One of the ritual forms I practice is Hrafnar-style Seidr. This type of ritual is a modern liturgy that traces its roots to the form practiced by our ancient kin of faith in Iceland, Scandinavia, and Norway. Hrafnar-style Seidr is oracular divination: a seer goes into trance and is then able to ask questions of ancestors and gods, and relay the answers. The ritual is a group activity, requiring a team of people, and it is offered as a service to the community.
The Seidr Guild I belong to, Potomac Seidr Guild Ondvegisulur, held a Seidr ritual recently. It was well attended, and there were many questions for the seers who served that night. I don’t remember much from when I was acting as seer myself (which is normal – it’s sort of a side effect of trance possessory work), but I heard many of the questions directed to the other seers. There was definitely a pattern:
“What is my purpose in life?”
“I feel like I’m drifting and nothing works out. How do I move forward?”
“What am I supposed to be doing?”
They were interesting questions in the context of Heathenry. We don’t have the same concept of fate as the widely accepted Western one. This idea of a singular purpose that our lives are meant to follow is not part of the Heathen worldview; predestination is a largely Christian concept. Here in the United States, it’s a harmful one right now as well. Those of us who feel a deep pull to the arts or to helping fields often find that in order to address that call, we would need to choose poverty. One of the aspects of living in a late-stage failed capitalist hellscape is that people who are well-suited to certain fields and endeavors simply can’t follow those paths due to the need to do silly things like…eat. And sleep somewhere warm.
Interestingly enough, our ancient kin of faith most likely faced similar challenges in terms of what they felt they really wanted to do vs what needed to happen in order for the settlement to survive. Perhaps because of that, the Heathen idea of fate is one of choices: we create our destinies through our actions. Right actions – those that benefit the community and help our families – create more luck and opportunities as we go along. The goal, at the end of a life well spent, is to be remembered for what we brought to the table. A life that builds up luck due to right actions passes that greater store down to the next generation, whose responsibility is to also choose right actions and continue the flow of better luck down the line.
So, what’s your life’s purpose? Beloved one, it’s to seize the power of determination for yourself. To claim your fate and work to generate one worth having. I know so few people who have an overwhelming sense of purpose or destiny. I think most of us stumble through life, trying to make the next right choice. Having a vision to hold onto is a mixed blessing – I’ve watched what happens when someone who believes in a destiny isn’t able to walk that path. It’s crushing for them. The truth is that most of us will change vocations, residences, relationships, and more over the course of a lifetime. I suspect the reason many of us don’t seem to have “one true purpose” is that predestination is not actually that helpful. We’re supposed to learn and grow, and what we create and tend needs to change just as we do.
Within the context of our time, location, and origin, we still have some agency, just as our ancestors did. So, choose. Choose your path. Stop waiting for a sign from fate and build your destiny yourself. Within Heathenry, there are some good options in terms of getting started.
Shore up your household. You know what made someone a good “match” back in the day? Other than the smashing eyeliner? Being good at farming, animal husbandry, home repairs, and otherwise providing/contributing to the provisions for a household or settlement. This translates now to getting your living situation in order. Maybe the job isn’t what your soul is calling for, but if it helps you pay down your debt/put food on the table/keep the lights on, it’s still worthy work. A large number of the Heathens I know are a bit house proud – it’s part of our culture. We invest in our homes whether that’s with a job that pays for one, labor that creates one, or some combination of the two. For Heathens, the people we live directly with – our spouses, children, pets, and chosen family – are our first priority. The land and house spirits on our specific property are likewise high in our religious obligations. So, one way to get started is to invest in improving your living situation, and take pride in that effort. The ripples that spread out from a stable home are beautiful and wide-ranging.
Identify a community need and help meet it. Heathenry is a religion of community, which makes us a little different from the Pagan world at large and its emphasis on solitary practice. Settlements in the far north survived or fell together. Contributing to the health and happiness of a community is a powerful way to build your own luck. Interestingly, it’s also backed up by science at this point: when people work together on important efforts, it benefits the participants across the board. So, figure out who your community is, and then identify a need that you’re able to help meet. Maybe your community is a Pagan one, and needs people to help organize events. Maybe your community is folks who look after stray and unloved animals, and they need help caring for them. Maybe your community is environmentalists, and they need help with stream clean-ups and letter writing campaigns. Maybe your community is literally the people who live near you, and they need help feeding the poorest among them through food drives and supply drop-offs. Find your community. Identify a need. Get to work.
Build your honor. This sounds a little strange, but just go with me on this one. In Heathenry, we prize reliability and loyalty. How much of this comes out of the written historical record is a matter of some debate, but it’s certainly true of Heathen culture now. Contrast this with a culture in the United States where “ghosting” has become a social norm and guest lists are a pain in the ass since no one is sure whether attendees are going or not until they actually show up. Start following through on things, even little things you think of as inconsequential. Told Great Aunt Agatha you’d call on Friday? Pick up the phone on Friday. Said you’d pick up potatoes on your way home from work? Set a calendar notification in your phone and do it. Begin to follow through on matters large and small, even when you don’t feel like it. When you honor your word, others come to do so as well. Knowing we keep our word also means we’re more careful about what we agree to do. And, the overall effect on your own luck is beneficial.
Want a sign? Be in places where that happens. “But Irene, wasn’t Blackfeather Mystery School the product of a directive from a divine being?” Yes, in fact, it was. But that directive didn’t happen while I was at the grocery store ignoring my spirituality. Too many of us carry the notion that directives from the Gods and Spirits are unexpected, dramatic appearances where the clouds part, sunlight pours down, and a voice echoes out of the heavens. I received a message because I was in a weekend immersion, training to do a specific kind of ritual: Hrafnar-style Seidr, in fact. If you do want to increase your likelihood of some sort of message, participate in activities where messages come through a little easier. Remember, our Gods are not the omnipotent, omnipresent being out of Christianity. Their power has limits, so making it easier for them to get a message across is really helpful. Go to rituals. Meditate. Spend time outdoors. Create an opportunity and you just might find that the Powers That Be take you up on it.
Are any of those suggestions great sweeping purposes that leave your heart a-flutter? Fuck no. But if you are physically stable, a contributing member of a community, and honorable, you’ll have found something even better than a “true purpose” – you’ll have found a place in the world.
At age 18, I thought my true purpose was to be a journalist and speak truth to power. At age 28, I thought it was to be a musician and write protest songs. At 38, I thought it was to be a minister and care for the spirits of my people. Those are definitely all purposes, and good things to do in the world, but they changed just as I did. I believe that my work in the world will change again in the future. At a guess, so will yours. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
By building up your own sense of personal agency and choosing to invest your time and energy into your homestead, community, honor, spiritual practice, or some combination of those things, you’ll feel more sovereignty. According to Heathen teachings, you’ll also improve your luck (that has certainly been my own experience). And, if you do happen to get knocked on the head by the Hammer of Destiny, you’ll already be in a good position to respond to it.
That’s just my take on the whole purpose thing, though. What are your thoughts? How have you chosen where to spend your effort and energy? Hit me up in the comments. You never know when your own ideas are exactly what another witch needs to read.
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