Posts Tagged ‘Shamanic ritual’

Green guerrilla actions you can make now!

March 18, 2015


There are times when the state of the world—especially the condition of your local water, soil and air– can make you feel helpless. Truth is, the little changes we make together can add up to an enormous shift in our collective wellbeing and doing them can be a part of our spiritual practice! I consider the actions I take everyday to take care of the natural world to be part of keeping good faith with those spirits who support my life, with the spirits of my ancestors and also on behalf of my descendants.

What follows here is a list of a few things you can do to make a difference. You may already be doing some of them. If so, look for other ways you can take a stand for sustaining your family while giving back. (I’ve included resource links whenever possible to make your changes that much easier!)

Shedding light on savings:

If every household in the United States swapped out even ONE of their incandescent lights with a compact fluorescent bulb, or better yet an LED bulb, the pollution reduction would be equivalent to removing one million cars from the road. LED bulbs last up to 25 times longer than their incandescent bulb forbearers. Just make sure to recycle CFL and LED bulbs at your local recycling facility or hardware store.

TIP: LEDs have come down in price! This site offers comparison shopping and tips including wattage equivalents and how to buy the right color temperature bulb for different purposes in your home:

TIP: If you prefer CFL bulbs and want better illumination, use OttLite true-color bulbs. These are the same bulbs used by artists and crafters for decades in situations where good lighting really matters. OttLite’s new CFLs are brighter and more like real sunlight. They’re a bit more expensive but the true-color lighting is worth it!

Tuck in your electronics:

Many electronic devices suck power even when asleep. At night, power down to save your self some money on the electric bill and do something good for the environment in one fell swoop!

TIP: Turn on the computer on the way to making your morning coffee or tea. By the time your morning cuppa is ready, you’ll be all set to read your daily e-newspaper!

Hang ‘em high:

Did you know your drier contributes to the demise of your clothes? Not only does your clothes dryer use a significant amount of energy, it can actually shorten the life of your clothes because of wear and tear on the fabric. Hang your duds on a clothesline outside or drying rack indoors to save a bundle on clothes.

TIP: During the heating season, the extra humidity in the air from drying clothes can benefit you and your wooden furniture!

Colder is better:

…at least in terms of your laundry! If all the households in the United States switched to using warm or cold water cycles for clothes washing, we could save energy comparable to 100,000 barrels of oil every day!

TIP: Use a peroxide-based bleach to safely sanitize clothes as well as keeping them whiter and brighter. Peroxide is much safer than chorine for your septic system BUT even safer bleach can actually kill off the bacteria that are responsible for breaking down the waste in your cesspool if you use a lot! That means you’ll be paying to have it pumped out more often.


According to the World Wildlife Fund, Americans went through about 50,000,000,000 (that’s fifty billion) plastic water bottles just during last year! Fill up a reusable water bottle at home and bring it with you. If you don’t like the taste of your tap water, buy a quality water filter but remember, your household tap water actually has to meet higher quality and safety standards than bottled water!

TIP: We use stainless steel water bottles by Kleen Kanteen for everyday. They’re made from #304 food-grade stainless steel, are pretty indestructible (one survived freezing with water in it!) and don’t leave an aftertaste in the water.

If you prefer using glass check out these amazing and beautiful miron violet glass bottles: Miron Violet glass blocks visible light with the exception of the violet part of the spectrum. At the same time it allows in radiation in the spectral range of UV-A, and infrared light. The unique combination offers optimal protection against the aging processes that are released by visible light, thus lengthening durability and potency of products. This kind of bottle is especially good if you’re somebody that adds medicinal tinctures to your drinking water!

Shorten your shower:

According to Stanford University, 
every two minutes you save on your shower can conserve more than ten gallons of water. This is critical as fresh water is a scarce resource. (If you don’t think so, ask folks in California who have only one year of drinking water left in reservoirs or residents of towns in Texas and New Mexico where their drinking water sources have completely dried up!) If everyone in our country saved just one gallon from their daily shower, over the course of the year it would equal twice the amount of freshwater withdrawn from the Great Lakes every day.

