In Heathenry, there’s only two forms of “accepted” magical practice – Rune magic (Galdr) and trance magic (Seidr).
Trance magic sounds like it should encompass multiple types of trancing, but seidr refers to a specific type of trance that requires a staff and usually people around to protect the body of the person who trances. It’s almost always done by women, which is why practicing it causes certain Gods to be called “unmanly.”
I honestly don’t know too much about Seidr – it’s hard to find good sources on the subject. But that’s not really what I want to talk about today.
Magic is varied, and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways to practice it. And, as a Heathen, there are hundreds of people who will tell me that my magic isn’t Heathen in nature, that I’m stepping outside the bounds of my faith. I’m not just saying that – I’ve had it happen.
According to some Heathens, elemental magic has no place within this faith. Yet I can feel the power in the earth, in the wind, in water, and in fire, and those powers are all different from each other – yet all interconnected. Perhaps it’s because I came to Heathenry 10 years after I came to Paganism – I had ten years to develop my magic without worrying about whether or not I “fit” within any group. After all, during the first ten years I was Pagan, I was eclectic.
I could lie and say that it doesn’t bother me that other people in my faith will never accept the way I practice as valid – I have been told by many people over the years that I’m not allowed to call myself Asatru or Heathen, but that I have to use the label of Norse Pagan. But you know what?
The people who have said those things to me aren’t part of my kindred – to find the right kindred for me, I would have to create it. There’s a reason Odin is the patron God of both outcasts and rulers. It is possible to have the disposition for both.
I learned a long time ago, in my mundane life, that if I wanted to fit into a group, I had to create the group myself. I end up leading organizations because it’s the only niche where I fit. Every time I try to follow someone else’s lead, just my presence leads to friction and problems. Yet none of that friction occurs when I take charge.
It’s a weird contradiction in my nature. A contradiction, by the way, which is literally written in the stars. My birth chart shows the conflict clearly, and it’s a difficult way to live. Because to get close to people, I have to take charge of situations. And I don’t always want to. Most of the time, I feel like it would be better for someone else to lead, for someone else to take the reigns, and I try my best to do what everyone else seems to do so naturally – I suck at ducking my head and not making waves.
So, of course, that spills over into my faith. I don’t need to take charge in a faith where the path is individually determined. But because of the conflict within my person, I can’t belong to a kindred. At least, not if I don’t create one. I’m not confident enough about my path to create my own kindred – it somehow feels like too big of a dream, too big of a goal, and it makes me feel like I’m being arrogant to even want to try.
A large part of that, however, is that so many Heathens over the years have ridiculed the way I walk my own path. I don’t adhere to strict reconstructionist values, and I venture outside the two “acceptable” forms of magic on a consistent basis.
I use multiple divination tools – the runes, astrology, numerology, and I’ve even messed around a little with the I Ching (which I haven’t learned, but seems pretty coool).
I’m a natural born empath, which is really the same thing as a shaman, but I’m not supposed to use that label either. Ironic, isn’t it, how the labels we would apply to ourselves are the labels others insist we can’t use?
The reason I work with Freyja when it comes to magic is because the strength of my empathic gift is one only She can help me with. I have days when a single word in a commercial can trigger an overwhelming response – is it really any wonder I hate watching the news?
I don’t talk a lot about my emotions here or anywhere else because they run too deep. That’s the price I pay for the gift I was born with. That’s why I cultivate as much patience as I can. I can get irritated over stupid things just like anyone else, but I can count on one hand the few times I’ve allowed myself to get truly angry. Imagine having to control your emotions that tightly – 28 years, and less than five times of true anger. And that anger,when roused, is always in defense of another. The first time was in defense of my sister, and the others in defense of friends.
I also don’t talk much about my empathy because (really, is there anything I do the “right” way?”) is different than how other empaths experience the gift. Yes, I can get emotional. But a lot of empaths, especially those who are natural born and don’t understand their gift or how to control it, end up being victims because they feel like they can’t say no to people who have a problem. Because an empath’s primary need is to help heal other people’s souls. That’s what empathy really is – soul healing.
And, personality wise, I’m aggressive. I don’t take shit from people, and I never have. I don’t shy away from hurting people’s feelings, so I am as honest as I can be, even if it hurts them, and, in turn, hurts me.
There are many disadvantages to being empathic – always being aware of other people’s emotions can be draining, especially because there are moments when another person’s awareness can bleed into mine. That’s why so many empaths typically have trouble figuring out their emotions – they don’t know how to separate their emotions from the emotions of the people around them. That’s dangerous, and it can drive a person crazy. There is no such thing as a safe gift.
