In Part 1 we went over some of the basic ways that politics interact and intersect with the spirit world. Now, I would like to explore the Spirit World and politics from my perpective as a spiritworker.
Political Implications of Spirit Travel
Humans are, in a very real sense, spiritual Beings. We have a Soul Matrix and a way that expresses and exists here. It is not unreasonable for us to understand that other vaettir also have a Soul Matrix, however close it does or does not match our own. This adds a very interesting spiritual-political dimension to travels we may make to other Worlds. The one that I am thinking of here namely being that we can have some form of what could be termed material impact on Them just as They may us here in Miðgarðr.
If we understand other vaettir as being able to have interaction and impact on us in our World then we, as visitors to other Worlds, can have impact on vaettir in other Worlds in no less wise a way. This makes spiritual tourism as a concept even more fraught with danger because we have the ability to harm and help in Worlds other than our own. Certainly, if we accept that various vaettir can cause help and harm in our own Worlds it follows we can have similar impact on Them in Their own Worlds even if it follows on different lines than we may expect. Anger the Álfar and you may receive elfshot. It occurs to me, especially having recently visited Álfheim, to wonder if there are similar stories about us humans who visit the Álfar there.
If we can have this impact then how we arrive to a given World matters. Since our souls can take flight, and depending on your understanding of the Soul Matrix, this can happen in sleep as well as with determined effort eg journeying, or hamfara (journeying forth in one’s hamr) it is not something limited to just spiritworkers. However, I think what marks the difference here is expertise. A competent heimrgangr, spiritworker or not, will journey with intent to where they wish to go. Most folks who wander around the Worlds in their sleep do not do it with any effort, it just happens.
My general advice to folks looking to do spirit travelling is to first have at least one or two competencies in divination systems down. This means being able to do these divination systems for yourself without worrying you are messing with the results of the reading. The divination itself can be simple, such as a special coin you flip or dice, three stones assigned as Yes/No/Indicator, tarot or an oracle card set, the Runes, or some sort of sortilege. I favor systems where randomization is built into the answer, rather than something relying utterly on your translation, such as with scrying in fire or a pendulum. While these can be useful tools, I find for my own work I need that random factor to reassure that I am getting good and accurate responses from the tools, and not get in the way of them. These divination methods serve as helpmeets in communication and interpretation. As examples, divination can help you see in clear terms if a request to enter a World has been accepted, help you understand a message that you cannot interpret at the time of a journey, or can be used to see if an offering idea would be good, and whether an offering was received well or not.
We need to be able to travel to and return in ways that do not harm ourselves or the places or people we wish to visit. We need to be able to communicate, or at the very least able to effectively and accurately interpret our interactions. We need to understand how we take in and interpret spiritual information, and be able to assess it. Why? If we understand that our impacts on other Worlds carries real benefits and harm not only to ourselves, but to the Beings of those Worlds and the Worlds Themselves, we have a responsibility to be competent in our traveling and in how we conduct ourselves. If we understand that there are political dimensions to these interactions then it should underpin the importance of being able to do these things well.
I generally advise anyone looking to do spiritual travel to be sure that, whatever your destination, to get the consent of the Beings of that World to enter. On the one hand, it is plain rude to show up unannounced when there are means to send a request to enter and get a clear response. On the other hand, it is disrespectful of the sovereignty of the various Beings if you gatecrash Their home. I am working with the Nine Worlds model in Nordic Heathenry. Most any World I can think of has at least one, if not many Gods, who call it home it in some way. Many of these Gods rule the Worlds we would visit. It’s hardly in my best interest to offend those Gods. Then there are the various vaettir who will likely be as displeased to find an invader in Their midst.
It is worth noting that our cultural and ethical frameworks may not be compatible with the Beings of the places we are seeking to interact with. A given Jötun in Jötunheim is probably not going to have my political outlook, and what is rude in a given context with Them is likely to differ from that of an Álfar in Álfheim. Likewise, that same Jötun may not share Angrbóða’s cultural or ethical frameworks. If we treat the Beings in other Worlds as Beings unto Themselves then we need to acknowledge that They will likely differ from us and each other in many ways. Then again, you may find that many of Them hold to some of the same views as we do. Ideally, you ask questions before you set out so you know as much as you can. Either way, if you are able to visit, ask questions.