TIP: A five-minute shower uses 10-25 gallons of water. (Energy efficient showerheads use the lesser amount.) Shut the water off while you lather up. Even a 20-second pause can save nearly two gallons of water!

Local is better:

There is often a considerable amount of pollution created when transporting your food from the farm to your table. To offset the carbon load this creates, whenever possible, buy from local farmers, fishermen and ethical foragers of wild foods. This supports your local economy and reduces the amount of greenhouse gas created when products are flown or trucked in. Here in Maine, we can access locally raised vegetable produce, meats, eggs, dairy products (from cows, goats and sheep), poultry, locally sourced fish and game, foraged vegetables, mushrooms and other treats too numerous to mention. Tap into the local food scene in your area to

TIP: Local Harvest can help you to tap into local resources for food: as can Local Dirt: You can also contact

For an even better positive impact, remember to buy mostly organic! Organic farms don’t use chemical pesticides, herbicides or fungicides, which are often made from petroleum products. They also refrain from sterile GMO seeds. Organically raised animals are more humanely treated and their meat, milk or eggs are not laden with unbeneficial antibiotics or hormones. Your body and your planet will thank you!

Bag it!

Never mind the “paper or plastic” conundrum as neither are good choices. Keep reusable shopping bags in your car for your trips to the market. Washable bags are best as they can be sanitized easily. Bags are a great second-hand store purchase! We keep our market bags folded up inside one bag. The handles of that outer bag are clipped together with a super-size karabiner. This assures that all the folded bags stay neatly inside. When we get into the market, we just clip the karabiner containing all of our bags to the shopping cart handle. That way they’re handy but not taking up room in the cart.

TIP: Bags are a valuable second-hand store purchase! If you’re handy and want a personal touch, you might want to make your own beautiful bags: Here is a link to purchase the oversized karabiner clip:

Recycle–everything you can!

Most everyone is getting on the recycling bandwagon, but do you know you may have some things that are easily recycled and can bring you a few dollars, to boot? Your electronics (mp3 players, computers, cell phones, etc.) can make you money or be used to benefit a worthy cause.

TIP: My old, iPhone 3 earned me a $120 Amazon gift certificate, which made this book-aholic very happy. I used Gizelle who also will pay cash for old iPads and Mac computers. It pays to do an online search as there are other reputable firms who will buy back your old phone and even a broken one can net you a few bucks. Some charities also take old electronics. Here is a list from Mashable:

Save a back!

Get off catalog and other junk mailing lists to help relieve your postal carrier’s daily burden, reduce your household waste and contribute to saving a whole lot of trees. In addition, you’ll be contributing to reducing the amount of energy savings used to print these unwanted things.

TIP: Here is a site with tips to reducing your unwanted junk mail:

Let your fingers to the walking–on your keyboard!

Stop your phone directory delivery. Now. It is estimated that up to 10% of all waste at municipal dump sites is comprised of old telephone books! Not only are they cumbersome to use and impossible for middle-aged eyes to read, in most cases they are far less accurate than online sources.

TIP: Recycle your old phonebooks or shred them for garden mulch. Use online telephone directories to search for numbers such as

Become a part-time vegetarian:

Just one less meat-based meal a week helps the planet and your diet. (For example: It requires approximately 2,500 gallons of fresh water to produce one pound of beef.) Adding veggies to the diet also boosts the amount of phytonutrients you ingest which are beneficial for good health.

TIP: Here are a few vegetarian burger recipes you can experiment with:

Lose the lawn:

The typical American suburban lawn is a toxic monoculture that is detrimental to the environment. Indeed, A new study from the University of California at Irvine has determined that maintaining grass lawns produce four times the amount of carbon naturally collected and store by the lawn itself.  Lawn mowing, leaf blowing, irrigation, lawn fertilizer manufacturing, and the nitrous oxide released from soil after fertilization all contribute to an overall degradation of the environment. Not only that, the monoculture of grass is detrimental to healthy biodiversity.

