Archive for the ‘northern tradition’ Category
The Greenwich Shamanic Spirit Circle is a monthly event open to all who are interested in exploring the shamanic path and deepening their connection with Spirit. Each meeting focuses on a particular aspect of shamanic work, and usually begins with a talk on the subject followed by practical exercises. These meetings are suitable for absolute beginners as well as those who have some experience of shamanic work. Our circles normally include drum and rattle work so please do feel free to bring yours along!
The Soul Tapestry , Friday 13th July at 7pm
Within the northern tradition we work with the concept of ‘Wyrd’ which might be considered similar to karma. Northern practitioners are skilled at weaving and re-weaving Wyrd as a means of bringing about deep soul-level healing. In this special session we will be working with the Mistresses of Wyrd, the Nornir, to find out what our individual soul tapestries can tell us about our soul paths and healing journeys.
For more information or to book online visit http://
Some of you may already know that I do a monthly podcast on The Shamanic Voice on northern tradition shamanic practice called Shaman of the North. A lot of these shows include rune chanting and exploration of the northern mysteries through rune work. If you’re interested, I have highlighted the specific shows at the end of each of my rune pages. Check them out!
Fehu – Written in the Bones and Lady Luck and the Luck Dragon
Nauthiz – The Shamanic Calling
Eihwaz – Yggdrasil’s Song
Dagaz – Druid’s Walk
This month’s offering from Shaman of the North on The Shamanic Voice is called The Shamanic Calling. The episode explores the role of the shamanic practitioner in alleviating suffering and manifesting desire. What is suffering? What is desire? Are these things to be avoided, or do they teach us important lessons? In the show we re-visit teachings from the earlier show Druids’ Walk where the druid Arnaud experienced a moment of powerful epiphany. The northern circle of the ancestors sought to remind us, through this month’s show, that true epiphany comes rarely and moments of transcendance are much less frequent than moments of true presence and participation in our the here and now. The episode concludes with a working using the Nauthiz rune where we are supported by our own ancestral circles in understanding what suffering and desire mean within our lives.
For me spirit guides form part of my spirit family or community. On Yggdrasil’s Path we work with the concept of ‘soul clan’; the spirits and energies we work with are bonded to us through the workings of Wyrd and the laws of orlog. Guides, companions and protective spirits don’t just turn up out of the blue, they choose to work with us because they see us as kin, or because our intentions chime with theirs. Family and community is formed through pre-existing ties of kinship, place and culture and this is the same for spirit family and community. When we do power retrieval or soul retrieval we are re-connecting not just with that part of ourselves – but often with a whole new raft of spirit family who were connected with us through that lost aspect. Often when people are preparing for retrieval work they will get dreams and visions that are strange and difficult to understand; it is only in retrospect that we recognise these premonitions as our lost spirit family reaching out to touch us – preparing the way for wholeness to be restored.
Power animals and guides do not just bring companionship, they also bring us wisdom, power and teachings to help us become strong and powerful in our own lives. It is easy to assume that these beings are ‘higher’ than us in some way and, indeed, they will often have access to wisdom beyond our kenning. However, my own experience has taught me that spirit guides do not choose people to work with indiscriminately, nor do they work completely altruistically. Your spirit guides are with you because they want to be – so what sort of person is it that they have chosen to work with?
Your teacher will come when you are ready…
This is a phrase frequently used within shamanic practice, as well as within other magical traditions. It is easy to assume that our teachers are watching us, waiting for us to reach the ‘level’ required in order to work with them; but perhaps this is a flawed way of viewing the teacher/ pupil relationship. My most admired teachers have always told me that they learn huge amounts from their work with their students and Kay and I definitely find at StarFire Alchemy that the phrase ‘Your pupil will come to you when you are ready…’ is equally true.
What I have come to realise in my work is that, as I get to know my teachers, I see that they have chosen to work with me not just because I have so much to learn from them – but because we have so much in common. This can be a very daunting thought when your hand is being guided by your Master Shaman, or when a deity is speaking through you, but I would invite you to consider what qualities your own spirit guides, power animals, deities and companions have in common with you. My own Master Shaman comes from a very different tradition to my own, he teaches me techniques beyond what I have been taught by my ‘living’ teachers. He is in all ways awesome and it took me a huge amount of time to recognise that the combination of enormous gentleness and utter ruthlessness in doing what was necessary for healing, was something that he also saw in me. It is, I believe now, these shared qualities that brought him to work with me – far more than the techniques he identified I was lacking – for he wasn’t the only one who could have come forward to show me these.