A lot of these points may seem obvious, except I have seen folks stereotype all Jötnar as beastial or out of control, and Álfar as aloof and completely alien. To be sure, some Jötnar I have the pleasure of knowing are more beastial and some Álfar are aloof. I do find some Álfar completely alien. Some of those same Jötnar are also some of the wisest and most powerful Beings in the Nine Worlds. Those Álfar likely have damned good reasons for being aloof.
As relationships develop with Ginnreginn the varying bonds of politics we can experience between Them and the various Worlds can begin to pull and tug on one another. As an Odinsson I can feel this pretty keenly. There are some relationships that will be limited or simply never form due to being who I am to Óðinn and vice versa. Those might be open to others. Then again, I have had doors open that may not have otherwise, or not in the ways that they did, because of Óðinn and I’s relationship. This is part of why I advise Heathens, especially those wanting to get into spiritwork, do so with their Ancestors being among the first Ginnreginn that they develop relationships with. The Ancestors have a vested interest in you doing well and keeping safe. Most of your Ancestors are likely to remember being alive, and collectively have generations worth of experiences to tap. As many of your Ancestors may have pissed off a random Álfar, They may also have had good relationships with others. They can be a great source of contacts, influence, power, and wisdom. You are likely not the only spiritworker in your Ancestors, and tapping into these Ancestors can be especially potent in bringing your own spiritwork along.
We live here in Miðgarðr. We are visiting there. Even if the framework for what constitutes a good guest differs, it is still on us to put our best foot foward as a good guest
Magic in Other Worlds
When it come to magic in other worlds, all the ethical considerations I have covered in previous posts, namely Ethics in Animism and Polytheism Part 1 and Part 2, and On the Ethical Use of Magic can apply here. The long story here is that we are ultimately responsible for what our magic does in other Worlds whether or not it does what we intend.
An aspect of using magic in other Worlds few think about is that we can do it at all. Think about the many effects magic has the potential to enact in our world. Now, apply this thought to the Worlds of other Beings. When we read stories of elfshot for those who angered the Álfar, we can clearly see these Beings from another World can affect us in our own. Are there similar stories of humans in Álfheimr? To deny the possibility that we can have similar effects, among many, seems to place us lower than other kinds of vaettir. It makes the point that we are less magical, spiritual, or capable of committing harm or help. I find this notion false.
Rather, I think the opposite is true for folks who have any modicum of skill in hamfara, or magic in general. If we understand magic as the affecting of Urðr to achieve an end, then a given magician or spiritworker can present even more of a threat to themselves and others. If we understand a part of our Soul Matrix, eg the hamr, has the ability to get up and go walking about in other Worlds while our lyke (body) is asleep, then even if, say 10% of the estimated 7.8 billion person population of humanity did so, that would be about 780 million people. If only 10% of this estimate can effectively do spiritwork and/or magic then that still leaves 78 million people. That is not a small number.
When we apply this understanding to other Worlds, then, an intentional journey to another World is not a small thing even when the mechanism for the journey itself may be relatively simple. If magic can and does affect the patterns of Urðr, then its effective application can do active and ongoing harm or good, just as when other Being apply Their magic to us or our surroundings here in Miðgarðr. How does this aspect of the use of magic play into spiritual politics?
In a number of ways. For myself, the reputation the Álfar carried with Their use of magic and overall demeanor that I saw in the sources made it so I wanted as little contact with Them as possible. For a lot of folks, they carry this same idea with regard to the Jötnar. The very way we form relationships with vaettir, then, can be informed by how we, or our fellows, undertand and use magic.
The way we use magic can have an impact on how things come around politically. For instance, we have the varieties of seiðr. One of the things I understand that differentiates seiðr from other forms of magic is that seiðr works with vaettir to get things done. So, what vaettir are you working with to get the thing done? What are you having Them do? Are you asking Them at all, or have you enticed Them with a song and now you’ve roped Them into doing things for you? If you primarily work with landvaettir in your seiðr here in Miðgarðr, what do you do in other Worlds if you work seiðr there? How you interact and treat these vaettir can (and I would argue likely will) have direct impact on whether or not vaettir from other Worlds will want to treat with you.
There is a similarity between armchair occultists and 2nd Amendment fans here in the United States. Both are not very likely to have actually done their homework, and both talk a good game without actually engaging with the topic they will very loudly ‘debate me bro’ about. America’s total gun ownership rests around 37-40% if the Gallup polls are any accurate indication, though that number includes those who “own or live with someone who owns a gun”. Gun ownership, though, is one thing. Competency in their use is quite another. See also armchair occultists vs operant magicians.
