Category Archives: Folklore

The Spirit, Networks, and Emergence Part 3

It would seem at this point that there is still more to say on the topic of networks and emergence. Let’s start first with some specific questions Sarenth asked me over at his blog here. In fact, it has gotten hard for me to keep up with, as several awesome articles have come out recently that I want to discuss. You can look for those in the coming weeks.

Let’s start with Sarenth’s questions, as he asked of me;

“So if you think you have a spirit, a life essence, a life force, what is it? What forms does it take? Where did it originate from? Does it have a finite existence? If you do not believe your spirit is at all separate from your body, does it die along with your body? In other words, how would ghosts and spirits-after-death fit, if at all, into your cosmology? How does this fit into Ancestor worship and/or veneration (i.e. if the spirit dies with the body why rever/worship the Ancestors)? “

There are so many individual questions here, so I am just going to handle them here as a block. Lacking a better concept, yes I have a spirit. It is the whole of what I am, and more than that as well. In the simple concept of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, the spirit is the “whole” in that statement. My spirit is the whole of what I am, and more.

What form does it take? Trillions and trillions of networks of matter and energy, and the greater emergence of all of these. It is more than my body and my mind, it is the great collective of my whole being. If you modeled all of the relationships within me, as well as those that are external to me, that “whole” is my spirit. It is not just my internal connections, but those beyond myself as well. It is a complex mess of networks, and that is who I am.

It originates from the growth of all my cells over the course of my lifetime, from birth onward. It originates from every thought within my mind, and every relationship I have cultivated with the world around me. It is metaphorically described as a mass of filaments in a web that happens to center on the knotwork that is my being.

 

Yes, some parts of it will die along with my body, since that is certainly part of the “whole” that is me. All things die, and the mythos is littered with dead gods, dead spirits, and destroyed spirits. Change is about the only constant we can hope for.

Which brings me to the next question. Yes, a whole lot of what I am changes or stops at the moment of my death. Death is a breaking of the networking, a collapse. A change that results in me physically separated from those I love, and this world. Yet, a change in form does not imply that all ceases. I think that some part of me will live on. I cannot say exactly or how much that is, but it does. That is were ancestor reverence comes in.

There is a great article we have been discussing lately which can be found here, that brings this point home;

The ancestors are the culminating influences of the past embedded onto the present, all their gravitational waves pushing us forward into the expanse of the universe. The ancestors are not ghosts that pop up like some spooky ethereal being, but are the past actions of our ancestors imprinted upon the informational matrix of our reality which produces an emergent agency capable of communicating with the living, forever affecting and inspiring our future…

…I call on my ancestors because I must become aware of how deeply we are affected by them, even though they have changed form. In many ways their death hasn’t stopped their meddling in our world, to the point where one must wonder if they ever really died at all. Their wisdom and stories are embedded into the fabric of our reality and this has vast implications. ”

I really can’t put it into words any better than that.

Because we have to consider a lot more of the network when talking about the spirit than just the individual. There are bits of me in every person I know, every word I write, everything that I do. And they too in me. Those external networks are all part of the “whole”. My DNA, my ancestors, are included in that. I remember them, and they will remember me. I am part of them, and they are part of me. The network includes them. Networks break, but that does not mean they are gone forever. Moving on.

Do you believe that the spirit is one piece, or that it is a whole collection of different ‘spirits’ in one body? I’m intensely interested in your cosmology, especially because if spirit is bound to body, then if something does not have a body, then, does it not have a spirit?”

In light of my last response, I am not even sure these questions are framed correctly, but I will try my best to answer. At the current time, at this particular point in time, my spirit is best described as a complex. It is a culture of trillions in communal networks, and that network is something more than any of them. My physical self is part of that, but so is my intangible self. The self of my thoughts, my actions, and the stories I have built with others. Me as a physical being AND me as a “relational” being. Some of the spirit is bound to the body, but it is much more than that.

