A Shamanic Journey to the Gods

Below is the fascinating  account  of how  Alver Hviti  found his path to the gods. To people in the East there would be nothing strange about this story but in the West  people have been blinded to the reality of these kinds of experiences. Fortunately many are finally waking up and rediscovering the beliefs of our ancestors. Enjoy.

It is said that a path which has nothing to teach us, is a path not worth following.

It was following this philosophy that I departed my childhood absence of faith, having grown as an atheist and undergone a long, hard path until I found myself following the faith my ancestors had abandoned almost a thousand years ago.

As a child, back in Switzerland, I always had a strange fascination with snow. I couldn’t help to run to it – usually without snow cloths much to my mother’s dismay – or to eat the snow flakes, dance to the wind carrying them or just contemplating the moonlight over the fluffy whiteness covering my large backyard. Such communion with such harsh, yet sweet element, wasn’t lonely, even though at that time, my family would not understand when I would tell them I could see and feel two distinct presences near me which I could not name.

Fast forward a few years: I, now a young adult of 25 years of age, with a long, lengthy and tortured faith search path under my belt, embittered by the recurrent failure of the one and only thing I ever asked for myself to the Gods for the past 20 years, just finishing carving a small pendant out of cedar wood for my sister. In it’s face lies now the small figure of an archer with skis on his feet and the rune eihwaz on it’s reverse.

Despite my previous and rather short stint as a heathen, I had never heard of that deity before my sister asked me to make her a “portable shrine” for the god Ullr. No matter what I searched, nothing would show up so I let it go, or so I thought until I felt a sudden urge to have a similar one for myself. Carefully, I carved it and it was carrying them that Chris and I went to a snow trip in January, burying them in the snow to soak in it’s energy and dedicating them to the obscure deity whom my research referred to as the God of “Skiing, Archery and Honor”.

It didn’t take long for the God to poke their way again in my life. Somehow after that, I kept stumbling upon pages relating to Ullr and Nordic shamanism, the later being something close to what laced my religious practice since my early childhood. After accidentally going into Raven Caldera’s online shrine for Ullr for the third time in two days, I final decided to light a candle, asking for a colder winter, and snow in my garden. It didn’t take  long for the prayer to be answered and it was with a joyful bout of adrenaline that two days later I jumped out of the bed at dawn as my father knocked at the door to tell me to look out the window. It was February and the winter had barely cooled until then. And living where I live, 2 kilometers away from the ocean in a south Mediterranean country, that little amount of snow….should be impossible. It was then that the revelation hit.

A few days later, there I was in my freezing room – how stupid of me…asking for the coldest winter in almost a decade when all the heating in the house is malfunctioning – beating with a long staff covered in runes, crystals, raven feathers and colorful strips of cloth at a set cadence as I whirred in the same spot, a focus on my mind alone. I was following some extremely vague pointers I had found on Seidr, an ancient Nordic shamanic practice, mixed with Sufi dervish dancing which I had learned earlier during my stint as a Sufi.

There was not enough data for me to know this unknown God who favored me, both by sending me snow when I asked and whom by now I suspected to be one of the figures who watched over me as a child. It was rather clear to me that, if I wanted to know Him, I would have to go out to meet him. And what better than following my gut? I spun and spun and spun until my body turned to lead and fell, releasing my soul who took flight, turned into a hawk, leaving Midgard and soaring in the branches of Yggdrasil, then falling in a predatory fall towards Vanaheim, landing with a small flip as I stopped being an eagle to become something closer to myself. In front of me, a blond, radiant lady smiled, curling her hair with one hand and playing with an amber pendant on her neck as the gentle breeze ruffled her deep emerald dress.

“Oh, an unexpected guest….how amusing. And using my arts? Tell me, child, what do you seek, and I shall point you to your way.”

Recognizing Lady Freya, I bowed deeply, and muttered, asking where could I find The Archer in Skies.

