Odin’s Ordeal

The Hanged Man tarot card, drawn by Pamela Coleman Smith
The Hanged Man tarot card, drawn by Pamela Coleman Smith

Odin is one of the Norse Gods, a warrior king who becomes a magician through ordeal and personal sacrifice. I didn’t know very much about him before last October, when I attended Hecate’s Sickle pagan festival in the U.S..

Except, I knew enough to spout off on facebook that he would smite Soldiers of Odin, a white supremacist group using Norse imagery, who had started chapters in Vancouver, where I live. I said things like Odin is the Allfather not the Somefather, and that as a Norse person (I have Norwegian heritage) and a lifelong Pagan, I oppose and resent the usage of my mythology and gods to promote hatred.

Someone was listening. And it probably wasn’t the white supremacists.

A few months later, I was in a car heading to Fort Flagler state park for the festival, this year themed on the Norse gods. My grandfather was Norwegian, and I’ve always known that I ought to know more about the gods of my heritage. We listened to Norwegian Pagan music in the car. I brought my set of deer-antler runes that I’d had for years and hadn’t yet learned how to read.

We were waylaid by the Ocean goddess of pirates and sea-farers on our way, getting stalled by a freakish set of ‘coincidences’ to wait through two sailings of the ferry to take us to the island, and then having to assert our very-unCanadian ire to avoid getting cheated of passage on the third.

When we arrived, because of the delay and another odd set of miscommunications, we ended up in Ran’s hall, the barracks floor belonging to the Norse goddess. We were field-recruited to Her hall, and obviously she wanted us there. I was later to find out why.

I was in my element. It seemed like all the rituals were a great fit for where I was in my life and I participated in my usual deep, earnest and focussed way. In the course of several rituals, I surrendered feelings of being a fraud as a musician, released unworthiness, and reached out to my ancestors to help me grieve a recently dead relative. I had an important conversation with Ran (through Her priestess) as well. I was feeling a bit… well… cocky, by the second to last day. Or maybe just full and completed by the deep work and connection I felt.

That night, we watched a sacred drama that enacted Odin’s losing his eye, and then hanging upside down, wounded, on Ygdrasil, the World Tree, for nine days to be receive the wisdom of the runes.

Later I would learn that Odin traded his right eye for the right to drink from a pool of wise-blood or a wisdom well, depending on telling, that imparted wisdom and the divine gift of poetry – a different way of seeing. He also performed the inverse ordeal to rejuvenate himself through the power of the runes.

About an hour later, I was attending an outdoor ritual in the dark. Someone called for us to kneel before the fates, the Norns. I was wearing a fancy long velvet dress I did not want to ruin, and so I rather unpoetically crouched before the fates. And then my middle aged legs started to ache while a long speech was proclaimed to the kneeling and crouching crowd. I decided to stand up and move to the edge of the crowd where I would not be blocking anyone’s view, ever the polite Canadian.

If you remember that cartoon with Wile E Coyote where he stepped out from the edge of a cliff onto blank air and hangs there for a moment till he realizes there is nothing under his feet? That is what happened to me when I steped through the back row of the crowd and the ground disappeared beneath me.

I hit my head hard and my hands light and rolled over onto my back. A medic was called and I lay there feeling stunned, but basically fine. It wasn’t till I got up that I learned the left lens of my glasses was broken and my forehead was bloody and swollen up into an egg.

One of my ‘boat mates’ from Ran’s hall, who had been a search and rescue worker before having a serious injury of her own, escorted me back to Ran’s hall, and helped me ice my forehead. 

And a mystery was revealed. My glasses had broken into the shape of a bindrune – a magical working made up of two runes, used for magic or protection. 

At a norse pagan festival.

In sacred space.

At a ritual dedicated to the Norns.

Who are the dispensers of runes.

