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Thread: On Germanic Shamanism

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    Post On Germanic Shamanism

    by Asbjųrn Jųn

    While coming to deeply consider the nature and practices of Finnic shamanism, it is important to recognise the vital role that shamanic godheads, such as Väinämöinen, Ilmarinen, Lemminkäinen and Joukahainen have played in the Finno-Baltic pagan tradition as well as in the development of deep cosmological understanding and unity within a specific mortal shaman.

    [...] Additionally, such mortal religious leaders may have influenced popular conceptions of Finno-Baltic pagan cosmology - through their powerful and influential role within pre-Christian communities.

    Therefore, deep analysis of the cosmology and shamanic practices of pre-Christian Finnish society largely depends upon the accurate mapping of the aforementioned deities, and the recognition of any elements that may have been transferred upon their godheads at a later time due to the contact with other cultures.

    As scholars such as Peter Andreas Munch, Sophus Bugge and Wolfgang Golther have come to suggest - with relation to the now disproved hypothesis that the Įsatrś tradition was heavily influenced by Christian mythology - it is very hard to overestimate the power of the traveller's tale in relation to the process of cultural transference.

    Wide ranging lexical exchange between Finno-Baltic and Northern Teutonic peoples during the main composition period of Finno-Baltic magic and shamanic epic poetry (ca 200 B.C.-550A.D.) is now largely accepted by scholars, and has in most cases been attributed to such early contacts (see Branch 1985: xxi).

    Therefore, it is also highly possible that some theological conceptions were also exchanged between the Teutonic and Finno-Baltic peoples during such early meetings. Such a theory highlights the possibility that an analysis of the Teutonic shaman god, Óšinn, focusing upon commonly recognised shamanic features may lead to a future recognition of ways in which both the shamanic Finno-Baltic gods and that godhead may have to some degree influenced each other.

    Accordingly, in the following paragraphs Óšinn's major shamanic attributes will be outlined with some of the close parallels to the shamanic practices of non-Teutonic peoples or deities being carefully noted.

    There are several features of Óšinn's persona which indicate that he should be viewed as a master-shaman. In recent decades, many scholars have recognised this aspect of his persona, and many have even come to compare his various efforts to gain greater spiritual knowledge to those of shaman from geographic locations as diverse as Siberia and North America. However, most have limited their descriptions of his shamanic role to the like of Simpson's following comment:

    "Odin is the god of wisdom, especially the occult wisdom of seers and sorcerers [He] was the patron and the divine prototype of seers and magicians, especially those who (like shamans in Arctic Europe and Asia in modern times) undergo terrifying initiations and communicate with other worlds in ecstasies and mediumistic trances (Simpson 1971: 215)".

    The first and most obvious indicators of Óšinn's shamanism are to be found in the myth of 'Óšinn's Ordeal'. The best surviving record of 'Óšinn's Ordeal' appears in the portion of the Hįvamįl that is generally called the 'Rśnatal'. In this myth, as A. G. van Hamel has suggested (van Hamel 1932); Óšinn submits to a shamanistic ordeal that ritually magnifies his įsmegin (divine strength). This ritual was enacted as an attempt to gain knowledge of and power over the runes - an eternal magical element, that are unique to Teutonic cosmology. Their nature is perhaps best illustrated by considering that their 'actual mysteries are timeless and were created - or more properly, «came into being» - with the emergence of the Nine Worlds out of Ginnungagap' (Thorsson 1991: 3).

    To enact the ritual, Óšinn hung himself on Yggdrasill for nine nights, during which he received neither food nor wine. He also pierced himself with the point of a spear. Upon the completion of this ritual, Óšinn was able to recognise the runes and make them submit to him as their Rune-Master. This myth corresponds with the shamanist initiation rites of a number of peoples. Pipping has noted the similarity of the ordeal to the initiation rite of Finnish shaman (Pipping 1928). A similar technique is also used by shaman in Nepal. In Nepal, at the moment of a shaman's spiritual birth, they are required to tree-sit in a pine, which is regarded as being symbolic of the Tree of Life. During this period the initiates are left by themselves and are forbidden to eat; yet the rest of their tribe conducts a public feast. The initiated shaman is also blind-folded for the ritual. The fasting element is also common amongst shamanic initiations, with perhaps the most obvious parallel being the fasting of the Caribou Eskimo initiate shaman (see Rasmussen 1927: 82-85). We can also compare the moment of Óšinn discovering the runes, to the climax of the Siberian shaman's initiation. We have been told that at this moment:

    "he [obtains] the flash or illumination - a mysterious light which the shaman suddenly feels in the interior of his head. He is now able to discern things hidden from other human beings (Hunkin 1987: 678)".

    Additionally, with the aid of the work of the Boeotian biographer, Delphic priest and municipal officer of Chaeronea, Plutarch; we can confirm that parallels of this shamanic ritual have been used by Óšinn's Cult as a form of human sacrifice from at least 100 B.C. Plutarch recorded that the Teutonic tribe known as the Cimbri sacrificed themselves to appease their gods after being defeated in a battle. The said battle was fought against Caius Marius, and took place in ca 110 B.C. Plutarch's passage is significant here, because it clearly states that the tribe's preferred method of sacrifice was hanging by the neck, from tres. However, in this instance, because there were no trees in the area the Cimbri had performed the sacrifice by having themselves trampled to death by cattle and oxen.

    Other indicators of this role are the myths that reveal that Óšinn's horse Sleipnir could carry him to the Underworld. Verrier Elwin has noted that the Muria people's shaman hold a belief about being carried to another world on the back of an eight-legged horse (Elwin 1947: 150). This belief contains many parallels to the Teutonic tales about Sleipnir. Furthermore, Elwin also recognised that the Muria people have created mythicised songs about this type of voyage. These songs probably represent the same theological processes as a Teutonic song, such as Baldrs draumar.

    Óšinn also possesses the shape-changing power - sjónhverfing (taking on false appearances through the power of optical or magical illusions), a shape-changing power which in many ways reflects an ability to exude hypnotic suggestions upon all who are, in an immediate vicinity. When using this shape-changing power, Óšinn can take on the shape of a 'fugl esha d&yakute;r, fiskr esha ormr' (Sturluson 1952: 12), and travel to far off places. In this way he fulfils errands for either himself or for others - sometimes even travelling between worlds. From a variety of sources though, we know that this practice was extremely physically demanding. Interestingly, we may note that Celia Green has scientifically recorded the practice of similar out-of-body phenomena in modern times, suggesting a deeper truth to the myth (Green 1976: 13, 59, 68, 75, 82-84, 86, 93-100, 112-118, 120, 126, 129, 133, 138, 154, 161). It is an ability that is a common attribute of the shaman. Shaman usually employs such a trance induced mechanism of self shape-changing to travel to other worlds and fight spirits. By employing this technique, the shaman 'controls his trance movements between the world of men and the spirit world' (Zweig 1981: 86), moving between them with great speed and efficiency. There are many examples of the use of this power throughout both Teutonic and Finno-Baltic myth and folklore. As Kvideland and Sehmsdorf have suggested, tales of this kind are so common that they have come to hold their own classification, as Legend Type 3080 (Kvideland & Sehmsdorf 1994: 71-74). Eliade has also commented about the close relationship between to Óšinn's shape-changing, and 'the [shape-changing] practices of Siberian shamans' (Eliade 1989: 381). Additionally, we can note similar practices amongst the shaman of many other cultures, such as those of the Sora people. Piers Vitebsky, the Head of Social Sciences at the University of Cambridge's 'Scott Polar Research Institute', has noted that the Sora shaman have the shape-changing power to 'slip out of their bodies and their souls also turn to monkeys' (Vitebsky 1995: 92).

