Women and ‘Northern Magic’: Symbiotic Occultism
This essay’s subtitle should not mislead you: although the article is centering on women and is written from a female perspective, it is definitely not intended to be another feminist approach to magic, praising women and condemning all the culture-historical aspects that lead to women’s weaker role in patriarchal societies (from today’s point of view). I regard it as much too simplifying to create the picture of the evil Christendom that changed the glorious Germanic culture. It is to be assumed that in the old Germanic society women were just as much subject to their man’s rule and law (munt) as in the invading Christian view. It is likely, though, that only with Christianity there came the idea of women being at the heart of sin, and that consequently misogynistic parts of the Edda, connecting women with falsity (e.g. Havamal, v.83 in the German edition) are additions derived from Christian conviction. This appears reasonable since the main part of the Nordic mythology as presented in the Edda usually draws a different picture of women and gender – but we will come to that later.
For now, it is just important to understand that this essay does not want to glorify women’s role and power but that it wants to advise women to find their own way in occultism and thereby to create what we, Kosmic Gnostics, call a “Symbiotic Occultism”. Symbiotic in the way that men and women do not work together in a completely uniform way – claiming the same methods and skills based on the assumption that ‘equal rights’ require ‘equal’ (= the same) behavior – but that they work together (with equal rights) contributing and combining their gender-specific differences – forming a complimentary symbiosis.
I will try to make that clearer now: Though they are still in a large minority, more and more women enter occultism and occult groups these days. Usually they study and practice the same methods and teachings, and walk the same path as men do. That is not blameworthy, of course – we are definitely all human beings and we are (hopefully) striving for the same goal. Nonetheless, I strongly believe that the difference of gender matters – especially in the area of magic (surely more even in sexual magic)! And that is exactly the reason why I do not see the “true” way of an occult group in just combining men and women in an identical way. There need to be differences in some areas, some teachings, some practices – for both sexes. And only if this is set into practice, the “symbiotic occultism” realized, we are closer to reaching the “Golden Age” again.
Difference of Gender
[As we all know, there exists almost always an exception to the rule and so there is hardly anything in this world that can be generalized. Statements like “all women are x” are therefore at once doomed to refutation. But we would never arrive at functional theories, if we tried to include each and every possibility. So if I say something like “women are x”, I do not mean all women, and I am aware of the fact that there might be exceptions – although exceptions ususally just prove the rule ;).]
While I am certainly very grateful for what was achieved by the woman’s rights movement, I highly question one of its side effects. It is pretty correct to demand equal legal, political and social rights – as said, we are all human beings and men need to see women as standing on the same level (egality). That is about a basic respect for another human being. It is not correct, however, that women (or even men) start to assume that both in fact are identical. Because they are not and they will never be. Obviously I am still talking about the mundane level right now and you might object that this would not apply to metaphysical levels. But eventually, as the name shows, there would not be any kind of meta-physics without some sort of physics.
And that’s exactly why biological gender matters even in spiritual and/or magical dimensions. While women may have some male qualities and abilities on the metaphysical plane (and vice versa), they will not be completely the same because of the plain and simple difference of their physical, that is biological body.1Besides, people in the tradition and mindframe of Julius Evola might even question a similarity on the metaphysical plane (see his Metaphysics of Sex).
Our body and all the biological processes connected with it actually shape a good deal of our experiences and of who we are. While some gender-stereotypes are certainly nothing more than exactly this, cliches, it is a matter of fact that both sexes have experiences as well as behavior directly connected with their biological gender. And the idea that at least some of these differences are also important on a spiritual level is a reality mirrored in “traditional religions” where there often is to be found a separation of male and female functions in ritual etc. Although some (if not most) of them appear also just as devices of social power, the underlying “truth” of the metaphysical difference of gender (intertwined with the physical one) should not be ignored – advancement is not reached by ignoring the past but by improving it.
