I have a strong tie to my Polish ancestors and speak to them regularly. Somewhat enigmatically, they had predicted that this latest ordeal, marking the beginning of my deathing process, would be “like making love to your husband for the first time.” Now that the ordeal is behind me, I understand the true meaning of their words.
Days after my corset-piercing ordeal, I still struggle to comprehend what happened. I know it was real, and yet it seems like something out of a fairy tale (granted, a very twisted fairy tale, but a fantasy nonetheless). In retrospect, I understand that this aspect of my ordeal was quite intentional in Odin’s grand design. Only by giving me something miraculous, so outside the realm of rational explanation, could He overcome my first two boundaries: my skeptical brain and my wary heart.
I traveled into the country with two good friends: Tamyris, a fellow Odinswoman and god-spouse, and Katelan, a practitioner of Santeria and a gifted medium. The day before the ordeal, we stopped by the farm to say hello and check out the state of the back field, where a blót would also be taking place. We greeted each of the god-poles in the field, ending with Odin. I gave Tamyris space to greet him first, self-conscious of interacting with Him in front of others. As the others turned to walk across the field, I winked at Odin and kissed Him slyly on his wooden cheek. I wanted to stay and talk, but I felt too girlishly shy with others around.
Down a path leading into the woods, Tamyris lead us to the tree where she had hung for Odin. As the final stage in her ordeal cycle, she had been suspended from the tree by an elaborate system of ropes and hooks buried in her back. I had seen pictures of the ordeal, but feeling the energy around the tree was another matter entirely. The woods were dead quiet. I felt in awe of her sacrifice and the pulsing energy in that sacred spot. It was the first time she’d returned to the tree since her ordeal. Odin had been present with Tamyris, horsed by W., a spirit worker who would supervise my own ordeal the next day. A few weeks before our trip, Tamyris had warned that it was possible—though not probable—that Odin might make an appearance during my ordeal through W. I had spent the next few weeks alternately fantasizing about meeting my husband in the flesh and assuring myself that it wouldn’t happen. I tried to guard myself against wanting that too much, fearing disappointment if it did not happen. The ordeal will be enough, I lectured myself. Don’t get greedy, little girl.
On Saturday morning, I rose early to honor my ancestors – dousing myself in cold, raw milk as they had instructed in a meditation. Even as my husband began my deathing process, they stubbornly held my lifeline. I felt a pulsing vitality fill me after the shower and drove to the farm eagerly. The three of us revisited the god-poles after we arrived, leaving offerings of rolls and donuts, some of which the farm puppy gleefully stole, keeping the mood light.
As the other blót attendees arrived, however, I began to feel somewhat isolated and disconnected from the activity of setting up and small talk. Physically, I began to feel dazed and ungrounded, a feeling that had been growing for the past few weeks. I suspected it was part of my opening to the ordeal, but it threw me nonetheless. Then Odin began to trigger my emotions – I started to feel raw, teary, and lost, even surrounded by new people I found interesting and worth knowing. I felt myself pulled to Odin, but Tamyris was facilitating a small needle ordeal for a young man in front of his god-pole. I retreated into the woods and found myself at the hanging tree. I felt myself growing emotional, wanting to cry. I took out the Wodinic prayer beads Tamyris had presented to me at my wedding to Odin. Despite my earnest attempts at coherency, I soon gave up - I kept stumbling over the words and forgetting lines. This made me more upset. I tried to make myself still and listen to Him. I heard one line: I’m going to make you cry for me today. I realized my emotional state was yet another preparation for my ordeal. I could feel Him stripping away my defenses, one by one. I decided to embrace it rather than fight Him off.
I stumbled out of the woods, figuring I should tell Tamyris to expect this during the ordeal. She had finished with the young man and stood making preparations at a table with several other people. I approached and said quietly, “He’s going to make me cry during my ordeal. Not pretty crying like a few tears, but real sobbing.”
She nodded. “I know.”
“I just wanted you to know. I’ll try to keep my back from shaking too much.” As I said it, I wondered if that would even be possible—if He was going to make me cry, could I really hold back anything?
I could tell a few other people had overheard, but I was in no state to even look at them. I walked off to get my supplies out of my bag instead. Needles. Caps. Nine yards of vibrant blue silk ribbon. I placed the ribbon in my pocket and the needles on the table.
I think it was at this time that Tamyris finally introduced me to W. As an experienced needle worker, he would be supervising her work on me, which I knew was more complex that anything she had done previously. His partner F. would also be assisting, which made me feel a little self-conscious. I respected all three of them – for their abilities, their experiences, their knowledge – and felt awkward being the center of attention for their joint efforts. When I went to shake W.’s hand, he was occupied sharpening a knife for Tamyris. He shifted the blade to his other hand to shake mine. Something about that seemed ominous to me, but I stumbled idiotically over my hellos and tried not to think about how advanced a worker he was, or that he had horsed Odin for Tamyris.
