One-Eyed Cat: Norse Paganism & Northern European Witchcraft

This is the magic of Freyja and I am her völva: a seer, priestess and oracle.

Sharing wisdom taught directly by the Norse Gods over twenty years of practice, I teach safer seiðr / seidr / seidhr (Norse trance work and fate-magic), reverent animism, and deeper workings with the Gods and land spirits through respect for all life and peoples.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Heathen Yggdrasil Meditation to Connect with Norse & Celtic Gods

This meditation was podcast during the April 2020 Bindrune Festival

Quick and calming, this meditation is especially good for practicing mystical journeywork — and comes directly from over two decades of my own experience as a völva, a Norse seer and priestess. It takes you to a very stable and holy location, one that is excellent for meeting deities and benevolent spirit guides or teachers in solo and group guided meditations.


The World Treealso known as Yggdrasil, is a nearly universal mythic symbol across Eurasia, but it is also a very real place you can visit. Called Yggdrasil, Laerad and Mead-Tree by the Norse, this tree appears in diverse sources, from Egyptian wall paintings to the Hellenic tale of the Golden Apples of the Sun, from Slavic fairy tales to images of Buddha meditating beneath the Bodhi tree and the more familiar Biblical Tree of Life. 

Commonly depicted at the top of cosmic hill or mountain, the Tree stands as the center of all existence. In Krakow, Poland, two ancient sacred hills (Wanda’s Mound and Krakus’ Mound) show evidence of having been built around a tall wooden pillar, set upright in the center, that has since disintegrated back into the soil over the millennia. In other places in Europe, such hills were topped by a single, massive oak or other sacred tree — or crowned by a sacred grove.

So why is this important? In Northern European cosmology, this special tree links all times, places and realms, acting as both a gathering place and gateway to higher consciousness. Remember that tale of the Tree of Knowledge? This is the hidden truth behind the myth. Life is knowledge: a lifetime’s memories contain the collective knowledge of the time you’ve experienced, both waking and in dreams. Such knowledge is held by the Tree, collected in the Well of Memory at its roots.

bee-felten

In Norse mythology, the World Tree generously shelters and sustains all life in the universe, protecting existence between cosmic eras. Bee Felten/Unsplash


In the following meditation, instead of imagining yourself as the tree, you are going to visit it seeking healing and guidance.

First, pick whether you will do this meditation indoors or outdoors. Meditating outdoors is more powerful, for several reasons. You will tap into more of the natural energies and the rhythm of the cosmos if you can pick the right tree to sit with outside. The tree itself can also help you, and, over time, you and this tree will get to know each other well. Once you have done this meditation with an actual, willing tree outdoors, it is also much easier to tap into it during an indoor journey.

Journeying Indoors (Part 1):

If it’s nighttime, light a candle as a focus while you relax. The candle light will also help to protect you during your visionary journey. If it’s daylight, let the sunlight be your powerful candle! If at all possible, open a window and let the sunlight touch your skin. You may also find it calming and helpful to begin by smudging or candle-clearing the room where you will sit and meditate. (This is unnecessary outside.)

To begin, sit down comfortably, on a chair or the floor. Set your intention that what you experience will be for your highest good. Now, face south and set the candle somewhere in front of you where you can focus on the warmth of its flame surrounding you, or face a sunny window. Gaze at this flame, allowing your eyes to relax, until your thoughts clear or you just feel calmer. As you gaze at the flame, imagine that you enter it, but are not burned: the fire blazes, warm and safe, all around you. Otherwise, imagine the sunlight coming in to warm you, surrounding and permeating your body like the heat of a candle flame. This fire forms a protective envelope around you. Set your intention that this protection remain around you during theentire course of your journey.

Continue on to part two in the outdoors meditation below.

b2ap3_thumbnail_lukasz-szmigiel-jFCViYFYcus-unsplash.jpg

Connecting with the World Tree outside is ideal. You can use a real tree for this. Lukascz Schmiegel / Unsplash

Journeying Outdoors (Part 1):

If you’d like, start with a Simple Solar Meditation to clear your energies and mind.

Then, pick a tree that makes you feel safe, comfortable and relaxed. You can rest your head against it, or simply touch the trunk and ask for permission to spend time there. If you feel any type of resistance or unease, pick a different tree. If you experience warmth or a simply neutral feeling, say ‘thank you’. Set your intention that what you experience will be for your highest good.

Face south, or toward the warmth of the sun, if you can. Imagine that the sunlight touches all of your skin, sinking down through your clothes, permeating you. The sunlight forms a protective envelope around you. Set your intention that this protection remain around you during the course of your journey.