    Óšinn's animal companions are also reflections of his shamanism. Óšinn's most commonly explored connection to shamanism through these animals is his connection to ravens. These two birds often perch on his shoulders. 'Žį sendir hann ķ dagan at fljśgja um allan heim ok koma žeir aptr at dögursharmįli' (Sturluson 1988: 32); bringing him news from the four corners of Mishgarshr. As Eliade has suggested, Óšinn's birds, Munin and Hugin, probably represent:

    "in highly mythicised form, two helping spirits in the shape of birds, which the Great Magician sent (in true shamanic fashion!) to the four corners of the world (Eliade 1989: 381)".

    Spirits taking the form of birds play a large role in the shamanism of many cultures, and Óšinn's relationship with the raven may even suggest some distant parallel to the shamanic Inuit belief in The Raven Father.

    Furthermore, Óšinn's companions, the Valkyrja, also reflect his shamanism. However, in order to recognise this, we must first consider the history of the interpretation of the name. In 1899, Professor H. Munro Chadwick suggested that the Anglo-Saxon word, walcyrge (węlcyrie), 'may reflect an earlier conception' (Chadwick 1899: 47-48) of these spirits, than the Old Norse word, 'Valkyrja'. He also suggested that walcyrge would have probably originally referred to those women who performed human sacrifices, and then used that blood for divination. Chadwick did acknowledge that the walcyrge possessed supernatural powers, yet suggested that these powers 'appear [...] to have been of the werewolf class'(Chadwick 1899: 48). In this way he saw their ascent to the Valhöll as a later development. This interpretation would function in perfect unison with the label, óskmeyiar, which has been applied to the Valkyrja; reflecting the usage of óskasynir to refer to the Einheriar who were the mortal warriors chosen to fight with Óšinn in Ragnarųkr. Therefore, we may in one way see the Valkyrja as former humans, who were sibyls in life, who assist warriors to travel to the Valhöll. This corresponds to the shamanic notion that it is the deceased shaman who assist the newly dead to find their path to the underworld.

    This may be contrasted with the beliefs of the Sora people, who also believe that the souls of the chosen deceased, 'help [... them] on the difficult path to the underworld' (Vitebsky 1996: 92). The Siberian shaman also believe in such beings, and see them as female spirits who have a close connection to an individual shaman. Therefore, as Eliade has suggested, the image of the Valkyrja does become a difficult image to separate from that of the '«celestial wives» [...] of the Siberian shamans' (Eliade 1989: 381). Moreover, we can note that the Maori's shaman tradition also believes in spirit-wives, yet we do not know enough about their nature to make a firm comparison between them and the Valkyrja at this point.

    The Valkyrja also possess the power of shape-changing. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is that they often took 'the form of crows and ravens on the battle-field' (Davidson 1989: 73). Therefore, we must note that these servants of Óšinn possess at least some shamanic powers themselves. This emphasises Óšinn's role as the master shaman, positioning the Valkyrja as lesser shaman in his service. The master/pupil power relationship between Óšinn and the Valkyrja can be loosely compared to the relationship between Väinämöinen and Joukahainen.

    Additionally, we know that Óšinn taught his sacral priests how to perform the Įsatrśarmann's religious rites. This reflects the practices of the Votyak people. V. M. Mikhailowski has noted that among the Votyak, the position of shaman is often granted directly by their foremost deity. Correspondingly, this deity then becomes the shaman's mentor, providing him with lessons both in waking visions, and in dreams (Mikhailowski 1894: 62-100, 126-158).

    To some extent, Óšinn's position as a great shaman god is also reflected by the beliefs of the Oglalla Sioux, who possess a culture which is generally recognised as shamanic. The Oglalla Sioux believe that their greater god, Wakan-Tanka, holds many of the powers that the Teutons attribute to Óšinn. The Oglalla Sioux believe that it is only because of Wakan-Tanka's generosity that their shaman have 'wisdom and the power to heal and to make holy charms' (Curtis 1907: 38). This belief would seem to correspond with the Germanic ideal that Óšinn selected his sacral priests, and then taught them how to perform his ceremonies. When loosely comparing the two cultures in this way - the Oglalla Sioux's holy charms then be connected as a parallel to the runes. Further strengthening this comparison is our knowledge that the runes were used in Teutonic pagan magico-medicine rituals.

    Therefore, in summary conclusion, it should be noted that Óšinn's shamanic qualities manifest in ways that are closely parallelled by the master-shaman of distant cultures. This observation, in conjunction with the pre-existent knowledge of early contact and lexical borrowing's between the Finno-Baltic and Teutonic peoples, would suggest that deep analysis of the development of both Finno-Baltic shamanic deities and Óšinn may reveal instances in which tales that were traditionally associated with the exploits of one of these figures were transferred upon another. Such a discovery would certainly support the study of Finnic shamanism, as it would speed the process of recognising purely Finnic elements of shamanic practice and belief.

    --

    originally posted by Atlanto-Med9000 on Forum Germania

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    Very informative article. I've always felt Odin had these qualities.
    A people which takes no pride in the noble achievements of remote ancestors
    will never achieve anything worthy to be remembered with pride by remote descendents.

    Lord Macauley

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    Quote Originally Posted by SURT
    Óšinn's most commonly explored connection to shamanism through these animals is his connection to ravens. These two birds often perch on his shoulders.
    :haha I wear raven earings. They don't come out unless I'm doing historical re-enactment. I had made the Odin connection but not the sitting on shoulders one Not really trying to emmulate Odin that closely:-) But I do shaministic work.
    A really good book, particularly for tracing the influences from the Finn and Sami, is "Nordic Religions in the Viking Age" by Thomas DuBois. It is one of my very favorite books and I highly recomend it to anyone serious about northern heathenry.

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    Germanic Shamanism: The Roots of the Cult of Wōōden

    Shamanism is another one of those subjects that has always left me both captivated, and mystified... There is just so much power and knowledge, a current of otherworldly vibration and ancient, sorcerous thaumaturgy, to be discovered in the esoteric ways of the Shaman/Mystic.

    As children, we see lure and enchantment in everything... our imagination wills us to take flight upon the wings of vivid, illusory winds; open-minded and receptive are we in the child's age of innocent curiosity. In that time when anything seems - and is - possible, I feel that that is when we are closest to understanding the plausibility of the true existence of Magic.

    Yet over time, as our youthful exuberence and receptiveness to the imaginary and fanciful fades into sober reason and logic, most people abandon the notion of "real" magic... passing it off as the stuff of story-book legend, and impossible child imagination. 'Growing up' is supposed to mean growing wiser, but I feel that in many ways it is becoming ignorant toward ideas and practices that cannot be explained in the tangible realm of logic, or pre-concieved reality.

    But, I believe Magic does exist... When I refer to 'magic' I am not talking about the kind of abracadabra, hocus-pocusly Merlinesque hogwash that generally comes to mind when visualizing the word, but more of an ancient, deeply spiritual kind that relies on nature, spirits and arcane ritual. The embodiment, and harnesser of this type of power is the Shaman...

    Acting as a medium between the visible world and the invisible spirit world, the Shaman practices "magic", or sorcery, for purposes of healing, divination, and control over natural events... and also with the use of 'journeys' to hidden worlds otherwise mainly known through myth, dream, and near-death experiences. His/Her position has played a valuable role in history for thousands of years; both in our own Germanic history and that of other culture's...

    On this night, instead of relaying practices, beliefs, or specific shamanistic lore, the following is more focused on the detailed history/archeological references, and other such types of knowledge about Shamanism, and how it became a part of our culture.

    I've a few different, wonderful pieces of information on the ways of Shamanism, rituals and practices, etc., archived away for a future thread... but tonight, it is going to be a little bit of a history lesson, and I'll save the 'magic' for another time.
    ________________________________________

    I have found 3 interesting articles which segue rather nicely into one another, and have much knowledge to impart on the subject of Shamanism in our culture. The first of the three will be offer a general view of what Shamanism is; the second is a very detailed history of how shamanism became a part of Germanic history, as it investigates the roots of the Cult of Wôôden; and the third article explains, indepth, the meaning of Wôôden (this is the best of the three).

