The Norse Shaman: A Review

A review by Frank Malone

It is remarkable what Evelyn C. Rysdyk has accomplished in her new book, The Norse Shaman: Ancient Spiritual Practices of the Northern Tradition. The rise of the shamanic renaissance is such that I stumbled across this volume at a Barnes & Noble (a Borders-like bookshop in the States). An immediate delight in reading Rysdyk’s treatise on seiðr (Norse shamanic journeying) is that it is unusually scholarly for the “spirituality/shamanism” genre. It integrates shamanism, archaeology, and anthropology with a feminist and ecopsychological lens.

Rysdyk herself is an American professional illustrator whose maternal grandparents immigrated from Norway. She originally trained with Dr Michael Harner and Sandra Ingerman in the core shamanism model. Subsequently, she trained with indigenous shamanic teachers from the Siberian, Himalayan, and South American regions. A founding member of the Society for Shamanic Practice, Rysdyk maintains a practice in shamanism in Maine.
It must be noted that this book assumes the reader has been formally trained in shamanic journeying. That said, the first chapter, “Visionaries in Our Family Tree” contains (before the concluding exercise section) the finest introduction to shamanic spirituality I have ever read. It is a masterpiece of clarity and concision.

My gateway into Norse mythology was through my appreciation of Richard Wagner’s cycle of operas, Der Ring des Niebelungen. This led me to the original Nordic and Germanic sources to determine how Wagner had modified them to achieve his unified vision. Rysdyk gives an excellent overview of how the Norse and shamanic worldviews meshed, and summarizes what you need to know about Norse mythology. My subsequent entry into shamanism was through working and training with core shamanic practitioners. Part of my interest in this book stemmed from learning (to my surprise) from a shamanic practitioner that I have Scandinavian ancestry, later confirmed by DNA testing.

Further, as a psychoanalyst who is also trained in ecotherapy, I appreciated the addition of ecopsychology to her discourse. Originating in the 1990’s, it is the latest paradigm shift in psychology. My clinical profession has evolved over the decades from focusing on only the individual. It then moved to considering interaction with the family system, then with the culture, and now with the ecosystem. By introducing current ecological crises into her discussion, she gives contemporary and global relevance of these northern shamanic traditions, beyond personal spirituality work.
I especially enjoyed that the book is written from a feminist perspective. This framework allows Rysdyk to bring in anthropology to bear on issues that confound literary scholars concerning the Eddas. As an example, Rysdyk is able to bring understanding to the differential between the gods of Vanaheim (Old Europe matriarchal traditions) and Æsgard (Asian patriarchal traditions). One would never get this from purely literary treatments of this mythological material. Certainly in the recent English translation notes of the Eddas there is no comparable depth of insight.

Rysdyk masterfully displays for us what is known about Scandinavian shamanic practice, and how it can be used today. Chapters conclude with step-by-step exercises to help the reader experientially apprehend the discussions. Also helpful are pronunciation charts for the Old Norse letters and words. There is even an appendix on how to make your own seiðr hood to wear when journeying. In short, this book is a satisfying smörgåsbord of delights.

find out more about The Norse Shaman here – http://www.evelynrysdyk.com/bookstore.html

New Pagan Fiction and Poetry

I’ve had such a lot of recommendations for new Pagan books this month that I’m going to have to do two posts! It doesn’t seem so very long ago that ‘new pagan book’ was a rare occurrence to get excited about. We’ve grown as a community in so many ways.

So, here’s the new Pagan fiction and poetry….

Forest Rain

Poetry and prose by Michael Forester

This collection of Spiritual Learnings in prose and poetry form a unique meditation that will support you in exploring your own journey, and the life events, both great and small, that will offer themselves to you as you travel forward.

More here – http://michaelforester.co.uk/books/forest-rain

 

Ashael Rising by Shona Kinsella

Ashael is a hunter-gatherer woman, apprenticed to Bhearra, the healer and spiritual leader of their tribe.

The Zanthar are invaders from another world who extend their own lives by stealing the life-force of everything around them. They were last seen on KalaDene 200 years ago. They have returned, looking for The Vessel, a being prophesied to hold the life-force of the land.

