Sunday, December 13, 2020

Holding Space for Curiosity

Ever heard someone say, “Curiosity killed the cat?” The original form of this saying was actually, “Care killed the cat,” attributed to William Shakespeare in the 1500s (Much Ado About Nothing circa 1958). It was meant as a warning against excessive worry and sorrow for others. Since its original use, it has come to be understood as a warning against “unnecessary investigation” or trying something new. 

This change in social understanding of the well-known aphorism is unfortunate. The inquisitive minds are often the ones that make great discoveries and find innovative ways to make the world around us better. Sadly, we tend to foster a negative mindset regarding experimentation and seek efficiency at the expense of exploration and innovation.

Here are some tips to help create a more hospitable environment for curiosity in our lives:

  1. Model Inquisitiveness. Encourage others to curiosity by asking questions—and not just the simple or obvious ones. Ask questions like: What was your favorite part of that [movie/book/meeting]? Why? What part wasn’t what you expected?  What ideas do you have to make it better?
  2. Practice Brainstorming. Especially in a group, create space for everyone’s ideas to be heard without judgment. It takes a lot of trust to think out loud, and the main barrier to doing it is fear of ridicule. 
  3. Emphasize Learning Goals. It is an unfortunate fact that humans learn best through failure. As such, we tend to favor the safe and known ways of doing things with a focus on the results. As the old saying goes, “The journey is more important than the destination.” Help others set goals without a clear journey, even if the destination is outlined well. We need space to try new things and a soft place to land.
  4. Normalize Expanding Interests. Here’s one: Subject Matter Expert. We like having go-to people for specific skillsets, and we tend to ask the same people for the same types of help, because we know they do it. But, what else are our SME’s interested in? Typecasting those around us leads to under-stimulation and can actually fuel burnout. 
  5. Be Attentive to the World Around You. Sometimes, it helps to stand back and look at the big picture and just take it in. Wonder at the ways things move, the chain reactions of causes and their effects, the simple things you may have missed before. Let all those pieces flow in mists of billowing chaos in your mind until something new takes shape. 

Curiosity is important not only because of its ties to innovation but because it is the foundation of competence. A penchant for seeking new experiences, trying new things, and being open to change increases the depth and breadth of what we learn from what we do. 

We are good at being curious on vacation. We stroll through the unfamiliar halls of museums. We browse through little shops off the beaten path. We play dinner roulette on road trips and eat at whatever fun place we are near when we get hungry. But what about in our everyday lives? When was the last time you took a different route to work? How many times a week do you have the same thing for lunch? Above all else, seek out novelty and new challenges to extend and exercise your capacity to explore, to learn, and to live a fuller life. 

Sunday, December 6, 2020

The Good Follower

Personal development programs tend to focus much of their efforts on leadership principles, an important aspect to developing the individual self. Developing a good team, however, relies on fostering the skill of “followership.” It’s straightforward: followership is the ability to take direction and be part of a team to deliver what is expected of the group, department, or area. 

Being labeled an “excellent follower” has been a backhanded compliment signaling an individual’s ineptitude when it comes to leadership potential. Because of this, many modern leaders fear being labeled as a good follower and seek opportunities to assert their dominance. In order to destigmatize the notion of following, this is a skill we need to showcase as leaders. When we practice following others, we are leading by example and showing those around us how to work together for the good of the team instead of the glory of the individuals.

Here are eight qualities of a Good Follower:

  1. Judgment—Followers must learn to take directions, but they have an underlying obligation only to do so when the direction is ethical. We must gain a level of discernment that helps us distinguish between directions we don’t agree with and directions that are wrong.
  2. Work Ethic—Good followers are good workers, diligent and motivated, committed and with good attention to detail. Being a follower means you were trusted to complete a task. Failing to do so, for whatever reason, will hurt your reputation as a leader and break trust with your peers and leaders.
  3. Competence—Followers must know their limits and only agree to complete tasks for which they are competent to perform. Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness.
  4. Honesty—Respect and politeness are important, but it is more important still that the follower also provide open and honest feedback to their leaders. Good leaders are grateful for constructive feedback, and good followers are not afraid to speak the truth as they see it.
  5. Courage—Honesty takes courage. Following someone else takes courage. A good follower faces their fears to fully engage in the work.
  6. Discretion—“Loose lips sink ships” is a favorite saying from WWII. Talking about work inappropriately or to an inappropriate audience undermines the teamwork and reputation of the entire enterprise.
  7. Loyalty—Obligation to the enterprise is essential in a follower, not obligation to an individual leader. It is paramount to the success of the group that each member has their loyalty aligned properly. When our loyalty lies with the enterprise (or the member), it is easier for us to set aside petty differences and focus on what is truly important as the work evolves.
  8. Ego Management—Followers are team players who embrace the fullness of the concept. They have good interpersonal skills. Their performance positively impacts the goal achievement, and their teammates know they are not doing the work for personal recognition or promotion.
  9. Being a Good Follower might feel like placing yourself in the shadow of leadership, but strong followers are essential to success. Without them, our workplace suffers from poor work ethic, bad morale, organizational confusion, and overall poor performance. The most important step to revamping workplace culture is for our leaders to model strong followership as well as strong leadership qualities. 