    These articles relate information to us from a very impartial and learned point of view, with historical reference/factual information as well as lore and tradition, and are quite interesting to read... I hope you enjoy them!
    ________________________________________

    Part One:


    The Religio-Mystical Experience in General; Shamanism


    Comparative religiology has shown that among historically early or non-literate peoples, there have always been many individuals who were and are trained to experience a death-like relaxation of the brain's control over consciousness and a simultaneous "knowing" of an utterly different reality. These "religious specialists" were and are able to melt themselves into the Worldsoul and thereby partake of its infinite intelligence and its existence beyond time and space.

    Now there are various ways to achieve this state, but the way used by the religious specialists of northern Siberia and Europe is called "shamanism." This word is taken from the language of the Siberian Tungus peoples, who use the word shaman to refer to those who habitually and professionally enter upon this condition of temporarily dissolved personality.

    The word was originally used to refer to Buddhist monks and comes, (mediated by the Indo-Germanic (also called "Indo-European"), Tocharian language [6th to 10th centuries] of central Asia), ultimately from the Sanskrit çramañás "an ascetic," "Buddhist or Jain ascetic." The term çram-añá- really means something like "mortifying the flesh," and is based on the root çram- "grow weary, fatigued."

    Shamanism itself, however, is not merely mortification of the flesh. It is a conceptual complex characterized by religious and magical thoughts and practices, although not directly integrated with any religion. It was first recognized and studied scientifically in circum-arctic and Central Asian areas in the nineteenth century, but various forms of the phenomenon have since been found in a great many other areas and climates.

    Shamans can be either male (shaman) or female (shamanka); they can use their powers to help either individuals (e.g., by healing them) or the community (e.g., by giving success in the hunt). Typically, they are virtually walking libraries of ethnobotany regarding their place and people, with amazing knowledge of the medical values of their environments' plants and animals.

    Both birth (that is, being the son or daughter of a shaman) and vocation (i.e., being "called" by a supernatural being in a vision) enable one to become a shaman. After considerable training, and with the help of assistant spirits, the novice undergoes an extremely grueling initiation, "dies," and then returns to life. The initiate (often with the aid of a drum or rattle) usually goes into a trance during this "death." During it, he either undertakes a journey into the beyond (from which he, remaining in the death-trance, may also never return - a phenomenon also known in Zen Buddhism) or is possessed by spirits. As the "escort of souls" (technically called a psychopomp), he will often guide the souls of the newly dead to the abyssal depths where they are integrated with the Worldsoul. He or she is healer, sorcerer and soothsayer, and sometimes also a priest, mystic and poet.

    ________________________________________ __

    Part Two:

    Germanic Mysticism and Shamanism -
    (The Roots of the Cult of Wôôden)



    In the vast, river-crossed plains between the southern Baltic and Black Seas (i.e., eastern Poland, White Russia [or Belarus], western Russia and Ukraine of 1995), a number of different peoples known collectively as the "Rider Peoples" (whose warriors were mounted) lived from about the ninth or eighth century B.C. for the following five or six centuries.
    Archaeologists have found evidence of their presence as far as Central Europe: their horse harnesses and, often, various noise-making instruments (especially the rattle) obviously used for shamanistic purposes.

    Two of the peoples of the South Russian steppes were of Iranian stock: the Scythians and the Sarmatians. From the Sarmatians came a tribe called the Alans who later accompanied the Goths as far west as Gaul (modern France). Of the Scythians, the Greek historian Herodotus (490-423 B.C.) reports that after a funeral they would purify themselves by inhaling the vapors from hemp seeds placed on red-hot stones under felt tents. They would then "yell out in ecstasy, enraptured by this vapor bath." Herodotus says he fails to understand this ritual. As we now know, however, smoking hemp (i.e., marijuana) is the classical manner of putting oneself into trance. He likewise mentions that the Scythians also had a custom of divining the future by throwing twigs into the air and reading them when they fell. A practice of the Ukrainian-steppe peoples such as this was probably one of the sources on which Wôôden's prototype drew to create the divining system of the runes, a kind of very early version of tarot cards.

    The Germanic folk itself originated in the fusion of the Jutish Battle-Axe people and the Nordic Megalithic farmers in the area of northern Germany between the Elbe and Oder rivers (i.e., lands adjoining the southwestern Baltic), with a gradual expansion to the Weser and Vistula rivers in western Germany and in Poland, respectively; to the low mountains of middle Germany to the south; and towards southern Scandinavia (over a low land bridge probably connecting Denmark and Sweden in those days) to the north. It is likely that only the Jutish Battle-Axe people were Indo-Germanic (Aryan) speakers, and that they were a small minority, but superior in military and, hence, political power.

    At any rate, the fusion was complete by about 2000 B.C. Then, almost two millennia later, around the third century B.C., the first Germanic groups began to move toward the Black Sea: first the Bastarns ("The Mixed-Blooded Ones" who arrived at the Black Sea ca. 280 B.C., then the Skirians ("the Pure Ones," cf. Gothic skeirs "clear [as pure water], lucid"), later the Goths (= the Geats of the Anglo-Saxon epic of Beowulf; their name means "the Ejaculates" [of the male fertility god]) reaching that Sea's shore about A.D. 170, along with Herulians, Burgundians, Vandals, Gepids and Rugians.

    What became the Germanic numbering system was taken from the Babylonian-Assyrian duodecimal-sexagesimal system based, not on ten, but on twelve and sixty (like hours and minutes). Proto-Germanic *hundan "hundred" had the value "120" (and not "100"). Thus it is clear that there were extensive cultural contacts between the Germanic nations migrating to the southeast and the peoples they found there. Further, because of their early arrival at the Black Sea (ca. 280 B.C.E) and their intermarriage there, the Bastarns were probably also the first disciples of the institution of Aryan shamanism, and after adapting it to Germanic tastes passed it on to the rest of the Germanic world.


    The close relationship between the eastern Germanic peoples and the shamanistic peoples of the Ural-Altaic expanses is also shown by the later (eastern) Ostrogothic alignment with the Huns under (King 434-53) Attila (Gothic for "Little Father," "Daddykins," with the accent on the first syllable), at whose court the (western or Visi-) Gothic skalds (court poets) also found shelter and could continue their oral tradition. In spite of their feeling of cultural superiority over the Huns, the heathen Ostrogoths and the skalds of the Visigoths needed and took temporary refuge from the religio-political advance of Imperial Mediterranean Christianity in a historically brief military union with their former eastern neighbors on the steppes, the fierce Huns. It was a cultural haven made necessary after the Visigoths had defected to Arian Christianity under Bishop Wulfila ("Little Wolf") and his immediate predecessors. The alliance with Attila enabled the main body of the Ostrogoths and their allies to maintain the cultural heritage of their ancestors, their poetic creativity and their oral tradition, all of which the converted Visigoths had rejected and abandoned.

    Thus even when, after the Huns had been stopped at the Battle of the Catalaunian Fields (A.D. 452), with the death of Attila himself a year later, the three Germanic nations of the Gepids, the Ostrogoths and the Herulians had thrown off the Hunnish yoke and driven the Huns from Europe, the intense and traumatic Germanic memories of Attila and the Huns were sung for centuries in the heroic poetry of the North. Testimony to that time of the "Migration of Nations" are the Old Norse Atlakviða "Lay of Attila," the Middle High German Nibelungenlied "Song of the Nivelings" and many other Germanic epics and songs. The remnants of the Huns, finally, were eventually absorbed by the Avars, the Volga Bulgars and the Khazars.

