This was the strangest ordeal. Most people, I suspect, wouldn’t even consider it an ordeal but for me, it forced me to embrace, accept and begin to heal all of my body issues. My Midgard ordeal was all about embodiment. It was about learning to accept my physicality, my body, the form and shape of my body, it’s blessings and its limitations. It was about learning to stop seeing my body as ‘the enemy’ and instead accepting that I am as Odin made me, exactly as He made me, exactly as He wanted me. It was about learning to love those connections that bound me to life, to see beauty, and maybe even joy in Midgard.
I had never loved life. For as long as I can remember, it had been a grim, painful struggle for me, something to be endured for the sake of duty. The more my Work pulled me away from Midgard existence, separated me from those things that the average person holds dear, the more resentful of that existence I became, and always, there was a soul-crushing weariness, and for a very long time, poverty. Add to that the fact that I detested my body…I had been a professional ballet dancer and my body broke very early on. I hated it for that, for not having the wherewithal to hold out, to mold itself to the look required. I hated it for having so many injuries, for not being beautiful or (so I thought) even pretty, for being awkward and ugly. I hated it for being in severe pain almost all the time. Mostly, I just hated it.
This had been a huge struggle for me since I was a young woman. It remains a struggle, I’ll admit, but thanks to my Midgard ordeal huge headway was made, some of the worst of the bitter pain chipped away. I began to love and appreciate life with this ordeal. Through my Midgard ordeal, I learned not only that there could be joy in embodiment, pleasure, but also that there was nothing wrong with that. This was also the time when Odin started teaching me about navigating Midgard more efficiently, using the tools of Midgard: dress, presentation, appearance, protocol to make myself “fit in.” This was something that up to this point I’d never learned to do. It’s one thing to be an outsider by virtue of one’s job/vocation as shaman; it’s another to feel alienated from the very humanity of which you are (more or less) part by virtue of your own clumsiness with social markers. I’d had such distaste for the trappings of femininity. To me they bespoke weakness, vanity and I’ll admit there was something deep seated in me that said “why bother? Putting make-up and pretty clothing on you is about as useful as putting ribbons on a jackass.” My Midgard ordeal slowly but surely began to undo all of these knots. It “civilized” me. It transformed my relationship to me and it allowed me to fall in love with living, with life, and the wonderful ups and downs that it brings. I love life now. I never, ever thought I would say that! I’m having a wonderful time, I enjoy who I am. This was my greatest and most unexpected gift from Midgard.
As ordeals go, this one wasn’t bad. In fact, for most women I suppose it wouldn’t have been an ordeal at all. A colleague, G. facilitated this ordeal. She is, in addition to being a spirit-worker, a gifted massage therapist with a keen sense of aesthetics. For her, these things combined in sacred work: restoring to women a sense of their own innate beauty. She had been pushed to offer to facilitate and on the urging of my fire-teacher, I accepted. About a week after my Muspelheim ordeal, I journeyed to MA to meet with her. The ordeal was expected to take three days and would involve remarkable amount of pampering. (As I said earlier, not all ordeals involve physical pain). The purpose of this, and why it was, for me, an ordeal: I would have to confront each and every one of my body issues, my distaste for the flesh, and my issues with femininity directly. The form of the ordeal might be gentle, but the issues it was sure to raise would be anything but.
The first day G. stood me before her full length mirror. She made me look at myself in the eyes, she would not allow me to turn away. I have only the smallest of mirrors in my home (a mirror over my sink). I avoid mirrors as a matter of course. I avoid looking at myself in them. I don’t much like them. They make me hurt. G. stood me before that mirror, one that was her primary magical ally, an ensorcelled tool. She talked to me about mirror magic: how one must guard what one says in front of a mirror, lest we create that spoken reality for ourselves. That mirrors, more than doorways, are realms of manifestation. That one can stand before a mirror, create a glamour and step into it before walking out to meet the world. What I had long dismissed as nothing more than a symbol of excessive female vanity suddenly became very interesting as a magical tool. Then, she allowed the words of my Husband, of Odin to come through her and spoke about how He saw me, and my beauty, and my femininity. She spoke about how He valued my strength and how that strength shown forth in my body. She spoke about how He was most pleased with the shape and form of that body. He was pleased with this woman who was a blade, a weapon, a warrior. He would have me no different. This went on for maybe twenty minutes and it reduced me to tears. I still struggle with this but it was at this ordeal that the hard bands of pain around my heart began to ease. Odin had her draw runes in oils and red ochre on me, marking me yet again as His valkyrie, and His bride.
