Monday, July 29, 2013

Priestess here, priestess there, pagan priestesses everywhere.

Years ago I met two ladies who gave a presentation about 'sacred' sites in the Netherlands. They made the most outrages claims about dolmen, without any scientific, historical or archeological ground. I went up to them and asked, as politely as I could, where they had found this information I had never heard of before. One of them straightened her back, looked down on me and said in a low, presumably magical, voice: "We are priestesses!" And that was the end of the conversation as she turned her back on me.

These girls had been 'initiated' after a one year training consisting of about 8 weekend workshops. I've met other women who did similar 'priestess trainings', many of them hardly knew anything about the Goddess before they started. Apparently it takes only one cycle of the sun to learn all about Her, Her mysteries and Her rituals.

I do realize I'm stepping on some toes here. But I really have to get this of my chest. I don't intent to demean the spiritual path of others. I'm sure a training like this will be very meaningful for your personal spiritual development.
But I do want to discuss the inflation of titles, that makes them meaningless.

What to think about an initiated high priestess, who leads large public ceremonies, but is not able to simply hold the energy of a circle? And in the ceremony I attended there were no Deities  invited to be present.

I once asked a lady, who is offering a 'priestess training' and who also calls herself high priestess, to What or Who she was a priestess. She told me to look on her website, but I couldn't find anything about it. It was all about self development and awaking the priestess in yourself.
Just like the countless workshops about awakening 'the Goddess in yourself'. What does that make you? A priestess of yourself?

Yesterday someone told me about another lady who offered a 'goddess workshop' where they all sang "Yemaja Asesu". When asked if she knew who this Goddess is, she had to admit she had no idea. She didn't even know Yemaja is an Orisha, let alone what path of Yemaja is actually invoked with this song.
This kind of workshops are feel good gatherings for women who want to have a good time and have little or nothing to do with actual Goddesses. And thank the Goddess for that, because you really don't want the energies they sing about, to manifest Themselves in circumstances like that. No, you don't!

And yet, I too call myself priestess of the Goddess. It took me a long time before I dared to. I felt no one would take me seriously, while so many others had already diminished the word. But I decided to reclaim it, because no other word expresses so well my relationship to the Goddess.

But every time I feel compelled to explain what it means to me to be a priestess. That I dedicated myself completely to a Divine Being, Who does not need me to exist. That it took me about 25 years to get to know Her. That I allowed Her to take over my life and to turn my house into Her temple. That I, lovingly and out of free will, serve Her with daily ritual, offerings and prayer, with public rituals and a yearly procession.

That is the basics of being a priestess in my book. And there are more responsibilities, like teaching and counseling, serving a community. This is not a weekend hobby, not something you just do when you feel like it, this is not something you can become in a few years and it is not something you can buy with paying for a training and/or an initiation. Maybe it isn't even a choice, but a calling....

There are no rules in paganism, anyone can do what they want (as long as it's within the law) and anyone can call themselves whatever they like. I have no say over it and I want no say over it. But I do have an opinion and I do want to express it.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My Seidhr Staff

Don't ask me why, but many years ago I wanted to visit Hel, the realm of the dead where the Goddess Hel is the hospitable ruler. Of course it had everything to do with my preoccupation with seidhr at the time.
I already knew other parts of the underworld, the misty realms where deceased and shamans can easily meet. But I wanted to go further.

I figured the best entrance would be the land of Lady Holda, Frau Holle, who I consider to be the same Goddess or at least an aspect of Hel.
So I jumped into the well and went to the beautiful green land with the apple tree and the oven. Every time I went there I got beautiful messages and had exciting adventures which gave deep insights, but I never made to the cottage. I did get very good at jumping in that well though.

I found a path leading into a forest, mountains in the distance and the landscape getting more and more rocky, but I lost my way every time I went there. After trying many times I got fed up and exclaimed "come on, isn't there anyone who can give me some help here?!" I looked down and saw a metal rod in my hand with a kind of open knob at the top, made out of twisted wires. It resembled a kind of scepter or jester staff but it was a bit longer.

