What is Stav?
Stav is the family wisdom tradition, based upon knowledge of the runes, of the Hfskojld family. They lived in a remote part of Norway and built the tradition over fifteen hundred years.
Stav teachers can trace their teacher’s lineage back to Ivar Hfskojld. I was taught by Master Shaun Brass-field Thorpe, who was taught by Ivar.
These are my thoughts on Stav, and I was (obviously) very influenced by Shaun. I am not holding this up to "be" the truth about Stav, rather this is my truth about Stav.
A living tradition that has changed my life, and continues to be the foundation of everything I do.
But what is Stav?
I think of Stav as a multi-disciplined wisdom tradition, based upon the 16 runes of the younger futhark.
It can include;
Stances (yogic type exercises)
Rune law and mythology.
Rune reading & shamanic practices.
Energy, herb & physical healing practices.
A psychological system to aid better understanding of yourself and others.
A wheel of the year festival, helping you to live in tune with your surroundings.
Animal & pant spirit wisdom.
A wealth of practical knowledge, for crafts & life skills.
I am able to teach the areas in italic, and demonstrate some martial practices.
What do I have to believe?
Some people (like myself) use Stav to build a personal relationship with the Norse Gods, I know others who use it as a tool to enhance their life.
Your belief in the spiritual side of Stav is really up to you.
What is the point of Stav?
Practising the stances improves health on all levels (physical, mental, emotional & spiritual) as all good “yogic” practises should.
The main point of Stav is to help you to see yourself, and your life, with honest clarity.
“Stav is a system for training the mind to see reality” (Master G Butcher)
As you see yourself with open honesty, it will help you to live a life more in tune with your inner hopes and desires.
For anyone with a Northern European background, the Tradition is based upon your cultural heritage.
It can take a few hours to learn the basics, and many life times to master.
It is a lot of fun…
The 16 runes (of the younger futhark)
The Runes are symbols, and the centre of a web of information and associations. By reading the myths associated with the relevant God/ess and contemplating how the rune poem reflects the wisdom in the stories you can develop a deeper understanding of life and yourself.
“As the mind explores the symbol, it is led to ideas that lie beyond the grasp of reason…”
We do not simply use the runes as marks on paper, we make them with our body, we breath them, sing them, defend and fight using them, create with them and start to see them reflected in every aspect of life.
Don’t worry if some of the rune poems make no sense at all. Start with some that do, and build your understanding from those. But do expect life, death, blood, sex, loss, gain, injustice, pain, love and laughter. This is not a tale of perfect beings smiling down on earth. This is a mythology based upon our ancestors and our earth. It is gritty, funny, unexpectedly complicated, and very real. (with a fair bit of magic thrown in..)
There is no one right or wrong way to understand the runes or the poems & associations. As each generation of students lives, works and learns with the runes they add to the wisdom.The original meaning is less important than coming to an understanding that enlightens you.
There are different levels of understanding to be gained from the runes (no hierarchy here, just difference). They can offer wisdom about;
Yourself (body, mind & spirit)
Our earth and anything associated with it.
“universal law” however you perceive that (God, karma, etc)
Wealth causes strife among kinsmen
The wolf grows up in the wood.
Slag is from bad iron
Oft runs the reindeer on hard snow.
Thor causes sickness of woman;
Few are aroused at that time.
Estuary is the way of most journeys,
But the sheath is that for swords.
Riding it is said is worst for horses.
Reginn forged the best sword.
Sore is the curse of children
Evil makes a man pale
Hail is the coldest of grains.
Christ formed the world in ancient times.
Norns; Urd, Verdandi, Skuld
Need makes for a difficult situation,
The naked freeze in the frost.
Ice we call the broad bridge
The blind need to be led.
A good harvest is the profit of men
I say the Lord was generous.
Blader & Forsetti
The sun is the light of the lands
I bow to the holiness.
Tyr is the one handed among the Aesir.
The smith has to blow often.
Birch twig is the limb greenest with leaves,
Loki bought the luck of deceit.
Mankind is the increase of dust
Mighty is the talon span of the hawk.
Water is that which falls from the mountain as a force. But gold objects are costly things.
Yew is the greenest of wood in the winter
There is usually, when it burns, singeing.
