Omens: The Otherworldly And Odin

An Opening of Omens

If you’ve ever watched Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, you may remember an episode that begins with a few seemingly inconsequential happenings. These are subtle things that range from the way a loaf of bread splits while being baked in the oven, to a broken mirror in an empty room.

Omens can be tricky things, especially when they’re subtle. How to know whether that flock of birds fighting in the parking lot is an omen or just some avian drama? Or what about the vultures that scream at each other so loudly you can’t help but look outside? (Double points if they fall silent as soon as you “get the message”.) Are those crows really sent by the Morrigan or those ravens of Odin? And what’s with that sudden, unseasonal influx of black insects in the home?

“Speak rede, birb!”

These things tend to be subtle—until they’re not.

“Human Omens”

So far, the omens I’ve described are quite traditional. People have been reading the movements of birds and insects (among other things) for a long time. But one thing we don’t seem to read as much when it comes to omens, is the behavior of other humans.

We humans often make plans and telegraph what we’re about to do next. That’s not the kind of thing I’m talking about here though—as always, we deal with subtleties. The kinds of human behaviors that interest me are those that aren’t quite so consciously realized.

So, what do I mean by that?

Inspiration, Creativity, and Prophecy

When I get the sense that something is stirring on a subtle level, one of the first places I look for omens is our collective “fruits of inspiration.” So, in other words, I look to what our writers and artists are putting out, both in our communities, as well as in larger media productions. I’ve discussed this before on this blog and will talk about it in more depth in my upcoming class, but inspiration is a deeply strange and other thing. In its purest form, it originates from outside the human (as least in the traditions I practice). And out of the three different sources of “human omens” I will detail in this post, this is the one that can also serve as a heads-up that something is brewing long before anything even begins.

Take this passage from the commentary in Jung’s Red Book, for example:

“In the years directly preceding the outbreak of war, apocalyptic imagery was widespread in European arts and literature. For example, in 1912, Wassily Kandinsky wrote of a coming universal catastrophe. From 1912 to 1914, Ludwig Meidner painted a series of works known as the apocalyptic landscapes, with scenes of destroyed cities, corpses, and turmoil.” (Jung Carl and Shamdasani Sonu, Pp 18-19)

World War I, a conflict that would claim around 40 million lives, broke out in July 1914. Yet artists and writers were examining those themes—sometimes with eerie accuracy— years before the first shots were even fired.

Dreams, Intuition, and Divination

The second source of “omens” I look to is my friends. Usually, by the time I get the sense that something is stirring, it’s not long before people start hitting me up if I don’t get in touch with them first. Whenever this happens, I ask about dreams and intuitive hits, as well as any divinatory themes they may be getting. When it comes to prophecy, the image of the seer prophesizing from a high seat is a powerful; it’s what we tend to imagine when we think of prophecy. But if you look back at some of the disasters that have plagued human history, there are often examples where multiple people have begun to dream about the same kind of horrific themes right before something awful happens.

My preference is to view these things in aggregate, with an eye to spotting patterns or themes. And when you get down to it, this is not so different from the process that comparativist scholars engage in when working to trace early Indo-European beliefs and practices through multiple descendant cultures. One a very basic level, you’re looking for frequency as well as cross-cultural examples—especially in cultures that aren’t known to have interacted with each other. Here, I’m looking for frequency as well as cross-tradition examples, and especially in groups of people who don’t know each other. Those are the patterns and themes that interest me the most—even if they run counter to my own experiences and impressions.

Strange Behavior

Finally, the third source I look to, is strange behavior (albeit with some caveats).

In Germania, the Roman writer, Tacitus, wrote about a form of omen-taking from observing the behavior of sacred horses. Unfortunately, I don’t have any horses, sacred or otherwise. But over the years, I have found the observation of my fellow humans to be similarly effective.

Again, we’re talking about subtleties here. But we humans are no less affected by subtle energies and the stirrings of the unseen layers of our world than our fellow inhabitants of Middle Earth. We are no less a part of nature and no less animals for all our plastic and technology. And I’ve found that many of us will subconsciously react to changes in energy as well as whatever-the-hell our gut instincts are telling us at the time. Unsurprisingly, our behavior will often show it too.

