Monthly Archives: July 2014

Skaði Part 2

It is important to note, that since about the 1970’s (give or take), the Northern tradition has been reinvigorated and revived into modern times. It is once again a living tradition, dynamic, adaptive, and changing with each new adherent. As such, from the foundations in the ancient literature, with additions from fields such as anthropology and history, has been growing new branches. As such, in some ways, the old stories are changing. Through things like personal insight and interpretation, new details and information are being added to the old stories. The internet, especially, is awash with new(er) information concerning old deities.

This section focuses on modern interpretations of the ancient material. Let’s start with the Northern Paganism shrine. The bulk of it just recounts the story of Njord and Skadi, and the eventual divorce. But here is a new bit not accounted in the sources; (My comments are in parenthesis)

“It seems that shortly after this (the divorce), she had an ill-fated affair with Loki. Some sources (which ones?) claim that Odin sent Loki to her in order to cement her bonds with Asgard; others merely suggest that the opportunistic Loki saw a chance to take advantage of the depressed Skadi. Apparently she had fallen into sadness, and Loki decided to cheer her up by making a spectacle of himself.” The goat story concerning Loki’s testicles is recounted here. I have omitted it. Moving on.

“At any rate, she seems to have taken him more seriously than he took her, for they had an affair that did not last, and it filled her with a rage against him so bitter that when he was caught and bound after Baldur’s death, Skadi placed a poisonous serpent over his head, to drip venom onto him until he was released.”

Now, I will be the first to admit that the sources allow for a lot of interpretation. So does personal insight, journey work, working with deity, what have you. I by no means wish to discount these things. There is definitely the indication in the Lokasenaa that the two might have had an affair. However, Loki also makes the same accusations of the other goddesses there. Not to say some of those are without truth, but it is a far stretch from “sometimes true” to “always true.”

I for one, am not a big fan of this interpretation, and that is primarily based on the assumptions it makes. First, it assumes Loki was telling the truth. Gods can and do lie. This was one thing I learned when I first started in spirit work. The are not “all good”, spirits (gods included) can and do lie. Second, it assumes she was really upset over her divorce with Njord. On the contrary, the information we do have seems to indicate she was unhappier with him. Plus, it could be argued that she was “tricked” into marrying him in the first place. Lastly, and this is the one that really gets me, that she would need a bad rebound screw to have a reason to dislike Loki. Let me see, he admittedly had a hand in the death of her father, something she was upset enough over to march to Asgard and demand compensation for. You could add to this that Loki simply accused her of sleeping with him, with everyone else as a witness. If you want to humiliate/dishonor a woman publicly, accuse her of an affair, especially if her husband is present. Personally, I think she has more than enough reason to dislike him without a bad affair.

Here is a selection from Diana Paxson, along the same lines;

“Skadhi is stronger than any civilized being, fully capable of challenging the gods. Even though she is persuaded to forgo her vengeance for the death of her father, she does not forget. When Loki makes the mistake of taunting her with his part in the killing, she renews her vow and after he finally exhausts the patience of all the gods and is captured and bound, she is the one who ties the serpent above him to drip venom onto his face.” – Diana Paxson

Another common association with Skaði in modern contexts is the wolf, especially the white wolf. Images on the internet abound with her paired with wolves, and this is also how she sometimes appears to me. Given my own proclivities, this is certainly one of the associations I can get behind. Besides, she is even associated with wolves in the ancient Eddas. Njord could not stand the sound of wolves in Thrymheim, being the most notable.

Here us a bit from Elfwood.com; “After a while, Skadi realized that she and Niord could never be happy with each other, so she left. When she was out hunting with her wolves one day, she ran into Ulle, the Aesir god of Winter, Archery and Skiers. They fell in love and were soon married.” (Elfwood.com)

This also serves as a good bridge into the next bit of contemporary lore concerning Skadi. The connection with Ullr. Here is a selection from pantheon.org, sanctioning the same line of thought.