Sit down with your back firmly against the tree’s trunk, and your head leaning back against it. Let your hands and feet touch the ground. If it’s a warm day, take off your shoes and socks and let yourself feel the soil. Is it damp? Soft? Leafy? Gravelly? Really let yourself bond with the physical feeling of the place. How does the bark feel against your back? Smooth? Papery? Ridged? Can you feel the sure support of the tree’s trunk, as if it is a second spine? Does the ground vibrate with distant sounds, or it is perfectly firm and still?

How does the air smell? Moist? Leafy and crisp? Can you taste it?

b2ap3_thumbnail_motoki-tonn-X00q3RXcyZ4-unsplash.jpg

Imagine yourself standing at the World Tree, and the Tree supporting you. Motoki Tonn / Unsplash

Part 2 (Indoors and outdoors):
Now, close your eyes and imagine a great, grand, glorious tree in a safe, calm space flooded with sunlight or moonlight, if it’s night. It can be a tree you loved to climb or swing from as a child, a tree from a favorite photo or your travels, or a tree you know. You may be sitting against this tree right now.

Imagine this tree in as much detail as possible, but allow the Tree itself to begin shaping itself in your mind. It’s important that the image you form be of a real tree, not a painting, sculpture, symbol or piece of art. It needs to be your personal tree, not the Tree as imagined by anyone else. This Tree stands alone at the top of a hill, and it is tall, vast. The wind whispers and stirs its leaves and light twinkles through them, making green or yellow or red-bronze jewels of them. A vast forest, full of mysteries, stirs below you.

The sky is flooded with sunlight, or speckled with countless stars.

Imagine that, as you sit in your room or at the base of your ordinary tree, you are also sitting at this Tree. Let the Tree cradle and support you as you sit. Lean your head back against it. How does the bark feel? Smooth, papery, ridged? How does the ground feel? Soft and loamy? Moist? Grassy? Firm? Can you smell the air, that loamy taste of earth, old leaves and green shoots that make up a thriving forest?

It’s just you here, for right now. You and the Tree and you are utterly safe.

Take a few deep breaths. As you breathe in, breathe up. Up the Tree. Up the branches. Up into the leaves. Sway with the breezes stirring them. Now, exhale and breathe down. As you breathe out, gently sink. Sink down the trunk, down into earth, into roots. Breath up, breathe down. Up, and down. Up and down the World Tree. Enjoy being one with this Tree.

When the time feels right, take a last deep breath, release it and stand at the base of the World Tree. You can safely stop right here. Thank the Tree and anyone else who appeared for helping you, and depart. You can always go back and just breathe with the tree at any time.

Open your eyes and imagine stepping back into your body where you sit. This part is extremely important, as it pulls both your journeying soul and consciousness firmly back into your body. You might feel something like an internal ‘click’ as your consciousness returns to its physical home. Wiggle your fingers and toes, get up and move your body. Blow out any candles, and resume your normal day.

But, if you want to go further, there’s a little bit of risk and a lot of potential reward.

b2ap3_thumbnail_tristan-billet-o6kMxeM74PI-unsplash.jpg

Ask for your personal guide to appear at the tree. Try not to pre-conceive what this person will look like. Even familiar deities may choose to take forms you do not expect. Tristan Billet / Unsplash

Instead of leaving now, do this: look around and see if someone else is standing there at the Tree.

Yes? No?

Do you feel safe? Nervous? Trust your instincts.

It could be a person you knew once, it could be an animal, it could be someone strange and wondrous.

Ask this person– for it is a person, a being outside of you– who they are, and why they have come. Allow them to respond: don’t put words into their mouth or try to control the conversation by imagining it. Just let it flow. Ask this person or being what lesson they have for you, and why they have chosen to appear to you now in this form. Write down any name they give you and research it later.

The person who appears should look as if they are real and living, not a man-made thing or piece of art, or in any way artificial, terrifying or cartoonish. They also, generally, should not appear as if they are some sort of celebrity, famous person (living or dead), pop culture figure or in any way cartoonish. Such appearances are generally signs of a potentially malevolent being wearing a costume or mask — or that your own mind is filling in details.

If you encounter this, ask the being to politely appear in their true form, or withdraw. Listen to your instincts, but, at this stage, always be polite. Treat the encounter as you would meeting another human. If they ask you for something, be sure that it’s reasonable and that their motives are pure. (Nothing they ask of you should cause potential harm to you or another, or be expensive and physically risky). Just like physical reality, you always have the right to walk away from anyone you meet, and to say ‘no’. But always be polite. Sometimes, those we meet at the Tree have expectations of us we may not immediately understand, but that does not always make them invalid. If you don’t understand, always ask for clarification.

If something feels off or you need to walk away from the encounter, consider
smudging yourself and the room and trying again later. It wasn’t necessarily anything wrong you did. These things can happen. With experience, you will learn to sort them out.

