seidhr Tag - PaganSquare - Join the conversation! Tue, 23 May 2017 13:46:03 -0700 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Nine Weeks of Energy Clearing: Week 2- The Media Detox (Reclaiming Your Mind, Will and Relationship with the Gods), Pt. 1

(For the next few weeks through Eostre, in preparation for Spring Equinox’s energies of renewal, I’m focusing this blog on energetically clearing our lives. Last week we began with looking at the Wyrd (Karma) of Used Things— examining the fate patterns attached to previously owned stuff.)

 You are your thoughts. Thoughts manifest your reality. But how many of those thoughts are really your own?

Pagans focus a lot on the outside environment through protecting nature and keeping it clean. But much less attention, it seems, is given to the psychological environment built up from our media diet. Why is this so important?

By now, we all seem to know the pop-psychology/Law of Attraction/New-Age mantra: You are what you think. Unfortunately, we are living in an era blighted by the sapping of the communal will, with conformity rather than legality restricting free thought. Unscrupulous people, corporations, and entities take ruthless advantage of the power of media to influence and feed off of you.

Meditation helps to still the mind and clear your energies, but by itself it’s not enough to stem the tide of programming inundating us. It takes other conscious efforts to reclaim your will.

Maintaining a healthy mental landscape is crucial for anyone who engages in visionary & spirit work.

The images we put into our minds through media, culture and experience are the shared vocabulary drawn upon by spirits to communicate with us. Our expectations and mental conditioning further color that. The cleaner and less cluttered we keep our minds, the easier it is for communication to flow through, revealing our highest wills and true intentions.

Too much negativity whether it’s loud sound, aggression, abusive words and imagery, a mad circus of violence, fear, greed, and sex without respect for both parties, or a depressive atmosphere absorbed through the media can energetically corrupt and drain us, weakening our nervous systems and poisoning our environment on the magical level. This, in turn, attracts beings who feed off of and perpetuate those energies and drives off the more beneficent ones (like house wights) we could have present in our lives. In the worst case, it helps parasitic beings to lodge into our consciousness and begin to subtly influence us, glamour us and eventually hijack our wills.

Where is all this will-draining coming from?

All around us, through TV, radio, internet and advertising of all kinds, we’re being bombarded with messages and pressure, some sly and some overt, about what we should think and feel. Which political views we should hold. How we should spend our money. Who we should admire, hate, vote for and envy. Go on, be terrified! Be angry! Bathe in lack! Go ahead and vote or buy more things to fix it rather than taking real action in your life. Attack those whose viewpoints differ from yours through empty words, endless Tweeting, and Facebook.There’s no reason to feel adequate, confident and secure! There’s no reason to unplug, stop and speak one-on-one with your fellow humans to get their actual experiences, thoughts and feelings through forming real-world connections. Otherwise, advertising, one of the biggest driving commercial factors of the modern age, wouldn’t work.

We’re not just blasted by other people’s wills: in the 21st century, we’re downright brainwashed.

How does this especially affect witches, magicians, pagans and polytheists?

Mainstream culture teaches us that, rather than being dynamic forces, ancestral beings, and people we have the right to respectfully call upon for aid, the Gods and spirits are all petty, whimsical and cruel or simply extensions of our own imagination and collective will. This idea unfortunately pervades modern paganism and magical circles to the point it’s become dogma. In my experience as a seidhkona, a Norse trance magician, nothing is further from the truth. (The other side of the coin is expecting Gods and Goddesses to be divine ‘fixers’: give an offering, ritual or prayer; duly receive aid regardless of the worthiness of the request or lack of sincerity to the relationship.)

Pagans should know better. Our faiths, practices and ancestors have been demonized, misunderstood and misrepresented on this planet for centuries, if not millennia. But it’s hard when you’re surrounded by this mindset. In the Anglosphere, we’re largely living within a Christianized cultural viewpoint or a reactionary one skeptical of all non-rational phenomena, which seems intent on cramming this disempowering idea down our throats. This poison bleeds into our very mystical landscape, disconnecting us from more meaningful interactions with the Gods, ancestors, and guiding spirits. So when we manage to make spiritual contact, especially on the solitary level, it also leaves the door wide open for ravenous parasites (who do indeed behave like those petty, demanding pop culture stereotypes)!

Hollywood whistles and bells also condition us that magic is less subtle than it actually is, making us overlook the mundanely apparent signs of a real contact, accepted offering, or a successfully conducted rite.

When we do make those connections despite the conditioning, we’re also left with a lot of psychic debris clogging them.

So let’s start taking back our wills (and our true power) by a media detox. Deprogram the conditioning, break compulsory buying habits, and clean off the psychic debris allowing your true thoughts and feelings to bubble up to the surface in silence.

Bonus? When you can hear yourself think, you just might be able to hear the Gods.

Will-Sapping Source #1- TV & Movies.

TV is the biggest constant bombardment of messages from other people’s wills in our society. Naked people and blood grab our attention by the neck in entertainment, literally turning heads. Unscrupulous entertainment producers rampantly take advantage of this, encouraging the idea that, a) everyone else is getting (casual) sex but you and if you aren’t, well, there’s something massively wrong with you, and b) violence surrounds us and is the norm. TV also tells us what we should feel and think and what the villains look like rather than examining our own responsibilities and agency.

Watch the next time a character, commentator, or comedian turns directly to camera. Listen to whether they express an opinion about a situation in the real world… or state something as outright fact. This is happening more and more blatantly, I’ve noticed.

Remember how in my last post I said that seemingly free things often aren’t and can contain subtle draws on your will?

Television runs on advertising. The background noise of advertising in our society is deafening, yelling from just about every surface and angle, it seems. (Even, sometimes, the pavement.) Advertising is not all bad. Businesses need some way to communicate what they provide to potential customers. (If I didn’t tell you I was an oracle… would you know you could consult the Gods through me? Otherwise, you’d have to find out by rumor or through one of my existing clients.) But mass advertising, unfortunately, largely runs on insecurity and false empowerment: buy XYZ and you will finally make it. Be awesome. Fit in. This goes way beyond quietly informing someone that you have the skills and goods available which could help enrich their lives.

Even seemingly innocuous entertainment functions as a vehicle for advertising .Savvy parents have known for years that those cartoons you grew up on from the 80s onward were vehicles to sell certain toys and and junk food (Transformers, Gummi Bears and My Little Ponies, to name just a few).

Solution #1: Turn off the TV. That’s right, don’t leave TV on “in the background” as you go through routine tasks, eat, study or sleep. You’re feeding your subconscious mind and programming it. I know people who keep the TV on “for company”. Well, do you want a buffet of dead women on morgue slabs, brutally beaten and shot up men, fathers/men continually ridiculed as weak and asinine, inane laughter, and strangers’ opinions for company?

