“The Yggdrasil-Tree is a beautiful symbolical representation of Freemasonry,” says Daniel Sickels in his General Ahiman Rezon. The book, which was intended to be read by Freemasons who wanted insight into their fraternity and its rituals, was published in 1868. Yggdrasil, says Sickels, “illustrates the character of Masonic secrecy.” Yet this was, of course, the world tree of pre-Christian, Norse mythology, and Sickels, who also speaks of the norns (the female figures who predetermine the fates of men), is certainly well aware of its character.
Sickels’ work appeared more than 85 years prior to the publication of Gerald Gardner’s Witchcraft Today — which initiated the birth (or, as some would maintain, revival) of the Pagan religion of Wicca — and just over a century prior to the “revival” of Asatru, the Germanic-inspired, and rune-based Pagan religion which emerged during the 1970s. Yet, some other Freemasons of the 19th century were inspired by northern European, pre-Christian mythology, and absorbed some elements into Masonic, or “fringe Masonic,” ritualism. Continue reading
Talking to the Spirits: Personal Gnosis in Pagan Religion, by Kenaz Filan and Raven Kaldera
Destiny Books, 9781620550830, 320 pp., 2013
This book is an excellent exploration of communication with the spirit world with material of interest to the curious, the absolute beginner, and the experience spirit- worker. While it is primarily informed by Northern Tradition Paganism, it draws first hand examples from a wide array of spirit-workers from a variety of paganisms, including Asatru, Heathens, Druids, Celtic Reconstructionists, Hellenics, Kemetics, modern Shamans, and more. It also does an excellent job reminding us that these communications take place in cultural contexts and in the broader context of the natural world itself.
The book begins with an exploration of what personal gnosis is and what it feels like; and since much of the information we receive from the spirits can not be verified and may not be for everyone, how we can respond to what the gods, ancestors, and spirits are telling us. It explores why we want to cultivate more direct communication, what that communication might look like, and some of the risks and dangers along the way.
The book frankly addresses delusion, scepticism, lies, and inflated egos in a way which is constructive – discerning without being overly judgemental. It also has an entire chapter addressing the relationship between spirit contact and mental health concerns, do so in a way which is supportive, sensitive and informed. Too many books on magical practices simply say that anyone with any mental health issues should simply avoid esoteric work; but that ignores the fact that much healing can be found in these practices and that some of the sensitivities that leave certain people vulnerable to mental illness can be the same sensitivities that leave some of the same people open to spiritual awareness. Managing these gifts and burdens together seems to me to be a far cry better than shutting everything down because some ‘spiritual leaders’ don’t have the skills to mentor such individuals. Given that I work in the intersection of spirituality and mental health, I was delighted to see it introduced so well here. Continue reading
The Feast of the Einheriar or the Festival of the Einherjar is also known by other names including the Festival of Odhinn, the Feast of Fallen Warriors, Heroes’ Day, the Salutation to the Heroes and Old November Day. Marking the day of the full onset of winter, this festival was Christianized and transformed into St. Martin’s Day (Martinmas), a catholic saint who was given many of Odhinn’s original attributes. Originally this day was sacred to both Odhinn and Cernunnos (who has many similarities to the Wanderer Odhinn). Continue reading
The Book of Seidr: The Native English And Northern European Shamanic Tradition, by Runic John
With the popularity of Runes information on Seidr, the Germanic form of shamanism, is sometimes difficult to come across. Well-researched information that tries to reconstruct the practices as well as possible is even more rare. Runic John’s book is one source of just such information.
The opening chapter of the book serves to ground the reader firmly in the lore with regard to Seidr practice. Using the Eddas, sagas, and even analysis of practices banned by early Christianity, we begin to build a picture of the Seidr men and women of ancient times.
Chapter 2 is the first chapter of practical exercises. It aims to develop the basic skills required, such visualization, that will be required throughout one’s development. The creation of a harrow is also described as an aid to magical and religious focus.
The rest of the chapters continue the mix of practical exercises and explanation of relevant lore and traditions. Where there are gaps in the historical accounts of Seidr Runic John analyzes the neighbouring traditions of the Sammi and Siberian shamans. This will no doubt disturb the more ‘folkish’ members of the heathen community but it is done in a measured and well thought out way.
The practical techniques taught by this book include shamanic journeying through the nine worlds of Yggdrasil, shapeshifting, healing, and Spae (oracular Seidr). Each technique is taught in a way that progresses gradually so that even the most inexperienced reader can develop his or her own Seidr practice.
All in all I think this book is an excellent guide for anyone wishing to undertake a study of Seidr in as authentic and traditional a manner as possible. Runic John has done a great service to both Seidr and heathen reconstructionism with this book. I’m looking forward to the forthcoming Book of Advanced Seidr.