More here – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01MRCASMU

Dark of the Moon, New Beginnings, by Philipp Kessler

It was a simple protection spell, what could possibly go wrong? Everything and then some!

Sandra Blackwell wants to help her friend find peace and protection after a nasty break up. Little did she know that Elaine’s home was already under protection – if you call flickering lights and depression protection. After the bulbs begin to blow and they realize something has backfired, they battle their own mental and emotional demons to fix what Sandra did. Two Egyptian Gods play with Sandra’s understanding of who she is and Elaine is floating in her own personal limbo after the blow up of her relationship and the backfire of a well intentioned spell. Can they fix things without it all blow up in their faces?

More here – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XTSBM9W/

 

The Shadow Crucible by T.M. Lakomy

In a world where angels, demons, and gods fight over the possession of mortal souls, two conflicted pawns are ensnared in a cruel game. The enigmatic seer Estella finds herself thrown together with Count Mikhail, a dogmatic Templar dedicated to subjugating her kind. But when a corrupted cardinal and puppet king begin a systematic genocide of her people, the two become unlikely allies.

You can read my review here – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/review-the-shadow-crucible/

Find out more here – https://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Crucible-Blind-God/dp/1590794141

Moon Song, by Elen Sentier

(Previously published by Cosmic Egg, recently re-released by Moon Books)

When Isoldé hears that her lifelong hero, Celtic folk singer Tristan Talorc, has just committed suicide, it strikes home and makes the oppressive London, where she works just after “nine-eleven”, feel nearly as oppressive as the Belfast of The Troubles where she grew up.  Fate intervenes when an ex-boyfriend offers her a job with him down in Exeter in the West Country. And so begins her enchanted journey to find the lost song of Tristan Talorc, the Moon Song…

More about the book here – http://www.moon-books.net/books/moon-song

The Minoan Pantheon: Deities A-Plenty

La Pariesienne Evans

Most people have heard of Ariadne, Dionysus, and maybe the Minotaur, but there’s more to the Minoan pantheon than just those three. Here’s a quick rundown of the gods and goddesses we relate to in Modern Minoan Paganism.

Please note that, although Theseus is well known from the Greek version of the story of Ariadne, the Minotaur and the Labyrinth, he’s not a part of the Minoan pantheon. He’s a Greek culture hero (the Minoans weren’t Greek) whose purpose was to show the Minoans in a negative light. Many cultures have created this kind of propaganda via mythology. The Greeks aren’t alone by any means, and for all we know, the Minoans might have done it, too, though we can’t yet read their writings to be sure. Find out more about the origin and nature of the Theseus myth here.

Here’s the Minoan pantheon as we currently experience it within Modern Minoan Paganism. Some people focus on just one or two deities and some like a big party. 🙂 Whatever works for you is just fine.

Posidaeja – Grandmother Ocean who surrounds the beautiful island of Crete, one part of the Land/Sea/Sky goddess triplicity

Rhea – Mother Earth; her body is the island of Crete itself; her womb is the cave on Mt. Dikte (or maybe it’s the one on Mt. Ida – in fact, Ida may have been one of Rhea’s names). She’s the Land portion of the Land/Sea/Sky triplicity.

Ourania – Great Cosmic Mother-of-All, embodied in the starry night sky. She’s the third member of the Land/Sea/Sky triplicity.

Ariadne – Rhea’s daughter, Queen Bee, Lady of the Labyrinth. She figures prominently in the story behind the Minoan precursor to the Eleusinian Mysteries. You can find a lovely version of that tale in Charlene Spretnak’s book Lost Goddesses of Early Greece.

Dionysus – shamanic god of wine and other intoxicants that allow communication with the Underworld. All types of fermentation and hallucinogens are sacred to him, as are ecstatic states.

Zagreus – “The Dismembered One.” Shamanic bull-god who may be an aspect of Dionysus.

Ananke/Arachne – goddess of fate and destiny; possibly an aspect or “job title” of Ariadne.

The Melissae – ancestral bee spirits; Ariadne is their Queen

The Horned Ones – three pairs of animal deities that may go back as far as Neolithic Crete.

