I apologise beforehand that this is a rather lengthy article …
You see Her as black because you are far away from Her. Go near and you will find Her devoid of all color. The water of a lake appears black from a distance. Go near and take the water in your hand, and you will see that it has no color at all. … The nearer you come to God, the more you will realize that He has neither name nor form. ~Sri Ramakrishna
The Goddess of pure power is called Shakti in Hinduism, She is the universal life force that flows through all of creation. A dynamic force that is at once terrifying, destructive, creative, life-giving and life-saving. This force manifests as the Kundalini, the Mother Power, and it is Shakti’s consort, Shiva, who knows and wields this power. Adi Shakti is the energy that is at the very core of our being. She is beautiful and ugly, tender and fierce, powerful and compassionate.
Since the dawn of earth-time the Mother as the Shakti has walked the soil along with her Divine Compeers, the Avatars. Alas, our ignorance paid no heed to her supernal Love and Grace. To the Avatars alone we built our altars. Their Shaktis remained almost concealed, and at times even ignored by humanity. Unnoticed, as it were, they appeared on the scene and unnoticed they dissapeared.
It was eye-opening for me to read this because I had never really thought about it – the fact that all great Avatars (spiritual teachers who were known as direct representatives of God – like Buddha, Krishna or Christ) had revered the feminine aspect of God, Adi Shakti. Realised masters of recent times were Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Aurobindo and the contemporary Master Sri Chinmoy. These masters revered the Mother Goddess in the form of Kali – the dark Mother of Creation and Goddess of Transformation, who is fearsome in Her depicitions, but also embodies boundless Compassion. Because She is everything – Darkness as well as Light. She is the Absolute Consciousness.
Shakti is not only power, She is also the one who can grant us illumination and it is Her Force that eventually transforms our human nature into something higher and deeper.
I am fortunate that She has touched my life in multiple ways and take the liberty to share some of my first experiences with Her.
Nothing can stay hidden in darkness forever, especially if we wish to illumine it. My teacher once said that everything that needs illumination eventually comes to the fore to be transformed, but I never imagined it would be with the help of a Norse Trickster God.
In the first months of our friendship, Loki, being the “God-who-knows-exactly-what-you-want-need-and-fear”, very skillfully brought exactly all of that to my attention. Since my biggest issue was probably my sexual-energy being suppressed and denied, I soon found myself waking up to a warm embrace in the middle of the night with thoughts and feelings surfacing that I would have rather not faced – Loki’s gentle advances brought up so many issues I could not even start counting them. When I found my spiritual teacher, I chose to focus on a life of celibacy which had worked well for the past 15 years by using meditation to purify my system, but mainly – to be frank – by leading a very busy life and distracting myself from all my subconscious needs. Yes, this had worked well until a Norse deity decided to stir up all my so nicely suppressed needs and desires, which were coupled with truckloads of guilt, shame and self-doubt. The infuriating thing was that Loki remained completely unfazed by the emotional turmoil He initiated inside me. I remember thinking, “Maybe You really are the devil after all! I can definitely see why people would believe it.” My thoughts elicited a soft chuckle from His side.
Loki brought up my most terrifying needs and greatest fears. Mostly my need to be loved, as well as my fear of it – which had led me to label my sexual-energy as “evil” and suppress it. The Norse Trickster had gently but persistently demanded His way into my heart, and even though part of me knew that I could trust Him whole-heartedly, it scared me. Spiritually I longed to be a warrior, independent and strong, yet as a simple human being I found myself yearning for someone to lean on, someone who gave me security, who would shelter, protect and love me.
What I did not realise back then was that the energy I tried to deny and suppress was the very energy that gave me life, because our sexual energy, our creative force is also our life-energy. What I did realise back then was that Loki had brought a very powerful presence into my life for the simple reason that He got me in back touch with the “magic” of my feminine side. The energy of the Divine Feminine if you want to call it that. The powerful force that once unleashed is unstoppable as it spreads through our consciousness, cleansing us of shame, guilt and old limiting beliefs thus allowing us to “flow” through life as a child of the Divine. I felt Her presence as what I can only describe as an ancient, deep and incredibly powerful entity that I wished to connect with, so I asked Loki to bring me closer to Her. What followed was an inner journey through shame, guilt, violence, death and ceaseless love and compassion. In the space of a few weeks Loki guided me to connect with the Dark Goddess He Himself revered and loved so much, and He let me see that this Goddess resides within each female human being – asleep in some, while wide awake in others.
