Tag: Seidr

The White Lady in the Hollow Tree: The Hidden World of Gods, Fates and Fairies

In the time of year when the veil between the world of the living and the dead becomes blurred, I stumbled upon a ghost story that has some ancient ties to Norse mythology. 

In the Veluwe region of the Netherlands, the story is still told of a ghostly white lady who lives in a hollow tree. There in that hollow beech tree in the forest of Soeren, she spins her threads. It has been said that she is none other than one of the Norns, the Germanic goddesses of Fate.

The spinning woman that haunts this tree may be the youngest of the Norns, named Urth. Usually, the Norns are three in number, but in this story there is only one. An old 855 AD charter from the Gelderland region of the Netherlands speaks of the Urthensula, the “Pillar of Urth”, found in the Veluwe forest. 

Could the wood with the hollow tree be the same wood that was home to Urth’s pillar? Or, as van der Wall Perné asks in his Veluwsche Sagen[1], was this place once home to the World Tree, the great ash tree (or yew tree, many say), where the Norns weaved their threads of Fate for all the world?

But why, do I ask, does the lady reside in a hollow tree? That question made me ask myself why trees are hollow in the first place? Let’s first look at the folk tale and then let’s see to what realms our investigation takes us…

De Witte Juffer by Perné - The Norn in the hollow tree
“The White Lady of High Soeren”, by Gustaaf van der Wall Perné (1909)

The White Lady of High Soeren

Gustaaf van der Wall Perné was a collector of old folk stories from the Veluwe. The name of this region with its dry forests and heathlands was said to come from the Vale Ouwe, “the Pale Old One”. In his time already, around the turn of the 20th century, these old tales were almost forgotten. 

The tale of the Witte Juffer van Hoog Soeren, the “White Lady of High Soeren”, is one of several that he has collected around the hearth fire. The old people of the region told them that the tree was so hollow, that one could stand in it upright.

When one came into the forest at night, one could see a small light burning, and one could hear the Lady spinning inside the tree. Sometimes people heard knocking from inside the tree. At times, a black dog was seen with fiery eyes, prowling the forest. 

Several folk tales relate how common people were punished by the lady for their pride and the rude intrusions into her domain. One fellow met the black dog, and a little girl was grapped by her hair when she dared stick her head inside the hollow tree.

Those who were more cautious and respectful towards the spinning lady would be rewarded rather than punished. As one story goes, a blue light and two black ravens reveal the location of Urth’s treasure, which lies buried in the ground in a big and heavy chest.

Through the centuries, the goddesses of Fate that we know from the myths have been remembered in later folktales. No doubt, this came with many later variations and ideas on how the Norns manifest themselves to us. First, let’s look more closely at the hollow tree – that tree which may be a late memory of the old Germanic World Tree known as Yggdrasil by the Norse.

The hollow tree of Hoog Soeren
The old and decaying “Jufferboom”, the hollow tree where the White Lady is still said to reside. Photo source: Natuurmonumenten.

What Makes Trees Hollow?

We can ask ourselves: what makes trees hollow? There are several natural factors that can damage the outer layers of the tree, and expose the tree’s heartwood. Once a hole is created, it can grow larger as animals further develop the hole using their break, teeth or claws.

The hollow tree in the Dutch folktale has a very large cavity, large enough for a grown-up person to stand in. Such large holes tend to form in older trees, so the hollow tree of High Soeren was probably an old one already when tales about the hollow tree formed. But there is something else that causes trees to become hollow, eating away the wood of decaying trees: the bracket fungus.

The bracket fungus eats away at both living and dead trees. When the fungus works its way into the wood of the tree, it weaves a tangled web of usually colorless threads called the mycelium. Just like the Lady in White, who spins the threads of Fate inside the hollow tree, the bracket fungus (some of which are white in color) weaves its web of mycelium.

Mycelium growth on beech trees
Fungal Mycelium growth on beech leaves. Like the web of the Norns, the mycelium has power over life and death in the forest. Full Photo by Rosser1954 (source).