TIP: Let weeds grow in the lawn. We have edible plantain, dandelion, clover, chives and other yummy “weeds” that look very nice when cut! The benefit of these plants is we can harvest them for salads or other treats. Our local beneficial insects, birds and animals are nourished by the natural browse, too. Another option is to invest in easy-care native plants or carve out a part of the yard for an organic vegetable or herb garden! 

Go native!

Help to sustain the birds, animals and beneficial insects around your neighborhood by sowing organic, native seeds. We sowed over 100 native milkweed seeds last Autumn to benefit the endangered Monarch Butterfly by using seed bombs/balls. These are small balls of clay, compost and vermiculite with two or three native seeds inside. In some cities, the same “technology” is being used to turn abandoned urban lots into organic, edible plant gardens. They are a blast to make and fun to toss. Work with your neighbors and property owners to “adopt” a growing site and then do a community seed bombing of that area! By seed bombing empty fields, along roadsides, the islands in parking lots and your own backyard you will help to create healthy, native wildflower meadows for you and other critters to enjoy.

TIP: Here is a site with great seed ball info: They offer kits and supplies to arm your family, school class, scout troop or neighborhood with plenty of seed ball ammo!

Don’t want to get your hands dirty? This site offers 100% NON GMO seed ball packs that have been premade for your region of the USA: gclid=CjwKEAjwxKSoBRCZ5oyy87DimEcSJADiWsvgDuVlt4mk3dK-9nZlBpo7MSdG_k5jzz_22wsea3sHURoC66jw_wcB

Give away and trade!

Before you toss something that is still useable, think if someone else might need it. You can donate to Goodwill or other charities to get a tax deduction. Another option is to post it on the web as a trade or give-away.

TIP: This web-based community organization is a terrific resource for getting goods into the hands of people who can use them! 


If you have other great environmental ideas, use the comment section to share them with our readers. Together we can keep working to save this marvelous world for future generations of her inhabitants. And bless you for ALL that you already do!

Blessings to you, Evelyn

© 2015 Evelyn C. Rysdyk 

Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Spirit Walking a Course in Shamanic Power,A Spirit Walker’s Guide to Shamanic Tools, Modern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path, and contributor to Spirited Medicine: Shamanism in Contemporary Healthcare; Evelyn C. Rysdyk delights in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is. Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives. Her web site is


Shaman Tree

July 28, 2012

The author Evelyn Rysdyk (left) supporting her mother, Agnes Rysdyk at the 2004 Shaman Tree Ceremony in Maine. As the eldest person at the ceremony, Agnes was charged by AiChurek to hold the end of the chalama cloth while it was being braided.  (Photo: © 2004 Carl A. Hyatt)

One of the ways that you can ground your spiritual practice into your everyday life is to dedicate a special place in your own yard as a sacred space. One wonderful way to do this is to create a shaman tree that will become your place for offerings, for your gratitude prayers and for honoring the spirits in all the realms.

Across Siberia and Central Asia, people have dedicated trees to be special places on the landscape that become the focus for prayer and making offerings. These may be located in a prominent place near a powerful mountain, a crossroads, the site of a spring, a river bank, the clearing in a forest or any location where there is a strong sense of the spirits of the land. These spirits, referred to as Cher Ezed in the Tuvan language, are thought of as masters or owners of these places. The shamans negotiate with these owners, or ezed, so that their people and the livestock under their care are able to thrive. To insure that the spirits of nature feel treasured and honored, the Tuvan people dedicate places on the landscape as places through which the ezed of nature may be honored.

Depending upon the local customs, these specially honored trees may be a pine, a birch or larch. The tree is chosen for being especially tall or for having a special shape, unusual branches, or an auspicious number of trunks. Trees with three trunks are thought of as money or abundance trees in Tuva, whereas a tree with two trunks might be dedicated to honor a marriage or the union of two clans. Trees with nine trunks are especially sacred across the region as nine is the most sacred number. Other times, a tree is chosen simply due to its proximity to a place that is to be honored, such as a sacred spring or waterfall. In this case, the tree may be of any species.

