"Let the beauty you love be what you do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground." - Rumi

Friday, April 17, 2009

Serving Odin – the Third Ordeal: Svartalfheim

by G. Krasskova

This ordeal turned out to have many lessons about memory and obligation, about accountability and the responsibilities incurred by emotional impulsiveness. It taught me much about the blocks and masks I wear for good or ill. Odin said recently that I need not always be so hard, but…I do not always know any other way to be. The Svartalfar taught me the danger of such bravado. This ordeal was about humility and old offenses coming home to roost. It changed the way I relate to the Gods and spirits because it showed me that not only do They all have very long memories that don’t just take into account this life, but all our lives, but that reparation must be made. Period. There are no free rides, most especially in this work and we are called to restore what we have sundered. It’s easy for advanced magicians (or warriors) to fall into great arrogance, even hubris…this ordeal taught me more than any other, the folly of such a thing...Even if lifetimes have passed. Wyrd works. It unfolds and carries us to where we must be, even when the journey is difficult.

The account below is taken from my journal, written at various points over the weekend of March -6, 2007. It’s more stream of consciousness than the other accounts largely because I was writing it while I was in transit, in shorts bursts. Also, more than any other, this ordeal involved large periods of path-walking directly into Svartalfheim.

March 1: JFK Airport:
So the ordeal has started already and I’m not even in Brussels yet. The plane we were supposed to depart on at 6:15pm went out of service. Now, we’re scheduled to leave at 10:30pm. (We actually didn’t get off the ground till close to midnight). I considered cancelling, rebooking tentatively for next week but runes were bad: Berkana and Tiewaz reversed. Eihwaz was my counsel and I feel Svartalfheim in this. I spoke with H. (the ordeal master/shaman overseeing this ordeal) prior to leaving the house today and she said that this ordeal will entail specific things (with my luck, in the friggin’ woods) over the next three days. She said they’ve been telling her that they want my remorse (and according to her, they know how to get it): they want me to give up my remorse, the remorse I carry…ah, how she phrased it has slipped my mind. It ties in nicely though with Hela’s lessons. I know –and told the Svartalfar—that such things as this delay—inconveniences which so easily trigger my temper—are good: to test, teach and build character, but I can’t say I want more of them!

Friday, March 2:
(Had an epiphany: Midgard is the most powerful of worlds because here the core energies of all worlds and all Gods can co-exist and mingle. Humans are fucked up because we’ve moved too far from source. We need blood transfusions: Aesir, Vanir, Jotun, Duergar, etc.. Also, there is too much unhealthy crust that must be chipped away).

Setting foot on Belgium soil also prompted this huge epiphany about the American Heathen community. No wonder we’re so lore bound. They’re compensating for lack of ancestral land connection. Here in rural Belgium, the land is dense, layered, rich in memory and experience. It’s palpable. One can taste the blood of the Napoleonic wars, the Templar thread and all the way down to Neanderthals. People still have an instinctive tie to it. They still honor the ancient compact with the land, especially in the rural areas. The vaettir are strong and fed and very, very vibrant. Here the land holds and provides what we use the stabilizing power of lore for. I realized that you can’t really connect to your ancestors until you’ve walked upon your ancestral land, wherever that may be. To know where you’re going, as the cliché goes, you really must know where you’re from. You must acknowledge the forces that shaped you.

Saturday, March 3:
I went to Belgium for my Svartalfheim ordeal, which was facilitated by H. it was a two day affair and initially may have been longer. After breakfast (9am), H. took me on a many mile hike, through fields, swamps and forests. We walked and path-walked. We entered an outer forest of Svartalfheim and I was tagged by them. This etheric tag showed the reason for my being there and would dissolve in a couple of days. It gave me lawful access to parts of their realm and ensured that unless I was particularly, egregiously stupid, I would not be unlawfully attacked. While walking, we went past a swamp and I saw weapons in the water. It was the first hint I had that for the entire weekend every time I was in Svartalf territory, my energy Sight was wide open when normally I must rely only on my Empathy. After our hike, we had lunch at a local pub and then went to a medieval Cistercian abbey. It’s amazing and amazingly magical. Rather than desecrate the earth, the buildings are actually an extension of its energy. It’s one hell of a power spot and I have to say, someone knew what they were doing when they built that. I lay on my back in one area where, during mass, only the priest would be permitted to tread. I watched droplets of water falling from this huge vaulted ceiling. It was immensely cleansing. I showered in it, drank some of it and had hands and face anointed. The stream of water moved toward me when I stood beneath it.

