I'm reading again, for the umpteenth time, When Women Were Birds-Fifty-Four Variations On Voice by Terry Tempest Williams.
There's a brilliant paragraph on page 196: "The sin I have committed is the sin of adoption. I have adopted a different set of beliefs from the beliefs I was raised to obey...I do have other gods before me, many, and none are a white elderly man sitting on a gilded throne in heaven."
I too have committed the sin of adoption. I too have adopted a different set of beliefs from the beliefs I was raised to obey. The 'raised to obey' was without choice.
I committed the sin of adoption.
I committed the sin of choice.
What is your sin of adoption?
Who has tried to kill you with their judgments?
When the Gods need help, who do they call?
Are you dealing with something in your life that is large, heavy, cumbersome and stuck?
Did you love it once and did it serve a purpose?
Is it finished? Has it died? Does it need to be moved?
As a spiritual counselor, and an irreverent wise woman, I often work with people who find themselves dealing with similar situations and I remind them that even the Gods ask for help.
Who do the Gods call upon?
Who would you call?
Individuals in spiritual communities flavored by Eastern religions, such as Hinduism, might seek the help of Lord Ganesh, the Remover of Obstacles.
I encourage those of us with European ancestry to look north, to the spiritual heritage of our own ancestors and to the Gods and Goddesses they called upon.
There’s a great story found in the Norse Sagas about a Giantess named Hyrrokkin who lived in the Mountains of Jotunheim. When she came to the aid of the Gods, she rode in on a wolf using poisonous snakes for reins.
The Gods had tried many times, with no success, to launch a ship out to sea, but it was stuck in the sand. After numerous failures, they summoned one of the most powerful beings in all the realms, Hyrrokkin. When she arrived, she dismounted, walked over to the prow of the ship, and gave it such a mighty push the land shook as the boat was freed.
Now I don’t know about you, but this is my kind of woman, someone who can say, even to the Gods, ‘step aside and let me do this for you.’
Have you tried calling upon Hyrrokkin?
She’s a great one when you need to get something moved.
I’m available by appointment for private sessions. Information can be found on my website.
Spiritual Counseling Sessions
My popular class The Runes Revealed is being offered for the first time as an online option. One of the unique aspects of the work I do with the runes is my questioning of the commonly held beliefs about the runes and the misplaced focus on Odin. This male-centric view of the runes and Norse mythology is blatantly evident in the Norse creation story.
Are you willing to explore this story, read against the grain so to speak, and view it through a different lens?
Here is the introduction to the course, The Runes Revealed - an (un) familiar journey.
Register for the class now.
You are about to embark on a journey with the runes.
This online course is divided into 11 sessions. Each session focuses on 3 runes.
Traditionally, the runes appear in a sequence. However, if you imagine them to be part of a circle, there is no beginning and no ending and what that means for you is that you can work with the sessions in whatever way you choose.
You may face challenges and obstacles along the way. You may get discouraged, overwhelmed or frightened and consider giving it up before you finish.
You will be asked to question things you believe about the runes as well as things that are customarily taught about them.
You will be asked to question things you believe in general and then question whether these beliefs are truly yours or just an accident of your birth.
Some of the information here may feel controversial or confrontational.
We need that. We need to step away from the blinding light of higher consciousness in order to see the wisdom that is held in the darkness of the roots and well.
There is no right way or wrong way to do the course.
Do it at your own pace, fast or slow.
Do it when you feel like it.
Do it when you don’t feel like it.
Take time to answer the questions.
Take time to find new questions.
If you begin to see rune shapes that you don’t recognize, draw them as best you can and write them down. Don’t ignore or discount them. There are countless numbers of runes, not unlike the stars in the sky. So far, we are familiar with only a few of them. Trust that it is possible that new runes are being revealed to you. When you see them or feel them, make note of when you see them, in what context, and observe what was happening around you.
Create altars for the runes as you work with them and come to know them.
Look for them.
They will begin to show up in your life, in strange as well as familiar places.
Cracks in sidewalks.
Shapes in clouds.
Scratches on the furniture.
Ice crystals that form on you windows.