Often it is hard to see ourselves in the spirit beings who we work with, indeed, it might feel presumptuous and big headed to assume you have much in common at all – but I promise you those share qualities will be there.
Connection through soul
I work with the concept of the ‘soul tapestry’ and this has been very helpful to me in understanding how connections come about between people and their soul clan. When I was preparing for the channeling for Shadow Sister on The Shamanic Voice I was having a really hard time understanding how to help the spirit of such a strange, silent and dark being communicate through me. She seemed totally alien to me and, in many ways, utterly scary. I wasn’t certain that I would be able to do the channeling at all and sought advice from the northern circle of ancestors (the patron spirits of the show) on how to proceed. I was shown that the channeling could only take place because their were parts of me that resonated with her essence, threads within my being that could connect with hers – once these were found we were able to connect and her energy flowed into me so that I could speak her message. Shadow Sister represented an energy that felt very alien to me and, indeed, one that I might not want to draw on too often. The experience of working with her was one of recognising that the dark mysteries of the death goddess flowed through my blood and cannot be denied. Despite my trepidation the work with her was very valuable both for the show and, personally, for me.
Most of the time, however, the spirit guides we work with speak to aspects of ourselves which we are keen to embrace. They make our hearts beat faster, expand our vision of ourselves and the world around us, and show us how to shed limiting beliefs, overcome our fears, and evolve beyond what we thought was possible. My own healing work, and the work I do with my clients, often involves finding the part of me that is willing and able to connect with the troubling parts of myself I am having difficulty understanding and coping with. I have learned that my soul clan are able to provide me with the support I need to work with the parts of myself I would rather reject – they know the value of these suppressed bits, even if I have yet to recognise it. Most people will have times in their lives where they feel misunderstood, isolated and at odds with the world; at these times spirit guides provide the comfort and wisdom unavailable to us from other sources. The reason we feel safe, accepted and ‘right’ with our guides is because they resonate with us, they ‘speak our language’, share our dreams, and understand our thoughts and emotions without us having to explain ourselves.
When you start out on the shamanic path the guides and companions who come forward in your earliest journeys will often be those that have been with you from the beginning; their nature is kin to yours and your re-union is more like a recognition of a piece of yourself that you had always known was there.
For me, dreams and visions I had as a child now make perfect sense, the ‘imaginary’ friends I had in childhood have returned to me. I didn’t recognise this for a long time because the way they present themselves to me as an adult is quite different to what they looked like to me as a child; but once I made the leap I couldn’t beleieve I hadn’t seen it sooner. Four guides in particular are worth mentioning. In my adult life they appear as two adult women (who are different to each other but ‘sisters’ in spirit), a dragon, and a dinosaur (who I originally thought was also a dragon until I saw her depicted in perfect detail on a BBC documentary). As a child my closest imaginary friends were a pair of twin girls and a family of cuddly dinosaurs who looked distinctly like Barney but with polka dots. It wasn’t until I was reading back over an old diary that I realised that the colouring of my poka-dotted pals was identical to the very beautiful, reptilian skins of my companions today! At that point I reviewed my colourful collection of spirit guides and realised that many of them had made themselves known to me much earlier than I had originally thought…
Each of these beings has brought me a greater understanding of my own nature. I would highly recommend journeying with your own spirits and simply asking ‘What can you tell my about myself? and ‘How are we related?’.
Meeting your spirit guides
You don’t have to be a shamanic practitioner to meet and work with your own spirit guides. There are plenty of books and journeying CDs out there to help you and you can also work with an individual practitioner or in a group to help find these connections. Those in the London area might like to join the Greenwich shamanic spirit circle and you can also contact me for a one-to-one session.