“The marriage between Njord and Skadi was not a happy one. She wanted to live where her father had lived, in Thrymheim in the mountains, and Njord wanted to live in Noatun, his palace by the sea. So they agreed to spend the first nine days in the mountains and the following nine days by the sea. This arrangement did not work out very well, and they separated. Eventually, Skadi left Njord for the god Ull.” (Pantheon.org)

Now, this little addition in the modern lore seems to me to be a logical choice. Its adds an interesting epilogue to her cycle of stories. “And then they hunted happily ever after”, if you prefer the romance. Yet, it also creates an odd kind of contradiction when considered with the information from the Heimskringla. Now, I’ve already noted on the problems with the Heimskringla.

But here is my question, did Skadi have a bunch of sons with Odin and then go off with Ullr? Or did she leave Ullr after a time to go have sons with Odin? Just a thought.

Moving on.

I think that is where I am going to leave this post for the time being. There is a lot more to explore here, so there will probably be more posts in this series going forward.

As always, I am open for questions!

Sources/References;

http://www.northernpaganism.org/shrines/skadi/welcome.html
http://www.elfwood.com/~aolson/Skadi-the-Norse-Goddess-of-the-Hunt-and-Scandinavian-Winter.2531678.html
http://www.hrafnar.org/articles/dpaxson/asynjur/skadi/
http://www.pantheon.org/articles/s/skadi.html
http://www.northernpaganism.org/shrines/skadi/writing/working-with-skadi.html
http://www.northernpaganism.org/shrines/skadi/gifts.html


Skaði Part 1

So as I have mentioned previously, it would seem a new phase of my spiritual journey is beginning. For better or worse, it would seem that Skaði has picked me up as her apprentice. For whatever reason, she shows as interest in me and wants me to learn from her. She has been a regular staple of my journey work, even when I am not specifically looking for her. She is watchful and keen of eye, and whether I like it or not, quick to correct and criticize.

As I have said before, she treats me as a moron, or perhaps more accurately, as a child. I feel like one around her. Her mastery is impressive, I will be the first to admit. She does by instinct and memory things that take me a whole lot of concentration, head-against-wall bashing, focus, and general cursing with some frustration thrown in. Frankly, I have a lot to learn, and she has a lot to teach. I just hope she doesn’t lose patience with my general moronic ways.

Being as I am starting a study program with her, I guess the most reasonable place to start is with the old lore concerning Skaði. I will work through and survey each source individually, because the oldest sources, the Eddas, tend to contradict one another.

So, her name is properly spelled Skaði, (pronounced Skath-ee), though it may also be anglicized as Skadi (Skad-ee), Skade, or Skathi. I have a habit of switching between Skaði and Skadi. With that part out of the way, let’s move to the primary sources.

The Poetic Edda

A good introduction the Eddas can be found over at Reading Heathenism.
Here is Lokivinr’s introduction to the Prose Edda:
“Usually the term “Poetic Edda” refers to a specific manuscript, the Codex Regius, which was not discovered until 1643 in the back of another book… The Codex Regius is usually dated around 1270.”

It is the product of several different poets, from several different times and locations. It is a compilation of poems.

That being said, let us examine the poems that have anything to say about Skaði. I will be using Larrington’s Translation.

A very brief version of Skaði’s story is presented in the introduction. ” Skadi, daughter of the giant Thiazi, comes to Asgard seeking compensation for her father’s death. She agrees to make peace if she can conclude a marriage with one of the Aesir. Skadi hopes to marry Baldr, but she is tricked into marrying Njord. The marriage is not successful and the two separate.” (Pg xvi.)

There is a brief reference to Skadi in the prose introduction to Skirnismal, yet no details about the goddess herself are given. She is only said to be speaking. (Pg. 61)

The next reference to Skadi appears in the Grimnismal, the Grimnir’s Sayings. Grimnir is really Odin in disguise. The reference is in regard to the dwelling of Skadi, and her dead father, Thiazi.

