Monthly Archives: May 2015

Hamr – The Northern Spirit Part 4

For this post I wanted to explore the concept of the northern spirit in more depth. This time around, I will be exploring the concept of the hamr. According to Raven Kaldera, the hamr or hame, is; “Your astral body. Not your aura; the part of you that lies within your physical body and is (sometimes) twin to it. Some people’s hames are less like their physical bodies than you might think…”

We will come back to the second part later, because we need to explore the basic idea in more detail before moving into the specifics. According to Stromback; “But we also have other good and ancient words in Swedish dialects for the same fylgja or vård, names that have an obvious connection with the Old Norse terminology, namely hamn or hamm (in the provinces of Norrbotten and Dalarna, where they are genuine), and droug or dräug in the province of Jämtland, also genuine. In form and sense these words correspond to Old Norse draugr and hamr, although draugr in Old Norse has a more special sense of ‘ghost’, ‘spirit’ (of a dead person), or ‘animated corpse’.”

There is a lot to unpack in this short quote. The amount of overlap between various concepts is immense, and that overlap will be an ongoing theme in this series of posts. Fylgja and vord will be covered in later posts, and we will likely return to to this in future posts. Last time I wrote about the hugr, which is the closest thing we have in the northern spirit to the “I” spirit, or personal soul.

By contrast, the hamr is the second self, a kind of free soul that can leave the body, either in sleep, dreaming, or sent from the body is some form of magic flight. As Stromback points out; “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.”

In addition, he adds; “We have already heard that according to folk-belief in Setesdal the hug from a person could be so strong that it came with ham, that is to say with something that was more or less materialized and reflected the owner of the hug, a kind of harbinger or companion but in shape only vaguely specified”

Hamr also overlaps heavily with the idea of the fylgja and vordr, and actually could be sometimes conceived as an independent entity, either partially dependent or fully independent being in its own right. To strengthen the connection, Stromback has this to say in regards to the vordr; “”The vård (literally: the guardian) is a being attached to the individual, a spirit who accompanies a person wherever he goes, and sometimes reveals itself either as a glimmer or in the form of the person as a second self (hamn)…”

The implication here is that even the vordr could sometimes take the form of the hamm (hamr), the second self. The second self is the real core of the hamr, a kind of double, that may or may not resemble your physical self. Also, this leads into the idea of shapeshifting, as Kaldera points out; “The hame is the part of your soul that can be shapeshifted into another form, with work and training.”

So, we have explored the idea of the hamr as a second self, and the “astral” part of the self that can be shapeshifted. As such, let’s explore some of the folklore associated with some of the ideas raised here.

First off, the dream soul. The Kvideland book has this to say; “It leaves the body, usually takes the shape of a small animal, and explores the world. Its experiences are then remembered by the sleeper as a dream.”

This is the experience of working with the hamr, but in addition to dreams, the hamr can be sent out as a magical/shamanic skill. Also, it is the part that can be shapeshifted, and this is illustrated perfectly by topic “The Finn Messenger” category in the Kvideland book;  “The folk tradition about the Finn (Sami) who sends his hug on a journey while his body lays in trance has its origins in Lappish (Sami) shamanism.”

As such, I will relay the story of the Skipper and the Finn. This is my own retelling, and not a direct quote from the book.

A skipper sailed to Norway, and there was trapped by the winter and forced to lodge with some other people in Finnmark. While in Finnmark, his host asked the Skipper if he would like to know how his family was doing. “Of course!” The Skipper said. After all, it was Christmas Eve and he had been away from home for several months. The host called forth a Finn, a man native to the area. The Skipper offered a pint of brandy in exchange, and so the Finn drank half the pint and then lay down on the floor. The Finn’s wife covered him with a quilt, and he lay there shaking for about half an hour. When he awoke, the Finn told the Skipper what his family was having for Christmas Eve dinner, and handed the Skipper a knife and a fork, which he recognized as his own cutlery.

