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As the most recent of our ongoing effort to understand and perhaps map the Northern European Otherworlds, myself and the other Catskin Sisters planned to each individually attempt a Journey to Helheim. I myself didn’t want to just jump in unprepared, since the prospect of such a journey was daunting. I decided to do some initial divination, and journey to my home base in the Wood Beyond the World to see if there was anything in particular I could find out before setting out for Hel.

I gathered some offerings for my Fetch, since he’d be going with me, and since it had been a while since we’d had one-on-one time with each other. He was overdue for some attention. I set a little ramekin of cooked meat on the altar, as well as a glass of pure water. Next to these I placed a figurine of my Fetch, so it looked like he was claiming and guarding the offerings, (which in fact was the case). Now it was time for some divination.

I laid out three cards from my Dreampower Tarot, of which I use only the trumps, having discarded the pips long ago. I also know that some of my names for the cards are not the right names, though they have the same idea.

My question was- What should I know about this journey that I am about to undertake, and what will it gain me to undertake it?

The cards I drew were: Adam Kadmon (an image of a man emerging from/being dissolved into a starry night sky), The Stair (a curved set of stairs leading up from an underground chamber, upon whose wall a labyrinth is etched), and Union (two figures embrace at the edge of a roaring surf. They sit upon the back of a great Sea Turtle, and their faces have merged into the face of one androgynous being).

So, I think I might want to be aware of the feeling of dissolution of Self, which would at once be dangerous and frightening, but could also in the right environment be enlightening. I have been getting The Stair a lot in recent divination, it seems to signify that I’m working on certain spiritual matters,  that I’m doing fine, that I should keep up with the Work. The union seems to suggest that I may indeed gain some kind of enlightenment or altered perspective by traveling to Hel, so it seems as though it’s worth the risk.

I then drew three runes from my pouch. Well, I intended to draw three, but my fingers closed upon a clump of them, so I ended up drawing out four. I had asked what signposts I should look for in my journey, what dangers I should be aware of, what advice I should heed.

The runes I drew were: Hagalaz -Thurisaz- Gebo-Wunjo.

Hagalaz, of course, is a rune of Hel herself, in addition to signifying storms, change, or hardship. In its six-armed seed form it is also the warding Witches Foot sign. Thurisaz signifies danger, a threat, but also can be used to great power. It is a war-rune, a sign for laying malediction, a hammer to throw up against an enemy.  These two runes suggest that I should be wary and go well warded, and recognize danger when it comes.

Gebo is the gift-rune, and can also signify a contract or an exchange. Wunjo is the rune of joy and fulfillment, a bright banner of peace. These two runes suggest that I could gain knowledge and insight, but that I could have the opportunity to enter into some kind of barter or bargain (if I wanted to, that is). I might also receive some insight that could bring me emotional healing, even if that is not what I am seeking.

Armed with these insights, I donned my veil, set my Linden-stave across my knees, and breathed deeply, seeking to lull myself into a trance state. In a whispered voice I chanted “Let us go to the House, let us seek the Road, let us find the Door…”

I approached the House in the Hill on a sunny, cold day. The ground was dusted with snow. I walked up to the red door and opened it. As soon as I did so, stray energies swooped in and darted around the house like scraps of shadow, whizzing here and there through the air. They didn’t settle down, but whooshed faster and faster…

Enough! I said. This place is mine, and only mine. By my hand laid I claim it mine. By his paw set I claim it his. Ours it is, and no others.  None shall enter save those who have my word of invitation only!

The scraps of wild energy vanished. I guess it’s been too long since I’ve come here.

Before I did anything else, I needed to feed my fetch. I filled his food dish and water bowl in the kitchen, making sure to imbue the pieces of meat and the water with my own energy. I created some treats with my energy, and fed these to him as well. As he licked his lips and wagged his tail, I realized that what I really wanted right then was a cup of tea.

I found a mug and teakettle, and looked around for some tea. In a cabinet I found many jars of loose-leaf tea, but one-a small glass vial with a cork stopper- stood out as the one I should take.  As I shook some tea into the strainer I tried to guess what was in it. Valerian, and dried elderberries that rustled around in the tea under their own power like little beetles, some mugwort leaf, and a couple of other things I couldn’t guess. I poured hot water into my cup, and went to the couch with the intention of consulting my ever changing coffee table books, as well as the shelves of the library.

I sat down and took a sip of tea. The reflection off the liquid’s surface looked violet, like a wood at twilight, and indeed I saw a reflection there of the crow-haunted wood I had seen previously in a vision. I took a second sip, and saw reflected in the surface a fortress or city at night, with lights flaring at all the windows. (As I was drinking the tea in my trance-state, I made sure to envision it being incorporated into my body in the physical world as well).

I held some of the remaining tea in my cupped hands and my fetch lapped it up as well. (He told me I should do this). I wanted to look around and see if I could find any books that were relevant to my planned journey, but the normally bright room kept becoming dim and violet-toned, with long sweeping curtains fluttering in the windows. I tried to make the space return to normal, but the overlay returned if my attention wavered in the least. The tea leaves crawled and rustled wetly in the cup, before dissolving into a fine sludge.

I saw a book on one of the shelves that stood out to me, rimmed in the strange purple light. It was a thick old clothbound book, and the cover read ‘Necromancy’ in an antique gothic script. I opened it, but the type was tiny and closely packed, and I couldn’t read it at all.