“Thrymheim the sixth is called, where Thiazi lives,
the terrible giant;
but now Skadi, the shining bride of the gods,
lives in her father’s ancient courts.” (pg 53.)

Her next appearance, and as far as the the Poetic Edda is concerned, one of the most detailed, appears in the Lokasenna. In this poem, Loki is excluded from a feast at Aegir’s Hall, where all the other gods have gone. After forcing his way inside, he proceeds to insult most of the gods and goddesses present. Skadi is one of those present. Loki’s exchange with Skadi begins at stanza 49.

“Skadi said;

You’re light-hearted, Loki; you won’t for long
play with your tail wagging free
for on a sharp rock, with your ice-cold son’s guts
the gods shall bind you.

Loki said;

You know, if on a sharp rock, with my ice-cold son’s guts,
the gods shall bind me,
first and foremost I was at the killing
When we attacked Thiazi.

Skadi said;

You know, if first and foremost you were at killing
when you attacked Thiazi
from my sanctuaries and plains shall always come
baneful advice to you

Loki said;

Gentler in speech you were to the son of Laufey
When you invited me to your bed
we have to mention such things if we’re going to reckon up
our shameful deeds.” (Pg 93.)

Then Loki turns to Sif, and thus concludes Skadi’s part. Not only does Loki confess to having a part in Skadi’s fathers death, he also boasts of sleeping with her. Larrington rightly points out in her notes that this claim is not corroborated in any other known source.

Skadi’s last appearance in the Poetic Edda is in the Song of Hyndla. Here she is again listed as Thiazi’s daughter. Thiazi is also said to have “loved to shoot” indicating as well that Skadi’s father was also an archer. (Pg 257)

The Prose Edda

Once again, Lokivinr’s introduction is a fine one.
“Snorra Edda (Snorri’s Edda) or “Prose Edda” was written around 1230 by Snorri Sturluson: a lawyer, politician, and poet from Western Iceland who served in the Norwegian royal court. This book is essentially a manual for skaldic poets, written to keep alive traditional Norse poetry and to make mythological references in those poems intelligible for a contemporary audience.”

However, as Lokivinr also points out, the Prose Edda needs to be taken with a grain of salt, as Snorri took liberties with his sources; “However, scholars also feel that Snorri may have guessed about or created his own myths from other content to explain references which were difficult or obscure, making this source not extremely reliable when it comes to understanding pre-Christian belief.”

From this source comes our most detailed account of Skaði. I will not recount them at length here, as it can be found in many other places on the internet. A couple of links are given in the references below. Also, a very brief version of the story was given above.

The stories in the Prose Edda recount the death of Thjazi, Skadi’s marriage to Njord, and other events as well. Curiously, I find in the Skaldskaparmal, possible other members of Skadi’s family. Thjazi is listed as the son of Oldvaldi, along with two others, Igi and Gangr. These could possibly be the names of Skadi’s uncles and grandfather.

Heimskringla

Skadi also appears in Snorri’s Heimskringla, as mother to Odin’s “many sons.” Here is a selection from Northvegr.org, from the Laing translation.

“9. OF NJORD’S MARRIAGE. Njord took a wife called Skade; but she would not live with him and married afterwards Odin, and had many sons by him, of whom one was called Saeming; and about him Eyvind Skaldaspiller sings thus: — “To Asa’s son Queen Skade bore Saeming, who dyed his shield in gore, — The giant-queen of rock and snow, Who loves to dwell on earth below, The iron pine-tree’s daughter, she Sprung from the rocks that rib the sea, To Odin bore full many a son, Heroes of many a battle won.” To Saeming Earl Hakon the Great reckoned back his pedigree. ”

This is another case of information not being corroborated anywhere else that we have sources for. Also, the Heimskringla as a source is focused the historical kings of Norway, not the mythology. It is questionable, on many levels, when it comes to mythology and history.