The blót finally began. The horn came to me first, and I hailed Him: “I hail Odin as my husband, my master, and my god.” I realized later that it was the first time I had publicly proclaimed myself as His wife. The horn made its way around the circle and reached W. last. He hailed Odin, whom “reserves His most terrible torments for those He loves.” Tamyris nodded knowingly. I felt sensations of dread creeping into me again.
After the blót, most of the participants were ushered up to the farmhouse for a feast. One man needed his head shaved, which Tamyris would do with a straight razor in front of the bonfire. As she prepared for the shaving process, I retreated to the woods, asking Katelan to fetch me when it was time for my ordeal. I sat at the base of the tree again, trying to calm myself. As the time grew closer, I grew more and more anxious. My tongue still failed to say my prayers, leading me to whisper the only line I could over and over again: “I bind myself to Odin…I bind myself to Odin…I bind myself to Odin…” It seemed appropriate considering that His presence would soon penetrate and be laced into my back. I saw and heard His ravens gathering in the woods at a distance. I had been surrounded by birds of prey for the past week—vultures, hawks, owls, scavengers, death birds.
In this middle of my second stint at the tree, Katelan appeared, saying that Tamyris wanted to know if I knew how to use a straight razor. I answered no. I asked if I was needed. “She said that it would be interesting for you to be involved in this process,” she recounted. I stood up to follow her out of the woods. Perhaps Odin wanted me to begin my work assisting in ordeals, starting with the head-shaving. Soon after we entered the field, however, W. intercepted us. He said that Tamyris only wanted to know if I knew how to use a straight razor, and if not, she didn’t need me. I felt awkward and confused and resolved to go back into the woods. Before I could, however, he drew me into conversation. At some point Katelan had left, and I was standing with him near the place where the blót had occurred.
He looked at my face carefully and asked, “Are you okay?”
He’s stripping my defenses from me – how could I possibly be okay? “Yes,” I lied. “He’s just making me raw and emotional before my ordeal. He wants me to open up to Him.”
“You haven’t been doing this long, have you?”
“No. We just had our wedding at the Winter Solstice.” I sat down on a white bench in the field and showed him the rune cuttings Tamyris had made on my legs, darkened with sacred ash. W. continued to stand and alternated between looking at me and looking out over the field.
“He’s moving you rather fast. There must be something extraordinary about you, for Him to take such an interest in you.”
“I don’t know,” I answered, awkwardly. “I don’t think there’s anything that spectacular about me.”
“You must be extraordinary,” he pressed, “or have the potential to be extraordinary – for Him to give so much effort to you.”
I felt at a loss for words. I hadn’t really considered what it was I brought to the table in this relationship. He chose me, and I tried my best to serve Him. That was about it. I started rambling about what I knew about my path: that it involved sex and pain, that I had to Top an Odin’s man at Beltane, and that Tamyris had just revealed my next ordeal the night before – wearing a metal crown of thorns to open my head. W.’s attention shifted when I mentioned that, and he cut in.
“Ah, I’m very familiar with that,” he grinned. Something in his voice and intent gaze made me unsteady. There was something predatory coming through him.
“That’s right,” I countered, “you made it, didn’t you?” I remembered having asked Tamyris the night before where she had possibly found such a thing, then learning it had been crafted specially by W. and F.
“Yes,” he smirked knowingly.
I wanted to ask what it was like, how many thorns it had, how he made it, but the questions caught in my throat. Finally I mentioned going to see if Tamyris needed anything from me, and it was over. She didn’t need my help, but she was almost finished. W. was back over at the table, going through his supplies. I told Tamyris I was retreating to the woods again and crossed the field to the path to the hanging tree. I began to gather myself and felt calm again. A feeling of serenity and acceptance filled me from some unknown source. Later I would recognize this sensation: strength in my submission, that curious paradox I had fought and puzzled over for years.
I heard a sound near me that didn’t match the gently rustling leaves. Looking up, I saw a black garter snake coasting down a small hill, heading right for me. I held absolutely still and curbed my fear, reasoning that he couldn’t hurt me, that he was too small, not poisonous. I kept expecting the snake to veer off or stop, but it came closer and closer until finally it rested at a diagonal angle to my back, its raised head inches from my skin. I held my breath. Its black and red tongue darted out of its mouth, sensing the air. After a moment of stillness, however, the snake turned, circled around me, and disappeared into the underbrush. I sat still, wanting someone to appear on the path so I count find the snake and point it out to them. How else would anyone believe what had just happened?