Call a friend. Make something. Read a book. Go outside. Practice a skill. Listen to uplifting music. Find an alternative way to fill the time or not feel so alone.

Silencing this psychic chatter increases your attention span, forms different neural connections, and makes it easier to meditate. This places you more squarely in the present, able to confront your own life rather than numbing yourself to it.

Solution #2: When you do watch programming, consider internet-based TV, free public broadcasting, and investing in a service that is ad-free or ad-minimal like Amazon Prime or Netflix. Even Hulu seems to have slightly less advertising than conventional TV. Youtube, depending on the channel, even less.

Solution #3: Borrow disks from the library for free.

Will-Sapping Source #2- The News.

Just as in television and movie entertainment, sociopathic news editors deliberately drum up trauma and insecurity through sensationalism. I worked in journalism. I know this firsthand. I was pressured by my boss to do it (and artfully declined by focusing on other stories. And soon looked for other work.) The news these days is hijacked by corporate sponsorship dictating what can and can’t be looked at and by political agendas on all sides. It’s also overwhelmingly negative, skewing our view of reality in the present and what happened in the past.

Even the weather reports are dogged by scare-tactics designed to drive up ratings and sales of gasoline, packaged food, medicines and other necessities. It takes time (I’m learning this), but start being observant of your own local weather patterns. Learn the sky. Learn the humidity. Learn the winds. Stephen Posch has mentioned this. Watch how the birds and animals behave. Listen for them. Use common sense and due caution, but also listen to your instincts. Every place has little micro-climates that don’t neatly fit the overall weather reports: patterns of precipitation, wind and sunlight.

This simple observation of the outside puts you far more closely in touch with your own environment and therefore, with yourself.

Solution #4: Stop consuming the news. Or at least go on a “diet”, limiting the consumption to something less than daily. Get your news from more than one source, go directly to the wire reports most national and international news is sourced from, and look at media outlets outside your own country to check against local bias in national and world news. Yes, foreign media has biases too but sometimes it’s easier to spot your own country’s slant once you’ve seen other takes on the same event.

Solution #5: Instead of railing about national politics, go ahead and look at what you can more immediately influence and change: town, county and city board meetings and legislation. Spend some time writing to elected officials about the issues you care about rather than posting about them on Facebook so Facebook can sell your data. Sign petitions. Check what’s on the agenda at local government and school board meetings.

Get out and participate.

 (continued in part 2, Music, Video Games, Social Media and Junk advertising.

With some useful solutions all-around.)

Image credit: Polyphemus, by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein,

Read more]]> (Shirl Sazynski) Paths Blogs Sat, 11 Feb 2017 17:49:50 -0800
Asatru 101: What is Seidhr? (Norse Trance Magic) One of the frequent questions I get from budding Heathens is "Where do I start?". After fielding two such questions in the same day from a divination client and prospective student, I began this series of articles. More resources can be found on my website.


Seidhr ("sayth" or "seethe") is a traditional form of visionary soul-magic, native to Northern and Central Europe. It involves deep empathy, mediumship and trance work, healing, spirit-travel and communication. Mastered by the Goddess Freyja, taught to Odin, and found throughout ancient lore in the form of history, saga and myth, seidhr is still practiced today by both the Saami people and modern Heathens. It is closely related to Siberian practices (from which we get the word shaman), but focuses primarily on Gods, ancestors and the webs of energy and fate.

The Druids and some Icelanders had similar practices. Utiseta ("sitting out") required staying covered up in darkness on top of a burial mound or other secluded place, while seeking a vision or communication with spirits. Druids, bards and poets used the imbas forasnai-- "the light of foresight"-- to see the future in visions or trance.

Seidhr can be used to meet and draw closer to the Gods and beloved ancestors, build friendly bonds with nature spirits, develop spiritually, heal and clear energies, and to inquire and receive advice about the web of fate (a practice called spae, often seen during a high-seat trance session). One of the direct references to seidhr in Norse myth comes from the ancient Icelandic poem Skirnismal, in which the God Frey sits in the kingly "high seat", glimpses the radiant Goddess Gerd in the Underworld, a place he cannot leave to visit himself, and becomes brooding and lovesick until they can be united. Another, from the Prose Edda, involves Loki borrowing Freyja's magical falcon cloak, in order to travel to the realm of the Giants in the form of a hawk.

Both the summoning by Odin and Freyja and the trances of the seers mentioned in Voluspa, Hyndluluid and Baldrs draumar also fall under seidhr practice, as does a historical account from Greenland in The Saga of Eirik the Red.

Need more details on seidhr practice? I'm teaching a workshop on solitary seidh and utiseta at PantheaCon  in San Jose this Friday, February 13th at 9PM, and another on House Wights at 1:30 PM. Please say hello if you're at the conference. I hope to meet some of you there!

For examples of what the experience of seidhr is like, under a variety of conditions, read my articles on trancework here and in the magazines Sacred Hoop, Idunna and Eternal Haunted Summer.

Or read similar posts:

The illustration at top was painted by me.

Read more]]> (Shirl Sazynski) Paths Blogs Mon, 02 Feb 2015 12:10:59 -0800
Lughnasad: How I came to love Tailtiu, Earth Goddess of Ireland (Part 2 of 2) b2ap3_thumbnail_freyr-by-Shirl-Sazynski.jpg

(Continued from Lughnasadh: How I came to love Tailtiu, Earth Goddess of Ireland (Part 1)

Anchoring a God

I wish I could say I clearly remember the rest of what happened, the songs sung and the words elegantly spoken, or the order in which things were done beforehand, but I don't. There's a very tall, long-armed God standing beside me in that other awareness, called by us, too, to pay his respects. I know my husband well, and knowing him well, I don't remember the conversation about the rite that passes silently between us.

                The funny thing is, I remember exactly what happened after this. Each word I spoke. Each choice I made. And why. At no moment do I lose consciousness, control, or self.

                Lugh comes up behind me and puts his hands on both my shoulders, familiarly. I'm comforted by his youth and his vigor, the sense of his body hardened by many feats, hale and unscarred, resting warm against my back. Of his large hands that know so well how to play the harp, and other things besides….

                Let me come into you, he asks. Anchor me in this place.

                 I think Lugh wants to watch from my eyes, feeling the rite through my experience, that in the way of seið I'll be aware of his gaze and his mood flowing through me. If I knew what he asked, would I have said—


                 Be still, Lugh whispers. It's alright. I won't hurt you. I can feel it… He puts his arm around my waist, pulling me closer… and steps forward. Into me.