The Fate of the Forest

Networks of mycelium can grow to gigantic proportions, covering hundreds or even thousands of acres of woodland. It’s the mycelium which determines the fate of the entire forest. It’s a gigantic network of tentacles and sensors which decides to which plants or trees the nutrients should be distributed, deciding the fate of the entire food chain. In turn, it takes nutrients for itself, feeding off dead organisms.

The mycelium gives and takes life through an intelligent network of colorless wires and visible fungi. There is one problem though in trying to establish a link between tree fungi and the Norn in the hollow tree. The threads of the mycelium are usually too small to be seen with the naked eye. Only when they form together in big lumps can they be seen more easily[2].

The most noticeable way in which the fungus network reveals itself, is in the fruiting bodies that it sprouts on the surface that it lives on. These are what we would call the fungus or mushroom itself.

A nice analogy can be drawn between the threads of the Norns and the (almost invisible) threads which mushrooms weave through the forest, and through the wood of trees. But that doesn’t suffice to prove any connection between the Norns and (white) mushrooms growing on trees.

There are a more clues to be found though, when we look at the myths and folklore, and their implied connections with all that grow, including fungi…

Artist's Conk (Ganoderma Applanatum) on an oak tree
The Artist’s Conk (Ganoderma applanatum) on an oak stub. An example of one of the species of bracket fungi that grow on the wood of trees. Full photo by George Chernilevsky (source)

Gods and Trees

In the Eddic poem called Völuspa, the Norns were said to reside in a dwelling beneath the Tree. There, as the poem says, they carved into wood [3]. One could see the poetic link between the carving Norns and the mushrooms that eat their way into the tree.

David Mathisen, who explains the myths by showing the correlations with the stars, also suggested the possible link between the Norse god Odin and the mushroom. Odin is one of the gods who is strongly associated with the World Tree, and with all the flora and fauna that dwell in its roots and branches. 

It is not too far-fetched to suggest a link with that other forest-dweller: the mushroom. The mushroom often grows between the roots of the tree in a symbiotic relationship, and it’s from the roots of the Yggdrasil Tree that Odin carves his runes.

The Norns share the same strong link with the Tree as Odin does, and as they live at the base of the tree, they also live in the same place where mushrooms tend to grow. There, they are said to control life and make the laws of nature, either by spinning, carving on wood, or by singing.

Mushrooms could be called protectors of the forest. But when they appear on a tree, it’s usually a sign that the tree is becoming old, and decay starts setting in. But the Norns were said to protect the Tree of Life by spraying snow-white clay onto its trunk to prevent it from rot. When mushrooms cause white patches to appear on a tree though, it’s called “white rot”. It’s a sign of decay rather than something that keeps the tree healthy.

Be that as it may, we do find some more clues in the realm of the fairies…

Meadow Elves by Nils Blommér (1850)
Meadow Elves by Nils Blommér (1850) – source. Banks of mist or fairy rings were often linked to fairies, elves, or the ghosts of wise women or witches.

The Fair Folk

The Goddesses of Fate are not only similar to other gods, but they also have strong links to the fairy faith that is found in later folklore. In fact, the very word fairy has been derived from Fata, one of the Roman goddesses of Fate. The name Fata can be derived from Latin fatum: “fate, lot, destiny, death…” etc. This in turn comes from fatus: “having spoken, said”.

Urth and other goddesses of Fate have their counterpart in the Queen of the Fairies of the fairy faith that was prevalent across Europe. Like the Norns, the fairies were regarded as “beings of light”, or as “white beings”. Fairies are also called “the Fair Folk”, because they share this same luminous quality. This connection to light and brightness is found among the elves of the Old Norse faith, who are also described as supernatural beings of light.

In Scandinavia, the fall was the time when ancestors were worshipped. In this time of year, the sacrificial feast called the Álfablót was held behind closed doors. The Álfablót is the sacrifice to the elves – the sacrifice to the ancestors. And as Fjorn the Skald points out in his podcast called Fjorn’s Hall, the fall is also the time of year when mushrooms start popping out of the ground. Helped perhaps, by a sacrifice of blood.

