Wodinic Ordeals

excerpt from Wightridden: Paths of Northern-Tradition Shamanism

I led my first Wodinic ordeal in March 2005…completely spontaneously. At the time, I was a member of a local heathen group, and they asked if I’d lead a faining to Freya for some pagan friends, one of whom was being strongly “bothered” by Woden. I agreed, and we all got a strong feeling that there should be a private Woden faining with the man in question, myself (because I belong to Woden), a friend of mine, and her husband who also claimed devotion to Woden. So we set out for the woods.

I’ll preface this by saying that at this point, we were convinced that all Woden wanted was a faining. Neither of us had any inkling of what was to come, and Woden did not share His plans with me. I’ll also say that though I love Woden dearly, I have never, ever experienced Him in the way that He came that night. He dampens the terror with His women, and until that night I never understood why one would flee Him. I never understood what it was Woden’s men go through. I understand it now. I saw and felt and bowed to that terror myself.

But I am getting ahead of myself. We thought this would be quick and simple, but Woden had other plans. As we went into the woods, they darkened and shifted. They changed and Woden’s presence, very dark, was palpable. I told them to stop at a crossroads in the woods, feeling that it was where Woden wanted us to hold the faining. The Woden's man who was with us was an ex-marine, a sniper and a shapeshifter. He (and I witnessed this later that night) is "skin swift"...or let’s just say he’s very close to his wolf fetch. Woden had been courting him for some time.

We stopped at the crossroads and I filled the horn with vodka. I had brought two bottles of Jagermeister for this part of the faining but that did not seem appropriate. They were small and I pocketed them for later, assuming each of the men could give one in offering after the horn was passed. I raised the horn and gave a verbal prayer, speaking of Woden as God of the crossroads, of the dead, hanging God, God of the hunt, etc. Then I sang the spirit song that Woden had given me years ago. Woden would not allow it to come as I wished…and as I sang it, it changed, growing far darker than I had anticipated.

We saw Him in the woods standing by a Tree in the blackness. I offered the horn to my friend's husband, who also gave a prayer to the Old Man. I told him to pass it to Karl, for there are some things a Woden’s man can only receive from another Woden’s man. Woden made it very clear at that moment to both of us without forewarning that He had made us bring our wolf-shifter out there for an initiation. He wanted that man and had watched and honed and selected him very carefully. My friend's husband scribed the valknot over the horn and told the initiate exactly what it would mean (as one Woden’s man to another) for him to drink. The young man paled and asked if he could have a few moments. At our nod, he went off to commune with his wolf fetch (this actually later earned him a compliment from Woden who said that unlike most of His chosen, myself included, this one actually possesses common sense...said with a fairly dry laugh).

The initiate returned after a few minutes and nodded (we had almost been hoping he’d say no), telling us that his wolf told him to do it and had never guided him wrong yet. He drank, and Woden said He wanted the valknot cut into him. I offered to do it, if this was what he wanted. I took the horn and walked towards the direction of where Woden was standing by the trees, knelt, and offered Him the rest of the horn. When we were able, our initiate led us out of that place…only after Woden was no longer visible.

We went back to the house and our wolf went inside, then came out burning up with wod, even though it was a cold night. My friend wisely suggested we throw runes to see if now was a good time to do the valknot, and Gebo came up. This man, who had never met me before that night, said he trusted me to do it, wanted to get it over with and tossed a K-Bar knife down point first into the wooden porch saying, "You’re doing it with this though." (I know better now, but at the time, I just shrugged and said "ok, but you’ll get a better line with a razor blade." )

I told out initiate to make himself ready, and asked my friend if she could draw a valknot freehand (she’s an artist) as I did not trust myself to cut it freehand. What I didn’t know, but should have assumed, is that this man was a berserk. What occurred in his initiation to Woden makes perfect sense. My friend, who had known him for years, told me later that for him, it had to have been bloody, violent and dark.

We went back out into the woods, but as soon as we hit the crossroads they changed, and I realized later that Woden had opened a gate. He’d taken us away from those woods and into a place of the dead, the place where His corpse dangled. It stole the warmth and feeling from us, and for hours after this, it was like we were the walking dead. On the way out, we had to pass by the firepit, and Woden indicated that He wanted ash from the fire smeared into the wound, so we gathered that. Woden chose a small square clearing where Hurricane Hugo had struck down a tree. Our wolf took off his shirt, sat down and wrapped his arms about the stump. Our other Woden's man sat on his legs, pinning him down, and held his arms. (If I ever do this again, we’re binding the berserk in question. Had our wolf had less control, we couldn’t have held him and would never have been able to fend him off. I kept a knife by my side just in case.) Our wolf gagged himself so that he couldn’t bite any of us, and bade us hold him secure. The knife was doused with alcohol, the valknot drawn on his back, and my friend held the light for me. I washed his back with alcohol and Woden told me to bring Him His son. I began to cut while galdring; Woden showed me images and I translated them into the galdr bringing this ulfhednar to the Battle Lord. I do not remember most of the galdr, only that the son passed from the hands of Woden’s bride to Woden Himself. It was the first time that Woden used me as valkyrie, making me an extension of His will directly. Once the valknot was cut, I smeared it with ash.

We had lost our initiate by that point; part of him had begun to change, his soul had gone and he was shifting. Woden had taken him off somewhere. We called him back, which took some time, even though I utilized galdr. He said later that he’d never been able to come back to humanity in so short a time. The presence and energy was extremely strong. My friend, a Freyswoman, backed away and averted her eyes, knowing this was a Wodinic mystery. We wrapped our arms around our wolf, grounding him and calling him back to himself. Eventually he came back, but for the next few hours he was non-verbal, and had recurring muscle spasms throughout his body as he regained full humanity.