The priestess of the eldest Norn Skuld (“that which should become, or that needs to occur” ) interpreted the bindrune as coming from two runes – Algis – protection of the Gods, and Tiwaz – (or Tyr, after the god of war, law and justice) tactical genius, courage, bravery. In combination, this bindrune meant that I either had already, or would come to achieve something great, that would bring me great honour, and which was protected by the Gods. Later on I learned that this bindrune is virtually identical to the life and death rune or the Wendehorn. The wendehorn symbolizes life and death or the hieros gamos (sacred marriage) of male and female, or the tree of life.

From all of this divine coincidence, I figured the Gods were sending me a message, and that I’d been meant to take this fall. My head hurt a bit. It wasn’t until a week or so later that I learned I’d had a serious brain injury, and I spent the next three months recovering, in fear of losing not only my brain, but my livelihood.

I learned this: If you get a head injury such that you get a goose egg, lose consciousness or vomit, do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars, go directly to bed, quietly, with no mental effort (ie: not on your phone), for two days. Your brain in an injury is like a plant uprooted. It instantly looses it’s ‘root system’ of vessels bringing in glucose to feed it and give it energy, but just like a plant uprooted takes time to wilt, you don’t know your brain has been cut off from it’s food supply at first. If you use your brain as little as possible for the first few days, the damage won’t have as big an impact, as your brain will ‘wilt’ less, by needing less energy and holding on to what is already present longer. The brain then takes several months to regrow it’s roots, during which time you have no mental endurance, having headaches and mood swings whenever sugar runs low. No alcohol, no sugar spikes followed by damaging low-sugar crashes, and constant resting interespersed with short periods of activity are the ticket.

About a week and a half later I had developed constant headaches, confusion, forgetfulness and sudden crying jags. It was like having intense PMS and Alzheimers simultaneously. I went to an information session for persons with traumatic brain injury and when I left to go to the washroom, I literally could not find my way back to the room. I stood in the hallway, crying.

I had work for clients to finish, so I stopped doing everything else, and worked a half hour at a time, with breaks sitting in a dim room with my cat in between. I was unable to drive, and held on to the hope that if I just did everything right, I’d get my brain back.

I’d lost the thing the most important to me, my intellect. I was hugely relieved to discover that I could still think (and work) at close to the capacity I was used to, but only in short bursts. I wore earplugs constantly as background noise was impossible to screen out and made me confused and quickly exhausted.

Given the severe impact on my life, I wanted reassurance that all of this really ‘meant something’ and wanted to make sure I learned whatever lesson the gods were giving me at such a high price. But given that my brain was so compromised, I wasn’t certain I was really getting it.

I called on two of my good friends and Pagan brothers for pastoral care during this time. They came over to my house, and ate with me, listened to my story. My brother Seumas said – “you’re over thinking it – (ha!) – you fell upside down, lost an eye (symbolically through the broken glasses lens), got a rune (the wendehorn), and now you are hanging on the World Tree. This recovery is your ordeal to earn the runes.”

“I know that I hung on a windy tree
nine long nights,
wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin,
myself to myself,
on that tree of which no man knows
from where its roots run.
No bread did they give me nor a drink from a horn,
downwards I peered;
I took up the runes,
screaming I took them,
then I fell back from there.
Hávamál (Old Norse ‘Sayings of the High One’) Carolyne Larrington translation

I read, in very short passages at a time, during many sleepless nights (insomnia is another effect of post concussion syndrome), the myth of Odin from a book of mythology I had been given by my brother almost 20 years before. I spent many long boring days alone, with little company, emotional and mentally exhausted, lonely and still. My cat, sitting purring in my lap through the long days and nights, was a great comfort to me.

I remembered that I had experienced a serious head injury as a 13 year old, and developed compassion for that young girl who had recovered with far less resources and understanding than I had now. I realized that my forgetfullness, and inability to ‘push through’ frequent bouts of mental exhaustion after intense experiences may have been caused by that injury. I realized that the coping methods I had for making sure I didn’t forget important things while I am forgetful, and I am often forgetful,  were probably rooted in that time and injury. I discovered some of these coping methods I had discovered on my own, were the same recommended for coping with a traumatic brain injury, and was proud of my teen and young adult self. 