Look at them through different eyes. Take off the distorted lenses of patriarchal interpretation, in history, in academia, in archaeology. Read between the lines and go against the grain. Remove them from the grasping clutches of Odin and see what is missing. What were they, where were they, before he came on the scene. The runes were there, long before Odin came forth.
Imagine them as multi-faceted crystal shapes that hang suspended in the great void. Draw them. Make madalas with them.
Create designs. Try using graph paper.
See how they form and inform each other.
Don’t limit them by imagining they are a mere alphabet to be used to write your name. See them instead as the signatures of primal, powerful, complex beings that have much to teach about life and creation and death and destruction.
Soften your gaze and see them as they were, woven into the Web of Wyrd by the great Nornir.
When you have a question or want to learn more, don’t go first to a book. Take the time instead to sit in silence, and perhaps in darkness, with the runes and see what they have to show you, what they have to tell you.
You can learn about someone by reading a book but to truly know someone, you must communicate with them yourself.
Create altars for the runes as well as for the multitude of beings who exist in relationship with them.
If a certain rune is calling to you, consider marking it on your body and living with it for awhile. Or make a piece of jewelry with the rune shape and wear it.
Create a set of rune flags, perhaps by painting their shapes on fabric and then hang them over your porch or doorway, or in your window instead of Tibetan prayer flags.
Drum with them and the ancestors. Create your own rune song.
Look for artists who make art that honors the Northern Traditions and buy from these artists.
Become conscious and aware of rune wisdom and look for ways to live in harmony with it in your daily life.
Live with them. Live in relationship with them.
Invite them in. Let them know they are welcome in you home.
Reclaim your heritage.
Heal the ancestral grief we all suffer from because we have forgotten the great spiritual traditions of Northern Europe.
I am available to work with individuals privately, either by phone or in person. If you’d like to schedule time with me, send an email.
I will respond to your request, usually within 48 hours.
Ingrid, the Rune Woman
Changing Lives With Ancient Wisdom
For more information about the class and to Register, click here.
Memory is a powerful thing. Without it, we don’t know who we are.
The cup holds many things and when it’s full to overflowing, do you partake of it all or do you partake and then pour out the rest?
Sigyn’s cup catches and holds the venom that drips on Loki, caustic and punishing. Even the smallest droplets burn her hands and when she leaves for only a moment to empty it, Loki writhes in pain.
There are the bowls that hold the Mead of Poetry, made from honey and the blood of Kvasir who was formed from chewed berries and the communal spittle of the gods.
There is the Cauldron of Aegir where the beer for the gods is brewed. There are containers that hold the blood of warriors and containers that carry the blood of sacrifice.
There is the gilded aurochs horn filled with the fermented liquid carried by Freya, she who receives the dead into her hall Sessrumnir, found on the field of Folkvangr and it is from this gilded horn we all must drink in the sacred marriage of death.
What are the contents of your mead cup? Who holds it for you? Or do you carry it yourself? And when it’s full, do you drink from it before you pour it out? Or are the contents something other than liquid?
To remember is to honor. To honor is to offer something up.
I stand on the mound pouring out an offering to the gods, an offering given in exchange. The endless cycle. The skeletal remains of ancient sea creatures compressed by the weight of ages form chalk and chalk fertilizes the earth where the crops grow and we are fed. We are blood and bone and we return ultimately to the ancient seas that nurtured the sea creatures that became chalk.
Looking at Calc you might see, instead of the upturned container, the three roots of the World Tree Yggdrasil. Others do. Each of the three roots grows into a different well, Urdarbrunnr, Hvergelmir and Mimisbrunnr. At some time in the far distant past, which is also the future, did Calc contain something valuable and sacred that was poured out into the wells that water the roots that water the tree? And if so, what was it? And where did it come from? Was it the contents of your cup?
Pouring something onto the ground nourishes the ancestors as well for that’s where they’re buried. How do you honor your ancestors and their memory? How do you feed the World Tree? What are you willing to pour out when Calc appears among the runes?
