When my students become serious in their practice, the need to quite the mind to receive sometimes obscure kennings become very evident early on in the reclaiming process. When the need to implement a “meditative discipline” arrives, the question I get is: “What is Utiseta, and what good will it add to my seiðr practice?? ~I mean, what is it even used for and why?!”
In Svipdagsmal (Poetic Edda, Hollander) young Svipdag is given a terrible task by his stepmother.
To find help and to have the ability to be “Spirit-led”, (as well as learn how he can complete his grim task) Svipdag goes and sits outside on his mother Groa’s grave, a practice called utiseta or “out-sitting”.
During this sitting-out experience; Groa comes through for Svipdag, and he not only learns how to complete his terrible task, but also is granted nine other magical spells.
Utiseta as a means of guidance and connection to Ancestral memories was also used up until the conversion of Iceland to Christianity, when Thorgeirr (who was chosen to moderate the conflict between the Pagan Icelanders and the Christian forces from Norway) sits out for a day and a night under a skin in order to determine the fate of religion in Iceland.
This practice of out-sitting as mentioned above is both a form of meditation with stilling the mind (while simultaneously opening to the receptivity of incoming messages, imagery or kennings) but also as a way of placing focus on the way of receiving the sacred information and help, often specifically from the Ancestors, then divining the future with their aid.
Moreover, as shown by Thorgeirr, Utiseta also draws power from the very essence of the land itself to help humans make decisions that will affect the Well of Urd, and all the powers of life co-habiting there. So how does this process actually work?
WARNING!! ~Incoming UPG:
Let me explain; every life force on this planet comes from and returns to the organic matter that it is created from.
When living; we are as we are- living, breathing, moving, thinking. Just as humans who are in bodies will tend to do.
At the same time Earth Herself (from her soil, water and air) is living, breathing, moving, and thinking. Just as a Planet that can sustain life will tend to do.
Oh, and let’s not forget every other microbe or life force living with us on Jord that has life, a vibrancy and an intelligence specific to that life force. Everything living out its existence on this planet returns to the soil carrying all the experience and interactions it has experienced throughout its lifetime in that location. Just as all living things tend to do.
Now after all the millennial cycles of living and dying, the soil, rocks, streams, plants, and trees hums with a vast encoded intelligence, and when we need a deeper understanding beyond our frail human plastic-coated limitations; the answer ( for me) is to go deep into Earths wild spaces to sit upon it, within it; to connect, expand, open up, touch, absorb and listen for the message (or kenning) of organic life well beyond my own limited understanding.
That to me is the meaning of animism expounded.
But what of death?
Decay and Rot??
Once something or someone dies, doesn’t it become inert?
Based on my own personal experiences, I can happily report Death does not make any acquired lifetime(s) of kennings or awareness inert; it simply modifies their form and accessibility.
I follow a more shamanistic approach to Asatru than many of my contemporaries, and above all things I am an animist. In my own spiritual ventures, I’ve discovered three types of spiritual consciousness ventured through meditation/trance/seiðr which is called Utiseta, and animism (IMHO) is pivotal to each approach.
Below I will share more detail on the three types of out-sitting “styles.” I wish to share my understanding of HOW sitting on a grave or powerful spot in nature would still be a viable practice to do on a regular basis.
I feel since nothing dies and just disappears to be reformed; all particles, atoms, and the “consciousness” of once living things, upon dying, are imbued directly back into the rocks and mud. I also have come to discover not just their blood and flesh are reabsorbed; but also the being’s intelligence, awareness, life experience, emotions, and even traumas morph back into the soil once again. I personally feel when a sentient being dies and is returned to Jord’s body, that beings power/intelligence will remain in the very soil where the life AND body spent its corporal (and deceased) existence.
Utiseta works because the life experienced by any creature great and small took place from beginning to end on the very spot of dirt you are trying to reach out to for guidance. The living creature who is now dead has its DNA become affixed and amended into the very soil it is buried within.
In other words, when a Völva goes out to perform a Utiseta, she is seeking to meditate by quieting the mind and receiving guidance from ‘somewhere.”
That “somewhere” is the residual energy marker of the Dead (human or otherwise) mixed with the compounds of the substance that comprises the very elemental building blocks of all original life forms on Earth: building blocks we call dirt.
Since Earth has Her own Intelligence, when someone/thing dies and its corporal body becomes one with the very soil a Volva is doing out-sitting upon, the magic happens due to the Alchemy of Jord holding Her dead close and transmuting many life images stained into her soil with those of the interacting seer who silently seeks understanding with hidden kennings.
Utiseta becomes successful because the seer is absorbing the blood-stained memories of the soil she is sitting upon. The magical imprint of intelligence and problem solving is compounded and held within the living particles of the soil itself.
