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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

Ancient Calendar & Pagan Holidays: November 30th: Skadhi, & Night of the Dead

Skadhi, & Night of the Dead

Never anger a Norse woman and if ever there was proof of that, it is Skadhi.

Today is the Observance for her and according to her tale, I would say she deserves it.

Skadhi was simply a mortal Norse woman living day to day like any other until the Gods killed her father Thjazi.

Madder than a bunch of war mongering Vikings, Skadhi grabs her weapons and marches off to Asguard with nothing on her mind but blood vengeance. Somehow or another, the Gods convinced her to let it go (obviously she was tearing some stuff up if the Gods wanted to bargain.) In return for laying her vengeance to rest, they offered her the chance to choose any God of her choice and marry him. And Odin claimed that he would made stars out of her father’s eyes…now who could resist that?

But there was a catch…

Skadhi could not see the Gods’ faces…only their feet.

So, by their feet, she chose the most beautiful…Njord.

Skadhi lived for however long with Njord but her tale did not end as his loving wife, for she longed and loved something much greater than him, and that was the mountains of her birth. So eventually, she left her God to return to the place she so loved…

But the Gods were not done with her yet. Obviously there was something very special about this woman warrior because soon after she came home, Odin came to her doorstep. She became a wife of his and gave him many sons.

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Tonight is the last night of Samhain—Night of the Dead— according to our Irish ancestors. The entire month of November, starting with Samhain, belongs to the spirits of the dead. According to the Irish, tonight, the last of those nights, is unlucky to be caught wondering about.

Why?

Because the spirits of the dead know that they will have to return to the Underworld for the next 11 months. Now what would you do on your last night to party?

Why, if you were the spirits of the dead, you would join up with a bunch of fairies, cause a ton of mischief and party it up until darkness ran out.

That’s why Irish people didn’t go mucking about after dark…they didn’t want to fall into the trap of the Deads’ mischief.

 

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Ancient Calendar & Pagan Holidays : November 23rd: A Norse & Saxon Observance

On this day, November 23rd, our Norse and Saxon ancestors celebrated an Observance for Völund

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1st Day of Winter

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Völund, also known as Wayland  or Weyland the Smith, was quite an interesting legend of the Norse and Saxons. He was a mystical blacksmith & armor-maker. Perhaps you have heard of him since he appeared in the original writings of Beowulf , as well as many other written material. In fact, Völund was the one who created the sword called Balmung—the very weapon used by Beowulf to destroy Grendel.

 Völund had two brothers named Egil & Slagfidur. With his brothers, he lived with 3 Valkyries named Olrun, Alvit, and Svanhvit.

Legend says that after living together for nine years, one day the Valkyries just vanished—basically up and took off without a word or a good-bye—except for a ring left by Olrun for Völund.

Völund and his brothers went on with their lives until years later, King Nidud captured and imprisoned Völund on his island named Saeverstod. The ring that Olrun gave to Völund was stolen away, along with his sword, by Nidud. The ring was given to Nidud’s daughter, Bodvild, while the King kept the sword for himself.

After being held a prisoner for far too long and having two things Völund cherished ripped from him, eventually he did have his revenge. Völund escaped from his prison and killed Nidud’s sons. Not only did he kill them, he made goblets out of their skulls, and jewelry from their teeth and eyes!

Now some warriors would have been done after that, but not Völund. No, he was determined to make Nidud regret for all eternity for making him a prisoner and for taking his things.

So that’s why he went on to send the goblets to King Nidud and the jewelry to his Queen. (Can you imagine unwrapping a present made from the corpses of your sons?) And then he made sure to seduce their daughter Bodvild just for spite. (Bet you he got his ring back.)

Once Völund had his fill, being the creative soul that he was, he built wings for himself and escaped the island and King that would never forget his name.

And neither would England where a number of places sport his name as Wayland. One example: Wayland’s Smithy in Oxfordshire.

 

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Ancient Calendar: The Norse give us Sunday, The Celtics give us Tinne: July 8, 2010

 

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The Norse step in today with an observance for Sunna, who happens to be their Goddess of the Sun. In many Germanic Traditions, she was called Frau Sonne and the day Sunday in their calendar, is actually named after her.

The Celtic Tree month of Tinne begins today, since Duir ended yesterday. Now I won’t bore you with my gibberish concerning Tinne because I actually found a very nice, neat, and well informative website on the matter. Whoever created this place, did more work than I could type up. Check It Out!

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Thursday belongs to the deity Thunor, also known as Thor, who is the God of Agriculture and Thunder.

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Thursday are Great for Dealing with Matters or Magical Spells & Rituals Concerning:

Passions & Desires—what do you want in your life?

Political Power—you can influence this for yourself or for what you desire on this day.

Speculating & Gambling—someone have a problem? Do you need help or luck?

Legal Matters, Treaties, Oaths—today is a great day to deal with these.

Harvests—perhaps you buy your food and this doesn’t;t matter to you but today you could make sure someone else has a good harvest. Maybe you could see to it that they have a meal for Thanksgiving?

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Thursday represents The Planet Jupiter and The Element of Fire

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C.H. SCARLETT
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www.chscarlett.net

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