An experiment with Seidh

This week I was able to take part in my first Seidh ritual. Seidh is a form of Norse shammanism that involves a seer entering a trance, journeying to the underworld, and receiving visions in order to answer the questions of the participants and hopefully give useful advice.

I'm lucky enough to have a close friend who has proved herself to be really rather good at this kind of thing, and has been practising Seidh recently with the heathen community. As I've had a few things on my mind recently she suggested we take part in a Seidh ritual as a way of getting some insight. The Scarlet Girl was happy to join in, so she and I joined our experienced Seeress in our first Seidh ritual.

The Seidh ritual we used is pleasingly simple – we set the scene by lighting some candles, then banished the area we were working in, and raised some energy (using an Elemental Cone of Power ritual for both jobs – we've developed our version of it over the years and it has proved to be a great, simple, ritual for use with a small group). The Seeress then simply sat on a chair, somewhat separated from the rest of us, head veiled, staff in hand, sheepskin beneath her feet. We then sang her into a trance, encouraging her to seek the answers to our questions.

We used a simple four line song, repeated over and over, for about ten minutes to induce the trance. We butchered the melody somewhat, but that really that isn't the point – you sing with intent, and the repetition and emotion lulls the seeress into a trance state.

This is both the strength and weakness of this form of Seidh ritual. It is very simple, quick, and easy to do – this means that if you have a good and experienced Seeress who knows what she's doing, you can get a good, powerful, effect quite quickly. However, if you were working with a less experienced Seer then they have less to 'work with' in the ritual in order to enter the right state of mind. Rituals are a structure  for inducing change, and can be great guides for altering a person's consciousness and placing them in a useful state – if a person is familiar with the transition that is the goal then a simple ritual will probably do the job, but if they are unfamiliar with their destination, inexperienced at trance, or not used to taking the journey, a more complex ritual may be required to really 'get them there'.

One of the things which was interesting to explore was that Seidh is used most often by the heathen community (those who work with the Norse traditions), and whilst our Seeress is a heathen the two of us asking the questions were not. From the heathen perspective Seidh involves travelling to the underworld to commune with the ancestors, but the underworld and ancestors don't really feature in my paradigm, or world view, so we were interested to see how the visions differed from those received for a purely heathen crowd. Apparently the visions were indeed rather different – our Seeress had got used to seeing a particular destination as part of the ritual, but this time she ended up somewhere rather different (involving caves and a bloody great serpent). Also there was more evidence of gods (including a 'Red lady' who I can only assume is my dear Babalon), rather than ancestors, arriving to deliver the messages that were passed over to us. I'm not sure what this would mean at a metaphysical level (I often assume that the Universe adopts whatever shapes and forms are most helpful to us when communicating) but it was interesting to note the difference.

I found the ritual to be both interesting and useful. Asking any kind of oracle for insight is… somewhat frustrating. You are very rarely going to get a straightforward answer (although one entity seemed to be rather direct with the Scarlet Girl) and you're going to have to do some interpretation work which always introduces the possibility of error. Seidh seems to give mostly symbolic visions (with occasional direct verbal messages) which one must interpret. But… and here's the very subjective thing… these images and visions seemed to have 'weight'. I've done quite a lot of 'journeying' over the years, I've done guided meditations, I've listened to the pronouncements of those in trance, I've done a lot of intuitive work and used oracles of one sort or another a good deal. This stuff 'felt' different to me. When I think about what I heard now it sits deeply within myself, calling to me to understand more. The symbolism was rich and complex, and some of what was said (particularly regarding my Holy Guardian Angel) seemed to make a kind of immediate sense to me – although the kind that I couldn't immediately put into words.

That's what made this session particularly interesting – the weight of the experience. Nothing happened that I would easily or readily dismiss.

My only real concern from this experience was the toll the trance appeared to place on our Seeress. When she spoke it seemed to be with considerable physical effort, like the words were taking a great deal of strength to verbalise. At times the visions seemed almost overwhelming for her, and returning from trance (which was again accompanied with singing) looked very taxing. However, she soon reported that she was feeling fine, all be it tired, and that she had really enjoys the experience. Whilst I'm envious of her talent, I am perhaps less envious of the price of it…

To summarise – Seidh, with a good Seeress, seems to be a remarkably simple way of producing some quite impressive results.

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