When you first learn to shoot you do it with targets. Targets that are not shooting back, and that, so long as you are actually practicing safety with your weapon, you are not going to hurt yourself or anyone else. You learn discipline with the weapon and its use, how to take the thing apart, clean it, and how to put it all back together safely. Training for scenarios and the like come later once you have developed core competencies with the weapon. This bare minimum for weapons is similar for anyone who wants to use magic. Cleansing, grounding, centering, shielding, warding, and being able to do divination and some basic forms of magic for safe spiritual journeying. You need to be able to competently and effectively use this tool at hand with a minimum of damage to yourself and others.
All of this is not to say “Don’t use magic!”. Rather, it is to really push folks to think through what magic they use and how they do it. It is a push for folks to think through how magic and its uses can affect the relationships they hold, and to weigh the political consequences of their actions. It is to consider that your actions have political dimension, especially when you are journeying to and/or are affecting other Worlds. Since magic is a form of power through affecting Urðr, and doing magic in others Worlds can have consequences deep consequences, it is another way through which we express ourselves, and our political allegiances. We cannot detach magic and its use from ourselves as though it is not real. After all, magic requires many parts of the Soul Matrix to be done. If you’re going to commit so much of yourself to doing somthing that can have such profound consequences, it seems to me it is worth doing well and with forethought.
Relationships Found and Formed
Here is where the metal meets the meat for animists and polytheists alike, whether or not we are spiritworkers. Relationships are at the core of both these theological worldviews. How I relate to the World around me has direct impact on how I act, function, and relate to every other thing. If I understand myself as being enmeshed in a web of relationships my outlook and actions are understood and expressed fundamentally differently than if I believe I am a cog in a machine. If I understand the Earth, Jörð as a Goddess, Who Herself is and contains vast, interrelated vaettir, that is a far cry different from understanding the Earth as a machine needing to be balanced. If we understand ourselves as existing in relationships, then ‘pantheons’ as locked-down relationships taking place only within a single culture are flawed models for understanding our place in things, and especially our Gods. Even a cursory look at ancient animisms and polytheisms shows that they interrelated with one another in myriad ways, and personal relationships with Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir had the potential for immense variety even within a given culture.
Much of this post has been about relationships in the abstract, or in relation to how we use power. This is about the relationships we intentionally make or that are made with us. The Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir we make relationships with have impact on the relationships we hold, or can hold. Some relationships we hold, such as with our blood Ancestors, are a result of how Urðr shakes out as our órlög when we are born. The spiritual relationships we make as adults are, predominantly, choices -yes, including if a God comes along and takes you up.
We develop the means to meaning through relationships. For the most part we worship our Gods because we relate to Them in concrete ways. ‘God of’ as a primary model of understanding our Gods is flawed, as it is often used to box our Gods into standardized meaning and relationships. However, many of the Gods we have a cursory relationship with fall into this understanding. A person who holds no direct relationship with Þórr may only relate to Him as a God of lightning, thunder, and rains. Another person may hold a mentor/mentee relationship with Him. Even for those who have such a relationship may still hail Him as a God of storms when a storm comes their way. What matters here is the ‘God of’ model is not the only way we relate to the Gods. It is not the whole of Them. We also relate to our Gods through Their relationships with one another, eg someone who has a direct relationship with Óðinn may relate to Þórr as a God of storms and also as a Son of Óðinn, Jörð, and Frigg.
Relating to our Gods without the notion of a pantheon binding Them does not mean their myths are not relevant to understanding Them. They still exist in relationship with one another, whether that is as rivals, relatives, or some other way. Myths are a way to understand these relationships, and how we may relate to Them in kind. The binding idea as animists and polytheists in understanding myths and our Ginnreginn is relationality.
I wrote in Part 1 that “This is not to say we need to like, befriend, or worship every God to have good relationships with those in our hearths. You do not have to like or worship Óðinn to worship Frigg or Þórr. Respect, though, is important. We gain nothing by disrespecting the Ginnreginn, especially ones Who are close to those we worship.” By engaging in certain relationships we may leave others out of our lives. There is a closeness with Óðinn I have that I will not have with Fenris. My allegiances being what they are, I have forgone relationships with some Gods, such as An Mórrígan, because what They could ask of me is more than what I could give. Part of respecting the Gods is understanding where our own limits lie in Who we have time to give to. Part of respecting the Gods is knowing whether or not we would be out of our depth with Them in a working relationship, and to respect ourselves enough to not to try to take on more than is good for us.
