This morning I decided to try once more to journey into Helheim, and see if I could pass the gates of that realm. My last attempt had been unsuccessful, but I was ready to try once more.
Before all else, I made offerings. For Frau Holda, witch-mother and teacher, I poured some Liquor Strega, and offered some elderberries. For Hela I offered elderberries as well, along with some valerian root and mugwort – three of the four ingredients in the entheogenic tea I had brewed in trance during my fact-finding mission.
I also did a bit of divination. As before, I laid out three cards from my Dreampower Tarot trumps, to see what lay ahead in my journey, and what signposts there were for me. The cards I drew were: The Maker (a sturdy woman in a workshop forges something that glows with light; many tools hang on the wall behind her), Awakening (A bear stands near a tree wreathed in a torque of gold and silver, the stars of the Great Bear are mirrored in a shield), and The Stair, which I have described before.
The Maker is a card I associate with myself, as I am a maker and a smith of precious metals. The stair I have drawn in every divination relating to this series of journeys, and Awakening is an auspicious card to me as well, signifying realization or coming into power.
I drew three runes as well, to see what advice the powers had for me regarding the journey I was about to attempt. The runes drawn were: Laguz, Hagalaz, Raidho; all three of which related well to the work I was about to do.
I donned my veil and laid my staff across my lap, breathing rhythmically, settling into a light trance state and envisioning myself in the blackness of void, trying to forget the presence of my physical form. I called my Fetch to join me and felt his presence like an electrical tingle on my skin. When I felt I was ready, I stepped out of void, through mist, and walked into my home base in the Otherworld, the House in the Hill.
Upon entering, I took off my shoes, which I had never done before. I went to the kitchen, filled the food and water bowls there, and gave my fetch, the Hound, a treat made from my own energy. This time it took the form of a dried pig’s ear, which he gnawed on happily. I retrieved my key from the coffee table and hung it around my neck with a cord. It still seemed to be carved of bone and ice and berg-stone, and I was sure that with this I could open Hel’s gate. I felt like I shouldn’t dawdle, so I grabbed my staff, slipped on a pair of boots that were laying close by, and drew a half-cloak of ivory-colored wool around my shoulders. In my pocket I had a little compass to point north. Feeling that I was as ready as I was likely to get, I walked out the back door with my Fetch following after.
Where to now? I wondered, looking out across the snowy landacape. I crossed the bridge to the hill of the Dwarven stone where I had entered Swartalfheim, and looked out across the tangled wood. Other travelers have visualized the World Tree and travelled upon its branches and roots, so I thought I’d try that and see if I could thus get to Hel by a direct route. But, when I tried to hold the image of the great Tree in my mind, the image kept dissolving into masses of black tangled roots snaking through the cold earth, and it was giving me a headache. Well, the long way around as usual, then.
After giving up on visualizing/travelling to the World Tree, I got a sudden intuition that the rune Uruz would be helpful in accessing Hela’s realm. Uruz: the Aurochs, an upwelling fount of power from the deep earth, potentiation and becoming – the stamping of hooves in the glade. I began to chant: ‘Hela-Hagalaz-Hela-Uruz,’ whispering the four words over and over until they ran together into a stream of meaningless syllables. As I chanted I visualized myself back in the void, travelling through darkness, knowing that when I stepped through the fog between the worlds I would be where I needed to be.
I was in a snowy plain with a berg of grey stone rising before me. A crack in the stone seemed to be a doorway, so I took my key and placed it in the stony lock. It turned, and I was in darkness once more.
Hela Hagalaz Hela Uruz Hela Hagalaz Hela Uruz
I stood in near-darkness, underground. The room from the card (The Stair), I realized, with a stair leading up and out. I walked up the stairs and found another door before me, and my key once more fit the lock.
Hela Hagalaz Hela Uruz –
I was in a formal garden in winter under a grey sky. Tall hedges lined the path, at the end of which was a closed door inset into a high stone wall. I saw a figure before me, but at the same time it also seemed like I was looking back and seeing myself. The figure was veiled in white, with a pale half-cloak draped around her shoulders, and she carried a tall staff. The hound by her side was steel grey like the sky and the stones of the garden wall; not near-black like mine, and so I recognized that it was the guardian Modgud that I faced, and not a mirror image of myself.
