On staying silent

The god Woden, after whom 'Wednesday' was name...
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This was inspired by a recent post on the Witch of Forest Grove’s blog, but since comments are closed there now I decided to post it here, as a way of explaining why most of my posts here are NOT about my spirit work, and why I’m not inclined to write in explicit detail on many of the topics that are most integral to my work and my life.

I am not a traditional witch as Sarah Lawless is, though my path does share some themes in common with hers (speaking with scary gods and spirits, traveling between worlds, and working with the dead).  I’ve tended to refer to myself as a witch as a kind of public shorthand because most people have no clue what a seidhrkona is.  I practice both oracular and operational seidhr, and while oracular seidhr was sometimes an acceptable practice in pagan and early Christian times when the community needed or desired it (as depicted in the saga of Erik the Red), operational seidhr–much like witchcraft in many other pagan cultures–has never been acceptable.  Put simply, it is soul manipulation with the aid of one’s spirits and allies, and as such its practitioners were mistrusted by their communities, however valuable they might be on occasion.  (In very much the same way as Odin—the seidhrmadr of the northern gods– is often mistrusted by the gods and humans He benefits.)

Seidhr folk as depicted in the sagas are secretive, solitary and competitive with one another; they don’t form covens or support groups, though they frequently do lay traps to get one another killed and try to steal one another’s power.  The operational side of seidhr isn’t something I practice indiscriminately or by my own whim, but is rather very strictly moderated by my gods and spirits.  But it also isn’t something I can talk about publicly in any kind of explicit way, since that would not only be irresponsible (putting dangerous tools in the hands of people most likely not ready to wield them), but it would also potentially lead to a loss of power for me and for my allies (since, as my teachers, they are responsible for everything I do, including any trouble I might get others into by sharing too much information).  Operational seidhr isn’t something I will ever teach, and honestly these days (and in those days too, very likely) I think it’s most often taught directly by the gods and spirits.

Even the oracular seidhr side of my practice can’t be discussed in great detail,  since part of it involves client confidentiality and much of what I experience is either not for others to know or wouldn’t make sense to them even if I did try to explain it.  The spirits I work with during seidhr also prefer not to be discussed at length and aren’t receptive to having others randomly seek them out or attempt to work with them without direct invitation.

I am a polytheist too, of course, and the religious aspects of my practice I am free to discuss to a large extent; the Northern gods love to be talked about!–but even here there are limits.  For example, I am allowed to talk about my relationship with Odin, but there is always a threshold that I would never cross here, since most of our interactions are private and thus no one’s business, any more than the more intimate aspects of a relationship with a human partner would be.  All of which helps to explain why so many of my blog posts are about the fiber arts, herbs, and other related topics.  This in itself is fitting, though, since the Northern people are nothing if not pragmatic.  Seidhr practitioners are described rather dryly in the sagas as people who “knew a thing or two,” and just as with everyone else in Norse society, they had to provide some tangible value to the community on a dependably regular basis, not just when they were dealing with gods and spirits. Thus, they very likely supplemented their mystical practice with paying work as seamstresses, spinnners, weavers, herbwives, and brewers.

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5 thoughts on “On staying silent”

  1. I must admit that is one of my favorite pictures of Odin 😀

    I understand the need to be silent. My main gods are Brighid and Odin, and while neither mind being talked about, my work is mostly private and things that I either don’t want to share or They would prefer me not share it.

  2. One of the things I enjoyed and initially drew me to your blog was your willingness to talk openly about what you do. I understand though about keeping one’s counsel. I use to be more up front about my path too but as I have gotten older and hopefully wiser, that isn’t so much of a need anymore. I appreciate whatever you can share here and in whatever amount. The new spinning angle is a real plus, for me anyways. It has become an important part of my creative life. Do you use it for any kind of spiritual work or in ritual? It is, like so many other repetitive crafts, meditative at the very least.

    1. Thank you for understanding! I do still try to share whatever I can, in case some of my experiences are useful to others, but some things have to be kept in reserve. Years ago, when I was still new to all of this, I did talk quite a bit more about my practices than I do now, and in some respects I came to regret that. Still there are some aspects of my path that are more potentially useful to other people–such as my experience with the runes–and I plan to discuss those types of things more in the future.

      Yes, spinning is becoming very central not only to my artistic life but my spiritual life as well! Part of that is due to a relationship with Frigga; it has helped me draw closer to Her, and it also forms a nice counterpart to seidhr and the other types of spirit work I practice. I haven’t used it in ritual per se yet at this point, though I can certainly see possibilities for that! It can also be used to gain a deeper understanding of the Norns and of Wyrd. For me, spinning IS spiritual work; my first spinning teacher (another spirit worker) explained it to me in terms of the shaft of the spindle being Yggdrasil, and the spirals of the wool as they wind around being the unfolding of Wyrd. There’s a lot to that; I’ve mentioned the link between spinning and wyrd in a previous post and I’m sure I’ll write more on the concept here in the future. You can participate in the formation of Wyrd through spinning; Frigga and the Norns do, Frau Holle does, and this is one reason why spinning is traditionally forbidden during the 12 nights of Yule. It is actually a vehicle for practicing operational seidhr too, for those who have that capacity.

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