Patreon Topic 17: Journey Work

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From Elfwort comes this topic:

“Regarding the topic idea we would love it if you would discuss journey work.”

Journey work is spiritually traveling from one place to another. It is usually done with some kind of end goal in mind. It might be visiting a realm to establish contact with a spirit, develop a relationship, or to learn some kind of spiritual skill. Journey work may be used to diagnose or treat spiritual illness, maladies, injuries, or soul loss. It may be engaged in to learn secret things, engage in spiritual combat, or to do healing work on one’s own behalf or on another’s behalf. The uses of journeywork as a tool in one’s spiritual toolchest are many.

There are a number of ways to engage in journeywork. For the sake of brevity and staying in my lanes of experience, I will talk about Heathen forms of journeywork. First we have utiseta, to sit out. Often this was done over a gravemound or grave to contact the Dead, though sitting out in and of itself can be meditative exercises without the journeying component. While it could be argued it was more of the Dead coming to you, some modern Heathens do utiseta as part of journeywork to Helheim or the Dead. Then there is hamfara, or sending out your hamr, or spirit double.

When most folks talk about journeywork they are talking about your consciouseness leaving your body, aka hamfara. Generally, this is spiritual travel with your hamr. This is dangerous work for a few reasons, not the least of which is that once we get out of our bodies and into the wider spiritual World(s) it turns out there are a lot of Beings out there far bigger, nastier, and competent than we are at existing in the other spiritual Worlds. No matter if you are hamfara here in Miðgarð (our World and/or our World’s spiritual double depending on who you ask/read) or in Jötunheim (not something I recommend to anyone who does not need to, eg is invited and has reason to be going there) spirits pose potential dangers to you.

If you approach, say, a wolf spirit’s den in Miðgarð without permission you have opened yourself up for an attack just like kicking in someone’s door. If you are invited? Maybe you gain an ally or you get to experience some aspect of a wolf spirit’s life or lesson for you. Maybe you gain an obligation to the wolf spirit and Their family. As with a lot of things in Heathenry, having a good, established relationship first is key.

I generally do not recommend folks journey unless they have a clear reason to. In part it is because of the dangers of being out and about in your hamr, and the other is that we can do so much in our bodies to interact with the spiritual worlds that while it may be a cool or powerful experience, it may not be needed. Engaging in hamfara or utiseta unless you need to also keeps you from taking on obligations you may not need to.

I used the example of a wolf spirit earlier, so I will return to it here. Let us say you make an offering to the wolf spirit because you want a lesson in some aspect of the wolf spirit’s expertise, eg tracking. So the wolf spirit teaches you to track in spirit, perhaps even showing you how to transform your hamr into that of a wolf. It might ask for more offerings, prayers, and other obligations to show and teach you that vs a request to help you track in the flesh. Now, learning how to do this in your hamr may be more useful than learning to do it in your lyke (physical body), but some spiritual lessons and learning will open a person up to more obligations than those learned another way.

Think about this from the wolf spirit’s perspective: they are opening themselves up in a vulnerable way to you, to teach you a skill or even a whole set of skills. This is cultivated over the course of a lifetime, or if the wolf is a representative vaettr of a pack, that of several lifetimes. If this spirit wolf tends a den, as I mentioned in this example, it has several vaettir that it tends and by working with you, also opens them up to vulnerability. This wolfvaettr serves a community, their pack, and you may be operating independently. Humans have not had the greatest relationship with wolves over our history, and yet, our species are tied quite intimately in many ways. Perhaps it is willing to overlook the transgressions of certain of our Ancestors, with no small amount of reasonable caution. You may be the first human in generations to work with a wolf spirit at all, let alone respectfully. You are doing so in a hamr, a spirit shape, and depending on your Ancestors, very few of Them may have ever done something like this, let alone reach out to a spirit they do not know very well.

Consider, then, this case with every spirit you could come across, some of which may be more or less hostile to humans. So, patience, care, and respect are watchwords whenever the subject of journeywork comes up around me. If you find it is going to be a useful part of your spiritual toolchest work with it, understand the risks and rewards that come with its use, and take care in how and how often you work with the practice.

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