There is no sound more primal, more bone chilling, than the howl of a wolf. The hair on the back of your neck stands on end and you pass through the veil into an ancient realm, the foreboding gloom of the Iron Wood, home of Angrboda, Chieftess of the Wolf Clan. She is howling for her children. It was here in the undulating oak forest, muck oozing from the ground, that the shape-shifting Angrboda, skin tattooed with ink and battle scars, made love to the Trickster Loki. In their lustful, intense, all-consuming coupling they created magic in the dark and what she birthed, she loved but no one else did.
She was cruelly deceived by the high gods who lured her away from her children with a lie. They burned her until only her charred heart remained in the ashes. Yet she lives. Nothing is as it seems. This is the rune Ac.
Angrboda howls for her half-rotted corpse daughter Hela, who dragged herself along to the gates of Helheim to wait for her mother.
She howls for her wolf son Fenrir, cruelly chained by Odin and his cronies.
And she weeps tears that mix with the waters that surround Midgard, the prison home of her serpent child Jormungand.
How does it feel to give birth to children, to beings, to things that are feared, hated and despised?
How does it feel to know you have brought forth the inevitable, the chaos, destruction and death that even the gods can’t avoid?
Ac is also the mighty oak, thousands of years old, which stands guard at the entrance of Angrboda’s home. Ac shows me the blinding flash of lightning that strikes the tree and I hear the crack as it splits apart and ignites, its heartwood burst open. The wisdom it reveals is the wisdom of life. Terrible monstrosities exist. They must be birthed, the necessity of destruction in order for life to continue.
Sometimes I ponder the question, what role does the oak tree serve when it diverts the lightning strike of Thor that would otherwise have struck his mother Jord, she who is the earth giantess?
It’s a dark, cold night. The fires are lit in the hearth of the mead hall. Straw and reeds are strewn on the floor and dogs wander about looking for scraps of food. The long, heavy benches are drawn up alongside the scarred and worn oak tables. The game board is laid out. You have your pieces and I have mine. We each know the rules. You can sit there and ponder, strategize, calculate and project, even imagine what it is you think I will do, what move I will make, but at some point you must reach in the pouch and gather up the dice and then roll them. You must take action. You must we willing to play the game. And then, only then, will you know what moves to make and then, only then, will you be able to see the unfolding because as you make your moves then I too must make mine and both of us must step into the realm of the unknown and into the game of life. And so we begin.
Pertho is the rune of chance, of birth and beginnings, of something coming forth from the pouch that is the known as well as the unknown. Look at her shape. She’s the woman crouching in childbirth; she’s the pouch that holds the dice that are rolled in the game of life.
The things that are known are the board, the pieces, and the rules. But we can’t just wait for the unknown to be revealed. We must participate in the play.
Spirituality isn’t just about being serious. It’s inseparably linked to our creativity and our sexuality.
The gods want us to play with them, to join them in the long halls, noisy, loud, boisterous, with all the smells and tastes and the sounds and sights of life. They want us to play with them, knowing that there are no guarantees, no assurances of what the roll of the dice will unfold or reveal or how the pieces will be moved.
Our spirituality must be playful and risk-taking. It’s detrimental to our wellbeing to get caught in pious, trite sayings, such as, ‘it must be your karma’, or ‘you must have chosen this thing so you could learn a lesson’, or even worse, 'it was God's will'.
I always wonder why it is that these supposed lessons we have to learn are always about suffering or pain or struggle. Have you ever heard anyone say it must be a lesson you’re supposed to learn when things go really well for you or your life is incredibly wonderful?
Our lives aren’t just a predetermined set of events. No, we play the game of life with the gods and it’s our participation with them and our willingness that determines and changes the outcome over and over again. Yes, there are threads of Wyrd that have been spun and woven before us but we get to spin and weave our own threads into this tapestry creating our own patterns.
For me, this is Pertho. The rune of chance. The rune that reminds me of the Nornir. She sits by the well in the roots of the World Tree. She was there before the gods. She knows what cannot be changed and she knows what can. Even the gods must consult with her prior to handing out decisions or decrees.
I follow Pertho down into the dark, into the earth, into the roots of the tree.