                 There's a strange, sharp buzzing at my soul's root, that rises up my spine, like I've stepped too close to an electric field. Only the current runs inside of me, flowing into all of me, and I can feel where his soul overlaps mine, enveloping my body. Bare feet, sinewy calves, and a heavy gold torque at my collarbone. A tunic, as well as my own shorts, grazing my knee. The grass is cool under my feet, thrumming with life. He told me to wear yellow, his color, to the rite, and now I know why.

                 Then I do something I would never do.

                 I stop the senior Druid in the middle of his rite. As if I am entitled to it.

                 My strides are longer, fierce, away from the circle and behind the altar. I feel the earth distinctly with each step. The senior Druid stares at me, stopped mid-sentence, as I hold my arm out for my own hefty hammer, a solid block of iron with my grandfather's name carved into the wooden handle and a red Slavic sun wheel, the kolovorat, painted on its base. The same hammer that I hallow with, that my friend has used these last three rites to open the gates.

                 I'm told my voice was far lower, then, that I stood taller. I heard none of this. I am not a tall woman. I am not a short woman, either. My voice is always shockingly lighter in recordings than it sounds to my own ears. I feel it reverberate.

                 "Give me the hammer! I stand for Lugh!"

                 I don't like the wide look in my friend's eyes, as he hands the hammer to me, but I don't have time to consider it. Nor the shocked, silent stares around the circle. Lugh is the gatekeeper we invoked. This needs to be done.

                 My mortal self totally knows better than this.

                I stride forward, back around to the front of the altar. I kneel and heft the hammer's weight up above my head, swinging with both hands, booming:

                 "LET THE GATES BE OPENED!!!!!!!!!!!!"

                 The hammer hits the earth and bounces back. And so do I.

                 This is not my own strength, and I tumble back from the momentum, dazed and winded, as the hammer somersaults out of my much smaller, mortal grip, leaving a dent in the moist ground. I collect my dignity. For a moment— whose confusion is this?— I have no idea where to place the hammer, whether it's more respectful to leave it on the ground as it lies or set it back upon the altar.

                 Lugh offers no words of advice. But then he's not a watcher, but a participant. This part is not an ancient rite. The hammer just seemed appropriate to bring. Why would he know the proper gesture any more than I?        

                 Everyone is still staring at me.

                 I shrug, get up smoothly, and lift the hammer, putting it back beside the flowers on the altar. Had this been mortal me alone, I would have been embarrassed. Instead, I am weary with the weight of leading my own mother's funeral, of so many eyes upon me when I would rather be alone. Love, not duty, impels me to stay. I turn and tell the people what must be done next. These words are not my mortal words. My voice is thick, strained:

                 "Follow me, and place which flowers you will upon the bier."

                I walk up to the altar and pick another sunflower, a bright yellow one from my own garden, then kneel and kiss Tailtiu's grass breast, laying the pollen-dusted blossom at her feet.

                "Goodbye, mother. Go in peace, Great Queen, and return to us rejoicing in the spring."

                I blink back tears as I turn away from the assembly. The People of Danu are not supposed to cry for her. Not even her son.

                Why I kneel at the base of the bier as if I am welcoming her, with my head bowed to the earth and arms arched out, fingers lightly touching the ground, I do not know. I am not privy to Lugh's thoughts, as he does not invade mine, just his heart and his actions that we both share. I know that I must do this. That no one else can. The effort pains me. My body is not a man's body; my arms are not so long as Lugh's, even if they must be his now. My arms shake and my breath feels heavy.

                Still, I call out to the assembly:

                "Tailtiu, mother of us all! Bless these people with the strength of your sacrifice! May we honor your memory with joy and not tears, remembering all that you have done!"

                We each draw a mix of garden flowers, herbs and wildflowers I'd gathered this morning to lay across the bier, saying our respects to Tailtiu and our own dead. My heart hurts as I watch the people choose flowers, even as their individual feelings touch me. I do not expect the big-hearted man to choose the orange roses, nor people to lay the flowers spread out along the bier, rather than in a circle around my mother. I stay kneeling, holding our collective hopes and love out to the earth, until each offering to her has been made.

                When this is done, I bow, get up and pour water from the empty vase behind each person at the assembly, following Tailtiu's faint whispers about how much each person needs as their blessing, saving just enough at the last for the senior Druid. No one planned this part, either.

                Lugh steps back from me so gently, I don't know when I cease being united with him and become simply aware of him as the ritual continues. When it comes time to give our own offerings to the well, I feel funny leaving the offering I brought for Lugh, and I hesitate. I mean, I was him. Like two minutes ago. And it's just red jasper, fiery unpolished stone, gathered from dry washes. It suddenly seems… humble. I have no heavy, noble torque, no warrior's gift like the one I felt around his own throat.

                Lugh smiles sadly, gently, standing nearby.

                I'm still here. And you're still you. Go on.

                I do, giving some gifts to the honored dead as well. A mortal hero who was made a saint, and died in flames. Sainthood does not negate her worth or valor, regardless of the difference in our beliefs. A daughter lost by a beloved friend.

                It's my job as Tailtiu's child to say the last goodbyes. I'm no longer both myself and Lugh, but I still know what to do with the remaining flowers. What her son would do. There are just enough left to completely blanket Tailtiu's body in a living shroud. I pour the remaining vase water as an offering. Then we fold the bier up under her, and carefully lay her down on top the well of offerings, closing the funeral rite.

                Let the games begin!

*  *  *

I trust Tailtiu in a way I never trusted anyone other than fiercely kind warrior Goddesses. Because myth or not, symbolic or not, she chose to raise the God I love— a man cruelly rejected by his own mother. And that makes her, by extension, family.

                Hail Tailtiu! Hail the Great Giver, the Earth in all her valor, by whatever local names and distinct personhoods we give her. Hail her even when she's not a she. Hail her and ponder her endless sacrifice. Of her bounty of plants and creatures we eat, so that we all might live. Of her minerals and plants we take to shape into our resources to make our goods. To nourish every one of us, something else of beauty and worth must die or be transformed.

                It's not humble, it's holy to acknowledge that.


Aside from scattered poetic reference, and verbal tradition peculiar to individual Irish families or localities, Tailtiu's story is told in two sources: The Book of Conquests and the Metrical Dindshenchas. It's a remarkable commonality that the idea of Earth as the ultimate Giver occurs across cultures, from Pandora to Mokosh, to Gefiun and Tailtiu. Even the root-name for several deities of earth shares a common sound, ge, found in the Egyptian male earth God Geb, to the more familiar Grecian Ge or Gaiaand Danish Gefiun (widely thought to be Freyja, according to Snorri Sturleson), all names meaning some variant of 'Giver' or 'Gift'. Like Tailtiu, the Egyptian God Wesir (Osiris) was also buried with elaborate funeral rites— in the form of grain.