My journey happened mostly in form of writing – Loki only knows why He chose writing to relay things to me! I used to think that visions only came to those who prayed or went into trance – for me it was, well, writing. As soon as I sat down, a different world would open up in front of me and all I had to do was commit to paper what I saw, felt and experienced. Much of it I did not understand at the time, nor did I realise the significance of my experiences and the blessings they brought.
In her deep and great love for her children she has put on the cloak of obscurity, condescended to bear the attacks and torturing influences of the Falsehood, … taken upon her the pangs and sorrows and sufferings of the creation, since it seemed that thus alone could it be lifted to the Light and Joy and Truth and eternal Life. … This is the great sacrifice called sometimes the sacrifice of Purusha, but much more deeply is the holocaust of the Prakriti, the sacrifice of the Divine Mother.”
~Sri Chinmoy (The Mother of the Golden All)
Loki inspired me to write a story – or rather I just wrote down what He showed me. The female character in the story is the Goddess, the Divine Feminine Consciousness, who has incarnated as a human being – a sacrifice She had to take in order to save Her creation. The downside of incarnating as a woman is that She cannot remember Her true identity and is subjected to ignorance just like any other human being. She endures adversities, pain, humiliation, violence and even torture throughout her life, until she meets Loki who helps her remember who she really is – the beautiful, life-giving, powerful, dark primordial Goddess – while She brings balance and healing to Him.
Only now, more than a year later, as I am writing this, am I starting to grasp how symbolic this story really is. On a bigger scale, it is the story of the deep, pure love between Loki and the Goddess or Shiva and Shakti. On a smaller (my world) scale, I realise that I have been allowed to see many faces of the Goddess (including her fierce aspects) to remember and integrate them into myself so that I can find balance. The Goddess revealed Herself to me as innocent like a child, sweet like a lover, fierce like a warrior, wise and compassionate like a mother, but also torn and broken like a human being.
When I found the paragraph above written by the spiritual master Sri Chinmoy, which talks about the sacrifice of the Goddess who suffers in creation in order to save it (thus alone could it be lifted to the Light and Joy and Truth and eternal Life), it brought me to tears because from my experience with Her I knew it to be so very true.
The name that I had intuitively chosen for the female character of the story was “Ella”, which as I found out “is of Old German origin (surprise!) and means “other, foreign”. It can also derive from the German name Alja meaning “entire”. In Hebrew Ella simply means “Goddess”.
In the story Ella encounters different teachers in different places including the mythological realms of Vanaheim, Jotunheim and Helheim. For those of you who do not know much about the Nine Realms of Norse mythology, I will give a short description of each realm visited. Because I had no idea about any of these worlds at the time Loki brought me there, I wrote down my own perception of them, adding small details later, after I had done a little research on the Nine Realms. Nevertheless, I found the descriptions of the realms astoundingly similar to what I had seen so I will include excerpts of “Ella’s story” in the following text.
Some of the places Loki took me to were wonderful, while others were dark and sometimes a bit terrifying. Each one of them revealed a particular aspect of the Goddess and with Loki’s guidance I got in touch with parts of my nature that I had forgotten – the fierce power and awesome beauty that slumbers within all females on this planet and which complements our sweetness, softness and compassion. Since I shared Ella’s experiences quite vividly I would like to introduce you to some of her (and my) teachers and the beginning of my friendship with the Goddess.