Also, since shapeshifting is part of the hamr, here I also present a story about shapeshifting. This is also based on the folklore in the Kvideland book.

There once was Finn that was good friends with a farmer. One day, the Finn showed the farmer his wolfskin. The Finn pulled on one of the sleeves to show the farmer how it worked. The farmer wanted to see more, but the Finn refused.

“If I put on the whole of the skin, I will become a wolf, not only in body, but also deep in my hug. Then I would not be able to control myself.” The Finn said.

That is where I will leave this post, though there is a lot more to say on these topics. Sadly, that will have to wait until next time.

Sources/References:

Kvideland, Reimund & Sehmsdor, Henning. Editors. Scandinavian Folk Belief and Legend. Pgs 41 – 64

Kaldera, Raven http://www.northernshamanism.org/shamanic-techniques/shamanic-healing/soul-map.html

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

Finnish Folklore Atlas, by Matti Sarmela

 

 


Hugr – Northern Spirit Part 3

As part of a deeper exploration, I will be looking at the pieces of the Nordic spirit in more detail, as I only provided a brief survey here, and here. Really what I want to do here is expand on these earlier posts.

As such, a refresher is in order. Here is a brief introduction from Kvideland & Sehmsdor’s book, which introduces to the concept of the hugr.

“ In Scandinavian folk tradition the human soul is usually referred to as hug(r)…. it refers to the mental life of the individual – to personality, thoughts, feelings and desires. There are various and complex conceptions of the hugr imbuing the greater part of Scandinavian tradition…. It was believed that the hug could affect both animate and inanimate objects – including other people – either consciously or unconsciously. The deliberate manipulation of the hugr is the basis of all magic. The hug can manifest itself invisibly or can take on a shape (hamr). In some instances the shape assumed by the hug has developed into an independent supranormal being, as exemplified by the many traditions about the nightmare (mare).
Other important projects of the hugr include the vordr, which is a kind of presence accompanying the individual; the dream-soul, which leaves the body during sleep; the vardöger or fyreferd, a visual or auditory experience presaging a person’s approach; and the free-soul, which is the soul sent from the body in magic flight.” (Kvideland, pg 45.)

As I talked about in Part 1 of this series, the hugr is the closest thing we have to a personal, “self” spirit. Here, I quote from FFA Part 8, from Sarmela’s work.

““2. The persona soul (ghost soul) is an immortal, personal substance residing in all living things, a psyche or ’genetic memory’ into which a person’s individual spiritual experience is collected. The persona soul resides in the innermost recesses of a person, but during dreaming it may travel outside the body or leave the body when the person becomes ill and dies, and after death it may continue wandering independently in a new form.”

This, in my opinion, is the nature of the hugr. Being that it is the sum total of personality, thoughts, feelings and desires, I would say it is the most likely candidate to live on after the death of the physical body. I would also argue that this concept includes what Kaldera calls “mynd”, the memory as well “thought” proper. There must be overlap between the two categories.Besides, personality and thoughts are often based on past experience, and such experiences are certainly part of the hugr spirit.

Let us look more closely at the folklore, for the many traits of the hugr.

Section 1; The Power of Thought (Kvideland, pg 43)

“If a person sneezed, yawned, hiccuped, or felt a tickling sensation, someone was thinking about him or her. Another person’s hug had entered his or her body. It was considered irresponsible to let one’s mind wander because it could bring harm to someone else. Sickness was often explain as resulting from a hug which had entered the body of a sick person or animal.”

This section of the Kvideland book then offers several different tales and stories that fit under this heading.

For example, if your nose itches, someone is thinking about you.

Also, when your ears ring, someone is talking about you. If it is the right ear, it is something nice. If it is the left ear, it is something nasty.

