Saturday, January 27, 2007

Seid, Vision-Asking, and the Bone Grove

Seid-working is a vocation. A person is admitted to this vocation through Wyrd, through Fate. Some say that if a person feels as though they should be performing a shamanic role in a modern-day community, this itself is a sign that the Wyrd of the shamanic vocation is there. I'm not so certain. For me, such things are a sign of the power of Seid and Shamanic workings; they bewitch the human mind with fascination.

I think that some people are simply curious, or enthralled with the powerful aesthetic of the Seid-worker or Shaman's task. These sorts of fascinations are also Wyrd, but not evidence of the true calling to the work. The true calling is known on a deeper level, by a sort of obsession that overrides the rhythm of everyday life. Some would say that it overrides everyday "common" sense. The Seid-man or Seidkona has little choice but to remain fascinated with all aspects of the shamanic art- myths and stories about shamanic experience, occult practice of spirit-contact, and trance work and the tools of the shaman's trade. But this is only the beginning. An inner awakening is required before the Wyrd of the Seid-worker or the Sorcerer becomes fully capable of living out the life that the Fate-weavers have woven for them.

Some people are thrown by Wyrd into situations and experiences that awaken their inner senses, whether they want them to be awakened or not. The situations and experiences I am talking about can be physical or mental traumas, traumatic or extreme life-changes, or the "lightning" that strikes at midnight: the spiritual insight, sent from Wyrd and the Otherworld, that re-defines how a person thinks about everything, and prevents them from going back to their old way of seeing the world.

Must the Seid-worker or Shaman experience something of this nature? The answer is yes- and more often than not, it isn't nice. But the timeless pattern of Shamanic initiation requires the candidate to undergo a "death" of types- from Odin's death on the Tree, up to the wild visionary and mind-transforming experiences of Taliesin, and his death in the maw of the great Initiatrix in the Underworld.

I'm not discussing "guided visualizations" in which a person "visualizes" themselves being killed or dismembered. I'm talking about something far more intense and immediate. At some point in most people's lives, they encounter a situation that they cannot escape from, a terrible situation that allows for no escape-scenario that seems bearable. This situation of dark Wyrd forces them to conform to it, not the other way around. This situation won't let them leave unless they sacrifice something they desperately do not want to sacrifice.

Fear and terror are normal parts of this experience. It can come in the form of facing the death of a friend or a dearest loved one, or in the form of facing one's own death, such as a sickness or condition that has a chance at being fatal before it gets better- if it ever gets better. We can be dealing with the white-hot terror that dawns on the minds of people who have their entire belief system torn away from them through the uncovering of evidence that what they have dearly believed is a lie.

The forms of the Initiation-Wyrd are countless. But they end in the same place- the person emerges and re-integrates themselves into this world, seeing it in a completely different manner. The more of these initiations that come, the more powerful- or perhaps crazy- a person will become. Some cannot deal with any sort of such experience, and they will succumb to death or psychosis. Others take longer. Some even survive many such experiences to achieve great power. But even those who survive don't fully recover to who or what they were before; and few are as happy as they were before, for dealing with shamanic reality- reality naked and unchained- is disturbing. It is natural and needful, but always disturbing for the mind that must be molded by Wyrd into an instrument capable of interacting with Spirits.

One must be cautious- not all people who have survived initiation experiences come out healthy on the other end. The Shaman, the Seid-worker, is not a victim of spirits. If a person claims to be constantly "possessed" by spirits or unable to control or influence the frequency of spiritual contact or shamanic-type work, that person is a victim of spiritual forces, not a worker with them.

Spontaneous spiritual experiences and spontaneous spiritual work is a normal part of Seid-craft and shamanism. I don't mean to say that shamans who fall into spontaneous trances or have visions in that manner are not good at what they do- but Seid, like Shamanism in any form- is a skill. It comes from an open mind, from spiritual senses inside that have been opened by Wyrd-initiation or by the hands of other spirits, but the techniques of utilizing those deeper senses, and the work of Seid, is a skill which must be developed after the awakening.

If not, the person will not be able to function as part of a kindred or a family or a society. In ancient times, Shamans were not merely maniacs wandering in the woods- they were people who worked on behalf of communities. They may have had times where they went crazy and wandered the woods, but this was a technique of ecstacy, an intentional submerging into the world of spirits and madness, which had a point and an end. The Shaman must return to ordinary consciousness, to the world of human beings, and mediate what they experienced, and what power they found, to others or to this world. The shamanic worker is not simply crazy; they are in possession of an ability to use madness, seeming insanity, and loss of self into another world, for the purposes of uncovering truth, healing, seeking advice and wisdom, and other needful ends.