                Women ploughing the earth by themselves, at night and in secret, was an important Slavic ritual to end disaster and plague, by releasing the power of the mighty earth to purify the surrounding land and community. Men who witnessed this rite or interfered with it were often harshly punished: women's primal power was not to be trifled with. The Celts ranged widely in Europe, including in lands, like Poland, now considered Slavic. This may shed some light on why Tailtiu alone ploughed the field that became her funeral plain.

                Tailtiu's late summer commemorative funeral games, historically held at Telltown, have been dubbed 'The Irish Olympics'. This tradition is shared in other localities, named for the local Goddess buried there, a person often somehow related to Lugh. Over the centuries, the feats of skill in agriculture, homesteading and the arts evolved into the more familiar county fairs.

                Quite curiously, Lugh the torch-bearing God also bears many similarities with Odin (including owning a spear that never misses, being a God of bards and father of heroes, and coming from the same ancient proto-Indo-European root-god, Nodens) outside the scope of this article.


A History of Pagan Europe, Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick

Comparative Mythology, Jaan Puhvel

Gods and Myths of the Viking Age, Hilda Ellis Davidson

The Prose Edda, Snorri Sturleson, translated by Jesse Byock

Russian Myths, Elizabeth Warner

The Dancing Goddesses, Elizabeth Wayland Barber

A Celtic Miscellany, translated by Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson

The Tain, translated by Thomas Kinsella

Mythology: Myths, Legends and Fantasies, Janet Parker and Julie Stanton,et al

Lost Goddesses of Early Greece, Charlene Spretnak

Some similar thoughts can be found in these blog posts:

Lughnasadh: How I came to love Tailtiu, Earth Goddess of Ireland (Part 1 of 2)

How I met and was blessed by Belenus on Beltane (and dancing Slavic wila)

Love & (male) vulnerability in Norse myth: Freyr and the wooing of Gerda in Skirnismal

The icon of Frey at the top of this page, another northern European God, son of Earth, hero and associated with the sun's power, was painted by me.

Read more]]> (Shirl Sazynski) Paths Blogs Fri, 15 Aug 2014 12:23:21 -0700
The Eye of the Storm: How I met Loki This essay appears in Eternal Haunted Summer magazine, where it was originally published. It's part of my memoir about visionary experience.


I met Loki during a hurricane. He was not the deity I was praying to.

Having spent most of my life deep enough inland and far enough north in the US, preparing for anything worse than a tropical storm was not part of my summer routine.

To make things weirder, this hurricane hit in the autumn, in New Jersey, while everything I owned that did not fit into a gigantically windowed hotel room stuck high up on the eighth floor sat twenty-five miles away, packed into a moving truck we'd parked behind a solid-looking building—somewhere away from big trees and out of the flood zone surrounding the apartment that we were about to move into.

It was not a good introduction to the Jersey Shore, where I spent two years and experienced three serious natural disasters.

While the wind raged outside our room, bending the trees far below like saplings, churning the river and sending leafy sprays hissing across the windows, we pulled the curtains tightly, shut off the t.v., ignoring whatever horrors it was going to yell at us, and hunkered down with our Siamese cat. My then-husband fell asleep. So did Comet, who curled up in the maximum safety of the bathroom's quiet darkness. I did not.

After an hour or so of turning over, curling up and shivering, I quietly slipped out from beside my slumbering love and sat on the opposite bed to pray. The other double bed was barely big enough for two people, let alone one who can't sleep. Our first hotel had lost power before we could check in, and the boarding place called to tell us that no one would be staying there, or evacuating the pets to safer lodgings: leave your terrified cat with food and water at your own risk. In the scramble of a hurricane, niceties like king-sized beds in a place that allowed pets were out.

Praying is not a habit I've been in since leaving Christianity, where it was a nightly requirement. My family's church told us to pray daily, unloading the day's burdens. I had spent a long time without deities I called upon before gingerly beginning to learn about the Norse and Slavic Gods. On rare occasions, I called on some of them for help. If I'd known better, I would have called on Thor, the champion of Gods and humans. But I didn't know better: I was barely a Heathen, let alone religious yet.

The deity who had approached me, who I'd started to get to know, was Freyr. One of the items sitting in that hotel room, along with my illustration portfolio, some beloved framed paintings and my laptop, was an icon of him I'd begun to paint. I'd gotten used to his presence in my life as I sketched and planned and worked on this image, and it comforted me to keep it there, rather than stashed in the truck's cab.

Maybe it was the feeling of vulnerability in the midst of that storm, but a strange thought hit me as I sat down in the darkness on that second double bed. Sitting in my husband's sleep shorts and a flimsy tank top, the last clean clothes we had, I didn't feel covered enough to pray. It wasn't a desire for dignity. It wasn't even modesty. Desperation lodges somewhere far beyond that. I felt… naked, despite my clothes.

I grabbed a long, filmy night-robe that draped my limbs without being too hot.

I still didn't feel covered enough.

Finally, I fished out the large hand-dyed cloth I l usually aid out on my altar and used for tarot readings and wrapped it over my head and shoulders, sheltering in its deeper darkness, further insulated from the howling and lashing of the rain. I felt more relaxed, protected, as I called for aid in banishing the raging anxiety borne of sound and too-vivid an imagination so I could just sink into sleep.

Heat flickered across my back, my shoulders, up my neck. This was not a natural flush of warmth from my own body, but the sudden feeling of flames that licked my skin and yet did not burn. A curiously prickly heat, like nothing I have ever experienced before or since. This was undeniably there, a physical feeling where no physical, visible phenomena existed. I was draped in a fire that would not consume me.

In my mind, I saw two things superimposed, overlapping like an image out of focus. One of them looked like Freyr: radiant, young, hale, the golden God of kingship, peace and vitality who I was painting. But he was like an echo hovering over a tall, lithe, serious man who bent down to slide in through the large window, brushing aside the drapes. Beside him, some massive creature thrust its black and shaggy arm into the hotel room, groping for something at the foot of the bed, but not entering.

"I smell fear…."

"Hush, child," the God said. The creature's voice rasped, but there was something questioning, tentatively, monstrously childlike to it. I gasped and pulled the veil tighter around me. I felt it… snuffling… sensing. Looking for me.

"Can I eat her fear?"


"But I'm hungry…!"

"You can't have her."

It was like a patient mother talking to an exhausted four year-old about to have a tantrum. He patted and stroked the furry arm, but otherwise ignored its whimpering.

Strangely enough, while the monster's hunger alarmed me, it did not seem, well, malevolent. It's hard to classify something that sounds like a little kid asking mommy if it's okay to eat your terror as evil. It's even harder to do when this is who showed up when you prayed for help.