There is a link between elves, ancestors and fertility. The earth provides the fertility of the land. The earth gives life, but it was thought necessary to nourish the earth with a sacrifice to give it something in return. New life can only grow out of the old, out of the ancestors who dwell beneath the earth.

It was thought in old folk belief that when one died and was buried, the deceased ancestor would continue to watch over the living from the grave. As the ancestor became one with the earth, the ancestor would also receive the powers of fertility, and help the living by providing them with all that grows.

The fairies too were said to live underground, in hollowed-out hills. The fairies of Ireland were once proud gods who were driven underground when mortals took over. This reminds us again of the White Lady living in the hollow tree. Even the afterlife of Odin, the great Valhalla with its army of the dead, was thought to be located in a hollow mountain or under the ground in older times. 

In the realm of fairies, which is so much bound to the earth and fertility, we also find a lot of clues that would link them to mushrooms. We have all heard of those rings of mushrooms called fairy rings or witches’ rings. In Ireland, the psychedelic Liberty Cap mushrooms are also called pookas, linking them to the Puck, the trickster spirits of the earth.

Woodcut of fairies dancing in a ring with giant mushroom
A woodcut of Fairies dancing in a ring near a large mushroom and a hill with a doorway (source). As David Mathisen has shown, there is a constellation which can play the role of both a hill or a mountain, and also a doorway. 

Spirits in the Sky

The Otherworld of gods, elves, and fairies can be found beneath the ground, in dreams, in psychedelic visions, and most probably in the stars of a moonless night as well. In the darkness of the night, the lines between sky and earth become blurred. They merge in the absence of light, with only the stars to guide the way.

As David Mathisen has convincingly demonstrated in Star Myths of the World Volume Four, the Norns and their weaving may also be seen in the stars. There, the Norns can be seen spinning where the Milky Way is brightest, near the Core of our own Galaxy. And there too we may see the hollow mountain of Valhalla, and perhaps also the hollow tree of the Lady in White of Dutch folklore.

In the sky, we may even see the black ravens of the folktale reflected in the celestial birds Cygnus and Aquila. And the dog with its burning eyes is perhaps none other than the dog of the Underworld, the hound of Hel, which we can find in a constellation with a fiery red star. And between the ravens and the dog, you may just find the chest of treasure that is alluded to…

As I found out by reading the experiences of people who have used psychedelic substances like magic mushrooms, some interesting things can happen when combining the effects of psychedelics with stargazing. Many users have reported seeing lines appear between the stars in an interconnected web.

This too reminds us of the fact that we can see similar phenomena on different planes of reality. Here too, the Norns can be seen “weaving their threads”.

The fairies, who are so similar to the Norns, were not only said to reside underground, but also in the air. Sometimes they were said to be engaged in aerial battles with shimmering armor and a clamour of weapons. This again, is a late echo of the former cosmic battles between the different tribes of gods.

Perhaps the ancients also saw the weaving and spinning of threads in the multiple tails of bright comets, which from time to time pass the earth. Coming closer to the sun, they often flare up like a torch, gliding slowly through the air like a white ghost. Or perhaps like shining gods, witches in white ( like Hecate with her torches), like shining elves or as the spirits of ancestors

Psychedelic mushrooms and constellations
Many people who have combined a psychedelic experience – whether from LSD or magic mushrooms – with stargazing, have reported seeing lines form between the stars like an interconnected web.

Finding Explanations

The myths are written like riddles, and to truly understand them, we have to look at them from various different perspectives. The language they are written in is likely linked to the stars, but I suspect that they contain additional layers of meaning on different levels.

One critique that I have encountered in trying to find explanations for the myths is that these explanations are “naturalistic”, and distract from the profound metaphysical truths that they want to convey. But I would like to object by pointing out that nature is the way in which these metaphysical laws manifest themselves to us, and this language of nature is what has been used to explain in metaphor that which is beyond words.

