Yoiking and Zauberstab

First off, Merry Christmas to any of you who are celebrating it this week. I hope your Yule was as groovy as mine was. While I could not celebrate with my broader kindred (for (positive) reasons that require a separate post), I did have a great birthday party (thanks to The Husband) jam-packed with Absinthe, dirty lyrics by Prince played over the world’s coolest amplifier, and a couple-dozen folks that have a very special place in my heart.

I also went to a lovely Christmas party where the host thought enough to “mazal tov” and “drink hail” to his non-Christian guests: this led to “It’s kinda cold for dancing nekid—especially in an elevated chair,” jokes.

I’ve wanted to write about yoiking for some time but waited for the Y post in the Pagan Blog Project to do it. Then, of course, I missed it. I also wanted to talk about this groovy term “Zauberstab traegerin” so I saved that and missed it as well. Here’s my attempt to make up my shortcoming. This post isn’t really much of an argument; it’s just informative.

I recently had a birthday. My daughter knew that I had wanted to read Steig Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy for some time but never got around to it. I wouldn’t let anyone watch the movies until I did. For this reason, among others, she bought me The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo on audiodisk.[1] It’s a very political story with a murder mystery and family intrigue. I only mention this because Larson is fairly critical of Swedish politics, especially economic policy and racism. Racism in Sweden you ask? Yes, Larsson constructs a character that exposes the the neo-Nazi roots of the Sweden Democrats party. (Look here for more info on “The Dark Side of Sweden.”) Larsson’s character, Richard Vanger, has a particular penchant for eugenics and genocide—particularly of the Sami (also Sámi or Saami), the indigenous people of Arctic Europe.

Because my own Heathen roots are of an Anglo-Saxon and Dutch flavor, somewhat different from the Nordic and Scandinavian variety, I never really encountered discussion of the Sami until this year.

While talking with a Scandinavian peer (she too calls herself Völva in her own—very different—tradition) about vocalizations and the American yawp, she mentioned a practice of yoiking (or joiking). I knew what this was, sort of, but thought it was closer to yodeling than it actually is.

According to the University of Texas Music Department, the yoik is:

A form of song which utilizes a scale and vocalizations which are unfamiliar to virtually everyone in the Western (American and European) world, the history of the yoik is representative of all the encroachment and abuse that the Sami people have suffered at the hands of outsiders.

Here’s a this.

And here’s a this.

And this looks so entirely familiar, even though I know it’s not.

Bob Tarte explains (“You Must Be Joiking.” The Beat Magazine: 22, 4. 2003. Web.):

Joiking originated in the chanted vision songs of Sámi shamans perhaps predating the Sámi migration into northern Scandinavia from the southeast 2,000 years ago. . . .[T]his improvised style of singing . . . is less about actual words than melody and vocal textures . . . . A person could joik about a hunt, a frozen stream or the birth of a baby. But what makes these fluid songs with no fixed rules unique is that they aren’t considered to be about a subject. The joik, and by extension the joiker, are said to actually become the subject. . . . And you don’t have to believe in spirits or channeling to experience the rush [of joiking]. Call [it] the summoning of the unconscious or a wordless connection with the deepest archetype of song itself, and its surge is equally impressive.

I hate to compare distant and distinct cultures to one another for fear of colonizing, but I can’t help see the similarities between the Sami yoik and Native American vocalizations.[2] (While it is not my intention to make this my argument, in these moments of similarity, I have to wonder if those theories about Solutrean migration to The New World are accurate at all.) Both are intended to induce a “shamanic” trance, are used to call animals and spirits, and to shapeshift—what Tarte means by “become the subject.”[3]

I had asked the peer in question about the relationship between the Sami and her Norwegian ancestors and didn’t receive a suitable answer for my tastes. We are still hammering it out. It had become my impression, after being pointed to a woman named Yngona Desmond (make up your own mind about this one), that the Sami and other northern European cultures were unrelated. Desmond, who claims to be “Vinland’s Volva, an honorary title of respect and recognition, gifted . . . by Sámi Noaide,”[4] is a “Heathen leader” in Georgia who regularly leads a boar hunt.[5] It seems like yoiking and seiðr—especially in the form of galdr—are connected; I just want to be very careful about lumping cultural practices together based on geography.