Take the words on this page as an example. These are little bits of my spirit. Given the nature of the internet, they may well live on past my body. This is the part of my spirit that is relational, intangible. It’s just as much part of me as my body.

I will interject this line, also from the article on Interanimism;

Spirits are the liminal agencies of the rocks, the trees, the rivers and all the other functionaries of the more than human world. They are not themselves astral or ethereal, but are physically present in the waking dream of the land. They are nature’s diffractive agencies, emerging out of the entangled relationships of various enlivened constructs.“

As I articulated above, I do not think it is accurate to speak of the spirit as a single piece, but more as a fuzzy mess of a network. It is me, my mind my body, but it is beyond that as well, into my relationships into everything else. It is a liminal thing, as the quote above points out. It is the agency of my networked person. Embodiment is not a requirement in any way, as I think both the quote above and the concerning ancestors above.

With the hope that that is clear, I will move onto the next question.

If animism is concerned with life living in relationship with each other does that preclude the numinous, or less body-bound realms of things? How does animism unfold as a, or part of, a religious point of view for you? What does animism of a worldview include, for you? What does it not include?”

Here, I am going to include a link to my recent piece over at Pagan Bloggers. In the most general of ways, I do not think there is a single thing that is not included, if you follow the network out far enough. As I phrased it in that piece;

“It’s like if you grabbed a hold of a single thread in the Cosmic Web, and pulled hard enough, you’d find yourself tugging on every single thing in existence. “

In the grand scheme of things, everything is connected. Everything is included in that worldview, but I myself as “self”, being a small network in a much, much larger one, have real limits. There is only so much energy in my finite existence that I can devote to relationships, to the part I play in “it all.”

This does not mean my person does not have boundaries, but that these boundaries can be fuzzy, and not necessarily confined to just my physical person. Liminality is a great word for that kind of thing.

Seeing as I have have already covered spirits and ancestors, there is room too in my animism for gods, for communities, for collectives and beings of all sorts. Another selection here from the Interanimism article;

Gods are not separate disembodied ideals, but are instead the emergent agencies from the vast networks of ancient entanglements within which we are embedded. Gods arise not as archetypes, but as the long lived intellects of ecosystems and bioregions. As a bioregion, or any massive networked system for that matter, begins to experience multi emergent synergistic qualities that are unique to its paradigm, the agency of that system becomes more capable of awareness and attention. It develops its own paradigmatic memory and it seeks its own teleodynamic harmony. “

Gods can emerge out of community interactions, collective ancestries, cities, groups, ecosystems, bioregions, you name it. As emergent agencies, emergent intelligence even, this kind of worldview is not in any way tied to embodiment. Things can “become” in the physical realm, as much in the liminal realm. In such a worldview, it’s not even clear where the “physical” ends, and the “metaphysical” begins. Synergy is a great word for it all, the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

It too allows for a sense of the “higher”, that I am connected to that are “greater” than myself. It connects me to greater society, the planet, and the Cosmos out beyond that. It means I also play a part in any kind of “greater” emergence that is greater than myself. In such a system, I would be but a single component in a much greater cosmos. I wonder with all my relations, how many “gods” I am a part of?

Perhaps that is best left as a rhetorical question for the time being.

As always, thanks for reading!

 

Sources/References;

https://wovensong.com/2017/05/23/interanimism-on-the-mutual-inspiration-of-a-dreaming-earth/

http://paganbloggers.com/wolftracks/2017/05/23/relationships-and-cosmology/

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Klaus

First, I want to say hello to all the new readers that follow this blog. Hello, and thanks for reading! I have surpassed 900 followers recently, and that makes me very happy. Welcome aboard!

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Volume 1 Artwork (The artwork is amazing!)

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The cover of the volume I picked up.

I have written a fair deal on this blog about storytelling. It should not come as a surprise to anyone that I am fascinated by the process as well as the actual art of it. I mean, I am a fiction writer after all. It seems like a prerequisite to be a writer that first; you must be a voracious consumer of stories in whatever form. Whether novels, comics, movies, and/or games, you have to go through a lot of stories.

