Odin and the magical suit of swords
My working day is spent in one of two ways- shuffling and reading Tarot cards, or working with the Norse pantheon as a Seidrkona (roughly meaning "shaman"). More and more these worlds are becoming tangled- in the best of ways- and I am writing a series of blogs that reflect both tarot and the Norse deities and runes.
In tarot air is often associated with the suit of swords, and the logical mind.
In Norse shamanism air is associated with Odin and his birds- his eagle (magic) and his ravens. His ravens are called huginn and muginnn which translates as thought and memory- the link with the logical mind.
Odin is also very much associated with magic, the runes, poetry and seidr (to be honest the list of Odin's associations is really very very long, but only Odin, Freya, and perhaps the Norns have direct links with seidr).
A key part of Nordic “shamanism” (not a direct translation- but the easiest) is the “lokk-seidr” where the lokk is a chant, and seidr is the altered state of consciousness the lokk creates. Just as the drum is the shaman’s steed, so the lokk is my vehicle to enter an altered state of consciousness, to journey, and do whatever work needs doing.
At its simplest lokk-seidr combines air and mind to create magic. I use my intent/mind to craft the lokk, and I use my breath to create the lokk which carries me on the journey. No wonder Odin uses a form of magic that combines air and mind, it is often seen as a female tradition, but it matches Odin’s associations perfectly. When ever I practice lokk-seidr Odin is to be found in some form, most often walking around the Old barns where I work as if he owns the place.
In Odin’s Old Norse rune poem we find the phrase “estuary is the way of most journeys” This is a kenning or riddle- perhaps to hide the key information. It is easy to assume this refers to the long ships and physical journeys. But the estuary is the mouth of the river- and it is the mouth that is the start of most journeys. As our inner musings are translated into a communication with others, or perhaps an affirmation to ourselves.
When we translate our thoughts into words and commit them to sound or paper, we translate our thoughts into the start of something outside of our own head, the words have a power of their own when we speak them out loud to another person. We can never quite be sure where those words will take us, how the other person will understand our words, what actions will follow our spoken words.
And as a seidrkona my lokk quite literally takes me on a journey.
Looking at the journey of the suit of swords we go from the beautiful power of the ace of swords- the potential power thoughts and words have to break through the material crown and bring peace ( the Olive branch) and victory (the laurel branch).
To the darkest card in the deck- the 9 of swords and the crushing reality when our thoughts have been hoarded, trapped. Not translated into words and actions, a trap created by our own mind. Or as Milton expressed it “you mind can make a heaven out of hell, or a hell out of heaven”
No wonder Odin the All father is so strongly associated with the suit of swords -the mind is a powerful place.
The combination of breath and intention is one of the most powerful magics I know. Add a little sound through words, lokk or chant- and that power is a true reflection of Odin.
Perhaps the more usual connection between tarot and Odin is the hanged man- I have a video exploring that connection here.