Since Odin wanted to give me the tools to function at a better, more efficient level in the mundane world, to carve a place for myself in that world, G. was tapped to teach me about dress and presentation, including make-up. I’d always had a tremendous distaste for what I defined as feminine frippery, for a number of reasons which anyone knowing my birth family well would understand. It also really highlighted the depth of my ingrained misogyny! Anyway, we spent a couple of hours with her teaching me how to apply professional make up, with her teaching me why this was important, how this could be used to hold and cast a glamour. He wanted me to look at these tools: dress, make up, courtesies, as war paint, as weapons and tools that would enable me to move cleanly amongst a greater variety of people working His will. G. helped me give up the great bitterness and sense of awkward clumsiness that I had with even the idea of engaging in this process. It was at my Midgard ordeal that I gained some semblance of Midgard “drag,” the ability to pass in the professional world of Midgard. I gained those skills and at the same time sacrificed the distaste that I’d had for them. This ordeal helped me hide my monster. Most surprisingly of all, in the months since this ordeal, I've even come to find the entire process (dress, make up, etc.) fun.
The next day began with a sauna, complete with birch leaf bundles for cleansing. Then she wrapped me in healing herbs and oils, and then, I had a long massage while she used her gift of energy healing to start opening up my heart. We had to be careful with my left leg as the brand I’d gotten at Muspelheim was very new, however, it didn’t get in the way that much. With my back and neck injuries, this was an amazing experience and with G.’s healing talents, it left me feeling more comfortable in my body than I ever remember being before. I’d had massages but I rarely permit energy work to be done—it can really mess up shamans and spiritworkers if done by someone who doesn’t understand how we’ve been modified energetically by our Gods. I’d never had one done by a gifted spirit-worker, working under the auspices of my Gods, specifically to open the barred cavern of my heart.
The following day began with a pedicure, more massage, and a lovely lunch at a local Japanese Restaurant. Then we drove to Salem, where a local scent shop created a personal scent for me, one that focused on my role as Odin’s bride. It was sensual…where I am not. It was lush, where I am not. It was delightful. It was all the things that I wish I knew how to show. That, I suspect, was the point. After spending some time in Salem shopping for various herbs, we went clothes shopping as well. G. has great skill as a personal shopper and was able to help me find clothing that flattered my body and made me feel comfortable and professional without being too egregiously feminine, which by nature, I am not. For so long I’d hated anything that had to do with presentation. I avoided clothes shopping partly out of poverty and partly out of body-hatred (I’d been grievously poor for years and only recently was able to even really consider shopping for nice clothes). It affected the way I carried myself. It affected the way I was perceived professionally. It crippled me. Through this ordeal, Odin was giving me a chance not just to undo some of the wounds and hurts, but to learn necessary skills that would enable me to have a professional career in the future. G. helped me to see that I could be in the world, that I wasn’t a freak as a woman. I also learned that making people feel beautiful, and feel comfortable in their skin is sacred work. It’s holy work, the work of a very special type of priestess. I am very respectful of those who engage in such work: massage therapists, those who provide manicures, pedicures, facials, those who work in the beauty industry. In Northern tradition the body is part of the soul matrix and I think that people doing this type of work are essentially helping us to restore part of ourselves, the part that is inevitably the most damaged from the world in which we live.
Anyway, that was it really. It was a weekend of immense pampering but also of learning. I realized that our bodies are our tools, yes, but that it is our duty to keep them in as good a working order as possible. That this is the conduct by which we not only touch the world, but also by which we experience the Divine. This is the conduit through which our Gods can experience the world. Most of all, I experienced for a few brief moments how Odin sees me. One of the most difficult parts of my journey was a period of two years where Odin cut me off from the feel of His presence. I’m an empath. For me, part of my relationship with Him was the constant sense of His feelings for me. When that was suddenly blocked and cut off, it threw me into a deep depression. It was a very close thing to my not being able to climb out and only my sense of duty and the Work (thank the Gods for my military background) kept me going. But it was a miserable, hurtful time. It was necessary, absolutely necessary for reasons I won’t go into here, but it left deep wounds in my heart and soul. (Lest I be accused of saying that Odin is cruel, I will reiterate: this was necessary for me to grow and heal. It was hurtful at the time, but in retrospect, I came to understand His reasons and it forced me to address a lot of old, unresolved pain in ways I never otherwise would have. He gave me an immense gift during that very dark time). My relationship with Odin has only recently been completely restored, those wounds healed, literally recently as of this past month, and the blocking occurred for only a two year period several years ago. This ordeal was the first time that I’d felt Odin’s fingers playing over those terrible scars, soothing them. It began a heart-healing that found its fulfillment first in my Asgard ordeal and then again, quite recently with Him directly.
So that was my Midgard ordeal and it is a good thing that it was kind and pleasant because the next ordeal was anything but.