Britomartis/Diktynna – deer goddess, connected with Mt. Dikte, later also associated with the sea thanks to some linguistic confusion

Minelathos – the sacred stag, consort to Britomartis

Amalthea – goat-goddess associated with Dionysus and the Minocapros; sometimes described as Rhea’s sister or twin

Minocapros – the sacred goat, associated with Dionysus, consort to Amalthea

Europa – the great Moon-Cow whose milk spurted to create the Milky Way; generally considered to be a doublet (pair or twin) of Pasiphae

Minotauros – the sacred moon-bull, consort to Europa; also associated with the Labyrinth (but I promise, he’s not a monster)

Aega – goddess of the Aegean Sea

Helice – willow goddess; sister or twin of Rhea

Eileithyia – divine midwife; you can still visit her sacred cave near the north coast of Crete

Minos – triple Moon god, judge and protector of souls in the afterlife, healer

Daedalus – smith god; the Minoans were a Bronze Age culture so he would have overseen the smithing of bronze, silver, and gold, but not iron.

Asterion – name meaning ‘starry one’ and applied to several related figures in Minoan mythology: Minos’ father or foster-father (if he’s the father – and the Hellenic Zeus isn’t – then Asterion may be another name for Dionysus); the Minotaur (Karl Kerenyi supported this view); Europa’s consort (but apparently not the same as the Minotaur). It’s not clear whether any or all of these were originally the same figure in the Minoan pantheon.

So there you have it: plenty of choices. Obviously, there’s way more to these deities than just the few sentences I’ve offered here. So if any of these gods and goddesses call to you, it’s worth your time to answer that call. Sure, you can do some research, but what’s equally important is connecting with them directly yourself. Invite them into your sacred space, your rituals, your life. You’ll be the richer for it.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

Pagan Books for April

We’ve got two fine new books for you this month – a fiction and a non-fiction. Text here is taken from author/publishers sources, it’s a not a review, but as I’ve reviewed one of them, I’m including a link!

The Knowing, by Kevan Manwaring

Pagan fiction

Janey McEttrick is a Scottish-American musician descended from a long line of female singers. She lives near Asheville, North Carolina, where she plays in a jobbing rock band, and works part-time at a vintage record store. Thirty-something and spinning wheels she seems doomed to smoke and drink herself into an early grave, until one day she receives a mysterious journal – apparently from a long-lost Scottish ancestor, the Reverend Robert Kirk, a 17th Century minister obsessed with Fairy Lore. Assailed by supernatural forces, she is forced to act – to journey to Scotland to lay to rest the ghost of Kirk and to accept the double-edged gift she has inherited, the gift of Second Sight: the Knowing.

My review here – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2017/03/31/the-knowing-a-review/

Buy the book here – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Knowing-Fantasy-Kevan-Manwaring-ebook/dp/B06XKKFGFV

 

Pagan Portals – Animal Magic, by Rachel Patterson

Pagan non-fiction

An introduction to the world of animal magic; how to find, recognise, connect and work with the power of animal magic.

Buy the paperback – AMAZON US AMAZON UK INDIEBOUND

Buy the ebook – AMAZON US AMAZON UK INDIEBOUND

The Many Ways of Modern Minoan Paganism

Finger labyrinth

 

One of the interesting challenges I’ve found in practicing Modern Minoan Paganism is that my world is a bit different from ancient Crete. I’m not talking about technology so much (the Minoans didn’t have iPhones but they did have enclosed sewers, flushing toilets, and paved streets). What I mean is the religious facets of the culture I live in, as compared to a few thousand years ago.

For instance, when the high points of the Minoan sacred year come around, I can’t just head down to the local temple to watch a Mystery play or participate in a public ritual. Even though I have a debit card and access to the Internet, it’s still pretty hard to find “Minoan bling” outside of museums and specialty shops in Crete – I can’t just stroll down to an ancient Minoan marketplace and pick up some goddess figurines, oil lamps, and offering stands. I don’t have a whole city full of people who practice Minoan spirituality. We are, in a sense, baking from scratch in Modern Minoan Paganism.

(As an aside, I think Modern Minoan Paganism is poised at about the place Druidry was maybe 20 or 30 years ago. It’s a small specialty field within Paganism, which is itself a small specialty section of world religions. Not many people know about the Minoan spiritual path yet, but that’s slowly changing. I’m looking forward to the day when we can put together a Minoan Pagan festival with a big Mystery play as the main ritual.)