“You mean the Master of Ydalir? Try finding him in the White Woods, near the Ice Queen’s embrace.” she smiled, before kissing me in the forehead “Beware of the wolves, young hunter, they may not be what you expect, nor what you are ready for.”

Saying this, she pointed towards the edge of the clearing, then disappeared, her vanishing radiance leaving the place less bright.

Following her directions, soon I disappeared into the woods, seeing the birch and aspen trees turning to tall, bleached pines, the fruitful lingonberry shrubs replaced by shadowy, frozen versions of themselves as the floor started to become covered in snow. Distantly, a blood-freezing howl cut the air as I kept going, crossing a dark, frozen river, then taking off running as I dealt the wolves closing in.

Running. To no avail, as a powerful, enormous white wolf cut off my escape, staring majestically at me as the others approached. Hesitant of turning my back to it, I tried to circle around, finding myself surrounded by black wolves, lead by a giantess carrying a spear.

“Little one, so lost away from home…” she mused in a thin, sinister voice laced with amusement “Did not your mother told you not to play with wolves?”

“Let him be, Armylgr.” A chilling voice, reminding me of the angry winds that blew outside when I prepared my ritual “You are not in your land. Now leave, and take your children, or face the consequences.”

“The little one is mine. We saw it first Skadi!” the dark giantess howled, right before the colossal white wolf pounced over her, growling as the black wolf pack scattered, leaving me an opening to escape and disappear further into the woods, finding a small leather tent pitched next to a creek, a small fire kept lit as the tent’s owner was busy making arrows.
Deep inside my being, I knew who he was, but I couldn’t speak. I crouched in front of him, studying his face, then equipment, being greeted with a warm smile and a nod of understanding.

“Took you a while to find your way, did it not?” his eyes seemed to say right before I felt pulled back to Midgard and my body, waking up spread eagle in the middle of the mat as my mother pounded at the door, worried with the noise I did as my body impacted against the floor.

Since then  I feel close to Ullr and Skadi. I have taken up “primitive” archery as a self taught in a way to honor them, practicing almost daily whilst occasionally asking for help, then feeling gentle hands guiding my arrows. Archery needs supplies beyond a bow and arrows, like gloves and a quiver. All expensive things, specially for those who use a Mongolian bow. So, as a form of honoring my patrons, I took upon making those myself as well. After asking for aid, somehow, a pattern for an archery glove appeared on my documents, and when it came for the quiver to be made…..well, let’s just say no tutorial was followed, nor scrapped prototype was made.

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The Gods sometimes choose us, mortals, any of us. After a thousand years of oblivion, they do not wish to be silent anymore. To be called is to keep them from being forgotten, like Ullr once told me “Mankind these days, has a notoriously short memory.” They can touch everything in out lives, dissolve the barrier between sacred space and common space like in the ancient times, and show us how to solve things other ways seem impossible.

This was my journey to meet the Gods, a shamanic journey that melted my boundaries between sacred and profane, and made me establish a relationship with Ullr, the Archer on Skis and Lord of Oaths. And for this journey and it’s outcome, I am eternally grateful.

 

Atavism

Old longings nomadic leap,
Chafing at custom’s chain;
Again from its brumal sleep
Wakens the ferine strain.

Helots of houses no more,
Let us be out, be free ;
Fragrance through the window and door
Wafts from the woods, the sea.

After the torpor of will,
Morbid the inner strife,
Welcome the animal thrill.
Lending a zest to life.

Banish the volumes revered,
Sever from centuries dead ;
Ceilings the lamp flicker cheered
Barter for stars instead.

Temple thy dreams with the trees,
Nature thy god alone ;
Worship the sun and the breeze,
Altars where none atone.

Voices of Solitude call,
Whisper of sedge and stream ;
Loosen the fetters that gall,
Back to the primal scheme.

Feel the great throbbing terrene
Pulse in thy body beat,
Conscious again of the green
Verdure beneath the feet.