At a certain point, at least if you are anything like me, you have a whole set of ideas floating around in your head just waiting to to be stitched together. Your own stories start to percolate and mature, and the writing begins.

But this post isn’t about writing, but about one particular story. Every so often a story comes along that just really kicks you in both the heart and the head. Something you identify with strongly, and that relates so strongly to the world you live it that it leaves you reeling. This is a post about one such story, which happens to be in graphic novel form.

However, I want to say a few things before I get to that; because hopefully it will explain a little of why this story hit me so hard. It is also no secret that I am still in processing mode with the recent election and other events in the world; such as Standing Rock. There has been a lot of questioning for me in the recent days.

I was a strong Sanders supporter. Even though I am young, I have never had a candidate speak to my values and ideals as closely as he did. I remember thinking to myself, that was the kind of revolution I can get behind. One that shakes up both our culture and our society, one that refocuses all these things in the direction of social democracy. I could support something like that.

Yet, I have to face facts. That is not the way things went with this election. If I may be a little biased for a second, I think we elected a straight up tyrant. Several people have called him a fascist. I say if the boot fits…

I have also said that if his campaign is any indicator, a lot of people are going to be in harm’s way. Hell, at least one person I highly respect has already been attacked in Trump’s name.

All of this has left me with more questions than answers. Questions about the Democrats, questions about the media, questions about America in general.

Which brings to mind all the stories that have really inspired me. Stories like Star Wars, in which rebels fight against an evil ruler and Empire.

Which brings me to the story I wanted to talk about today. It is a graphic novel called Klaus, by Grant Morrison and Dan Mora. At the basic level, this is a reinvented and retelling of Santa Claus, but done in a beautiful and imaginative way that is filled with shamanism and Viking-ness.

It is the story of Klaus, who is a man of the wild, a hunter. He comes into a town to sell his furs, and comes to realize the Baron of the town is an evil man. Klaus is assaulted outside a tavern, basically for being an outsider. He also sees the town guards assault a small child, and he learns that Baron has taken all the toys and joy generally out of the town.

So Klaus is sent from the village, bleeding and battered. The guards make a sport of it, and chase after him. He is shot with at least one arrow, and left for dead. The guards corner him and come in for the kill. That is when we first meet his companion, Lilli, a great white wolf, who makes short work of the guards.

Later on in the story, we learn that the Baron has made a deal with the Krampus. He oppresses the people of the village, works them day and night in a coal mine, where the Krampus is buried. You know, basic deal with the devil stuff.

Shamanism, Viking-ness, white wolves, a fight against an oppressive tyrant and an evil demon, found in a coal (fossil fuel) mine?

It is not my place to tell you the whole story, but it struck me right in the heart strings. There are enough parallels between Klaus, his wolf companion, the world as well as myself that it certainly made an impression.

I have written many times before how I have two spirit companions that are Arctic Wolves, white as the new fallen snow (Well, the male does actually have darker spots). I am also a hunter and outdoorsman myself, and work with Skaði, who also is commonly pictured with a great white wolf.

Did I ever say that naming my shop The White Wolf was no coincidence?

What is even funnier, is that my current Dnd character started (I say started because there have been both hair color and sex changes recently..) as basically the character in the book, except a little older and with white hair. A ranger/shaman hybrid with a wolf companion.

Side note: No, I do not base my Dnd characters on some idealized version of myself… Okay maybe I do. Maybe I see a lot of myself in Klaus, though he is significantly more beefcake than I will ever be. Alas.

In addition, Klaus is in fact a Germanic shortform of my name, Nicholas. Nicholas is a Greek name that means “victory of the people”. This fact is actually pointed out in the book, as Klaus continues his transition from wild man to hero of the people, and eventually Santa Claus himself.

I don’t really think I really need to harp on that point any more. But I did want to circle back to the original point of this post. The strange influence stories have on our reality, and how they teach lessons in the most unexpected ways.

I hope it is clear why this story resonated so strongly with me, and there are certainly some lessons here about the current state of the world.