(As another aside, Modern Minoan Paganism isn’t the only Minoan path out there. The Minoan Sisterhood and the Minoan Brotherhood have been around for several decades. I was recently asked why I didn’t mention them in my two Minoan spirituality books, Ariadne’s Thread and Labrys and Horns. The answer is simple: because they’re separate paths from Modern Minoan Paganism. To go back to the Druidry analogy, I wouldn’t expect a member of one Druid tradition to write a book that discussed the spiritual practices of a different tradition. Modern Minoan Paganism is its own path with its own evolving traditions and practices, open to people of all genders, sexual orientations, and ethnic backgrounds.)

So what’s a modern Pagan to do? Put the bits and pieces together in our own lives, one person and one day at a time. And get together when we can.

The photo at the top of this post is a finger labyrinth I made out of homemade spice clay (recipe and complete directions are in my book Labrys and Horns, or you can do an online search for “cinnamon clay recipe”). The labyrinth is a potent emblem of Minoan spirituality, one that has remained in the public eye and touched hearts and minds for millennia. Making the finger labyrinth was a slow, meditative process that I did in a ritualized sacred setting. Now it “lives” on my altar as both a powerful symbol of Minoan spirituality and a helpful meditative tool. Finger labyrinths are readily available online and in metaphysical shops, and you can always make your own.

I walk labyrinths whenever I can, in public parks and at the beach and even in churches. A lot of people enjoy labyrinth walking as a moving meditation or simply as a way to explore this symbol in a whole-body kind of way. If we’re really honest, we’re not entirely certain what the original Minoan labyrinth was. No one has ever found one in the ruins on Crete, though meander designs do figure prominently in Minoan art. What we do know is that the idea of the labyrinth was powerful enough to influence classical writers, who thought it was important enough to write about and pass on. People continue to be moved by this twisting, turning symbol of the human spiritual journey.

Like many modern Pagans, I have altars in my home. Below is a photo of the Minoan altar in my office/studio. I consider my writing and art to be sacred acts, so I like being able to light a candle and some incense and turn at least part of my workday into a ritual.

20170327_090056 2

 

The ancient Minoans, like many other Bronze Age people, also had altars and shrines in their homes. They did the same kinds of things that we modern Pagans do with those altars: make offerings, meditate, pray, burn incense, light oil lamps (candles hadn’t been invented yet, but you get the idea). Most of the time, I do these kinds of things alone, but it’s also lovely to have a quick/tiny ritual in front of the altar with my family or a friend or two. A lot of Pagans are perfectly willing to hang out with Minoan deities every now and then, even if it’s not something they do as their main path, so go ahead and ask your local Pagan friends. You never know who might offer to meet you in the park for a little labyrinth-walking, or bring the incense for an impromptu ritual.

Formal religion, like the Minoans practiced in their huge temple complexes with a professional priesthood, has a lot of rules and regulations. But everyday spirituality, the kind that ordinary people have practiced for millennia, doesn’t. To me, it’s mostly a matter of listening: to your intuition, to the gods, to the universe. Take the pieces that are meaningful to you and use them in a way that feels right as you’re doing it. This should be a mindful practice, of course; just tossing anything and everything together without thinking isn’t going to get you very far and might very well annoy any Powers you’re dealing with.

But ultimately, if you’re paying attention and intending for what you do to be sacred and respectful, whatever steps you take will lead you in the right direction.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

 

New Pagan Books

Here’s a list of recent Pagan releases – not reviews, but blurbs taken from author and publisher websites. if you have a book you’d like including, do get in touch.

Pagan Portals – By Wolfsbane & Mandrake Root

by Melusine Draco

A large number of poisonous plants have beneficial uses in both domestic medicine and magic. Needless to say, when utilising a toxic plant in magic, we are adding certain extra deadly or potent energies into the mix.

