Posted Under Paganism & Witchcraft

Wyrd Mysticism: On Remembering, Healing-Transformation, and Becoming

Old Book Open on Table

Hungry? Here's some food for thought: "weird"—a word that you have undoubtedly said many times over the course of your life—and "weirdness"—that broad spectrum of felt-sense experiences you have certainly come to know through your own lived experience, are but echoes—echoes in disguise—each carrying within them and hiding within them something much deeper than shown or known—something much stranger than could ever be imagined. Each a distant reverberating emanation from a greater Source and mystery—a distant memory called wyrd.

Though nowadays the word "weird" is often used just as flippantly as the word awesome, the word "weird" has ancient roots. Unbeknownst to most non-Pagan, English-language speakers, the word can be traced back to the pre-Christian animist landscapes and cultures of the Germanic, Norse, and Anglo-Saxon tribes of Northern Europe. To these people—and this can be seen in their epic poems and mythologies—weird's antecedent, "wyrd," was a profound phenomenon, an omnipresent and omnipotent being or force more powerful than the gods and goddesses themselves. Sometimes helpful, bringing blessings, other times baneful, and oftentimes painfully sobering, the Old English phrase "Wyrd byð swiðost" says it all: Wyrd is mightiest.1

Our understanding and experience of wyrd has shapeshifted considerably, yet not completely, over the centuries. Let's take a moment to look at this.

Nowadays, most people dismiss the experience of weird as something "strange," "odd," or "eccentric," something easily brushed off and quickly forgotten. Some folk—those conditioned by of some sort of fear-based, "othering" worldview, such as puritanical monotheistic fundamentalism, for example—might experience moments of weirdness with no short supply of dread. To these folk, weirdness is a harbinger of doom sent from the abyss, out of which unknown evils, perversion, and chaos spills forth into this world. In a way, they are not all-together wrong.

Others, those who live with a little less fear-based conditioning, and a little more curiosity and wonder at the helm of their lives, might have a sense that there is not something evil, but rather, something otherworldly or psychedelic going on. They, too, are not wrong. These folk experience weirdness as accompanied by a felt sense of eerie wonder and have found a myriad ways to bring their awe into their weird arts and crafts. The phantasmagorical writings of Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley, Algernon Blackwood, as well as many other horror, sci-fi and fantasy authors capture this vibe quite creatively, as do so many musicians from a wide spectrum of genres, from psychedelic, to classical, to folk, to heavy metal, to techno. They, along with so many artists, musicians, dancers, writers, and more—those who have touched, and have been touched, by weird's essential numinosity—have been able to open to the giving mysteries of weirdness and channel them in ever-novel ways.

And then there is the very weird phenomenon of psychosis—the prolonged existential ego-dissolving struggle that takes place at the front lines of the battle between sanity and insanity, real and delusional, trauma and healing, fear and love. Much could be said about the wyrd and weirdness of psychosis, and of mental illness in general, much more than can be addressed in this short article, so I will have to leave that for future writings. One thing I will say now, though, is that as terrifying and overwhelming as psychosis can be for those experiencing it, given time, safe space, and skilled, compassionate, holistic care and therapy, the psychotic experience might be transmuted into a profound soul-revealing and soul-healing experience of spiritual emergence, awakening, and empowerment. In other words, psychosis, and mental illness in general, can be crafted. I have seen this first-hand in my work as a psychetherapist.

There is one collection of people who have never lost sight of weird's/wyrd's ancient yet ever-present in the here-and-now full paradoxical, spiritual power and import. These are the heathens, witches, pagans, edge-walkers, psychonauts, and mystics—a kaleidoscopic braid of wonderstruck, magic-loving, soul-inclined weirdos hellbent on spiritual exploration, experimentation, and divine communion. This wild folk has somehow maintained their intuitive grasp on the ancient thread of wyrd, as it echoes through time-space-consciousness from its source within and beyond the old ways of animist Northern Europe.

In short, the mysteries of wyrd have been, and will continue to be experienced and defined in a many ways. Wyrd is just one of many names for a truly unnamable and mostly unexplainable phenomenon and process of becoming that encompasses all of existence. Tao, Great Spirit, Mahakali, Trickster are just some of the others. Whatever you call it/her/him/them, I believe that everyone, at least on some level, senses the unfathomable depth and power within experiences of weirdness, and is both drawn toward them and repelled by them. Such is the reaction of most—even the gods—to the all-consuming alchemy of wyrd.

Whatever wyrd was, is, or is becoming, I am certain that wyrd can only be gnown (the knowing that is experienced as gnosis)—through direct experience. This can be said for all of wyrd's facets: fate, destiny, nature, soul, magic, etc. No matter what form the mysteries of wyrd may take in one's life, wyrd must be experienced, explored, and embodied to be fully known. It is this very process that I facilitate in Wyrdcraft: Healing Self and Nature Through the Mysteries of the Fates—as well as in my other offerings (workshops, psychetherapy, wyrd process groups, group wyrdings, etc).

One might say that, in order to completely grok the essence of something, you must become one with it. I would agree with this sentiment. In order to fully grok the nature of the divine, one must become one with the divine. To comprehend the nature of self, one's purpose, a relationship—the nature of anything, really—one must commune intimately. One must step onto the ritual dance floor of life, join in, and see what happens. The same goes for wyrd. In order to grok its multifaceted and multidimensional nature, you must enter into an intimate relationship with it and dance.