    So it came about that, from their encounters with the steppe peoples, the early Germanic folk acquired, among other things, the knowledge of how to alter their states of consciousness profoundly and in such a way that they could perceive the ghostly undergirding of the universe and use this perception for mantic purposes. ("Mantic" means "having to do with soothsaying, prophecy, etc.," and in general, "divining the future.")
    ________________________________________

    Part Three:

    The Name "Wôôden"


    The name which the early Germanic folk gave to this altered state of consciousness was derived ultimately from the ancient Proto-Indo-Germanic root *wât - "mantically inspired," which also appears in the Latin word vâtês "soothsayer; poet." This root was accented in two different ways, depending on the appended suffixes and their meaning. Where the stress preceded the "t," a Proto-Germanic form *wôþ- (þ = "th" as in "with") developed, meaning "occult soothsaying in (alliterating) poetic verses," "poetic oracles," "mantic poetry." Poetry in fact has its historical origins among all peoples in a consciousness more primitive than that of modern man, a brain state to which it is still possible to "regress" under certain circumstances.

    In a section, "Poesy and Possession" of his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes quotes from Plato (427-347 B.C.):

    ...all good poets, epic as well as lyric, composed their beautiful poems not by art, but because they are inspired and possessed....there is no invention in him until he has been inspired and is out of his senses and the mind is no longer in him. - Io, 534

    This poetry-generating state of possession designated by Proto-Germanic *wôþ- "mantic poetry" later resulted in Old English wôþ "poetry, song; voice, noise" and in Old Norse óðr "poetry, song; mind."

    On the other hand, where the accent followed the "t" in the pre-Proto-Germanic form *wât'-, Proto-Germanic *wôð- was produced. The first time we see a descendent of this latter root, it is in the Gothic word wôð- (without the ending) and means "possessed" (as by a demon). The word is used in the Visigothic translation (done between 350-380) of the Gospel of Mark (5,15-18), of a man possessed by a "legion" of unclean spirits. When exorcized by Jesus, they entered a nearby herd of swine which thereupon rushed headlong down into the lake and drowned. Here the stress is unambiguously on the invasion of a man's body and mind by the paranormal. The modern English derivative of Proto-Germanic *wôð- is wôôd (rhymes with "food") and is practically obsolete. Now in all the non-Gothic Germanic languages (Old Norse, German, Dutch, etc.) in which it is attested, wôôd and its cognates mean "furious, berserk," and the original reference to the paranormal has been obscured. But Wôôden meant "he who is wôôd," that is, "he of possession, who is possessed."

    It was because the Germanic warriors of the ferocious first millennium of our era, the epoch of the migration of nations, needed literally supernatural power to secure their futures, that the eleventh-century Adam of Bremen (in his History of the Bishops of Hamburg) said of Wôôden's name, "it means 'furor'" (id est furor). But the warrior dedicated to Wôôden was not merely a man enraged; he did indeed have preternatural power. About 1220, two centuries after Christianity had subjugated the North, Snorri Sturlusson handed down to us a faint echo of the unearthly might once possessed by the followers of Wôôden:

    "...his men went without mailcoats, and were frantic as dogs or wolves; they bit their shields and were as strong as bears or boars; they slew men, but neither fire nor iron could hurt them. This is known as 'running berserk'." -- Ynglinga Saga, 6

    This provisional definition of wôôd and Wôôden will have to do for the moment. We will, however, explore its meaning in full depth later, in the section on "possession."

    If we can believe at least some part of the reports of Wôôden's origins as reported by Jordanes (sixth century), Saxo Grammaticus (twelfth century) and Snorri Sturlusson (thirteenth century) about Wôôden having been an actual human being, then the name "Wôôden," like the names "Christ" ("The Anointed One" - a translation of the Hebrew Mashiach [Messiah]) and "Buddha" ("The Awakened One"), was in fact originally a title given to a Germanic shaman who possessed supernatural (i.e., psychological and parapsychological) powers and was acknowledged as divine after his death. Indeed, he had so many similarities to Christ that the Visigothic Christians used the shamanic word "gallows" (Gothic galga) to translate the word "cross" (Greek staurós) in the biblical description of the crucifixion of Christ. Both the Christian cross and the Germanic gallows are representations of the religiologically universal world tree, itself the brain's symbolic visualization of the central nervous system (cf., e.g., also the "tree of life" and the "tree of knowledge of good and evil," mythically the same tree, in the Garden of Eden as described in Genesis).

    The ancient Norse Hávamál contains a very realistic description of the initiation rites of Wôôden on the shamanic gallows, the Awe-drasle, in a short passage (Hávamál - 138-140) which, in spite of its having been written down in the tenth century, may in content be a thousand years older than the rest of the poem:

    I know that I hung
    on the windy mast

    nights full nine,

    Wounded with the spear
    and given to Wôôden,

    me to myself -

    On that mast
    of which none knows
    whence the roots run.
    None did me kindness with loaf
    or with drinking-horn.


    Finally, physically overcome, Wôôden left his worldtree-body and plunged down to discover the runes, the mysterious "secrets" which underlies the visible world. These he took up with a shamanic trance cry and returned to his body, thereupon descending from the gallows-tree and returning to normal consciousness:

    Down I delved:

    I took up the runes,
    yelling out, took them;

    then fell back down from there.

    From that time on Wôôden, like many moderns who have had a "near-death experience," had the ability to foretell the future, and other psychic capabilities (including the casting of spells) to a degree unknown to normal mortals:

    Nine mighty chants
    did I take from [my mother's brother, Mime,] that famous son

    of Bale-thorn [the giant], [my mother] Bestle's father.

    And I got a drink
    of his costly mead:

    the ladle, "Manticpoetry-stirrer."


    SOURCE

    "Nature! We are surrounded and embraced by her:
    powerless to separate ourselves from her, and powerless to penetrate beyond her.

    Without asking, or warning, she snatches us up into her circling dance, and whirls us on until we are tired, and drop from her arms." - Goethe

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    Woden, the Shaman God of the Anglo-Saxons

    Woden - The Shaman God
    Wulf Hengestsson

    Before I begin, I should make the point that this is a highly individual viewpoint of Woden, and in no way do I either intend to demean others' views of him, or to impart the view that he is uniquely of more consequence than any other god / goddess in the Northern Tradition.

    I use the Anglo-Saxon / Germanic name form intentionally, as Woden comes over as a very different character from the Norse Odin although they share many characteristics. To me, Woden embodies the nature of a true shaman, and for that reason I have great difficulties in associating him with the more familiar Odin, which builds on a lordly warrior / leader figure with paradoxically unleaderlike modes of behaviour.

    There are very few shamanic leaders of tribes or peoples in history. They tend to be present in an advisory role, more often working 'in the shadows' steering, or weaving out of sight. Prime examples of this are the Celtic British Merlin or the Irish Druid Cathbad. One comparatively recent Shamanic leader was Tatanka Yotanka, or Sitting Bull, of the Oqlala Sioux tribe in North America. Contrary to popular belief he was not a tribal chief, but a Medicine Man or Shaman, who united many Native American tribes who were inspired by his visions of a new beginning for his people.

    It could well be that Woden rose to prominence among the Northern deities in similar circumstances. With the Heathen ways very much on defence against a new religion which had the technical advantage of being directed from a central point, it seems likely that heathens would have tried to fight fire with fire, possessing their own pierced god who had hung on a tree, impaled, and worked magic. It is hard to see how else a shadowy shaman mocked for the practice of seith magic, disfigured by the loss of an eye and often mentioned as doubtful battle ally would be a prime choice. While his Shamanic image has been veneered with the grandeur of the Great Hall and other trappings of a Warrior god, the Shamanic credentials still remain.