In the story, one of the chief “bad guys” comes from a coal mine. I think there is some important lessons there about our use of fossil fuels, as well as the ongoing situation at Standing Rock. I think we should be resisting “the creature in the coal mine”, given how toxic fossil fuels are for our world. I think we as a society should do everything in our power to resist the Black Snake, and at the same time build a more environmentally friendly and sustainable future.

I think there are important lessons here as well when it comes to oppressive governments and tyrants. The hero in the story fights with sword and magic to be sure (because comic book hero), but also with the support of the people. In a way, he leads a people’s revolt against both a tyrannical government as well as the beast in the coal mine.

To be fair, he is Santa Claus at the end of the day.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Here is a link to this book on Amazon for reference. There are single issues, but the volume I got is seven in all.

Naturally, I would say support your local comic book store.

Apparently, this has been published this month. Per Amazon’s date, it had been out 4 days when I picked it up. 🙂

https://www.amazon.com/Klaus-Grant-Morrison/dp/1608869032


Spiritual Calendars

Let’s start off with updates. I have been really, really busy lately. I have been working my way towards the publication of my fourth book. I have all the artwork back, and soon as I finish formatting it will be ready for proofing.

I will be finishing up a commission for a friend’s wedding this week. It has really been a fun project. I wish I could talk more about it, but for now it will be considered a secret. Once it has been delivered, and if I can get permission; I will be happy to talk a little bit about it.

In addition, hunting season is only a week away. I am well into my spiritual work for this time of year, which is one of the busiest for me. This year is going to be break neck busy. Not only I am still building the shop, but have plenty of mundane as well as social commitments. Time in the woods is also required, of course. In many ways, I wish I had the luxury to just take the whole month of October off. Alas, I have bills to pay.

Okay; enough of that for the moment.

Today I want to talk about calendars. These things are pretty common in pagany circles. You’ve heard about the Wheel of the Year right? Pretty much anyone that has come into paganism at one time or another is introduced to these concepts.

So it probably wouldn’t surprise you if I said that I too have a calendar. Or more accurately, I have several different layers of calendars I integrate together. I “layer” them, for lack of better phrasing. Hopefully, you will understand as I explain this all a little bit more.

The Physical (Naturalistic)

It is a common caveat for me that you should look for the mundane explanations first before you look for spiritual ones. For example, if you fall off a cliff and land unceremoniously on your legs at the bottom. All of sudden, you find that one of your legs hurts a hell of a lot, and won’t carry you’re weight any longer.

It is unfounded to assume that the spirits are causing pain in your leg. Chances are, you have damaged or broke one of the many bones in your leg. Or ligaments, or muscles, or some other thing. Legs are pretty complex after all.,

The point being, explore the physical reasons first. Sometimes a spoon is just a spoon folks.

And sometimes its demon possessed cutlery from hell.

The same is true for calendars for me. I start with a base level of physical calendars. Just like most folks in the west, most of my days are counted on the Gregorian Calendar. You know, days, weeks, months, and all that.

For both spiritual as well as physical reasons, I also track the astronomical cycles. The phases of the moon, the rotation of the Earth, our revolution around the sun; equinoxes, solstices ect. I also live in Michigan, and we are a solid four season state; so I also get to observe the march from construction season to winter…

I mean spring, summer, fall and winter.

I also get to observe the stars, which change over the year in location and rotation across the sky. When I was younger I use to have them all memorized. I still remember both of them, but some of those skills have gotten rusty from disuse.

For those that are interested, Paths Through the Forests has a fair bit of good writings.

Agricultural

585px-wheel_of_the_year-svg

(From Wikipedia)

This layer is often referred to as the Wheel of the Year. At it’s core, it is mostly an agricultural calendar. Our entire civilization is sustained by an agricultural sustenance base. The Wheel of the Year corresponds to this rather nicely.

I grew up in farming country, and spent my share of time helping out on farms. I understand that winter is typically the fallow time (unless we are talking about Winter Wheat, or livestock). Most of the fields have been harvested and lie dormant.

