by Silence Maestas
excerpt from Wightridden: Paths of Northern-Tradition Shamanism
At the end of October 2004, the Goddess Hela instructed me to set aside a week for some in-depth work with Her. I knew that this would be a departure from previous work I'd done with Her, and put off facing the inevitable preparations. When I couldn't avoid it any longer, I spoke with Her and She told me what was to be done. I would be observing a "sound fast" for a week, abstaining from any audio/visual media, computer time, phone conversations, and speaking to others, including any spirits, deities, and the cat. While on this fast, Hela told me to wear a special ring, keep a dark veil over my head, and to display the rune necklace I wear in honor of Her outside my clothing; I was uncomfortable wearing my necklace where others could see, but it struck me as appropriate since I was on Her duty roster for the week. She also gave me some rules regarding diet; I was to stick to the vegetarian diet I maintained, and keep my food choices simple. No Halloween treats for me.
Hela's primary instruction to me was "Rest." I'd been running at a spiritual full throttle and it was wearing me down so much that I wasn't sure how much I had left to give. I'd spent months confronting some of the worst and ugliest parts of myself, the stress of which put a huge strain on my relationship with other people and with my Gods. Hela was giving me a whole week to rest, to heal, and to prepare for whatever came next. Along with resting, a few other activities were given to me. Earlier, Hela had told me I'd be spinning so I purchased some dyed black wool for that purpose. Study, meditation and other simple devotional activities needed attention as well.
Since I didn't have the option of cloistering myself against the world, I did have to break my silence for short periods each day. At the time I was visiting my father to help him through a difficult space, so I had to run errands and spend time with him. I had also agreed to face paint at a local Witch's Ball that I couldn't back out of. Hela accepted these obligations and allowed me to have the time I needed to devote to them, so long as I didn't add to this schedule or allow other taboos to slip.
The night of October 26th began my week of silence. Of the 16 or so hours I was awake each day, around 14 of those were spent veiled and silent. The shift to a different state of awareness happened very quickly; I have a difficult time remembering any specifics about that time, except for the moments I spent with other people in routine activities and even those are a bit sketchy. The first thing that I noticed was that the veil (a translucent charcoal-blue item that had started life as a belly dance accessory) very cleanly shut off my natural energetic shields. The veil took the place of those shields, thus allowing my whole attention to turn inward, away from the constant bombardment that we face every day without even being aware. Not having those shields up was an odd and sometimes unnerving experience, but the veil created a small world for just myself where I felt safe and protected. It's hard to describe the combined feelings of vulnerability and safety I experienced; on one side was the knowledge that it was just a bit of cloth keeping me safe from free-floating energetic garbage, but it seemed like that danger belonged to a world very far away and no longer applied to me. When I needed to remove the veil for whatever reason, I carefully "brushed” away the astral junk that had collected on it so it could be folded and put away; my personal shields slowly started up again when the veil came off.
I spent hours spinning the black wool with no real purpose in mind. The activity, not the goal, was the important part. It was Frigga who taught me to spin, first in the Otherworld and then later when I made a drop spindle for myself. I came to appreciate and understand Her patience just a little through spinning, and it's an activity that continues to yield insight to myself, to my Gods, and to magical and spiritual principles. During this week I spun enough wool to yield a few dozen yards of two-ply yarn; eventually the insight came that I would create a veil for myself out of this yarn.
The silence factor was probably the hardest to confront. I'm not a wildly verbal person, but I longed to communicate with friends and to spend the mindless hours on the internet I was accustomed to. I thought to catch up on some reading, but by the second day of silence I found that the words on the page didn't really speak to me like they normally do, and I lost interest pretty quickly. I had intended to complete some writing projects I'd been working on a little at a time; several of them had a spiritual or devotional theme, so I thought that would be an acceptable way to use my time. However, I found that when I sat down to begin I had no words at all; my vocabulary had vanished, grammar skills were barely present, and the ability to construct a coherent sentence gone. I had moved so far out of normal awareness that I couldn't switch back and forth between silence and communication at will. Though I later found out that some of what I was working on wasn't what my Gods wanted me to be writing, I think it had perhaps less to do with any interference They might have thrown at me and more that my world had stopped being ordered by words and the linear thinking that encourages composition.
Like I said above, I don't remember a whole lot from this experience. I remember the face painting event I worked at, and the Disirblot I was invited to. I remember my frustrated attempts at reading and writing, and the errands I did for my dad. Other than that, there's little definition to that whole week. Most of our memories are built by association and by an ordered chain of events; a smell or sudden sensation calls back a single moment with perfect clarity, or causes us to say, "Remember when?” There's nothing like that to help me access this experience; it was apart from time. Days passed very slowly and, for the most part, my experiences existed as a nebulous everywhen. There was no transition from one point to another, no cause and effect, just a quiet peace that was neither happy nor sad. I stopped being defined as a woman, as a human being, or as anything specific at all.
My week ended one day early, or rather, the veiled-and-silent taboos ended. On the night of November 1st I took a bath to which I added some herbs; the herbs helped bring me back to life and I spent the night speaking with my Gods about the progress I had made. I woke up on November 2nd and was allowed to enter the world again. There's no way I can describe the vibrance I encountered, or how different everything appeared; everything was drenched in life and vitality, and I felt my own living force with an impact I'd never even noticed before. It was no small coincidence that my birthday is November 2nd; I got to celebrate the simple fact that I was alive by returning to life in a very real way.
It's my understanding now that I spent that period essentially dead. I wasn't taking part in the world; instead I found a comfortable spot between the worlds of the living and dead. My mind had stopped ordering the world by means that humans do on the most basic level, but my body kept me tied to this plane; I just slipped to a space removed from discerning thought and dwelled apart from anything that contributed to it.
Being veiled and keeping silent are very simple things, but quickly and subtly changed me at levels so deep that I was barely aware of them. The shift was radical even though I hardly even noticed how far I had gone until I was suddenly back; I felt like I had wandered a very long way and had been gone for a very long time. This observance was challenging, but took me to a very unique place that I've come to find power in. Hela greatly approved of me being veiled, and hinted that She'd keep me that way. Even without Her saying so, I knew that I'll be repeating this process again next October, and probably each October after that. It's a challenge, but I look forward to the peace that comes with it.