Runes for work with spirit guides and soul clan
On Saturday we moved into the half-month of Ehwaz, the rune of partnership. Ehwaz is said to symbolise the horse and rider, its powers are often linked in with that of the shape shifter or journeying spirit who ‘fares forth’ riding upon or within their spirit companion. The shape of the Ehwaz rune is sometimes likened to that of two horses facing each other and ‘twin’ deities are strongly associated with Ehwaz. Our spirit companions might be thought of as ‘twin’ spirits to us; a fruitful relationship with spirit guides will be one of closeness, giving, and receiving. A spirit guide can also act as a mirror for us, showing us what we need to know about ourselves, reflecting back our strengths and helping us recognise and embrace our weaknesses.
The ‘gifting’ rune of Gebo is also an excellent rune to work with for spirit guides. It is the rune of balanced and fair exchange, it is the kisses at the end of a birthday card and the sign of a promise. When a spirit guide shows you the Gebo rune you know that a gift or promise is being offered or demanded. The word ‘sacrifice’ is a useful one to bear in mind here; it can feel like giving something up, but its real meaning is ‘to make sacred’. When we make offerings to our spirit guides we acknowledge the sacredness of our relationship, when we ignore them, reject them or take them for granted we show them that the relationship is of little value to us.
Othala is the rune of homeland and inheritance. It can be used to call in our ancestors as well as the spirits of hearth, home and land. It is an excellent ‘connector’ rune and the image of the great hearth fire that calls the soul clan to assembly resonates with this rune which completes the rune row of the Elder Futhark. You are the sum of your past, of the connections you have made, experiences you have shared, gifts you have given and blessings you have received. Othala pays honour to that which has shaped and formed us, and it is testimony to our continued devotion to the land we live on and the spirits we share our lives with. Sing Othala to bring them home.
The half month of Ehwaz snuck in yesterday without me even noticing! Ehwaz is the rune of speed and it can represent the partnerships we form with our guides and companions working in the unseen realm of spirit.
As you know, the runic half months form excellent times to harness the energies of that particular rune – this holds particulary true of Ehwaz as it leaps forward, pulling the carriage of the sun high into the sky, bringing on Spring apace (or running away with the Sun if you are in the southern hempisphere). Hold onto your hat and ask Ehwaz to carry away the things you no longer need in your life or carry you forward towards your goals.
The half-month of Ehwaz is a great time to re-visit your spirit guides and companions, faring forth on its energy to commune with them. Ask for their assistance in your projects and plans, and don’t forget to ask them how you can help them with their own goals! On Monday I’ll be publishing an article on spirit companions so watch this space…
The half-month of Ehwaz is, in fact, a great time for journeying of any kind. It is a journeying rune and can be used in conjunction with Raidho to great effect – create a bind rune of the two of them to help you with journeying (just don’t forget to put it safely away before you go to bed or Ehwaz will run off with you). The Ehwaz rune is often linked to the ‘night mare’, the dreamer literally being ridden like a horse, perhaps this is a lesson that if you don’t ‘ride’ Ehwaz it will ride you… Safety precautions nothwithstanding, now is a great time to crack open your journeying CDs, grab your drum, or simply use your voice to carry you into the realms of spirit.
On a practical note, use the Ehwaz rune to speed up any projects that are faltering or delayed. Things where energy and speed are necessary will benefit from this rune. Taking some time to give your car/ bicycle (or other form of ‘steed’), some tender-loving-care will greatly please the rune and help ensure it blesses your endeavours.
February’s episode of Shaman of the North on The Shamanic Voice included an invitation for you to take part in a game called ‘The Sacred Story’. In the game seers and sages gather together and the first half of the sacred story is told; the participants then compete with each other by telling different endings for the tale. Some use the great word-hoards of their memories to weave old tales into new, others seek inspiration directly from source and use their seership skills to find the telling. Regular listeners will know that Shaman of the North normally includes a channeling directly from the circle of northern ancestors and, for the Sacred Story, the ancestral circle gave me a tale of two brothers, two story-tellers, to share and challenge you with.
The channelled tale ends with some questions for you about the sacred stories you use to define yourself and the episode concludes with a ‘seeing’ song for you to exercise yoru own word weaving and seership skills on. You don’t need to have done seership work before, just find a quite place to listen and give it a go! I would love to hear about your experiences. I have already heard from a group who are thinking of incorporating the sacred story competition into their Yule celebrations this year!