Once a tree is chosen, the shaman performs a special blessing ritual. This ceremony is done to sanctify the tree as a place for ritual. This ritual dedicates the tree as a place where prayers may be carried directly into the spirit worlds. This is possible as all trees are echoes of the great World Tree that unites the all the realms of the spirits and connects the heavens to Earth. In addition, offerings made at this special shaman tree help to strengthen the spirits of place and support fertility of the land of the livestock, as well as encourage harmony, luck and good health for the people. Here is a prayer from Tuva that communicates the sense of how important the spirits of place are to the well-being of all beings:

From the ezed of the mountains that stand imposingly,
From the ezed of water that rushes noisily,
From the ezed of mountains that are many-peaked,
From the ezed of grasses and trees that grow multi-branched,
We beg good fortune.
From the ezed of flowing waters,
the ezed of whirlpools at river bends,
the ezed of of airy winds,
the ezed of lying stones,
We beg good fortune.

When Ai Churek facilitated a shaman tree ceremony for our students in 2004 she demonstrated how a tree is dedicated by first journeying to the spirits of the land tree to honor them and to ask permission for the ceremony. Then the area beneath the tree is prepared by clearing brush and grasses away so that it is possible to walk all the way around the tree. The tree and the area around its base are then fed with sprinkled milk. The milk is tossed toward the tree, onto the ground and up into the air with a spoon dedicated to sacred purpose.

Next, four or more yards of cotton cloth in three solid colors, red, yellow, and blue, are braided into a master chalama or prayer ribbon that is tied around the trunk of the tree. If the tree is especially large, nine yards would be used. While the shaman braids the fabric, the other end is held firmly by the oldest member of the community. This person is either kneeling on the ground or if that isn’t possible seated on a sacred cloth. The elder person’s role as an anchor represents the spirits of the ancestors being “woven” into the chalama to reflect their ongoing connections to our world and to access their blessings for the tree and the community.

When the braiding of the fabric is completed, the cloth is tied around the trunk of the tree. The chalama must be long enough to leave “tails,” after it is knotted. These may be anywhere from a foot to about three feet long. This master chalama braid will become the vessel that holds the smaller chalama that people leave as offerings to ask for blessings and to honor the spirits.

Once the master braid is in place, the shaman again blesses the tree by dancing and singing around the tree while drumming or rattling. The shaman’s song, or algysh in Tuvan, is sung to praise the tree and, as a representative of the World Tree, its place in the Center of the Universe. Here is a translation of a typical algysh for the shaman tree shared by Mongush B. Kenin-Lopsan in his, Shamanic Songs and Myths of Tuva:

Shaman tree you are the most wonderful tree on the earth;
Shaman tree, they say you are the most beautiful tree in the world;
Shaman tree, they say you are the goodness of an animal;
Shaman tree, you embody all the spirits;
Shaman tree, they say all the people’s lives are tied together in you;
Shaman tree, they say you preserve among your beautiful branches people’s fortunes;
Shaman tree! They say you give your healthfulness to the animals;
Shaman tree! They say you give children a happy life;
Shaman tree, sacred tree.

At this point, the chalama and the tree would again be fed with milk and small fingers full of uncooked rice. These offerings are made with gratitude for the blessings the spirits provide. As it is with other indigenous cultures around the world, the offerings not only give thanks for what already is in place in our lives, but in advance for the blessings to come.

Once dedicated in this fashion, the subsequent offerings at these trees would include tying smaller braids or strips of cloth to the master chalama, The offerings are either smaller braids made from three colors of ribbon, or simple strips of solid-colored cloth. These cloth offerings are threaded into the braided fabric of the master chalama and securely tied. If there are low branches, the smaller chalama or strips of cloth may be tied to the tree itself. When tied directly to the tree, these cloth offerings are only tied in a half knot and never too tightly so as not to choke the growth of the sacred tree. Other typical offerings include milk, clear alcohol such as vodka, cooked rice and sometimes sweets. Whichever form of offering is used, the person making the offering always walks around the tree three times clockwise, while chanting and praying thanks to the spirits.