I’m reminded here, of my epileptic brother’s behavior in a famously haunted house that stopped as soon as he was removed from the premises. Before my mother wrestled him out the door though, his behavior had become animalistic; he’d taken to the floor on all fours, barking and growling at the tour guide and fellow (ghost) adventurers.

Now, people do strange things all the time. But when you’re finding a lot of unrelated people behaving similarly, it’s time to pay attention, especially if you cannot discern a common cause. And again, in my opinion, this kind of thing is best observed in aggregate and with an eye to spotting patterns. Speaking of patterns: my brother apparently wasn’t the only person to have behaved like that in that space.

In other words, if the tour guide were to be believed, there was a pattern of some people exhibiting animalistic behavior at that site.

That was an extreme example, and I clearly cannot prove that my brother behaved like that due to the unseen of that place. But I do hope you understand what I’m getting at here.

The One-Eyed God on the Road

This all brings me to some of the possible omens I’ve noticed recently. On the one hand, there have been multiple strange conversations with neighbors about an increase in shadow people that “don’t move like shadow people” in the street. (Think less “dart-y” and more “people-y”.) Friends have told me about incidents where they have an experience of “pareidolia” that sounds more like glamour, and that leaves them in doubt of what is actually “real”. Other friends have told me about seeing critters that aren’t there. And a bunch of people are telling me about the disturbing dreams and messages they’ve received of late. Some of these things I’ve also experienced for myself.

These, to me, all have something of an otherworldly feel to them. As does the recent killing of the white stag by armed police in Bootle, UK. (Side note: probably a bad move to kill beings associated with the otherworld when your country is looking at food and fuel shortages.)

But I’ve also noticed that a certain one-eyed god seems to be getting around a lot more nowadays too. More people (some of whom have never interacted with him before) are now telling me about their interactions with him and asking for advice. I’ve felt driven to write about him in great depth. An entire Heathen community performed a days-long ritual in his honor, erecting a 20ft god post. And for two Wednesdays in a row now, there’s been news that’s felt pointed in either its direct association with him (such as the announcement of this hoard of bracteates), or associated symbolism (such as the suspected electrical fire at this “Midgard’s” church on the island of Grímsey). Then today (as of the time of writing), this video of a Spiritualist who allegedly channeled Odin was shared in a group chat I’m on.


The bread has split, the ink has spilled, the mirror in the empty room is broken. But what could it mean?

Winter is Coming, Winter is Here, Winter is Coming Back for Another Go

I’ve followed the Old Man for over a decade and a half now. But even though I am very much “Team Odin”, I also know he has a tendency to become more prolific during “interesting” times.

Take the Migration Period, for example.

The Migration Period was not an easy time to live in. Peoples migrated and fought over resources. A volcanic eruption in 535-536 caused a dust veil thick enough to darken the sun enough that crops failed for at least two years in a row. And in those days of death and desperation, the warband religion of a certain one-eyed god of spears seems to have made its way north and into the elite centers of power.

Before that (in another time of death and desperation), his hands were probably guiding the spears of the Germans and Celtiberians led by a couple of one-eyed leaders who fought against Rome (Enright 217-240).

And before that, who knows?

Something tells me though, that it was probably another time of death and desperation. With this in mind, this new rise of the Spear God doesn’t exactly fill me with comfort in our time of plague, climate crisis, and burgeoning far right movements.

Death Will Make a Door

The final point I want to make today, is that times in which there is a lot of death, are times in which the dead and otherworldly tend to draw closer. If you’ve ever read about times of mass death in human history, you may have noticed that there are usually a lot of strange goings on reported during those times, as well as humans getting involved in strange cults and practices. If that kind of thing interests you, here are some folktales from the time of the bubonic plague. Pay attention to the kinds of beings sighted in conjunction with the plague, as well as the plants and days mentioned in the purported cures. Some of them are downright other.

They really shouldn’t have killed that stag.

Until the next time, good humans!

Be well.