That concludes my general survey of the sources, each with its respective problems. Yet, this is the oldest known information about Skaði. In the next part of this survey, I will focus on more modern interpretations.

References/Sources:

http://readingheathenism.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/lets-talk-about-the-eddas/
Larrington, Carolyne. The Poetic Edda.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skaði
http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/pre/index.htm
http://www.northvegr.org/sagas%20annd%20epics/kings%20sagas/heimskringla/001_02.html


Pondering Shamanism Part 2

Now, it would be easy to pick sources and talk about definitions and examples at great length. I may do so in the future, but at the time being I wanted to take a bit of a different direction. I asked a few modern day shamans their thoughts.

Those that participated in this interview were Marco Cabrera, Jim Stovall, Tim (Sarenth Odinsson) and Heather Powers. I much indebted to them for their participation.

On the general ‘traits’ of shamanism;

Tim has this to say; ” I think that trying to say anything across the board with shamanism is possibly painting with too broad of a brush. The initiations are different from religion to religion, from shaman to shaman, so far as I can see. So too, the duties. One shaman might be called to be a healer and the other a warrior, and another a peacemaker. A shaman might be called to do all these things, being *the* spiritual authority for their people.

The requirements to be called to be a shaman to begin with might be a peak spiritual experience, an illness, or something else entirely. Receiving the call might take place at a holy place, at a shrine, through another shaman, or be passed down from generation to generation.

I can speak from my experience: I was called by Odin during a peak spiritual experience, a guided meditation. After several years of *not* following Him, He finally came back into my life when Anubis handed me off to Him and said our Work would be going on the backburner. That was followed up with a great deal of prayer and other work as Odin molded me to the task of becoming a shaman, reworking my wiring, so to speak. Sometimes there were powerful experiences at my altar, and other times just small tweaks as I prayed every day and developed my relationship with Him, and discipline in my Work I was being called to do.”

I think being a shaman is also about service in another capacity. It is about keeping ways alive, of forging ahead in new ways where needed or called, and helping keep the foundation of a community strong. It is about keeping the bonds between the Gods, Ancestors, landvaettir, and/or vaettir strong. Not every shaman is a healer, not every shaman is a warrior; we may be called to a great many things in our capacity as a shaman, or only a few.”

Marco ” I feel like I have something to contribute. Now I would acquiesce to the insight of Jim or Tim, I trust their insight and experience above my own thus far. But What I would say makes someone a Shaman, is the calling and willingness to assist people where theY are, and help to guide them forward. I have heard the phrase, “Does it help the corn grow?” several times as an indicator of success. I have been seeing the way you can subtly (and more strongly) guide people in a unified direction to help them see the potential in themselves that they had not seen before. Bringing people together for a single common (and in this case beneficial) purpose, is a means of making the corn grow. Giving back to the community you serve. Whether or not, those you help are aware of your hand in it.”

The topic then shifted to functions and duties.

Marco ” On the topic of different types of Shaman. I think there are different types, but I don’t think it is a “Roll the die” and figure out your mana source kind of thing. I think it is like life. We have many roles we play, and some we are better at than others. I am a healer, and I am a warrior. These traits are both very strong, and it forced me to really think/meditate/pray/ponder/ask/answer/etc… at length. I learned that these two things DO NOT CONFLICT. They are two roles I need to play, at two different times, and they support each other. I think we all have multiple roles we are skilled with, and even more we will be called upon to use. Forcing us to grow. And that growth becomes homage to the deities and spirits that help you, and to your community, that you help.”

Jim adds; “A shaman is not JUST a warrior or a healer, but may have to be these things at one time or another. While aptitude, talent or inclination may be a factor, what differs more is a matter of technique. Think of a group of artists. If you give them the same supplies, and ask them to create something to benefit their community, they will each create something different, but they are all still artists. To some degree, there is variance between inclinations or natural talents, or perhaps the spirits a shaman works with. One shaman may defer to another if the question is not suited to his spirits. Though he may be suited to the question at a future time, as time is also a factor.”