I learned that it was okay to be ‘stupid’ and confused, and to ask for help when I was injured. I’ve learned how to take breaks to prevent getting overtired, which may allow me to do more overall.

But you know, I don’t know that I’ve yet learned, or realized I’ve learned, anything indespensable, or the One Great Truth that will justify my injury. I want to say that I’ve recieved an inestimable gift of great spiritual value, but I don’ t know if I have, at least not yet. Perhaps that is not how life works. Perhaps rejuvination ‘re-youthening’is in many learnings at once. 

I don’t sleep well. I really never have.  My doctor has been great, and has put me on a medication that keeps me from sleeping too lightly and waking too easily. It helps.  I do still feel like I’m never fully rested, or connected to that deep well of spiritual knowing I have been able to access in the past, so I know I’m not fully reemerged.

I’ve become much more focussed on my own healing lately, and recently have begun having post traumatic flashbacks again after many years, from some horrific childhood experiences. They are nothing I didn’t know, in vague terms, had happened, but the visceral detail makes it far too real. I’m no stranger to witnessing my child self’s story and allowing it to change me, but like recovering from concussion, it’s a very lonely business.

The ordeal, brain wise, is mostly over. My brain allows me to work a full day, do and learn music and connect with others again. I’m finding myself able to learn the piano again, to write, to work, to meditate.  I’m re-emerging like a sprout in spring, not ready to bear fruit, but on the path.  It won’t really feel over till I feel the rejuvination of the runes within me, or wisdom or something. But springtime and being in progress will have to be enough for now. 

Prosperity Magic

I’m known among my friends to be ‘good with money’ and also to have ‘freakishly good luck’ with money and work. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do have a strong intuiton for what works in prosperity magic.

One of the best ways I know to review and deepen what I know about a topic is to teach it to others. In the process of preparing to teach a class on prosperity magic in May, I’m reviewing what I know, adding practices and themes from others, and trying them out.

Types of Prosperity Magic

Most types of prosperity magic fall into a few main categories: cleansing, clearing, blessing, envisioning and creating focussing objects. They operate on the general magical principles of making oneself worthy to recieve good things, clearing out the unwanted to make space for the good to flow in, blessing what is already good so it will increase and inviting or summoning good things in. The following is the first in a series of posts about prosperity magic, beginning today with cleansing magic.


Cleansing as used in prosperity magic is a practice of purifying and cleaning to reaffirm one’s worthiness to accept good things. There are a wealth of cleansing practices. Many are physical and some are based in changing thoughts.

Cleansing prosperity magic can take the form of:

  • Ritual bathing with salt or prosperity herbs or essential oils such as basil, mint, or orange.
  • Affirmations
  • Sweeping a space with a broom in a counter-clockwise (widdershins) direction
  • Bathing significant objects in sunlight, salt, seawater or sacred water
  • Burying significant objects in soil to allow negative energy to ‘ground’ out of them
  • Washing a space, items, yourself or others in a conventional way, with the intention to cleanse them energeticallly as well as physically.

I love how common cleaning tasks, such as mopping the floor or cleaning the bathroom, weeding or pruning the garden or tidying inside or out, can be made more meaningful by being transformed into magical cleansing. We do this by doing the work mindfully, with the intention of cleansing. Sometimes I will put on ritual music while working, or say a mantra in my head such as “I am cleaning to make ready for good to come in.”

Cleansing Prosperity Magic – Ritual bathing in practice

A few days ago, I ran a ritual bath. I tidied the bathroom, brought in fresh clean towels, and added salt and bergamot essential oil to the bath, along with some rose for self-love and chamomile for calm. I cast a circle, Wiccan style, and entered the bath with the intention of cleansing myself and making myself ready for good things to happen. I scrubbed my body with handfulls of salt, and then did some personal work, witnessed by the Gods in sacred space about releasing a significant experience that had left me feeling unworthy. The result was feeling both physically and spiritually cleansed. Then I undid the stopper of the bath and let the bath water run out with everything I was releasing into it, and sat in the receding water until the tub emptied, before devoking the circle.