Buy the paperback – AMAZON US AMAZON UK HIVE INDIEBOUND

Buy the ebook – AMAZON US AMAZON UK HIVE INDIEBOUND

 

The English Runes: Secrets of Magic, Spells and Divination

By Suzanne Rance

You may be familiar with Runes, an old European lettering system. They can be found widely in literature and film; however, these Runes are usually the Elder Futhark. What people are less aware of is that the English have their own Runes, steeped in the heritage of an ancient land. Runes rooted in the culture of the early English and whose sound is part of the birth of the English language. Discover The Old English Rune Poem and, through this, find out more about the lives of the early English and their runes.

Buy on Amazon

 

The Minoan Tarot

By Laura Perry

Many Tarot decks come with a tiny booklet that offers snippets of meaning about each card and maybe a layout or two. The Minoan Tarot, in contrast, comes with a full-size, full-length book (176 pages) that describes the artwork and the meaning of each card in depth. It also includes detailed instructions for several layouts (including one designed just for this deck) as well as a Minoan Fool’s Journey, Elemental Journeys, and background information about Minoan culture and art.

Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and other Amazon platforms as well as other good online bookstores.

 

The Naked Witch (A Wendy Woo Witch Lit Novel Book 1)

By Wendy Steele

fiction: Lizzie Martin’s new boss has asked her to ‘bare all’ and become more corporate.

For Lizzie, swapping paisley for pin stripe is like asking a parrot to wear pea hen.

She has to choose between her job and her integrity, cope with an unexpected stay in hospital, monitor her fourteen year old daughter’s latest crush, continue seeking the truth about her father’s death and juggle two new men in her life.

There is hope though.

At the bottom of the garden is a little wooden shed that Lizzie calls Sanctuary. Within its warm and welcoming walls, Lizzie surrounds herself with magic…

Find it on Amazon

The Minoan Controversy: Military or not?

akrotiri-and-its-harbor-detail

We know a lot about the ancient Minoans: their religion, their daily lives, their trades, even their cooking. But one subject remains a source of controversy in spite of it all: whether or not the Minoans were a militarized culture.

My purpose today is not to argue one way or another (though I do have an opinion). My purpose is to examine why so many people feel compelled to try to prove that the Minoans were a militaristic society. I think this issue says at least as much about us as it does about the people of ancient Crete.

This issue is related to the need many people have to prove that the Minoans had a monarchy instead of being ruled by councils or collectives of leaders. Sir Arthur Evans, the Victorian-era archaeologist who first unearthed the Minoan city of Knossos and revealed it to the modern world, was just sure that the Minoans had a king who ruled over them, just as his beloved British Empire had a monarch. Otherwise, he reasoned, how could they possibly have become such an advanced civilization? So he named the parts of the Knossos temple complex with terms like Throne Room and Queen’s Megaron. Those names have stuck even though we’ve figured out since Evans’ time that the huge building was an administrative and religious temple complex and not some monarch’s palace. But Evans couldn’t envision a world in which successful cultures arose with cooperative or  oligarchic structures instead of monarchies. And many modern people can’t envision a thriving civilization that doesn’t have a military and a desire for conquest.

When modern people look at ancient Crete, they see a successful society: wealthy, vibrant, worldly. And it makes many people profoundly uncomfortable to think that a culture like that could flourish without a military, without the thirst for blood and conquest. After all, in the millennia since the Minoan cities fell, human culture has been all about armies and conquest, generals and battles and taking what you want. Why should the Minoans be any different?

The thing is, if ancient Crete was different, if the Minoans managed to create their incredible civilization without a military, or with nothing more than a simple merchant marine to protect their trading ships, that means it’s possible to be successful without being a militarized dominator society. That means that militarization, institutionalized violence, and domination are choices, not inevitabilities. And that makes us accountable for the misery, hardship, and atrocities we’ve perpetrated in our own militarized societies.

This is why, every few years, someone comes out with a paper purporting to show that the Minoans had a military and were a warrior culture: We need to justify our own horrors. We need to show that we can’t help it, that wanting to dominate and take and kill is an ingrained part of the human condition and not a choice. We’re mirroring our own shadows in the history we’re trying to write.

Ancient Crete was no utopia, but it was an egalitarian society with a deep sense of the sacred. Instead of trying to make excuses for our own horrible behavior, how about we look to ancient Crete for ways we can do better instead?

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

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