As a part of my work with The Catskin Sisters, a small group of seidhr women based in Central Illinois, we journey to some of the Nine Worlds within the Norse cosmos. Generally, we choose to visit worlds that are known to be (at least somewhat) hospitable to human travelers. One of our most recent journeys was to Helheim or Hel-Home, the realm of Hela, the half-living half-corpse ettin-maid with jurisdiction over the teaming hoards of the dead. Before journeying to Hela’s realm I held a blot to her. I offered good beer and incense. I also made prayers for safe travel. The runes delivered a favorable message from the Queen of Hel and so I set off on my journey.
I slathered myself in a goodly amount of The Witch of Forest Grove’s Aves Salve, sat down on my loveseat, drew my white silk veil over my head and shifted left out of my body. I departed on the back of my Barn Owl fylgja through the kitchen window after brief conversations with the housewight and the spirit of my staff. My fylgja and I headed north here in Midgard until we reached the Tree, then north again and down its trunk and down one of its roots we went. The journey was fast and sinking. We “exited” at the edge of Niflheim where Mist-Home meets a set of dark gates that lead into Hela’s realm.
I was shrouded in mist and cold, and more than a little flustered. I waited at the gate until I felt comfortable continuing. I spoke the runes given to me for entrance to the realm and the gate opened. I was greeted by a spirit clad in white. Birch imagery immediately came to mind. The spirit was stern in manner and speech, and clearly empowered to halt any antics I might perpetrate in her mistress’ realm. While she gave me directions to Hela’s hall, I noticed the dead as they moved. They appeared to be grey-washed or sepia, not the color of life. I tore my eyes from the dead and instead focused on the road to Hel’s hall. Barn Owl reiterated the White Lady’s advice on the walk to the hall, warning me not to veer from the path if I ever wanted to leave Hel-Home. Of course I complied though the “water” flowing under the bridge there was sorcerously entrancing.
After a short walk, I arrived at the entrance to Hela’s Hall. Once invited, I entered. I was more than a little nervous to meet her. Hela was not much for pleasantries. She could smell my fear just as surely as I could smell her rot. The Queen of Hel was not pleased to see me there if I was not ready to be there. She reached for me with her fleshless arm and drew me close. I wanted to freak out, then I thought better of it. She offered counsel on my work with the dead, showed me a landmark on her property that might aid in my work, passed along a message from another Mighty Northern Power, and then sent me on my way. I followed the White Lady’s instructions from earlier, but in reverse, and ended on the other side of the gate not much worse for the wear.
Barn Owl and I gathered ourselves and got back on the expressway to this world. After emerging from trance, I did another rune reading which helped to verify many of my experiences in Helheim. I also reviewed my notes from other trance encounters with Death deities. I was pleased to see that they have a united front on many points where it concerns me and my Work with the dead.
So much Work to do, so little time! Well, that just means I gotta keep movin’.