Sleepwalkers in a Shadow World

Imagine a world that is like this one, except not.

That is ‘here’, but somehow also ‘there’.

Imagine a world where the usually Unseen  – like Aelfe, or any other type of wiht really – may be readily seen, and where we-the-living, are like sleepwalkers in this reality. Sometimes the colours are muted and washed out – the washed out blues of a wolf’s eye vision. But at other times and in other places, they’re so vibrant that even modern animation techniques can’t touch it. Here too are shades of grey, punctuated by the odd flash of colour.

There is a word in Old English, ‘Scín’. On the most basic level, it’s the skin that encases the meat suits we drive around, but on the the hand, it’s not. It’s ‘here’ but also ‘there’.

For the early English, though, and especially for those that knew a thing or two, this ‘skin’ that was here but also there was something that could also be manipulated, shaped, formed, and made to appear to others. It was ‘Scínlac’, for the Norse it was ‘Hamfarir’.

It was in this world/not world that the Seidrworker journeyed when any ‘journeying’ occurred. This world of the Unseen. Not Asgard, not Helheim, not anywhere but this glorious Middle Earth.

Among the pages of the Utrecht Psalter, there’s an illustration of these curious flying beings with horns and stingers. Creatures that couldn’t possibly exist in the physical world-‘áttor-coppe’ they were called, ‘poison heads’. Not the physical-but-unrelated ‘áttor-coppe’, no, they’re easily recognisable – we call them ‘spiders’, another kind of ‘poison head’ -Old English is nothing if not descriptive.

A kind of ‘flying sickness’ often taken as ‘infectious disease’ – but that’s only if the disease is physical, but who knows?

You see, these worlds don’t operate separately from each other, but in concert with each other – cause and effect. Sometimes the Unseen manifests here, sometimes the Unseen directly influences what happens here – lost keys, doors that open without anyone there to open them. Other times though, It’s the ‘Scín’-that-is-here-but-there that is affected and the whole becomes sick or well or gains some luck.

Now imagine what all of what I’ve written here could potentially mean. How do you interact with the Unseen? Do you understand yet its importance, or what?

Ladies on tilled land, fall colours golden. Spindles high, fibers stretching to sky-not-sky. Eternal, endless thread of liminal.

Ladies on tilled land, fall colours golden. Spindles high, fibers stretching to sky-not-sky. Eternal, endless thread of liminal.

 

Webs and Patterns

Sometimes a name is important, sometimes a name can open doors for a person and sometimes, if you’re a German princess in some folktale setting, a name can save your first born.

Rumpelstiltskin.

But there are other times when it’s far more important to look at what something does, or is. When names become nothing but hindrances and red herrings, and all that is left is to look for the commonalities and discern the pattern.

As a linguist, looking for commonalities and discerning patterns is essentially what I do, for what is a grammar book if not a compiled collection of commonalities and patterns that somebody took the time to gather from a language in order to improve or teach that which is acquired so organically by children?

It was when I was looking at Hittite religious ritual and spinning that I first noticed the pattern. Mentions of shearing rituals, purification rituals by a female ritual specialist involving wool, and a group of fate-spinning underworld beings called the Katteres. There too is a tantalising goddess of magic – Kamrusepa, but very little about her.

This was all so very familiar to a practitioner of Germanic Polytheism, and so I began to look in all the different Indo-European descendant cultures for traces of spinning goddesses, wool cults, and ritual specialists – regardless of what form they would take.

If you look at the names, things get complex here. But when you work with a checklist of functions and traits, things become a lot easier.

Fertility
Underworld connection
Connection with ‘fate’
Childbirth
Spinning/Weaving
Liminal places
Wanderer
Connection with Magic
etc.
etc.
etc.

And so on.

The more I looked, a pattern emerged through many cultures, that of a goddess connected with either some or all of those functions, and three beings that spin (or perform a series of actions involving the spinning and cutting of a length of thread representative of a person’s life). Some of those cultures even preserved aspects of the ‘wool cult’ that was found in Hittite mythology. When you consider the antiquity of spinning, and the usefulness of yarn both in terms of survival and economy, it’s hardly surprising that it would have had a place in religion too. Yet it’s a part that we’re missing in our reconstruction.

My pet theory is that Seidr is the remnants of the magical technologies of such a cult, a cult to a goddess associated with at least many of the traits listed above. I would see us endeavour to discover and resurrect that cult or similar/something in the same vein rather than be merely witches, and I believe that this pattern may provide one of the keys to doing that.

This is what I have so far:

Kamrusepa — Katteres (Hittite) Female Ritual Specialist  – Old Woman
Artemis – Moirai (Greek)
Diana – Parcae (Roman)
Mokosh – Sudice (Slavic)
Freyja – Nornir (Norse) Female Ritual Specialist – Seidkona
Laima – the 3 Laimas (Baltic)

I’m not nearly as well versed in other IE descendant mythologies as my own field (naturally), it is something I’m working on, but I would be grateful if any of you could add to this model that I’m building here for *any* of the descendant cultures (not just the ones listed here).

If you have anything, please mail me at seo.helrune@gmail.com

Help me build this model.

Thank you

Children and Wights

When I was at university, my housemates used to joke about me being that kid from ‘Sixth Sense’. I was…weird. I saw things they didn’t, I knew things I shouldn’t have known, and I did things that scared them. A good example of this was the time I described my housemate’s dream that she’d had the night before.