(a.k.a. Dancing nekid in an elevated chair.)

Like I said, I don’t have a point to make here. I just felt like saying, “Hmm, would you look a’that?”

Likewise, I want to point you to a term: Zauberstab traegerin, German for “wand bearer.” But a Zauberstab is not just any kind of stick, stylus, or rod. It translates as “wand” but connotes specifically as “magic wand.”

I love that about Deutsche. I’ve told you about how I feel about words like Schadenfreude. The German language can cram a whole concept into one word.

(I also think of words like Zigeunerleben (“Gypsy life”), which makes me wonder how much racism is intended by—or even accidental to—the song by Robert Schumann (which I remember from high school chorus). The song is a romanticized[6] depiction of “wandering gypsies, so wild, so free of care, with eyes flashing brightly, with dark flowing hair” and “raven-haired maiden[s]” who “dance . . . [while] bright as a torch, burns her passionate glance.” And now that I know what I know about Sweden and the Sami, I’m starting to wonder even more about Germany and the Romany. I mean, I know that “gypsies” were rounded up in the 40s, so why do we sing this song seemingly about a racial fetish in high school? That’s totally beside the point—but it makes me think: Why am I back on the subject of Nazis?)

I’m not sure where I stumbled upon the term Zauberstab traegerin—it’s one of those moments that I wish I’d taken better notes. I mean Zauberstab is easy enough to find all over Harry Potter cites in German, but I know I found “Zauberstab traegerin” as a complete term. In terms of Völvastav, Völvakona, and Stavkona (“the wand carrying magic woman”) this is a significant term that I am now beginning to think I may have dreamed.

Happy holidays.


[1] Why they didn’t keep the original title, Män Som Hatar Kvinnor (Men Who Hate Women) is not beyond me, but it’s a better epithet for the novel than a nod at one of Salander’s many tattoos.

[3] If you have caught on to my Deleuzian proclivities, you have to know that I love that he used the term “become.”

[4] I was subsequently pointed to this quote on a New Age Fraud discussion thread by someone who was very concerned about the new preponderance of “fake tribes” here in the Southeast of the United States. I had no idea that this was such a common problem. Seems it is. It also seems that it’s one  New Age Fraud takes seriously enough to investigate and subdue. I’ve been asked a lot of questions over the past month and have had to educate myself right-quick on accounto’ I had no idea this was a widespread thing for fakers to do. Though I don’t really approve of the hate-filled rhetoric, I found this page (also handed off to me by the “concerned” person/people) very helpful in understanding what’s legit in a “tribe” and what’s not. It made me think twice about Desmond and others.

[5] I don’t know anything other than what I can deduce from the questions I was asked about Desmond, what I read briefly on the discussion thread in the footnote #3, and what little I read on her blog. I was (coincidentally?) just lent a copy of Völuspa: Seiðr as Wyrd Consciousness (cross-country), but haven’t read it yet. As ever, I’ll let you know.

[6] Here I mean “fanciful”—not to be confused with “Romanticism” which is specific to a literary movement.


This post is part of a year-long project. Rowan Pendragon’s The Pagan Blog Project; “a way to spend a full year dedicating time each week very specifically to studying, reflecting, and sharing . . . .    The project consists of a single blog post each week posted on prompt that will focus on a letter of the alphabet” (http://paganblogproject/).

The Bad Witch and the Monkey-Bird

Holy shit! I never told you about the monkey-bird.

I bought the house I live in in 2004. There is almost an acre of land behind the useful part of my yard which I’ve been gradually clearing since last March; with the onset of fall weather and the completion of the chicken-coop, I’ve had more luck then over summer. In 04, the whole yard was a jungle of maidenhair ferns, crepe-myrtles, and pampas grass which we reclaimed have over the last eight years.

But when we first moved in, there was something out there.

I was convinced that there was a monkey in my backyard. I mean, I knew there wasn’t, but still.

