Posts Tagged ‘regression’
In shamanic healing we talk about concepts of power loss and soul loss; from a shamanic perspective the process of healing is considered to be one of recovery where the soul is restored to a state of wholeness. In this state of wholeness we are more able to express ourselves, less susceptible to illness and wounding, and are able to achieve fulfillment in our lives. Some might also characterise a state of wholeness as being a state in which we are able to achieve our ‘soul purpose’ (more on that later).
The concept of ‘wholeness’ is particularl important within the Northern tradition because the modern English word for ‘whole’ shares a common root with both ‘holy’ and ‘hale’ (as in ‘hale and hearty’ or ‘healthy and hearty’). As part of this series I am going to be looking at Teutonic concepts of the soul (Teutonic referring to the common origins of languages including English, German, Icelandic etc), but for now I want to look specifically at the idea of ‘wholeness’.
So let’s assume for a moment that if something is not whole it is characterised by weakness and is in some way ‘unholy’. A structure which isn’t whole is unstable and dangerous. A place that isn’t whole is isolated, barren and polluted. A group that isn’t whole is characterised by division, conflict, miscommunication and inequality. A person that isn’t whole is powerless, needy, vulnerable, lonely and wounded. To the Teutonic mind ‘unholy’ does not mean evil; instead we might recognise it as the chill down the spine felt in forgotten and neglected places, that sense of emptiness that fills us with fear and a desire to be somewhere else. Unholiness comes about when we forget to treat ourselves, each other, and our environments as sacred. In the modern world many of us are all too sensitive to the lack of wholeness which is present all around, and within, ourselves.
One of the modern world’s biggest demons is the demon of consumerism. From a shamanic perspective over-consumption and addiction are symptoms of a lack of wholeness; we sense that we are empty and desperately try to fill the hole inside us with the items we have been convinced will make us feel better. I’ll be talking more about this when I write about this coming half-month of Nauthiz – the rune of necessity and desire.
So what has wholeness got to do with past life healing? My answer would simply be ’everything’. We are the sum of our past and, from a shamanic perspective, that past isn’t just the tiny bit of your existence which makes up your conscious memory of your current lifetime. Your past includes your dreamtime, your pre-conscious memories, the stories you have woven to make sense of your own reality, the memory stored within your body in both sickness and health, the memory stored within your DNA, our shared human history, and the vast record of memory that is the collective past. Quite a lot, you might say – perhaps too much to even begin worrying about!
To many of us, the past is that which is gone or forgotten. This has become so true that it is common in Western society for death to be so frightening that we just don’t talk about it at all: we don’t want to be reminded that we will one day become part of that past. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In Teutonic Magic Gundarsson tells us that:
The Germanic time-sense is not threefold [i.e. past, present, future], but twofold: time is divided into “that-which-is”, a concept emcompassing everything that has ever happened – not a linear progression, but as a unity of interwoven layers – and “that which is becoming,” the active changing of the present as it grows from the patterns set in that which is. Teutonic Magic: A Guide to Germanic Divination, Lore and Magic
Imagine for a minute that you are a tree. Your present self, your conscious self, exists as the bark of the tree – the very surface of your being which is your own particular ‘that which is becoming’. Beneath the bark are the rings of the tree, each representing a year of your life; these rings represent ’that which is’, they are the past which defines how you will develop and grow in the future, what your tree looks like, how big and strong it is, how hardy and ’hale’ it is. To the Teutonic mind the past is not that which is forgotten, it is in fact part of the present: the past is embraced as part of our entirety, or ‘wholeness’. In this sense, the modern world’s championing of the future and our discomfort with death and forgetting is a manifestation of our lack of wholeness: we have become disconnected from our past and are therefore not whole, the tree is still there but we are blinded to it.
Past life healing is the process of getting to know our own tree, of discovering our strengths and weaknesses and of creating healing that works on both the past and present.