Seid is the Nordic shaman tradition; So let’s start with what is shamanism?
“Shamanism is the practise of reconnecting, healing or bringing balance to all beings who live within the cosmic web of life.”Caitlin Mathews
“A shaman specializes in a trance during which his soul is believed to leave his body and ascend to the sky or descend to the underworld”Mircea Eliade
“The shaman is someone who has woken up to the reality behind apparent reality, the reality of imagination. The commonplace statement“oh, it’s only imagination” is a gross denial of not only the whole realm of the magical but any understanding of how the universe really works. This is where the shaman works; in the realm of cause, in the imagination, the thought or dream realm where all is conceived and of which this familiar third dimension of gross material reality is but a reflection”
For me shamanism is when you switch of your conscious “monkey” mind and let your consciousness journey. Your mind and body remain still (or maybe not-the body can dance, or shake...) and your consciousness explores and interacts with guides, archetypes & others.
Where does your consciousness go? This will vary according to people’s belief system. I believe when I journey my consciousness enters another space (I call the shadow lands) it is a place of pure spirit & energy, that is there all the time but I only truly perceive it when my monkey mind is very quiet.
My experience is that I can, at times, experience things at this level which are witnessed or proven to be correct by others when I am back in my physical form.
Maybe you believe you travel deep into your unconscious (remaining in your own body) and interact with your deepest unconscious- the collective unconscious. This is an equally valid understanding of shamanism.
Perhaps you are worried you are only imagining your journey? Most people feel this too. Hopefully overtime you will start to realise that what you perceive has a truth about it, a resonance. So that you start to trust your journeying, even if you can’t fully explain it.
The difference between meditation and shamanism? It is subtle, but in meditation you are attempting to calm your mind, in shamanism you are calming your mind to allow a different part of your consciousness the freedom to explore.
What are the benefits of Shamanism? Shamanism helps you to understand yourself, your strengths & weaknesses. What has hurt you in the past, and where you have not healed from past hurt. Where you give your power to others- and where you take power from others. It helps you to be more “whole” to step into being really you- appreciating your gifts, and being aware of your weaknesses. It allows you to appreciate your physical, emotional & spiritual selves- and allows them to work together for your own higher purpose.
It is empowering, energising, healing, euphoric and honest.
In Stav we use our voices to replace the shamans drum. The group chant together, creating first a rhythm, and then a song as the chant becomes alive, and the individual’s lose awareness of their chant and their consciousness slips to a different level. Some people stop chanting at this point, some continue.
What you experience is unique, there is no “correct” experience, and you might;
Become very aware of your breathing, body, energy points etc.
Become very involved in the chant, suspend thinking and feel euphoric.
“journey” to a different place and meet animals, God/ess and the like.
Simply see things differently (I often see trees growing, a hole opening, reality shifting- without communicating with other beings)
Shape-shifting (often called gazing)
This is where you sit opposite another person (or yourself in a mirror), let your gaze soften and watch how the face changes. Again different people will experience different things, but you might experience;
The face change into different faces (male or female- ancestors or past lives?)
The face changing into animal like faces.
An emotional connection to the person (as if glimpsing beyond their ego and into their soul.)
Scrying is using something to capture the gaze, and the mind to allow your inner consciousness to communicate or travel.
It could be looking at clouds, leaves on a tree, smoke, flames etc.
You might hear noises, see things differently, experience a heightened mental awareness or journey. It often takes time and regular practice.
Here I will take you on a meditation. What is special is that is a traditional meditation, using runes and archetypal imagery. It is a shamanic journey similar to the first one I was taken on. I will take you to a specific place and allow you to explore (and interact) before calling you back to our meeting place, then leading you back to our starting place.
“Traditional use of the actual journeys of shamans and mystics has been used effectively as training models in hermetic and religious schools….such work is helpful as a means of way-showing.” Caitlin Matthews
Common experiences are;
Meeting an animal guide
Meeting a human guide (often perceived as a Norse God/ess)
Simply enjoying the landscape.
Journeying down, or up.
Feeling some sort of connection and wisdom understanding from the environment
As I grow as a shaman, adding new knowledge and experience- everything comes back to Stav & the Norse Gods for me. They are my roots, my bedrock, my guide in life.