David Mathisen too emphasizes that while the myths are found in the stars, they are not merely about astronomy. The stars are used as a metaphor for explaining the world beyond our own, that world which is more spirit than matter. When looking for natural or celestial explanations, it’s good to be reminded of the spiritual value of myths.

The inhabitants of the Veluwe saw the Norn Urth in the hollow of a tree. In the eastern parts of the Netherlands, the Norns are also linked to the banks of mist that form above the ground when the days are getting colder. Here they are called witte wieven, “the women in white” or the ghosts of  “wise women”, who were often said to dwell amid the old grave mounds as the spirits of dead witches.

Seeing the Norns manifested in so many possible ways, we can conclude that all along, they are not really of this world, yet they are still part of it. They are of a world that is not our own, yet the threads that they weave manifest in the physical reality that we find ourselves in.

As the Dutch folk tale shows, the powers of Fate are neither good nor bad. They can both reward and punish. They tend to treat those well who do well, and punish those who had it coming. 

We find the same moral ambiguity among the Irish fairies, who can both help and hurt. The laws of cause and consequence are essentially those of past, present and future. This trio is found again in the three Norns Urdr, Verdandi and Skuld: “Origins” (Past), “Becoming” (Present) and “Debt” (Future). 

By understanding the ways in which the powers of Fate manifest themselves, we can enrich our understanding of how the laws of this world work, and how those transcend the world of matter. As a consequence, we may better understand the poetic minds of ancient peoples, and how they shaped history and myth.

Featured Image: Samlede Eventyr, the “Gathering at Dusk” by Theodor Kittelsen (1907) – source

Map:


Notes

[1] Perné, Gustaaf Frederik Wall. Veluwsche sagen. Sirius en Siderius, 1993.

[2] Structure of Fungi

[3] Völuspa 20 (Bellows)

Veluwsche Sagen by Gustaaf F.W. Perné

Bundle 1 (contains the Lady in White Saga)

Bundle 2

The Völuspá

Bellows translation (stanzas 16-20)

The Norns

Fjorn’s Hall

Álfablót: Sacrificing to the Elves

Fairies and Psychedelics

Otherworld Gnosis: Fairy Ointments and Nuts of Knowledge by Dr Norman Shaw

The Mysterious and Lost Magic Mushroom Rituals of the Ancient Celts

David Mathisen

Starmythworld.com

Star Myths of the World Volume Four: Norse Mythology

Buddha, Odin, Mushrooms

Myths, Meteors and Comets

Myths and Meteors: How Ancient Cultures Explained Comets and Other Chunks of Rock Falling From the Sky


Constellations and Psychedelics: Did Ancient Shamanic Techniques Enhance Stargazing?

How did the constellations come to be? At what point did ancient peoples decide to connect the dots and draw lines between the stars to form pictures and symbols?

The thought occurred to me that ancient shamans would have perhaps aided their stargazing experience with mind-altering herbs or mushrooms, and that this may have helped in the creation of constellations. We know that shamans and cultists worldwide have deployed a wide variety of shamanic techniques, with or without the use of psychedelics, to achieve altered states of awareness.

There is also evidence that the mythology of ancient cultures all over the world have linked their myths and beliefs to the constellations. Norse myth is no exception. Göbekli Tepe in modern-day Turkey – the world’s oldest expression of religion to date – seems to be aligned to the stars; the animals on its pillars reflecting the constellations in the sky.

If both vision journeys and stargazing were an important part of ancient belief, then how did the two come together? How did they evolve or co-evolve? I wondered if the use of a particular psychedelic could even have the effect of making visible lines appear between stars, forming psychedelic-induced constellations. This was just an idea, but as it turns out, there seems to be a reality to it.

Since I have no direct experience of the effects of psychedelics myself, let alone in combination with stargazing, I would have to rely on the experiences of others. If I could find multiple independent reports of the effects I had in mind, then there could be something to this idea. So I did a search query on Google, and already on the first hit, I found exactly the thing I was looking for.

