I’m a revivalist Heathen, academic, and fiction writer, which makes for an interesting approach to cosmological and theological ideology and practice. In short, I recognize that there are substantive holes in the lore, but I honor what we have, and I also honor my own process of interaction with the transpersonal. As a longtime solitary practitioner, that process of interaction is decidedly personal, which is to say that I haven’t studied with any particular Heathen organization or individual. With this in mind, and because I do have a specific process for undertaking seidh work, I thought it might add to our ongoing revival of the practice to write about it here. I’ll start with some relevant personal background, followed by a discussion of my toolkit, and end with a paragraph or two about the method itself.
The gift of sight runs in my family, passed down on my mother’s side. My grandmother, an old church Apostolic Pentecostal who believed in gifts of the spirit, would occasionally tell my mother and I that ‘the Lord came to her in a dream’. This was always followed by a prophetic pronouncement of some kind, and these were accurate enough that she (1) believed they came from the Lord, and (2) believed the content of the dreams themselves was a glimpse into the future.
My first prophetic dream was about the onset of my menstrual cycle. Shortly after I turned 12, I dreamed that I would bleed for the first time at home surrounded by specific friends. This came to pass a few months later when my mother went out with her best friend, leaving that woman’s daughters to babysit at our house and visit with me and my sisters, which was an uncommon occurrence. Since then, I’ve had a number of dreams and waking visions about everything from automobile accidents to house fires to family deaths which have come to pass. I’ve also seen for the people in a Spiritualist context, worked as a professional clairvoyant, tarot card reader, and rune reader, and I’ve become a rune smith. In all, I’ve had and used my sight for thirty-six years, long enough to sometimes wish I didn’t have it. After all, who wants to know in advance that family members are about to die and newly-married friends will soon divorce?
I’ve also completed the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids training course consisting of the Bard, Ovate, and Druid Grades, and I was an OBOD tutor for two years. One of the cornerstones of that work was the development of internal landscapes for the purpose of undertaking spiritual work. By the time I completed the training, I had established and journeyed to personal groves, places of interaction with guides and guardians, and many other non-physical locations. The work I did was rarely called shamanic, and it certainly wasn’t called seidh. It was also largely self-focused. However, it taught me to visualize the intersections between the personal and transpersonal and to navigate them, which is foundational training for trance journey work.
Two more pieces of background bear mentioning. I studied briefly with a Zen Buddhist group in Maine and have also attended several Shambhala meditation retreats in Nova Scotia. As I hope to discuss at greater length in a future blog post, meditation focuses the mind for the purpose of centering attention on the present moment. Of course, trance journey work of any kind is a complicated undertaking which involves far more than just the mind, but if an active or “monkey” mind can interrupt meditation, you bet it can interrupt seidh. Because of this, various principles of mindfulness meditation have found their way into my practice. Another technique I employ is the use of shamanic drumming during seidh work because patterned drumming, ecstatic dance, and indeed mindfulness meditation itself can and do create the altered state of consciousness a shaman/trance journeyer/seidhkona needs to undertake this work.
Finally, there is the matter of the lore itself. I’ve already mentioned that I know how to write, know how to read, and know how to stain. I’ve also studied Northern European Pagan cosmology and theology for about twenty-five of my thirty-two years as a Pagan, though I believe the Valfather called me early on and sent me out to wander awhile before I came home. Some of this study has been casual and need-driven, and somewhat less of it has been academic (so far). I’m also continuing to study the lore as I cultivate my seidh practice. I’ve taken my spirituality on pilgrimage to Glastonbury and more recently to Iceland twice, where I’ve made specific oaths and undertaken a bit of research on the huldufolk.
So this is my toolkit. An ancestral gift of sight and the longterm cultivation of it via clairvoyance, tarot, and runes. Completion of the OBOD training course and the teaching of it. Mindfulness meditation training. A working knowledge of the lore, if not a complete one. Pilgrimage to holy places as circumstances permit. It’s a fairly individual package and lends itself to differences in the way I practice seidh from the ways other people have revitalized the practice, but it produces results, which I’ll discuss a next.
I first began seidh work in earnest shortly after I graduated from the OBOD Druid Grade. I wanted to learn more about the lore, and I wanted a gnostic experience of the cosmology, so I decided to combine the two. This manifested as the methodical exploration of Yggdrasil I’m still undertaking, which includes visiting the nine realms as appropriate (this is an especially risky proposition in some respects, and so there are realms I haven’t visited yet, nor may I ever), meeting the Gods, undertaking work at Hela’s instruction in Helheim, meditating more deeply upon the runes, and so on. I also work with the help of specific allies, which I won’t name here, and I’ve collected a few spiritual objects of power to be used while I’m journeying.
In practice, this is what a trance journey looks like. I identify or am given a task (take a gift to Heimdall and give him greetings, guide a beloved, departed companion animal into Helheim, visit my allies, ask an important question, etc.). If the task requires a deeper understanding of the lore, I do the research first. This might mean revisiting my knowledge of Heimdall, for instance. Once that work is completed, I go to my altar, put in my earbuds, and start a track from an album called “Double Drumming for the Shamanic Journey.” A bit unorthodox, I know. But while I can trance and drum at the same time, I can’t trance, journey to accomplish specific tasks, and drum at the same time. Sometimes I’ll also focus on my breath or count to ten and back once in order to encourage mental focus before beginning the journey in earnest. The specifics of my internal landscapes (or my versions of of Yggdrasil, Helheim, and the like) are really of no consequence, but I will say that I’m always met by a primary ally who journeys with me and who is sometimes assisted by other allies. I undertake the work, note any interactions I have and messages I receive, and return when the drumming track ends.
At the end of this journey, I return all the way, eat something, and journal the entire experience from research to meal. In all, this process takes the better part of a day, so I’m tired when I’m done. Still, I’m alert to messages in the outer world triggered by my journey work, which are both frequent and reliable, and I add these to my journal. I would end by writing that because it’s taxing, I don’t journey often, and at present I have a backlog of seidh work that needs doing because of this.
I’m not a reconstructionist, and I’m not a Hrafnar trainee (though I have respect for Hrafnar’s methods and count one of its teachers a close friend). I also recognize that in several important respects, I’m still learning the ropes, as it were. But I’ve cultivated this method and used it often enough that I thought my experience might be helpful to fellow seidh workers, so here you go. How is your experience similar? How does it differ? I’d appreciate your insights.