Not So Subtle Differences?: Fylgja, Hamingja, and Animal Guides

In my spirit work, I encounter a host of entities. That host includes animal spirits as well as beings that are not animals but rather take animal form. The fylgja and hamingja are two strong examples of this from Norse/Scandinavian lore. The fylgja and hamingja are parts of the human soul with connections to luck and wyrd. At times, these soul parts can and do take human form. I have been struggling to understand whether or not the fylgja and hamingja are soul parts that merely masquerade as animals (i.e. are “humanoid” shapeshifting into animal forms) or if those soul parts actually share something of the essence of the animal (i.e. are “animal” shapeshifting into human form).

If the fylgja and hamingja are merely wearing masks then to what degree am I really guided by animal spirits? Are Barn Owl and Coyote truly spirits that walk with me or are my fylgja and hamingja simply playing at Barn Owlness and Coyoteness? Am I making any sense here?

Ok, in my cursory thinking about things, animal spirits are the spiritual essence of physical animals on this planet. Animal spirits possess metaphysical/spiritual abilities, some of which are tied to physical qualities (e.g., really great hearing might equal clairaudience) and others that are not (e.g., not many physical qualities scream spirit contact or mediumship, but nonetheless those are spiritual/metaphysical abilities possessed by Barn Owl). In the case of the fylgja and hamingja, do they share in/are they a part of that animal spirit or are they something else entirely with their own metaphysical/spiritual abilities? Thus far in my experience if my fylgja and hamingja have no connection to the animal spirits themselves, then they could have fooled me! They don’t seem to be wearing a mask or playing at anything. It seems to me that at least a piece of them (probably a significant piece) is animal/linked to/a part of/have their origins in the earthly animal spirits.

Alright, I am going to stop talking now because I am starting to feel…out there. Honestly, I am not even sure how much these questions matter on a practical level. It may be more philosophical than anything. Then again, I could see a few elements of my practice shifting depending on how I  answer these questions. For example, I would make a concerted effort to appeal to and build a relationship with the Barn Owl Animal Spirit in addition to (but as an entity distinct from) my work with my Barn Owl “soul part”. Same with Coyote. It could also have implications for how I communicate with and what I offer to my fylgja and hamingja.

I have so many questions and I think the answers have important implications, at least for me.

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5 thoughts on “Not So Subtle Differences?: Fylgja, Hamingja, and Animal Guides

  1. Pingback: Seidhr Update « The Catskin Sisters

  2. Pingback: On Night Owl’s Beak: Sayings of the Fylgja | Wandering Woman Wondering

  3. I should clarify…I know that the fylgja is part of the Norse soul concept, but I just didn’t think that it was along the same lines of the other “core components”…I think Gundarsson describes it as a “semi-independent being”…

  4. I read this post a couple of days ago and meant to reply then…then got promptly distracted. Oh well…anyways…

    I have been researching this exact topic for about a couple of weeks now. Strange coincidence that I would see your post about it now! I’ve tried to read about it in the Troth books (both the Flowers/Thorsson and the Gundarsson versions) both of them seem to indicate that your fylgja is connected to you, but is not necessarily a part of your self-contained identity/soul/etc/it’s confusing stuff. This seems to mean (at least to me) that your fetch is a discreet entity that has chosen to attach itself to you. This would not exclude the possibility that the fetch may be partly an animal entity that has acquired human characteristics. This is pure speculation on my part, of course.

    • Mine definitely seems to have “human characteristics” as you put it, which I would expect from a soul piece. But it most definitely is also very “animal” which is again characteristic of the fylgja and hamingja in Norse soul lore. Gundarsson’s idea about a “semi-independent being” is consonant with my experiences thus far however I am still in the throes of working out the consequences for my spirit work. Of course I will still develop my relationship with my fylgja and hamingja which happen to prefer a Barn Owl and Coyote form respectively…but what of the Barn Owl and Coyote animal spirits (which are wholy animal creatures with zero enmeshment in the human soul complex)? That is my question. I am mulling over answers and charting trajectories for my practice. At this point, I wish to honor my fylgja and hamingja which happen to take Barn Owl and Coyote form AND I wish to honor the Barn Owl Animal Spirit and the Coyote Animal Spirit which have nothing to do with me soul. Intellectually it feels like I am splitting hairs but my intuition tells me that there is a difference, an important one.

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