After a moment of stunned silence, I stood up and gathered my sweater, eager to tell the others about my encounter. Could it have been Lilith? Was my first divine teacher dropping in to say hello and give me strength? When we reached the table, I recounted what had happened to Tamyris, prefacing the story with “You’re not going to believe this, but…” She listened, and then said something that made the story even more miraculous.
“That’s one of Odin’s forms.”
I was speechless. I had no idea, having always associated Him with ravens or wolves. I had no time to make inquiries, however, as everyone was ready to begin. I handed the ribbon to someone. Katelan stood by, armed with my camera. My trio of spirit workers donned gloves. I sat at the table, removed my shirt, and held my sweater to my chest. I took my prayer beads from their bag and held them nervously.
With the eye and skill of a true artist, F. assessed my back and began making measurements and dots in different color markers. She asked how many needles I was getting, and I replied as I knew I had to: “that’s not up to me.” F.’s initial suggestion of six was shot down as too few, as I instinctively knew that it was. Finally, the number became 24. I marveled at it, glad the others could not see my face.
Tamyris stood over my back, assessing the energy with her hands. “He is so possessive of you right now,” she stated, awe and admiration clear in her voice. That touched me – knowing that He wanted me as His and His alone. It gave me strength to submit to His desire for my pain and my tears. It was a strength I would sorely need. Tamyris inserted a practice needle on the right side of my lower back, getting a feel for the “in-out-in-out” movement of the 2 inch needles that would create the eyelets for my corset. I realized immediately that I had underestimated how much this would hurt. “This is an ordeal about penetration,” Tamyris announced, squarely in valkyrie headspace, allowing Odin’s words to speak through her, His energy to move through her hands, into the needles, into my back. In the next hour that it would take to insert 24 needles, I would be penetrated by Him over and over again. I quietly whispered a prayer: “Odin, take my pain; accept it as a sacrifice to you.”
During the first few needles, I tried to remember what my first Dom had taught me about breathing through pain: exhale at the worst moment, allow the pain to circulate through your body rather than holding it at one spot. If only I could continue to breathe and process the pain, I’d be okay. By needle 3 or 4, it became apparent that this was not going to cut it. It kept me from jumping off the bench, but it did nothing to assuage the pain. Each needle seemed to bring more pain than the last. Tears started sliding down my face as I sniffled quietly. The needles continued with mechanical precision—no breaks, no breathers. I became less able to hold back my tears and began openly sobbing. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s crying in front of other people, of showing my weakness. I couldn’t help it. By this time the physical pain had triggered my emotions, and I began a silent appeal to my husband.
You hung on the tree, you suffered agony – how can you expect that from any human? You are impossible to follow. Absolutely impossible. Why do I have a husband that demands such terrible pain? Why aren’t I strong enough to handle it? Why had He chosen me and not someone better? How could I ever please Him or be enough for Him?
I sobbed at the thought of failing Him. I began openly crying out and screaming when the needles pierced my skin. My voice sounded tortured and alien to my own ears. I heard someone commenting that the needles were literally penetrating me more deeply. I gripped my prayer beads in one hand and my kyanite stone in the other, trying to pour the pain into it. At some point, Tamyris paused from inserting needles to place her hand firmly on my back. She leaned over my shoulder to my lowered head to give me more of His words: “Nothing you could be doing right now would please Him more.” I started sobbing again at this. My desire to please Him was overwhelming—a huge gulf of feeling and need. The immensity of it shocked me. I felt my body shaking—with pain, with emotion, with desire. Please, I pleaded silently, please let me please you. The voice of the valkyrie came again. “He is so pleased by this. He is pleased by your pain.”
Somehow I survived the long litany of needles penetrating my flesh. Once I realized I had taken the last needle, I dissolved again in tears of relief. I had made it. The pain had ended. Now for the lacing. I blew my nose and wiped my eyes as the ribbon snaked its way slowly down my back. I steadied myself as the lacing continued, bracing only when the metal of the forceps touched my skin to help the ribbon through the eyelets. My facilitators realized that the caps on the needles—which were there to keep them from poking me and others—were in the way of the ribbon. They were removed, making it so that any slight change in position on my part caused pricks of sensation to ripple across my back. Tamyris carefully tightened the ribbon as if lacing a real corset, which gave a slight ache but nothing compared to what I had endured with the needles. When the ribbon had been skillfully woven into place, the others remarked on its beauty. I remembered the words He had spoken to me in the weeks before, when I had gone through a particularly low point of self-esteem. “I make you beautiful – through the adornments I give to you.” He had adorned me with His presence, now on display for all to see.