Female Role & Magic in Nordic Mythology
“(…)instead of human sex being the foundation for the understanding of the reality of sexually differentiated divine and mythological figures, it is precisely the content of those figures that will give us the key to the deepest and most universal aspects of sex in man and woman.”Julius Evola
It is indeed in Nordic Mythology where we can easily find the idea of “symbiotic occultism” depicted: while there is some kind of ‘equality’ in role, there is partly a difference of magical methods. This can be seen in the female figures Frigg and Freyja. Although Frigg has hardly any known connection to magic (except one), she represents the kind of equality mentioned, since Odin not only asks her, his wife, for her advice but she also shares his knowledge of what happens in the worlds and therefore she also knows the fate of every living being. Her single link to (practical) magic lies in owning a falcon-cloak (just as Freyja does) – shapeshifting pointing towards the ability of connecting with animal nature and animalistic powers, while the animal being a falcon points towards knowledge and high spirituality. Freyja on the other hand holds some more connections to magic, but before we will come to them let us first consider the ‘equality’: this is to be found in two seemingly contrasting but nonetheless highly related areas, war and sexuality. Firstly, Freyja, a Vanir and Valkyrie, shares with Odin the fallen warriors (she is to choose one half), and secondly, she is promiscuous just like him – although this seems to be differently estimated. Leaving aside the question of morals, this latter point becomes significant in combination with her aspects of magic.
Apart from the falcon-cloak, Freyja is associated with another item, her necklace called Brisingamen. It is not sure what powers Brisingamen precisely holds but it is likely that it adds up to or increases Freyja’s magical abilities – at least it is generally regarded as a magical item. Right here, its most interesting aspect is its link to sexuality since it is said that Freyja
achieved Brisingamen by “spending a night” with each of the four dwarfs who made the necklace, respectively. This has been interpreted as symbolizing a kind of alchemical procedure but might as well point towards a combination of elemental magic with sexual-magical rites, culminating in the “achievement” of the powerful (or at least precious) talisman. Another sexual symbolic can be read into the Hyndluliod, when Freyja turns her human lover Ottar/Othr into a wild boar that she rides to Hyndla. Freyja is not, however, only linked with magic via her magical items or her sexuality but also as the one who brings the knowledge of seithr (or seodhr) to the Aesir and teaches it to them.
Seithr is said to be the special magic of the Vanir and generally more connected with women [though in mythology Odin is said to become better in seithr than Freyja – after having learned it from her; this might be the case because of his general role as master of the runic knowledge which in turn might be regarded as underlying all Northern magic]. This gender-practice-connection is also drawn between women and divination as well as women and healing. While the first link is based on historical sources (Roman writers telling about Germanic tribes consulting particular women
as divinatory advisors), the second is found again in mythology where Eir is called the best of (explicitly female) healers and where Groa is not only healing Thor but also able to sing a powerful “healing-song” to her son after being already dead herself. This is especially noteworthy since the ability of singing magically functional songs is usually associated with men – compare Odin’s rune song in havamal. A propos: the knowledge of runes is usually a “male” power. Although it shall not be overlooked that there are for example mythological female figures scratching functional runes into wood.
This last paragraph about linking “nordic magic” with gender (a relation others have written about extensively before) should not deceive you: it is not aimed at establishing a strict separation of “male” and “female” magic. As the aforementioned exceptions have already demonstrated, none of these magical practices is completely restricted to one or the other sex. But it appears likely that there generally is a correlation between gender and the “natural ability” of or “talent” in certain magical powers.
Blood & Tears
“Unfehlbar bedeutet es daher nicht dasselbe, wenn das Weib zum Manne sagt: Ich liebe dich unaussprechlich, als wenn der Mann zum Weibe sagt: Ich liebe dich unaussprechlich!“Ludwig Klages – (Translation JG)
“Thus, when the woman says to the man: I love you unutterably, it does without question not mean the same as when the man says to the woman: I love you unutterably!”
Aside from illustrating an equality of function or role (for which many more examples could have been given), Frigg and especially Freyja represented a basically strong connection between women and magic. This magic is not, however, explicitly restricted to gender and it remains the question in which particular way (so what exactly) women may contribute to “symbiotic occultism” – that is when they neither choose the completely identical nor the absolutely feministic path. Where do those gender specific options lie that would realize the symbiosis which is so perfectly depicted in the Nordic myths? This question cannot be satisfyingly answered. Not yet. But a part of the answer possibly lies in the body fluids evoked in this essay’s title: Blood and Tears. And again this can be exemplified by Nordic mythology.