Spirit-possession can be a part of this, but it too, is a skill, a sort of "abandonment of self" that shamans submit to with a purpose. They may not know where it will end or where it will go, but no shaman worth his salt is "taken" without warning, with the exception of when he or she is being initiated by spirits. Otherwise, if a shamanic worker is often victim to being "taken" by spirits and wights, without control or purpose, they would cease to be a use to anyone, and likely a danger to themselves. It is also doubtful that their minds could survive the constant radical shifts and "thefts" they'd have to endure.

Seid-workers or shamanically sensitive people who deal with spirits on a daily basis must always remember that the wights and spirits of this world are not the lords of this world; the Gods are. Shamanic workers that refuse to deal with the powers of Troth and religion, who refuse the Gods, are likely dominated and corrupted by the minor ghosts and wights and spirits of this world. Simple ability to talk to spirits doesn't make a person worth keeping around- spirits can have many agendas and be dangerous, and they can dominate people and make those people dangerous. I have, sadly, seen this with my own eyes.

To be a Seid-worker, or a shamanic worker, is not to be dead. It's also not a matter of being "alive" in the usual sense. The Seid-worker breathes and eats like most people do- but they are also "alive" in another way, a way that allows them to vividly experience the world of the dead and the world of spirits. Contact with such powers renders the Seid-worker familiar with some very deep and sometimes dangerous forces, and it transforms their personal power. The Seid-worker has not "given up" their power completely; they have transformed it, or should I say, it has been transformed by Wyrd. What Wyrd has transformed it into is a thing that is as familiar with the darkness of Hel as it is with the sun-lit spaces of this world. The more a Seid-worker experiences the otherworld, the more they begin to feel and seem "detatched" from this one. They may feel or even seem dead, but they are not- they are "transformed in the otherness".

By being capable of existing and operating in the worlds of humans and of spirits, the Seid-worker, in common with all shamanic trance-workers, really belongs to neither world. This is the original source of the legends of the "un-dead", the entity who is neither fully alive nor fully dead- the legends of vampires or upyrs, with all their shape-shifting, night-flying, cadaverous appearance, terrifying aspects, and other magical abilities, certainly come from ages of folk-memory of Indo-European and Native European sorcerous workers.

The Seid-worker occupies unfamiliar spaces "between" the threads of Wyrd, but is still very much a part of Wyrd, as all things must be. While they live in human forms, they are alive, but their inner essence belongs to more than one world, and they speak to spirits as easy as another person may speak to their husband or wife.

Western anthropologists originally tried to classify Shamans in primal societies as mentally ill, or schizophrenic. It is easy to see why; but these white anthropologists simply lacked the ability to understand the subtle world of the Shaman's mind and reality. With the Seid-worker or Shaman, nothing is ever what it seems, and nothing is "one way or the other". They can tread on paths of sanity and insanity with equal ease, empowered to do so by their spiritual helpers and the transformations they have undergone.

There really is no mental "category" that the Shaman can be put in; in some way, they demand their own category- and this is another aspect of "not belonging"- the Shaman doesn't belong in one world or the other, but goes back and forth between them, in the misty, indistinct border between the two. This is a hard place for some people to get used to, and the demands of being sensitive to the Unseen easily fills a person's schedule up- the Seid-worker has ties to another world that he or she can never again ignore.

There are some in the modern Germanic and Celtic Pagan communities that take exception to people using the term "shaman" and "shamanism". This is due largely to the abuse of the term by new-agers. I, along with every other educated person, know the Siberian origin of the term, and it's time that people accepted the reality: the term "shaman" now refers to more than just Siberian tribal mystics. It has come to exist in a new convention, referring to all cultural workers who use trance and ecstatic states to interact with the unseen world, on behalf of their tribes or people or communities.

There are some well-known writers who refuse to see that Seid and even Rune-Galdr craft are aspects of shamanic-type mysticism and operation. Seid and Rune-crafts among the Germanic peoples are products, descendants if you will, of primal European shamanic practices. It is the height of foolishness (and a species of intellectual dishonesty) to assume that Germanic or Celtic or other peoples didn't have "shamanic" practices, when these "shamanic type" practices appear worldwide as common denominators for all primal cultures.