As has been mentioned, manipulation of the hug is the foundation for most forms of magic in the folklore.  As other examples, the hug could be used to change someones mind, or make someone love you. Also, the power of the hug could be transferred to an object or person by sight, touch or spoken word. There are many tidbits of folklore that deal with such things, and they are often referred to the evil eye, evil hand, evil foot or evil tongue.

Envy (Norwegian ovund) and Longing (elsk ‘love’) are both powerful emotions, and powerful versions of the hugr. Envy had adverse effects on both people and animals, making them sick or otherwise ill. Envy could corrode stone, or even kill a person.  Longing could also make a person ill in body and mind.

Curiously, “knocking on wood” is one of the tidbits listed in Kvideland’s book. When you are talking about something (or someone) you love/hold dear it is good to knock softly on the underside of the table three times. Otherwise, ‘something’ may become envious, and take such things from you.

Another form of the hug is as a messenger. There are numerous tales about the hug of a person appearing to another to deliver a message. Such messages were often warnings, or sometimes even omens of death. They could appear in a lot of forms, the shape of a person, a premonition, or even in a dream. This also spills over into ideas of the vordr and the fylgja, which will be discussed in separate posts.

One of the most curious aspects of the hug is the nightmare. Contrary to popular association, the nightmare was not simply a bad dream. In Scandianvian folklore, the mare often visited at night. The mare is the visitation by another’s hug, and is often described as a kind of weight on the chest. It sometimes has sexual connotations, in the form of erotic dreams. The mare effect both humans and animals.

However, there is also lore that describes the mare not just as a nightly visitation by a wayward hug, but as an independent spirit in its own right. It would seem possible that a hug could be powerful enough to spawn a new spirit, such as the mare. This spills over into more modern ideas such as the egregors and servitor spirits.

Many of the aspects of the hug will be explored as I continue to write for this series. In coming posts, I will explore the hamr, vordr, fylgja and others as well. There is certainly a lot more to explore here, and some ideas I want to flesh out even more.

Sources/References;

Kvideland, Reimund & Sehmsdor, Henning. Editors. Scandinavian Folk Belief and Legend. Pgs 41 – 64

Kaldera, Raven http://www.northernshamanism.org/shamanic-techniques/shamanic-healing/soul-map.html

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

Finnish Folklore Atlas, by Matti Sarmela

 


Kalevala Part 3

Let’s start out with updates. Another 80,000 word manuscript has come to an end, so now I may be able to focus a little more time on the blogs. With summer upon me here in Michigan, there will be plenty of outdoor work to do as well. Either way, my time is looking a little less full.

I am also starting out on a new endeavor, one that I find very exciting! Watch this space for updates as I move forward! Heck, there may even be a new blog in the near future.

For this post, I will recount my own experiences from the Kalevala, from Rune 7. You will notice that I have skipped a few poems as far as the blog is concerned. There are fifty poems in the Kalevala, and to recount them all here would be a monumentous task. It would be like retelling and rewriting the Kalevala from my own experience of it.

At the current time such a project is beyond me. As such, my retelling will be limited to the stories of greatest interest to me. I will try to go in order the best I can, but inevitably some parts will be left out.

My experience of these stories is something like one part shamanic journeying, and one part guided meditation. They all follow the story pretty closely, but at the same time it as if I am accompanying Vainimoinen in his journeys. Sometime he is my guide, sometime I am just a bystander, and sometimes I am just like a “third person” camera.

As such, my experience of Rune 7 is as follows.

After being shot from his horse by Joukahainen, Vainimoinen falls into the sea and floats for many days. He laments his fate, and is cold and in pain.
“Why, oh, why has such a horrid fate befallen me? I should have never left my homelands! How am I to survive in this place, I cannot make a shelter of find, nor a cabin on the waves?” So the old man floats on, and is miserable, cold, and in a great amount of pain.
Then from the North, from the Sami lands, flies a great bird, that spots Vainimoinen in the water.
“Why are you in the water, old fellow? Don’t you know you will not survive long in there?” The bird asks.
Vainimoinen sees the bird, and knows it to be an eagle.
“I was shot from my horse my a wicked man, and I fell into the sea. Now I have been carried far from my home, far from my farm at Kaleva.” Vainimoinen said.
“Ah, I thought when I saw you that I knew you. You left a great birch in a clearing, a deed of which I am most grateful. If you would, climb up on my back, and I will carry you to dry land.” The eagle said. Then did Vainimoinen see the eagle as an old friend, and so climbed up on his back.