Vanaheim (Realm of the Vanir, Deities of Fertility)
They arrived on a lush meadow stretching out over gentle hills under a deep blue sky. Vanaheim was a realm of magic and agriculture, pulsing with life energy. Ella took a deep breath, inhaling the sweet and pleasantly humid air that felt so different to Earth and Asgard. What she noticed first in the new environment was the vibrance of colours – the green of the land, the blue of the sky, the flowers – everything seemed fertile and full of life. It was late spring and wildflowers dotted the pastures that stretched over the soft hills with patches of woodland nestled in between.
Shedding the shame of being female
Vanaheim is a peaceful and extremely beautiful place. Nature is abundant there and full of pulsating life-force (some may call it sexual energy) which is very tangible in this realm – you can literally pick it up in the very air you breathe. It is here that I encountered the Goddess first in the formless form of the Universal Mother – as an immensely loving and compassionate presence who, while holding me in Her embrace, took away a lot of pain I carried and She started me off on my healing journey to make peace with my own feminine energy.
Being fertility deities, the Vanic Gods and Goddesses have a very strong connection to the Mother Goddess, so it is no surprise to me that my journey started there. Coming to Vanaheim felt like returning home. The teacher I encountered there was Anait, a fearless, slightly intimidating and strikingly beautiful Goddess who taught me about what she called female magic. She let me see that even though the power of the Goddess slumbers inside every female on earth we were “programmed” to fear it. To fear our own power. Anait asked me to give up this fear and doing so tread loose an avalanche of information that started to flood me on inner and outer levels making me question and discard many of the old beliefs I held so far.
I “received” names and words which I would research outwardly by reading books and articles, before sitting down to meditate on them. I discovered the worlds of the Toltec shamans, Shaktism and ancient Sumerian Goddesses. In my research I “accidently” came across the ancient Canaaite warrior Goddess Anat (also called Anait!) and learned some pretty interesting facts about original meanings of words like “virgin” which means effectively “a woman who claims ownership of herself” or “independent woman”, while the word “harlot” derives originally from a word for a priestess of the Goddess, denominating a sexually independent woman of high status, who offered her body in the holy act of a sacred marriage. Needless to say, I abandoned a lot of old beliefs I held while spending time with Anait and shed much of the “shame” of being female. It was Anait who made me aware that sexual energy is sacred and that the way we squander it in our society nowadays is an insult to this unique and holy energy that essentially is the Goddess and should be revered accordingly.
“In ancient times women were regarded as the mediators between the Goddess and her children (humanity) and they were thought to be able to access the power of the Goddess more easily than men, because they could more easily identify with Her. Later, when the masculine force became imbalanced by the male desire for power and control, men relegated women to a lower class, caused in part by their fear of women’s “magic” — particularly the ability to give birth and their intuitive gifts. Violence against women increased as men who felt powerless resorted to rape.
Nowadays many men are stuck playing tough roles, because they have unlearnt how to connect to their emotions, while many women learned that submission and passivity are their tickets to survival. Domesticated females often seek power through pleasing (or manipulating) men and bind them by baring children. One of the female dramas is the need for protection and security that leads to the need to bind and possess. The male drama is being trapped in their urge to protect, procreate and their greed for power. Sexual energy is not intended as a tool for power or gratifying one’s own pleasure, nor for senseless reproduction. It is a sacred energy. It brings us in touch with our feelings and on a higher level, sexual energy or Kundalini, is a quest for wholeness – the unity of the male and female inside of ourselves.
Only few women and men use this energy with reverence and responsibility in your world. And not all women are meant to be mothers. The sacred females of the past, daughters of the Great Goddess, acted as priestesses, sorceresses, prophets, wise women, and healers before they were pursued, degraded and often killed.” ~Anait
Anait also offered me the gift of equality by healing the broken feminine part within me that had been abused and corrupted (by men) and was therefore unable to trust the masculine energy. Up until then my feminine side had been feeling exceedingly weak and powerless … and I could very much relate to those female “dramas”. Being equal is not about being treated the same way or acting the way men do, neither is it about pushing one’s opinion or being tough. Equality is all about self-respect and self-love, something Loki has been ardently teaching me. Anait conveyed all that to me through the beautiful story of Ninlin and Enlil.