There were dozens of underground passages, catacombs, tombs, cells in the abbey and because they like such places, several of these functioned as doorways to Svartalfheim. I was led to crawl through a low tunnel and eventually went into an underground prison cell (though why this was in an abbey, I don’t’ know). The place just oozed with Svartalf energy and at one point, I was told to put my hand in a dank hole to capture some of the energy…another tag to ease my passage. I didn’t want to but H. told me I might be sorry if I didn’t, so I overcame my aversion. Above was a walled nook that would have made a wonderful outdoor shrine. Below, in the cavern was one hell of a Svartalf doorway. H. had me come in and go a little way through the doorway and that was my first encounter with their primary Goddess. Her energy is deep blue, smooth like glass, very dark, though H. said it could also be jagged like splinters of glass. When I actually SAW Her, H. told me later that my face went visibly the shade of old milk. I respectfully backed out [quickly].

Before I left the house that morning, I put on a hand woven protection charm that R. had made for me. I have a trick left ankle and was worried about spraining it, so I put it on the left ankle (and made it through the ordeal without injury). I’m leaving it there until it dissolves. Anyway, Svartalfs seem to like spiders, insects, snakes which makes sense as they live in caves and caverns (did I mention I’m incredibly arachnophobic?) and I left some pretty glass as an offering and a huge tektite. I’d been told before leaving NY to bring a pouch of odd assortment of things so I did and ended up using some of it as offerings to pave my way. Anyway, H. had to guard the doorway this time because a group of Svartalfs in spider form wanted to come through and tear me apart. We couldn’t figure out why. She’d asked me if I had any idea what I’d done but I didn’t. I’d never had any Svartalf encounters in this life so we figured later that maybe it was my bloodline, or Odin, or Loki’s influence. But this was the first warning we had that in some way, shape or form, I was being held responsible for having done them a great wrong. It was good to be warned in advance.

Prior to lunch, we stopped at a shallow cave grotto where I made a small offering and was tagged again on the right side. Right after I was tagged the first time, while still in the forest, I picked up a jagged black rock from Svartalfheim for my altar (with permission). I also took another from the abbey. These will form the center pieces to the altar I will set up to the Svartalf Goddess when I return home.

We came home after that for snacks and in early evening went out (or tried to as you’ll see) to a Neanderthal cave Rocher de Trou Margritte. Apparently, the Neanderthals left loads of high quality offerings here to be allowed to stay but were so terrified of what lived there that they left in one hell of a hurry. That is how shamans and spiritworkers may attribute the findings at any rate and after going there, I certainly believe this to be the case! Archaeologists speculate that they were set upon by Cro Magnon, though there’s no evidence of that, but we know what it was: the Svartalf Goddess. That cave is a major doorway. Where the abbey was a “civilized” doorway, the cave is a primal one. We didn’t get to it that night though. We drove to Ansemme and Dinant but the Svartalfar weren’t making it easy for us. It was a lunar eclipse –blood moon—a time of celebration and great power for the Svartalfar. Hela had told H. that we had to go out that night even though H. was concerned about my safety and had petitioned to do it at the house. We took a wrong turn and came up behind and above the cave with a wild party going on in the hotel nearby. We drove down this muddy dirt road between a field and a forest and H. went to scout. She encountered really nasty things in the forest and I saw them lurking behind the car. Driving out, our car was physically pulled off the road and into a ditch. We tried for an hour or so to get it out with jack and pulley and finally decided (and Hela agreed) to not lose the blood moon but to go into the woods to at least talk with the Svartalfar. I found the place to call them and H. sat guarding my back. I galdred hagalaz (very softly so as not to draw attention from anything BUT Svartalfs). Several came. One had a huge six foot spider with him and it was very aggressive and at one point nearly attacked me. It calmed a bit after I made an offering and took my hands out of my pocket keeping them palm forward.

H. spoke to them and explained why we were there and I confirmed their response empathically. She later said she was hoping my sight wasn’t on and picking up the spider but oh, it was. She spoke Enochian, which is sort of a diplomatic language of sorts between different races and worlds. [I got pinged to learn this eventually]. The Svartalfs said they were busy with the blood moon and basically to come back tomorrow. The damage to our car had been done by unsupervised Svartalfar youth but though this had been unsanctioned, the Svartalf party said they’d consider that our “stupid” tax for having interrupted them on blood moon. Then we were told to leave and not look back.

We made a bee line to the car. I got scratched up by thorns pretty badly but when I asked them to let me go, they did. It was sobering to think that Svartalfs could cover that type of territory silently and at about 15 mph. H. said that my night blindness was actually an asset because it made me less of a threat. Also, I was totally unarmed, as instructed. I begin to wonder if I’d have gotten out alive had I BEEN carrying weapons. (Yes, one can incur serious physical injury and even death at this level of path-walking).