I follow Pertho down to the well, to the waters that hold the ancient wisdom of the runes.
I follow Pertho down to learn what I need to know about my willingness to roll the dice and to take a chance.
It is she who plays with you as you roll the dice with the gods, in the mead hall, on those dark, wintery nights, when the dogs doze and warm themselves in front of the fire.
Are you willing to roll the dice? Are you willing to play?
The gods demand both play and sacrifice.
Let Pertho take you down to the well.
I know that it was the bicycle, not the automobile, that first replaced the horse as a personal means of transportation. I had never thought much, however, about the fact that it was revolutionary in a very different way.
So here is some fascinating information I uncovered while exploring the history of the bicycle.
It was still believed in the late 1800s that women were constitutionally weak creatures, a condition that caused them to tire quickly when they walked. The problem was, however, their clothing, not their constitutions. In 1888 The Rational Dress Society, a British suffragette organization used the bicycle as its symbol to protest against fashions of the day. It was possible for women’s undergarments to weigh more than seven pounds. Some of their clothing was actually weighted and they were still wearing hooped skirts and corsets. Such clothing restricted movement as well as breathing. In fact, the corset should have been more properly called a straitjacket. Women who dressed comfortably were considered lewd and dangerous and comfortable, loose clothing was a must for cycling.
The potential for freedom of movement of the body as well as freedom of movement from place to place led to freedom of thought, and it was some of history’s first women cyclists who became political activists. These women were responsible for many freedoms we now take for granted, including the right to vote.
Heated controversy arose from the belief that the bicycle promoted immodesty in woman and would harm their reproductive systems and could ultimately lead to death.
It was believed that a woman riding a bicycle was an assault on the moral fabric of society, particularly if she were unaccompanied or unchaperoned. Women could be sexually aroused by riding, thus leading to the habit of masturbation. Because of this concern, one could buy a "hygienic bicycle seat withy a special recession for a woman’s genitalia. However, any respectable woman would consider riding a bicycle to be utterly unacceptable, even immoral, in spite of the "hygienic" seat. It was most clearly a threat to the very moral fiber of decent society.
Bicycles were revolutionary with regards to women’s fashion. Cycling challenged traditional gender norms, and women who cycled redefined femininity, female beauty and sexuality. Women began to consider bicycles as freedom machines because they experienced personal mobility and the thrill of speed.
They were instrumental in changing society’s ideas of acceptable female behavior and dispelled myths of helplessness and fragility.
My exploration of the bicycle led me to the story of an American woman named Annie Londonderry Cohen Kopchovsky who in 1894 became the first woman to ride around the world. Peter Zheutlin, her great-grandnephew, wrote the book Around the World on Two Wheels documenting the story of his aunt:
“On June 25, 1894, Annie Cohen Kopchovsky, a young mother of three small children, stood before a crowd of 500 friends, family, suffragists and curious onlookers at the Massachusetts State House. Then, declaring she would circle the world, she climbed onto a 42-pound Columbia bicycle and “sailed away like a kite down Beacon Street. Fifteen months later one New York newspaper called it 'the most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman'."
"The trip was reportedly set in motion by a wager that required Annie not only to circle the earth by bicycle in 15 months, but to earn $5000 en route as well. This was no mere test of a woman's physical endurance and mental fortitude; it was a test of a woman's ability to fend for herself in the world."
"Annie turned every Victorian notion of female propriety on its ear. Not only did she abandon temporarily her role of wife and mother, but for most of the journey she rode a man's bicycle attired in a man's riding suit. She earned her way selling photographs of herself, appearing as an attraction in stores, and by turning herself into a mobile billboard by renting space on her body and her bicycle to advertisers eager to benefit from this colorful spectacle on wheels."