Callous to pain as the rose,
Breathe with instinct’s delight;
Live the existence that goes
Soulless into the night.

John Myers O’Hara

Mead and its significance in Norse mythology

This is an interesting video about mead and its significance. As the video points out it is unlikely that the importance of mead was its alcoholic content.

The video theorizes that mead contained hallucinogenic properties. I would like to suggest an alternative explanation for the importance of mead  in the ancient world.

As I explain in this post mead made by our ancestors had very little alcohol. It did have a high glucose content and humans need glucose to function.

Today we live sedentary lives and have ready access to glucose in many forms so most of us  are unfamiliar with what happens to us when we run out of glucose. Some athletes especially cyclists do experience this. It  is called hitting the wall or ‘bonking’. The medical term for this is hypoglycemia which can occur when  blood sugar is 70 milligrams per deciliter  or lower.  These are some of the symptoms: confusion, dizziness, feeling shaky, headaches, irritability, trembling, weakness, anxiety, poor concentration. Without treatment you could pass out or even go into a coma.

An  individual on an average diet is able to store about 380 grams of glycogen, or 1500 kcal  in the body. Intense cycling or running can easily consume 600–800 or more kcal per hour.  Unless glycogen stores are replenished during exercise, glycogen stores will be depleted after less than 2 hours of continuous intense exercise.

It is  possible to replenish glucose through fat metabolism during gentle aerobic  exercise.  Fighting in hand to hand combat for several hours was anything but gentle. It would have been what is called anaerobic exercise, where there is insufficient oxygen to sustain the muscles. Examples of anaerobic sports in the modern world are sprinting or weightlifting. Battles in the ancient world  lasted much longer than 2 hours. The battle of Teutoburg Forest for instance lasted about 3 days. So how did the warriors avoid hypoglycemia?

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The GI is a scale that ranks carbohydrates from 0 to 100 according to how quickly they are processed in the body.

Foods with a high glycemic index rating — above 70 — generally make the blood sugar quickly go up and then rapidly drop back down in a short period of time. If a food has a moderate score, between 55 and 69, it will still raise your blood sugar, but probably not as much as something with a higher ranking.

Honey typically has a GI of 58. This is therefore ideal for a Teutonic warrior, raising blood sugar quite high but also lasting more than an hour. Carbohydrates from liquids are usually digested  rapidly,

In the 19th and early 20th century, athletes occasionally drank beer of low alcohol content replenishing water, minerals and energy in the body. Today sports drinks like Gatorade give athletes an energy boost,  replace fluids and  increase the glucose circulating in the  blood. Could mead have played a similar role in the ancient world?

The only source of pure glycogen in Northern Europe would have been honey which would have therefore played a crucial role in military life. This may also be the reason that the bee was considered sacred.

The Maiden with the Mead

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A recurring theme in the Poetic Edda, is the supernatural maiden offering a cup or a horn of precious mead to a hero. The motif of a maiden serving mead is also found in many images from the Viking Age, carved on rock – especially memorial stones at burial places – or woven on hangings.

Maria Kvilhaug, a Norwegian  scholar of Norse mythology, has suggested that the maiden with the mead was part of an initiation ritual. This could be right but the actual origin may come from the battlefield.

Tacitus, the Roman historian, writes in Germania:

“Tradition says that armies already wavering and giving way have been rallied by women who, with earnest entreaties and bosoms laid bare, have vividly represented the horrors of captivity, which the Germans fear with such extreme dread on behalf of their women…And what most stimulates their courage is, that their squadrons or battalions, instead of being formed by chance or by a fortuitous gathering, are composed of families and clans. Close by them, too, are those dearest to them, so that they hear the shrieks of women, the cries of infants”

It is clear that women were present on the battlefield. Tacitus is not a wholly reliable source and the importance of the women may have been more than exhortation.  Could they have  given the warriors mead in the same way that athletes today are given drinks high in glucose? Is this the true origin of the maiden with the mead? They could have played a crucial role in determining the ability of warriors to continue fighting and thus influenced the outcome of the battle. In doing so a mythology would have been built around these mead bearing women.