The workshop, Tuvan Shamanism, The Shaman’s Tree is on November 10 & 11. Register:

© 2012 Evelyn C. Rysdyk
Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Modern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path and the soon-to-be-published Spirit Walking: A Course in Shamanic Power, Evelyn C. Rysdyk delights in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is. Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives. In joint practice with Allie Knowlton as Spirit Passages, her web site is

River Offering

November 13, 2011

Last evening, Allie and I bundled up against the Autumn chill and walked down to our little local river. Just as the sun was sinking below the horizon, we allowed ourselves to remember all the moments that brought us to gratitude. We filled our hearts with the feelings of our purring cat, savoring coffee as we listened to public radio, hearing from friends and many other simple blessings the day had given us.

With full hearts, we each tossed a handful of fine, cornmeal toward the river. The cloud flew through the air and settled on the surface of the water. A slow current gathered the particles into long, lazy spirals and carried them downstream. As the sky began to turn indigo, I thought of our gift being carried to the ocean by the river’s insistent flow. Soon, her surface will be hard with winter ice.

This river, the seasons and everything in and around us is in perpetual motion. All Life ebbs and flows in an endless circle dance and in this season, that inevitable progression is more evident to me than in any other month. By November, the leaves are gone, the night arrives early and there is a whiff of mortality in the atmosphere that mixes with the aroma of wood smoke.

On such cold and clear nights, I can’t help but turn my vision toward the sky. Lingering before entering the house, I look up and watch my breath snake into the Milky Way. I take comfort at the stars’ steady procession around the pole and smile at the Little Bear pivoting on his tail. His whirling dance is so fine a mirror for our planet’s pirouettes around the Sun, I blow him a kiss!

In taking time to honor the moments that life give us, we imbue them with a greater splendor. Like a glittery coat of frost on an evergreen, everything feels more marvelous when wrapped with gratitude. Every thing and person we love can feel even more precious when so enfolded. It is a way to capture the fleeting moments of our existence and preserve them in our hearts. In expressing our appreciation, we participate in creating even more opportunities to feel grateful.

© 2011 Evelyn C. Rysdyk

Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author ofModern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path, Evelyn C. Rysdyk delights in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is. Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives. In joint practice with Allie Knowlton as Spirit Passages, her web site is

The Roots of Northern European Shamanism

January 1, 2010

To begin to uncover the remnants of shamanic culture in Northern Europe, we need to go back to the Neolithic or New Stone Age.  This is the period that saw the transition from hunting and gathering to farming of cereal grains and the keeping of animals.  While this shift began after the end of the last period of glaciation, approximately 12,000 BC, the time frame of wide-scale flourishing of settled agriculture in the region began around 7,000-6,500 BC.

Venus of Willendorf

What we know about the indigenous, “Old European” culture of the Neolithic, is based upon archeological interpretation of the artifacts they left behind.  The late anthropologist, Marija Gimbutas studied these artifacts looking for the clues about the original European culture. During her field work, she reported that she found “beautiful painted pottery” and hundreds of female-figured sculptures. This material was very different from artifacts that were found in the layers with more recent dates.  Based on these clues, she postulated that a female-honoring culture–honoring the energies of creativity, continuity and fertility–persisted in Europe from the Paleolithic Age (35,000 B.C.) and continued for millennia.

It was Gimbutas’ belief that these female sculptural images implied veneration of a creatrix/earth goddess.  In her further work she discovered several other forms of the goddess which encompassed the fundamental phases/passages of continuance–Life, Death and Regeneration.  She grouped the goddesses of Old Europe into images of the the Life-Giver Goddess–which include representations of a figure giving birth, the Nourisher/Protector Goddess–included in these categories are pregnant images, and the Goddess of Death and Regeneration.  Some of these figures were represented as not solely human-shaped, but with animal or bird features implying the interconnection of all Nature. In other words, every thing and creature was a part of the Goddess.  She was depicted in a variety of forms and yet all of them were aspects of a singular Archetypal Feminine Deity. This goddess imagery persisted in Europe for 30-40,000 years into the late Neolithic/early Copper Age.

