Thursday 28 August 2008

Journeying to Otherworlds

(part of the mythology synchroblog)

What do we mean by "otherworlds"? According to many Pagans, there are no "supernatural" realms. Michael York has suggested the word "preternatural" instead; implying perhaps uncanny, but still within nature; just an extreme example.

Although many Pagans talk about otherworlds, they regard them as intertwined with our own, just vibrating at different frequencies or inaccessible to everyday consciousness; not on a separate level of reality. So spirit is still immanent in Nature. (I know that other Pagans take this view because many people expressed it in my recent research on Pagans and science.)

So how do we access these "otherworlds"? By shifting consciousness, or accessing "divine" consciousness - in other words, expanding our awareness to include other "levels" or frequencies. This can be done by meditation, pathworking, visualisation, shamanic journeying, theurgy, and ritual; becoming aware of our own inner divinity. It's worth remembering that otherworlds can be like Wonderland - things are not always what they seem.
Bifröst by Arthur Rackham.
Bifröst by Arthur Rackham.

Maybe otherworlds only exist in our own psyches, or in the collective unconscious; but whatever and wherever they are, it is possible to experience them. Maybe they exist in the other "dimensions" intertwined with the visible four of space-time.

Anyway, a rather startling otherworld experience that I had was when I was once doing a visualisation before a rune-reading. Normally I would visualise going to the Rainbow Bridge (Bifröst) and going to Asgard to stand at the Well of Wyrd. Instead, I found myself sliding down the Ice Bridge into the underworld, and standing at the Well of Mímir. This was not what I was expecting: the place was dark, slippery and shadowy. The important thing about this experience was that the otherworld itself directed me to somewhere other than where I had planned.

I have also had experiences where otherworlds intruded into the everyday world, like the time in 1995 when a friend and I got lost in a very small wood in the dark, and it felt as if we were being pixie-led. Or at Samhain 1989 when I saw small semi-transparent beings on the forest floor. (No, I wasn't under the influence of anything.) Or in 1992 when I was in a Pagan shop in Cambridge, chatting to the owner, and saw what I thought was an amazing carved wooden face on the shelf beside my head - but when I looked again, there was nothing there. Apparently candles would get flung across the shop by some unseen force from time to time, as well. Of course, Paganism is all about noticing the worlds that are all around us, intertwined with our own. In a way, other animals' perceptions of the world around us are otherworlds (as Barry Patterson points out in his excellent book, The Art of Conversation with the Genius Loci). In a mouse's eye view of the world, humans are scary giants with horrible flat faces and booming voices. If, like Granny Weatherwax, you could practise Borrowing (the art of overlaying her mind on the mind of another creature so that she can see through its eyes and steer its actions without it being aware of her presence), you could perceive these perceptual otherworlds.

Other Otherworlds mythology synchrobloggers:


Anonymous said...

Interesting post, Yvonne. Personally, I'm not sure how to characterize otherworlds, especially being relatively new to this path and coming from a more scientific/atheistic perspective. Sometimes I think I might be crazy! But no, actually, it's all very real. The trick is to work on tearing down that wall built by our modern mindsets and training our eyes and hearts to see what lies beneath.

And by the way, I'd love to add your blog to my blogroll!

Incitatus4Congress said...

"Maybe they exist in the other "dimensions" intertwined with the visible four of space-time.

Squares living in FlatLand. Or perhaps we're more like narrow-minded cubes living on the surface of a D-brane? Wild and wonderful, whatever it is.

BTW, it wasn't my intention to misrepresent Wicca in my comment over on Land of Spices. It seemed to me that those Pagan religions that have been disconnected from their historical origins actually have a certain freedom to interpret their religion through a new set of symbols. That was also what I was getting at by referring - semi-facetiously - to Bokononism. The use of symbols and narratives (which taken literally are not in themselves truths) that are used in order to seek and interpret Truths (of which the conflicted Stoicurean in me hopes that Happiness is one). I didn't mean to imply that Wicca, specifically, was a pack of fluffy lies.