Vozza, S. (2018). How to be a good follower (and why it’s a skill you need). Career Evolution. 

Thursday, December 3, 2020

The Great Conjunction: December 21, 2020

Science: Conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn

Astrology: The Waves of Change

We’ve been living in a Capricorn world, one that is defined by top-down hierarchies, for a decade now, and this year, on December 21, Saturn and Jupiter will be in alignment at exactly 0 degrees Aquarius. (That probably sounds like a lot of new-agey babel, for those of you who don’t follow astrology, but hear me out.) 

You see, there is a limit to how far a top-down hierarchy can go. At some point, it hits the bottom and then has nowhere else to go. they eventually outlive their purpose. Where we are right now is the place where the Saturn-Capricorn Hierarchy has peaked--at the very bottom of our social structures--and from here, it feels like everything is falling apart. 

Imagine the planets as magnets hurling through the cosmos. The current state of things has us oriented with the positive at the bottom, where the most friction and pressure is, and the negative at the top. As the current model approaches the new model with the negative on the bottom, the forces are pushing against one another, refusing to adhere, repelled apart by their charge. With this alignment, auspiciously occurring on Yule this year, we will flip the Capricorn “magnet,” placing the negative force at the bottom, and everything will snap into place. By the time Winter Solstice has arrived, we will feel the chaos begin to abate. The perspective from the top down becomes more and more narrow as it approaches the bottom. The perspective from the bottom grows wider as it reaches for the stars. Jupiter brings vision, and Saturn brings implementation. And with the power at the bottom, there are no limits to where this may take us. 

As we begin our final preparations for the coming of the Solstice and the true new beginning promised to us this year, let us find within ourselves the ability to flip the magnet. What does restructuring look like for you? For me? I hope it looks like a further breakdown of privilege. I hope it looks like those on the top will create space for those who are coming up behind them. I hope it looks like reparations and accountability for the narrow points-of-view that have caused harm, globally and personally. But most of all, I hope it looks like solidarity, equity, and progress toward a just society. Who knows? From where we are, the only direction we can go is up! 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Warding off the Brain Weasels

Yes, you read that correctly: Brain Weasels. Brain. Weasels. Brain Weasels are those little voices in our heads that whisper mean things to us when we make a mistake. They tell us that everything we fear is going to happen. That our self-doubt is simply being reasonable. That whatever we imagine will go wrong is currently going wrong and it’s all. Our. Fault. 

The use of the term, “brain weasel,” comes to us from the mental health world where they use narrative therapy and externalization to help folks with anxiety and depression isolate and combat this harmful internal dialogue. Rather than referring to the negative self-talk as one more thing we are doing wrong, decentering the behavior to our “brain weasels” and using therapeutic humor helps to break the cycle and allows us to explore our self-critical dialogue. 

Our brain weasels are our fears, and like all emotions, they are trying to tell us something. An important part of our personal development as leaders is to learn to look at our fears objectively, so we can find the foundation of our concerns. From there, we can take back our brains from those weasels who want to keep us down.

In matters of leadership, one of the biggest brain weasels has a name. He’s big, he’s loud, and he loves to show up when you’ve done something well. He’s the worst of them all, because he takes the joy and the feelings of pride out of our accomplishments. His name is Imposter Syndrome. 

Imposter Syndrome is a common issue among high achievers. He tells us we are inadequate and incompetent. He tells us our successes are based on luck and not skill, and eventually everyone around us will know that we are frauds. When we break it down and get to the foundation, we find the brain weasel is a fear of failure. 