    Woden's wolves and ravens are clearly 'totem' animals or fetches, perhaps even an aspect of himself. Both creatures have strong traditions as spirit messengers and inhabit the wild regions, bordering on human settlements. This, too, is the preferred territory of the shaman; crossing the barriers between civilisation and wilderness - Midgard and the other worlds. The wolves and ravens are clearly more than the battlefield scavengers as which they are often represented. Woden's choice of weapon is also clearly shamanic.

    The spear, while a primary weapon has never held the mystique of the sword, although named spears were evident among the heathen Anglo-Saxons. The sword was the great warrior's or lord's weapon of choice and symbol of status. A battle-based or 'lordly' god would surely be seen with sword rather than spear, especially given that the long iron swords of the Germanic tribes gave a significant advantage over the short Roman or brittle Celtic blades. Woden's spear 'Gungnir' is clearly a Shaman's weapon rather then a warriors. Planted in the ground, it represents Yggdrasil, or the Irminsul. On Woden's travels it serves as a stave, and on the World Tree according to tradition, it is used to pierce his own body. Shamanic visions through pain induced by self piercing are well documented in may tribal cultures.

    It seems quite possible that the battle-god aspect of Woden came about as a result of some blending of the original Woden and the god Tiw or Tir. Interestingly, the Anglo-Saxon weekdays show a clear definition between Tiw's Day and Woden's Day which suggests that the Woden of the Jutish and Saxon settlers of England could well have been a very different figure form the Odin of Ragnarok, particularly considering that Tiw's Day mirrors the Roman Mar's Day and Woden's Day, that of Mercury - a very unwarlike god. The frequent mention of Woden as a wanderer or traveller is a further shamanic indicator and to be blunt, I can't see him sat on his backside glued to a mighty throne, even for a moment.

    The High Seat given mention in the text seems to me more a reference to the practice of far-seeing, an allusion perhaps to the Eagle atop the World Tree. Woden's connection with shape shifting is copiously mentioned in many texts (although not exclusive to him) and the use of bird form for seeing from afar is a shamanic technique common to many tribal European and Amercian cultures.

    I can't say that my conclusion of Woden as the Shaman-God will sit well with all who read this, as it is my own conclusion drawn from personal experience. I can, however say that I have met Woden twice, and each time I felt myself in the presence of the Shaman God of the Anglo-Saxons.

    Source



    Woden


    Woden is usually regarded as the head god of the Heathen Anglo-Saxons, one reason being that there are far more references to Woden in Old English literature than any other god or goddess. We find the name Woden in the word Wednesday, which comes from the Old English Wodnesdaeg, or the day of Woden. The Anglo-Saxon kings looked to Woden as their ancestor god and creator of their lineages. As contradictory as it sounds, some authorities have suggested that the claiming of descent from the Heathen god Woden was actually a Christian introduction used for political and and social gains, and that his inclusion in royal genealogies replaced the original ancestor gods of the Anglo-Saxons, those being Seaxneat of the Saxons and Ingui of the Angles. But whether Woden is or is not the 'true' ancestor god of the Anglo-Saxon kings, it cannot be doubted that Woden was regarded as a great and powerful god amongst the Heathens. God of death, battle, wisdom, discoverer of the runes and leader the Wild Hunt, his cult was widespread. Certain place names are proof of this, as we find names such as Wodnes-beorh (Wodens barrow), Wodnes-denu (Wodens valley), Wednesfileld (Wodens plain), Wednesbury (Wodens fortress). Other names that incorporate
    the name of Woden are Woodnesbourgh, Wornshill, Wednesley and Wansdyke. The last name, Wansdyke, means dyke or ditch of Woden, and it's attached to the words dyke or ditch that we have more evidence of the belief in Woden. This comes in the form of the word Grim, which was a 'nickname' for Woden, and means masked or hooded, and was a reference to the image of Woden as being attired in a hooded cloak. We find several of these place names in Southern England in the form of Grimsdyke or dyke of Grim. And this is evidence that the belief in Woden was so great that he came to be known by more than just one name. It's written also that the Heathen Anglo-Saxons sacrificed to Woden or UUoden before battle, which was a common practice amongst all Germanic peoples, and considering the amount of battles fought by the Anglo-Saxons during this era, the custom of pre and post-battle sacrifice to Woden must have been a regular occurrance. The reason for this type of sacrifice was to win the help and blessing of the god in question during battle, and no doubt if victorious there would have been much post-battle sacrifice. Woden was also seen as a sort of shamanistic wizard, the font of knowledge and discoverer on the runes. The Old English rune poem, that could possibly be a reference for Woden, says:


    'Mouth is the chieften of speech,
    the mainstain of wisdom
    and comfort to wise ones,
    for every noble warrior
    hope and happiness.'


    (Translation taken from Runelore by Edred Thorsson)


    Although the poem says mouth and not Woden, this could actually be a 'punning' reference to Woden, who, as mentioned was regarded as all wise, and the mouth reference could then be seen as a reference to the speaking forth of the runic 'alphabet' or futhark. Evidence for Wodens character as a kind of shaman is contained in the charm known as the Nine Herbs Charm, where part of it says:


    'These nine have power against nine poisons,
    A worm came crawling, it bit a man,
    Then Woden took nine glory twigs,
    Smote the adder so that it split into nine,
    There ended apple and poison.'


    People tend to agree that the glory twigs are bits of wood or twigs inscribed with the runic character corresponding to the initial letter of each of the nine herbs mentioned earlier in the charm. With the use of rune magic, the healing properties of each of the nine herbs is transferred to each of the nine twigs, which then become glory twigs, and are then cast by Woden to attack the illness, which is visualised as a crawling serpent or worm, to cure the afflicted person of whatever he or she is suffering from.
    One of the most enduring aspects of Woden is his leading of the Wild Hunt, a ride through the sky with his army of noisy lost souls. The Wild Hunt takes different forms depending on which country and which period in time it was recorded. The best example of the Wild Hunt in Anglo-Saxon tradition is the much quoted passage in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 1127 c.e, it reads:


    'Let no one be surprised at what we are going to relate, for it was common gossip up and down the countryside that after February 6th many people both saw and heard a whole pack of huntsmen in full cry. They straddled black horses and black bucks, while their hounds were pitch black with staring hideous eyes. This was seen in the very deer park of Peterborough town, and in all the woods stretching from that same spot as far as Stamford. All through the night monks heard them sounding and winding their horns. Reliable witnesses who kept watch in the night declared that there might well have been twenty or even thirty of them in this tantivy as near as they could tell.'


    (Translation taken from-'The Lost Gods of England' by Brian Branston)


    This description of the hunt was written down well into the Christian period, and could have a couple of explanations. Either, as the passage was written down by a Christian monk, the enduring legacy of the Wild Hunt was eventually demonised and made a thing of evil, like much of heathen lore was, or the description is an accurate one and what the witnesses heard and saw were common folk carrying on a tradition based on the Wild Hunt or some other Heathen tradition. Whatever the monk recorded in the woods and deer park between Peterborough and Stamford it has an uncanny resemblance to Woden's Wild Hunt. Another mention of Woden in Old English literature can be seen in the Anglo-Saxon Maxims, where the line Woden worhte weos can be read, translated into modern English it means Woden made idols. It is difficult to know exactly what is meant by Woden made idols, but it could be a slight insight into how Woden and other Heathen gods were worshipped. In that the gods and goddesses may have been represented in physical and visual appearance by idols that were probably carved out of wood. And as the idols came to represent the 'evils' of Heathenism to the Christians, who at every opportunity destroyed them, they may have blamed Woden for their creation if he was seen as the head Anglo-Saxon god. There fore Woden worhte weos or Woden made idols. The image that the Heathen Anglo-Saxons may have had of Woden was probably best summed up by Richard Branston in his book The Lost Gods of England:


    'The Woden of the Old English never became the warrior king in golden helmet, exclusive patron of princes and jarls, such as Snorri depicted in his Edda, he was never pre-occupied with the problem of organising his battalions of slain into a doomed army to oppose the Children of Muspell at Ragnorok. Instead the Anglo-Saxon Woden stalked the rolling down land, one-eyed and wise beyond all knowing in cloak and hood when the weather was fine, stopping at crossroads to recognise his own dangling from the gallows, but on black and stormy nights he racketed across the sky at the head of his wild hunt of lost and noisy souls.'