The staff led the way, all I had to do was to follow it. And yes, I did find the cottage, but the door was closed. It took me another jump in the well to get there and find the door open. But with this magic staff in my hand it was no trouble at all to find it again. And after I had met the Lady who lives there, I got permission to go further, to go over the mountains and the staff led the way. I did find the realm of the dead and it wasn't at all easy to get in, it took several more jumps into the well. And it wasn't at all pleasant to be there. I do NOT recommend it!

It was more than a year later when I saw some pictures of metal objects, found by archeologists in Viking age graves, staffs with open knobs. And Neil Price - -claimed these not to be roasting skewers, but völva staffs. Can you imagine how shocked I was? And how delighted?!

 So when we started our practical seidhr research, one of the first things I did, was to make a metal staff like the one I was using in my trance journeys.
It is very thin and not very comfortable to hold in real life, so after a while I made an upgraded version, with wood inside the twisted metal wire. This was the best I could do, not being able to forge a proper one myself.  It works very well, I love it and I still use it for almost all my staff trances.

 I promise to write more about staff trance later.

I do hope that all my readers understand that this blog is mostly about trance experiences. I don't jump into wells in real life. Really I don't :-)
If you’re not familiar with the story of Frau Holle I'm refering to, you can find it here:

Monday, July 15, 2013

About seidhr - what is it?

So what is seidhr?
5 years ago I would have started quoting sagas and the edda now. But all my references are locked up in an old PC that crashed a long time ago. And I'm happy for it!

Yes it's good to read and yes it's very good to know the lore. Without the hints in the sagas I would never have been able to reconstruct some old practises. Without all my books I would never have realized that there once was a genuine shamanic tradition in North Western Europe.

And there it is, the answer to the question: seidhr is a form of shamanism practised in Northern Europe during the Viking age. Hah!

The thing with shamanism is you can read and write about it as much as you like, but you will never be able to understand it unless you start practising it yourself. I was already practising shamanic techniques, when I started to discover seidhr. Had I not, I would probably not have been able to recognize the hints I found in books. Read old fairytales - the original ones, not the Disney versions- and  sometimes, it is just like reading a trance journey journal!

So what did I find in the sagas and the eddas?

I found stories about female clearvoyants traveling around the country, to answer people's questions. They would perform elaborate rituals, involving a platform or high seat, a staff and special songs.
I found stories about shapeshifting, weather magic, supernatural guides, journeys to the realm of the dead, talking to dead people, healing songs, sitting outside searching for a vision.

I found stories about carving magical formulas and singing songs of power. Wait a minute ...... I can hear some people's thoughts - yes I am clairvoyant. Some readers are thinking now: " hey, this is something different, this is about runes and galdr, this has nothing to do with seidhr! Seidhr is about sneaky, cunning, feminine tricks and vague things like trance. Galdr is proud and honest manly magic, keep your hands off evil witch!"

Well, after studying and most of all practising magic for about 25 years, this witch is convinced that there is no such thing as a strict line between different kinds of magic. Not between 'white' and 'black', not even between ceremonial and shamanic and certainly not between seidhr and galdr.

In my opinion, based on a lot of practical experience, galdr is part of seidhr and trance is part of galdr. It is impossible to work any kind of magic effectively without altering you state of consciousness. In other words: you are in some kind of trance while working magic, weather you like it out not. Singing runes is just one  of many ways to use your voice to state 'Your Will' and singing is imho the most important technique used in seidhr.
I promise I will write more about magical song another time.

Back to what I found.

I read Ginzburg's books about the  Benedanti in Italy and after that accounts of the witch trials in the Netherlands. Then I studied local folk tales and legends. And all of it, sagas, eddas, witch trials, folk tales pointed towards the same thing: a tradition of trance journeying and communing with otherworldly beings.
It all pointed to an old, now forgotten, European shamanic tradition. And the sagas gave the most complete accounts of it.

So how do I practise seidhr?