If no one shows up, nothing is wrong. You can either continue to sit at the tree and relax, or you can send out a call for wisdom and healing. Stand up, place a hand upon the tree and ask for a wise, benevolent deity, ancestor or other being who has your highest interests at heart to come and guide you. Wait and see if you sense an answer or presence. You may not see or recognize this being right away — or your guidance may come later within dreams, other intuition or synchronicity in the physical world.

If someone appears, ask them what you most need to learn or take action and do at this time. Or ask what is most pressing on your mind. They may offer advice to you about a question you did not even think to ask. If so, don’t interrupt. (Too many questions, early on, can throw you out of trance.) Instead, listen patiently, and ask questions when they finish. Ask them for some proof of their identity outside of this meeting. Usually 3 signs is good, but be flexible about how these appear.

Thank the Tree and anyone else who appeared for helping you, and depart.

Now, open your eyes and imagine stepping back into your body where you sit. It’s really important. Wiggle your fingers and toes, get up and move your body. Snuff out any candles, and resume your normal day.

b2ap3_thumbnail_darius-bashar-WSYpuOuPoF4-unsplash.jpg

The World Tree is both within you and outside of you, within your spinal column and brain. Darius Bashar / Unsplash


The World Tree, however you visualize it, both grounds and connects. Once you understand that it is both literally within your own spinal column and outside of you, it becomes easier to access other layers of your being and existence not easily perceived by normative consciousness. It’s one of the safest places to go in meditation, and one of the easiest to bond with, since it’s a part of you– and every single tree on this planet.

An overwhelming amount of my own mystical trance journeys, experienced both within and outside of ritual, have involved the World Tree. As I learned how to be a völva, a Norse priestess and seer, the God Oðinn often brought me here to begin our travels outside of mundane reality. It’s a place where I have accessed the web of fate and experienced many Norse, Celtic and Slavic deities standing beneath it. Oðinn also taught me that all trees are the World Tree; each living tree stands as a powerful link to Her, worthy of respect.

While this is not the only template for accessing these holy energies, it is an ancient, powerful and deeply appealing one.

b2ap3_thumbnail_jeremy-bishop-iyrJnPlkP68-unsplash_20200923-190133_1.jpg

You can go back to this meditation as often as you like to calm and relax yourself and watch how the tree changes with each journey. But no more than once a day, on average, is ideal. Jeremy Bishop / Unsplash

 


If you wish to go further engaging in visionary journey work, it’s important to have some sort of spiritual practice in place as both a support and a safe guard so that you will encounter benevolent helpers instead of toxic beings or aspects of your own mind. Ask for help and you will be given it.

A regular purification practice, such as smudging or candle clearing, is also vital– and often skipped! For any group meditations, it is absolutely essential to smooth sailing that you have journeyed yourself for awhile, and purified yourself, the energies of the room, and all participants beforehand. Be sure to also smudge the room afterwards. Check up on everyone as they leave to make sure their experience was ok. If not, ask them if they’d like a smudging or candle clearing before they go. If they seem a little spacey, remind them to step back into themselves and get something nourishing to eat or drink.

Keeping a salt lamp or essential oil diffuser going during the meditation sessions with a natural purifying agent such as rosemary or sandalwood is also extremely helpful.

Ideally, the Gods will call you when you’re ready, but a lot of us yearn for this contact, first. Letting them guide you, rather than trying to force your spiritual development according to some outside expectation, will eliminate 99% of long-term dangers you might otherwise encounter. However, doing journey work purely out of curiosity or boredom, without setting your heartfelt intention for wise guidance, opens the door to serious danger. Journeying invites real contact, which is not always benevolent. So take it seriously!

Journey work is also not ‘a mental exercise’ or simply a psychological tool, which can come as a traumatic shock when a guided meditation quickly ends up with imagery and knowledge imparted outside the journeyer’s control. But if you’re already having this kind of experience and need to understand it, don’t worry: I’ll be walking you through that journey in future articles, guiding with my own experience and animist teachings gained directly from Norse deities and other beings along the way.

Next time, we will look at the lore of the World Tree, and the meanings of its symbolism in more detail.

Enjoy your journey and stay safe.

________

Shirl Sazynski is a völva, a Norse priestess and seer who travels throughout the Otherside, speaking with deities, land spirits and the ancestors. Oðinn taught her how to do this safely, and she has been doing this for 20 years. Find out more about Norse spiritual practices and chat with her about your own journeywork at: facebook.com/modernvolva


Opening image: Jan Huber

Last modified on
Shirl Sazynski is a priestess trained directly by Frey, Odin, Loki and Freyja. She is passionately committed to healing the rift between us and the ancestors and strengthening our friendship with the Gods, the land and the spirits sharing our world.
Her column, "One-Eyed Cat", runs in Witches and Pagans Magazine. An oracle, icon painter and author, her work has appeared in both popular and pagan media.

Comments

Additional information