There was an eerie sound that came from the yard: “ogh, ogh, ogh, oooooooooh!” And the ape-like howling and whooping was unlike anything my Chicagoian ears were used to hearing. I mean, the summers I spent in North Alabama were mostly full of bug, frog and air conditioner sounds with the occasional “moo.”[1] The sounds were also accompanied by loud crashes in the trees, which would shimmy under the weight of something bounding from branch to branch.

Bigger than a squirrel.

Flying opossum?

Maybe, I teased, it was a monkey.

And, of course, freaked myself out.

It didn’t help that The Bad Husband had moved to Nebraska for work, leaving me and three babies in this big-ol’ house all alone.

After six months or longer, I ran to the back-porch every time I heard it. I only ever saw the crashing and heard the oogha-whooping.

Until one day.

I had been outside clearing what-ever-it-was-I-was-clearing-that-week so I could put in an herb garden.

Though the creek-bed had run dry the month before, due to the new construction about a mile away, I had seen lots of animals looking for the water that used to be there. I was never surprised to pull up a handful of weeds and find that I had a frog as well.

On this day, I sat on my garden bench to rest my back which had grown weary of bending and pulling. I looked out over the area I had cleared and imagined the herbs I would grow there. Exhausted, I “zoned out” a bit and visualized until I could smell tarragon, coriander, basil. I heard the flapping of feathers and felt a slight breeze on my face. But this wasn’t unusual for when I was in the zone, so I didn’t startle.

Until, that is, I opened my eyes.

Not six feet away was my monkey-bird; at long-last I got to see it out of the trees. Staring at me was a curious Great Blue Heron. It buzzed a guttural sort-of glugging sound and took a spindly-legged step forward. I’m not sure I breathed. Just remembering the boldness of that bird makes my head swim.

Then, it opened its huge wings, squatted down and leapt into the air, crashing in the trees as it flew off.

Though I have seen them while on vacation (it seems whenever I get close to water, I have some sort of encounter with a Heron), I haven’t seen a Great Blue Heron in my yard for a few years now. Until today.

Whenever I go out to my chicken run, I get the feeling that there is a bigger bird looking at me from “the back-backyard.” My fear was that it was the Redtail-Hawk that hangs out around my house from time to time. (It has even perched on the bannister of the small balcony of my temple-room for hours at a time—just watching me.) But today, my monkey-bird came back. S/he grabbed a piece of fence and stared, cocking her head from side to side, and flew off—going south.

The wind said, “Beware. She will transform you.”

I have a very open relationship with the spirit-world and have no problem communicating with and recognizing guardian spirits and elementals. I’ve even run up against a few other things that I understood, even if I didn’t have a proper name for them. But whenever a specific deity contacts me, I feel pretty dense—like they have to drop a ton of bricks on me to get my attention. As a youngon’, Mhór-Ríoghain grabbed me by the wrist and said, “c’mon.” Even though I wasn’t particularly Celtic (only in that I identify strongly with my maternal-grandfather’s Scot origin).

Then, when my life went to Hel four years ago, she moved off. Maybe to make room for others. I spun my wheels looking for a mentor, looking for a deity-archetype to whom I could look for guidance, looking for a new path upon which to set my feet.

In the spring, I thought it was Hestia. And, it was—only not. I mean, she had a thing or three to teach me, but it was not a long-term relationship; I knew it from the start. I also knew that Megaera was only around to do a job and then move along. Someone suggested Ceredwin was being friendly last June.

Now I have a year of a red-tail hawk staring at me, a heron re-clanging around, a thousand-pound boar rooting at me (this is a story from the fair where I met the timberwolves), remembrances of my unborn twin, a-lost-and-found amber necklace, a strong attraction to Seiðr, and a new “chair.”


Freyja and Herons. Sander J. Nystrøm, 1893.


Freyja and Hildisvíni


Freyja in the High Seat


Freyja and Brísingamen

Freyja Morphing into a Falcon/Hawk

Freyja as Sorceress




To quote The Bad Son: “Derp.”