According to Gimbutas, about 4,000 BC, the first wave of horseback riding “Kurgan” people arrived in Europe migrating from their homeland in South-Central Asia far to the East.  While we cannot ever be sure about why these Proto-Indo-European herders began to move their flocks and families westward, there may be clues in the global climate record.

The Earth experienced a rapid cooling event that peaked approximately 8,000 years ago dropping the overall temperature about 3 degrees Celsius. A climate change of this kind would have affected everyone living during that time, however since the Kurgan people had domesticated the horse and were nomadic, they had the ability to pick up and move in search of “greener pastures.” This search took them westward and into the seat of the Old European culture.

Based on the archeological record, these Kurgans or Proto-Indo-Europeans had a more male-focused, warrior culture that was quite different from the one of the Old European culture. They honored Sky Gods as they primary deities and their artifacts include stone weapons/implements such as daggers, axes, spears and arrowheads. This is quite different from objects gathered in excavations of the indigenous Old European settlements where archeologists found no warfare imagery or weapon artifacts.  In fact, sites from the earlier period have been excavated across Europe and no examples of daggers or swords have ever been found.

The meeting of these two vastly different cultures must have been a time of terrific intensity!  Given what we understand about human nature, conflict would have been inevitable when such different mythic and social paradigms collided–particularly if it occurred during a period of environmental changes.  If the struggles weren’t physical in nature then our ancestors must have at least experienced intellectual and emotional turmoil.

Whatever the case, over time the people came to an uneasy compromise so that a kind of hybridized culture eventually arose among the groups–becoming the Indo-European culture we recognize today.  According to Ralph Metzner in his essay, “Sky Gods and Earth Deities,” “During the hundreds, even thousands of years of cultural interaction there was undoubtedly not only conquest, assimilation and superimposition of an alien religion, but also intermarriage of peoples, a blending and combining of religious and mythic images.”

Examining Northern European mythology, we can clearly see reflections of this clashing of cultures and blending of mythologies between the Proto-Indo-European Kurgan invaders and the Old European cultures. For instance, the ancient Norse/Germanic mythic traditions honor two distinct families of deities.  These are the Vanir and the Aesir. In the myths, these two different clans or families of gods and goddesses are often at odds with each other and even engage in warfare.

9 Worlds Diagram ©2013 Spirit Passages

When we look at the two groups of deities, we can see reflections of the cultural diversity that existed between the two groups of people in Europe.  In addition, they can give us clues about cultural perceptions that must have evolved during the time when the two cultures met. This time period would have been experienced differently by the “invading” Proto-Indo-European tribes from the East and the aboriginal populations of Old Europe who “resisted” the assimilation.  What seems clear, however is that the resulting blended culture was left with two, conflictual perceptual frameworks locked into its psyche.

The Vanir is the clan of earth, sea and nature deities.  They include Njörd, god of the sea who is the father of the Vanir which include, Freyr and Freyja. The realm of the Vanir is Vanaheim which lies in the west.  Their sphere of influence includes connections with the elves/air spirits (in Ljossalheim), the dwarves/stone spirits (of Svartalfheim), the Nature elementals of ice/cold and heat/fire (Niflheim and Muspellheim, respectively).  If we look at this through the lens of traditional shamanic views of the spirit world, the Vanir have their connections and associations in Middle World and Lower World.  In other words, they are more closely aligned with the Old European, earth and nature worshiping traditions.

Of this group, the Goddess Freyja may be seen as an excellent representative.  Having a complex series of traits, Freyja bears a resemblance to the aboriginal European Earth Goddess. She is the goddess of fertility, love, beauty, attraction and wealth.  She was also the goddess of war, battle, death, magic and prophesy.  In her role as goddess of prophesy, Freyja has ties to the Norns or Fates who control destiny and on whom all the deities pay homage.  The Norns are the “Three Wyrd Sisters” who are described in the Icelandic Poetic Edda–a collection of Old Norse mythic tales–as giantesses.  This is an important clue to their identity, as giants are thought to be progenitor beings who existed before the gods/goddesses. (This is a view that is common to other European cultures such as the Celts.) The Norns were said to have come out of the giant’s realm of Jötunheim to limit the god/goddesses’ powers and to act as protective spirits for the people of earth.