Here are the most common types of Imposter Syndrome behaviors as outlined here. If you see any of these in yourself, it might be time to confront your brain weasel!

  1. The Perfectionist. These folks set excessively high goals for themselves and are harsh with themselves for any deviation from their desired outcome. They tend to be control freaks/micromanagers who have a motto: “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” This type can lead to burnout and negative interpersonal relationships, particularly with those who report to them.
  2. The Superhuman. These folks are convinced they are phonies and try to make up for it by overachieving. If their coworkers are at work for nine hours, they will be there for ten. They gave up all of their hobbies to hyper-focus on their work and their only happiness comes from external validation. Constructive criticism is like a blow to the chest. This type often ends up a workaholic.
  3. The Natural Genius. These folks are often young or have risen to a high place of power very quickly. They base their own competence on their ease of adjusting and the speed at which they achieve their goals. They have to “just be good” at everything. This is common amongst people who were high achievers in high school, typically seen in graduates with high IQs who never really learned how to study or work on something hard for them. This type tends to quit as soon as they realize they can’t just do it. 
  4. The Soloist. These folks are independent to a fault. “I’ll do it myself,” and “I don’t need help” are their mantras. This type often experiences failure when they need to ask for help, because they feel asking for help reveals their incompetence. Fear of asking for help can lead this type to drown and need rescuing.
  5. The Expert. These folks measure their competence by how much and how many things they know or can do. They will never be enough and fear they will be outed as unintelligent or inexperienced. They don’t apply for jobs unless they already meet every requirement, they constantly seek out trainings and certificates in case they will need them later, and shy away from being called a SME no matter how long they’ve been in their role. This type has a tendency to procrastinate AND over-prepare all at the same time. They hoard knowledge, but because they never feel like they have enough, they miss opportunities by putting off taking advantage of them until they are “ready.”

Studies suggest that ~70% of adults experience imposter syndrome at some point in their career. Our brain weasels tell us we will never be enough, that we don’t deserve our accolades, and that our successes are based on luck. Ward off your brain weasels by learning to accept and embrace your capabilities and your accomplishments. We will never be done learning. We will never know everything or be perfect, and we need to learn to make peace with that. Otherwise, the brain weasels win.

Monday, November 16, 2020

What Do You Do?

Making friends as an adult is quite different than when I was a kid. In my younger days, I used to walk right up to someone, ask if they wanted to play, and off we would go! —racing toward the swings or the merry-go-round, all arms akimbo and giggling. We didn’t have to pre-screen one another for common interests or make polite small talk until we felt safe enough to share more intimate and personal details about ourselves. We both had the same agenda: to play. We didn’t have to worry about anything other than the pure connection between us as kids. 

Adult interactions typically all start the same: 

“Hi, my name is Missy.” 

"Hi, Missy; it’s nice to meet you. What do you do?” 

What do you do? I never realized what a loaded question that is. When asked this question, we are expected to talk about our line of work. What they are really asking is: what do you do to make a living? I am one of those fortunate souls whose career—how I make my living—is something that I love. Medical technology is a fascinating, challenging, and rewarding field, and I greatly respect the healthcare system that employs me. In our capitalist society, we are taught the unspoken rules about the power of money and its use as a measure of success. How we make our money—and how much money we make—award us social privilege based on the caricature of success against which we are compared. 

But making money isn’t all there is to life.  As author John Beckett puts it: “how you make a living and how you make a life are two different things.” While I enjoy my line of work, it is how I make a living. It is what I do to earn money to pay my bills and to buy my groceries. If there’s anything left after that, I spend it on what is truly important to me: the things I do to make a life. 

Next time someone asks me, “What do you do?” I think I will answer them with the things I do to make a life. It’ll go a little something like this:

I am an early riser, preferring the company of the sunrise to the company of the stars, though I am happy to share a view of the night sky with a friend.

I enjoy cool, rainy days and fresh, warm coffee; red wine and soft cheese; crisp salad and seared red meat. 

 I am a fan of Sumo and am learning Japanese so I can understand the commentators.

I spend more time with my husband than anyone else, because he is the love of my life and my best friend.

I find vaguely relevant times to insert fandom quotes from books, movies, and TV series that I constantly revisit to escape into my beautifully vivid and hyperactive imagination—especially if the other party will understand the reference and smile. 