Books Cited
Enright, Michael J. Lady with a Mead Cup: Ritual, Prophecy, and Lordship in the European Warband from La Tène to the Viking Age.
Jung, Carl and Shamdasani Sonu, The Red Book/Liber Novus: A Reader’s Edition

Leveling-Up Witchery and “Flexible Covens”

I’ve seen a couple of blog posts go by my various feeds within the past week that seem to be getting a lot of shares. People like those easy 5-point lists that promise easy ways to get better at something, and they also like models that give them a sense of belonging. However, while I can appreciate that no one can learn their path from a list and that the concept of ‘flexible covens’ gives people a descriptor for the kind of informal magical alliances we often find ourselves in nowadays, I still found elements of these posts problematic.

The Old Days and Five-Point Lists

A few weeks ago, a Facebook friend shared a blog post she wrote about shielding (you can read it here), and we got into a conversation in the comments on meditation. You see, for years I’ve been under the impression that this is one topic that magic 101 books have neglected for a while now. And that’s not entirely surprising, because the most part, meditation is massively misunderstood in the West. Moreover, it seems to be one of those parts of spiritual/magical practice that people decide are too hard. Worse, a lot of people don’t even know why meditation is so important for spiritual/magical practice.

However, when you read older magic 101 books, or books written by people who are more old school, they’re pretty uncompromising on the need to develop a practice. And like I said, I’ve been under the impression for years now that a lot of the witch 101 books have become more…compromising. (Of course, the cynic in me just says that people write whatever books they feel will sell regardless of their utility for practice.) But it would seem, at least from the conversation with my friend and other participants in the thread, that I am not the only practitioner to have noticed this trend.

And this is where we come to what I would put on a five-point list. This is not a five-point list that claims to teach you everything, but if you follow it, you will level up your witchery.

#1 Meditation

Yeah, I get it. You fucking hate meditation. It’s boring as shit, and who the fuck could just sit there and do nothing until they have no more thoughts in their heads (and who the fuck wants that anyway?)? Also, what the fuck even is the point? It’s also completely impossible.

Okay, so now we’ve got the excuses out of the way, let’s go through a quick witchery - meditationrundown of what meditation actually is.

So the first problem is that we can’t actually give a potted definition because there are multiple different types of meditation and they have different goals. There’s also so much damn material out there on those different types too – no seriously, there are entire manuals written about each variety (and multiple manuals as well!).

However, the type you should probably begin with is what is referred to as ‘calm abiding’ meditation, or shamatha. I suggest this for four reasons:

1. Shamatha stabilizes the mind, making it far less volatile and allowing you to really take stock and figure out what the hell you’re doing before you start flinging magic like a monkey flings poop. It also makes it easier to catch your mind when it’s trying to run away with you in scary situations.

2. Shamatha includes the same kind of mental discipline as mindfulness. This is indispensable for developing not only will, but the ability to maintain focus on whatever the hell you’re doing magically.

3. It also provides an opportunity to practice visualization. In Shamatha you learn by using ‘supports’. Now, the support can either be a physical object that you maintain single-pointed awareness of, or a visualized object (such as a ball of light that you visualize just sitting there chilling out on your carpet). This is like magical cross-training because you’re not only stabilizing and strengthening your mind muscles, but you’re also working on those visualization skills while you’re at it!

4. Finally, if you stick with it, it can become a source of major insight. Things will arise that will help guide you along your path.

Interested? The Buddhists have the best materials on this mind-tech, so I recommend checking this  and this out for an easy explanation, and then picking up this book by Pema Chödrön for more concise instructions. The (free) beginner magic course over at Quareia isn’t half bad either!

#2 Keep a Journal

I’ve posted about this before, but I’m going to reiterate its importance here. Magical journals are incredibly important to developing a practice – regardless

witchery - holy book
Let’s pretend this is a journal, m’kay?

of what your magic looks like. There are a number of reasons for this. But the biggest one is keeping a record. This sounds like a no-brainer, but keeping a record of dreams/trances/interactions with the Other/magical workings/insights/and especially pacts can help save your ass down the line like you wouldn’t believe. Not only that, but it will help you take stock of what you’ve done/experienced, and show you how to tweak what you do to get better results in future. A well-kept journal can highlight so many teachable moments, and we always learn far better from our fuck-ups than the things that went perfectly.