Thank you Thor!

Last night we had a big thunderstorm  and the electricity went down. This often happens where I live unfortunately. It usually doesn’t come back on until the next morning. There was just a very weak current, enough for a couple of lights, but no other light,  no water, no internet.

We were having dinner, partly by candlelight, and in the course of the conversation my son asked to see my Mjölnir. I took it off and passed it to him and as I did so the lights flickered. Everyone laughed:

‘That’s Thor!’

‘Isn’t Thor the god of lightning or storms or sometime like that?’

My son took the Mjölnir and put it on. As he did so the lights slightly dimmed. We all laughed again.

‘Thor!’

We talked out the Mjölnir for a bit. I explained that I had had it made based on the design of a Viking Mjölnir found in Denmark. The labour charge was $30 plus another $15 for some modifications which I thought incredibly good value, but not everyone was convinced thinking that some of the gold I had given to the jewelry maker hadn’t been returned. I also gave my son my gold watch which he put on, and we discussed various other topics including the price of antiques. Finally he gave the Mjölnir  back to me.

At the exact moment I put the Mjölnir round my neck, the electricity came back on. All the lights went on, the water pump started up again. The exact moment.

We sat in stunned silence.

Finally my son said:

‘Wow! What’s the odds of that happening by chance? I want a Mjölnir! Mummy, you should change religions…’

It was what statisticians call a 6 sigma event. I did a bit of googling later to see if there were any similar stories. This is an interesting example of a prayer for rain being answered by Thor, especially interesting as it from extremist Christians.

In the saga of Eric the Red, when the men are short of food,  Thorhall composes a poem in praise of Thor and shortly after a whale is washed up on the shore.  Thorhall says:

“Has it not been that the Redbeard has proved a better friend than your Christ? this was my gift for the poetry which I composed about Thor, my patron; seldom has he failed me.”

It is very inconvenient to be without electricity and we were very grateful to Thor, if he really had anything to do with it. Thank you Thor!

If you have had similar experiences please post them below.

Heathen burial

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This is the grave of my dog who died recently. She was called Puppy (somewhat inappropriate, given she was over 10 years old….the name somehow stuck)

  • The dog, as a heathen, was buried facing north. Christians were buried facing east.
  • Heathens were buried with some of their possessions. I have put the dog’s bowl and collar on top of the grave for the purposes of the photo, but they will be buried alongside the dog. Christians were never buried with their possessions.
  • The swastika is often found on heathen burial urns, especially in England, and seems to be associated with Thor’s hammer, representing perhaps the Mjolnir flying through the air. It could also represent the cyclical nature of life. It is quite often found on Chinese grave stones too.

Make mead like a heathen

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Mead is  an important part of being a heathen. Mead is to heathens what marijuana  is to Rastafarians. A draught of mead, delivered by the beautiful divine maidens, was the reward for warriors who reached Valhalla; Odin, was said to have gained his strength by suckling Mead from a goats’ udder as an infant.

Keep not the mead cup but drink thy measure;
speak needful words or none:

‘Twas Gunnlod who gave me on a golden throne
a draught of the glorious mead,

Nine mighty songs I learned from the great
son of Bale-thorn, Bestla’s sire;
I drank a measure of the wondrous Mead,
with the Soulstirrer’s drops I was showered.

But is the mead heathens  make today the same as that of our Ancestors ?

The Ancients knew nothing of yeast, had no access to chemical sanitizer, and would  brew and ferment in open vats in the same room in which other cooking and household duties were being performed.

The Hispanic-Roman naturalist Columella gave a recipe for mead in De re rustica, about 60 AD. This is probably roughly how the Scandinavians made mead too.