I watch the lives of my children unfold as these tiny humans who once lived as a part of me now exist apart from me, becoming with every new day independent lights in the universe. 

I cry at television commercials, laugh loudly at awkward times, and get frustrated with jar lids. 

I pray to the Old Gods and to the gods of the natural world who are best observed when wind whispers in the trees and dewdrops glisten on flower petals. 

I play guitar until my fingers hurt and sing loudly in my car. 

I laugh, I love, and I live. I live.

That is what I do to make a life. What do you do?

Saturday, October 31, 2020

The Lessons of Trick or Treat

Halloween as we know it is relatively new. Trick or treat customs in the United States were well-established by the 1950's, and little has changed in the last 50 years. When we seek the origins of the customs, the history is murky at best. As far as we can tell, the custom of wearing costumes came about some several hundred years ago in the Celtic lands where Samhain was still celebrated collectively in the UK and parts of continental Europe (known then as Gaul). During this season, the spirits of the dead were said to return to our plane. In honor of their visit, they lit bonfires and offered sacrifices, typically of food and drink, to pay homage to the departed. 

The costumes came first. It is unclear when, but sometime before the middle ages, the villagers would dress in costumes of animal skin to drive away phantom visitors. Banquet tables were set out away from the main celebrations for any unwelcome guests. As time passed, this custom shifted, and people began dressing as ghosts, demons, and otherworldly characters in exchange for food and drink (enter in the treats) in a custom known as "mumming." Mumming is thought to be the precursor to our modern festivities. Poorer families would dress in costumes and visit the homes of those more fortunate for offerings of pastries called "soul cakes" in return for prayers for the wealthy family's departed loved one. The children began going door to door alone to ask for gifts such as food, money, or ale. Eventually, the prayers were forgotten, and the masked children would sing dance, or recite a poem in exchange for treats. By 1605, the custom shifted once more to commemorate the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot. The celebration known as "Guy Fawkes Day" involved communal bonfires or "bone fires" where they burned effigies of Guy Fawkes and of the bones of the Catholic Pope. By the 1800's, the children were seen carrying effigies of Guy Fawkes through the streets in search of "pennies for a Guy."

American colonists, especially the immigrants who were fleeing the Irish Potato Famine, helped popularize Halloween on the United States, since many of them were in need of the gifts of food and drink. Alas, it was in the 1920's when the pranksters first appeared, and the notion of the "trick" was added to the giving of treats. Treats were no longer exchanged for prayers but given in the hopes that the generosity would win the householder a by when the pranksters were choosing their targets. Large-scale community trick-or-treating really took hold during the Great Depression when the tricks took the shape of more physical violence and vandalism, but the trends were brought to a halt when the sugar rationing of WWII went into effect. The reemergence of trick-or-treating in the more benign form we know today came about in the 1950's when the baby boomers fellsway to national televised advertising campaigns targeting children with candy and costume parties, and the customs we celebrate today were solidified (at least for now). 

Okay, but what lessons do these practices hold for us? The easy lesson is this: honor your Ancestors, whose names live on as long as those who live remember them. That covers the Samhain and the prayer custom, but what of trick or treating?

The idea of treats in exchange for prayers and entertainment is not a far stretch from our practice of reciprocity. It is an exchange of a gift-for-a-gift among the fourth kindred--humanity. It is a time for generosity in exchange for a glimpse of the manifestation of a child's creative mind, heroes, and beloved characters. It is an exchange for the sake of simple pleasure (because let's be honest, there are very few places where the treats are good for us!). Yes, the gluttony is a risk for those who are not skilled in moderation, but for those of us guiding our young ones, it is a tremendous opportunity to practice and teach them this important virtue. 

Finally, the lesson of the trick. Sometimes, when we give, reciprocity is not there. It's not a pleasant thought, and I am sure many of us have examples in our own lives when we felt our generosity was met with a "trick" instead of a treat placed gently in our open and empty hands. But, this is an important lesson, because reciprocity is not a guarantee. Hospitality is not one-sided. Someone else's generosity cannot be bought with our own. The underlying lesson of du ut des, "I give that you may give," is not one of contractual obligation. It is far more "charitable and nuanced:" 

It is an economy of piety. The theory of do ut des is that we give the Gods something of worth, and in exchange, we receive from Them something of value, which results in us giving more worth to the Gods, which results in receiving something else of value, and so forth. Instead of being a mere business transaction, it is the establishment of a fundamental cycle of gift exchanging where one participates in a “continual engagement between an individual and a deity that could stretch over a lifetime.” ~Hellenic Faith

For me, the lesson of the trick is one that has been hard to learn for a person from a materialistic and capitalist society. So much of what our social mores teach is that "we get what we pay for." When it comes to the commerce of human relationships, this is not necessarily true. A little gift can go a long way, and a big gift can leave us with empty hands and a broken heart. 