#3 Get to Know Your Local Area and Work on Connection

This is a multilayered recommendation. For me, the process of creating connection begins with going for long walks. Back in the 1990s I read in a book that a witch should explore a 5 mile radius from their home in order to get to know it and that advice has stood me in good stead since. But what am I looking for?

On a purely physical level, I note the trees, the types of plants, the rivers, the graveyards, and any spaces that just interest me for historical or aesthetic reasons.

But then there’s the hidden dimension too. This is best expressed in questions like “Why does that tree draw me?”, “How does it feel?”, “Why do I get the feeling I’m being watched in that place?”, and “Does it feel friendly or unfriendly?”. I recommend bringing offerings on these walks. You may find the witchery - pathunseen interacting with you in some of these places, and that’s fantastic. That’s what you want as a witch! Relationships with the Unseen have always been part and parcel of witchery. Just remember to be polite and to never offer anything of yourself or that you are not prepared to truly give.

Sometimes you find places where you feel like someone may be there, and these are the places where you can sit out (as long as the vibes are good).

The practice of sitting out is old – very old, and no one knows exactly how to do it. However, the method I’ve found that works best for me is to simply allow myself to sort of melt into the land – to become a part of it – then just simply sense what or who is around me.

I’m not going to lie, there is an element of danger in this kind of work – a place can quickly go from welcoming to dangerous. Just remember that offerings can appease, apotropaics and amulets are a great idea, and that Morgan Daimler writes a whole bunch of books about staying safe(ish) when dealing with the Other (you should absolutely read them).

#4 Read Widely – Especially Those Older Texts

Humans have been doing magic for a really long time, and even better, a good chunk of us have been writing that shit down whenever we’ve had the ability and/or cultural imperative to do so.

So it goes without saying that there’s a hell of a lot out there. Moreover, much of it is far better than the stuff we find in modern texts. Okay, so the style of writing might not be as accessible, but the shapes of magic are pretty well conserved over the years. These shapes can give us the underlying mechanics of how different magics work, and that’s probably one of the most useful things any witch could learn. Moreover, being “conversant” in more forms of magic only adds to your ability to not only diversify your practice, but tweak your workings to get better results, and adapt when encountering magic that is the product of a different paradigm.

To learn about the shapes of Goetia, check out Jake Stratton-Kent’s work.
To learn about Greco-Egyptian magical shapes, Stephen Skinner is a good bet.
Aaron Leitch explains Solomonic magical patterns.
Paul Huson shows some of how all that stuff above can be shoved into a witchcraft paradigm.
Folks like Jason Miller and Gordon White also show some of that sexy adaptation shit.
People like Ian Corrigan leverage grimoire—shaped magic for Irish-inspired workings.

And those are just a few examples! If you really want to get into the weeds, you can also read reconstructionist magical sources of Irish/Norse/Old English/Greek/groups not represented above.

Cool, huh?

#5 Commit to Experiment, Commit to Practice!

But none of the above is any good unless you commit. You need to commit to experiment (so you can find your flavor of practice), and you need to commit to practice.

witchery - practice
Even if what you do looks like this kind of a train wreck, just do it!

Nothing happens without putting in that work, and if you cannot commit, then maybe you need to evaluate whether or not you should even bother trying to level up? Or even bother with any of this. It’s okay to just find something interesting and enjoy the aesthetic. That doesn’t detract from your inherent value as a person. Or maybe it’s just not your time yet? That’s also okay. There’s nothing wrong with thinking about whether you’re ready yet. Magic can fuck you up, so it’s important to be self-aware and honest with yourself about this.

But if you’re ready to go balls to the wall on this magic thing, then do that. Do the meditation even though you fucking hate it. Keep that journal. Walk like Hobbits on their way to Mordor. Make allies and figure out who to avoid. Read all the things. Grow.

You’ve got this.

But one thing you should absolutely be wary of doing is getting in one of those ‘flexible covens’.

Flexible Covens

Look I get it, it sounds really nice, the vast majority of people don’t come across their perfect coven. So a lot of folks end up working with people in a really undefined way.

From that perspective, the idea of a ‘flexible coven’ is lovely. It projects a sense of belonging and closeness, and that’s entirely why it’s a terrible idea.