Below I have given you my own ending bo the tale of Lorien and younger brother, but I would recommend listening to the podcast first so you know how the tale begins…
About my telling
After the channelling I was challenged by the northern shamanic circle to give them my own ending for the tale of Lorien and Young Brother. As a seer I chose to ride my trance state to find the story inside myself; I then recited it to the ancestral circle before finishing the seership rite.
You might notice that, in their telling, the ancestors say of the older brother that ’we will call him Lorien’. This suggests to me that perhaps some seers will be given a different name for the elder of the two brothers. After offering my tale I researched the name ‘Lorien’ and discovered that its origins are in Tolkein; this supports the idea that the tale is part of the fabric of ‘story’ itself, rather than being an historical account. Lorien means ‘Master of Visions and Dreams’ which is very appropriate for a bard! For my telling Lorien’s name remained the same and younger brother was given the name ‘Angar’ which I have subsequently found is a Sanskrit name meaning ‘ember’. In the tale Angar is bitten by a fire serpent which gifts him his tale, so ’ember’ again seems fitting. These little bits of research done after seership are helpful affirmations in a world where seers are forced to classify themselves as ‘entertainers’. In many ways, both Lorien and Angar could be classified as entertainers, so perhaps this isn’t so bad; but don’t be misled into believing that the sacred stories of the past, present and future don’t hold power.
Angar’s Choice (Magin Rose’s ending for ‘The tale of Lorien and Young Brother’)
The telling seemed to last an age but was also a rushing, a burning, as if the story was eager to stamp itself upon the skin and find its place of power within the heart. Angar’s head was hot and his lips burned as the story forged itself within his mouth. Part of him existed within the tale, was made of it and re-forged by it, but part of him remained separate and apart, a watcher who saw both himself and his listeners. He was aware of the barn, and the dark fields beyond, and Lorien in the distance surrounded by his own listeners, and the quietness and vastness of the burgeoning night. Then it was done and the spellbound children wriggled their fingers and toes and felt the urge to play and run before their parents called them home. Out they spilled into the night, leaving Angar alone, walking slowly, shutting the barn door with more care and attention than would previously have been the case.
During the telling the sky had grown dark. Soon the stars would emerge against the black sky but, for now, the moon rested in solitary splendour, a silver-white wheel, perfectly still above the dark tree line. In the distance Angar could hear parents calling for their children; the wagons would be ready to carry them back to town. His mother, father, sisters, and the farms hands would be making much of Lorien as they packed away the revelries and gatherered together for one last toast in the farmhouse kitchen. No would would miss Angar.
Beneath the moon the young man sat and, closing his eyes, he felt the burning teeth of the serpent upon his arm once more. The bright flame of the story flickered upon his tongue, he could taste its subtle tones and the sharp, sweet quality of its essence. He saw himself seated in the darkness and, for the first time in his life, the future loomed large and dangerous and uncertain. A whole world of possibility opened up before him, a strange world where he, Angar, was the special one and Lorien was simply a mortal man. He saw himself bringing his burning tale to the secret places of the bards; telling it within their mystical groves, allowing its magic to work its way into the fabric of their power. It would light up their whispering halls and burn through them, re-shaping them, adding its essence to their eternal legacy. The tale would carry his name into the deep heart of the halls where the past is preserved forever. His name echoing, always echoing forwards through time. He imagined the halls of the bards as great, hollow chambers where words and names were carved into stone so they might shape the wind as it flowed from the mouths of the Gods. His name, written in stone, would form part of that great hollow instrument of the bard’s hoard; the legacy of the dead past, captured forever and held in darkness, and stone, and dust. This thought sent a sudden chill through him as if the cold wind of eternity had touched him. Not even the heat of his story-flame could warm him as time stretched out before him and the dark stillness of the bard’s halls engulfed him and held him fast. He remembered the furrows on Lorien’s brow and the strange, far away, look he always had. ‘Lorien sees beyond the bright land of the living.’ thought Angar. ‘He sees into the vastness beyond our simple present; he sees something that is huge, and beautiful and lonely and filled with death.’ Angar looked down at his own strong, body, contrasting it favourably with his brother’s stooping shoulders and thin white limbs. ’It is a high price to pay for the chance at immortality. A high price to pay indeed if you have no story to warm yourself.’