I hailed her and her hound in greeting, and said that I’d brought offerings of dreaming herbs, that I wished to pass the gate and gain an audience with Hela herself. After a moment, she stood aside without a word, and I was allowed to pass. Down the narrow garden path I walked, and placed my key into the lock of the stone door. It turned with a long, low note like a distant horn, and the key vanished into dust. The gate swung open and I stepped through into another part of the garden. Another walled enclosure, with a low formal hedge snaking through it. (This entire area in fact closely mirrored the appearance of the formal gardens in Robert Allerton Park near Monticelo, Illinois. For those that know it, I appeared to be in a version of the hedge-lined path right before one gets to the Sunken Garden).
On a bench near the wall of the garden sat another veiled figure. I approached and took her hand, but she was still and cold, merely a corpse. I walked on. There was a gap in the wall of this enclosure, and I passed through into the edge of a forest, bare trees sighing in a bitter wind. From garden to wild I had gone, but hadn’t seen any shades milling about, and besides the guardian had encountered no denizens of Hel.
Before me on a wooded hill was a gazebo of grey stone, and in a chair within it sat a female figure robed in white and scarlet. She seemed somehow larger than life, and I felt sure it must be Hela. Her white-blond hair hung in two braids from the hood of her cloak. Her skin was deathly pale, though she was stately and beautiful. I could just barely see the left side of her face from where I stood though, the side that was rotted and dead like a decaying corpse.
‘You do not belong here,’ she said. I heard the words clearly, but her lips never moved, nor did she stir at all upon her seat of stone among the sighing winter trees. ‘I know,’ I replied, ‘but nevertheless I have come.’
‘I am a traveler, and seek knowledge in all the worlds, turning aside from none. Your realm I fear, though I know it is an inevitable destination for all living, and so I have come to ask if there is any knowledge you can share with me. I also would ask if there are any ancestors of mine that reside here with you who would speak to me, who would aid me or advise me with what words they can.’
Though I got the sense that I was highly incongruent to Her realm, and that my being alive was disconcerting, she spoke to me nonetheless. This is what she told me.
The roots in the earth run through my realm, she said, and the sighing of wind runs within it. Even the whole of the earth must enter here, with the coming of winter as the Greenmantle dies. Where else would it go?
If you would speak to the shades let your words be carried on the wind, call out to them with the voice of the wind, and let your intention be heard through the cold earth (drum on the ground with the butt of your staff, and lay your hands on the bare earth). In this way can your words be sent out to them.
I asked Her if any of my ancestors had words for me, and before us the shade of a child appeared. It was just a grey, indistinct human form, without facial features or identity. This small shade burned with a purpose, though – she wanted to return to the world, and asked if I would bear her.
I asked how she was called, but she didn’t answer. I told her that it was Hela’s decision alone to say if a spirit would go back into the world, or (as I suddenly realized what the child-ghost was implying) be reborn.
I asked Hela if there were any others that wished to speak to me, but She remained silent, and I suddenly realized that She expected me to call them forth myself. So, I called out on the wind: ‘blood of my blood, flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone, breath of my breath. Come forth to me, come forth, and speak what words you will!’ I tapped my staff three times upon the earth, and saw that now a crowd of shades stood before the gazebo, all grey and indistinct, but in human shape.
I asked the crowd if there were any among them who wished to speak, and their ranks parted. The child came forth once more. I asked her again how she was called, and she replied ‘Stella.’ I explained that I would not be the one to bear her if she wished to be reborn into the world, but perhaps it could be some other. (A cousin, perhaps? Or is my married sister with child?!) I told her that if she wished to be reborn she had my blessing, if indeed she was no bane and only a human shade. She retreated into the crowd, and almost too late, I remembered to send out love to her from my own heart. Of course she was no baneful spirit but an ancestor of mine.
Why a child? Had she died young, been stillborn, or was her longing to be reborn as a babe affecting the form she took? I felt bad for being so cold to her at first. My manners with spirits are awful, I’ve got to learn to be more gracious.
I sent out love to all the others gathered there, those people who had come before me, and who had passed into the grey lands. I got the sense that Hela was explaining to me that it’s of vital importance that I honor them, since my doing so reinforces the bond between Her realm and the living world, and thus makes it easier for a shade to be reborn into the world if they so wish.
Hella turned to me and held out her hand, in which she held a single feather, a long white plume like the wing-feather of a goose, such as one would make into a primitive quill pen. I took the white plume from her and the world went white, then I found myself being drawn backwards through the garden gate, back through the gate of the tumulus, back through the stone door of the berg, and then I was standing at the kitchen door of my own House in the Hill.
I stirred, and began to rise up into the material world once more, being sure to pull my Fetch along with me. I was cold, and it was hard to bring myself back to awareness at first. I had made it! I had journeyed into Hel and back, and gained unexpected knowledge in so doing. My key is dust, however; so if I return I will have to find another way.