Stargazing at the Milky Way band
The combination of stargazing and LSD is apparently a famous one in the psychedelic community. Could psychedelics have helped in the creation of the first constellations? Photo of the Milky Way by the ESO (source)

Lines Connecting the Stars

Multiple threads popped up in my search engine about the experiences that people have had when they combined the effects of psychedelics with gazing at the stars. One of the effects mentioned, and confirmed by multiple others, is the sensation of lines forming between stars. Could this have played a part in the origin of our constellations?

I am not urging people here to try psychedelics for themselves, but I do think that they have their benefits when used in a responsible way. And likely, they have played an important part in the development of culture, religion, and science from the ancient world until now – an idea that is still not very popular with the establishment.

In finding out the origins of our traditions and beliefs, no stone can be left unturned. Let’s look at some of the experiences that people have had when combining stargazing with LSD. The first is from this Reddit thread:

“I live up in North Idaho, in a small community that has hardly any people. Light pollution is very low so the stars, in September, are extremely vibrant and you can see the “milky” appearance [of] our Milky Way galaxy. Anyway, several of my friends and I were up on a high mountain peak, each of us tripping off probably 350μg – 450μg of LSD and we all took several dabs.”

It’s true that in the mountains, and in regions with little to no light pollution, many more stars can be seen, and also the band of the Milky Way can become visible to the naked eye. After exiting the car, the user lay down on the cold gravel, together with friends, to look at the stars:

“I got this crazy feeling, that I could feel our planet moving through space as if I was on some amusement ride. The stars in the sky almost appeared a reddish color to me ( I’m very colorblind, not that I think it has anything really to do with it) and I could see the sky shifting […]

I started to really concentrate on the Big Dipper, at the star at the front of the ladle . I would try to stare at it and not look away at all for a minute or two at a time. What really hit me, was I saw whitish lines that were connecting all the stars. Sort of like a connect the dots game. The more I thought about it, the more I saw it. 

I had a trip on mushrooms, roughly 3 grams was consumed, where I had the same experience with the lines between the stars.”

Here we have the first mention of “whitish lines” appearing and forming connections between the stars. In the comments, another user confirmed the experience, but reported seeing “green lights” between the stars:

“I know nothing but the 3 times I tripped with my best friend we got on her roof and the stars connected themselves drawing their own green soaring lights between each star. It was fascinating.”

Lines forming constellations under influence of psychedelics
Lines forming spontaneously between the stars is an effect of psychedelics that multiple people have reported. Illustration by Arthur Koopmans. Stock image used: Dreamstime

Following the Thread

So far we have two reports describing a similar experience: that of stars starting to connect themselves while on a psychedelic journey. This experience has been observed under the influence of LSD, and also psychedelic mushrooms. Let’s look at an experience given in another Reddit thread:

“At some point, I looked up at the sky and couldn’t speak or close my mouth. I was experiencing pure awe. Every star was as clear as day, and I saw these vivid thread-like lines connecting them all, just like a map of the constellations. These lines seemed delicate, and made the sky look like it was decorated with these studded geometric shapes. Has anyone ever experienced this?

 […] 

My friend sees the lines connecting the stars too. We’re both pointing to stars and seeing the same ‘constellations.’ I am no astronomer by any means, and I never really studied much on the constellations, so I have no idea whether or not we were seeing an accurate map. All I know is that it was probably the most incredible thing I’ve experienced while tripping.”

Here we have a third person experiencing the same sensation. Whether there is any consistency in the shapes of the “constellations” in different trips is unknown, but it does seem as if the creation of constellations comes even more naturally when in an altered state.

Magic mushrooms - linked to the stars?
Magic mushrooms were one of the methods that were naturally available for ancient peoples to reach altered states of awareness. Photo by John Shortland (source)

Touching the Stars

A variety of other effects have been reported, dealing with rotation and movement of the earth and/or the stars. In this comment on the above post, the user describes the stars appearing to come closer:

… “I was sitting on the ground showing my friend how to juggle (one of my strange hobbies) and we both started to look up at the sky. I’ll never forget the prominence of the stars, but what stood out to me was how it looked like the sky was falling. The harder I concentrated, the closer the stars appeared — it was the strangest feeling ever, but awesome at the same time.”