Angar opened his eyes and looked once more at the moon above him; she seemed to know his mind without him saying a thing. ’I would be your disciple Lady,’ he said. ‘Let us enjoy many nights together such as this, here upon the farm where they cycles of life keep us too busyto worry about eternity’.
It was dark indeed when Angar slipped in through the door, creeping from shadow to shadow through the kitchen and up the stairs to the chamber set aside for his elder brother. Lorien’s volumes were lined up neatly upon the shelf, their leather so worn through handling that they seemed to flow soft silver beneath the moonlight. The candle was long cold and Lorien looked peaceful, although his hand was still clenched as if he struggled to hold his stylus even in sleep.
Angar knelt down beside his elder brother and closed his eyes. He reached deep down inside himself to the place where the flame was brightest and drew it forth. Slowly the tale slid as a burning flame from Angar’s lips, out into the darkness and in through Lorien’s ear; coiling deep down into his brain, spiralling through his blood and entering his heart. Fuelled by love and compassion he had not even know he possessed for his brother, Angar forged the tale anew. With his seer’s eyes he watched it burn brighter and brighter as it melded with Lorien; the silver leaves of the ancient texts held in Lorien’s heart and mind grew bright and glowed in shining hues of bronze, gold, orange and flaming red.
Angar saw the future unfurl as his older brother, filled with light and joy, carried the tale back to the groves of the bards. He saw the deep fear that had lurked within Lorien that he would never forge his own tale, that his parents’ sacrifice would be for nothing and the stories of the bards would remain forever dry and dead upon his lips. ‘This is not so brother,’ Angar whispered. ‘You forged your tale within me and now I give it back to you.’ Now Lorien would be able to carry the tale back to the bards and prove through its telling that he had completed the work of the journeyman. Lorien would become a master bard, his name would be remembered and his flame would burn brightly within the halls of the bards for eternity. ‘And I will remain here my brother,’ said Angard with satisfaction. ‘Here in the land of the living where I belong, with the fields and the sun and the moon, where it is peaceful and I may look forward to restful peace when I die.’ And so it was.
This month on Shaman of the North on The Shamanic Voice I was hugely privileged to work with the very talented oracular priestess Emily Ounstead. The podcast features a recording of a High Seat Rite which we did together specifically for the show. The title of the episide ‘Hela’s Voice’ probably gives away that the purpose of the rite was to receive a message from the northern goddess of the Underworld Hela. The work fulfils vows made by both Emily and myself to Hela which, as those of you who work within the northern tradition know, are never to be taken lightly.
The podcast includes a discussion of the high seat rite which is a specific form of seidr work. Seidr is a really important aspect of northern tradition work and is often seen as the ‘shamanic’ form of the north. On the podcast I mention that the form of the rite comes from the work of Katie Gerrard and Diana Paxson, if you are interested I would highly recommend reading Gerrard’s Seidr: The Gate is Open. If you are interested more generally in oracular work then check out Priestesses Pythonesses Sibyls which features contributions by Emily Ounstead, Katie Gerrard and the founder of the shamanic voice Kay Gillard.
The episode is of relevance to anyone interested in Seidr and the High Seat Rite but is primarily dedicated to the Goddess Hela who, as you will hear, has a message for all.
Following some very helpful feedback I have started updating my resource pages for each of the Elder Futhark starting with Jera. You will find links to other bloggers’ work as well as You Tube videos which all bring different perspectives to rune work. I am also adding in further commentaries for the gods and spirits associated with the runes as well as the commonest elemental correspondences.
For me the most important thing that any rune worker can do is to work directly with the individual runes, raising their energy, meditating and journeying with them to find their own personal connections. Research is, of course, important as a way in to the mysteries of the runes and I think that every student should study the rune poems closely. The opinions of others, however, are only opinions and the best way forward is to learn as much as you can, but to ultimately trust your own instincts and intuitions.