Through the soil absorbing any creature’s living and dying experience, these impressions left within the topography of the land is relayed back to the Völva almost trans-dermally if you will.
This concept works with thedeceased people….and, well; for this article, especially dead people! Then compound the notion that the dead being sought for guidance was a Human sentient being who was a steward of his tribe, the Earth, and was a forbearer of Original indigenous spiritual connectiveness to the world of Nature and organic life.
In this mode of awareness, we begin to fathom the ancient sacredness of awakening throughTradtional out-sitting.
This means to me Utiseta as described in the Voluspa is possible because the human in the grave was someone of great honor and power, such as a Leader/Queen/King, a great Warrior, a revered Priest/ess or a renowned Healer. To go sit upon their essence and gain a snippet of their deep wisdom is priceless and holy by any utiseta standards!
To sit on an Ancient known burial mound of such a person for utiseta was THE most powerful way of doing it. If we place animism into the equation, we can fully understand the power, wisdom and draw of Traditional Utiseta to the Völva’s and seiðkona’s of old.
Viewed through the lens of Animism, the Earth is alive and singing with the eons of life and death lived out and recycled through Jord’s very skin and bones: The Mud, the Stones, the Trees, and the Plants who rise and fall.
When we sit out upon Jord, we are opening ourselves to the voices that sing within the leaf mold and dirt from the beginning of time.
We are sitting in an open surrender; withholding our own mind chatter and limited sight telling our ancestors we trust they are still with us, and their wisdom can be re-gained by simply opening our awareness, going physically outside to meet with them, and then committing to intently listening and carry forth without hesitation our ability to access Ancient Wisdom while suspending modern day incredulousness, suspicion and disbelief.
Below are the three main ways I use utiseta in my 21st century practice:
1. Wisdom-Seeking through Omen taking at your hörgr, Vé or Hof. This is the type of Utiseta is light meditation centered via out-sitting where one concentrates on a sigil, omen or one of the other mysteries of Spa for the sake of gaining divination knowledge either from inward sub-conscious revelation of Ancestral memory or through animistic natural organic influence within the object itself, like bones, coins, cards or runes. Here the Völva or vitki is simply connecting to the animism of the object appearing in front of them as a kenning. The collective energy any living consciousness has programmed that object or “sign” with is alive with animistic kenning, and via Utiseta and actually seeking physical connection with the physical representation of the seers intention, the current of magic is turned on and the seer understands.
2. Utiseta in Nature. A form of sitting-out whenever the seer is seeking Organic Earth Root Work and or Medicine/Holistic healing via attempts to communicate with the most ancient and primal Landvaettir, fylgja, or the original ancestors (we are talking PRIMAL humans here) of that specific land topography you are attempting to communicate with. This Utiseta reaches out to any primordial spiritual beings that have roamed Midgard and died there. As mentioned above; through life, death and the return process of Earths absorption/transmutation of all Her creatures great and small we can access that intelligence simply by placing our bodies within the environment and becoming united with the very substance that not only are we made of; but will also return to someday-adding our personal wyrd seep into the soil via our blood and body material returning to our mother through rot. Nature being sought as a collective intelligence through Utiseta is possible because each life that lived and died on your out-sitting spot became one with the soil and inhabit the place you are seeking to draw power/wisdom through. It is the true meaning of animism for me, so if not on an ancestral grave looking for a specific person’s guidance; the only place to practice Utiseta for me is in the outdoors, preferably in a secluded place like an old growth forest.
3. Ancestor Guidance and Spiritual Reclaiming. When I need to get solid answers about how things need to be done via indigenous evolutionary Ancestral knowledge, I go to a grave of either a family Ancestor, or the oldest grave I can find, if it’s not my most desired out-sitting spot: a monolithic burial mound.
For this most classic form of utiseta, we are reaching out to the specific animism of the Noble/person of power buried there, thinking whomever was buried there was an important member of the community and probably dedicated not just their life to their people; but their afterlife as well. (Leaders tend to want to protect their Kin even generations down the road.)
For this most powerful form of utiseta, I’m fully submersing my consciousness to the spiritual realm to explore the mysteries of Ancestral Knowing in a trance-like state while sitting upon and uniting with the essence of the person buried there-absorbing the kenning of a portion of their wisdom, success and failures. I’ve seen some powerful visions that always proved true when using this kind of utiseta. In this form of out-sitting, I use intense singing/chanting and drumming. Some have likened this style of utiseta to astral projection.
Whatever reason or “style” you choose for out-sitting, make sure to make it a regular part of your seiðr practice. With diligence you will come to find as I have, utiseta is one of my most powerful ways of accessing ancestral wisdom along with Earth wisdom to aid in living a complete and meaningful Heathen life as Völva.
*To see how a modern practitioner does Utiseta go to: http://www.northernshamanism.org/utiseta-breath-and-mound-sitting.html