The eagle soared over the waves, and took Vainimoinen to some nearby land, and there is left by the eagle.

Vainimoinen walked over the strange land for many days, and wailed and wept. For he was in a strange land, and bruised with many cuts and lashes, and his beard was all disheveled.

So it was that a fine maid from Pohjola heard the cries and laments as she was doing her chores, and so she ran to find Louhi, the mistress of Pohjola. She went with the girl to hear the lamenting, and knew that such wailing did not belong to a woman or a child.
“Thus is the wailing of an old man.” Louhi said.

So Louhi went in a boat to the old man, and asked of him why he was lamenting?

He told her of his story, and of his trials, and how he desired only to get back home. So Louhi took Vainimoinen into her home, and feed him, dried him and gave him a bed to rest. When he was better, he desired even more to go back to his farm in Kalevala.

Louhi asked the old man what he would give in exchange if she helped in get home. Vainimoinen offered her a tall hat filled with gold and silver.

“I have no desire for coins of gold, nor of silver. What I desire is a Sampo, a lid of many colors. If you were to forge one for me, I would send you home, and would send my daughter with you as a wife.” Louhi said.

“I have not the skill to forge a Sampo, but such a craftsman I know. His name is Ilmarinen, and he could make you a forge of many colors. Such is his skill that he could shape the sky, and hammer out the ground, and you would never see a mark of hammer or tong.” Vainimoinen said.

So Louhi agreed to help Vainimoinen find his way home, but her daughter was pledged to one who could make a Sampo.

“She will go with the one who forges a lid of many colors, from the tip of the shaft of a swan’s feather, from the milk of a farrow cow, from a single barleycorn, from the fleece of one sheep.” Louhi said.

Then she helped Vainimoinen hook up a sleigh, and told him how to find his way back to Kalevala. He sped on to tell Ilmarinen of Louhi’s daughter.


Updates 5/7/15

Hey there everyone! I must apologize to you all, as I have not been able to keep up with this blog lately. There are some really great posts on the horizon, but I have not had the time to write them up recently. Life has gotten a little chaotic, and frankly blog posts are low on the priority list.

The last couple of weeks have been hell on wheels. My wife’s car broke down, one of my credit cards came under fraud alert,mom’s birthday, and then at the end of it all, I got let go from my job. I found a new one, and it will pay the bills in the short term, but it has still been a lot to deal with.

Also, I have been wicked busy. I have am finishing up writing another book, and I am working towards republishing the second edition of Of Shadow and Steel. The new cover looks fantastic! I am really excited about this re-release. This book is going into the proofing stage, so it won’t be long now!

There are also blogs coming up with more environmental thoughts, and more work on the Kalevala as well.

But, with the short term panic of unemployment out of the way starting next week, I have started thinking about the future. Through unemployment, all the job hunting, and the ups and downs of it all, it really gets to you after a while. To realize that your home, your family happiness and comfort, all that is at the whim of someone else. It really got me thinking that maybe it is time to see if I can provide for my own financial well being.

I am no fool, so I am not just going to drop everything to chase a dream. But between my writing, and my crafting skills, there may be something there. I think it is time to start testing those waters, and maybe even make some extra money doing it. I am still exploring the feasibility of it all, but I think there may be something to all this. So stay tuned! There will be forthcoming updates!

So I just wanted to check in with you guys, and let you know I am not dead and have not forgotten about you.

Thanks for reading!