I felt like I needed to go down to my workroom, to get a compass to show me which way was north. (This was something I had thought of doing when I was planning this journey).  The feeling was coming over me that I needed to get out of the house and start traveling immediately, so I wanted to be as prepared as possible if I was meant to start my travel to Hel upon the instant.

I picked up a compass from the workbench and looked at it, but the needle wavered, and I focused on North inside my own heart.  When I looked at compass I knew the needle pointed true. I felt more and more drawn to go out of the house and travel somewhere.  I kept thinking, ‘But I haven’t brought any offerings!’  I looked northward and saw a long set of stairs carved into the side of a snow-dusted hill, going down, so I set foot upon them with my Fetch following after.

I seemed to be gaining in elevation, the farther I went the more mountainous and cold was the climate in which I found myself.  ‘But I’m supposed to be going down!’ I thought. I struggled through this increasingly alpine landscape until I saw some dark cracks in the rocks. I entered this crevice and found myself in a close underground tunnel, which I forced my way through, not concerned it was so small, burrowing in like a snake. Then, I saw a light ahead, and wormed after it.

A great dark space opened up before me, like a vast well going down forever into blackness.  It echoed with winds and snatches of voice as if from a great distance.  I wondered if I was supposed to throw myself into it, but didn’t really like that idea. Then, I noticed a set of narrow spiral stairs cut into the side of this cavernous shaft. I carefully followed them down and around, down and around. The way seemed endless. ‘This is going to take forever,’ I thought.

I heard then either my own voice saying to me (or someone else’s voice, I couldn’t really tell),’ Why do you always think you have to take the hard way?’ Immediately a small, crooked door appeared in the wall along the stairway.  I envisioned the seed-form of Hagalaz emblazoned upon it in blue-white light, and wrenched it open on squeaking, rusty hinges.

On the other side of the door was a snowy meadow like a farmyard or some other sort of enclosure. Right in front of me was a high fence with a wooden gate. I knocked hesitatingly on the gate, and whispered ‘Hela, grant me entry to Helheim.  Hela, I ask an audience of thee.’  After a minute someone came and opened the gate for me with an old iron key.

The perspective was confusing as the gate was opened, and made me dizzy. Even though the opener was on the inside of the gate, still they used a key to open it. As I watched them do this, I simultaneously saw it happening from their perspective, as if I was the one opening the gate.

Before me was a slender, wizened-seeming figure draped head to toe in a pale cloak and hood that completely obscured their face. The enclosure seemed to be an old country cemetery with marble and granite tombstones dusted with falling snow. Nearby was another enclosure in which shaggy, dark coated horses stamped and grazed, nuzzling through snow for the grass beneath.

The figure pulled aside its hood with an emaciated hand, and I saw it was a pale woman with sunken eyes.  The shadows to one side of her face were bruise-colored with the lividity of the recently dead.  ‘Hail, Hela,’ I said, but she answered, I am Hels handmaiden.  She didn’t speak aloud nor move her mouth, but I could hear her voice within my mind. It was monotone, and rasped slightly as she spoke.

She asked what I wanted and I said I sought entry into Helheim. She asked why and I said, ‘because I am afraid, but know I cannot avoid that realm, because I go to map the Worlds, and because I wish to improve my ability to Journey.’ (Note to self. Should you get into Hel, remember to ask Hela or Her representative to put you in contact with an ancestor who may be able to teach you something, and be sure to ask if any of your ancestors have anything to share with you).

She nodded and held out an old fashioned skeleton key. As she did so I saw that she wore a necklace and belt all hung with ancient-looking keys. The one she gave to me seemed like a regular old iron key, but also sometimes looked as if it was made out of carved bone and crystal or ice, but it wavered, and I got the feeling there was more to it that I was unable to perceive.  I thanked her for the key, than asked how I should best return to mortal lands from Hel.

She seemed faintly surprised that I wanted to come back, and stood in thought for a moment. I was glad I remembered to ask!  I saw that she was holding in her hand a little grey forest bird whose feathers were fluffed out with the cold, and she said to listen for their songs, that they would guide me back. (I also got the intuition that whistling birdsong would also help me get back out of trance if I got stuck).

Soon after that, the vision became hard to hold, and I felt myself being pulled out of the gate. There was a flash of snow-toothed crags, wind and darkness, the feeling of falling down the deep huge well shaft (Had I thrown myself in after all?) Then I was standing at the bottom of the well, and a line of light shone forth through the wall of rock. I wiggled through the crack to find myself back in the hilly wood near the House in the Hill.

I then was sitting on the couch, with my fetch next to me, his head in my lap. It seemed as though we’d journeyed within a journey, likely due to the effects of the mysterious dreaming tea.  I laid the skeleton key on the coffee table and tried to raise myself back up to the material world, which took a few minutes of effort before I was able to throw off my trance state and wake once more.

So now I have a way in, and a way back.  I was deep enough in trance that upon my return I had to eat something to stop being really spacey, almost walking into things, and being fascinated and ‘pulled into’ anything that was remotely interesting in my surroundings.

I had intended to try for Hel later this afternoon, but my information-gathering journey alone has left me exhausted, so perhaps not – although I know I need to go soon, and I may need to brew a second cup of tea.