Once it was safe, we ungagged him and let him go. On the way out, my friend had wandered a bit ahead and Woden appeared to her—I believe to keep her from wandering farther into the place of the dead where she might be lost. She heard steps, and then the sound of a body swinging from a tree, and had the most sensible response of the night—she stopped and covered her eyes, not wanting to see. By the time I reached her, she was trembling in utter terror, too afraid to go forward or back. I wrapped my arms around her shoulders and guided her out. We took our initiate back to the firepit and got him food; my friend was wise enough to bring me food too. I was so cold inside, dead, that I didn’t catch any of the signs of backlash or shock. I figured even though I didn’t feel like it, I should eat and went into the kitchen. The lady of the house was an ex paramedic, and she took one look at me and sat me down, forcing me to eat and ground. It didn’t help. We sat there for hours. Folk would come in, ask what had happened and all we could manage to say was “Woden.” It was a while before anyone would come near us, as the pallor of death was strong about us all. It was hard to get the sound of creaking from a body swinging in the Tree out of our minds.

I wanted to go back to Him. I did what aftercare I could (which in my state wasn’t as much as should have been done) and walked back out into the woods. This is where I received my own lesson in what Woden does to His men. I needed to know this, and had asked a week or so previous that He show me why His men feared Him so. I love Woden dearly, yet I have never, ever experienced such terror as I experienced walking into those woods alone. I got halfway to the crossroads and could go no further. I sensed Him out there, dead… a Woden bereft of even the barest hint of humanity…a walking corpse of a God, a shade, a shadow, hunger and desire, pain and terror bound up as one. I longed for Him and I was, for the first time, shown the full measure of terror He inspires. I could not go further. I bowed my head and covered my eyes. I wanted to go in, but also knew to my bones that if I did, I wouldn’t be coming out again. I’d seen Him as Lord of the Dead before, but never in that place, never after having walked between realms in a place that sucked the humanity and life from me.

I returned just as the lady of the house was about to come out to find me. She had managed to get the spasms stopped in our initiate, and he gave me shild for the cutting. Woden had told him he had to pay. First he offered me the bloody rags, saying that his blood was the most precious thing he had, but I refused them and told him that those belonged to Woden. Instead, at Woden’s urging, I took three rounds for his rifle. If one knew him, one realized this was a powerful payment in itself, as he had ensorcelled his gun as an ally. He asked me how to honor Woden; we spoke on that for a bit and I assured him Woden would teach him what he needed to know. We all debriefed each other as best we could.

We found out the next morning that all the trees at that crossroads were felled in a circle by Woden that night.

My own first ordeal I will speak of only in brief. I had been elfshot a couple of years ago by a crazy (but gifted) ex-student with serious mother and authority issues. It was causing me ever-increasing pain and essentially crippling me. It cut off my ability to ground and not only damaged my back, but left me constantly exhausted and often ill. It was brilliant work (I'll give credit where credit is due, the girl was one of the most talented students I ever had) and nothing I did was able to undo it. I'd get some relief, but the way it was worked on me, it spread too rapidly and in too complex a fractal like pattern to counter. It also cut off my ability to function effectively as a spiritworker and blocked me off enough that it impaired my perception of my relationship with Woden, and that was worse than the physical pain.

When I attended a shaman gathering last autumn, there were several ordeal masters present. Woden had indicated that if I worked four sigils into my skin, it would destroy the shot. I mentioned that I had been wanting to get them cut but didn't know anyone who did that (not knowing that two of the people I spoke with were specifically trained in cutting and ordeal work). One woman offered to cut them into me that night if I would consent to allow her to copy the sigils. She'd been told she needed protection against elfshot and would find it at the gathering. So that was a nice bit of synchronicity.

That night, around the bonfire, with at least a dozen mystics, shamans, spiritworkers, healers, God-spouses, and God-slaves present, I had the senior shaman drum while several others chanted. I bared my back, straddled a chair and allowed one of them to restrain my arms. I began to chant and pray to Woden, offering this to Him partly in cleansing and partly to reaffirm my devotion to Him. He was so present.....

I'd never been cut like that before and doubted my ability to stand the pain, but I was soon pretty tranced from the chanting and drumming and general collected maegen of the group. I can't say it was pleasant when the cutting began, but the sight and sense of the elfshot leaving me was palpable. Woden came into me at one point and began to laugh as He did something that sent it all back to the nithling that injured me in the first place. He left me but hovered and I remained silent until the very end when I was told to galdr, which I did. Once the cuttings were done, hot ash was rubbed into the wound and I was allowed to get up, though watched carefully for a time lest I pass out or get grabbed by Woden again. The physical difference was palpable, the way I moved having changed completely. While there was residual tissue damage from the shot (which yes, appears in medical scans), the shot itself was gone and I was cleaned and free of the taint.

I’ve also had Woden request that I get several tattoos. He utilizes them to effect astral and spiritual modifications. While not as dramatic an ordeal as those described above, in terms of impact they were quite effective. I have a prayer to Woden, of binding, around my left wrist, a valknot on my left arm, between my breasts, other runic sigils down my back and on my right arm with more to come. In terms of sheer physical discomfort, many were more painful than the cutting. Woden has also insisted I learn to better facilitate ordeal rites and to that end has sent me for training in cutting and more recently, branding. His words on the matter were simple: I cannot take someone across a threshold I myself have not crossed.