It has been raining all day, but as the sky darkens in late afternoon the winds pick up and begin to howl. It will be a Wild Hunt night, a powerful night for seidhr. As dusk approaches, I put aside the tasks I have been occupied with–carding wool, making fudge–and begin my preparations. I put the tea kettle on and measure a teaspoon of mugwort and a teaspoon of rose petals into a mug. Mugwort was one of the first plant allies to reach out to me, and among the plants most closely associated with Odin as well. Among the nine sacred herbs of the Anglo-Saxons, it is called “una”–the first, the oldest–and the Mother of Herbs, in the Nine Herbs Charm, which dates from the 10th century. Over the years I have forged a relationship with mugwort so that although it is low in any psychoactive components, it sends me into a prophetic trance more swiftly and surely than any other plant. Often just the smoke is enough, but for seidhr it is my custom to make a tea, and to blend it with rose petals and honey for sweetness.
As the tea steeps, I set up the high seat (which cannot be out all of the time anymore, as we live in too small an apartment for it to have a permanent location) with an altar beside it, in the bedroom. On the altar goes a little cauldron to hold the mugwort smudge wand when not in use, a candle, and a bowl to represent the Well of Wyrd. The bowl contains water and a handblown glass eye pendant, to represent Odin’s sacrificed eye. The high seat itself is a barstool-type chair with a back, and it is used instead of the “seidhrhjallr” (or seidhr platform) mentioned in the Saga of Eirik the Red and other sources, the purpose being to suspend the seeress beneath earth and heaven, as Odin was suspended when He sought the runes.
I take a handmade beeswax candle (one of the Odin votives I poured recently) and my cup of tea into the bathroom to bathe. Usually I draw a bath, and add a little muslin bag containing mugwort and roses to the bath water, or I pour in some of the mugwort tea. Tonight I shower instead, by candlelight after smudging myself and the room with palo santo wood smoke, the water pounding against my body and purifying it as the rain pummels the earth outside. Mingled with the sound of the torrent of rain, I hear a strange, otherworldly sound, almost a keening; it goes on and on, penetrating through to my very bones and cleansing the places the water failed to reach. It is followed by the steady, deep beating of a drum, and I know I am hearing the sounds of my partner Jolene warding the bedroom for seidhr, with runes, galdr and drumming. (She excels at this; she did not want to do it tonight because of a recent death in her family, but like a true Odin’s daughter she did it anyway, and afterwards tells me she found it very grounding.) The vibrations begin to carry me away into trance, and I leave the shower, drying off and putting on the skirt and blouse I have set aside for the ritual.
Once dressed, I add my jewelry–my amber ring, Ansuz signet ring, and the Odin prayer beads I made, grab a lancet and my drink offering of homebrewed mead, and then dab a bit of Aves Salve, by the Witch of Forest Grove, on my pulse points and my third eye. I don my veil and crown and proceed into the bedroom.
An offering is made, of blood and liquor and smoke. I invoke my gods and spirit allies, and cast a circle around myself consisting of the runes Othala, Dagaz, Isa, and Nauthiz, followed by the galdring of His name three times. When I feel sufficiently enrobed by His essence and power, I mount the high seat, my hands clutching a ring of nine skeleton keys, one for each of the nine worlds. Often, during seidhr, my fingers will spontaneously find which key is needed to reach a particular spirit, a particular god.
Jolene drums for me. Normally, I follow the beats of the drum outside, where the backyard (in this reality quite small) becomes a tunnel of green overhanging boughs that I follow up and up until I reach the forests of Asgard, where I can access the Tree. Tonight though, probably due to the Aves Salve (which I am using for this ritual for the first time), my arms turn into great black wings and I fly up through a hole in the roof, up and up until I find the tree. I then circle it upward to its apex, my wings flapping slowly, and then down, down again until I alight at the foot of the Tree in Asgard, beside the Well. Wyrd’s Well (Urdabrunnr) is not a literal Well in my visits to Asgard, but a type of pool or reservoir, fed by a freshwater stream, in which fish swim and two swans circle lazily. Behind it, the gigantic trunk of Yggdrasil towers above me, climbing into the sky. Around the perimeter of the Well, at the base of the Tree, sit three old women, shriveled and impossibly ancient, yet strong beyond belief, formidable. The two younger ones (though all three appear about the same ageless age) work away at their weaving, ignoring me for the most part. The eldest carves shapes onto a branch from the Tree, eyeing me watchfully (though not distrustfully; She knows me well by now) from time to time, but never smiling.