That's not to say I wasn't confused as all hell.

I was.

And there was the hurricane. Still battering the hotel, and most of the east coast.

Later, I learned, we were directly in the eye of it as it passed over. Or maybe that was the second hurricane. Regardless, we were in midst of the most furious storm that had hit New Jersey in over thirty years.

To my surprise, the monster retreated obediently, lurking outside the window, unruffled by the natural forces slamming it. Leaving just me and the God who is also a Giant. The man who is a mother. Unclassifiable, undeniable.

You're Loki I said in my mind to the tall man who I could sense in the heat of the flames, but not see.

He did not respond.

He only looked at me, quietly waiting.

Where is Freyr? I prayed to him—


His patience, his calm in the midst of all I was going through was at once soothing and deeply unnerving. Loki, trickster… God of lying and thievery… and… and dishonor, I thought. All my academic readings of myth prior to this were cast through a lens of Christianized scholarship, through the horrible dualistic twisting of pop culture that needs a clever, brooding villain. Loki kills Baldr. Poor innocent, gorgeous, loving Baldr, dead by squishy little mistletoe. Loki advances plot. Loki is cruel and spiteful and dark and all that Freyr is not. Loki is…

Right here in the room with me.

The one who answered my prayer.

I was pleading with him for the familiar, for someone gentle (I thought), who would listen. For the God of sunlight and hope, of summer's growth and all that is not a screaming tempest, a flood of wind and fury, devouring lives and shore and buildings.

"Why did you call me?"

I'm scared. What else was there to say? I'd never been in a hurricane before. I could feel the walls shaking, hear the occasional tree or piece of metal snap and scrape against the building. I'm terribly scared.

"This building is sound. You're safe."

I know that.

Loki stood next to me. The warmth of the fire washed over the chills that shook me. How can you be both hot and cold, I wondered, when you're not sick?

I don't know why I'm so scared. I think it's the news. We shut it off because all it was doing was drumming up fear. Nothing useful. But I can't sleep now. I tried. I've never been in a hurricane before. I don't know if I'll have a place to move into tomorrow. I don't know if the moving truck survived.

It seemed… silly… calling on a God simply because you were frightened, beyond reason. Rationally, I knew I would be okay. Rationality was not banging at the walls, was not the climate of the last two days of insane traffic jams and barren store shelves with food flung upon the floor and trampled, in talking heads and scrolling emergency announcements on every channel warning us of impending doom. He was there and I was ashamed that he had answered me. That he wasn't judging me for cowering. And I didn't even know him. If I'd had another God to choose to help me, instead of Freyr, Loki would have been the last one on the list.

I don't remember what happened next. I remember that we talked, for some reason, about the other Norse Gods, and something that I said made his face twist— in pain or anger, maybe both— that his voice went harsh, but not at me. There was something I didn't understand about the difference between him and Odin. About which of them was braver. Maybe it was my thoughts Loki picked up on, waiting beneath the surface.

I didn't quite trust him, but I was too shocked not to accept his presence, shocked by the physical sense of him being there. I never did see his face clearly. It was just impressions: towering height, calmness, his voice remarkably pleasant. His demeanor, compassionate. Mostly.

I was floored that someone actually came. In all the years I've encountered spirits, I'd never done something that brought one.

What had I sought? I thought maybe there would be some flush of calm. That reminding myself of the God of stamina and peace who I'd been building a relationship with would anchor me in my distress. Snuggling against my husband had not: I couldn't breathe with the weight of his arm on my ribs, and I didn't want to wake him. The day had been exhausting for both of us.

I don't remember most of my conversation with Loki. And I don't know that it matters. What I do remember is this: while we were talking out my fears, Loki pursed his lips and looked at me closely. He told me to lie down. It felt like he reached inside of me, deep into my viscera, gripped and twisted something. It felt strange but didn't hurt. Like he'd spun a switch, the panic in me dialed down to a whisper.

"You can sleep now," he said. "Don't be afraid. The storm won't harm you."

Did he stroke my arm, or cheek or say goodbye? It doesn’t seem like he just left.

Fatigue fell upon me like a pouncing cat. I was barely even aware that my body moved. All I could do was push aside my ersatz veil, tug a thin blanket over me, curl up again and shut my eyes. I vaguely knew that Loki stopped and looked at my sleeping husband, then walked back out the way he'd come.

I slept immediately, deep and soundly, throughout the rest of the night. When I woke up it was late in the morning and sunlight struggled in under the closed curtains. I'd slept through my husband making coffee and assembling a cold breakfast of leftovers, awakened only when he finally turned the television back on to see what had happened, and the yawning cat came out to greet us.

My belongings— and our new apartment— survived just fine.

So did most of New York city.

The state of Vermont, inland and severely flooded, was not so lucky.

I never learned who the monstrous child accompanying Loki was, to whom he spoke so gently. Maybe it was Fear. Maybe it was someone born within the storm itself.

Despite his usual characterization, I have since found Loki to be one of the most compassionate of the Norse Gods. Perhaps because he has suffered so much himself. In Scandinavia and Iceland, unlike the US, he is primarily viewed as a wily, mischievous God, rather than a cruel one.

While I did not know it at the time, the practice of covering up to pray or seek a spiritual presence, what the Icelanders called "going under the cloak" or utiseta, is a time-honored practice mentioned in both Norse and Celtic sagas and carried on by modern Druids and Heathens to this day. It's an effective way to deeply focus during meditation, and historically has specific techniques and safety practices. Just be careful to get enough air long-term, and sit in a safe place.

Please see "Nine Worlds of Seid-Magic" by Jenny Blain (who teaches one form of seidhr) and this article by "The Viking Answer Lady", which gives an overview of several related arts, for more information on utiseta.

Norse scholar Stephan Grundy has also written an excellent and deeply researched article on Loki, which is quite different from the prevailing American stereotype. It's posted by permission and downloadable on another blog, or you can find it serialized in Idunna magazine, issues 93-96.

Related posts:

More information on how Frey, Loki and Odin are linked can be found throughout this blog, and my website,

Read more]]> (Shirl Sazynski) Paths Blogs Thu, 22 May 2014 10:39:57 -0700
What Odin Taught Me About Connection This blog post also appears in print with more photos in Sacred Hoop Issue #85.

Central Albuquerque, New Mexico USA. Seen from the sky. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

"Look wide, and look far. Look upon your city. This is your community. These are your people, all of them. The people you know and the people you will never meet. Even the ones you don't like. Good or bad, rich or poor, status and class and family don't matter. Politics don't matter. They're still all your people.

"You are a part of this, and your wyrd is tied together, for as long as you live here..."

