, which also refers to the life span of a man as well as eternity. Yet another term is blad which means "breath or spirit," and like æðem refers to ancient beliefs involving the idea of the breath of life as the soul of a man.

The Hama

The hama is an energy/matter form surrounding the soul that protects it outside the body. It is roughly analogous to the skin of the body. The hama looks like the body it belongs to although very powerful creatures can shape shift their's. The hama is the "ethereal image" of any ghosts one might see. It is the hama that keeps the soul's energies from being dispersed when the body fares forth. After death the hama may be referred to as the scinn or scinnhíw.

The Orlæg

The orlæg is one's personal wyrd. It is an individual's "law." The Orlæg contains all the events of one's life and their consequences. These events and their results further determine the results of one's future actions. It is tied to one's fetch and regulates the amount of one's mægen.

The Mægen

mægen is the spiritual energy possessed by every living creature and thing in the universe. mægen like wyrd exists on many levels. There is the mægen of the individual, that shared by the family, and that shared by entire nations. mægen is expended in everyday life with the deeds we do. How much mægen one has is regulated by Wyrd and based largely on our deeds. When one commits an evil act, they incur a debt known in Anglo-Saxon as a scyld "debt, or obligation." Failure to pay this debt results in a loss of mægen equal to the amount of mægen lost from the evil act. Thus theft of a piece of jewelry would result in a loss of mægen from the thief equal to the amount of mægen contained in that piece of jewelry. mægen can be earned through the doing of good deeds, that is the doing of deeds that benefit others or the community.

The Fetch or Fæcce

The fetch, or in Anglo-Saxon fæcce, is one's guardian spirit and is said to appear as an animal resembling one's disposition or as a member of the opposite sex (which if corresponded to Jung's theories on the animus and animia would resemble one's true love). If the fetch is seen as an animal, it will always been seen in that form unless the spell caster wills it to shape change. In ancient times fetchs were generally seen as wolves, bears, cats, hawks, eagles, sea faring birds, and livestock (horses, pigs, cattle, etc.). Its form can sometimes be seen by those with second sight. It is the fetch that usually controls the allocation of one's mægen in accordance with one's wyrd. The fetch also records one's actions in one's wyrd. Fetchs are said to flee the wicked in the Eddas.

The Mód

The mód is the self. In many ways it is the "totality of being," the cognizance of an individual or state of being. It is a concept that is very difficult to understand because of the vast array of uses of the word in the ancient Northern European languages. The reason for this complexity probably lies in how the early Northern Europeans viewed the world.

In modern thought there are two ways of viewing things. The objective view is one that always views things for what can be scientifically proven about them. It tends to be rational and materialistic in the way it views things. Most of the Western world uses objective viewing. Alongside objective viewing, the West also practices activism or the tendency to submerge one's self in the physical or material world. In the West, thus materialism exists as the main drive in life. A second way of viewing things belongs to the great Eastern culture of India. Subjective viewing views objects for the emotions they can evoke. Usually cultures that practice subjective viewing also practice quietism or rather they tend to submerge themselves in their own thoughts and not the physical world. These differences in Western and Eastern thought have resulted in the East as seeing only psychic reality or "the reality of the mind" while the West sees only "the material world."

Neither sets of views seem to have been held by the ancient Northern Europeans. They seem to have believed in a metaphysical reality or "psychic reality" as much as they did a physical reality or material reality. As such, they probably viewed everything both objectively and subjectively while practicing activism in both forms of reality. This would account for such a large part of the soul as the mód with its multitude of uses for both the intellect and the emotions. The mód is most likely a reflection of the integrated self, one that can both view things subjectively and objectively.

The Wód

The wód is the seat of the "passions" or those emotions that bring about inspiration. The wód is the providence of Woden, and many believe its power comes directly from him. The wód is responsible for a higher state of being edging on the divine and can only be defined by such words as enthusiasm, agony, and ecstasy. It is responsible for poetic inspiration, "madness," and the berserk rage. It most closely resembles the modern principle of the daimonic as described by psychologist Rollo May. Failure to integrate it into the rest of the soul can result in a myriad mental illnesses, if one uses May's theories as an example. Successful integration on the other hand can result in artistic genius or simply a well balanced sense of being. Strangely enough, the wód, was gave to Man by Willa, the god of the will, and therefore self control.

Collectively the soul minus the fetch is known as the feorh, gæst, or sawol in Anglo-Saxon There are many other terms in the Elder Tongues for each of the soul parts as well. The lich can also be called the hræw; the æðem, the ealdor. The other terms have related words as well, but these are often more obscure. There is much we still do not know about ancient Heathen soul lore, and the above information is by no means complete. We have little idea what such terms as sefa, angiet, and orðanc refer to. Whether they are synonyms for the other terms, or other parts of the soul we do not know. However, what knowledge we do have on ancient soul lore will lead us to learning more about how our souls are constructed, and why we do the things we do. The soul is intimately tied to Wyrd, and no study of the soul would be complete without one of Wyrd and concepts concerning good and evil also.

Source (http://www.ealdriht.org/soul2.html)

Wednesday, July 12th, 2006, 07:12 PM
Other aspects of the Soul:

Wednesday, July 12th, 2006, 07:13 PM
Also on here: