Article author: Max North, Asatro News / Published: 13th Night of Hrēþ-mōnaþ 2265.RE (Hrēþ-mōnaþ = Month of Wildness or of the Goddess Hrēþ) / 13th Night of March 2015
The Physical Rituals of Seiðr:
Volva and Berserker
The physical aspects of ritual in the practise of Seidr as far as I know have not been presented by any other practising seidr since its revival until now. This is due to the fact that the revivalism of seidr is a very recent phenomenon and has only so far explained the mental and spiritual aspects of seidr practice.
The two fundamental physical rituals of seidr are named Volva and Berserker. Volva is the more feminine and positive physical practice which involves the object of the wand/staff, all Volvas are female 100% of them by definition. Our concept of this instrument in ritual magic has been presented as silly and mundane by the vast majority of modern western magic. When most people think of a wand they think of a laughable harry potter or fairy godmother carved stick. This is however a ridiculous interpretation of what the wand/staff really was in are pre-Christian Germanic pagan culture. The term Volva comes from the Old Norse wand, which then came to mean Seeress.
The wand/staff in Volva would have looked more like what we would call today a bo-staff this instrument was used by the Seidr to clear blocked and negative energy while at the same time absorbing positive energy into the Seidrs Hamingja (personal ond). The practice of Volva was also used to manipulate weather patterns into a more sunnier and brighter condition which would give prosperity to the land and to the folk. The practice of Volva can also be used to invoke the Alfar more commonly known in the present day as Elves the Alfar are the forces or spirits of Light. It was said that the Seidr would dance with the Alfar and the Land Wights while practicing the Volva ritual.
“Odin’s men (Berserkers) went armour-less into battle as dogs or wolves and as strong as bears and bulls. They bit their shields and slew men while they themselves were harmed by neither fire nor iron. This is called going berserk.” – Ynglinga Saga
Berserker on the other hand was the more masculine and destructive aspect of motivational uses of Seidr physical practice and involved the use of weaponry such as the Sword, Axe and Spear. The armies of Christendom thought that the Berserker warriors were possessed by demons for their fearlessness and ferocity in battle, Christians lost almost all pitched battles against Heathens. Winning out only through subversion and Conversion for Trade rights agreements and increased passivity of the Heathen leaders over time, which were then corrupted. The Berserker consciousness was and still is the act of the Berserker tapping into his animalistic state of consciousness, that which Christianity sought so hard to suppress with its concept of focusing on our physical-word as being a “sin. Berserkers symbolically demonstrated their unleashed natures through wearing Wolf, Bear and other various animal skins when going into battle or training for war.
The Berserkers were the ultimate realisation of the power of Asatru, the ability to take lethal sword blows, knowing that you are effectively dead and yet to fight on for hours and hours, sustaining every imaginable injury before the base functions of the body literally stop functioning, unlike the deaths of 99% of most so called warriors after taking merely a single sword swipe, or in the modern era, a single bullet, Berserkers would in contrast to this have lost fingers, hands and forearms, large portions of their torso or blood and fought on regardless, unlike the pathetic Christian soldiers who would lie down and bleed to death after merely a single arrow or slightest sword swipe. When Berserkers were mortally injured or became ‘dedicated to Odin’ they fought in-fact after the point of physical no return with increasing ferocity, for knowing you are already decreed to die and become dedicated to join Odin’s Einherjar or Freyjia’s Einherjar, such a final realisation unleashes the truest of warriors to do the best for their people with what little time they have left.
This is the Berserker mentality explained on a physical, mental and spiritual level, it can also be enacted in normal life and politics especially as a form of ultimate self-motivation or “unleashing”. Where you dedicate yourself to a cause, with the conviction of pledging yourself to die in battle for our people’s, Goddesses’ and God’s futures and integrity.
The Berserker physical ritual must be performed with the possession of a hand held weapon (Axe, Sword etc.) the weapon must then be used as an instrument for battleling or overcoming through refining and developing a positive spirit within yourself in the face of negative destructive forces. The negative destructive forces and spirits within you, that external influences merely latch onto that I speak of can be represented as the Jotunns (Frost Giants), Muspilli (Fire Giants), Wyrms (Dragons) and Trolls.
Jotunns are the spiritual forces of intense cold, blizzards, storms and earthquakes while Muspilli are the forces of fire, intense heat and volcanic eruption. They are also related to our inner negative emotions of anger, depression, fear, pain, anxiety, bitterness etc.
I have already explained this in more detail in my Yggdrasil articles. See the Yggdrasil articles via the archive pages.
When in the Berserker state of consciousness you must invoke the Jotunns, Muspilli, Wyrms and Trolls into your astral space (Imagination) and fight them ferociously with the weapon of your choice.
Edit: To put into context what Max is describing here it should be realised that through fortitude, dedication, resolve and courage all enemies can be overcome, the enemies that are our weaknesses which then enables us to annihilate the enemies of our people and selves in our lives in the physical world, in totality.
The weapon that you possess should either be a wooden or blunt metal version or replica as wielding a real weapon while practising a ritual can be dangerous and probably illegal if done in public, although it is legal to possess “ritual tools” (weapons in all but name, with dull blades) and you cannot be charged for possessing a ritual tool whilst on route or during using it for religious ritual purposes on private land or in a park away from other people, this is still encoded in our English law. You are allowed to carry a ritual tool in public, so long as it is concealed. For US based readers, thanks to your right to bear arms you can carry a sword openly and cannot be prevented from doing such, except during the radius of jurisdiction of the unconstitutional “city” authorities as exampled by various US city’s ban on carrying weapons.