To quote The Bad Baby: “-.-”

Because of her associations with death, Freyja is bridge or of connection between us and our ancestors; and as queen of the Valkyries, Freyja has a fierce side as well as a protective side, just like an alpha wolf: Frejya is a Goddess of raw power.

Now if I could just get some cats to pull a chariot . . .

Almost a year ago, I wrote an Open Letter to Polyphanes, my fellow-blogger and adored friend. I had told him about the instructions my agathos gave me: “Learn to make mead.” Learning to make mead sent me on a quest that was not unlike unraveling my sweater and then trying to figure out what I was gonna wear. Embracing my ancestry was familiar—something I had always done fairly easy. Embracing ancestral “doings” was a little more sticky (on account o’all the honey involved). There are issues of mead-making, of course—and then there are issues of shell-shaking, cave-dwelling, hexe-crafting, pow-wowing, high-seating, fruit-canning, pipe-smoking, spirit-speaking, bagpiping, chicken-raising, moonshining, butter-churning, and cotton-picking. What tradition answers that call? (I’ll be able to tell you my answer before Yule.)

Embracing my ancestors’ deities is going to be even more of a problem. I’ve always embraced Anglo-Heathen ethics—but neither Ásatrú nor Vanatru speak to me as clearly as I want my religion to. So I invented a term for myself about a year ago; this I feel in my bonzes.[2] Like a lot of traditions, it considers pantheonic “gods” and “goddesses” to be more akin to “deified ancestors” and spiritual intercessors than creator-gods, so I can be friends with Freyja without extra Odinic baggage.

Depending on which way the birds fly, I’ll fill you in on what I can without breaking any Harpocratic rules.

All in good time, they say—just like the materialization of an ancient chronicle.

I’ll be in touch . . .

B, Q, 93,


[1] Climate control with a chance of meatballs.

[2] A longer definition will soon follow.

Some New Baubles and Things to Share

Pimping again.

I came across Wane Wyrds not long ago via The Pagan Pages Blog Hop and really liked the way Cena explained some of the misconceptions about Vanatru. I liked it so well, that I thought I’d share her post, “Misconceptions about Vanatru: What it is and what it isn’t,” with you.

And I’ve also enjoyed several well-spent hours reading/looking at Donald L. Engstrom-Reese’s work at Walking In Beauty, where he defines Queer Spirit for a Pagan community which is, in my opinion, far too hung up on binaries for its own good. I especially like this page where he offers some terms and definitions.

I’ll have a few more to add in a few weeks as I fill you in on my new group: Ulfarnir. I’m thinkin’ maybe they might need their own page.

Which reminds me–I had the great pleasure to meet some real Timberwolves yesterday and talk with the woman who takes care of them. (“You don’t train a wild animal,” she reminded me, “you work with its instincts rather than against them.”) It was an amazing experience and I learned some valuable things. Therefore, I plan to go back and revise my post on wolves to include what I learned. Stop by and see it in a day or so.

I always tell you that I’ll get back to this subject or that subject in another post–sometimes I forget or just get sidetracked. If there was something I said I’d tell you and I haven’t, drop me a reminder. I plan to run through the last few posts and gather up the stragglers when I have a minute; until then, I’ll follow your cues.

You’ll also notice that I’ve added a button for “Heathens Against Hate.” Go poke them.

I hope you dig the new layout. It seems that the more longwinded of my posts can scroll on-and-on, so I wanted a broader middle column for ya.

And, as I’m always up for suggestions, I took a loyal reader’s advice and added a tip-jar. I weighed the decision and looked at a lot of others’ opinions (like this one). In the end, I figured–as a minister, writing at The Files is part of my job. All of the contributions go toward supporting the things I do in the Pagan community. Why would I shortchange my community of some much needed financial support? Besides, some of the blogs I respect most have a tip-jar. I reckon it’s done. If I’ve made you laugh, made you cry, pissed you off enough to make you do something productive, or just given you an idea to reflect on for a bit, consider contributing. (It will show up as Open Path Sanctuary & Templum Gnostica, the legal brainchild behind all the pixie dust.) All of the bells and whistles I am adding to the Pagan community depend on the support of readers and enthusiasts like you.