On the topic of “shamanic deaths”, initiation crisis’ and other such ordeals.

Marco had this to say; ” You said “ordeal” and it made me cringe. Almost 2 years ago now, I had hardly heard the word Shaman. It was a reference to a “1-trick” magician from a couple of series of novels I enjoyed. And then one day, I came down with a headache. Like, brought to my knees. It was the worst headache of my life. Everyday, the previous days headache was made to seem easy to manage comparatively to the new beast. After 2 doctor visits, weaker, then stronger antibiotics, and 10 days… (2 weeks?) of agony, I had a vision. “Become the biggest Brujo you can become.” I instantly saw Brujo as Male Witch, which guided me to a friend that recommended me to Jim ASAP. I passed on the part about 2 spirits and Rob was like, you need to speak to a shaman friend of mine. So I did. And It was ironic enough that Jim’s lineage is from the same place where “Brujo” was coined.”

So where does all this leave this discussion? In my opinion, with a lot more questions. It would seem there is no single definition for “shaman”, as well as a variety of forms one may take. However, out of this come similarities as well, and most hinge around the idea of service to the supernatural as well as to humans, and mediating the divide in between. There is certainly plenty of follow up to do. This post is little more than a stepping stone.

I feel at this point just as confused as when I started. Certainly, I am left with more questions.

I wonder further about the nature of the ‘work’? How do modern shamans serve there communities? In what ways, and using what methods? I would like to see more about the nature of initiations. Is there a definite point where one becomes a shaman, or is it a gradual process? How do shamans relate to their spirits? How do spirits relate to their shamans? Is shamanism something inherited, something passed down, or something else entirely? So many questions…

Yet, I am also curious to ask if anyone has anything to add out there? Maybe some more questions of your own? Perhaps some of my readers my submit to an interview on this topic?


Pondering Shamanism Part 1

First off, let’s start with updates. The new job is going well, I enjoy it and am generally happier. I have been revising some of my previous work. After writing several books (only 2 published at the moment), I am learning certain tricks and techniques that only come with experience. Thus, with my new experience, I can look back upon old work and see what I can do better.

The bow I was working on broke during tiller. Oh well, time to try again. I got to work a little on a couple of knives. They move a little closer to finishing. I am still bothered by my current lack of work space. Some days, I honestly wish I had the means to make my own workshop. The wife and I continue to look at houses, but so far nothing has really struck our fancy. A garage will serve I think. That is one of my requirements, naturally.

This post is the result of a conversation, and something I have been thinking about for some time. I engaged in conversation lately with a member of my small working group, and he raised many interesting points. I asked why he had called me “shaman” in the past, and the long and short he said it fits. When I said I do not consider myself a shaman, he followed up with “why not?” I cannot say I could answer that question. I do not know, frankly. The question has left me confused in a very profound way.

So I decided to explore the idea in a little more depth.

So what does being a shaman mean? In some ways, it is too inclusive a term. I could talk about the Tungus of Siberia, and the origins of the term ‘shaman’. I will not, and that information can be found elsewhere. I am just going to put it out there, I do not agree in any way with Harner’s core shamanism. I have read it, and the anthropologist in me rages at most things he has to say. Shamanism as a concept is a cultural complex, something that is deeply rooted in the context in which it arose. The Tungus shamans are not the same as the Sami shamans, who are in turn are different from North American shamans. Shaman-ism, is the idea of the shaman. The is what ‘ism’ means, ‘the idea of’. Sure, similarities can be found, but it is by no means a universal concept.

That being said, I turn now to Raven Kaldera and Galina Krasskova for some more detail. According to their book Neolithic Shamanism, they define shamanism as; “a spiritual and magical practice that involves working with spirits and is designed to serve others.” They go on to say that “basically, being a shaman is a job.” An important point in my opinion.

