Adventures in Zen Odinism…

I don’t know about you but I own far too much occult tat – “magical bling” a working partner calls it (and he’s as guilty as I am) – too many misspent years working within the Thelemic/Chaos paradigms- “so many gods, too little time!” Frankly sometimes it’s good to strip it right down to basics and ask what all this effort and attention is really for. We need the Magic of the Void.

I’ve recently been re-reading the excellent Apophis by Michael Kelly. In Apophis, Kelly maps out a magical working that is both stark and striking. Built upon his work and past leadership of the Temple of Set’s Order of Leviathan he challenges us to question how we will really work when faced with the yawning potentiality of primal chaos (Apep). When the eye of the dragon is staring you down, is your pseudo-masonic choreography going to meet the mark? Via the working of the Void I think that Michael is highlighting something of critical importance both in terms of the true nature of magic, and how we as practitioners withstand its rigors. The contemporary occult scene seems rather strong on its espoused aim of “To Dare and To Will”, but is arguably rather weak in the “To Know and to keep Silent” department.

This working and the minimalist aesthetic that it embodies resonated deeply with my own struggle to stay on the path. In my 15 year journey as a magical practitioner I have sought to maintain a silent mindfulness-based practice at the heart my endeavours as a means of both keeping balance and seeking gnosis of a deeper nature. What follows are some reflections on an example of how such technologies can be utilized in seeking the Great Work.

Working in a Zen Hearth

One of the ways I have sought to bring together my own desire for both a profound stillness and the transformative path of magic has been via my involvement in the hearth of Odin the Wanderer.

The small number of us who meet to celebrate the turning of the year are moved at a profound level by the weightiness of the Northern aesthetic – its emphasis on honour, its sparseness and sense of stoicism – the Gods, Goddesses and Wights that we honour and follow are clearly within the Northern Mythos since as we meet on the land this makes sense at a primal level. Now this is all sounding fairly normal for anyone who has been to a blot or a hearth before, but what one might be struck by is that we don’t say a lot! We spend most of our time sitting down and we also (gasp) spend some of our time laughing.

Zen lolcat demonstrates the Art of Sitting

Zen lolcat demonstrates the Art of Sitting

As to the ‘how’, we deem what we are doing as being Zen related. Zen is the Japanese translation of Chan which in turn is the Chinese translation of the Sanskrit Dhyana i.e. meditation. Meditation can mean many things but I think the ideas of mindfulness, awareness, wakefulness and quiet receptivity are at the heart of the experience I am pointing to. In practice this means that after acknowledging the elements and directions and welcoming the Gods, Goddesses and Wights, we spend most of our time listening both to the inner stirrings of ourselves and to the spirit of place. For us this echoes the ancient practice of “uta seti” or sitting out when the wisdom of the ancestors and spirits of place were sought. As the practitioner seeks to rest their attention with the physical sensation of the breath, a spaciousness of consciousness is possible – a personal ginungagap where the stirrings of new realities can be sensed.

In Havamal 138 Odin speaks of “giving Self to Self” during his seeking of Runa on the World Tree. Similarly for the Northern mystic seeking to utilize mindfulness techniques there can be the creation of a space where outdated “certainties” can be shed so that remanifestation can occur. For those seeking the hero’s path this does not mean the abandonment of Self, rather it opens up new vistas of potential becoming.

I know that I hung on a windy tree
nine long nights,
wounded with a spear,
dedicated to Odin,
myself to myself,
on that tree of which no man knows
from where its roots run.
No bread did they give me nor drink from a horn,
Downwards I peered;
I took up the runes, screaming I took them,
Then I fell back from there.


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