"Outlandish, brash, and charismatic—a master of public relations, a consummate self-promoter, and a skillful creator of her own myth—Annie was a woman of boundless chutzpah. Indeed, as Annie Cohen Kopchovsky reinvented herself as a new woman—the daring globetrotter and adventurer "Mlle. Annie Londonderry"—she became one of the most celebrated women of the gay '90s. Yet until now her remarkable story has been lost to history.” (Peter Zheutlin)
Praise for Around the World on Two Wheels:
“[T]hanks to Peter Zheutlin, Annie Londonderry Kopchovsky will be remembered as a woman who transcended the limitations of her time and displayed independence and bravery, making an important contribution to Jewish women’s history in particular, and feminist history in general.” ~ The Jerusalem Report
I ride a motorcycle. I wonder what they would have thought about that?
Until next time,
Ingrid Kincaid is an internationally known storyteller, teacher and spiritual mentor. She is an intuitive reader of ancient runes. She gently shows her clients how to tap into their own inner wisdom by weaving together creativity, spirituality and ancient knowing. Ingrid is available for interviews, private consultations and group presentations. You can contact her at Ingrid@IngridKincaid.com.
Ior carries me to the salty, ever-moving, great oceans of water that encircle the globe. It opens the way for me to experience the World Serpent, Jormungand, one of the three greatly feared and loathed offspring of the Wolf Chieftess and the Trickster god.
Ior speaks to me of borders and thresholds, of ambivalence and androgyny, of single lines that demarcate and writhing serpentine bodies that can exist on both sides at once.
Ior holds the essence of dual nature, of ‘both and’ and ‘neither nor’.
Jormungand, the androgynous World Serpent thrashes and coils in the Midgard ocean causing destruction and devastation. Her absence would cause an even greater catastrophe than his presence does.
A deep relationship with Ior creates a place of balance, a place from which we can learn to come to terms with the extreme and destructive forces of nature and not always fight against what’s happening.
It’s true that many lives are lost, not just human, and great destruction occurs in the face of hurricanes or tsunamis or violent storms at sea and we of course are saddened and stunned by the losses. However, the huge upheavals on the earth, the forest fires, the earthquakes, the erupting volcanoes, aren’t about us, nor are they bad or evil. They just are. Sometimes daffodils bloom and gentle rains fall and sometimes a great avalanche thunders down the mountain.
The World Serpent Jormungand is daughter son to Angrboda and Loki, sister brother to Hela and Fenrir. The three siblings were stolen from their mother by the high gods and cast away, chained and confined. But even the great powers of order cannot hold back forever the inevitable return of chaos.
The Ior rune can teach you how to see the curve that exists in the seemingly straight line, how to be on both sides of something simultaneously without needing to make a choice of one over the other. Living with Ior as the ouroboros you can come to understand what it means to devour yourself by eating your own tail. Then you can know the end and the beginning as one. This is how you partake of them both.
Working with Ior is about being willing to sail to the edge of the map, to the places we’ve been told cannot be known or the places we've been told we cannot go.
In ancient times the mapmakers drew maps of the world as they knew it and around the edges of the map they’d write: Beyond This There Be Dragons.
It was believed that if you sailed to the edge of the world, you’d fall off and there you would have to face the great dragon.
Are you kept inside the realm of what’s known and what’s allowed, what’s orderly and what’s safe by the fear of meeting the dragon when you sail off the edge?
You don’t have to go there alone.
Journey with Ior to Jormungand.
Sister brother son and daughter knows what it’s like to be cast away.
I dance with Ansuz in my relationship with words. Words are alive and have an existence separate and distinct from the way we mindlessly use them. They’re creations in and of themselves. They have a generative power. True, they may limit us when we use them to describe what we experience as reality but at the same time they have the power to change our perceptions as well as create.
The psychologist James Hillman wrote about the ‘angelology of words’. The word angel originally meant an emissary or a messenger and the Ansuz rune helps me remember the value and significance of what words carry between people.
Words as well as runes are personal presences with their own gender, history, mythology and genealogy.
Words and runes are about voice and sounds.
How do you use your voice?
It’s not a matter of whether or not you talk. It’s a matter of whether or not you use your voice to speak about things of value, and whether you use your voice to speak of things with integrity and truth.
We become out of balance with Ansuz if we engage in gossip, idle and unconscious speech and lying. And once we’re out of balance with Ansuz we become out of balance with our breath because breath is the means by which we speak. And breath is about life.