Ritual Bath

Baths created specifically for sacred bathing are found in ancient temples such as this one in Qumran in Palestine. The practice is still very common. (Click on the photo for photo source and credit)

Magic is a perilous art – practical prosperity magic part 2

I realized today my prosperity spell  has taken effect in yet another unforeseen way.  I was doing a tarot reading about a dilemma I have  and received the following cards.

Tarot reading with Magician card in hopes and fears position

In the ‘hopes and fears’ position of this reading, which is notable for it’s long series of major arcana cards, there is the magician card. I was taught to read a major arcana card in this position as fact rather than hope or fear.  I was also taught to read the magician as a card signifying the results of a spell.

The reading is about the proposed sale of my house to developers, for about $900,000 more than it’s assessed value, and about $700,000 more than it’s usual market value.  Because of some recent zoning changes in my area, the land my house sits on has become much more valuable.  No offer has yet been made, but potential purchasers have been expressing interest.

I’ve been anxious about this prospect. Sure, it’s a lot of money, but houses in Vancouver are expensive, and what will I replace my home with? As well, I’m an orphan, and as a result of having lost my family at a young age, my homes take on extra importance, as I have no other anchors. This house has a lot of loving labour put into it, and a lot of memories. It’s the home I created and shared with my ex partner of 14 years, and selling it will let go of the physical space of that history. The contract I signed three days ago, one week after casting my spell, says that if my price is met by a potential buyer, I will sell the house. I have declared to the forces of life that I will harvest this fruit if it is ripe.

This is the perilous nature of magic. Once I have cast a spell, I do not know exactly how it will fall, and I have consented to it’s completion. “She changes everything She touches, and everything She touches, changes”. This is particularly true of spells, for they give consent to the Divine to speed up the natural forces of causation in your life.  A cast spell is like that William Hutchison Murray quote inspired by Goethe:

“the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.”

It is fall, when even the trees let go of what was once beautiful and full of life.

As witches, it is our job to make compost of it to nourish the new and the living.

Practical Prosperity Magic Update (1a)

An update to the spell begun in Practical Prosperity Magic 1

So yesterday I set my intention. I was still struggling with it as of last night when I went to a free form dance class with some friends. I’d intended to dance up some energy and joy to support my intention, but had found out I’d misplaced a large amount of cash just before the class. I danced hopefulness and faith and by the end of the class felt better.

I got home and immediately found the cash in the first place I looked, for which I was very grateful and saw as part of the spell working.

This morning I got a big new project from an existing client. Harvest!

I wanted to write about this because it’s part of how prosperity magic works. You need to be mindful of what happens and -this is very important – see it all as part of the process of the spell working with you and your life.

Practical Prosperity Magic part 1

“Last Harvest” Photocredit: Linda on Flickr (cropped)

Google ‘prosperity magic’ and you will find a lot of rhyming spells, and information about exactly what herb or stone to pair together with your working.  I don’t know whether such things work. That’s not how I do magic.

I own a house in pricey Vancouver, and a successful business, both of which I came by through some freakishly good luck, or as we witches call it, intention and manifesting.  Magic works.

Prosperity magic is straightforward and doesn’t need to be complicated.

Successful spell-casting combines a set intention, a symbolic action that reinforces the desired result, a practical feel for what is possible without straining the fabric of the universe too much, and the ability to sense which way the wind is blowing, magically speaking. We set our sail so that the winds of change blow us in roughly the right direction. If we know what the heart of the ideal outcome is, we can tell when we there.

When recruiting help from the energies of the universe, it helps to be realistic. Just like the old truism that you can only have two of the three qualities of fast, good and cheap at once, in magic you can often only have two of specific, fast and easy.

I’ve never found it helpful to be being incredibly specific about details of the things I need. I find it better to be specific only about those things that are truly critical. Maybe I just enjoy being surprised. Or maybe I have faith in the universe to give me what I need, if not always exactly what I wanted.

There is a kernel, at the heart, that is the most important thing about your goal.  Holding fast to that and letting the rest go will help you obtain your goal more quickly and easily.  This kernel is short and rings true. It contains nothing optional.