The story of Ninlin and Enlil
“It is said that the young God Enlil set eyes on the maiden Ninlil, and burnt with desire for her. And Ninlil liked to be courted by Enlil, the proudest of all gods, but she did not know how to value herself. Both of them were inexperienced and Enlil, being impetuous, forced himself upon her and planted his seed in her womb against her will. Ninlil, hurt beyond measure by the violence she had been subjected to, took Enlil to trial in front of the assembled Great Gods to demanded his punishment. Enlil was condemned to descend into the lower realms, but Ninlil who was bound to him by her love, descended after him to bring him back. They meet three times. Each time Enlil, who had not approached her as a tender lover, begs for her affection and learns to control himself and court her respectfully. While Ninlil, as his hardest judge, learns to see the healed man beyond the conceited young God. Love and responsibilty go hand in hand – even though Ninlil’s dream of her tender lover had been destroyed, through her descent she takes responsibility for her own incapability to value herself. On their journey through the lower realms, they learn to value and accept not only each other, but themselves and thus both rise to a new form of lovers. They will stand the hardest trials to be together as equals in the end.”
Anait also asked me to “clear” my energy residues of past romantic relationships and referred to a technique I already knew as “recapitulation” (a Toltec shaman technique). Through physical relationships we entangle our own energies with those of the other person, in this way we can be bound to each other even after the relationship has ended. Recapitulation is a good way to clear these entanglements.
The Goddess Anait is a priestess, a shaman, a sorceress, and overall an independent and incredibly strong woman. Even though She chose to appear to me in the form of Anait or Anat, an ancient Goddess of Fertility and War, I really believe Her to be the Vanir Goddess Freya who is the Norse Goddess of Beauty, Fertility and War, and leader of the Valkyries.
Jotunheim (Realm of Giants)
The air was cool and full of life. Invigorating. Gigantic trees with trunks the size of small houses reached their branches skywards, the lush foliage forming a dense canopy of leaves high above her head. She looked around and noticed a gap between the trees, where the rock extended out like a platform. Her feet had taken her towards it before she had time to think and as Ella stepped out between the shelter of the trees, her mouth dropped open in awe of the view that lay before her. The flat rock surface she stood on protruded out over a large valley. High up, wisps of clouds gathered around snow capped mountain peaks that towered above a lush green forest, a wild river meandering its way through the valley underneath. Everything here was gigantic. Gigantic, wild and powerful.
Claiming back power
Jotunheim is magnificent and powerful. Nature here is very different to Vanaheim – it is raw, wild and awe inspiring (a bit like Loki). The teacher I met here is a fearless and fierce warrior, a shaman, an independent woman, a loving mother and a strong leader and she is feared by many. Angrboda is the “Chiefess of the Nine Clans”, the tribes that live in a place called the Iron Wood. She is also the Leader and Mother of the Clan of the Wolves. While She is independent and somewhat wild, Angrboda is also a mother who loves Her children like only a mother could – unconditional – no matter how ugly, terrifying or beautiful they are and she would defend them with her life without hesitation. To me She represents the raw, primordial and fierce aspect of female energy that is deeply engrained in human beings and reveals itself as our instincts. Angrboda can help us accept and control this energy.
While the Wolf-Warrior-Goddess is sometimes dismissed as “Loki’s wife in Jotunheim”, I would probably describe Loki as Her consort, because She seems to wear the pants in their relationship (sorry, Loki). Well, I know this is not quite true either, because from what I gathered, Angrboda essentially is the wild primordial energy that Loki wields and works with. One cannot compare it to any human relationship because they are more intrinsically connected with each other than we could ever understand. Loki sent me to Angrboda to learn detachment, independence … and also to lighten Angrboda’s grief – or rather, Her heart.
The girl looked up, facing a tall, muscular woman clad in wolfskin. Her red hair was partly braided and fell down to her hips, she had a harsh, yet beautiful face and carried a half-moon shaped knife. The Goddess’ hard grey eyes pierced Ella as she rose gracefully to her feet and gave a deep bow, somewhat awestruck by this warrior Goddess who without doubt deserved her respect and reverence. The sorceress was frightening and at the same time, Ella felt strengthened and protected by her presence.