We then spent the next seven or so hours trying to get the car out. We were not permitted to call for help until every other option had been exhausted. This was part of the ordeal, I suppose. At the last minute, Svartalf youths would muck our plans up: pushing us, snapping rope, throwing shit. Finally, when they broke the jack in half and all other options had been exhausted and I was risking hypothermia, H. was permitted to call the Belgian AAA emergency number and they sent a tow truck in about 40 minutes. While H. went out to the main road to wait for the truck, I stayed in the car and Svartalf youngsters threw pebbles at the car. Once the truck arrive and pulled us out of the ditch, we went home for food, bath and 4-5 hours of sleep.

Sunday March 4:
At about 3pm, after about four hours of sleep, we drove to Dinant again, H. having doubled checked the location of the cave. She left me by the La Lesse river while she went to scout the best route to the cave. Doing so, she ran into a local arborist cutting some trees and told me later that in lore rich areas, it’s often necessary to get a local “gatekeeper” to give you access to magical sites themselves. He pointed out the cave. This time, we were not waylaid by Svartalfheim adolescents. Their antics were actually an embarrassment to the adults and lost them a bit of face. So while H. was scouting, I explored the La Lesse river. It was so easy to sense the river Goddess and the vaettir were very strong, pleasant and plentiful. I made offerings of chocolate, which was what I had on hand. Had I been there longer, I would have started picking up the scant bits of trash that were around but H. came back and we had to go to the cave. The first cave she’d found had her a bit worried---it had a twelve foot steep climb and was very much in view. One of the maps gave the location of Trou Margritte in a slightly different location though and when she checked that out, that turned out to be the right place. It was off the side of the road, up a rocky hill and completely concealed. It overlooked a lush river valley.

We walked through overgrowth and climbed up the hill, which was in itself pretty damned steep. I’d never been in any caves let alone a major Neanderthal cave and it was AMAZING. The energy was old, layered, primal and strong. It was easy to sense vestiges of the people that had once lived there. Originally, I was going to be in a climbing harness dangling from the mouth of the cave for awhile and dealing with the Svartalf Goddess that way: like a spider’s prey bound before being devoured. I’d have been hooked to H. and blind folded for the initial drop off, which would have been a very direct entry into Svartalfheim, which doorway I wouldn’t have been allowed to see. Because of the car trouble and attendant cold and discomfort (perhaps in face saving payment?) that was deemed unnecessary now. (Also, I’d tried the harness in a lower drop the first night I was in Belgium and far from being an ordeal, I found it a lot of fun…which I’m sure played in to my being permitted to enter the cave on foot, rather than by a means I found enjoyable).

I fell once inside the cave itself but only bruised myself – on piles of rocks. H. took me to a small nook in the back upper right of the cave and gave me 1/8 dose of calamus tincture, to sharpen my energy Sight. She then anointed my head and back of neck with two oils to which the Svartalfs are allergic. Basically this would keep them at a distance and keep them from tearing me apart. She went down and behind an altar (a large rectangular rock that was perfect for an altar, right inside the entrance in the right corner of the cave) to set up. I laid out the glass ornaments (I’d broken one by falling on it, so didn’t offer that) cigars and candy and turned out my light.

They came and quickly. It was claustrophobic and terrifying (one later teased me about having mountain etin blood and being claustrophobic—I was surprised to find that even in the midst of an ordeal, the Svartalfar have a healthy if cynical and sarcastic sense of humor). One to my right took the form of a VERY LARGE spider and it was all I could do to remain calm. Of course it was just as scary, the thought of having to push past him to escape. I was wondering how long the oils would last!

I asked what my crime against them had been and was shown the image of a Svartalf. It took me a little while to figure it out but I realized in one of my incarnations as a brash, thoughtless and prideful fighter (I won’t call what I was then a warrior), I’d killed him. While the Svartalfar can be ruthless and excel at killing, I not only had no reason to kill this man but from what I could tell, had betrayed some sort of interaction or alliance by doing so. And I killed him for no other reason than my own pride, for no other reason than to prove I could, to test my skills and possibly impress. It was brazen arrogance. I wasn’t shown much so aside from the deed, so I must infer detail. It doesn’t matter though; in the eyes of the Svartalfar I am guilty. It really brought home the fact that each life is known and cherished by the Gods. Nothing is lost to the eddies of time and incarnation. Also, while killing may sometimes be necessary, it should not be desecrated and that is what I did. Anyway, I was told to seek out their Goddess for details on how I could make proper reparation. Remorse alone, after all, is pointless.

