We're often told, as writers, to 'write what you know.' Write from experience. For me, that means For me, that means embodied, physical experience – not just academic learning.
I've been fortunate enough to be greatly assisted in my research by the Powderhorn Cultural Wellness Center, in Minneapolis, MN. PCWC offers culturally centered kinship building, identity development, ancient wisdom, and cultural knowledge/competence classes. This work includes knowing and reclaiming our ancestral identity, values, concepts, principles, stories, myths, and spiritual practices.
For me, that means re-learning the folk-ways of my Norse ancestors. Engaging in hands-on learning of pre-Christian, pre-colonization folkways.
At PCWC, I've learned to sing 'lokkr,' and read the rune-patterns formed by the branches of trees. I've learned how deeply ancestral patterns inform my sense of time, my physical need to withdraw in the winter. I've learned the difference between cyclical and linear time – how marking the year with agricultural festivals grounds me, centers me, even at a time of profound change.
I've also been studying 'Völva Stav' with Kari Tauring. Stav-work means stamping on the ground with a staff, and banging on the staff with a 'tein,' (a beater), creating rhythmic accompaniment to songs, chants, galdr, lokkr. Stavving can also be used as a 'sonic driver' for shamanic journey-work. I've learned that coordinating my body to stamp a staff on the ground while standing upright in a trance is a very strange sensation!
I have also been fortunate enough to participate in the Runehof Asatru community. There, I've attended Blots, learned to card and spin wool, and how to engage in relationship with the Land Wights. I've learned to bake Viking era 'ash-cakes,' as well as making heavy winter socks by nalbinding (1 needle knitting.) I've even learned to leave a cup of coffee and a bit of oatmeal on the altar for my ancestors.
As well, I owe a debt of gratitude to the Society for Creative Anachronism for 20 years of embodied learning. There, I learned that walking through dewy grass makes the hem of your gown miserably cold and clammy against your ankles. I've learned that complicated line-dances can build to feeling united, like a single being with one soul and multiple feet. I've also learned that, after combat, men smell really, really bad.
These are the kinds of details that one cannot learn in a library. Writing the kind of novel that draws a reader in, and transports them to another world requires more of the writer. It requires embodied knowing.
In this blog, expect philosophical musings, journey-work reports, writing tips, and commentary on the intersection of Nature and Old Norse folk-ways. Much of this blog will be driven by the physical learning driving my novel, In the Company of Stones, an historical fantasy set in 780's Denmark. Some future commentary may also be driven by ideas I find, trudging to the library, flashdrive in hand.
But much will not. My keyword is – immanence.