Wow, Missy, that's a depressing take on this.....yes, and the point is that our generosity must be for the sake of our generosity--not used as a means to deserve generosity from others, though there is a component of generosity that may compel others to be generous with us. AND it's not guaranteed. 

In short, we give treats for the sake of giving treats to the children in our neighborhoods, and what we receive in return is knowing we have given them a little piece of joy. THAT is the true lesson here. We give because we want others to be happy. That's it. No pressure. No obligations. No strings attached. We give. And the lesson is to make the giving be enough to bring us joy. 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Journey to Helheim--Communing with the Ancestors

Please have a candle and incense available to aid in your journey.

May we be pure that we may pass through the sacred.
May we pass through the sacred that we may attain the holy.
May we attain the holy that we may be blessed in all things.
So say we all.

Welcome and Opening Statements
We gather under the light of this Samhain moon,
Cresting into fullness and lighting the way for our Ancestors,
Those Gone Before Us,
As the thinning veil is but a mist between us.
Tonight, we travel to honor our Mighty Dead
And the Lady who rules their dwelling places:
Hela, Dark Goddess of Helheim, of the Underworld.
Be welcome and safe in this space.

Honoring the Earth Mother
We begin these rites as we always do:
By honoring the Earth Mother.
Hail to Thee, Nerthus,
Earth Mother of Humanity,
Known in this place as Colorado.
Be Thou blessed and bless us as well!
You who feed us, generation after generation,
with the harvest of your bones and body.
Nerthus, Earth Mother, accept our offering.
Offer grains or clean water.

Grounding and Centering
With Earth Mother upholding us, we ground ourselves in preparation of this work. Take a moment to find the center of your mind, body, and spirit: The Sacred Center within you. Close your eyes, if you will, and turn your mind’s eye toward the cosmos.

With your mind’s eye peering out from your Sacred Center, see before you the World’s Tree, the Great Tree of Life at the center of the Cosmos, the Tree that is the container for the cosmology’s water. See the Waters flowing out from the branches to drip into the pools at the base of the Tree only to be drawn up through the roots and moved through the trunk as tiny, twinkling lights of magic. See these lights as they move through the branches and leaves, falling into the pool at the base of the tree and beginning the cycle anew.

Our work today takes place in the space where the chaos of the waters meets the order of the tree. Without the chaos, the tree grows brittle and unyielding, standing in crystalline beauty but devoid of life. Conversely, without the order, the waters become tumultuous and harsh, rolling through the land and destroying all in their wake. Place yourself at the meeting of these great powers, where ocean meets the land and from which grows the Tree, holding chaos and order in harmony, fluidity where there would be rigidity, quiet where there would be cacophony.

Lean back against the tree and become one with her power. Feel the magic of the waters flowing through you, up through your roots, filling your trunk, and flowing up and up and up through to the ends of your branches. Feel these waters drip, drip, drip from your leaves, and splash subtly into the waters at your feet to disappear into the earth and begin their journey through the Tree once more. Rest in this space, in perfect love and perfect trust.

Your center is now aligned and grounded within The Center of the Cosmos, feeding the Tree with chaos, putting the Waters in Order. You are ready to do the work of this rite. Open your eyes if you will, retaining your connection to the Sacred Center, both within you and within the Cosmos, connected to all who share in this work as one people, the Children of the Earth.

Three Kindreds Invitations
Firmly grounded and centered in ourselves and in this place, 
We invite our guests to join us.

We call first to the spirits of the land,
Our allies and guides in this realm.
Spirits of stone and soil,
And of gem and metal, we call to you.
Spirits of leaf and stem,
And of branch and root and blade, we call to you.
Spirits of skin and blood,
And of fur and feather and scale, we call to you.
Spirits of our guides and allies,
Unseen elements who share this realm with us, we call to you
to join us in this holy work.
Nature Spirits, accept our offering.
Offer grains or seeds.

