Patreon Topic 8: On Ordeals

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From my first Ansuz supporter comes this topic:

“Ordeals. I know you’re not an Ordeal Master, but I’d still like to hear your thoughts.”

Ordeals are part of life. The act of being pregnant and bearing a child is an ordeal. Birth itself is an ordeal. The trials and tribulations we go through in order to be human are ordeals of some form or another, though in American society these tend to be more oriented around displaying the grasp of a study subject -or the ability to bullshit paperwork.

The OED says an ordeal is “A very unpleasant and prolonged experience” or “An ancient test of guilt or innocence by subjection of the accused to severe pain, survival of which was taken as divine proof of innocence.”. It comes from the “Old English ordāl, ordēl, of Germanic origin; related to German urteilen ‘give judgement’, from a base meaning ‘share out’. 

When we use ordeal in a more modern sense we’re usually using it in the first sense. In a religious or spiritual context we’re usually using the second in a modified way. Rather than testing innocence or guilt, we are being tested to see if we can rise to an initiation, new station or to undertake some new spiritual technology or work. The capitalizing of Ordeal speaks to this; this is not some mundane test of pain or the experiences of everyday life. This is whether we are ready and/or worthy to engage in a given path, to go to the next level, or to offer something new to our Gods, Ancestors, vaettir and/or communities.

Ordeals are not innately cruel. They are tests. I think one of the best science fiction descriptions of one is the test of the pain box and the gom jabbar from Dune. It is a test put to Paul Atreides, the main character, by Reverend Mother Gaius Mohiam of the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood. She explains that they do this “To determine if you’re human…” and later asks Paul once he has passed his Ordeal “Ever sift sand through a screen?…We Bene Gesserit sift people to find the humans.”

So why do this? “To set you free…Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.” She then goes on to explain that this is done to provide a level of continuity to humanity’s bloodlines and separate the humans from the animals. In a very real sense the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and even our own communities, may require this for similar reasons.

The spiritual technology of Rune reading is available to everyone. However, if you wish to take a relationship with Runatyr and the Runevaettir deeper you will, at some point, likely need to go through an Ordeal: encounter Them in ritual, give a blood offering that ties you to Them, and formally deepen your relationship with Them. I hedge this with ‘likely’ because I am not Runatyr or the Runevaettir, and whether They give someone an Ordeal for a given person to develop this deeper relationship is up to Them.

In another way the use of hamfara, faring forth, is open to anyone, as is utiseta, sitting out. What is not available to everyone is entry into the Nine Worlds. There are tests a given God, Goddess, Ancestor, vaettr, and/or human community may give before you are cleared to do certain kinds of spirit work, these included. In my own case, while I do not incorporate Ordeal into this, before anyone who studies from me goes into any deeper spiritual techniques, they have to have at least a year of devotional work with Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. Likewise, they also have to have done at least a year spiritual preparation work which includes doing cleansing, grounding, centering, shielding, and ward work among other things.

There are some spiritual technologies and initiations shut off from us unless we have gone through Ordeal to attain them, or attain access to them. Yet, generally, the point is not the Ordeal itself. The Ordeal is a sift. The goal is to get through, endure, overcome, or pass through it, to be sifted so that you (or the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and/or Elders) can be sure you can handle the spiritual technology or the initiation. It is also to accept that should you fail, that you accept this. Sometimes an Ordeal can only be given once. Other times we can approach it again and again. It depends deeply on the Ordeal and the Work. Some Ordeals are more intense than others, or in different ways. So if you come to an Ordeal, be sure you have done all the preparation you can, make sure you and anyone working with you on it have done all your due diligence in approaching it, and take care in undergoing it. It is not a thing to be rushed into or to grasp for. For those things that require it, it is a necessity to undergo. As I am not an Ordeal Master I do not feel I can comment any further on it.