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Thrice Burned

May 20, 2016

 

What do you remember about your power?

 

Do you remember the first time you felt it, welling up, volcanic?

 

Do you remember feeling connected, whole, certain, full?

 

Do you remember taking effective action in the direction of your dreams?

 

Do you remember what it felt like to own your power, clear from deviations or diversions?

 

And/Or

 

Do you remember the first time you were silenced, spoken over, dismissed or shamed?

 

Do you remember feeling powerless, hopeless, weak and alone?

 

Do you remember encountering injustice?  Systems designed to keep you small, to keep you from your wholeness?

 

Do you remember being disempowered, in your body, in your mind, minimized, bullied or afraid?

 

Where is your power in the life you live today?

 

Where would you like it to be?

 

This week I wrote a paper about the goddess Gullveig-Heid and women’s power.  What we have as evidence for Gullveig’s existence is a line from the Poetic Edda,Voluspá, where Odin wakes the Volvä from her death-rest:

 

“Now she remembers the war,

The first in the world,

When Gullveig

Was studded with spears,

And in the hall of the High One

She was burned;

Thrice burned,

Thrice reborn,

Often, many times,

And yet she lives.”

 

–Translation by  Dan McCoy, “Gullveig” 

 

An excerpt from the paper:

 

"Gullveig is the source of the Aesir-Vanir war, the war between two sets of Goddesses and Gods, two spiritual cosmologies.  The abuse and burning of the Vanir goddess Gullveig incited a series of events in mythic time, so she must be important. “In the Old Norse tongue, the name Gullveig means “gold drink,” “gold trance,” or “gold power.”’[1]  The symbolism of gold in northern Europe is beautifully spoken to by Norse scholar Maria Kvilhaug: “The metal is obviously associated (in Old Norse poetry) with divine brightness, illumination within darkness, great cosmic forces and hidden wisdom.”[2]Gullveig is stabbed with spears, and three times burned, yet she emerges reborn three times as well, reborn as a different Goddess, with a different name, Heid. Lindow writes that, “In the sagas Heid is a common name for seeresses, and it is also found in a geneology…presumably giants. The adjective heid, “gleaming,” and the noun heid, “honor,” would suit nicely here as well.”[3]

 

The result of Gullveig’s initiation through death and rebirth is the creation of a powerful feminine presence, Heid, the seeress, the practioner of seidr magic. She is associated with magic wands, or staffs, prophecy, trance and her relationship with women.  Gullveig’s transformation is remarkable for its endurance, bringing to mind the transformative initiations of the Eleusinian Mysteries, incorporating the potent magic of death and rebirth into a new cosmic order. That her treatment inspires war between the Aesir and the Vanir is seen by many scholars as reflective of invasion patterns, similar to those described by Marija Gimbutas’ Kurgan Theory. “Since the Vanir are fertility deities, the war has often been understood as the reflection of the overrunning of local fertility cults somewhere in the Germanic area by a more warlike cult, perhaps that of invading Indo-Europeans.”[1] The war ends in peace and reconciliation. From the sacrifice and initiation of Gullveig/Heid emerges a specific form of women’s magic known to the Vanir goddess Freyja. After the peace of the Aesir and the Vanir, which may provide evidence of a partnership between the divergent spiritual cosmologies."

 

Writing about Gullveig/Heid made me think deeply about power.  About feminine power specifically, and the transformative potency of adversity, of being burned.  Heid exists in the world as a presence even larger than Gullveig, for she carries magic and prophecy with her as an aid to women.  For she was reborn.

 

This past year I have become more aware of the lineage patterns around my power.  I believe that I carry, like many women, deep cellular memory of the burnings and abuse of my ancestors for holding female power.  This caused me for years to keep my spirituality secret, to be afraid of being public, it asked me to hide and stay small.

The story of Gullveig is, according to the Volvä of the Voluspá, the earliest witch burning.

 

But she does not die.  She survives.  More than survives, she is transformed, her power magnified, centralized.  She becomes not just golden, but brilliant.

 

Braver, louder, more brazen than before.

 

I woke up yesterday morning of a dream to teach a class about being Thrice Burned, about awakening the transformative power of the feminine in a circle of women.  In the spirit of teaching what I most need to learn, most need to practice, the class–available both live in Portland, Or and online, begins on the new moon July 4th.

 

May it be a true independence day.

 

[1] John Lindow, Norse Mythology, 53.

[1] Ralph Metzner, “Freyja and the Vanir Earth Deities,” The Well of Remembrance: Rediscovering the Earth Wisdom Myths of Northern Europe, (Boston, MA: Shambhala, 1994), 166.

[2] Maria Kvilhaug, “Burning the Witch! – The Initiation of the Goddess and the War of the Aesir and the Vanir,” Freyia Völundarhúsins Lady of the Labyrinth´s Old Norse Mythology Website, last update 2016, http://freya.theladyofthelabyrinth.com/?page_id=206.

[3] John Lindow, Norse Mythology, 165.

 

 

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