We call also to our allies among the heavens,
To the Gods, Goddesses, and Deities of this land,
Those remembered and long forgotten,
Those whose blood courses in the rivers and streams,
Those whose voices echo through the trees,
We sing your praises and ask you to join us today.
To the Deities of those gathered here,
Those who shine their blessings upon us,
Those who council our thoughts and dreams,
We sing your praises and ask you to join us today.
To the Shining Ones, all,
to all those Gods, Goddesses, and Deities
Who illuminate days and nights,
Who light the fires of our hearths and hearts,
We sing your praises and ask you to join us in this holy work.
Shining ones, accept our offering.
Offer oil or spirits.

And we call to our Ancestors.
To our Beloved Dead,
Those of body who gave of their blood,
Those of heart who gave of their love,
Those of Wisdom who have uncovered great truths,
Those of Hearth who taught us to honor the Old Ways:
We stand now upon the foundation of your lives works.
We stand in strength for the successes you earned
And the failures from which you learned,
Now and always, a part of your legacy.
We honor your memory and ask you to join us in this holy work.
Ancestors, accept our offering.
Offer coins.

In your mind’s eye, see them as they come. Your guides among the natural world, your allies among the heavens, and your loved ones who have departed this world, just beyond the veil. Feel them as they join you around this holy Fire, fed by the waters of the cosmos, just as we are, part of one universe in wisdom and love. Greet them and let them be welcome.

Journey to Helheim
With our guides beside us, both natural and divine, with our Ancestors awaiting us, longing for our company, We prepare to turn our minds down, down into the Underworld to the dwelling place of our loved ones and respected ones who have gone before us. All the tools you will need are available to you in the pack at your side.

First, Children of Earth, we must ward ourselves and make ready, for the sounds of life resound loudly in the Halls of the Dead. We cloak ourselves in the same manner in which Groa cloaked her son, Svipdagr, to prepare him for the journey.

First, we create a barrier that will cast off anything harmful.
    Feel the weight of the spell as a cloak upon your shoulders.
Second, we prevent ourselves from wandering, deprived of will, in the ways.
    Feel the weight of the spell as a scarf upon your head.
Third, we protect ourselves against the power of rivers which might overwhelm us and cause us to sink into the bowels of Hel.
    Feel the weight of the spell as water rushing past your feet and lapping gently at your calves.
Fourth, we turn the hearts of enemies who lie in wait for us away from their hostility.
    Feel the weight of the spell as a warmth blooming in your chest.
Fifth, we loosen any fetter that may be laid upon our limbs.
    Feel the weight of the spell as bangled jewels upon your wrists and ankles.
Sixth, we calm the raging sea, wilder than men know.
    Feel the weight of the spell as a staff in your hands.
Seventh, we preserve ourselves from death from intense cold on the high fells.
    Feel the weight of the spell as a fire before you, warming your skin.
Eighth, we protect ourselves from the malignant powers of those who lurk within, if we are suddenly overcome with darkness.
    Feel the weight of the spell as the coolness of the moon upon your face.
Ninth, we grant ourselves eloquence and wisdom when we converse with the wise and terrible giant who stands before the realm with eagle’s wings as well as with all those who dwell below.
    Feel the weight of the spell as a tingling on your tongue.
We declare ourselves protected, grounded, and ready. So be it! 

Thusly warded, we must also call on a guide whose powers will allow mortals such as ourselves not only entrance to the realm of the Dead, though we may be easily allowed in, but also a way back, for Hel does not easily release those who enter so freely into its mists. As many have done before us, we call to Sleipnir to aid and ward us in this work.

Sleipnir, Mighty Steed of Odin,
Fastest and strongest of horses
Who glides on eight stalwart legs,
Runes carved into your very teeth,
We call you now to come forth!
You have guided Odin through realms of spirit and matter,
Over land, sea and sky.
We have brought gifts for you,
which we give freely in honor and in reverence,
And in return, we ask that you guide us also as you have Hermodr
On our journey over the Gjollar bridge and into the heart of Helheim,
There to greet those who have gone before us
To commune with our Ancestors
And to honor the Goddess, Hela, in all her majesty.

See now before you, the awesome eight-legged stallion: Dark and strong, Eyes like cloudy night, Breath like the smoke of a smoldering fire. See him as he bends before you to allow you onto his back, Knowing he has accepted the request to carry us into—and back from—the Realm of the Dead.