The original writer of the post confirms this, saying:

“Yes, that’s a great detail that I left out. My entire field of vision was enveloped by the night sky, and it started to appear like a huge dome, similar to a massive planetarium. It definitely all started to seem like it was close enough to touch

I remember mentioning how I wanted to reach out and pluck the threads connecting the stars, and then desperately tried (and failed) to articulate what I thought that might sound like.”

The details that are mentioned here are very interesting. The user describes the lines connecting the stars as “threads”. This reminds me of the practice of seidr magic in the Norse world, which is related to the weaving and spinning of threads. The three Norns for example weave the threads of Fate, but this is a topic for another time.

Another interesting detail mentioned above is the attempt to articulate what it might sound like to “pluck the threads”, as if the strings which make up the constellations can produce musical notes. Certainly, synesthesia is a phenomenon that can be induced with chemical agents

Again, the experience of lines connecting the stars is confirmed by users in the comments: “I had the same experience deep in the mountains of Colorado this summer. Every single star was connected. One of the greatest nights of my life.”

Long exposure cameras make the Milky Way better visible
A long exposure camera has the same effect as the dilation of the pupils at night: it makes you see more stars. Photo by Jordan Cordon (source)

All the Stars in the Sky

Some have reported seeing more stars while using LSD or mushrooms. Here’s another one from the same thread:

“I have always wondered how it works, stargazing on both of them [LSD and mushrooms] makes the night sky so busy… So many stars, patterns, so much beauty. I’ve wondered if you truly are seeing more stars and nightly activity, or if it is more a trick of vision. Either way, it is absolutely stunning.”

An amateur astronomer confirms:

“You definitely can see more stars while tripping! I’m an amateur Astronomer who lives in a rural area in Texas (not a complete dark sky site but the views are pretty good). I hang outside all the time when I’m on acid and can verify you can see a lot more stars and points of light.”

At night, especially when there is little light pollution, your pupils dilate naturally, making you able to see more stars. There is of course a limit to how far your pupils can dilate. But is it possible to see more stars in altered states of awareness? Is the brain able to generate more visual detail, which would otherwise have been filtered out? Perhaps.

So that was the popular forum Reddit so far. My search results also brought up experiences from forums dedicated to the use of psychedelics. Let’s see what more we can find…

The post on this forum describes the experience of a friend called Bob while at a music festival:

“When looking up at the night sky, Bob was able to see so much more than he had ever seen. all the stars were connected, as if all the constellations had become completely vivid. He could see geometric lines connecting hundreds of stars.. 

But Bob wasn’t sure if this was just a mental hallucination, or if the acid was just showing him more of what was literally there in the universe. Was what he saw accurate? How exactly does this work? What are other people’s experiences stargazing with acid? Bob found this incredibly fascinating and beautiful, and wants to know more..”

This experience describes the same arrangement of effects that we have seen mentioned before: seeing more stars, with lines connecting them in different colors, and the mention of geometric shapes or lines. Apparently, LSD and stargazing is a famous combination, as one commenter mentions.

Another user in the thread saw red lines connecting the stars, instead of white or green ones, and various other effects related to motion. It is known that visual shapes and visual distortions appear while under the influence of psychedelics. Perhaps these added shapes can combine with the stars to create these lines?

Psychedelic webs of light in the stars
Users of mushrooms and LSD have reported seeing interconnected threads of light between the stars. Illustration by Arthur Koopmans. Stock image: (stars and web)

Webs of Light

Another user describes the experience as follows, also bringing up the connection with shamanism:

“Personally, I wasn’t quite seeing the lines as physical things, but I was so aware of them that I may as well have. They appeared as triangles and even prisms in some places. Since I was not hallucinating the stars themselves, I have to think the lines were real, and that LSD supercharged my ability to see the connections. It’s all about seeing patterns and connections.