In my life, I’ve made some work choices that have affected my income. I chose to let go of a big client, and am now needing to replace that income. It has created a vacuum to draw in something else, and I’m trying to be mindful about what that is. I’m planning some magic to help bless this process and guide me to where the ideal outcome is.

Which way is the world flowing? Go with it.

When thinking about how to shape a spell, I first look at the time of year and time of month. We are at the harvest time of the year, reaching into the fallow, storytelling and bright community time of the year, the time where we keep one another warm, loved and fed.  Fall  (we are just past fall equinox at time of writing) is a time for harvest rather than planting. On a lunar level, I sit just before the first of the three days of the full moon, also a time of harvest and fruition.

The way I read it is, this is what way the large solar and lunar tides are flowing, toward harvesting or building upon something I’ve already developed. There is also a theme of that human community that comes in winter – filled with connection, music and story.

Knowing that, I can sort through my goals, not just for ones that fit those patterns, but also for ones that can be seen in that light, even if that’s not the way I normally look at them. Cleaning house, for example, can be seen either as removing mess ( a waning pattern) or creating order (a waxing or increasing pattern), depending on the time of month or year. In this way, many goals can be expressed in a way that suits the prevailing magical ‘weather’.

Know your intention

So what is my intention? To bring in money? To harvest what I have in terms of skills, networks and resources? To harvest a new way of using those skills, networks and resources? All I know is that the answer is to seek something that is already almost ripe, whether I have noticed it before or not. This leads me to the important thing, the statement of intention:  my harvest basket is full and I live a life I love. I am holding on to the tiller.

Symbolic Activities

So once the magical climate, and intention are set, the next step is to find a symbolic action that fits and reinforces the intention, in a way in keeping with the weather. This is setting the sail.

Some common symbolic actions that can be done in service of prosperity are along the themes of making space for wealth to flow in, blessing and taking good care of what you have to invite more, and affirming you have plenty, even enough to contribute and give away. Simple actions like mindfully housecleaning, repairing, clearing clutter by giving things away, preparing a good meal and eating it, or dancing, when done with an intention in mind,  can be very effective spells in and of themselves.


Aphrodite – foam arisen (snapshot in La Palma, Canary Islands) – Photocredit Unucorno on Flickr

Who are your magical allies? Are there specific Gods you connect with for guidance and support? Do you have ancestors who want to see their line prosper? Ancestors with relevant skills, qualities or experience? Or are the broad forces of nature your main allies – Mother Earth who feeds you, Mother Ocean who connects  you, the force of Life that flows through you? Allies can be involved in many ways –  the traditional prayer as supplication or asking for blessing and guidance, and if possible, a little push in the right direction.

Putting it all together

Magic doesn’t have to be complicated. I scale the level of ritual to what feels right. If the task feels very important and formal, I will do a full ritual with grounding, calling and casting. If I don’t have the energy for that or it doesn’t fit, I may go as simple as  a symbolic action, such as cleaning my house while saying a chant out loud or in my head. I may plant a healthy, unlikely-to-fail plant outside my front path, light a candle with my intention written on it, or sing a blessing every time I climb the stairs (as I did when manifesting the down payment for the house I now live in).

Red Stag in grass

In the current example, I will call on the force of Life, who I envision as a sacred Stag, and the force of Love, who I see and feel in many ways. I ask them to bless my harvest, to help me find and complete opportunities to fill my harvest basket. I will notice and celebrate everything that now comes to me, seeing it as evidence my spell is working and expressing gratitude.

Because creating music is what I love, I wrote and will sing a chant (read lyrics and hear recording below). The actual spell is still taking shape. Here’s what I have so far: singing combined with a action. That action will be listing and pursuing all existing talents, connections and resources in a spirit of harvest and then welcoming and celebrating everything that comes. Stay tuned for part 2 for how that takes shape.

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Life and Love
filled to brimming
warm and fed
Life and Love
is the harvest
I dance to where I’m led.
Life and love
Wit and Wisdom
web and wonder
wild and tame
basket full
a horn of plenty
harvest time is here.