With spring, comes an assortment of “sowing” holidays. From Imbolc through Beltaine, you get a host of associations with plowing, planting, fertility, and all the generalities that are associated with farming. Ostara falls on the Vernal Equinox, and Midsummer at the midsummer solstice.

These are followed, after Midsummer, by many of the “harvest” holidays. Lughnasadh – Samhain, with Samhain being the pinnacle of “harvest” festivals. Mabon falls on the Autumnal Equinox. * Samhain also is a big time for ancestor veneration and remembrance.

In Finnish folklore, the first of the harvest belonged to the ancestors.

There are also additional/alternate dates for Germanic/Heathen pagans. I tend to pull from this one too.

1024px-heathen_holidays

(From Wikipedia)

There is plenty of good information out there in internet-land.

Hunter’s Year

This part is another layer added onto the above calendars. Even as a hunter, I still exist in the real world, and an agricultural society. So instead of being an “alternate” calendar, it is just one more layer of interwoven meaning into my life.

In many ways, this calendar is still kind of a work in progress. That being said, it has still developed to the point where I am comfortable sharing it. It is based in a lot of my research into hunter-gatherers, as well as my understanding of the year, as well as the legal structure of hunting activities here in Michigan.

While it is not exact, and allows for plenty of nuance, it gives a rough framework in which I work.

For example, under naturalistic and modern pagan cycles, From Vernal to Autumnal equinox is called the “light half” of the year. From Autumnal to Vernal equinox is the “dark half” of the year.

As such, I have taken to calling the dark half of the year; Season of the Wolf. The light half of the year is called the Season of the Bear.

The Season of the Wolf has not real set start or end date, but really covers most of fall and winter. It is the time of the hunt, and of winter. It coincides with deer hunting season (and several species of small game) here in Michigan. Bow season starts October first, and runs through the start of the new year, with firearm season in November.

The Season of the Bear starts in the spring, and starts the season of foraging and fishing.** It corresponds roughly to the light half of the year.

You might be wondering why I choose to name these seasons after Big Name predators. Well, part of is my associations with the wolf. I’ve not kept it a secret or anything. Wolf HAD to be in there.

However, I actually have sort-of logic attached to it. Some of the hunter-gatherer I have researched have strong associations to both the bear as well as the reindeer. The reasoning being that bears hibernate in the winter, and so that is when the Season of the Bear ends. When they wake up in the spring, the Season of the Bear begins. Reindeer too, have seasonal migrations in both the spring and winter when they move between their feeding grounds. Reindeer have a love of certain temperature ranges, and they migrate to stay in that range. They move north in summer, and come back south in winter.

I have talked a little bit about these things here.

Now, like I said this is really a general outline of a work in progress. Obviously bears don’t go into hibernation exactly on the autumnal equinox, any more than reindeer migrate and exactly that time. That is part of the reason I called them “seasons”, as they would roughly correspond to different halves of the year. It only gives maybe 6 months of flex or so…

In addition, hunting and fishing seasons are defined as much legally as socially. Any hunting/fishing season can be changed. These also can vary from state to state. In general though, spring/summer is a great time for fishing and foraging, and fall/winter is when numerous species (including deer) are up for hunting.

A work in progress at the end of the day.

Thanks for reading!

 

Notes;

*In the northern hemisphere. All dates are on the opposite side of the year in the southern hemisphere.

 

Sources/References;

Paths Through the Forests

Wikipedia (Wheel of the Year)

Bears and the Ancient North


Kalevala Part 4

First off, I want to say thank you to all my readers.

This blog has passed over the 800 email followers mark. Now, I don’t know if that means over 800 people get an email when I post, or if that counter is somehow consecutive, or even faulty. However, it is one of the few measures I have with which to judge my readership. And, to me at least, 800 is a big deal.

So, thank you all so very much!

For this post I will be telling my experience of Rune 9, or the 9th poem in the Kalevala. As I mentioned in my last post, I will be skipping certain poems, partially based on interests, but also partially based on what the spirits feel I should study.