Some of the following I do on a daily basis, some of it I don't practise anymore, due to circumstances:
Singing healing songs
Singing enchantments
Communing with nature spirits
Going into deep trances holding a staff
Journeying to the realm of the dead
Working rune magic
Sitting on burial mounds to commune with the Ancient Ones
Sitting on a high seat answering questions
Horsing spirits and Deities
(Horsing is to allow to be possessed by a being who has no material body)

I do play drums again now, I just love to play them. But I never touched my drum while I was exploring seidhr. I don't need a drum or rattle anymore to enter a trance, softly singing while holding my staff, brings me faster and deeper into a trance than anything else.
My favorite way of journeying is in bed, using the 'twilight zone' between wake and sleep, I think this was the most common way to journey for the old European witches /shamans.

More than 700 words already and I feel I haven’t even started yet.
This is just a broad outline for people who never  heard about seidhr before. Most people who already know about it, will most probably not agree with some things I say. That’s ok.

This is my vision after many years of studying, trying, working, failure and succes. I know many people interested in Norse Tradition love to quote sources, and debate semantics. I used to be like that too (and I still love a good discussion sometimes) But I left behind theory to focus on practise only and it’s not important to me anymore to remember Who Wrote What Where. What matters to me now is what I learned and what I can do with this knowledge.

All Hail!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Mount Spirits

My most important spirit helpers are nothing like the enlightened ascended masters that New age mediums like to work with. They are also not the kind of spirit helpers that like to work during an espiritismo white misa. No, they are not attracted by Catholic prayer.

These spirits are ancient, from a long forgotten culture, with values that are not common nowadays. All we know about these people is the pottery they left behind and some traces of pole holes that show were they once lived. And everywhere in this country you can find their burial mounds, little bumps in the landscape that many people find inviting to sit on for a picnic. Little do these people know about those who dwell there. And little do they know about how some of these spirits create this inviting atmosphere to feed on the energy of the living.

They were once used to being worshiped, their descendants would come to bring offerings and feast in their honor. Even long after their own people had all died and their names were forgotten, their resting places were still revered as sacred. Not now anymore, their mounts have been dug up by archeologists, their bones are on exhibition in museums, their stone tools are considered primitive.

Many years ago I read about 'utisetta' an old Norse word for sitting out to get a vision. And I understood this sitting was often done on a burial mound. In Viking age society you could go out to sit on the burial mounds of direct ancestors of course and ask for guidance. Alas my ancestors don't rest in mounds and it's not allowed to sit on graves in this culture.  (Though I did sit on my grandfather's grave once, when my sisters and I found it on an abandoned graveyard, but that's an other story).

Because I was studying seidhr and everything related to it, I went to a field with ancient bronze age burial mounts, not at all knowing what to expect. My friend and I were cautious and approached the first little hill we saw very carefully, while we were not even sure if it was a burial mound our not.
Both trained in shamanic techniques and used to contact with otherworldly realms, we felt the barrier simultaneously. We were prepared and took out the little offerings we brought with us. After asking permission and offering at every barrier we encountered, we were welcomed at our first 'fairy hill'. And a great adventure had started.

There were so many of these hills in the field and over a period of a few months we visited them all. Some wanted to be left alone, some lured us in and sucked our energy. At some I got horrible visions, at some I got terrible headaches and some made me vomit. But a few of them became very special to me and I developed a friendship with some who dwell there.

One of them took me on as a kind of student and started teaching me his old wisdom. He taught me about the essence of the Goddess, calling Her "She Who Is“. He taught me about his culture and showed me things that were only years later confirmed by archeologists. He taught me a magical singing technique and only just a few months ago I found that the same technique is still used in some modern traditions.

The inhabitants of another mount simulated me to become a healer. And with every healing I do, they are right behind me. They have become my most trusted advisors, answering questions about situations in this modern time very accurately.

To talk with them, I don't have to visit their resting places anymore. I can contact these helpers any time I want, they showed me how. But to visit their burial mount is something extra special. I was crying when I came there after staying away for too long. I was so welcome, but I was also reprimanded for neglecting to bring offerings for such a long time.

After resting for thousands of years they have a lot of patience, but in the end it is all about respect. They gave me what I asked for because I asked in the right way, because I came with offerings, because I asked permission, because I asked with due respect. But I should never forget they like, they need!, to get offerings sometimes. Nothing big, nothing special, it is mostly about the effort made and the thought that counts. Though they do have preferences .......

Dear Ancient Ones, I will not stay away for too long again!