This was not the lesson I thought Odin was teaching me, one unseasonably warm February afternoon, when I climbed up into the Albuquerque foothills to get some exercise and solitude. Usually, by action more than words, he shows me the subtle ways of soul magic and healing, of seidhr craft.

My hiking lessons as a seidhkona, a Norse seer and shaman, started in November with Odin asking me, "What do you see?"

I sense more than see the King of Asgard, flickering impressions: hair the grey of a heavy sky roils about his shoulders. A wide-brimmed traveler's hat, tipped down over his face. Eyes clear and sharp, despite his apparent age. There's a lean muscularity to how he moves, even if I don't get a full mental image of his form. He looks nothing like a bass singer out of Wagner.

The Old Man, his voice jagged as a raven's croak, frequently walks by my side as I explore the wild space overlooking the city. His lanky strides are far longer than mine— for Odin is, as all the tales say, very tall— sometimes stepping a little ahead of me, sometimes hanging back to look up at the broad azure sky, or down at something I can't see. But mostly he shares the dusty path with me, keeping pace as my steps crunch along.

Funny that a God famous for being "one-eyed" and solitary would be the one to teach me to look closer at my surroundings, and in so doing grow closer to others.


What do you see? has become a frequent question, inviting me to stop climbing and sit on a warm, sunlit boulder or in the shade of a dry, rocky, brush-covered slope. I usually sip some water (a necessity in the desert) and catch my breath (the air up here is very thin) as I pause to more deeply bond with my surroundings.

In answer to that query, I've been amazed to see the energy trails that radiate up from bristling cholla, ground-hugging patches of prickly pear and wind-carved juniper after snowmelt. Bright, flickering streamers, shimmering like a heat waver, lance both skyward and to the ground in a straight line from their branches and leaves. I can't see auras. Couldn't, rather. They're subtle things, in my experience, very close to the skin, not at all the psychedelic color fields that New-agers and Kirlian photography enthusiasts describe.


Cholla after an early December snowfall in the Northeast Hills.

I think for a moment that I'm seeing a retinal shadow— the almost glowing afterimage burned by water-darkened trunks against a paler sky— but it doesn't follow the shape of the trees, and it's gone when I look away from them.

Odin shakes his head.

"That's the joy of the plants," he says, smiling quietly (for he is, also, a lord of green things in his youth). "They don't feel it in the same way as humans, but they feel deeply, too. They take joy in the warmth of the sun on their leaves and skin, the rain seeping into their roots, the taste of the soil and damp air. And the joy of their companions."

Happy cholla!

Who knew?

These last few months, under his mentorship, I've learned how to spot the paths that water takes down a mountain— not just by the physical grooves in the earth, the lines of clean-washed rocks dotting the hillsides, or the twisting ropes of greenery— but by seeing the energy trails, carrying a potent mix of the earth and the sky's power with them. I don't know how to describe it. It's not like they glow or obviously stand out. The eye is just drawn to them, in a quiet way, catches on them as you look across the landscape.

They're more present, somehow.

Most supernatural things are like this, in my experience.


"Shhhh," Odin whispers, as my boot comes down and scrapes a rock. "Stay very still."

No sound warns me. Just his words.

I look up carefully, sensing motion. First, a hint of downy antlers; then a gray flank disappearing silently amid dry, sage green brush above me.

"Ask the Earth for permission to approach. And the spirits of the deer. Thank Her and ask to see the deer without frightening them."

Them? There's more than one?

I kneel, touching the gravel, and quietly leave an offering of water from my bottle.

"Crouch down onto your hands and the balls of your feet." Is he playing a joke on me, promising a view of more wildlife? His sense of humor is wicked, and he's not above pranks— or playing the fool himself. In an area laced with cacti, the occasional piece of broken glass, and wickedly thorny goat head seeds, this is not an effortless task, and I choose my position carefully.

He waits.

"Stay low to the ground and move forward quietly."

As I do this, feeling the weight of my bag shift on my back, a change in consciousness sweeps over me. I move my gloved hands forward like paws, my knees bent and my head closer to the scent of the sand, my limbs configured to carry my body in a way I don't expect—

Careful, gradual movements—

And delight that I feel like a stalking cat. My pulse quickens, despite the slow pace.

How far do I climb like this, shifting from sand to scree to rock, paw over paw, knees and belly held downward? Not far. But far enough. I stalk over a little ridge, to rock and juniper, spotting faint cougar prints and pellets of old, grey deer spoor along the way.

I am not the only one to walk this path.

"Rise slowly. Keep your head beneath the cover of the bushes."

I am excruciatingly aware, in this altered state, of each and every tiny sound I make. My boots hissing on scree, the creak as I grip the rough holly branches for support on the steep incline.

Fifty feet. One Hundred.

I must be near the buck now, I think. But I don't see him.

A rustle. My head does not snap up. I stay still, remembering Odin's words. A doe, nestled among the scrub hollies, walks out into the open. More. A head. A flank. Four of them. A half-grown fawn, shaggy with its winter fur, shadows its mother.

"Say thank you. And move in slowly. You'll be able to watch them, now."

The deer look up, ears pricking, sensing me.

"Don't stare at them. Trust that they'll stay there."

This part is the hardest— so close, so close, I want so much to watch them. They're watching me.

"Thank you," I say, quietly.

I hear his wry, lopsided smile. "Believe me now?"

I grin, keeping the deer in my peripheral view as I approach. The herd shies away to another cluster of bushes, but it doesn't bolt. One of them— several does, in turn— always keeps an eye on me while the others cautiously graze. I sit on a nearby rock, gently lowering my backpack. Awed and thankful, I watch them for an hour.

Surprisingly, the herd is not led by the buck, so young his velvety antlers are sparsely pronged, but by a larger, elder female. He stands in the center of a loose circle, watchful but inexperienced, looking from doe to doe in turn, as if he's still learning something. All the women seem to guard him.

I think of the majestic stag, who is the sacrificial emblem of my God in his youth, as Frey. Another season under their watch, and this buck just might become one.

One day, as I come up around a bend in a canyon, I feel Odin grinning.

"Stop. Look up."

Standing in the shadow of a boulder, I see the massive stair steps of rock I longed to climb with the steadying help of my staff.

"Up. Uuuuuuuuup……."

I gasp.

Movement. Horns scrape against the sky. But not physically. Someone, his back turned to me, wades in the deep, golden pool of sunlight formed by the sheltered hollow of the canyon. And I mean wades. He's not sunbathing.

His head is the size of a massive boulder. Shaggy fur spills down between his shoulder blades, hair and mane, bison and man, inseparable.

"Ask if we can approach," Odin whispers.



"Hell-lo!" I venture, awkwardly, waving. (I'm talking to a giant. Naked giant! This is not a trance!) "Am I bothering you? Can we keep going?"