A spiritworker is what it says on the tin: someone who does work with and for the spirits. It may be someone who divines, does magic, heals, helps facilitate contact, does spiritual consultation, or does all these things and more. What it is, at the end of the day, is a job title. It says nothing of the individual view, expertise, or experience to be expected until and unless a given community develops those baselines.
Part of why I use the term is because it effectively captures the idea of what I am and do. It does this without appropriating the word shaman. I used to use the word to describe myself, and I no longer do. Shaman is a term that, on the one hand has become so divorced from its roots in modern Pagan, animist, and polytheist communities while being marketed so heavily on the other that it has largely lost its utility as a word. It is important to note, though, that spiritworker is being used not to imply that we are shamans, but because that word does not apply to us in the first place. There are layers of cultural meaning that has built up around that word, from its original people, from academia, New Age spirituality, and our own communities that do not convey what we do. What had been a useful word has been both stripped and overloaded with meaning. Even if that word, with all its baggage, was useful as a ‘handle’ word to carry meaning, it no longer does.
Spiritworkers may hold different roles in the communities they are part of. Some may be part of formal organizations, and others serving only a community of Ginnreginn that has called them to service. Some may serve in leadership roles, while others only serve in support capacities. Some hold formal community roles which may or may not include their job as spiritworkers. It may be worth our while as members of distinct communities to use spiritworker as a term alongside more specific ones, such as vaettirverkr, Runeworker, erilaz, seiðmaðr, and spámaðr which point to communities we serve, specialties, training, expertise, and the like.
On the Politics of Being Spiritworkers
This brings us right to the politics of being spiritworkers. We are not neutral actors, and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous both to ourselves and Those we serve. Each of us are aligned with Someone, and generally that Someone, or group of Someones, are the Ginnreginn we are closest to, work with, and/or serve. It is worth remembering when getting a reading from a spiritworker you are not just getting information from them, you are also getting information filtered through them from their Ginnreginn.
When folks get a Rune reading from me that means at least 24 individual vaettir are potentially adding Their voices to the reading, whatever the question or issue. That is not including any of the Gods, Ancestors, or vaettir on my end, or the querant’s for that matter, that would like to chime in on a given topic. It is part of why, when folks ask questions like “Should I do such and such a thing” or “Is this good for me?” I ask them Who they are asking. This is especially imporant with ‘should’ or direction-based questions. If you leave the question to the Runes you’re going to get an answer based on Them much more than if you asked, say, Freyja. The Runes will effectively communicate Her response, but if you do not ask Her, you get Their answer(s). Given I approach tarot as a single vaettr with a lot of pieces, it is a similar deal when I read the tarot.
This means that there really is not such a thing like impartiality to a spiritual consultation. Those I consult for have political interests, as much as their own Ginnreginn will in and for them, and the connections They have. Part of my job can be to tease those out if they come up in the reading, to figure out Who is present, and how They are affecting the answers I am receiving. Another is to have figured out as much as I can where my Ginnreginn stand on things so I can account for that in regards to the reading. Sometimes I will not be able to answer questions because I do not have certain initiations, or I do not know a given God, group of Ancestors, or vaettr well. I may be more or less suited for a given person in a reading, and may need to pass them off to someone else better qualified for their needs. The relationships we hold can bring a lot of wisdom to the work we do, and sometimes that wisdom is “I’m not right for this person”.
Spiritworkers as Extensions of Spiritual Politics
If we are aligned with various Ginnreginn and involved in spiritual politics then it also makes sense that the opposite is true: we are a way for how spiritual politics flows between and through different spaces, people, communities, and between and through different Ginnreginn. I have encountered in my time, primarily working for Óðinn as a spiritworker, and more recently as an Odinsson, that sometimes we are how different groups of Ginnreginn get to talking with each other. This is where things can get…interesting in talking with folks, because we are so thoroughly engaged at this point with personal experiences, understanding of relationships and how we interact with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. It is a vulnerable place to be in, to talk from, as there are many intersecting points of personal experience. I am at pains to point out that while exploring this is necessary to understanding spiritworkers’ roles in modern Pagan, polytheist, and animist communities, it is also a place that has the potential to be rife with self-interest and delusion. Having a regular spiritual practice, spiritual accounting, discernment, and solid communities we can rely on to help keep us grounded, are needed.