The Berserker ritual will fight off the negative energy that is in your Hamingja (personal ond). The effect of the ritual can be explained in terms of chemical releases that such physical movement results in, also the heightened mental state is caused by the state of near meditation that you enter into. Through this you can literally develop a muscle memory for the pattern of the ritual. This is the same fundamental learning process than soldiers, performers and musicians use for repeated movements.
Applying an Asatro spiritual aspect to this process can be extremely powerful for you as an individual and can help you overcome various negative influences in your life, including depression. It is a well established fact that engaging in routine sports activities reduced physical and mental depression. The same positive benefits can be enacted through the use of Berserker and Volva rituals.
The Volva and Berserker physical shamanic practices must be balanced out in the same way night and day or summer and winter are balanced out in nature’s cycles. Or the cycles of Jörð (Old Norse) or Nerthus (Old German) (Goddesses of the Earth).
The symbolism in our lore that is related to this pattern is that of the Moon/Mani/Male/Night and Sun/Sunna/Female/Day pattern. Also note that the Berserker and Volva rituals have sex orientations. The Volva ritual is exclusively practised by Nordic or Germanic females, whilst the Berserker ritual is almost always used by Nordic and Germanic Men, historically and in modern re-creations.
In other world traditions it is usually the sun what is seen as masculine and the moon as feminine but in our Germanic tradition it is the other way around. From my own experiences when engaging in physical ritual practice I usually practice a variant of Berserker more in sunnier or calm weather while I practice combat orientated Berserker ritual practice in more harsh or moody weather, especially lightning and thunder. This is the perfect atmosphere to re-kindle a sense of spiritual uniqueness to be under the skies of Thor beneath his Thunder, hailing in his name and raising an axe in ceremonial might.
The Berserker physical ritual practice was also a shamanic dance used to tap into the Fylgja aspect of our consciousness. The Fylgja or Fetch is the animal aspect of our consciousness that resembles your personality and is attached to you as your guardian spirit animal for life. This is widely attested in our ancestral lore and even into medieval times our folk believed in Fylgja. During the witch hunts evidence of Fylgja was used wrongly to convict so called “witches”, which was just the Judeo-Christian establishments excuse to kill off the members of our folk who still held the knowledge of our ancestral spirituality.
The Seidr used to wear the skins/feathers/heads of their individual Fyjia/Fetch as a way to ritualistically tap into their animal consciousness. This practice can also be called shape shifting this can be done mentally or astrally while visiting the nine worlds of Yggdrasil (this complex metaphorical concept is explained in my Yggdrassil article series) but can also be done physically through Berserker ritual. Berserker ritual is simply fighting the destructive spirits (Jouttuns, Muspilli, Wyrms etc.) while Volva is dancing with the creative spirits (Alfs, Wights etc.) although there is far more to these rituals than such a simplistic division between Volva and Berserker.
There are multiple variants of such rituals, for use during differing circumstances. The overwhelming majority of ritual traditions have been lost, although they still live on in aspects of our culture, such as the Germanic traditions of dancing, court dancing and English forms of martial arts. Asatro rituals are normally conducted on a personal level and can be as simple as lighting a fire and declaring an oath to our folk or as complex as a highly sophisticated Berserker ritual dedication or Volva or Seeress meditation.
The Volva and Berserker rituals are conducted always outdoors whilst wearing suitable rough outdoor clothing that is stylized as your animal Fyija/Fetch. Wearing dignified clothing is an alternative. But for spiritual rituals the entire physical and sensual impression you create upon yourself must be perfect for it to work, this means that you must sincerely prepare for such rituals, wearing distinct clothing or uniform solely for ritual purposes is a feature of almost all religions. For our natural spirituality, our clothing is either highly naturalistic or superbly practical, in accordance with our Germanic ethnic tendency towards efficiency and practicality in everything we do and symbolise in ourselves.
This particular set of clothing that is worn while self conducting the physical rituals must only be worn when in ritual. The clothing that is worn with the practice of volva and berserker is a symbolic representation of outer shape shifting into your Fyija/Fetch. Inner shape shifting is taping into your Fyija/Fetch through the astral/imagination of the nine worlds of Yggdrasil. Though both outer and inner Fyija/Fetch shape shifting can be achieved at the same time through ecstatic states of consciousness while practising either of the two rituals of Berserker (Male) and Volva (female).
To get your self started with actually physically practising the art you must acquire at least one staff or “ritual tool” in the form of an Axe, Sword, Hammer, etc that you are able to wield and spin all around your body. This simple practice of wand wielding will clear away all the darkness that surrounds you while you bath in the light or energy of the Vanir, Alfar and the land Wights. You can buy Swords, Axes and Combat Hammers via various websites and companies that forge modern replicas of ancient weapons, although they are often quite expensive as they are forged from real metal and can often be of a very high standard, which is also what you should look for in a ritual tool, something that will last your entire life, so that you can develop a connection with a particular Sword or Axe, this custom is very traditional and respect worthy. Learning how to master your own weapon or ritual tool of choice is also an act of discipline and dedication.
The other object that you must acquire for the berserker practice is a hand-held sword or axe the real versions of these weapons are not suitable for practising with while in ritual so attaining wooden or blunted (or wrapped in polyester/cloth) versions of the Sword, Axe or Hammer are the options I strongly recommend.
With these gifts from the Svartalfs/Dwarves (creative forces of fire that are used to forge all weapons) you shall strike down the giants and wyrms by invoking them into your astral space or imagination while entering your berserker animal state. You must perform a symbolic ritual stance or pattern of ceremonial dignity at the same time you strike with your axe or sword this will also help you to physically refine yourself and work off all the destructive and negative forces away from your psyche.
If you would like to know more about Asatro Seiðr rituals contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org I am also on the English Asatro Forum