As ever, I encourage you to go visit the folks on my blogroll. And if I have been remiss in including your blog or if you have a suggestion for a Bad Blog for me to add, drop me a line (abadwitch@yahoo.com).

Blessings, Quarks, and 93!



F is for Frith and Faining

I tried for five days to write a post about (F is for) Frustration. I called that one all right. I had intended to talk about the I Ching and hexagrams 29 and 39 with Changing Lines. It was to be graceful, it was to be blithe, it was to be erudite. It was not to be.[1] Maybe later? Now, I sit at my PC pissed that didn’t get to my PBP post before the weekend ended.[2] But here goes. If trying to write about frustration lead to frustration, perhaps writing about Frith and Faining will bring something better.

Not quite two whole moons ago, I held a Plow Faining[3] (aka Blessing of the Plow or Charming of the Plow) with the new but growing local Pagan community committed to sincere ritual and the spiritual advancement it brings.

It’s odd being a Heathen among other Pagans. But, somehow, I always thought it was just me. I mean, I had been formally trained in an initiatory mystery school. I was certainly a Witch. I had studied (really studied) and practiced sorcery and magick for years. And I  learned to embrace Heathenry (and spent years studying Old English language and Anglo Saxon culture[4]) alongside some very cool details concerning my father’s family heritage. So, I have been picking away at Heathenry (and Ásatrú, I guess–but more precisely, Germanic sorcery) for a good while. But solitary Heathenry doesn’t exactly work, now does it? I wanted, more than any other motivation, to simply incorporate the ethics of Heathenry and the communal goals of frith and cynn (peace and kinship) into my public faith.

In our Plow Faining, I did what I could to make everything seem familiar to the predominantly Wicca-centric group (even as uninitiated solitaries – the tradition is the tradition) but found myself squirrelling around the Elhaz-stodhur for fear of being misconstrued as overweening. (The Bad Witch is a little gun-shy from having been called some pretty horrible things in my last community: with “powermonger” among them. (This was in reference to the time the TBW was asked to “cast a circle in your tradition,” doing the familiar LBRP, I called on archangels for protection. Ooooh, scarey.)  And, so, obvs, I avoided the beot altogether.[5]) In my opinion, I flubbed the whole thing.[6]

I was asked by a Druidic friend later, “Do you think being a Godhi would have made a difference? In Wicca, the Lady seems to take center stage; in our trads, like Ceremonial Magic, being a boy helps.”

Do what now?

I argued that, historically, working seiðr was “women’s work” and that (after the monks got their hands on the Eddas and the Sagas) magical working was interpreted as effeminizing for a Post-Christo Heathen man. But then again, the sun, Sunna, was imagined as maternal in Norse tradition (as opposed to the moon in many Witchcraft traditions). I replied in my particular idiom: “It’s an entirely different kind of flying, altogether.”[7] I admit that Druidry is uncharted territory for me, so I cannot speak to his interpretation of gender imbalance there. But I do know that in the original *culture* as evidenced by non-written cultural artifacts and as evidenced by ancient linguistics (if not the translated post-Christian literature), women were highly revered as völu (plural of völva) and spækona. The wand was not a phallic symbol, but a woman’s instrument to manipulate energy – an aetheric rheostat. Our post-Christian understanding of what men and women were and weren’t allowed to do has been tainted by translation and the inevitable mutation of Romanized cultures. Duh.

I don’t think I flubbed the blót because I am a woman – that’s redonkulous up one end and down t’other. I think my feeling of having flubbed came from my impulse to “assimilate” Heathenry into a “common tongue.” To meet it half-way. It was neither this – nor that.

Then, this weekend. Ahhhh.

Let me back up a minute; on Ostara, I’d taken part in our community’s first private ritual together – followed by the eatings and the drinkings and the laughings and the funtimes. It was all “hooray” and “do it again!”