I work regularly with a group of seidr practitioners and one of the pieces of advice which we have been given is that the questions which are important for us to ask in our work are ‘why’ questions. It is very easy to get stuck in ‘what’, ‘which, ‘when’, ‘where’, ‘who’ and ‘how’ questions: we like to know facts about what we should be doing, which option is best to take, where we will find happiness and with whom. However, these questions do not give us wisdom or self-knowledge, they simply seek guidance from an external source on the best course of action. In a sense, we work on the assumption that some guiding force exterior to ourselves knows best what we need and desire. It is the why questions which tell us about our pasts and so allow us to find wholeness through self-knowledge – only then will we find the inner knowing that help us access all the other answers for ourselves.
Past life healing is a process of remembering, integrating and, in many cases, forgiving. When I work with people through past life regression we seek to find parts of the self which we have lost conscious access to that can help us understand ourselves and so begin to change our lives. One common problem is repeated behaviours which we can’t seem to change – it is almost as if the past is constantly trying to make itself known within the present because, until we recognise what we are in the present, we cannot become something different.
This month I am working with the energy of ‘shadow sister’ in preparation for my show on the Shamanic Voice. She is coming through as the part of self and society which we seek to push further and further away – she informs me that the harder we push the more she must force her way back. Many people I know are experiencing the recurrence of old illnesses, the resurrection of old hopes, and the rekindling of old passions; this is a time when healing really is possible for us – shadow sister is calling out to us to recognise and embrace her. When the past rears its head it is tempting to run and hide, but this is a wonderful opportunity for us to actually tackle our skeletons in the closet and lay old wounds to rest.
Fulfilling soul purpose
Earlier I talked about the fact that a person who isn’t whole will try and fill the lack they sense inside them with something else. Our society is all too ready to tell us what we can consume to make us feel whole again. The problem is that, even if we resist the urge to blindly follow the consumerist trend, we still don’t know what we need because so much of our soul tree is hidden to us. This is where self-help books come in, as well as a whole plethora of people who are able to tell you what has worked for them and, indeed, what has worked for the majority of people. The difficulty is that these approaches can’t help each individual to find their unique soul purpose. This is why knowing yourself is so important and why past life healing can help you to find the path that is right for you. You are one vast well of experience about what works for you and what doesn’t, embedded deep inside the tree rings of your own past are thousands of moments of perfect clarity where you confronted, understood, accepted and embraced your true self.
This time of year is an important one for remembrance. In my November 2011 podcast Honouring the Ancestors on The Shamanic Voice I talked about the difference between places of the dead which are ‘living’ and those which are neglected. To me places of communion between the living and the dead exemplify the difference between a ‘holy’ place and an ‘unholy’ place. Burial grounds, ancestral altars and other places of memorial are important places of power; we become extremely upset when a place of special remembrance is defiled or defaced. Some places of remembrance are special because they act as places of communion between the living and their immediate relatives, but other places are considered important even if we don’t know exactly who is buried there – think of the unnamed graves of warriors, prisoners of war and victims of massacre. We may not have such clear ideas on why we wish to remember as our Teutonic ancestors, but many of us instinctivly feel that remembrance is part of what it means to be human. Undertaking some simple acts of remembrance for thos who have gone before us is, in itself, a form of deep soul healing.
Personal healing work
From a shamanic perpsective, even events which are seemingly random have roots within the past – even if we are unaware of these roots. You may already know the source of the behaviour or belief but, in many cases, the source is unrecognised. Sometimes it is important to go back and find the source of the belief or behaviour (more on that in later articles) but, often, your healer will be able to perform work for you that doesn’t require that you consciously dredge up the past. While all healing work ultimately aims to restore wholeness, these are some of the most common methods used in past life healing:
- Past life regression to help your conscious mind re-connect to your own roots and personal heritage
- Power retrieval and soul retrieval to bring about restoration of parts of the self we have lost access to
- Work with the ancestors and spirits of the land to heal isolation, separation and loneliness
- Cord cutting or extraction work to release beliefs and energy which we have inadvertantly taken on in place of our own essence
- Work to connect with the different aspects of our soul including our physical body, power animals and guides
- Ceremonies that honour our own achievements, deeds and souls
In the ancient runes, wholeness and fulfillment are represented by the rune Wunjo. The Teutonic peoples saw union with family and the gods as the source of their greatest happiness and this rune is traditionally associated with kinship and dicine ecstasy. THe experience of Wunjo might be brief and fleeting but it acts as a compass that guides you steadily through life, always drawing you on to greater moments of wonder and happiness. Every step you take towards wholeness in yourself makes that inner compass stronger. Blessing of Wunjo upon you.