To recap, Vainamoinen has left Pojhola and set off back home. On the way, he meets a woman from Pojhola and tries to win her hand. She finally promises to wed him, if he can build her a boat and get it into the water without touching it in any way. While he tries to do so, his ax slips and hits his knee, which then begins to bleed profusely, and so Vainamoinen has to seek healing.

That is where Rune 9, picks up, and here is my experience of it.

So Vainamoinen took to his sled, and traveled to the cabin of a healer. His knee was gushing blood, as he entered the old man’s house. The old man cried out, and jugs were brought forth, to catch the blood that Vainamoinen has bled.

“Oh! So much blood have you left on my floor!” The old healer cried.
“Alas, that such a wound was made with iron, and I know not the charms to heal such a wound as this.” The healer said.
“I know some charms, and I can tell you of the origins of iron, or the beginning of steel.” Vainamoinen said.

So, Vainamoinen told of the beginnings of iron, since it was iron that caused his wound.

“ Air is the first of its mothers, Water the Oldest Brother.
Iron is the younger brother, and Fire the Middle

Ukko, great god, separated the air from the water, and the land from both.
Three Maidens were brought forth, three spirits of nature.
They traveled the land, and their breasts were full of milk.

So, to find relief from the ache, they milked out their breasts onto the land.
The oldest of them let out black milk, and where it hit the land bar iron came into being.
The middle one milked out white milk, from which steel is made.
The youngest let out red milk, and from this came iron ore.

After some time, Iron wanted to meet its older brother, and so it sought out fire.
But their meeting was not kind, and Iron was badly burned.
Iron ran, went into hiding, deep in the fen, deep below the ground.
It hide from its brother, went into hiding from fire.

For many long ages, iron was not found.
Until a wolf came running through the fen, and a bear too.
The wolf’s tracks uncovered iron, and the bear’s tracks did too.
In the wolf’s claws, and the bear’s paws, was iron revealed.

One day came Ilmarinen, the great smith, and he looked for a place to set his forge.
He walked through the fens, and found the tracks of wolf and bear.
Ilmarinen saw Iron, and saw it was in hiding, and miserable.

“Why iron, are you in such a terrible state? Lowly is your situation, for one so grand as you.” Ilmarinen said.
“I am in hiding, for fire, my brother, has burned me!” Iron said.
“That is because Fire does not know you, does not realize you are his kin. Come, and I will put you into the forge, and you can make a proper aquitance with Fire.” Ilmarinen said.

Yet, iron was afraid of the fire, and cried out before being put in the forge. Ilmarinen soothed it.
“When Fire has met you proper, it will lift you up and make you beautiful. Your form will be of fine tools, swords and fine jewelry.” Ilmarinen said.

So, Ilmarinen put Iron into the forge, and it became hot.
Iron cried out; “Take me away from this agony!”
“If I do, you will grow terrible. You will rise up against your kin, and be cruel to your brothers and mothers.” Ilmarinen said.

Then Iron swore a solemn oath, by the forge, the anvil, the tongs and the hammer.
“There is wood for me to bite, the heart of stone for me to cut, so that I will not have to harm my kin. It is far nicer for me to exist as an ally, as a tool, then to harm my own kin.”

The Ilmarinen pulled Iron from the Fire, and Iron was shaped into swords, shovels, and many fine tools.”

Vainamoinen had finished his story, and so the Old Healer understood the nature of Iron. Thus, he set about stopping the blood, and mending the wound caused by the abuses of Iron, so that Vainamoinen could go on his way.
I really enjoyed this story, and it is chock full of lore, knowledge, and charms. In this story alone, not all of which was covered here, is the origin of iron, charms for staunching blood, charms against the abuses of iron, bandage charms, healing charms, and even a protective charm at the end.

In truth, there is so much to this story that would need another post to unpack. I will hopefully be writing such a post in the near future, but for now I leave this here.

Thanks for reading!


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.