Then, this past weekend there were the public rituals from various covens – Druidic, Heathen, Eclectic, and so on. (It’s amazing to finally find oneself part of a broader whole. Yes, we have our small group. But it is fantastically healthy to have contact with, to learn from, to venerate deity with, and to combine energies with the broader Pagan Community here in the Deep South. Avoiding that insular sense of inbredness that I talked about in “Evolution” is particularly important in the stereotypical blinkeredness of Alabama, no?) Oh, and the workshops. One on magical timing (during which I got to watch the joyful interaction of three adorable students as they waxed on about their “homework” and “group projects” – it did my soul good), one on wheel-of-the-year correspondences (during which I got to see the “lights go on” for The Bad Husband – it did my soul good), one on politics and Paganism, and others on and on.[8] And the beginnings of sun and windburn from having my whiteness outdoors all day. Plus there were cookies.

As I sat in the circle discussing basic magical timing: moon phases, days of the week, planetary hours, and tidal flows, I heard the Moot

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Dir. Adam McCay. Perf. Will Ferrell. DreamWorks. 2004. Film.

horn. Like being called from one realm to another, I left the circle of intellectual discussion to wend my way to the harrow, the horn, and the hammer. The ritual was a simple Thunor Faining: with its “Thunor weoh!” and its “Hail Thunor,” and its “Thanks to you, oh, Mighty Hammer, Protector of the World!” and it’s inevitable “Drink up!” and “Wassail!” Simple as it was, it spoke to me. Truly and deeply. I was at home with brethren (and sistren?) and had a deep filial understanding of what we were sharing – as if my DNA remembered something.

Think on’t: I have been solitary for over a decade (after a decade of dedicated communal work) and I have studies Heathenism for about twice that long. Yet, this was – ironically – my first Heathen community experience. Well, you know, aside from belonging to a family with tight-knit loyalties of kinship and our own rituals of . . . hey, I’m starting to remember our last family reunion; it was rather like a sumbel – but with loads of food but no (yeah, right) booze.[9]

Thrilled to see real Pagan groups doing real work in the Deep South, I have been on such an extended high that I may have offered to hold yet another ritual in my space.[10]

Pretty sure it will be Heathen.

And not half-way.

Gimme the day to grade some stuff and I’ll get back to you.

[1] In between then and now there were “family adventures” involving four leaks (a toilet, two refrigerators, and the ever-evolving outdoor irrigation system) ; a child who decided to paint her bedroom all by her grown-up self; a sick Lhasa Apso; an episode involving a tent, cupcakes, and smores; twenty topsy-turveys; and chickens.

[2] Last night I’d had two days of vitamin D and fresh air and had added a big glass of wine and the best-dang supper to my belly. My house was clean, my yard was – um – in progress, my lips were chapped, and I’d had a bath. I . . . just . . . fell . . .asleeeeeeeeeee

[3] Or a sort-of Plow Faining – a Plow Faining is similar in intent to any tradition’s land rites: bless the land, thank the gods and spirits of the land, give a gift and begin the cycle of gebo, that sort of thing.

[4] Studying turned to teaching and teaching turned to more earnest researching and researching always leads to The Dark Side.

[5] I was also called “oathbreaker” (when TBW refused to make an oath to a *human being* seeking a blood sacrifice – my blood, BTW). Still not sure how an unmade oath can be broken, but OK. Oathbreaking was punishable by death in Anglo Saxon culture, this was not a charge the ancestors would have bandied about lightly just to hurt someone’s feelings or damage their reputation. And “liar” (when I perpetuated a perception of events that did not support the collective-ego of the group). I’m thinking, that is not a place to find frith and cynn, now is it? Better to skip town, so to speak.

[6] However, everyone in attendance seemed to like it OK.

[7] Ted Striker (Airplane. Dir. Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker. Perfs. Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen. 1980. Paramount Pictures. Film.)

[8] At the end of the day we lamented, “We forgot to take pictures!” Ah, well – it happened all the same.

[9] Oooh, I feel another post coming on.

[10] I have also offered to (or been pressed to, I’m not sure how it happened) host a bunch of poets from Arkansas so’s I can show ‘em how hospitality’s really done.