And of course He is there, cloaked and crowned, His whiskers tickling my eyelids as He softly kisses each one, granting me His vision.
Then I ask for the first question, and there is a swift pulling down into darkness, as if the waters of the Well had swallowed me up in their blackness. The rest of the session passes in a blur. Sometimes a god will show up to answer a question directly, overshadowing me in various depths of possession. Tonight there are many questions, and several gods make an appearance.
Hela: two drums are heard beating in tandem before She makes Her appearance–suddenly, somehow, a second drummer has joined us–and then with a single drumbeat sounding like bone against bone, I feel a cold presence enclose me as She seats Herself and begins to speak. The Queen of the Dead is an oasis of welcoming calm, of cool, self-possessed wisdom, her demeanor and speech so soothing–like a cold cloth on a feverish forehead–that it makes one want to curl up at Her feet. She speaks of the claim She has on one of my querents, a claim She is not willing to relinquish in favor of another whom the querent believes is pursuing her. When She has finished speaking and withdraws, I become aware of Odin standing behind my chair with one hand on each of my shoulders, a territorial, protective and enclosing gesture.
Freyja: a golden, effervescent presence, and a message for another querent about self-worth, knowing your own value, and setting firm limits and boundaries with other people.
Loki: jokes, sexual innuendos, and pillow talk for one of His wives, as well as pragmatic yet simultaneously racy advice for another querent. Ever the flirt (fortunately, it is the King of Fools who joins us, not the Worldbreaker, most of the time), He also manages to proposition Jolene, who is giggling and blushing even as Loki recedes from me and she reads me the next question.
Frigga: warm, motherly, yet infused with an unassailable queenly dignity, explaining why pregnancy is not a time of hormonal insanity, as many think in our modern society, but rather a time when women are extraordinarily open to the influences of the worlds beyond this one, and many people react to this erratically because it is just too much input.
And Odin’s familiar Presence: offering reassurances to one newly come to Him, and common-sense advice to several others. Mingled with this, there is some pastoral counseling from me which will be fleshed out when the answers are prepared to be sent off to the querents.
The session closes with a heartbreaking prayer, submitted to be read to Him by me, from a daughter of His who is apologizing for the blame she has assigned to Him for the losses in her life. In the middle of the prayer I begin to choke up, as she names me as someone whose prophecy and wisdom has changed the direction of her life. Tears fill my eyes as I read her words to my Husband, as I have not always been innocent myself, over the years, of the habit of blaming Him for all of the hardship in my life, some of which was undoubtedly His doing, but all of it necessary, all of it part of His ultimate plan for me. I have since made a mindful effort to curb this habit, and have managed to instead put my focus firmly back where it should always be, on the joy my Marriage brings me, but the words still hit a little too close to home.
I bring the session to a close, thanking the gods and spirits, and asking Them to bless all of my querents and to bring them what they seek.
Two and a half hours have somehow passed since I mounted the high seat.
My Husband greets me afterwards with a pointed look, a raised eyebrow, and a pensive, ironic “Hmmm.” Though I try to deny it, I immediately take His meaning: “You know your shit; you should stop lying to yourself that you don’t. You are fucking good at this, and it’s time you acknowledged that.” My practice is seven years old, and for the first time I feel competent and assured that I have a good handle on this, that I am perhaps really a seidhrkona. About a month ago, I had seriously considered going on haitus from seidhr to have more time to pursue other things (operational seidhr, devotion, and my queenship path). Only a week ago did I realize that could not in good conscience do this; there are too many people who have helped by what I do. This is a major part of my intercessory Work; it is an integral part of my path, not a distraction from it; it keeps me grounded, connected to humanity (in perhaps one of the only ways I truly feel connected, these days). Tonight’s session has confirmed all of these things.
And outside, the wind howls, the rain blows sideways, and the Hunt rages.