I also have to wonder if the people who originally saw the constellations were in a shamanic state of mind similar to what we’d regard as a psychedelic state…”

Someone on another psychedelics forum reports not being able to see constellations under normal circumstances (and without proper training), but being able to see lines when using mushrooms: “I can see the constellations plain as day with the lines connecting them.”

This description is even more visual: “… I remember on the first mushroom trip I ever had, I swear I saw incredibly fine spider-silk like, rainbow/electric filaments connecting the stars— it was incredible…”

It can certainly be argued that when we look up at the night sky, the pattern recognition apparatus in our brain automatically starts seeing shapes in the stars. While it can be difficult to find the larger constellations as they have been constructed for us, it is quite easy to see simpeler geometric shapes without too much effort.

The simpler shapes such as lines, triangles and squares (e.g. the Great Square in the constellation Pegasus)  are experienced with ease, although I personally don’t see the actual lines appearing when envisioning the constellations with the same clarity with which I can see the stars. Seeing the stars with the aid of psychedelics is something else apparently, as is also pointed out by this user:

“The odd thing is, they only connect the constellations … it’s like people didn’t invent them – they discovered them

The user clarifies this further by saying that the stars within the constellations appeared to be connected, but the constellations themselves appeared separate from each other.

Another user reported seeing the lines shift between different sets of stars, and also wondering whether these are actual constellations or something close to it. The idea of “webs of light” has been mentioned, one user even speaking of an “interconnected 3-dimensional spider web”, with all stars connecting, complemented with interesting patterns and sacred geometry.

Neurogenesis

The idea of a web forming between the stars brings to my mind the idea of neurogenesis. In this Joe Rogan episode, mycologist Paul Stamets explains how (psychedelic) mushrooms can rewire our brains, reconnecting the neurons in our brain in new ways. When our brain gets stale and becomes trapped in the same routines, neurogenesis could be seen as a process that provides new growth, new connections, and increased creativity.

Paul Stamets thinks that we all have a form of dementia to a certain degree, and he thinks that mushrooms of various sorts could help us to keep our brains younger and less rigid.

Joe Rogan#1035 – Paul Stamets. Mycologist Paul Stamets explains to Joe how mushrooms can rejuvenate the brain throught the process of neurogenesis (link)

Our Ancient Connection with the Stars

As mentioned by another user, looking at the stars is a wonderful experience under any state of mind. Looking at the stars without the aid of psychedelics can already feel like a mind-altering experience. And it is certainly possible, with some effort, to become familiar with the constellations, and to learn how to recognize them in the sky at different parts of the year without the use of psychedelics.

Knowledge of the constellations would have been a very practical thing for our ancestors. They can tell us which season we are in, or which month of the year. The stars can even help us to find our place in the greater cycle of the precession of the equinox. For sailors, they can also help to find out where the north is, and which latitude they are on.

Having knowledge of the stars can be both a practical thing (especially in earlier times, or without access to technology), but also a profoundly spiritual thing. In the constellations of the night sky, ancient cultures could see the gods and their myths played out. Can we perhaps find another clue in the fact that many ancient Mystery cults held their celebrations at night?

It certainly is possible that the ancients imagined these constellations without the help of psychedelics or any other kinds of shamanic techniques. But with so many people reporting the spontaneous generation of threads between the stars, and even the sensation of separate “constellations”, one has to wonder whether or not psychedelics played any part in the birth of the first constellations many, many aeons ago.

Once again, I’d like to point out that I’m not calling on people to try this out for themselves. The use of psychedelics is not something that should be taken too lightly. In ancient societies, the use of psychedelics was to a large extent ritualized, and performed under the guidance of experienced elders.

But if you happen to know of experiences like the ones mentioned in this investigation, especially if these contain additional insights, feel free to share them!