    Source
    -In kalte Schatten versunken... /Germaniens Volk erstarrt / Gefroren von Lügen / In denen die Welt verharrt-
    -Die alte Seele trauernd und verlassen / Verblassend in einer erklärbaren Welt / Schwebend in einem Dunst der Wehmut / Ein Schrei der nur unmerklich gellt-
    -Auch ich verspüre Demut / Vor dem alten Geiste der Ahnen / Wird es mir vergönnt sein / Gen Walhalla aufzufahren?-

    (Heimdalls Wacht, In kalte Schatten versunken, stanzas 4-6)

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    Woden - The Shaman God

    Woden - The Shaman God
    Wulf Hengestsson

    Before I begin, I should make the point that this is a highly individual viewpoint of Woden, and in no way do I either intend to demean others' views of him, or to impart the view that he is uniquely of more consequence than any other god / goddess in the Northern Tradition.

    I use the Anglo-Saxon / Germanic name form intentionally, as Woden comes over as a very different character from the Norse Odin although they share many characteristics. To me, Woden embodies the nature of a true shaman, and for that reason I have great difficulties in associating him with the more familiar Odin, which builds on a lordly warrior / leader figure with paradoxically unleaderlike modes of behaviour.

    There are very few shamanic leaders of tribes or peoples in history. They tend to be present in an advisory role, more often working 'in the shadows' steering, or weaving out of sight. Prime examples of this are the Celtic British Merlin or the Irish Druid Cathbad. One comparatively recent Shamanic leader was Tatanka Yotanka, or Sitting Bull, of the Oqlala Sioux tribe in North America. Contrary to popular belief he was not a tribal chief, but a Medicine Man or Shaman, who united many Native American tribes who were inspired by his visions of a new beginning for his people.

    It could well be that Woden rose to prominence among the Northern deities in similar circumstances. With the Heathen ways very much on defence against a new religion which had the technical advantage of being directed from a central point, it seems likely that heathens would have tried to fight fire with fire, possessing their own pierced god who had hung on a tree, impaled, and worked magic. It is hard to see how else a shadowy shaman mocked for the practice of seith magic, disfigured by the loss of an eye and often mentioned as doubtful battle ally would be a prime choice. While his Shamanic image has been veneered with the grandeur of the Great Hall and other trappings of a Warrior god, the Shamanic credentials still remain.

    Woden's wolves and ravens are clearly 'totem' animals or fetches, perhaps even an aspect of himself. Both creatures have strong traditions as spirit messengers and inhabit the wild regions, bordering on human settlements. This, too, is the preferred territory of the shaman; crossing the barriers between civilisation and wilderness - Midgard and the other worlds. The wolves and ravens are clearly more than the battlefield scavengers as which they are often represented. Woden's choice of weapon is also clearly shamanic.

    The spear, while a primary weapon has never held the mystique of the sword, although named spears were evident among the heathen Anglo-Saxons. The sword was the great warrior's or lord's weapon of choice and symbol of status. A battle-based or 'lordly' god would surely be seen with sword rather than spear, especially given that the long iron swords of the Germanic tribes gave a significant advantage over the short Roman or brittle Celtic blades. Woden's spear 'Gungnir' is clearly a Shaman's weapon rather then a warriors. Planted in the ground, it represents Yggdrasil, or the Irminsul. On Woden's travels it serves as a stave, and on the World Tree according to tradition, it is used to pierce his own body. Shamanic visions through pain induced by self piercing are well documented in may tribal cultures.

    It seems quite possible that the battle-god aspect of Woden came about as a result of some blending of the original Woden and the god Tiw or Tir. Interestingly, the Anglo-Saxon weekdays show a clear definition between Tiw's Day and Woden's Day which suggests that the Woden of the Jutish and Saxon settlers of England could well have been a very different figure form the Odin of Ragnarok, particularly considering that Tiw's Day mirrors the Roman Mar's Day and Woden's Day, that of Mercury - a very unwarlike god. The frequent mention of Woden as a wanderer or traveller is a further shamanic indicator and to be blunt, I can't see him sat on his backside glued to a mighty throne, even for a moment.

    The High Seat given mention in the text seems to me more a reference to the practice of far-seeing, an allusion perhaps to the Eagle atop the World Tree. Woden's connection with shape shifting is copiously mentioned in many texts (although not exclusive to him) and the use of bird form for seeing from afar is a shamanic technique common to many tribal European and Amercian cultures.

    I can't say that my conclusion of Woden as the Shaman-God will sit well with all who read this, as it is my own conclusion drawn from personal experience. I can, however say that I have met Woden twice, and each time I felt myself in the presence of the Shaman God of the Anglo-Saxons.

    Source
    -In kalte Schatten versunken... /Germaniens Volk erstarrt / Gefroren von Lügen / In denen die Welt verharrt-
    -Die alte Seele trauernd und verlassen / Verblassend in einer erklärbaren Welt / Schwebend in einem Dunst der Wehmut / Ein Schrei der nur unmerklich gellt-
    -Auch ich verspüre Demut / Vor dem alten Geiste der Ahnen / Wird es mir vergönnt sein / Gen Walhalla aufzufahren?-

    (Heimdalls Wacht, In kalte Schatten versunken, stanzas 4-6)

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    nine herbs charm ,and runes..

    If i havent made a mistake , if we take the initials of the nine herbs, from the nine wyrt galdor ,as they are given at the end of the charm, as the names are given in old english, we get in order, in anglo saxon runes this ,, MAN,, WIN, LAGU, AESC, MAN,NIED,WIN, FEOH, FEOH,..i think thats right if i havent cocked up. i have been trying to see if theres a particular significance to these rune staves not sure, MANKIND, JOY, WATER, ASH TREE OR AESIR, MANKIND, NEED WANT, JOY, CATTLE WEALTH, CATTLE WEALTH, hmm , anyone got any ideas? Speaking about the lord Woden, is it possible that the english traditions of phantom black dogs , which , are said to haunt lonely beaches , and the moors of northern england, could these hounds be connected to Woden and the wild hunt traditions?

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    Lightbulb Shamanism: Dealing with the Spirits' World

    A couple of people expressed an interest in my entry in the "what is your faith?" thread regarding my belief in Shamanism. So I thought I'd put together a quick (hopefully) thread on the subject. I imagine some of you are unfamiliar with the Shamanic belief system so I'll approach this as a kind of introduction from my own personal perspective.

    First and foremost, Paganism is Shamanism. When you hear about the Pagan gods, strange entities like elves, faeries, gnomes - these are beings that exist outside of our plain of existence. They are not make-believe like Judeo-Christianity (the great suppressor of spiritual knowledge) would have us think. You have to ask yourself why these fairy-tale creatures have such a historical, deeply-ingrained connection with our collective psyche. Shamanism is the practice by which we go beyond merely believing that gods and 'mythical' creatures exist, and discover them for ourselves.

    You may have heard of the 'spirit world'. It is an extremely universal concept, important to the Heathens, Celts, Native Americans, Siberians etc. In fact, it is vital to the beliefs of every single pre-Christian culture for at least the last 40,000 years. It is, quite simply, another dimension... another plain of existence. We all exist on more than one plain, but nearly all of us are only aware of the dimension in which our physical bodies are active. Everything has a spirit. Every person, plant, tree, rock, and flame. Furthermore, we are all - animal, rock, tree and flame - connected in ways we cannot see, and when we learn how to, we can harness and manipulate those relationships in ways we wouldn't believe (this is the basis of magick, but I won't go into that here, mostly because it's an aspect I'm currently quite unfamiliar with).