I told you already about Freyja’s relationship with the human Ottar/Othr.
The Hyndluliod describes that he sacrificed so much oxen-blood to Freyja that the stones of the house he built for her (= the altar) had become like glass by then. It was said elsewhere that this effect occurred because he burnt the blood, which might be an interesting side-note. However, this link between Freyja and blood-sacrifice is not only drawn in the Hyndluliod contained in the Edda but also in the Ynglinga-saga of the Heimskringla. Here, Freyja is explicitly called a “priestess of sacrifices” which are later classified as “blood-sacrifices”.
There is another well-known story related about Freyja and Ottar/Othr. In this tale Ottar/Othr had left Freyja (some say in search of wisdom) and in search of her lover she took her carriot (drawn by cats) and visited many foreign countries. Noteworthy about this is that she is crying during this search. Actually, Freyja is crying a lot and her tears are said to be presents for the world: becoming gold when dropping on earth, and amber when dropping into the sea. In the Edda’s Gylfaginning, however, it is said that her tears are “red gold” – a description that might be interpreted either as fluid gold or amber but immediately evoked the picture of blood in me. Bloody tears. (It should be noted however that “red gold” might also contain a sexual, alchemical link – denoting the famous “elixir rubeus”).
In another saga, there is also to be found a quite particular connection between blood and tears. This saga relates the love between the heroic king Helgi and the Valkyrie Svava. While many ‘romantic’ hearts might admire the aspect that they are said to be reincarnating again and again (in this particular tale Svava is reincarnated as Sigrun), it is of more interest right here that there is a special bond between blood and tears included in their tale. It is said somewhere that her tears increase the blood of his deadly wounds and in the Helgakvida Hundingsbana Önnur it is written that the dead king says to his Valkyrie-wife: “O clad in gold, cruel tears thou weepest, bright May of the Southlands, or ever thou sleepest; each tear in blood falleth on thy lord…”. Bloody tears. (Even in a very symbiotic kind since her tears are related to his blood.)
It is nothing new that blood is one of the most powerful substances you can use in magic and it is quite certainly nothing confined to one sex (with the exception of menstrual blood, of course, which shall not be forgotten as one of the most powerful means lying temporarily at women’s disposal). Tears are certainly not restricted to one sex either, but they are clearly associated considerably more with women (especially in Nordic mythology). The combination of both, blood and tears, as it is portrayed in the described myth and saga appears quite significant. While the practical value and relations need still more research, there are two words coming to mind in matters of interpretation: suffering and purification. Menstrual blood is sometimes regarded as purifying the body – so while the loss of blood could be a symbol for purifying the body, tears could be regarded as purifying the soul. In the myths above, both are brought about by intense suffering. In each tale, this suffering is caused by the loss of the beloved one.
Now is the point to draw your attention to another aspect shared by our narrations: both females are Valkyries. Despite (or because of?) the fact that Valkyries developed out of horrific demons of war and death, they often became something much more significant in later myth and knowledge: the spiritual companion of the hero. Here we touch upon the subject of the soror mystica. But although the “truth” contained in the tale of the hero on his quest (who ever keeps in mind and heart the picture of the beloved one – esoterically to be found inside – and only takes short rests with the several female figures representing the one divine female) can surely be conferred to women as well, there was always missing a true figure of identification for a woman (my opinion) – because it is painful to identify with (just) one of those females on the hero’s way. There is, however, a cruel reality inside.
Both Valkyries show that this is exactly the point of departure: the loss of the lover, the leaving of the hero (now to be read differently than when we identify with him in the quest) leads to nothing else than her following: either reincarnated like Svava or journeying through the unknown world in search for “him” like Freyja. While you might definitely believe in romantic love, do not confuse it with the esoteric love that is essential for you to find, and do not allow it to keep you in bondage! Suffer, cry, shed bloody tears – and purify yourself from all illusions!