Think about all the things you associate with the word ‘coven’. I bet all those ideas are overwhelmingly positive (at least if you’ve never been burned by one), right?

Herein lies the problem. The thing about membership in a coven or any tight magical group is that there is a level of trust and intimacy. It’s the kind of ‘deep’ you don’t find in the kind of casual friendships mentioned in the ‘flexible coven’ post. You are connected on a level that is hard to describe, and strange things happen because of those connections all the damn time.

I’m in a magical group, it’s kind of an outgrowth of our battlefield psychopomp group. And though we don’t refer to ourselves as a ‘coven’, that is pretty much what we are. We are a ‘magical family’ – that’s probably a good term for it.

To give you an example of the kind of thing that happens to us, we were looking for retreat places. You know, somewhere where we could disappear for a couple of days and just immerse ourselves.  So naturally, I became fixated on this one place – Shepherdstown WV. I posted about it in our chat and found that two group members were actually in Shepherdstown. They’d driven up randomly and I hadn’t known about it before they posted.

This is on top of all the other stuff like dreams with shared themes on the same night.  Or contacting each other randomly when someone is working magic. These are people I trust and share secrets with. These are people who, if they violated their oaths, could harm me (and I them).

This is precisely the problem with the ‘flexible coven’ though. When you work deeply with people on a magical level, you share a lot of yourself. You make yourself vulnerable and consider them ‘safe’. You stop doing things like clearing your hairbrush before they come round or keeping hawk eyes on your tools. In other words, they gain opportunities to really fuck you up.

But what of people who start to think of others as ‘coven’ without those bonds and oaths being there?

I would advise caution. Perhaps create for yourself an inner and outer court system like some covens have. Make your inner court those who have proven to you again and again that they are worthy of your trust. Casual acquaintances you like and work with occasionally can fill your outer court.

In other words, don’t give ‘the keys to the castle’ to anyone who hasn’t earned it. (And even then, keep a backup plan just in case!)

Sleepwalkers in a Shadow World

Imagine a world that is like this one, except not  – a “shadow world” maybe.

That is ‘here’, but somehow also ‘there’.

Imagine a world where the usually Unseen – like Aelfe (or any other type of wiht really) – may be readily seen. Imagine a world in which we-the-living and seen, are like sleepwalkers in this reality. Sometimes the colors are muted and washed out – the washed out blues of a wolf’s vision. But at other times, and in other places, they’re so vibrant that even modern animation techniques can’t touch it. Here too are shades of grey, punctuated by the odd flash of color.

There is a word in Old English, Scín. On the most basic level, it’s the skin that encases the meat suits we drive around, but on the the hand, it’s not. It’s ‘here’ but also ‘there’.

For the early English, though, and especially for those that knew a thing or two, this ‘skin’ that was here but also there was something that could also be manipulated, shaped, formed, and made to appear to others. It was ‘Scínlac’, for the Norse it was ‘Hamfarir’.

It was in this world/not world that the Seidrworker journeyed when any ‘journeying’ occurred. This world of the Unseen. Not Asgard, not Helheim, not anywhere but this glorious Middle Earth.

Among the pages of the Utrecht Psalter, there’s an illustration of these curious flying beings with horns and stingers. Creatures that couldn’t possibly exist in the physical world-‘áttor-coppe’ they were called, ‘poison heads’. Not the physical-but-unrelated ‘áttor-coppe’, no, they’re easily recognisable – we call them ‘spiders’, another kind of ‘poison head’ -Old English is nothing if not descriptive.

A kind of ‘flying sickness’ often taken as ‘infectious disease’ – but that’s only if the disease is physical, but who knows?

You see, these worlds don’t operate separately from each other, but in concert with each other – cause and effect. Sometimes the Unseen manifests here, sometimes the Unseen directly influences what happens here – lost keys, doors that open without anyone there to open them. Other times though, It’s the ‘Scín’-that-is-here-but-there that is affected and the whole becomes sick or well or gains some luck.

Now imagine what all of what I’ve written here could potentially mean. How do you interact with the Unseen? Do you understand yet its importance, or what?