I just realized that I did not post my encounter with Nerthus from early July 2010 here on this blog. However, I did make sure that it got posted in my section of the Catskin Sisters blog (the full link to that entry is at the end of this post). We, the Catskins, are a group of 5 women who study and practice seidhr, a German shamanistic practice that deals with prophesying and wyrd-working. Each month, when the Catskins meet, we share our experiences from our journeys to the otherworlds, which are another important part of what we do. On one journey, I ventured into Vanaheim and met Nerthus, a very great and awesome lady who I am honored to rank among my Divine Guides, those deities who have chosen to work with me. Here is my awe inspiring encounter with Nerthus, Lady of Sovereignty and, as Svartesol put it, Terrible Holiness.
Unfortunately my journey to Vanaheim began with two rather lengthy false starts. In the first, I arrived at high noon to see vast plains of green and gold, numerous hills, and many large, full trees dotting the fertile land – a summer scene. The vision quickly cut out because I felt ungrounded and unsure of myself in this new place, even with my Barn Owl fylgja by my side. In the second attempt, I arrived at dusk to see the same vast plains but this time they were of pale green and yellow. The trees were of a similarly colored with much deep red and orange thrown in. It seemed like autumn this time around in Vanaheim. However, again I felt too distracted to hold the vision or to immediately try again.
So, I decided to stop journeying for a few minutes, get out of my seat, walk around a little, and then do some divination to try to figure out what was going wrong. After consulting the runes I realized that I had forgotten to prepare offerings for the residents of Vanaheim, especially those with whom I work (mostly Nerthus). I generally like to produce offerings for the locals when I go stomping around in unfamiliar parts of the cosmos to which I am not native. It just seems like the polite thing to do. I had essentially forgotten my manners and some part of my brain along with the powers that be answered the oversight with a resounding “no”. Following the divination session, I armed myself with offerings of whole milk and honey bread which empowered me to try again.
Success! Starting over again, I entered the door that leads to my otherworld home in Midgard, made contact with my Barn Owl fylgja, and grabbed my traveling cloak. He informed me that we needed to hurry because we had an appointment. He ignored the very confused look on my face, I shrugged that off, gave him a white mouse to eat and then we were off. Barn Owl grew to immense size and flew us up and around Yggdrasil. We ascended through the branches, quickly passed bright Ljossalfheim, flew above the walls of Asgard, up still past the wings of the Eagle and Hawk that sit atop Yggdrasil, then down again at full speed into Vanaheim (somewhere in the northeast – whatever that means – of the great cosmos represented by Yggdrasil). It was a chilly, moonless night by the time we arrived for our third tour. I could barely see anything, just wide, empty fields covered in darkness and two tree rows standing as a path, leading the way into a deep place in the Earth…a cave perhaps. I was not really sure and I did not really expect a cave given that my first experience of Nerthus’ holy place (in late October 2009) was more in accord with the lore (i.e., a sacred grove on an island surrounding a holy structure). My guess is that maybe this was one of Nerthus’ many homes/dwellings as opposed to her island temple. When I took the first step toward the dwelling, a wight with a Venus-of-Willendorf type figure intercepted me. She was polite and felt friendly enough but it was obvious that she wanted to know what my business was. I showed her the offerings for Nerthus and the inhabitants of Vanaheim and then informed her of my appointment. The gatekeeping wight then disappeared into the night with a faint smile on her face. I took mental note of the experience and began the downward sloping walk to the door of the “cave”.
I was struck with fear while standing at the door of this very unassuming cave because I had the distinct feeling that this place was more than it appeared to be. The dwelling felt regal and overwhelming but that is not how it appeared on the surface. Naturally, I began whimpering, resisting the imperative to advance and meet my appointment. Barn Owl interrupted my sniveling and told me to open the door. I replied with more sniveling, thinking that I should knock first and wondering what I should do with the offerings. Again, Barn Owl interrupted and firmly instructed me to open the door. I complied.
I was warmly greeted by a beautiful woman in an elegant white gown. Nerthus! She looked completely out of place but was right at home in the cave with her fireplace blazing and a basic table for two. There were no other furnishings. Nerthus herself was not veiled per se but her face was unclear, non-descript. Only her severe blue eyes could be seen. Looking directly into them for more than a few seconds at a time was impossible. This experience was in accord with a vision I had of her in April of this year. All things considered, Nerthus was not unlike her “cave”, calm and quaint on the surface but intense and regal beneath. I realized half-way through the encounter that all dialogue between us was extrapolated from the rush of gestures and images that I was receiving. My mind was forming the images into words so that it felt more like a conversation rather than a download of information. I asked Nerthus two questions (one about my difficulties in connecting to Vanaheim and one about how I could overcome those difficulties). To the first, she answered that my connection to my body and to my moment-to-moment experiences is poor and that Vanaheim is rooted in engaged experience, in sensation, in being so the disconnect was to be expected. To the second she replied that I will be able to see Vanaheim more clearly and connect better as my connection to my physical self/experience grows and strengthens. She added, in partial answer to my last question, that Barn Owl is a good fylgja and that if I heed his guidance in the otherworlds we will go far and I will learn and experience much. She then gave him several (at least 5) white mice which he gobbled down in an instant.
Throughout this encounter, while “talking” to Nerthus, I could feel her divine energy/presence becoming more pronounced. The facade was being peeled back and I could sense more of her true being, her might which was both intense and regal. Slowly, with the above as the otherworldly backdrop, my physical body in the mundane world was reacting! My heart rate increased, my breath quickened, I felt feverish, and ultimately I started to cry. It was a moment of divine ecstasy. I did not enter this journey seeking or expecting an ecstatic moment, but that’s what I got! I felt (and still feel) very blessed.
As Barn Owl carried me up above Vanaheim and back around the World Tree to my home in Midgard, I pondered the divine grace of the whole experience. When we touched down at my home and went inside, Barn Owl perched on the fireplace. As I prepared to pass through the door in my home that leads back into the waking world, I saw Barn Owl in a way that I had not seen him before. His true power seemed to surface for me to take in. His eyes deepened to awe-inspiring depths and he seemed larger than he appeared. It was not so much an experience of physical size but of his might. It was the same with Nerthus when I encountered her, a glimpse of her might. Hail Nerthus!
You can also find this experience presented at: http://catskinsisters.wordpress.com/2010/07/09/entering-vanaheim/.