Sleipnir, with his great speed, shall carry us through the cold ring of fire at the entrance to the burial mound, over a nine days’ journey through mists and eternal blackness to the Crystal Bridge thatched with glittering gold called Gjollar, which crosses the Gjoll River, full of weapons, flowing from the spring of Hvergelmir. The maiden, Modgudr, asks us our names and our purpose. We each give our names and state our purpose: to pay homage to the Lady who rules here and to greet our beloved dead during Winter Nights, the time of the Ancestors. She smiles to us, noting the presence of the Giant Horse, and bids us down and north, toward Helheim.

So, onward we travel, through caverns with jagged rocks and dripping waters, along Hels-way. Darkness surrounds us, and we are washed in the winds from the wings of the giant Hraesvelg who sits at the edge of the world in the form of a giant eagle. Downward, further and further, beneath the third root of Yggdrasil. In the distance, growling rumbles, most likely from Garm, the four-eyed hound with chest drenched in blood who guards the entrance to Hel. Do not fear him, for those who have given bread to the poor can easily appease him with one of the Hel cakes in the saddlebag, if he dares venture from the Gnipa-cave and into the presence of Sleipnir.

Darkness begins to give way as we approach the iron gates, thrown back in anticipation of our arrival. One final deep breath as we pass through the Gates of Hel.

And lo, there she stands, Hela, Goddess of the Underworld and Ruler of all nine realms of the dead. The power is hers at the wave of her hand to heal and to curse, Half of her body, a beautiful maiden, half of her, death and decaying flesh. She rests on her high seat, gown of black and red satin shimmering in the light of the hearth. Her cloaked face lies in shadow, with the flickering light of flames ever-changing her face.Hela, the embodiment of life and death, sits regally, perfectly balanced in her beauty and her horror. We speak to her, seeking her permission to dwell within her world:

Hela, daughter of Giants, Ruler over the Nine Realms of the Ancestors. The Children of the Earth have come to your hall to pay respect to you and to those over whom you hold dominion.  We come bearing gifts to lie at your feet, for you, into whose hands we commend our spirits at our life-journey’s end.  Dark Goddess, Hela, receive now these gifts.

We lay flowers and spirits, grains and poetry at her feet. She nods in acceptance of the bounty before her. At her pleasance, the Ancestors begin to join us in the hall.  In your mind’s eye, you begin seeking those you know are here: Mothers and Fathers, Brothers and Sisters, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and a myriad of Heart-Kin. Find those loved ones who have gone before you, greet them with all your heart, open and ready to commune awhile. See them now, whomever you hold in your heart who dwells now in these halls.

Ancestors Visitation Song:
From far beyond this mortal plane, mothers and fathers of old,
We pray that you return again, mothers and fathers of old.
To share with us the mysteries and secrets long untold,
Of the ancient ways we seek to reclaim, mothers and fathers of old.

Take a moment to make notes of all you have seen and been told here, all the wisdom Hela and the Ancestors have given to you. Mark them for remembrance as we begin the long journey home.

We bid farewell to our beloved Ancestors, sharing lingering embraces full of love. We bow and bid a humble farewell to the Queen of Helheim, Hela. We mount once more our noble guide, take one last look around the hall, and bid him take us home.

Sleipnir, you whose presence allows us to return, lead us back through the gates, onward and upward, back through the darkness through which we came. We arrive back at the Gjollar-bridge, where Modgudr nods to us and allows us to cross the bridge southward once more. Over nine days’ journey, Sleipnir, speed us back to our shrines!

Children of Earth become aware once more of the world around you and reorient yourself.
Stand, stretch, come around to full awareness.

Thanking the Beings
Before we end this work, we must thank those who have aided us.
Beginning with Hela: Dark Goddess! 
For your leadership and for the care of our dear beloved Ancestors 
after they leave our sides in this world, we are grateful. 
Hela! We thank you! Hail and Farewell!
Sleipnir! For your guidance and protection, we thank you. Hail and Farewell!
Ancestors, Nature Kin, and Shining Ones, for all your aid, 
We offer you our full honor and thanks. 
Hail and Farewell!

Thanking the Earth Mother
Nerthus, be thou blessed!
We thank you for your blessings, beauty, and bounty.
Earth Mother, we thank you.

Closing the Rite
May all be as it was, only better for having been touched by the work we have done here tonight. Go now in peace and with the blessings of the Ancestors in your memory.