With this in mind I would like to share my own personal meditations on Jera which have led me to include Summar (Summer) and Vetr (Winter) amongst the spirit correspondences for Jera. The Old Norse recognised two seasons: Summar and Vetr. Summar was the son of the God Svasud ‘Mild-One’, and Vetr was the son of Vindaul ‘Wind-Cool’ and grandson of Vasud, the freezing ice wind. Summar and Vetr were considered to be enemies, and we can see them circling about each other within the shape of the Jera rune. The Prose Edda gives a number of kennings for Summar and Vetr: both are kennings for ‘time’; Summar is known as ‘Growth of Men’ and ‘Comfort of Serpents’; and Vetr as ‘Destruction of Serpents’ and ‘Tempest-Season’ (Teutonic Magic: A Guide to Germanic Divination, Lore and Magic).
Much of the lore relating to Jera speaks of the Summer half of the year and the harvest time when the land is lush and giving. The cycle represented by Summar and Vetr reminds us that, however unpleasant, the winter months are also important to the harvest. Winter is a time of rest and sleep, energy is gathered in and conservered, that which is weak and diseased dies away ready for strong new growth in the spring. Another common interpretation of Jera is as a rune that brings success; in this respect its cycle can be seen as the cycles of planning, work, tending, harvest, celebration, reflection and rest needed for any successful endevour.
The idea of work and rest is also reflected in ‘The Song of Grotti’ in The Poetic Edda. In this tale two giant women are captured by the King Frodi and are set to work at a magic mill to grind out unsurpassed wealth for him. Frodi is a hard task master and refuses to allow the women to rest; eventually they turn upon him and grind with all their might, grinding out his doom through defeat in battle. They grind so hard that the magic mill-stone cracks in two. It is not clear whether their efforts actually create the army that defeats him, or whether they are grinding out magic or Wyrd that brings the battle to pass – but whatever the case this story shows that what was originally good fortune can turn to bad if you do not allow the proper balance of work and rest.
The tale also links Jera in with Gebo, the rune of gift giving and fair exchange. If you look at the two runes you can see that they are the same revolving shape, Gebo embodies the rules that must be followed if success is to be attained – Jera embodies the manifestation of that success. Summar and Vetr are not the only figures in Norse myth charged with maintaining a natural cycle; Sunna (Sun) and Manni (Moon), Nott (night) and Daeg (day) are also charged with sacred tasks that keep the balance of light and dark, warmth and cold as they need to be for the harvests of the worlds to be successful.
Jera reminds us that you get out what you put in; even good luck can dissipate if we demand too much without giving in return. If Frodi had shown simple kindness and consideration to the mill-workers perhaps he would still be reaping the plentiful rewards of the mill today.
It is appropriate that the half month of Isa fell during my time off and this article for the rune of inertia and resistance is therefore coming to you at the end of Isa’s time for 2011. Isa remains, however, an important rune to work with throughout the year and I couldn’t resist doing a little something for you on this beautiful but treacherous rune.
After all the struggles and stresses of Hagalaz and Nauthiz, the half-month of Isa can feel like a blessed release. Isa brings stillness, silence and rest; it is the rune that beckons us to hibernation, but it is also the bringer of death for those who have not prepared their winter nests well. I certainly found myself falling into the traps of Isa this half month as I struggled to keep going with the resolutions I had made for change in the coming year. Isa is the rune of the ego which always resists change and tries to fall back on the easy, destructive ways when the going gets tough. Isa whispers to us that it is simply too hard to make change and it is better just to lie down and give up. All of those good resolutions we made and all of those tough life lessons we passed through can seem far away and quite irrelevant as the cold sets in and we long to snuggle up where it is warm and safe.
Working with inertia and resistance
To all of you who have struggled on through the difficulty I raise my hat, but to those who (like me) have found the last few weeks as tough as old boots, Isa is not all doom and gloom. The rune of ice is also the rune that helps us know ourselves the best. Yes, I found myself staying in bed too long, eating things that were bad for me and watching trashy tv instead of going for the nice refreshing walk that I promised myself. However, this provided me with the cold hard slap in the face I needed, affirming that I have indeed identified my ego’s patterns of resistance effectively. Isa is the rune of reflection and at this time we find moments that truly reflect the person we have become during the previous year. My half-month included some moments of real clarity, healing and break-through, but there were also moments of sheer self-pity when the last thing on my mind was transformation and growth. It is often when we are on the very edge of change that our old ways come back to bite us the hardest; don’t forget that you are a strong person, so your old habits and behaviours will be strong too.