It is important to bear in mind that "Shamanism" or "Shamanic-type practices" refer to a huge body of archaic techniques of ecstasy, and not to an easy-to-identify and specific "style" of practice that is common to all shamanic workers in every culture. Primal cultures alive today show immense variation in their mystical and shamanic practices and understandings. There is no reason to believe that it was different in the past, or even different in ancient Europe. To assume that it was- to assume that ancient Europeans were the ONE group of people on the planet that somehow managed to not have shamanic-style techniques in use among their mystics, is simply a position that cannot be justified or defended. Such a conclusion is only popular among those who have an agenda- an agenda to get as far from the "new age" as possible. It's a noble impulse, but it leads them to absurd conclusions.

With this overpowering desire to distance themselves from the "new age", some people who ought to know better actually make the statements that the Germanic peoples "had no shamanism".

No, it wasn't called "shamanism" in the lore, but that's only because the word "shaman" wasn't an Indo-European word, nor a Germanic word. They used the terms that they had- Seid, for instance; they refer to "seers" and "sorcerers" and "spakonas" and the like. I do not believe in any "magic" or "sorcery" that exists apart from the basics of mystical experience- and those basics were expressed simultaneously with shamanic-type workings and experiences which sprang intuitively from the minds of all primal peoples. There is no true "magic" or "sorcery" apart from trance and working with the powers of the Unseen world. "Magic words" and "magical formulas" are only degenerate understandings in the modern world of what were originally shamanic songs and invocations. The "highest" forms of theurgy and magic, the very intricate and boring forms of ceremonial magic and the like, are descendants of the same impulses that inform shamanic practices.

Fasting for "purity" and for contact with "god", a practice common to ascetics from the Christian tradition all the way to mystical traditions in India, goes back to a common shamanic starvation-ordeal used to aid in the receiving of visions. This "fasting ordeal" is common both in Siberia and in Native America. Even the act of invoking the Gods themselves for sacrifices with ritual words and actions is a distant relic of shamanic-type practices. If you go back far enough, "religion" and "magic" blend and overlap nearly seamlessly. Some have gone so far as to deny that Odin was a God of shamanic-type activities, and to deny that his vision-quests and ordeals to win wisdom from the Underworld has anything to do with shamanic-type practices!

Unless a person has set their mind to specifically ignore the clear shamanic elements in Germanic sorcerous lore, they will clearly see it there, just as it is there among the Druids of Celtia, or the Iatromantoi in Greece, and in practically every other Indo-European culture. I do not believe that "trance" or trance-induction is unique to any one culture; a person drumming or singing/chanting to achieve a trance is not "ripping off the Siberians" or "stealing from Native Americans". These sorts of techniques can be done in any cultural context, and were done in every culture, in some form or fashion.

While I admit there is a grave danger when using unqualified terms like "shamanism" and dealing with new-agers who violate cultural boundaries in their "do whatever works" free-for-all, there is no reason to swing so far in the other direction, or become so reactionary, that we alienate ourselves from the truths of the matter. If we do that, we cripple ourselves and our understanding even before we have a chance to examine the facts and revive these needed practices in our own ancestral context. Instead of saying the absurd statement that "Germanic peoples had no shamanic-type arts", why not say "Germanic peoples, in common with all people, had shamanic-type arts which were expressed in ways unique to them, and so while they had commonalities with others, you can't simply lump them together with Siberian Shamans or other cultural shamanic workers and assume you understand them"?

It is a fact that there were shamanic-type practices on the parts of the Proto-Germanic and Germanic peoples, and some of them survived well into the Christian period. The later lore we have is influenced greatly by worldviews espoused by Christianity, so Seid and other such arts take on a decidedly dark reputation, but then, there is a darkness in Seid, though not evil, anymore than Odin was evil- and he, as a God, was certainly possessed of a darker nature and character. Even among primal cultures alive today, Shamanism and Shamans are not always seen as wonderful "goodness and light" workers- they are seen as needful agents of chaos as well, and sometimes feared for their darker wisdom, their ability to manipulate others or know the secrets of others, and their experience with dangerous spirits. In some places, in ancient times and even now, such people have been targeted for persecution or killing by communities that fear them.

Dangerous sorcerers and shamans appear in the pre-Christian myths of many peoples, showing that even these spiritual workers could "go bad" as it were, especially those that succumbed to dark powers. Perhaps they were never "good" from the perspective of their people; "black magic" did not come only from Christian imaginations, and shamanic mystics are famous for their moral ambiguity and their potential for helpful aid or for destructive influence.