The Jotun, who I have met (but not seen naked), turns and blinks at me.

Looks at me pointedly.

"I'm bathing here."

"Oh. Right. Errr…" I frown. There's no water here. "How are you doing that, sir?"

He smiles down at me.

"In the sun!"

And, indeed… he is washing in the light, soaking up to his waist in it. Humming as he scoops it up and rubs it on his skin, glittering.

He has a good sense of humor, the Foothill Giant, but he still asked me to find another way out of the canyon. So I had to climb around him. Or up his physical body, the adjacent hill. I'm not sure which.

Would you like someone hanging around while you took a bath?

As I walk uphill, my back respectfully turned, the Giant calls out to me and asks for an offering, and teaches me how to give one, in kind, for the local Earth itself: water poured into the weathered hollow of a rock, spilling over, splashed three times on the hot stone.

I thank him and throw his share of my offering over my shoulder, without looking back.

Good manners make good neighbors, after all.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Foothills-boulders_Shirl-Sazynski.jpgA change overtakes me that winter, as I become more intimately aware of the land. I frequently surprise doves and other birds along the trail, coming within a foot upon them. They flee loudly upward, however, at the approach of distracted joggers twenty feet away.

Another time, deep looking, I see why one of the great wights of this land had left. The short, strong oaks he belonged to, which once held water onto those dry slopes, had long been stripped away by settlers, leaving the mountains vulnerable. The irony is, my city is named for the old, Roman-descended Spanish duke of white oak. Very little of those native trees survive here. With no shade cover for the valley below, strong seasonal winds whip up gouts of sand and dust. In the trees' place grow thorny, nettled plants: cholla, sprawling nests of cacti, and tangled brush.

The Hills have been waiting quietly for Oak to return, when the environment heals. Our presence here does not matter: it can delay, but it won't prevent his coming back.

The answer to what do you see?, is rarely immediate, even as I catalogue the physical details— the character of the sky, the movements of wings and wind, the scars to the land— my observations and connections going deeper, layer by layer, as I continue to look.

Usually, just as I'm about to give up, I take one look back when I see something startling.

This was not one of those days.

I'm stiff and my ankles ache from the climb.

I wonder why I went up this short knob of a foothill now, instead of turning in the other direction, away from the development. It wasn't a wise choice at this time of day, around four in the afternoon. There are too many people out, having just gotten off work or school, trying to enjoy the last bit of winter sun. I sit on a summit among some big, rounded rocks, wanting to write in my journal, but it's too noisy here—

And the snacks I brought to bolster my walk are deeply unsatisfying.

Odin sits next to me, and I can barely stay conscious of his presence with all the sound and city-spawned motion below. This is not a very holy wilderness setting, is it?

He leans close to my ear. "What do you see, lass?"

I sigh.

Some jerk left a crushed Gatorade bottle up here. There's a faded, dirty oversized pint of beer wedged into a place I won't be able to safely reach to remove it. At least they didn't shatter a glass bottle. Some days I take an entire backpack of bagged trash out of here, my offering to the land spirits.

"Too many people," I say, bitterly. The city population is only growing, and the dwindling and polluted aquifer can't support us. I am one of those "too many", and I know it.

Odin says nothing, patient.

Traffic whooshes and blares half a mile away, too loud with rush hour, carried by the wind several streets down over the neatly gridded houses, disrupting my thoughts. Brakes squeal. Angry horns. What was I thinking, coming up here?

Movement pulls my gaze closer.

A pair of men in track suits jog the wide path that straddles the arroyo below me, talking. They look like they're from the Indian subcontinent, and while I can't understand a thing they're saying, the cheerfulness of their back-and-forth exchange doesn't need a translation—

For a moment, I smile.

A loud knot of teenagers, coming down the path from the other side, ragging on each other—

What do I see?


One of the teens shrieks laughter, the way kids do, mixed with howls of protest. I wince at the noise, compounded by an airplane's low path, circling into the "sunport", and a siren blaring off somewhere to the right. It's a hazard of climbing too close to the neighborhood below. I usually go up into the other foothills instead, deeper into the open space, or sheltered from the close view of houses by the bends in the hills.

Vapor trails cut the sky. A haze— dust mixed with smog— hangs over the horizon, smearing the western volcanoes and edge of the city a dull, burnt orange. The air smells dirty, too.

"I see a land that's ill-used."

"Keep looking."

Dog-walkers. Wandering the trails and neighborhood sidewalks, as if there is no difference. I like dogs, and it's their nature, like all animals, to leave poop. But I don't like the owners who know better and don't clean up after them, despite the city leaving signs about the health hazards, along with plenty of free bags and waste baskets at the parking lots. Sometimes they even bag the poop— and helpfully leave it right beside the trails. Ten feet from an empty garbage can.

Forget the friendly dogs and the irresponsible humans. The city stretches out, in neat grids of houses and broader, tree-rimmed roads. I pick out the house of a friend. A larger building with green around it that must be one of the local schools. The faster thread of movement— traffic along a highway.

There's a playground not too far from the arroyo, and it's late enough in the afternoon that both parents and children have come to use it.

"Generations of people living here, and it's too fragile to support all of us."

Gods, the noise really is putting me in a dark mood. So is my headache.

Odin doesn't put a hand on my shoulder, but he might as well have. The tone of his voice is like a cloak laid over my weary back by a friend. He lifts his head, craning toward the horizon, and I follow his serious gaze:

"Look wide, and look far. Look upon your city. This is your community. These are your < people, all of them. The people you know and the people you will never meet. Even the ones you don't like. Good or bad, rich or poor, status and class and family don't matter. Politics don't matter. They're still all your people.

"You are a part of this, and your wyrd is all tied together, for as long as you live here."

Wandering the Albuquerque foothills, I have met my neighbors— the fellow writer assembling a trail guide who I talked with at twilight, the wilderness steward up the street, the other hikers and dog-walkers— as well as the people of rock and rivulet, the animal people, the plant people. The majestic guardians of the hills themselves, much older than all the rest of us, who knew I walked with a God, long before I was aware of their gaze. Wights who I proved my worth to over time, through bravery and kindness, who became my protectors and friends.

In all the quiet contemplation and observation while hiking, I thought I was getting out alone to deepen my relationship with nature and myself, strengthening both my body and spirit along the way. But I wasn't going out to be alone. I was just spending time in (mostly) non-human company, out where I could see and hear surreptitiously prowling coyotes and shyly bobbing lines of quail, follow the hawks circling over places I would later reach adventurously by foot, and watch the ashy ravens glide from wild place to walled back yards with aplomb, chatting as they flew. The foothills teem with as many residents as the neighborhoods below. You just won't see them if you don't learn how to be a living part of the landscape, as they are, instead of just moving across it, earphones and fitness goals firmly plugged in.