“I am Angrboda, chieftess of the nine clans of the Iron Woods. I have awaited your arrival. You come to be free from the bondage of attachment and tread the path of the warrior. What is it you will offer me in return?” Ella was taken aback. This kind of welcome was not quite what she had expected, but she recognised a teacher when she stood in front of one and the voice inside her heart knew that she had come to learn exactly what Angrboda offered. “For as long as I am here, I shall serve your people,” Ella said, “I can use bow and arrow, yield a knife and shall offer my service in hunting and defending the clan.” “Will you defend it with your life?” “With my life and my blood.” Ella heard herself say as she slipped the knife from her belt and sliced her hand, made a fist and squeezed it so that her blood dripped on the dusty soil. Angroboda seemed satisfied and nodded. The chieftess was about to turn away when Ella asked, “Will you allow me to leave when my task here is done?” Grey eyes narrowed and glared at her before the grim Goddess nodded again. Then she turned and disappeared between the huts. Fanrea, the young girl who had escorted Ella, gave her a comforting smile. “You did well”, she said, “You have her respect.”
Angrobda looks straight into your being and if She finds sincerity and courage within you, She will embrace you as Her own. Angrboda is deadly and fearsome, but she also has a motherly and somewhat “growly” affectionate side as I call it. I learnt to love Her with all my heart.
The Warrior-Goddess conveyed to me the importance of independence and interdependence – wolves are fiercely independent individuals, while at the same time they value family and are excellent team-players. She taught me fearlessness when it comes to facing our own power and that all female creatures carry a “blade” within them, which is the power to defend themselves or their children – which can be ruthless and deadly.
Angrboda, like Loki, is one who leads us to see beyond moral concepts and human attachments. While Anait revealed to me that sexual energy is sacred, Angrboda warned me of the danger and pitfalls when it is misused.
“The desire of the flesh can bind you. Its power can consume you if you let it run loose, because it is aggressive by nature, making you greedily wish for more to satisfy your desires. But you will never find satisfaction. Greed of it will destroy you, as it is an abuse of your magic. You need to go beyond the flesh and severe the ties that bind you.” ~Angrboda
I respect and love Her deeply.
Helheim (Realm of the Dead)
A dusky sky stretched out over the apple trees she lay under. The silent breeze tore some leaves off the branches. An apple soundlessly dropped into the grass next to her. Autumn. She had forgotten it was autumn. Forgotten. Slowly the girl sat up and the first thing she noticed was that there was no sound. It was silent. It was peaceful. The meadow she had rested on stretched over a soft hill down to a river, but even though she saw the water flowing, there was no happy murmuring. And even though a breeze was gently blowing, everything was completely still.
Selfless Love and Detachment
The last realm I visited was Helheim, the realm of the dead. Beautiful in its own way, silent and tranquil, yet in some places also full of suffering. My teacher there was the Keeper of Helheim, a gracious and merciful woman – Loki’s daughter, the Goddess Hel.
Hel taught me about love. She made me see that we are creations of Eternity and all suffering is self-created and of our own choice – whether this choice is conscious or not. Detached, selfless love, and devotion to selfless action can alleviate our suffering and free us eventually. If we love without attachment, we love divinely. Divine love comes directly from the Goddess and has to flow through us freely in order to be offered properly. Love is the essence of everything. It should never be possessed, because as soon as we try to hold onto it we loose it. Love with attachment is an illusion. We need to realise that it is not ours to give and that we are merely instruments who pass it on so that it can spread. If we love with this awareness, then Love has the potential to bring life (light) into dead matter. Love can illumine and change the world.
Hel taught me about detachment, devoted service and that by acting without egotistical desire and surrendering all acts to God/Goddess we open ourself to the flow of Divine Grace.
All these were not new concepts to me, but it seemed that I finally started to internalise them.