“Hey, I had a weird dream last night and you were in it, it went like this…”

Her white sheet face and stuttered “How did you know?” before she left the room let me know what had happened. Her leaving later that day to go home and coming back wearing Catholic blessed metals let me know that she’d been scared.

But although it was funny by the time I was at university, it was anything but as a child.

Regular readers will know that I have a bit of an atypical background in that my father’s side of the family were/are spiritualists. My father once told me that ghosts were more likely to pester me because people that can see stand out like bright lights in a dark landscape. It sounds poetic, but it didn’t make it somehow easier or less scary as a kid when the dark got ‘fuzzy’ and ‘pixellated’, and that preternatural cold rolled in.

And it was always in the western corner of my room too, that wouldn’t be a surprise for those of you that know a thing or two.

Having a dog made it easier, I soon learned that the dog would leave the room before the fuzziness and cold. My cairn terrier crossed with a Bedlington terrier became a sort of early warning system, and when I was around 13 or 14, I took up witchcraft as a way to give myself some tools for dealing.

This brings us back to the present day and a situation that affects a number of parents in my group of friends.

Two nights ago, while helping my husband to build a hutch for the living room, we were disturbed by the sounds of our shrieking toddler over the baby monitor. As I was less engaged in the project, I went up stairs to (or so I thought) simply rock her back to sleep or maybe give her something to drink. But when I got up there, the atmosphere was strange and her room was darker than dark. I could barely see my way to the rocking chair in spite of the light on in the hallway.

Snatching her up, I tried to calm her by singing and rocking her while I went through the usual ‘oh you’re just imagining things’, and ‘but it feels nice in this house’. But my toddler kept looking at the darkest part of the room with fear while screaming and the dog wouldn’t come in. Whatever was there felt alien – not in the ET sense of the word, just ‘far removed from human’. I’ll use the word ‘wight’, because it’s easier, and before anyone gets hysterical about ‘demons’ and ‘evil’, it wasn’t anything as dramatic as that.

The idea of lullabies-as-spells has intrigued me for years – ever since I read a theory that the ‘vouch-pledges’ that Gudrid sang/chanted for Thorbjorg Little Volva were possibly used as lullabies for her to preserve the songs.

I like to think that I would have been better prepared for this eventuality before I became a parent, you know, given my background? But it was in that rocking chair with that darker than dark presence with my frightened toddler in my arms that I came upon the idea of turning spell songs into lullabies.

I sing all the time at home. My own personal magical practice is filled with songs, songs to drive out, songs to bless, songs of worship. Songs to pull kicking and screaming, and songs to repel.

So I sang, I began with an song in Old English of driving out and the room got lighter. I sang a song of protection and the dog returned to lay at my feet, and then I sang prayers. By the time I was done, the room was calm and the toddler was happily snoring.

Yesterday, I saw whatever it was in the upstairs hallway. It was strange, its shape was unfamiliar, and almost animal in presentation. Later that day, my husband asked me if I’d felt or seen anything weird knocking around upstairs. Our house backs onto a forest, in which there is a creek that leads to the Patuxent river, this shouldn’t be a surprise that something may have found its way from there -especially if my daughter shares in the family ‘trait’. If my dad is right, they would have followed that bright little light and come to see what it was, and this thing was curious.

I have faith that the ancestors and Cofgodas of my home won’t let harmful in, but I put iron in my daughter’s room all the same and made offerings to the Cofgodas amending my prayers that they also keep out things that feel downright weird and alien. Today things feel normal again, but I’ll probably mugwort and salt my home for good measure.

This has made me worry a little though. I don’t want my daughter to spend as many nights afraid as I did as a child. It doesn’t matter if something is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, or ‘not harmful’, as a kid, it’s strange and *still* scary. It takes time, practice, and support from good people to not be afraid when the usual signs of something coming begin, and the only exception I’ve seen to this are ancestors. I want her to have the tools to deal with whatever she may encounter, but she’s so small right now and too young to be taught.

When I was seventeen, I had a brush with what I would call ‘evil’. As always, this thing appeared in the West as a grey mist – after about an hour of this building sense of malice. I ran to my dad for help and got to see his face change completely from what I recognised to one I didn’t know. My dad wasn’t so much in charge of what he did as saw himself as an instrument of ‘Spirit’. His trances could be quite involved, but this was the only one I’ve ever seen him change so completely and gain features that weren’t his own – not to mention his voice, the timbre of which I still remember to this day as he said “Leave us!”.

Later that same week, while visiting with a friend, I found myself outside a locked, empty room, with furniture somehow moving around inside it.

That week was one for the books.

I want to spare her those kind of weeks and those kind of nights. I want to teach her so that she feels empowered and safe – well, as safe as you can really when it comes to stuff like that.

But in spite of my experiences as a child, and being far more proactive in my work than my father, I find myself , just like my friends who also deal with this, wondering how to go about it. No one writes books about child development and how it relates to teaching witchcraft. I mean, at what age can a child effectively visualise well enough to construct protections, and although I’m sure my stubborn toddler has the Will bit down, when will she gain the focus to consistently apply Will? How do you discipline a child that then takes the things you teach them and turns into an asshole with other kids or adults? What is an ideal model for gradually exposing your child to various types of wights so that they can gain confidence and not be afraid? What type of wight should you seek out or pull in first?

And once again, I find myself wishing my child came with a manual. Sound familiar?