To be sure, one does not need to be a spiritworker for the Ginnreginn to work with you as an extension of spiritual politics. It is something I find far more common with spiritworkers, though, since a lot of our work is networking, community building, communing, and other work that has us reach out between folks and various Ginnreginn. A really simple example of the kind of networking I am talking about came across my TikTok feed where Neomudang, a Korean shaman in America, was making offerings to various Greek Gods. Per her words “My Korean general Gods love partying with other Gods”. I asked if she would make an offering to Dionysos and Lykeios, and she did. So, in return for her offering to Dionysos and Lykeios, I will be making my own offerings to the Korean general Gods and my own, especially to Óðinn , Dionysos, and Lykeios once I get some new shot glasses and some good whisky.
Now, did the Gods need us to introduce Them? No. Not in a strict sense, eg the Gods had no other way of making connections to one another. We could be needed in other, less strict senses though. Sometimes we can make things easier. Sometimes the Gods would have no reason to interact otherwise. Sometimes we are the glue that holds Gods, who would otherwise not interact, in relationship with one another. Sometimes we can be the bridge that heals wounds. We serve as a bridge, a point of connection, one that may be more or less potent for whatever reason for the parties involved. Just as with our human communities, sometimes the Gods just need intermediaries to move things along smoothly.
We can make and sustain the bonds between the Ginnreginn, who may not otherwise have reason to interact, in bonds of relation and community. By being an ongoing intermediary we can encourage and build these ties. The bonds we carry with our own Ginnreginn may be enough for Them to build new ones between Themselves.
Spiritworkers are not themselves inherently better, able, or more worthy than others to make these networks or sustain these ties. This gets to the “Why?” of spiritworkers. Again, I am going to emphasize that spiritwork is a job. Our purpose is to have the expertise and time dedicated to the ongoing work of encouraging and sustaining good relationships between our communities, and the Ginnreginn. Our job is to help others effectively commune, communicate, build, and maintain good relations with the Ginnreginn. Sometimes we do this by divination, by starting a new cultus or sustaining them, initiations, or doing magic. Our job is to work for the Ginnreginn, and not everyone has the time, inclination, or expertise to do this.
I am an extension of Óðinn’s spiritual politics. He is the main God, Ancestor, and vaettr that I serve, and as an Odinsson I directly benefit from my relationship with Him. He also directly benefits from His relationship with and to me. There are folks who might not otherwise have connected with Him. Connections have formed between Him and other Gods through me that He might not otherwise have had. Many of my own relationships with the Ginnreginn I have in the way that they exist would not have formed without Him. Through Him I came to the Runevaettir, and all the Work we have done, and all the lives They have touched through me.
Something I think each spiritworkers comes, or at least should come to understand pretty quickly, is that even if we are serving the same Gods the politics of that service can vary significantly. Where I may serve an ambassador role, as I found with Álfheim, another Odinsson or another spiritworker may find their role quite different. We may take on different roles with with the very same Ginnreginn we serve in making ties with other Ginnreginn.
If it is so hard to say anything across the board, why say anything? Because these points and discussions need to be made. They are not part of mainstream polytheist discourse, not even among spiritworkers and yet, are part of the experience of both. We spend so much time on 101, 201, and, on occasion, 301 material exploring the basics of ideas in our various communities that discussions of these depths are hard to have in the first place. They are so dependent on our developed relationships with the Ginnreginn and the understanding we have, and the experiences that flow from them. I felt in order to effectively even start talking about the topic here required these two posts to get the basics of it down. I feel that I could keep on going, but this post is getting fairly long on its own, and a third part is probably needed.
I am interested in writing Part 3. As I have written before, this is a topic I have not seen covered much and I have enjoyed writing these two posts. Thank you, Maleck, for giving me the idea for these two posts.
I want to know what you, my readers, want me to explore in it. Do you want me to dig deeper into what I have already written in Parts 1 and 2? Do you want me to explore particular topics within spiritual politics? Let me know here, in the Around Grandfather Fire Discord, or by email.