Khaalida’s (Ella) eyes went wide at the sight of countless bodies writhing in agony, snakes wriggling between them, oozing poison from their sleek bodies that burnt their victims skins. Something in Khaalida’s chest contracted in pain, before it expanded with indescribable compassion.
“They are here on their own accord?” she asked and the pale lady next to her nodded.
“The doors are always open. Nobody is condemned to stay. Know that you cannot help them, as they choose to stay in their suffering.”
A vast, never-ending field of corpses stretched out in front of her. Vultures circled above it, swooping down to land on the corpses and peck at their insides. They would squirm in agony, some of them were screaming. Khaalida was terrified by the noise and despondency.
“You can help me if you go and drive away the vultures.”
Khaalida’s gaze swept over the endless field of bodies. Her heart sank, but then she remembered the love the lady had for them and she nodded, wordlessly marching out onto the field, terrified by screams of pain all around her. She scared away the vultures by waving her arms and yelling at them. They scratched her with their sharp claws and pecked at her eyes. Khaalida ripped a piece of fabric from her dress and blindfolded her eyes to protect them. She learned to listen and feel while she walked around the corpses, cautious not to step on them. She could hear the wings of the giant birds soaring and sensed them when they approached, and she knew by the blood curdling screams where they had landed. Living in eternal darkness without sight, Khaalida lost track of her existence. She kept fulfilling her task, her arms bloody and in pain from fending off the vultures with their sharp beaks, and over time the girl started to be lost in the despondency of the endless suffering of the dead around her. She felt lonely and utterly forgotten. Her lady had given her a task that she did not have the strength to fulfil, one that she could not bear to do anymore. As the screams around her grew louder, she pressed her hands on her ears and sank onto her knees, tears dripping down her face. Why was there so much suffering? Would it never end? They were all free to leave. Why were they all so consumed in their own suffering? She could not do this anymore. The girl sank on the ground between the dead and wept until she was completely empty. That was when She surrendered herself to the Lady Hel.
“I am willing to do it. Please, I cannot do this myself. I need you,” she whispered and felt a breeze brushing over her skin.
Slowly she scrambled to her feet and pulled off the blindfold. There on the field of corpses stood the fair lady of the dead, gazing at her silently. Khaalida stumbled towards her. The lady reached out a hand and touched the girl’s cheek, her eyes empty, as she leaned forward and placed a kiss on Khaalida’s lips. Hel’s lips were cold, the kiss eternal and empty of everything. It felt like floating into a void, loosing – everything. Letting go of anything that ever seemed of importance. When their lips parted, Khaalida felt stronger. Hel beheld her. The girls clothes had long withered, and she stood naked, her body smeared with blood and dust of the field of the dead. The only thing she carried was a golden flower around her neck. Hel touched it lightly and then the lady of the dead embraced her.
Even though most of my experience in Helheim was with the Goddess Hel, it was here that I experienced Loki in a different form – He was the dead matter brought to life by the loving touch of the Goddess and He was the Goddess’ consort, embracing Her on a field of corpses, surrounded by shrieking vultures. He was Her consort beyond Time and Space, even beyond creation. I later discovered this to be a form of the Hindu God Shiva who, in this particular aspect, is known by the name “Mahakala”, the Lord of Time, who is the consort of Mahakali.
My visit to Helheim may have been the most unusual of all experiences, because even as I was writing it down, I felt strangely detached from myself as if I had forgotten who I was. As surreal and dark as it was, I was never afraid. And all I have for Hel is love and reverence. Whoever comes to Her realm will find Her beyond judgement and all-accepting. I call Her “the compassionate mother of souls”.
Encountering these aspects of the Goddess was important for me so that I could shed the fear of my own feminine energy – my sexual energy, creative-energy, life-energy, Kundalini or whatever you may call Her. I dearly love these Goddesses that agreed to teach me and carry a deep respect for all of them. I am aware that they really are part of me, and that I can trust them and call upon them should I ever need to.
It took several months to absorb these experiences, even more to realise their value and also, that ever since Loki had entered my life, so had undeniably the Goddess. She has revealed many of her forms to me since then and I am deeply grateful for Her Grace.