I congratulate you for making it through the beast of a part 1 in this series. I may have to go back later and chop it up. We will see.
So, to recap, there are several parts to the spirit in the Northern Tradition. In my last post I covered the major players, but there are so many others I have not covered. There are many names ones, here are some examples from Kaldera’s site; Wod, Ve, Vili, Orlog, Wyrd, Litr, Maegan, Mynd, Gothi, Lich and Ond. In addition, I would say that we are in each our own way a world tree, with roots in the legs and the base of the spine, with branches in our hands and head. As far as my own practice is concerned, the Nine Worlds (homes) are also parts of the spirit, as the spirit is as much part of the land as it is the body, ancestral and current. There are also, especially in the context of fylgja, many personal and unnamed pieces of the spirit, that can come and go with time and place. Some are specific only to children, some to teens, and some to adults. The pieces that make up each person are very unique to that person, so there is not enough space or time to detail it all here.
For this piece, instead of going on and on about the other parts, I want to focus instead on the applied usage of the pieces we have already discussed. In short, the magic of working with each of the different parts. As already has been discussed in the last installment of this series, deliberate and intentional manipulation of the hugr is the basis of all magic. I will extend this even a step farther, that deliberate and intentional work with all the pieces of the personal spirit is the basis of all magic. In light of the fact that the spirit encompasses the mind, the body, and the community of spirits around a person, these techniques range from mental discipline, body conditioning, to spirit work and shamanism. This is because the parts of the spirits vary greatly in autonomy. Some are under your control, such as mind and body. While others, such as vordr and fylgje, are largely independent, conscious and willful beings, beings that you have to maintain good relations with if you wish to work with them.
Here are a few excerpts from Strömbäck to hammer (hamr!) the point home;
” With these conceptions of a more or less materialized soul which was able to free itself from its owner could also be connected the idea that one could lead the vård (vordr) or hugr in a certain direction. And if your thoughts were evil you could… hurt people by making them objects of your intense hatred, envy or discontent” The power of thought in this tradition is immense. Ever heard of right thoughts, right words, right actions? Even your thoughts have power, and when you focus your thoughts on another person, your hugr and other pieces start to interact with that person. Envy, hate and ill will are especially powerful. The vordr, as mentioned, is an entirely different case. Take myself as an example, as my vordr is a wolf. Can you imagine me asking her to attack someone? Not something I would want done to me, to say the least.
“In more recent Icelandic tradition the strong influence from a person’s fylgja is called adsokn. The word is the same as classical Icelandic atsokn which means ‘attack’, ‘onslaught’. In modern Icelandic, however, a special sense has been added to the word, namely ‘sleep or drowsiness caused by the fylgja of an expected or unexpected visitor before his arrival’. In other words: a person’s forerunner or fylgja could have such physical effect upon another person that his influence was compared with an attack.” Fylgje are especially powerful, being spiritual entities in their own right. Like with the vordr, your followers can be used to adsokn others. This can be a conscious or unconscious act. It pays to be mindful. As mentioned, fylgje have this habit of sending others messages on your behalf, to announce your arrival or what have you. This seems to have the side affect of making people tired, and I am not sure why. Perhaps it is because fylgje have an easier time talking to people when they are asleep, and so try to put them to asleep to deliver a message? What a strange thought.
“Generally speaking you could activate your hugr, leading it in different directions and using it for certain intentions. Here in fact lies the germ of the idea of changing shape, the ability to go out from yourself and let your hugr take hamr, that is to say take the form of your second self.” Here we reinforce the idea that the hugr is probably the piece of the spirit most under your direct control, your own will and ability to exercise that through mind and body. Now we get into the real interesting bits. It has been my experience that the vordr, being your closest spiritual companion, is probably the easiest to work with. This is a two way street, and the spirit in question has to be willing to change skins with you. The vordr is often willing, if you build up to it and keep good on your relations. It can sometimes be as simple as asking, but rarely. Fylgje can be even trickier, and the biggest factor is your relations with your allies. They may be willing, or they may not be. In regards to possession and such things, there are cases where you might not be willing. I cannot stress enough the difficulty of these things, as it is very advanced work. I would not recommend trying it without the supervision of a teacher with experience in shape-shifting or skin-changing. There are immense repercussions mentally, spiritually and physically if this kind of thing is done incorrectly. I have trouble with it still, and I have found that the more unlike another spirit is from yourself, the more difficult it gets. Humans would in theory be the easiest to skin-change with, as I would say sometimes happens during sex. However, there are ethical implications with all that as well. Animals seem to be easier than plants, and they more-so than say mountains or streams. There is a degree of foreignness at play, strangeness when comparing one spirit to another. They have different pieces than ourselves, different rules in play for animals and plants.
So to wrap that it all up, where does this lead us? Certainly plenty to think about and much we don’t know. The best advice I can say is get to know your parts, and build from there.
With that in mind, here is a bit of folklore that may help divine your vordr;
“The vordr is an animal that accompanies or precedes you. If you want to know what vordr you have, there is a way to find out. You take your sheath knife, roll it up in a kerchief, and wrap it tightly. Then pass this bundle from hand to hand, first in front of you and then behind, three times. While you move the bundle you say; ‘A horse as vordr!’
If your vordr is a horse, the knife will lie outside the kerchief by the time you passed it the third time. If it is not a horse the knife will still be in the kerchief. You proceed this way naming animal after animal until you find your vordr.”
Don’t forget the small animals! Not all vordr are great majestic beasts like horse, lion or wolf.
Strömbäck, Dag., from the book “Sejd” (2000 edition), pages 220-236. The Concept of the Soul in Nordic Tradition http://vnnforum.com/showthread.php?t=84650
Kvideland, Reimund & Sehmsdor, Henning. Editors. Scandinavian Folk Belief and Legend. University of Minnesota. 1988