On the StarFire Alchemy Introduction to RuneCraft (launching as a correspondence course in 2012 for those of you who can’t get to London) we work with the stadgaldr for Isa. This rune posture includes voice work and the expansion of the self out to contact the full energy spectrum within Midgard. Although the Isa pose is the simplest stadgaldr, it is hugely important for further work with the rune postures as it works with the very basic concept ‘I am’. Isa is often referred to as the ‘ego’ rune; it ensures that we are stable and strong within ourselves so that we don’t become one big mess of competing desires and aspirations.
When we hit a point in our lives where we just don’t seem to be able to break through our bad habits, feelings of hopelessness, and lack of motivation, then we know that we have hit against the hard ice of Isa. Often we try to tackle these feelings by getting angry, effectively taking a sledge-hammer to the ice in an attempt to break through it. Problem is, that ice is you, so every time you yell at yourself or cry miserably into your pillow you are simply attacking your own being. The ice is either going to crack (leaving you in a worse state than you were before), or simply defend itself by becoming thicker and stronger.
Remember all those tales about winter? No one ever beats winter by getting mad, it is always acts of love, kindness and warmth that soften the Ice Queen’s cold heart and loosen her grip. The ego is like the Ice Queen, it wants to be in charge and to feel safe – much like a small child. When the ego feels threatened it responds with fear, resistance and stubborn tenacity. If we want to work effectively with our egos then attack is not going to work.
This month’s meditation focuses not on the concept ‘I am’ (for this is best used once we have made peace with our egos), but rather on ‘I accept myself’. This is the first step towards change. Let your ego feel safe and loved, then it will accept the gentle warmth of your desire for transformation ‘I accept myself and I am not afraid to become more than I am right now’.
We are now at the very heart of the half month of Nauthiz, the rune of necessity which is both the dark hollow of longing and the bright flame of the self-kindled fire. I find that Nauthiz comes up with surprising frequency for those seeking a spiritual path of self development and healing. At some point the rune of necessity starts to pull at you, exposing the tangled knots in our personal web and demanding that we begin the work of freeing ourselves.
This week Kay and I worked with a wonderful group of healers exploring shamanic techniques for cord cutting. Our course has developed under the guidance of Spider and the Nornir and we have been led to work very much along the principle that in order to cut cords, we must understand how they come into being in the first place. A cord is an established flow of energy between you and another person, situation, object, place or illness (in fact anything through which we define ourselves) - your entire self is made up of cords which wind together to create the person that is you. Many of our cords are positive, but some of them will be negative or may have started out positive and become negative along the way. Imagine a spider weaving its web, or a weaver sitting over the loom. As you look at their work you can see that an established pattern is forming and that the spider or weaver skillfully pulls different threads taut at different points to maintain that pattern and ensure that their work holds strong and steady. Our lives are like that, we have established threads within them that set the pattern of our future, and we cannot simply remove a thread without understanding that the overall tapestry will then change.
There are lots of different reasons why we might choose to cut cords. A common reason is when a relationship has come to an end but the energetic connection between the two people is still there; sometimes we want to let go but we simply can’t – in which case it is likely that the energetic cord between you hasn’t yet been cut. At other times a relationship might be stuck within old patterns that need to be released before it can move on: we see this a lot in relationships with our parents or sibblings who continue to treat us like they always have, even if we have changed. Marking rites of passage such as birth, maturation, marriage and death represent one way in which society has traditionally marked the end of one phase of life and the beginning of the new; the lack of these rites will often mean that cords that would otherwise naturally have been released still need to be cut years later.