And there was rarely a day, in all that walking, when I did not hear or sense Odin accompanying me, even if we did not speak much— usually, at a certain point along the path, there'd be the tap of a staff back behind my left shoulder, and I'd get a sense of a tall man tipping the brim of his hat down against the bright New Mexico sun. And at the same point, going back, he'd nod to me goodbye and remain along the trail as I walked on.

My utgard, the "outside place", always led back to the innangard: my friends' home and my own community— some days wiser, and some days simply tired from the walk and the drive back.

As a wandering God who can change into animal forms, and a master of human disguises, Odin's stories inevitably carry him along paths from lonely, wild places to company. Whether he appears on a promontory to a boatful of saga warriors, shows up at the hamlet of Otter's father, or bores his way into Gunlodd's isolated mountain room and escapes home to Asgard again by a hair's breadth, he's always in the thick of it.

In the end, solitary Odin always comes back to a community.

We think of community as something artificial and human-centered that we construct. But community is the relationship of all of the inhabitants of a place— the humans and animals, microorganisms and plants, the Gods and the dead and the very spirits of place— weaving together in a unique spiritual ecology. Whether we're aware of those other residents or not, we're linked to them in the causal and energetic web of wyrd: all that is, has been, and will potentially become.

Wherever you live, you're a part of it.

All of you.

All of us.

I'm writing a book about my close relationship with Odin-- patron of heroes, the God of story, wisdom and magic-- and what he's taught me directly as a seidhkona. This is one of the chapters.

You can find out more about what I do as a seidkona at, and other journeys in the blog here and at Eternal Haunted Summer magazine.

All photos are by me except the opening aerial shot, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Read more]]> (Shirl Sazynski) Paths Blogs Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:36:51 -0700
On spinning and magic

Why do I spin? The question comes often enough from non-crafty people—which probably includes most people out there--who don't really even understand that there's a difference between spinning and weaving, and who just can't see the point of knitting a sweater or scarf (much less spinning the yarn in order to knit one) when you can buy one a lot cheaper at Walmart or the local mall. But I'm sure there are also a lot of spiritual types out there who read my blog and wonder why I—a spirit worker, and married to Odin for crying out loud—spend so much of my time spinning and prepping wool for spinning.

Not that I am equating myself with Her, but the question sort of begs me to invoke Frigga's name. Because, after all, She is married to Odin, and She spins—and actually, it was partly Her influence that prompted my obsession with the fiber arts in the first place. So, why does She do it? The reason She is so closely associated with spinning (and the Norns and Valkyries with weaving) has to be partly a mundane and culturally influenced one: in the past, as the majority of Walmart shoppers probably don't realize, spinning was not just an odd pastime for middle aged women, it was a necessity of life. There were no stores in which to buy clothing, but there were sheep, and flax, and nettles, and other sources of fiber, and one day people discovered that this fiber could to be twisted to form a strong thread that could then be woven into cloth to make garments and other useful items. (Knitting came much, much later.) But you needed a lot of thread to weave enough cloth for even a single garment, so spinners spent virtually every spare moment of their lives spinning, and because spinning is something that can be easily set down in order to tend a baby, and is not a dangerous activity to practice around children, spinning (and to a lesser extent, weaving) naturally fell into the domain of women.

Read more]]> (Beth Wodandis) Paths Blogs Sun, 08 Sep 2013 10:34:26 -0700
Meditations on Hávamál 1-4

Hávamál offers us a glimpse of a past that had already become somewhat nostalgic when a single hand transcribed the poem around 1270 CE.  As David A. H. Evans writes in the Viking Society for Northern Research’s edition of the verses, this second poem of the Elder Edda “is deservedly one of the most celebrated works to have survived from the early Norse world.” It’s full of gnomic advice that continues to be of interest—and application—to us in the modern world. Old Norse text via the Heimskringla Project.

Gáttir allar,
áðr gangi fram,
um skoðask skyli,
um skyggnast skyli,
því at óvíst er at vita,
hvar óvinir
sitja á fleti fyrir.

Gefendr heilir!
Gestr er inn kominn,
hvar skal sitja sjá?
Mjök er bráðr,
sá er á bröndum skal
síns of freista frama.

Elds er þörf,
þeims inn er kominn
ok á kné kalinn;
matar ok váða
er manni þörf,
þeim er hefr um fjall farit.

Vatns er þörf,
þeim er til verðar kemr,
þerru ok þjóðlaðar,
góðs of æðis,
ef sér geta mætti,
orðs ok endrþögu.


1 Before going through every gate one should look around, peer around, because it’s not possible to know where enemies sit on the benches already.

From the start the sayings of the High one present a world of dangers. The alertness of the wise warrior must be there from the start. Every doorway offers opportunities for peril. Even the safety of the hall remains suspect because on the benches inside wait those who are not friends. The óvinr is literally ‘not friend’ and the verse picks up on a common phenomenon we all recognize: those who show one face and conceal another. It also suggests a clear division: friend, not friend. There’s not a lot of grey area here.


2 Greetings to the host! A guest has come in. Where shall this one sit? He is most hasty who shall sit on the firewood, there to test his mettle.

Watchful one must be, but polite, too. The courtesies of greetings, the giving and accepting of hospitality are the first way any stranger is judged. You don’t get a second chance to make first impressions, as folks like to say. And if you sit in near the fire, you’re going to be put to work. There are a lot of testing motifs in the poem: some action that seems casual may be read with great discernment by the people in the hall.


3 Fire is needed for the one who has come in with cold knee and food and clothes one needs also, the man who has journeyed from the mountain.

The realities of life in the north! Part of hospitality is getting your guests warm and dry as well as fed. A seat near the fire, if not actually on the pile of wood, should be offered and wet clothes replaced with warm dry ones. You may not have a lot to give but warm clothes however worn will show good intentions. A respite from a hard journey will warm the heart as well.


4 Water is needed for the one who comes to the meal, and of a towel and friendly invitation, of good disposition, if one can get it, of words and silence in return.

Yes, let’s dispel the image of the filthy Viking right now. After the roughness of a long journey, anyone welcomes the chance to get clean. People still repeat the mistaken believe that no one bathed in the Middle Ages. Ha! Plus in Iceland you also had hot water coming out of the ground. And as a true introvert, these words of advice warm my heart. Surely the arrival of a visitor was a chance to hear news, but the poet wisely cautions the need to be silent in turn, to allow the visitor to speak or not speak as they might choose.

More next time!

Read more]]> (Kate Laity) Studies Blogs Wed, 07 Nov 2012 07:59:19 -0800