We no longer live in an oral culture so a good question to ask might be whether or not Ansuz can connect to our writing voice as well as our speaking voice.
Ansuz is about air. Just like fish live in water, we as humans live in air. It’s easy to forget that because air is invisible. We may enter a room and say that it’s empty because we don’t see anything in it but the room is not empty. The air is there so the room is full and the air is always full of things seen and unseen.
Air is all around us and air is inside of us. We are the container. We are the contained.
The being of Ansuz also connects us to the ash tree, sometimes called the honey tree because it secretes a sugary substance from its bark and leaves. This honey from the ash tree, when fermented, has hallucinogenic effects on those who consume it. Called the mead of the gods it opens up the way for us not only to have communion with the gods but also to speak in their voice. It’s said that it was a custom in the Scottish Highlands for mother’s to give to their newborn infants, on the tips of their fingers, the fermented sap of the ash tree, thus linking them to the gods from the moment of their birth.
How different might things be if we still followed such practices today?
The presence of Ansuz may also ask you to call into question your thoughts and beliefs about the use of hallucinogenic substances in ritual. Can they, do they, connect you with the gods and the power of words to create?
When we take an in-breath, do the gods of the air breathe into us at the same time? And if that’s the case, is the air we expel when we speak, also the spirit, breath and voice of the gods?
Whose breath mingled with Odin’s breath when he saw the runes, grabbed them up and screamed? Is that what’s meant by a sacrifice of self to self?
What is created at the time of sacrifice?
Ansuz might also lead you to Bragi, the Old Nose god of poetry and eloquence who is said to have had the runes carved on his tongue. Poetry carries the magical power of words. It can touch our hearts, stir up memory and longing as well as inspire. It allows us to partake of the realm of the gods through the use of words. It was and still can be used as a memory aid to keep alive the tales of the gods, to take hold of the woven, unbroken ancestral lines that are constantly being twisted by breath.
We ate horses. In fact, clear up until the eleventh and twelfth centuries, heathen Swedes were called horse eaters. For tens of thousands of years humans have hunted and eaten horses. Some of the oldest cave paintings ever discovered in France show scenes of ritual hunting of horses for food
The bond between horses and humans is ancient and runs deep. The horse was a sacred creature that carried the gods on adventures and exploits, pulled chariots across the sky and was worshiped and used in sacred ritual and fertility practices by many ancient European tribes. There were horse cults where it is said that the King mated with a sacred mare to insure the blessing of the realm. Horse penises were preserved or mummified and used as sacred objects to promote or bless fertility. It’s no surprise then that Odin who rides between the worlds on his the eight-legged horse Sleipner goes by the name of Volsi, Horse’s Penis, which is also translated The Dangler. In some cultures it is believed that centaurs came into being when the sacred horse penis mated with Mother Earth. Who are these magical creatures? The imagery of the centaur is found even among the stone carvings of the Pictish people in ancient Scotland.
Our ancestors knew that sexuality, spirituality and creativity were bound together in life and that riding these energies allowed them to move between the worlds.
How far can you ride the energies of Ehwaz?
What boundaries could you cross?
What realms of greatness are you willing to explore to become equal to yourself?
Ehwaz is the rune of horse and horses, of horse and rider, of freedom and control, mastery and surrender. You can’t ride a horse by pulling back on the reins any more than you can drive a car with one foot on the break and the other on the gas.
Often in a reading Ehwaz will ask the question, where in your life are you bound, harnessed or yoked to someone or something that is not your equal?
It’s easy to be fooled. Both a donkey and a draft horse can pull a cart or wagon to market. But they can’t do it if they're bound together. They will only go in circles.
They can walk the same road in the same direction.
They can walk the road with the same intention.
But they must do it separately.
So ask yourself again, where in my life am I bound to someone or something that is not my equal? Where in my life am I going in circles?
Who in my life do I need to disconnect myself from?
Ehwaz may also show up when there’s something great and powerful trying to move you and move through you. Movement is both creative and destructive. Movement can be both frightening and uncertain. Set the fear and uncertainty aside, relax the reins and become one with the energy and ride the Ehwaz.