    The spirit world, or 'Otherworld' as it is often known, is a place of learning and creation. Our ancestors would journey there by various methods to heal themselves, heal others, discover knowledge about the past, the present, the future and to enhance relationships with manifestations of themselves or other spirits. It is commonly known that Shamans would use natural hallucinogenic drugs to propel their astral self into the Otherworld, but this is one method among many. The aim is to reach an altered state of consciousness and this can also be done by drumming repetitively, meditating, dancing, and even sleeping.

    Now I know... this all sounds incredibly "New Agey" and until fairly recently, I couldn't have agreed more. What helped me to try and understand it was the phenomenal way in which this belief system is found in almost identical forms across the globe, and across tens of thousands of years. A few books helped too.

    Now a little about my personal experiences: I am new to Shamanism. I discovered it through reading some Occult literature a couple of years ago and my curiosity grew and grew. I've 'journeyed' just a handful of times (by use of meditation techniques only) and despite currently lacking in the abilities that allow for vivid visits to the Otherworld, I have learnt an incredible amount about myself and about the nature of spirit.

    I'll give a brief example from my very first Shamanic journey:
    "...After a short while, a human-like figure appeared in the distance darting from strange tree to strange tree. He was just a shadow, a silhouette. I don't know what he was doing but after a few minutes he saw me and immediately swam across the river to get to me. As soon as he reached me on the restricting grass bank, he placed his hands firmly over my eyes and wouldn't allow me to see. I could just make out extremely bright lights through his hand and I asked him why he wouldn't let me see. He told me that the river had turned into fire and he was protecting me by not allowing me to see it. He said that I could only cross back to the other side when the river turned to earth and I responded by asking him if the river cycles through the 4 elements. He said yes and that the only form of the river I should cross is its earth form. I asked "even water is dangerous?" and he said that water wasn't for me, yet. The fire river soon turned to earth and we crossed back to the other side..."

    After much after-analysis (an important aspect of Shamanic journeying), I realised, rather suddenly, that the element of fire represents my spirit, and by being censored to the river of fire and encouraged to cross it while in its earth form (representing my physical self), I was being warned about a spiritual imbalance that it was necessary for me to correct. I have other examples too.

    I realise this has become quite lengthy so I'll leave it at that for now. I hope you find this interesting at least, and if anyone wants me to elaborate on anything, or to add their own input, please say.
    "If by being a racialist, you mean a man who despises a human being because he belongs to another race, or a man that believes one race is inherently superior to another in civilisation or capability of civilisation, then the answer is emphatically no." - Enoch Powell

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    Hi,

    A few years ago there was a website called Munins Voice. It had a lot to say about shamanism. I wonder what happened to it. Anyway though this is from that site and I think it is pretty nice.. so enjoy

    First there is the Tree. This is the Northern shaman's traditional vehicle of passage to the worlds. It takes the form in dreams sometimes of a building with many rooms or a tower or a journey through many landscapes, or flight somewhere, a staircase, or even a kind of film or theatre set with many scenes, and, of course, sometimes a large tree. When you're not dreaming you can just imagine it as a great Tree, the name of which is Yggdrasil. Move towards it and look at it. There is a trunk area where we are now with Midgard (our earth landscape) stretching out around it, filled with a multitude of life forms and resting on great rock-hewn altars which contain deep wells of lava, subterranean rivers and the cradles of oceans. The roots of Yggdrasil absorb liquid from the sacred wells in the underworld and take them up to the Tree's extremities where they are shed upon the valleys and plains as glittering dew. Stop awhile and watch the falling droplets drift down in hazy showers through the sunlit air. Feel the dews move over you. It is a kind of initiating ritual, a blessing. Now we shall enter the Tree.

    Approach slowly, breathing steadily, the great door of the ancient edifice that marks Yggdrasil's earthly realm. This is the door of roots. Enter. Feel the shadow fall over you as you pass through the gnarled arches and deep mossy caverns of the transition. Look around and see runes, sunwheels, spirals, animals, plants and figures carved and painted on the root-braided walls and on the roof. Find bones and offerings lying among niches in the roots and feel the temperature drop as we go further into the great mouth of the doorway to the Underworld. Smell the scent of earth powerfully increasing as we move further into the rich darkness. This is where existence begins for all plant life. This is earth's womb. All our crops, our vegetation, our flowers and grasses spring up from the soils of earth. Imagine these soils all around you and now, as we go deeper, above you. Yellow, red and black soils, deep rich loamy soils, friable soils and waterlogged clay as well as sandy soils, desert soils and coastal soils. These contain all the binding plants that prevent erosion and loss. Imagine the massive rootwork of forests just above your head now as you move deeper through the pungent root world of Yggdrasil. Gardeners and farmers will have sudden nostalgic memories of fresh wet ground and the smell of compost, spearmint sweet and rich with the humus of the seasons.

    Darkness is deepening and we are nearing the opening of the rooted tunnel to Hel, the Underworld home of the wells and of Mimir and Urd and the great gushing fountains of Hvergelmir, the pantry and laboratory of the species and the world of the dead. Here is the judgement seat of the Gods, at the roots of Yggdrasil. Here Odin, the Lord of the Dead, comes every day with his Holy retinue to meet the souls who have departed Midgard and to give the soma drink of the wells that revives pale spirits.

    Pause awhile at the end of the tunnel of roots and imagine yourself standing on its threshold to the Underworld of Niflheim, the Kingdom of Mists. On the outer reaches above and below are the realms of Jotunheim, of the Frost Giants and the realms of the Fire Giants, the natural enemies of the Gods and of man. Observe the vista before you and see the crystal waters of Hvergelmir gushing from the spring that feeds the third root of Yggdrasil. Hear these waters, they are the waters of life, cool, and slightly bitter with the salts and minerals of the earth. See the well of Mimir with the reeds of poetry growing round the edges of the pool and find the well of Urd. You'll recognize it by the two white swans on its surface and the canopy of gold above. There will the threads of wyrd be spanned between the All-Father's hands, among the worlds and through the fingers of the Norns. Move towards the web and see your own life woven and part of it still to be woven and strands being woven as you watch.

    Be aware of the scope and magnitude of the Underworld as you look across the glittering fields and see Mimir's store of species. This is where the seeds of new life are gathered and resown and where regeneration springs from the fires of Ragnarok. Inside a protective shield of wood lie Lif and Leifthrasir, the prototypes of our folk who remain within their protective shield and are the source of the generations after civilizations end. We are in the gallery of the dwarves. Look around and see the horn of Heimdall lying beneath Yggdrasil's root and find many objects of fine craftsmanship, some with magic power. Find the seat of Judgement at Urd's fountain and in the soft dark soil at the fountain's root, find the footprints of the Gods.

    There is a place prepared for us where a silver horn stands filled with clear liquid. Move towards the massive root near the gleaming well with its fringe of reeds. Drink from the horn and feel the crystal clear cool liquid pervade your being. There is a woman sitting under the golden canopy by the well with the snow white swans. She inclines her head and we see the strands of wyrd twist an image of wings. We are going to change our mode of travel. Stay awhile and become as the air. The kingdom of mists is vast. There are many regions. Allow all of your preconceptions about the underworld to melt away as we rise like birds from a still lake and glide through the shafts of light that illuminate the fields of eternity and drift across the realms of the children and of the virgins. We are among the living dead. Drift closer to the folk who stand waiting for us on the banks of a fast-flowing river. These are the ancestors. We may not speak to them. We are merely visitors from beyond the Kingdom of Mists. We speak only when we are given this right by shamanic revelation, special envoy or death itself.