The Norns (or Nornir as they would have been called) are three extremely powerful and important figures within the Germanic northern tradition (the tradition from which languages including German, English, Dutch, Norwegian and Icelandic come). Without them there is no time, no story, no evolution, no destiny. In some ways their arrival in the cosmos caused ambivalence among the Gods as it ended the carefree, timeless, golden age; but the stories tell us that their coming was inevitable, they are the inevitable.
The Nornir are often likened to the three Fates, the Moraie of ancient Greece or Roman Parcae. Three women sit and spin the threads of fate, they weave the tapestry of being, they cut the threads at the end of each life. Certainly the Nornir are weavers, but so are the Valkyrie, the choosers of the slain; and, indeed, Skuld, the youngest of the Nornir ia also said to be a Valkyrie. Like the Fates, the Nornir are also spinners, but so is Frigga, the Queen of the Gods who, it is said, has primary responsibility for spinning the threads which the Nornir then use. It is also true that the Nornir take an interest in the lives of individual men and women, in fact, a whole entourage of lesser nornir are described as being guardian spirits who attach themselves to particular individuals at birth, bringing gifts for both good and for ill ( a bit like bad and good fairy godmothers). However, this is also a shared role as the Gods also come to the Well of Wyrd where the Nornir reside to sit and debate the fates of men, perhaps subtly plotting to influence their own fates by dabbling in the Wyrd of man - even the Gods themselves are subject to the laws off the Nornir.
Where the Nornir really come into their own is not so much as spinners, but as law-makers, writers of the inevitable, guardians of the Well of Wyrd: the substance of time and destiny, the waters of the past from which the threads of the present rise.
At StarFire Alchemy the Nornir are regular visitors to our Circles and have also helped shape and weave some of our key courses including shamanic regression, cord cutting and rune casting. All of these techniques deal with a reading of, and interaction with, the stories of the past and the flow of our Wyrd. Who better for our students to work with and journey to for wisdom, protection and guidance than the guardians of Wyrd itself?
- About the Well of Wyrd
- The First Norn – Urd/ Urðr/ Wyrd/ ‘that which was’
- The Second Norn – Verðandi/ Werthende/ ’that which is’
- The third Norn – Skuld/ Sculd/ ‘that which must be’
The Well of Wyrd is also known as Urðarbrunnr, Urd’s Well, or the well of that which was. It is one of three wells found at the root of the great world tree Yggdrasil, the others being Hvergelmir (bubbling/ boiling spring) and Mimmisbrunnr (Mimir’s well); Hvergelmir is the primal well from which the first waters flowed, while Mimir’s well is a place where knowledge and foresight may be obtained. You can see that all three of these wells are, in some way, a manifestation of the idea of origins and the unfolding of time.
The Nornir dwell by the Well of Wyrd and are said to have a shining hall there, they are often depicted as three cloaked figures, almost indistinguishable from each other. Each day the Gods cross over the rainbow bridge and gather at the Well to debate and cast judgements, testifying to the Well’s importance as a place of truth and source of law. Any beings who bathe within the Well of Wyrd are said to emerge shinig white, like the membrane of an egg; and a pair of swans (said to be the ancestors of all other swans), are said to feed at the well each day. Interestingly, some accounts state that Munnin, one of Odin’s ravens, is pure white – Munnin is the raven of memory and, perhaps, he too drinks at the Well.