“In love, just as in magnetism and electricism, the creative spark is as bigger and more alive as resoluter the polarity, that is the differentiation, of the sexes is: the more man is truly man and woman truly woman. In the world of the „evolutionary“ and „emancipatory“ woman there can be the promiscuity of an ambiguous comradeship, of dim „intellectual“ sympathies or a new banal communistic naturism: but not any longer the love grasped in that deep elementary sense, where the ancient ones saw in her a cosmic elemental force.”Julius Evola
This essay is said to be about Magic and Occultism so you might ask now why to begin this conclusion with a quote about love. This is not far-fetched though. “Romantic”, “profane” love is one of the most important topics in our common life, ruling the thoughts, emotions and behavior of most people almost every second. There is a lot of power in such strong emotions and consequently a lot of danger. I actually think that love is one of the most nastiest traps out there, easily leading us into self-delusion, ego-weaknesses and ignorance. But at the same time it might provide us with a lot of insights, strength and courage. If we are aware, that is. Awareness as in a gnostic state of mind – “knowing” about our inner dualism, the inner conflict between “spirit” and soul. It is the untransformed spirit (often shaped as ego) that wants us to fall into the pit, keeping us away from the soul-strengthening power of love. Love as a “cosmic elemental force.” (Here, we return to the aspect of esoteric love mentioned before – one of the central points of the “heroic quest” and therefore one of the most important elements in our spiritual journey.)
Magic, which to most people appears to be a tool to gain profane powers, is certainly a powerful means to realize or actualize the inner truth about being divine in your own divine cosmos. Overcoming the inner separation referred to above is necessary for that – and should analogically be mirrored by overcoming the outer separation or dualism (e.g. male and female) as well. This overcoming, however, ought not be done by just turning the one into the other or leveling all differences. Just as the soul body-complex in Kosmic Gnostic thought/philosophy needs a strengthening and the life-renouncing spirit needs to be transformed, it is the transformation of man and woman (into the absolute being) based on their very own nature – and therefore also based on their differences – which is seeked for. Again, the keyword is symbiosis. Symbiosis is not reached by two identic elements joining each other (this would just increase the quantity) but by two complementary elements uniting. It is then that they form something new.
Repeating this point brings us back to the subject. We might seem far away with all that talk about love and soul and dualism but that builds actually the underlying ground. The question about gender roles in Magic and Occultism, especially in its Northern frame, results in the same aspects: a reevaluation of gender roles and functions, a rejection of absolute “male-female-sameness”, a call for complementary symbiosis (= symbiotic occultism) leads to acknowledging gender-specific magical abilities (without completely restricting them to male or female) in connection with a possibly gender-specific spiritual journey (which is right now just a hypothesis). Northern myth proves again the undeniable importance of esoteric, spiritual love and significantly it does so in relation to female figures. Esoteric power lies especially in sexuality, blood and tears. Purifying soul and body. Strengthening them. I assume (a hypothesis as well) a stronger link between woman and soul (respectively of man and (transformed) spirit), which is one of the reasons to follow the hero on “his” quest – seeking his transformative spiritual (or spirit-transforming?) power while offering her heightened soul-quality.2(In the teachings of the hyperborean Kosmic Gnostic order Fraternitas Borealis this latter is strongly connected with blood – while not being gender-related, this supports the general idea of blood being one of the most significant fluids in relation to realizing the soul-power and Kosmic Gnosis).
To my mind this might actually show a way for joining men and women in a symbiotic frame of work and one practical means to realize this heightened soul-quality in females best lies in connecting those (highly meaningful and symbolic) essences: Blood & Tears.
I wrote this essay based on work within the Fraternitas Borealis in 2008. It has also been referenced in David Beth’s Voudon Gnosis, 2nd edition, published by Fulgur in 2010 which is why I have been asked for it regularly. Since it does not disclose any internal workings of the FB nor present anything I have not talked about already (and is in some details also outdated), I chose to publish it here in full length.
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