    See the great hound called Garm that rears up snarling when we go too near. He is the guardian of Hel Gates and his duty is to let no undead soul pass into his jurisdiction before the appropriate time. Only the shamen may pass Garm's fangs and very seldom is this allowed to happen. Look at the glow illuminating the forests of the Underworld. It is the light emanating from Balder's Hall where he and his wife Nana wait for Ragnarok when they will return to Asgard as the sun and the blossom return to the earth with the spring.

    Hover awhile above the great roots and listen to the sound of the dragon Nidhogg feeding on the roots underground. He is also the devourer of corpses and consumes all that is placed underground. His gnawing at the roots of Yggdrasil is balanced by the activity of the Norns who water the roots constantly from the wells.

    Now take a deep breath and together we will plunge through the gateway of judgement and into the region of wrongdoers who lie bound in caves while the saliva of serpents drips onto them from halls roofed with serpents' spines. This is the mythological cavern of Loki when he is bound by the Gods and the place where Loki lies during the time that is golden above and in Midgard. When the wheel turns and the Wolf Age approaches the ground will tremble and the underworld will shudder as the bonds loosen round the bodies of Loki and around the jaws of Fenrir and the great Midgard serpent called Jormungand will begin to thrash itself back and forth and the ship of souls that houses the evil of Niflhel's dark regions will come adrift and move towards the battlefield of Ragnarok. The ship of the damned is made out of the finger nails of the dead and called Naglfar. As yet, all are still bound, but they are stirring and the bonds are slipping. Yggdrasil feels through its roots the vibrations of impending chaos. The Tree is an ancient survivor. Yggdrasil and the cycles of time are what makes wyrd manifest in our existence. Dark Dwarves guard the cavern of Loki and Loki's wife holds a bowl above his body to catch the poison that drips from the serpents' mouths. Loki has grown dark with malice and his hair is like spear shafts. He is in his most powerfully suppressed state when the fetter of the Gods keeps him still. But he is beginning to move. His eyes glow with anticipation and pain. His suffering is self-inflicted. He is the Lord of Chaos and the catalyst of changes. Look on him and understand the forces of the giants as they struggle to be free of the rocks that confine them and the elements that contain them. Look over to the vales of fire where the sons of Surt, Loki's kinsmen glow among the shadows. Watch the fiery comets of Muspellheim streak overhead, lighting the deep caverns of the underworld and glittering above Midgard as stars.

    See the Frost Giants far below the surface in their world of primeval cold. They too are looking up at the sound of Jormungand and the echoing cries of Loki. They are waiting for their destiny to come when they will cross the atmospheric sea with their kin and launch an assault on the gates of Asgard and tread heavily upon the Rainbow Road, their desperate need for destruction driving them on to Asgard's battle field of Vigrid. (But that's another story!)

    The Northern Underworld is complex and interesting. It houses so much and yet we hardly notice these aspects in the sunlit plain of Midgard. We are hardly aware of the Great Tree or the Nine Worlds or the ancestors waiting and guiding from beyond the river of spears. We have been led away from these things. Most of us have become lost among the religions and many have given up belief altogether and pin their hopes instead on politicians and social engineers. Take a good long look at the Underworld, see the great Goddess of Hel, whose kingdom encompasses both the blessed and the damned and whose aspects are accordingly manifested in the mythology as a wise witch and a negative sorceress. The Urd persona of Hel guards the well of wyrd and is the ancient sister of Mimir. All of the Fylgia are hers to command. The Gullveig persona is the keeper of Niflhel, the regions below the Underworld where the rocks imprison the forces of evil. She is represented in the mythology by disease and wrongdoing. The souls given to her are given a drink of the wells laced with serpent poison and their destiny is to experience the effects of their own wrongdoing by being forced to experience their own poisonous thoughts and actions. Only the truly wicked go to Niflheim. And they go without their guardian sprits who abandon them in life because of their negativity and so cannot plead for them at the judgement seat of the Gods. To be evil in the Heathen world is to be responsible for your actions and to be punished is to inherit the consequences of Divine Orlog, the unavoidable law of the Gods.

    We are ready to leave and go to Asgard. Take one last look at the Underworld and its riches. We have only touched on their wealth. A horn of golden mead awaits us at Yggdrasil's Door. It is time to change once more and become as falcons. Go to the table once more and drink the golden mead from the horn that is carved with wings and with images of the sunwheel. Feel the light drawing us to the Door. Enter and be transported in shafts of glorious light, through golden drifts of dew along the rainbow road and stand before the great palace of Heimdall, guardian of the Bridge of Bifrost. A wall of flame lies between us and the gates. Close your eyes and enter the wall of flames. They burn only enemies. We are just imaginary visitors, real travellers from Midgard are only permitted through the shaman's door. On the Gate are carved eagles and wolves. The gates will open for us and we may look but not touch or speak to anyone. This is the abode of the Gods and Goddesses who made the shell of their world out of Ymir's skull. This is the home of the wind, this is the home of the eagle of the sunwheel and this is the home of the All-Father and his retinue of Einheriar. This is where the Halls of the High Powers are found and this is where the Valkyries ride out when they take to the skies. From their horses' manes glittering dew falls onto Midgard. They are Odin's messengers and they are the wyrd bringers of the Norns.

    As the gates open and the ravens come to guide us through the realm remember that this is not "heaven". This is the abode of the Northern Gods. This is the home of Frigg, Thor and Sif, Tyr and Ull and all of the Aesir. These are the shining Halls of the creation Gods. Remember also that among them live some of the Vanir Gods, although their original home is in Vanneheim. There has been an agreement between the Elfin and the Aesir powers to co-operate and to remain as brothers and sisters of the worlds in the name of peace and justice. When these two races of deity came together in this bond Midgard flowered as never before and think also that when humanity runs to Ragnarok of its own doing we destroy the bond between ourselves and the Gods and we run the risk of losing everything that is important to us when we neglect to acknowledge the fine threads of connection that bind the worlds and that weave our lives into the web of wyrd.

    So we fly now as falcons over the glimmering fields of the Asa lands and we see the rainbow road travelling through the realm of the Gods. It is a shimmering hoop that has no ending and connects all worlds by two routes - downward from Asgard to the Underworld and the Judgement seat of the Gods and upward from there to Asgard once more. Midgard, by its very name and nature, lies between and is that part of existence that manifests above the root world and below the branches of Yggdrasil.

    See the branches of the Tree spread high above us and see the sparkling stars caught in their nets of leaves. See the jewelled fruits hanging on the boughs that will fill with the souls of the unborn and drop into the wombs of mothers in Midgard whenever the conflagration of union takes place and a child is conceived. When fruit falls from the Tree Of Life then it is a gift from the Gods.

    The ravens are flying with us now, one on each side as we move over the great halls of Odin and Freya and Thor. Below lies the field of Vigrid before Valhalla and there is the field of Thrudvang before the Hall of Thor. The dews of Yggdrasil glitter on the roofs of the halls and the dome of Ymir's ancient skull rounds the skyline in the atmospheric sea. Eagles fly across the sun and we are coming to the end of our journey. The Gods remain hidden from us. They will come to you when you seek them from your reality in Midgard and appear within the world as you look with new eyes at what was once seemingly devoid of spirit.

    The ravens are guiding us to the gates of the sun. We see them sweep away in an arc as we fly through the gates and are plunged into the darkness of the descent. We find ourselves once again within the Tree and fall to earth at the door of roots where we began. We stop where the great trunk rises from the Underworld and walk out into our world. We are home.
    Later,
    -Lyfing

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    A wonderful read. Truly captures the imagination. And the imagination, of course, is a tool for crossing to the various Otherworlds. I would recommend that anyone who claims to practice Heathenry read that piece and pay great attention to it.
    "If by being a racialist, you mean a man who despises a human being because he belongs to another race, or a man that believes one race is inherently superior to another in civilisation or capability of civilisation, then the answer is emphatically no." - Enoch Powell

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