They go on to shape further distinctions. First, they detail a spirit worker; defining it as “A spirit worker is someone who works on a constructive basis. It’s an umbrella term…” It is fair to say I qualify under this definition. As an animist, it is fair to say I am a spirit worker. Moving on.

“Shamanic Practitioners have trained in as many techniques as they have the ability to learn, and with what psychic knack they have, and what energetic “wiring” they have, without the trauma and “rebuilding” of shamanic death.” Her again is another qualifier, the shamanic death. This is often in the context of an initiation crisis, but like all such diverse things, not always. I also think I qualify under this concept, but it is the shamanic death that is the kicker here.

And lastly, the shaman; “A shaman is someone who has been seized by the Gods or spirits (or both), sometimes without their consent, and is irrevocably changed on an energetic level by them in order to do work that would fry the circuits of anyone unaltered. This is usually accomplished through a “shamanic death”, a long illness (sometimes of many years) that can be physical or mental but is incurable by modern medicine and eventually brings the person very close to actual death.” Ok, perhaps at least under this definition I am way out of my league. I have had no such experience, at least in my mind. Don’t get me wrong, I have some experience, but none I would qualify as this. So, spirit worker? Yeah. Shamanic practitioner, maybe. Shaman, nope. Not under this definition anyways. Though I do concede being seized by spirits, ancestors and gods. Perhaps just not “rewired.” At least, not yet.

There has been much written about shamanism in the anthropological literature, and it would be impossible to recap it all here. However, I would like to touch a bit on some other definitions. The following will come from the book “Studies in Lapp Shamanism” by Louise Backman and Ake Hultkrantz. (Specials characters have been removed from both names.) Let it be said that I will avoid the use of the word “Lapp” wherever possible, as it is an insulting and outdated word for the Saami people of north Scandinavia and surrounding areas.

The authors openly question in the open chapter of the book if “shaman”, like “animism” or “totemism” are useful concepts at all. In their own words; “However, phenomena like totemism, animism, fetishism, and shamanism are today highly debated as facts – do they occur at all? – and as concepts.”

The authors go on to explain that shamanism, as a concept does not point to one particular thing, but more of a range of interconnected parts that make up the concept of the “shaman”. An ideological complex. In their own words; “Thus there are four important constituents of shamanism: the ideological premise, or the supernatural world and the contacts with it; the shaman as actor on behalf of a human group; the inspiration granted him by his (or her) helping spirits, and the extraordinary, ecstatic experiences of the shaman.”

They further detail these “constituent” parts by detailing the shaman’s tasks. These are all supplementing with extra details which I have omitted.
1) The shaman is the doctor/healer…
2) The shaman is the diviner…
3) The shaman is the psychopomp, who escorts the souls of the dead to the afterlife.
4) The shaman is the hunting magician of the group.
5) The shaman is the sacrificial priest.

Given my nature, I can identify strongly with #4, as well as with #5 and #3. It would be fair to say all fit, though perhaps in an unbalanced way.

More to come in Part 2.

References:

Backman and Hultkrantz “Studies in Lapp Shamanism.”
Raven Kaldera and Galina Krasskova. “Neolithic Shamanism.”
http://www.thejaguarandtheowl.com/2013/06/


Question 9: My Path to Shamanism

You know well I am working on my own piece on this topic…

Thanks for the post!

Sarenth Odinsson's Blog

I have received another question, this one from Valiel Elantári:

I wonder if you would be open to publicly explain your path : how do you define “shaman” ? how did “it” “happen” to you ? How did you realise you were one, when did you decided to use the word?

I define shaman as an intercessor between humanity and the Worlds of the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits.  Given that the Northern Tradition has no appropriate word, the word shaman is the best I have that quickly, and as accurately as possible, sums up what I do.  Shamanism is not a religion; it is something that is done and lived.  It is not picked up for a weekend, it is a calling that one is bound to for the course of one’s life.  I did not come to using the word lightly, and fought against using it for a…

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Let’s Talk About “the Eddas”

Great!