I told H. that I’d been told to come down and seek their Goddess and she prepared to allow that Goddess to possess her. She warned me when I could come around the corner into the main cave room. She (the Goddess) was a very good fit for H. H. had previously gone to bat for me in an earlier interaction with Her that day, which resulted in my being allowed the oils, all the more important since I was also bleeding and blood can oh so easily set off predators, even Deities). Now H. crouched down behind the altar and told me I should speak when I felt Her fully seated. (When I speak of a Deity being fully seated, it implies that the possession of the human consciousness by the Deity is complete and the human consciousness has been fully pushed aside. This can take a few moments to happen even with one experienced in such work). This didn’t take very long with H. The black light in the room took on a bluish cast and I felt Her presence smooth as glass and utterly deadly waiting, immense, behind that rock.

I told her “Lady, Your people bade me speak to you.” And I explained that I’d been shown that I killed one of them and wanted to know how to make amends. It was an intense though brief encounter and at several points She spat out (and I cannot begin to describe Her voice): “Filthy oils! Lucky to live!” In other words, I am lucky to be alive and quite probably would not be, were I not so warded (there was also the matter of the deal Odin had struck with Her in order for Her to consent to facilitating this ordeal).

When I told Her what I’d been shown, She said “My lover.” I apologized for my poor human hearing and asked her to repeat. She said the man I killed had been Her lover, that they all were male and female both. I don’t know whether this was meant literally or whether it was symbolic of the way this Deity feels about each and every one of Her people. It really didn’t much matter at the time. I was sure at that moment, that I was a dead woman. I asked how to make reparation. She pointed out that nothing would bring him back and that they breed only with difficulty. She said were it up to Her, She would order me to breed one but that “Your Odin” won’t permit it. (Thank you, Husband!!!!). Instead, I was ordered to find a Svartalf-souled human (it happens) and foster him (and it will be a man), whether he likes me or not, whether I like him or not. I must guide him and give him what he needs (not sexually, but foster as a guardian might foster a child). Then She said She was done with me, but to tell “my” Odin that She wasn’t done with Him yet. Then I was dismissed with the words “Lucky to live. Get out.” I said, “Yes, Ma’am” and got the hell out of the cave, leaving everything behind.

I waited outside the cave for H. who brought our things out awhile later. Then we set off down a winding , but fairly easy path that we hadn’t seen before. This took us to the car. We drove home, made a fire, and I called my mother to assure her I was ok, as she’d been very worried. We had high protein dinner and did some energy work. Right before I went to bed, I felt the tag dissolve and a huge but very corporeal spider crawled out of my pant leg and away.

I asked H. if I should set up a small shrine to their Goddess as I’ve been doing after each of my ordeals for the Deities in question and she said she felt their Goddess might like that and gave me some workable instructions. I was also given a steel ring with the symbol of the Svartalf house to which the man I killed belonged. I was told to wear it and that this would draw us together, though it might take a decade or more. So I have my slave bond LOL, but one that will give me a bit of protection from lesser nasties as I’m now in the employ of the Svartalfar. One thing this really drove home is how great a gift fertility is. It’s not a gift I personally want-- I never want to breed -- but it IS a gift. Granted, humans have abused it by not taking into account our resources (we over breed) but still….given the high rate of still births and difficulty in conceiving and carrying to term other races like the Svartalfar experience, it is a gift. When I have my Vanaheim ordeal, I want to see if there is some way my fertility can be removed from my body and given to a Svartalf woman, so that she would then have human fertility. It’s a gift that should be used by someone who cherishes it.

So, that is it. I came home Tuesday after several more protections were loaded onto me for safe passage. (Svartalfar are pretty ruthless and upfront only in their ruthlessness so …”trust God but keep your powder dry” as the saying goes). H. was treating me like a diplomatic parcel. My Muspelheim ordeal is already scheduled for May so I now have that to prepare for. I’m grateful to have survived this one, though I have to say, even at their most terrifying, the Svartalfar have a definite aesthetic sense.


  1. "She said the man I killed had been Her lover, that they all were male and female both."

    My understanding is that, at least among the Alfar (specifically, the elves connected with the Nine Worlds), gender doesn't mean the same thing as it does with humans or other beings. This evidently goes for both Ljossalfar and Svartalfar.

  2. I was too petrified to ask for explanation. I was pretty sure I was going to die in that cave. She's really high up there on the list of Deities i don't ever want to piss off.

  3. plus, you KNOW how bad my arachnophobia is. *sigh* The only ordeal that triggered it worse was Vanaheim.

  4. Yeah, I know. I feel the same way about hornets!

  5. I've really enjoyed reading these--I look forward to when you post more.

    I'm with you on the arachnophobia. Blech.

  6. I shall probably be posting Muspelheim later this week. i'm trying to space them out but Odin is pushing me hard to post (the process of writing and sharing them is forcing me to internalize them on a whole new level).