My own shamanic "birth" came on the wings of one of the worst sicknesses I had ever experienced- a fever that went untreated and got out of hand. As Wyrd would have it, this was right on the heels of the most powerful visionary experience I ever had- I had (somewhat frivolously) decided to descend into the Underworld under the influence of my Fetch-beast and reach the Elder-Mother. It was a few months from the time I had met my Fetch-beast, and I was intoxicated with the visionary states the Fetch could bring me to if I asked. This experience was strong; I felt "taken" from my body and far below, to a place where wooden masks were hung on trees guarding a wooden building and a large elder tree. At this point, the vision-experience, which was like a lucid dream that I couldn't wake up from, got out of control- I had no more influence over how it unfolded.

I encountered a powerful spiritual being in an Elder tree, who appeared as a wooden cat, among other things. I saw an old man in this wooden building near her, whom I knew was death, a ghastly old man who had images of all the people I loved and the things dearest to me on the ground in front of him. I was terrified that he should have them, and tried to take them away from him, but this was to his amusement. I was shown nightmarish visions of my own death, and the death of my family, in the future, and I was "examined" from the inner level by the powerful entity in the tree. I was treated to the presence of two spirits who knew everything about what happened after death; they showed me a vision of a man dying, and then his death, and when I asked them what happened after death, they just grinned in a very sinister way and refused to answer.

I finally managed to "come back" from the experience, but I was wasted, exhausted physically and emotionally. For three days I was like the walking dead, listless, depressed, and unable to interact with others. Every time I closed my eyes, I went "back" to that place, as though part of me was trapped there. For three days, it was. My fever came on top of this, and after one point, I was unable to speak. I suffered anxiety attacks as well, and looking back, I realize that I probably needed to go to a hospital, but my friends and roomate at the time didn't realize that.

At the end of those three days, I felt myself again, but things had changed. I was later to discover the identity of the Cat in the Elder- none other than Freyja, the Seid-mistress. Even to this day, I recall the entire experience as a non-stop nightmare that I couldn't wake up from, but then, I also consider it to be one of the most important experiences of my life. It changed who I was, forever.

I still don't know what to do about the vision of my own death, along with my family; of course it frightens me on one level, but then, I am skilled at blunting deadly Wyrd. But Fate will not be denied; to this day, facing the hard realities of Fate is the center of my spiritual path, and with this disturbing vision to haunt me, I remember on a daily basis what "accepting Fate" means, and I don't lose my sense of seriousness, nor do I forget that this path isn't play; it is literally life and death.

Thanks to this experience, a "connection" had been made between myself and the deepest underworld, a conscious connection that I have been able to use to explore that deep place, both for myself and for others. I say that I was "playing" around with trance-work, but now I know that it was Wyrd that led me to work on achieving trance states, and Wyrd or Fate that led me to the folklore and legends about the Elder-mother, and attracted my attention to her. It was Wyrd that I should have sunk down deep enough to identify with my Fetch-beast, so that he could bring me to that grove surrounded by wooden masks. That Wyrd is still playing out, as I type this very post, and you read it. That Wyrd connects me to you right now. My expeirences meet with yours here, our threads tangling.

All that I have done since is influenced by this and other experiences I've had. My realization of the stark reality of both the Unseen World and the powers in it changed me for the better, and in ways for the worse, because I find (at times) that I have little patience for people who are blind to other realities, or who believe everything they are told just because they were told it. I have felt the arising of anger in myself, giantish powers that rose up from that same Underworld, and which have hurt me at the times I could not sublimate them. My Troth with the Gods and the power of my Fetch is what keeps these powers safely contained, making their great natural force available to me to use for creative ends. But it wasn't always so.

I find visions for people. My friend Turanona has recently been made aware of the possibility that she can get a job working for a very small company which installs special software at plants and factories. Only about 200 people in the United States actually are certified to do this job, so she stands to make 90-100 dollars an hour doing it. She would have to travel a lot, but she could own her own house and land and be debt-free in just 5 years if she committed to it.

Sometimes things sound too good to be true, and I went to seek a vision for her, to see what her future there will hold. Like any functional Seid-worker or shamanic worker, I do not have to wait to be yanked from my body by spirits that dominate me; I have the ability to sing to them and invoke these powers to come to me and help me to enter the Unseen. So I did.