The oldest Norn, Urd draws the threads of existence from the void and passes them to her sister, Verdandi.  It is she who weaves. The last and youngest sister, Skuld is the one who eventually cuts the weave and sends energy back into the formless.  In their triple aspect, these sisters reflect the threefold face of the ancient earth goddess–maiden/mother/crone, life-giver/nurturer/destroyer.

Cover Spirit Passages’ CD, “Norse Oracle”

Freyja also encompasses these energies in that she holds sway over fertility/love and battle/death.  In addition, she is capable of viewing that which the Norns weave in her role as goddess of magic and prophesy.  Those women that acted in the role of seer or völva in Old Norse culture were acting as Freyja in that they too, were able to see the strands of the Norns’ weaving.  As goddess of prophesy, Freyja is the primordial shaman being able to see that which others cannot. Interestingly, among the tribes of peoples scattered across Siberia all the way to the Pacific Ocean, the primordial or first shaman is also most commonly seen as a magical woman.

The Æsir are the gods and goddesses of the sky.  They reside in Asgard which is high above the other realms like the shamanic Upper World. Among this clan, Odin is the chief and since the Vanir were dominated by the Æsir, he held sway over them as well.

Icelandic Door

According to the Eddas, the runic alphabet was a gift from Odin. A selection from the Eddas tells of their discovery. Odin hangs for  nights upon the World Tree, Yggdrasil.  In hanging himself from the World Tree, Odin’s story echoes the ancient Siberian shamanic ritual of hanging those who would be initiated as shamans from great poles or trees.  It was believed that from this lofty position the initiates could gain access to the spirits.  Odin hung on the tree for nine days and nights–one day and night for each one of the Northern European spiritual realms. Through his suffering, he experiences what may be best described as the shaman’s death.  His old self is sacrificed.  He transcends death so that he may gain knowledge.  On the ninth day on the Great Tree, Odin has a vision of the runes hovering below him.  With his last remaining strength, he tears himself from the tree and literally grasps his vision.  Screaming, he scoops up the runes and falls back to the Earth.  His scream marks the moment he passed through the doorway of initiation into a new way of being.

The word ‘rune’ means ‘whisper,’ or ‘secret wisdom.’  Once Odin had the runes–what we can think of as raw knowledge, he had to learn how to use them.  Unlike Freyja, who represents the divine original shaman, Odin reflects that to become a shaman requires transformation.  In Odin’s case, to become “wise” it was necessary for him to make a further sacrifice.  In order to see/understand knowledge and transform it into wisdom, Odin sacrifices one of his eyes for a drink from the Well of Remembrance.  This well contains all ancestral, primordial wisdom and is guarded by the giant Mimir whose name has it’s root in the word “memory.”  Odin’s sacrifice of his ordinary sight–symbolizes the perceptual shift that is necessary for all seers to accomplish their work.  That is, seers and shaman require the ability to shift into a non-ordinary, visionary way of “seeing” to accomplish their calling.   His wounds taught him compassion for others.  These experiences give him the tools to be a healer, the kind we refer to as “wounded healer” or shaman. In addition, perhaps his looking into the Well of Memory reminds us that even the Proto-Indo-European cultures may have an older shamanic belief system not unlike that of the indigenous Old Europeans.

© 2010/2013 Evelyn C. Rysdyk

“Oracles, Runes and Rituals” an experiential workshop which explores more of this material will be held on March 23 & 24 in Maine. Here is more information:

Oracles Runes Rituals 2013

© 2013 Evelyn C. Rysdyk
Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Spirit Walking a Course in Shamanic Power and Modern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path, Evelyn C. Rysdyk delights in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is. Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives. In joint practice with Allie Knowlton as Spirit Passages, her web site is