Body Modification and Northern European Magical Practices
In the northern European magical traditions, whether that be divination, sigils, bind runes, Nithing posts, or similar practices, a significant visual component is involved. In today’s society where permanent body modification is now a common practice, it is important to consider the spiritual/magical implications of using imagery of this type in a body modification. To better understand the issues, we need to examine northern European magical practices and how they fit in with imagery.
On the Nature of time and fate
Briefly, the northern Europeans didn’t believe in a deterministic fate. Any given individual can chose what path they wish to be on subject to the constraints of their Hamingja. Hamingja is the fortune (good or ill) of an individual or family based upon the reputation and acts of that individual or family. If we have done certain acts in our past it reflects what options we have available to us (and how easy those options are to exercise) in the future. As a simple example, if for the last two hours I’ve been following a path up a mountain, and I’m 10 feet away from the top. At that point it’s probably a lot easier just to climb up to the top than it is to turn around and go back to the bottom. If I’m driving a car, and suddenly the car in front of me slams his brakes, it is very difficult for me to avoid the accident at that point. However, 2 hours earlier, if I’d decided not to drive, or even 30 minutes earlier had decided on a different route, it would have been far easier to avoid the accident. This concept of past acts having an effect on our choices extends not just to ourselves, but to our families as well. What choices we have with respect to our paths can be affected by the choices our parents made, and their parents made.
I classify divination as “passive” magic. We’re using our abilities, and the abilities of the gods, to examine what path we are on. We use divination as a tool of observation. While divination is not typically related to Body modification, it’s important to remember that northern European divinatory practice is about showing us the path that we’re on and where we’re headed, and not definitely what our future holds. Divination can tell us how hard it may be to move off our path, but the choice to change paths always remains.
On the opposite side of divination are magical practices that are not designed to examine our path, but to have an effect on our path and the paths of those around us. From Bind Runes, to Nithing poles, to Rune Galdr (the chanting of runes), magic in this category is focused on the idea of us changing (or maintaining our paths). This magical practice uses the will of ourselves, both on a conscious level and subconscious level, and the will of those around us (again, on both levels) to direct our paths. In addition we use this magic to ask for “assistance” from the gods with respect with whatever work we are doing. We don’t ask them to cause the change for us; rather, we ask for their guidance and assistance in making the change. As we engage in this type of m
agic, we commonly use visual symbols, either in the form of rune staves/bind runes or points of focus as a tool for focusing our attention (our will) on what we desire to occur. This visual representation affects will on a variety of levels:
- It affects us consciously, as we know why we created the image, and we know what purpose it serves.
- It affects us unconsciously, because the image likely has meaning to us that isn’t always at the front of our minds.
- It affects others consciously when they see it. While they may not know what the purpose behind the image is, it can possible cause them to react in certain ways based upon their perception of it.
- It affects others unconsciously as well if they see it, as certain subconscious thought processes may be triggered by the imagery.
- It serves as a ‘sign to the gods’ that we may be looking for their help with respect to a given situation. We are willing to take responsibility for it, but if they’d like to bless us, we’d appreciate it.
It’s important to remember that with body modification, we are creating an image that can have an impact on all five of these items permanently. Typically when we do a magical working, we don’t think of it as lasting forever. We ask for the blessing of good crops, we tend our fields well, and we hope that Thor blesses us with rain. When we do a body modification (such as a tattoo) we’re making a permanent decision about how we want our own will, and the wills of those around us to be directed, and we’ve created a permanent statement to the gods about how we want their blessings. Because this type of magic is an exercise of will, both on a conscious and subconscious level, and is requesting specific types of “blessings” from the gods, one should not get this type of permanent modification lightly. I generally recommend that if you’re considering a tattoo that contains certain northern European magical practices that you draw it on with ink pen first, or use henna, and see how it changes your life. Will it have the same effect as a tattoo? No, but it can give you an indication of whether or not there’s something deep subconsciously that’s triggering this image that you don’t want to draw out. It can also tell you whether you’ll draw out the magical will of others in ways that you wouldn’t prefer.
You can also see whether or not this attracts the “attention of the gods” in a positive or negative way.