Can one be an empath while being ‘ridden’?
The approach to Seidr involved in ‘spirit possession’ has been termed ‘oracular seidr’ (OS). However, before one can assume a spirit-possession phenomena, one needs to understand the component parts. For example, there are two situations at play here:
-the individual who becomes possessed, and
-the possessing agent.
Certainly, every evidence from the realm of Shamanic possession indicates that the possessed individual (PI) must be strong enough to survive a possession to occur, equally as they must have well-developed imaginative capabilities. After all, the PI must imagine and then convey what it would feel-like and think-like to be a possessing agent (PA). To take-on such a perspective, one must be able to emphasize with the PA. An activity that is, from a psychological perspective, purely imaginative, for it involves the construction of how an entity would think, feel, and act.
From the beginning, the PI would have to set aside individual self; to literally inhibit individual identity and impulses, fears and desires. Only after this was accomplished, could the imaginative mind construct a PA model.
Certainly, and again, every evidence from the realm of Shamanism indicates that this was not a random occurrence, but one born within an immense cultural construct. Anthropologically, humans have always lived in supportive groups, where the evolution of every aspect of life – from hunting to farming, from storytelling to spirituality – served to promote the overall evolution of the group.
If then, for example, we can agree that:
-Empathy is the means by which one imagines another’s perspective; and
-Possession is the adoption of an external mental state that involves inhibiting one’s individual nature; then true Shamanic spirit possession cannot be both.
You see, empathy requires two minds: the PI and the PA, whereas spirit-possession requires the complete foregoing of self or ego. True Seidr spirit-possession then, would be akin to the Zen koan: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.”
This statement is meant to open one to the idea of self-exploration and self-interrogation. The ability first realized by early Seidfolk and Shamans; namely, that the self-modification of self was the initial stage of self-awareness. You see, the more the PI gave-way to the PA – bolstered, assuredly by cultural sustenance – the more indepth and dignified the concept of self and Self began to demarcate. Then, as these Seid/Shaman traditions developed, Seidfolk passed this spirit culture onto their apprentices. As such, this ‘hidden’ and ‘sacred’ Much-Knowing – of the soul and mind, of the ruling-powers, of the obligations of the Volva and Vitki – was preserved, so that healing, divination, the control of natural phenomena, and leadership, became an integral aspect of the cultural construct.
Seidfolk/Shamans were the first ‘religious’ teachers, passing down the wisdom of celestial and terrestrial tides, of healing and harming herbs, of animal migration and weather observation. Yet, beyond being phenologists and physicians, historians and naturalists, they sought to embody High, Just-As-High, and Third. Perhaps even this is a Seid remnant of a Tripart Soul.
In Germanic lore, the Tivar are called ‘Ruling Powers’ and ‘High Ones’. Certainly, an earthly ruler would seek to embody the ideals of the Tivar, which, at the least, explains, the idea of the ‘divine king’, equally as the role between Lord and Volva / Vitki, and between Ruler and Shaman. The ordinary man could, to a degree, likewise reflect higher aspects of Self, but the Seid / Shaman was literally schooled in this philosophy and technique.
However, with Christianization, the idea of ‘godhead’ became humanized, ordinary even, and was used to manipulate the masses – a practice still seen today. Which is why the notion of those who do OS, via empathy, should be re-evaluated. Perhaps a revealing question would include: ‘Is the PI exhibiting the spirit might and dignity of the PA?’ And if so, how is this determined?
It’s no small matter that the majority of those who follow OS are women. Historically, the female mystery traditions included fertility, healing and plant lore, sexuality, and an opposition to tribal injustice (this latter appears to have become ‘social’ injustice). It appears that women who engage in OS are seeking a ‘voice’, are desiring to be heard and recognized as ‘sacred’ and ‘divine ‘priestess’. But: ‘Does one do this to be in control (ego-burdened) or to be ecstatic (ego-free)?’
In today’s Judao-Christian society, empathy, so often herald as an ‘essential’ human expression; in fact, it has lost its meaning, becoming synonymous with ‘pity’, ‘sympathy’, and ‘compassion’. These words are all rooted in Church Latin, and so not particular to a Heathen Weltanschauung.
If there can be said to be a Heathen Cornerstone, it could easily be argued as kin. The word is rooted in Proto-Germanic *kunjam, “family”, is equally found in Old Frisian, Old Saxon, Old Norse, Old High German “kin, kind, tribe”, and relatedly means “child, offspring”.
Today’s Judao-Christian society (and culture) emphasizes empathy: politicians, religious leaders, and social activists are measured by their perceived aptitude for empathy. As a Heathen, and moreso as a Seidwoman, I value conscious and deliberate reasoning in every aspect of life; not the empathic imaginings that pass as a pathetic yardstick of moral or ethical policy-making. Likewise I am innately interested in minimizing suffering and maximizing wellbeing for my kin. Sadly the hucksters who have fused Seidr with Voodoo, Wicca, or some other external folkway – aka: ‘oracular seidr’ – use empathy to make emotionally entangling appeals of self-aggrandizement that only serve to hijack and manipulate the suffering of others. And in so doing, hinder the work of those who actively seek to return Seidr to its rightful place within Heathenry today.
Knowing I hung, upon a windy tree,
nights all nine, spear wounded and
given to Wod, self to my Self,
upon this tree, which no man knows,
from where its roots originate.
-Havamal 138 (Wright translation)
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