It is said that the Nornir gather white clay from the edges of the Well and smooth it upon the bark of the World Tree to keep it strong and healthy. In this sense the waters of the past are seen as strengthening and healing the present. As a healer this makes a great deal of sense to me, it is through self acceptance that we come to love ourselves and through acceptance of the truth about ourselves and the world we live in that we gain wisdom. Healing cannot occur when we live in falsehood or deny the past which has made us who we are.
Urd’s name has been translated as ‘that which was’, ‘the past’ or ’origin’; it is the past tense of the Old Norse verb for ‘to become’. Urd is often seen as being the oldest of the Nornir although, as I said above, for others the three Nornir appear as women of the same age with similar faces and builds. As the Norn concerned with the past Urd is often seen working at the Well of Wyrd itself; some say she washes the threads of Wyrd within the Well but, for me, she is drawing fibres of being from the Well itself. To me Urd appears as a wise, round faced woman wearing sensible clothing; she is the Norn who speaks the most frequently – perhaps because, as the keeper of the past, she has the most to say. Over time she has taken on the aspect of wise ‘crone’, echoing the ‘maiden, mother, crone’ archetype of modern witchcraft.
Urd is a force to be reckoned with, she tells it like it is and does not suffer fools gladly. Although the Nornir are harbingers of Fate and might be thought not to take sides, at the final battle between the Gods and their enemies Urd will come forth from the Well armed and ready for action – perhaps to bear witness, or perhaps to ensure that the outcome of the battle is played out to her liking.
Verðandi is said to select the threads and weave them together into the great tapestry of being, her name has been translated as ‘happening’, ‘present’, ‘becoming’, ‘in the making’ and ‘that which is’; it is the present tense of the Old Norse verb ‘to become’. Each person has their own tapestry, their own past and their own destiny to fulfill, but each of these is woven into the greater whole, intersecting and interweaving in a myriad of patterns and colours. When I visit the Well of Wyrd Verðandi is always busy, her hands continually working the thread. To me she embodies the principle of mindfulness: always intent upon the present moment, not weighed down by the past or caught up in fantasies of the future; she is at peace in herself and in her work.
Verðandi is often equated with the energy of the ‘mother’ and, as Urd might be said to hold the wisdom of the crone, Verðandi does indeed resonate with the mother, continually birthing the present and bring it into form as her hands work across the loom. Verðandi often appears to me with a full figure and luxurious golden hair, her nature is gentle and she will not speak unless she has something particularly important to say.
Skuld is often depicted as the youngest of the Nornir, she is a Valkyrie, a warrior maiden and is often considered to be the most frightening of the three. Her name has been translated as ‘debt’, ‘necessity’, ‘that which must be’, or ‘future’. In some ways her function might be said to be the upholding of karmic law - except that this implies an inherent fairness to her actions when, in fact, she might be described more as ensuring the patterns woven into the fabric of the present play out as they must.
Skuld is often seen carrying a knife ready to the cut the threads at the end of a lifetime but, for me, a far more important function of Skuld is as the overseer of the knots within the tapestry of Wyrd. The idea of oath making is hugely important within the northern tradition, an oath made must be fulifilled, to not do so is to damaging both to your own Wyrd and the greater tapestry as a whole. Imagine that two threads are knotted together withina cloth to begin a new pattern, then the weaver forgets about the knot and leaves these threads hanging: the tapestry will either end up tangled up in itself, or with gaping holes where the threads should have been. Skuld’s rune is the Nauthiz rune, the rune of need, to me it follows on from the promises made by the Gebo rune of exchange. oathmaking and gifting - at some point those promises are tested and the knot is pulled taut (have a look at the shapes of the runes to see what I mean). Skuld is the tester, she makes sure the tapestry is strong and that its pattern runs true.
I said earlier that Skuld was a Valkyrie. These terrifying women were maidens of battle, choosers of the slain who would bring fallen warriors to Odin’s hall where they would join his army ready for the final battle. In this sense Skuld selects the brightest threads, the finest heroes for this special purpose – like her sister Urd she is perhaps not so neutral in the affairs of the cosmos as we might believe. In her role as a Valkyrie Skuld bears a shield and wears a shining helmet and cloak of swan feathers.