Nauthiz is the rune that embodies the necessity of the pattern; but it also tells you when something has gone wrong with the pattern. People often associate the ‘dark night of the soul’ or a period of depression with Nauthiz; the rune brings trying times that can either be the making of us, or our destruction. On a wider scale, Nauthiz lingers within a disatisfied society: strikes, rebellion and rioting represent the many faces of Nauthiz that tell us the fabric is not holding and change is being demanded. Our job as rune and energy workers is to work with the underlying energy in our own lives, and that of our society, to skillfully cut what needs to be cut, remove what needs to be removed, and mend what needs to be mended.
For this half-month I want to look at Nauthiz as the rune which tells us when change is required. Nauthiz is, in many ways, a double edged blade. On the one hand it represents that which must be because of what has come before (it is the pattern we have fixed for ourselves), but on the other hand it also holds out the possibility of releasing that pattern. This possibility for release comes about through the work of the goddess Skuld, patron of Nauthiz, and goddess of that which must be. For me, work with Skuld is all about attitude. There are those who walk blindly in the world and believe that the pattern they have laid for themselves is simply an external force at work bringing them good fortune or ill at whim; there are others who choose to look the Goddess of necessity in the face and to seek her guidance on what work they must do to change their destiny. Skuld never promises it will be easy, but she certainly takes an interest in those who dedicate themselves to changing the web.
In our own lives we might already know what should change but not yet be able, or want to, change it. Our negative cords represent the negaive side of Nauthiz: addiction and compulsion. Often, a particular behaviour or the consumption of a particular thing represents our attempt to fill a need for something else which we haven’t yet identified or which may seem impossible to fulfill. A person who has low self esteem may not believe they are able to fulfill their dreams, but the need is still there and it demands to be filled. Our society is adept at providing us within things that we are told will make the need-ache go away: alcohol, cigarettes, sweets, clothes, cars, television, computer games etc. These things represent items which we might rationally tells ourselves we can do without, but there is a big difference between what we know we should do, and what our need tells us to do. Nauthiz is not the rune of should, it is the rune of must, ‘I must fill this emptiness inside me’. The need is real even if we haven’t yet found the best way to meet it. Committing to work with Nauthiz and Skuld represents a commitment to find out what you truly need.
My You Tube video for Nauthiz represents a very simple meditation you can do at home to open yourselves up to ‘true need’. We can do this work on behalf of ourselves and we can also do it on behalf of society.
Changing the self
For ourselves we can ask Nauthiz to begin the process of revealing the negative and empty cords which we are holding on to, preparing us to release them and so create the space in our lives for our true needs to manifest. I am currently working with this meditation to help ready myself for a cord cutting I want to undertake but which I know I am not yet ready for. This cord runs particularly deep for me as it was formed in my teenage years and there is a lot of raw, unprocessed, emotion tied in to it. As I started on this work I found that I dreamt more and more often about the particular person this cord is attached to, even though I haven’t seen them for years and years. As my work continued the dreams became more focused as I explored what need in me is being met by this strange attachment to someone from so long ago. As I write today I have been shown where on my body the negative cord between us is, so I know that soon I will be ready for the cord cutting itself.
You can use the meditation simply to say ‘I am ready to meet my true needs’. Over time you may start to receive information during the meditation itself about negative addictions, relationships and situations you are ready to release, as well as what your true needs are. You might also find that your relationship with the world around you is changing, perhaps you get itchy feet when you sit watching television too long or maybe you are less eager for an hour’s gossip with a friend who always leaves you feeling drained and inadequate. These little hints are signs from Nauthiz regarding where action is needed.
There is so much in our society which seems empty, barren and destructive at present. It is easy to become overwhelmed by a feeling of hopelessness which is all too common a response to the harsh truth of Nauthiz. We don’t even know how to begin to make a change or how one individual might remedy such a widespread problem. We can wonder why we bother with our little efforts when nothing seems to make a difference. Of course our individual efforts do make a difference, even when we don’t feel it; but we can also use our skills as runesters to bring about change in the underlying fabric of our society.
You can use the meditation simply to say ‘We are ready to meet our true needs’. Know that your focus and concentration are working upon the very fabric of reality to help loosen the knots that bind us to unhealthy, damaging behaviours. The bright flame of Nauthiz exposes the empty, negative threads for what they are and, collectively, we are able to unpick these threads and release them to the flames.