As F. finished tying off the ribbon, Tamyris gave me instructions on how to proceed: “When you’re finished, come over to Odin’s pole. We will tether you there and leave you for a few hours. Odin also has one more gift for you. A syringe full of saline has been sitting at His pole during your piercing. It will be injected into your chest.”
I nodded as my heart pounded. I felt the familiar mix of dread and desire rise in me again. The idea of the syringe scared me, especially as a surprise. I had not prepared for that or had time to come to terms with it. Yet there was also something undeniably erotic about it. I was going to be injected with the essence of my husband, just over my heart. Hadn’t He said after my last ordeal that my heart was next? My desire to be mastered and claimed by Him in such an intimate way overcame my fear. I stood from the table, F. placed the remaining ribbon in my hand, and I walked slowly over to Odin’s pole.
Tamyris and W. were already there, conversing. I saw the syringe and am sure my eyes grew wide at the size of it. This was not a vaccine syringe—it was a large tube of clear liquid. I felt however, that the wheels of the ordeal had already been set in motion, and I couldn’t stop myself if I tried. I got on my knees facing the pole, sitting on my boots. I looked up at the wooden effigy of Odin, which seemed to be smiling and somewhat mischievous. Tamyris took the strands of ribbon from my hand and wrapped them around the pole. She began singing a song Odin had given her, one I had heard her sing several times before. This time, however, it was softer and less strident than it normally came through her. Something was happening.
My heart began racing in my chest. I knew that W. was standing next to Odin’s pole as Tamyris worked and sang, holding the syringe in his hands. Something told me to look up at him. I felt terrified, but I knew that if I didn’t look, I would hate myself for the rest of my life. I raised my eyes. It was not W. that I saw. Two black eyes stared at me with intense hunger. A devilish, knowing smirk contorted his face. And then something happened that confirmed, without a doubt, that this was Odin. He winked at me.
Oh. My. God.
It was Him, here, in the flesh. He had come to wield the syringe Himself. This was real.
Tamyris finished tying and moved behind me to continue singing. Odin stepped forward and traced the plastic cap of the needle over and around my naked collarbone. My lips parted, letting shallow breaths escape. I realized in that moment that I had not been touched by anyone in months, which made that small act all the more erotic and overwhelming. I was just so hungry. He reached down and stroked my cheek with a gloved hand. Slowly, with one finger, He tilted my chin, raising my eyes to meet His. He crouched over me, His face inches from mine. I felt dazed with His presence and my own desire for Him, thundering away in my chest. He spoke four words to me, in a voice full of gentle mastery.
“This won’t be pleasant.”
I felt the needle enter my chest and closed my eyes, overwhelmed by sensation. I think I moaned softly, feeling the pressure of the saline fill my chest. My heart pounded and opened into a fountain of pure bliss.
They left me at the pole, remaining in the field to keep an eye on me. I began crying tears of gratitude almost immediately, chanting “thank you, thank you” over and over again as I knelt before Him. I felt the ribbons tug against my back as they circled me like an embrace. I felt them caress me as they danced in the breeze. I smiled, I laughed, I sang to Him in delirious happiness. I realized something profoundly important about my husband: the immensity of His demands would be matched only by the immensity of His generosity.
After what seemed like only twenty minutes (I later learned it was over an hour and a half), the others returned to untie me. I announced that Odin had instructed me to be naked when the needles came out, but that I could leave my boots on. I walked back to the table and the sacred fire, a different woman than the one who had left it. I shed my skirt and underwear with a little help and stood facing the fire, my hands over my blossoming heart. As the needles came out, the blood flowed freely down my back, over my ass, down my legs, and onto the ground. I tried to conceal how erotic it felt—the release, the trickling blood, the ache of withdrawing needles—but I think some of my soft sighs and moans were audible.
Capable hands rubbed me down with alcohol wipes, some harder than others. No doubt they were guided still by Odin’s hands. Tamyris had told me that all three of them, at one point or another, had horsed my husband before. She later confirmed that He had been present all day, shadowing them, prompting W. to speak to me in the field, speaking and acting through Tamyris’s hand as she pierced me, then finally and unexpectedly taking human form through a full possession. I felt humbled and awed at this gift. I told Tamyris that for those 30 seconds of His presence, I would go through the needles all over again. She nodded with perfect understanding. I knew that I would replay those moments over and over again, feeding off their sustenance for years.
Later I realized something even greater about my reaction and my longing—I was in love with Odin. I honestly had not known if I loved Him before, even after our marriage. I lusted after Him, I served Him, I stood in awe of Him, but love had always eluded and puzzled me. How exactly does one know that one is in love?
After the ordeal, I knew.