Of course, there are advantages to the gift as well. I can always tell if someone’s lying to me. I can tell if someone’s anxious or angry. I can diffuse potentially violent situations by soothing emotions (which should never be done except if a life is in danger; manipulating the emotions of others is unethical). I can also see through the masks people wear. And, when I need to, I can read people down to their souls.
When that happens, it’s either a request or a compulsion. I don’t try to do soul readings on everyone I meet – they are exhausting. But sometimes they happen because their soul hits mine and needs the reading – even if the conscious mind doesn’t realize it yet. I’ve freaked people out with that – no one likes having the deepest part of themselves exposed. And when I see someone’s soul, what I see is the original wound – the first fracture that occurred due to an intense emotional trauma of some sort. Not everyone has these wounds, but many people do. Far more people have an original soul wound than those who don’t.
Ironically, with as steeped as I am in magic, I distrust a great deal of other practitioners. Not because I don’t believe in magic – I obviously wouldn’t practice it if I didn’t believe in it. No, the reason I distrust a lot of other practitioners is because so few of them are as strong as they think they are. Even with things as simple as divination.
I’ll use divination as an example, as it is probably the most accessible form of magic that there is. Everyone, to some degree, can perform some type of divination. I’ve had multiple people do readings for me, and I’ve opened myself up completely to those readings (I always start with the assumption that the practitioner is skilled in their art). In the myriad readings I’ve had done for me, only two have ever been accurate.
I feel, sometimes, that magic is a lonely art. But it isn’t always. I’ve only had a couple occasions to practice magic in group settings. The first time was disappointing, but the second time was amazing, and it was fairly recent. Perhaps it was because I took charge of it, but the synergy between me and the two people I was working with was insane, and neither of them had a background similar to mine in terms of magic. Perhaps it was because we were all so different that the energy flowed better – maybe that’s how my magic works in groups. I don’t know – like I said, I’ve only had a chance to do magic in a group twice in my life.
I guess, if I had to put it in perspective… and I’ll still use divination as the example here, as, like I said, it’s the most easily accessed type. Most people who do readings for others need time to recuperate after doing a single reading. That time varies, but it’s usually around ten to fifteen minutes. Because of my constant connection to the people around me (due to the empathic gift), I can do back-to-back readings for half a dozen people before I need to rest, and, even then, I don’t need to rest for more than a couple minutes before I can do another round of the back-to-back readings.
I have, in essence, what amounts to too much magic within me, and it terrifies me more than anything, despite knowing that there are others who would envy me for the gift. It isn’t something I would recommend envying – yes, the Gods communicate with me more frequently than others, but that also means I am more beholden to Them than others. I have to deal with not only my problems here, in this world, but also help with problems in the other worlds. There is a ton of responsibility that comes with bearing this type of gift, and it’s hard to not feel overwhelmed by it sometimes.
I sometimes try to do guided meditations, but they always go wrong. I always get tripped into world-walking, even when that’s not my intent. There was one that I did awhile ago concerning the elements. It was supposed to show you which elements you had an affinity for.
The first part of the meditation was to picture myself on beside a lake with a bonfire and to approach the bonfire and feel the warmth in an attempt to discover how well fire suited me. To be fair, I already knew my affinities before I started this meditation, but I wanted to see how things played out.
That part went fine, then I had to go into the lake and see how wide it was – that was supposed to tell me how deep my magical reserves ran, as well as how much affinity I had for water. Before I even hit the water, the shore I was on turned into a beach and the lake became an ocean. While I have an affinity for water, the fact that the lake turned into an ocean told me that my magical reserves are far greater than even I realized, and the truth of that terrified me (and honestly, still does).
Then I was supposed to go into the woods, but by this time Loki had made his appearance and was being very distracting in the way only Loki can be (which, while always fun, made it rather difficult to focus on the meditation). Which meant that as soon as I was in the woods, I was world-walking. Into a forest in Svartalfheim, which, trust me, is not a place anyone wants to go. Before I went into the woods, by the way, Loki gave me a sword to use, so that was pretty awesome. Still, the woods in Svartalfheim are terrifying. Without my magic, I wouldn’t have survived – I have absolutely no doubt in that. I can’t talk about what I was called there to do, as I swore an oath, but suffice it to say I was called there to help someone.
I suppose what I’m trying to say in this post, which seems to have wandered in multiple directions, is that magic is dangerous, and it shouldn’t be played with. Even Loki, who has an incredibly playful personality, treats magic with respect.
Yet, I see many people who think magic is little more than a game. People don’t realize how much weight every word uttered in prayer has or how much a spell wrongly spoken can cost. There are those out there who have told me that I take magic too seriously, that it’s not as dangerous as I suggest, and those words, to me, are a mark of someone who doesn’t have much power. Because those of us who do have strong magical reserves are aware of how powerful the forces are that we’re manipulating, and it’s impossible to be too careful when using magic.