After moving through the inner landscape, I came to the "outside"- the place where my own consciousness of this world is lost, but lucid experiences continue for me, in a mysterious space of reality. My fetch-beast filled my chest with a great radiance, and once I was able to see in a pool of water, in this vision-questing, the radiance of it sitting in me. The feeling cannot be described; it is the best feeling imaginable, a feeling of being connected, intimately connected, to something that is more real than real, something spiritually "right" and vital.

I was shown, in vision form, my answer- I saw a sunrise landscape; or perhaps it was sunset, but it was all rough land, like hills and mountains, and they were bathed in burning orange light, from the sun. My field of vision was obscured suddenly by a great and dark bird that was in full flight, perhaps an owl or a hawk, but its left wing had a hole in it. I could see the light of the sky through this hole.

That was the answer I was given. What does it mean? I think I know, but I've spoken enough on this for now.

Today, I went out to the woods to walk, and the first thing I saw was a rabbit, who watched me for a moment before darting into a gully. A minute later I heard an odd sound I'd never heard before. Perhaps the rabbit was making this angry shrieking noise, or perhaps it was a bird I had never seen before, but I walked in that direction, and finally went down into the deeper woods, to see how bad our flooding had been.

While wandering through the flooded woods, I saw an oak tree standing alone in a clearing. The clearing had power; it was a powerful place. It "felt" different. It had a "comforting" feeling about it. In that clearing, as I wandered around, I found the remains of a deer. It was all bones now, but I found leg bones, a hoof, a skull, two jaw bones, and the entire spine. I looked until I found the skull (the remains were spread over about 10 square yards, because of foxes and other predators) and I dropped down and sang the proper songs and invocations to gain my fetch-beast's attentions.

I had my Fetch carry my words to the spirit of the deer, telling it that I would use its remains in sacred rites, and honor them. I made certain that the spirit of the animal had made its transition into the Underworld safely and well, and prayed to the Father from whom both the deer and I descended from, and our common Mother. I began to "slip over" and feel the threads of Wyrd shaking as I chanted. I felt the power of the deer there, facing me, deep below. I was guided to this place by sounds and feelings and many other messages from the Unseen.

While washing my hands in a stream, I found the bones of a snake. Repeating the process for the snake that I did for the deer, I gained a snake's skull and many vertebrae for my workings. As I write this, these bones are soaking in their own vats of water. If you find bones and respectfully ask to keep them, and you want to clean and preserve them, you should never boil bones or bleach them; boiling forces the fat into the bone and makes them an unhealthy yellow color, and bleaching weakens them, making them turn into powder eventually. If the bones still have flesh on them, put them in an anthill for several days, then retrieve them. The ants will have picked them clean.

You then soak the bones in water until the water becomes smelly and greasy, and then pour out the water, replacing it with fresh water. You do this over and over again, every few days, for several weeks, or until the water runs clear everytime you change it. That means that the bacteria in the bones are done. Then you soak the bones in hydrogen peroxide to whiten them and disinfect them.

There were many powers and signs in the woods today, but they are there everyday- entire communities of wights and powers, seen and unseen.


cecilia said...

What a great essay robin.even tho it's quite frightening,it also gives me a feeling of the immense powers that surround us.Thanks for the info on curing bones.It came at a good time.

Anonymous said...

Greetings Robin,

I had a very similar shamanic experience. Every time I closed my eyes I saw visions of serpents and wolves tearing me apart and I could literally feel them biting me. I couldn't sleep for days, in fact I did go to the hospitol and when they injected me with a sedative I felt myself "fall" and that was when I saw these strange beings with mishappen features (parts that were either too large or too big) and were of a dark red and purple colour...I believe they were dark elves or dwarves of some kind. Shortly after seeing the dwarves I saw this radiant light. In the center of the light-rays was a beautiful woman. She surrounded me with this light and I felt myself "rise up" and that was when I snapped out of the whole experience.

This Path in many ways has been very fascinating and has given me tremendous experiences. However, at the same time it has been a terrible burden to carry. Those that come back from physical war can show off their scars and recieve praise. But the wizard has no scars to show for they are worn on his soul...and thus must do great things without the benifit of praise.


franz maus said...

Thank you for your principled and eloquently stated defense of shamanism among the Germanic peoples. I couldn't agree with you more. And for the record I personally believe that the Germans had drums.

Your trials have been terrifying and grueling from the telling of it, and yet now your voice is so strong. And your experiences make you so knowledgeable. Thank you for putting it out here.