Take rainwater kept for several years, and mix a sextarius of this water with a [Roman] pound of honey. For a weaker mead, mix a sextarius of water with nine ounces of honey. The whole is exposed to the sun for 40 days, and then left on a shelf near the fire. If you have no rain water, then boil spring water.

You can make mead using this method.

Take a ceramic pot and add distilled water and  raw unpasteurized honey. Distilled water is only necessary because of all the chemicals in todays environment that our ancestors did not have to contend with. Add some of the following:

  • herbs
  • wild fruit and berries
  • cinnamon

Cover the pot with a cloth to stop insects getting in. After a few days and it will start to ferment. Stir it each day. There is no need to add yeast as there will probably be some wild yeast on the fruit skins and there is yeast in the air too.

Wait  9 days and then drink it.

Its as simple as that.  It will only be mildly alcoholic, but will be full of nutritious probiotics from the wild yeast and still  taste sweet. It will be slightly fizzy and tastes amazing. If you rarely drink alcohol then even a small amount will make you tipsy.

Alcohol content

If you make mead in the traditional way the alcohol content is variable, but generally very low. This was true of most ancient societies as can be seen by the amount they drank. The daily beer allowance of a pyramid worker was one and a third gallons. In Christian Europe nuns had a daily ration of 6 pints of ale. They would have died of cirrhosis of the liver after a few years if the alcohol content was more than half a percent. The same would have applied to the mead our Nordic ancestors drank.

There are many accounts of people getting drunk in the Eddas and sagas. The nutritional biochemist and historian William J. Darby, who has studied this subject extensively, observes:All these accounts are warped by the fact that moderate users of alcohol “were overshadowed by their more boisterous counterparts who added ‘color’ to history.” The simple fact is that our ancestors did not have the knowledge or technology to make alcohol of the strength we have today. But stories of drunks are entertaining and the ancient chroniclers never let the truth stand in the way of a good story.

Glucose not alcohol

There will still be plenty of glucose in your mead and this is important. Every cell in your body runs on glucose especially the brain. The brain, which accounts for 2 percent of our body weight, uses roughly 20 percent of our daily calories. The frontal cortex which manages our self control, is especially vulnerable to low glucose. 130 grams of carbohydrates a day is needed for the brain to function properly. In the modern world we have access to plenty of glucose – too much – but our ancestors had the  opposite  problem. This is perhaps the reason that mead was so sacred to them.

Humans are frugivores. Indeed as Tony Wright has speculated humans’ symbiotic relationship with fruit played a key role in our development. In northern Europe fruit was scarce and Tacitus makes this point in Germania:

“Their country, though somewhat various in appearance, yet generally either bristles with forests or reeks with swamps; it is more rainy on the side of Gaul, bleaker on that of Noricum and Pannonia. It is productive of grain, but unfavourable to fruit-bearing trees”

Mead was essential as an alternative source of  glucose.

 

Drinking  mead of greater alcoholic content than this is unwise.

As this recent study shows even moderate consumption of alcohol can impair  the brain’s function. Effects  include: :shrinkage of hippocampus, damage to the structure of white matter and reduced lexical fluency.

Encouraging people to drink alcohol by normalizing it as part of a religious ritual is irresponsible.

Researchers have linked alcohol consumption to more than 60 diseases.  Here are three examples:

Cancer

Drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancer. The increased risk comes when the body converts alcohol into acetaldehyde, a potent carcinogen. Cancer sites linked to alcohol use include the mouth, pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), esophagus, liver, breast, and colorectal region.

Brain damage

Drinking alcohol speeds the shrinkage of certain key regions in the brain, resulting in  symptoms of dementia.

 Liver Damage
Alcohol is toxic to liver cells, and many  drinkers develop cirrhosis, a sometimes-lethal condition in which the liver is so heavily scarred that it is unable to function. It’s hard to predict which drinkers will develop cirrhosis. Some people who drink huge amounts never get cirrhosis, and some who don’t drink very much do get it. For some unknown reason, women seem to be especially vulnerable.