This idea of union is integral to the philosophy and experience of mysticism and animism. It is also the approach I take toward wyrd. Wyrd is just one example of the largely forgotten animism and mysticism of the North—which is essentially no different than the animist and mystic paths of the East, South, and West. The mystical experience is found at the heart of the human experience, within and through which a progressive unfolding, or blossoming, of soul takes place. It is both from and towards this spiritual hearth that the Fates' call resounds and guides soul home, "Come this way," "Go with the flow," they say.

As vague or esoteric as this all may sound, the experiential path toward divine communion is rather practical and mundane. In many ways, the mystical experience is the most ordinary experience one could have; it is your birthright, reader. Because wyrd is everywhere all the time, and happening all the time, wyrd consciousness can awaken anywhere at any time. Yes, even in this very moment—it is happening right now as you read this. This is one reason why it can feel so strange, wyrd; it is a bizarre experience and feeling when the mundane and spiritual integrate. Awakening is most definitely a weird, superordinary, paradoxical process, one in which revelation, healing, transforming, remembering, re-membering, returning, and becoming—all ways of wyrd—simultaneously blend into one process—into one all-encompassing wyrding. Wyrdcraft is an invitation into this wyrding; it is an exuberant amplification of the Fates' call—Know Thyself—that dictum espoused by the mystery traditions ancient and modern.

Wyrdcraft is an invitation, and a practical guidebook, to the direct experience of this wyrding flow as manifest through being-consciousness-existence, within and through all the domains of your life: mind-body-relationship-environment-soul-spirit. Wyrd can be located, explored, known, and crafted: physically, psychologically, relationally, ecologically, spiritually, and magically. Wyrdcraft the book, and wyrdcraft the process, as described in the book, guide the reader through this.

The practice and process of wyrdcraft will look different for everyone. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and it is open and available for everyone. We all have our own wyrd. We not only all experience wyrd in our own ways, we craft our wyrd in our own ways as well—ways that are partly pre-determined by the Fates and partly self-determined through our own personal spiritual endeavors, thoughts, words, choices, actions, and will-ing.

The mystical path reminds us: we all walk our own path on the Path we all walk together; there is a destiny toward which wyrd flows; wyrd is doing something. I have no doubt that you have sensed this, and that you have both heard and answered—and at times heard and denied—the Fates' call. As mysterious as they are (those Norns, Moirai, Parcae, Grandmother Spider, etc.) there is a method to their madness. Within their weaving, carving, and laying down of wyrd, there is a happening happening, a sacred remembering, a returning to something, an intimately close yet distant memory of a sacredness emerging. There is a wyrd pattern that weaves through each of our lives in both unique and similar ways. Through their mysteries, the Fates teach us that this pattern can be crafted.

Imagine for a moment the profound implications of this mystical, psychological, relational, ecological, magical, and spiritual methodless-method of revelation, healing-transformation, and becoming. What will happen as you bring more and more skillful, loving awareness, (i.e. wyrd consciousness), to your mind-body-relationships-environment-soul-spirit? What will happen as you—along with more and more of us—learn to put Inner Flame to use, revealing that which is true, false, and both false and true. What will happen as we as individuals and as a collective lovingly and courageously tend to the tears, tatters and knots in the Web of Wyrd that connects all? What will happen as we address the wounds, blocks, and delusions that keep us separated from our personal and collective gifts and emerging potentials?

Wyrdcraft is but an echo of the Fates' sometimes very weird call, to use our inherent, and in many cases latent, natural wisdom and natural magic to reveal, heal, transform, and become that which we are meant to become, that which is fated and destined to be. As a psychotherapist—or as I prefer to say, psychetherapist (soul-therapist)—I have had the honor of experiencing this wyrdcraftian revelation, healing-transformation, and becoming with my clients in real-time. With every session, I witness the magical emergence of wyrd consciousness, and watch as ripples of awakening move both inward and outward into psyche and world-psyche and beyond—revealing, healing, transforming the Web. It has been a great gift of a wellspring of inspiration to be reminded again and again of the power of this loving, magical awareness and Inner Flame, to witness, in real-time, the healing-transformation that comes with the remembering of animism, and soul.

What I have found, what has been affirmed time and time again, and what I invite you to explore with me through the pages and process of Wyrdcraft, is that there is a purpose to wyrd. There is a strange yet oh-so-ordinary pattern unfolding within, between, and beyond us, a soul-purpose, flowing, waving, spiraling, and shapeshifting into mystical becoming. I am deeply honored, blessed, curious, and ready to explore this mystical process with you—and with the Fates—as we get wyrd together. Welcome Wyrd!

1Bartlett Jere Whiting and Helen Wescott Whiting, Proverbs, Sentences, and Proverbial Phrases: From English Writings Mainly Before 1500 (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1968), 636.

About Matthew Ash McKernan

Matthew Ash McKernan, LMFT, is a licensed psychotherapist, ecotherapist, bard, naturalist, and wyrdworker. He has degrees in anthropology and counseling psychology and loves to spend time at the crossroads where psyche, ...

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