Forum Threads

Reddit (thread 1) and (thread 2)

Stargazing on Mushrooms – The Psychedelic Experience

Acid and Stargazing

Shamanism

Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (1964) by Mircea Eliade

Synesthesia

The induction of synaesthesia with chemical agents: a systematic review

Joe Rogan

#1035 – Paul Stamets

#1543 – Brian Muraresku & Graham Hancock

Ancient Psychedelics

The Immortality Key: The Secret History of the Religion with No Name  (2020) by Brian C. Muraresku

Star Myths

Odin’s Sacrifice: A Myth Written in the Stars

Starmythworld.com

Buddha, Odin, Mushrooms

The Wisdom of the Dead: A History of Comets and Catastrophe

Odin was on an urgent mission to gather as much knowledge as he could. The fate of the whole world was at stake. The Doom of the Gods was already woven into the tapestry of the Norns.

The Allfather, with his long cloak and broad-brimmed hat, travelled all the Nine Worlds on his steed, searching for knowledge in all directions. He hung himself for nine nights from the World Tree Yggdrasil to gain greater awareness. Then, he wounded himself with a spear, and deprived himself of food and drink.

Odin even sacrificed an eye to obtain a drink from the well of the wise Mimir, to gain knowledge of all the things that happen outside of ordinary reality. But dropping his eye into Mimir’s Well was still not enough to turn the wheels of fate.

The Völva

There was more wisdom to be gleaned. Not from the world of the living, but from the world of the dead. In the Völuspá, the first poem in the Poetic Edda, Odin summons a dead seeress from her grave to question her about Ragnarök, the Doom of the Gods.

The dead have witnessed events that we, the living, have long forgotten. Whatever the dead have experienced in their lives, and whatever wisdom and intellectual treasures they have amassed, they have taken it with them into the grave. It makes sense that in the Norse poems, Odin disturbs the slumber of a dead völva, a seeress of a past age, to question her about what is to come.

In Norse society, the völva was seen as an oracle, a seeress who could travel the webs of Fate and predict the future. In the Völuspá, the “Witch’s Prophesy”, Odin summons the old woman from her grave, and she gives him her prediction of the future.

The seeress says:

Hear my words, all the holy races,

All of Heimdall’s sons, both high and low;

You summoned me, Allfather,

To tell you what I remember,

Old tales of men long ago.

Völuspá, stanza 1[1]

Ragnarök and Cyclical Time

Predicting the future becomes a lot easier when you have knowledge of what happened before. Our future is written in the tales of men and women long ago.

In our modern era, we perceive time as something linear, a continuous progression from the Stone Age up to the technologically advanced age that we’re living in now. But if we look at the passing of the seasons, from winter to summer and back, we should know that time is also cyclical.

The seasons faithfully return each year, alternating in cycles of growth and decay, of death and rebirth. The years that we wander this earth can be counted in the number of winters or summers that we have experienced.

We see similar cycles repeated on different scales, on different levels of existence, and we can observe these cycles of death and rebirth on a larger, cosmic level as well. The Ragnarök myth, as it is presented in the Poetic Edda, is a cyclical event. It’s not a definite end to all life, as in some doomsday prophecies; it is the cyclical end and rebirth of our world.

Battle of the Doomed Gods by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine (1882) - Ragnarök
Battle of the Doomed Gods” by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine (1882) – source

Odin presses the völva to give him all the details of the disaster that awaits. She explains to him how the sun and the moon will be devoured by wolves. Snow will start falling in summer, and people will feel the bite of a terrible cold. The World Tree will shake in agony. 

There will be violence and moral decay. Brothers will fight brothers, while the gods are launched into a war with giants of frost, fire, and venom. Heaven and earth will be cloven. The Bridge to the Gods will burn, and the earth will sink beneath the sea…

Digging up the Records of the Past

Like Odin, we too are digging up the past. Archaeologists are excavating ancient sites, disturbing the remains of men, women, and animals of ages long ago. Tombs and their treasures tell the story of the past. Each new find is a new verse to be told.

The earth itself has kept a record of the past in layers of rock and ice, with ancient fossils and pockets of air trapped inside. Trees have kept a record of how well they liked each year in their rings.

By examining ancient records, scientists have found increasing evidence for several major tears in the fabric of the past. More than one major catastrophe has struck humans during their time here on earth. Many of these episodes of cosmic catastrophe have happened since the Last Ice Age, and many went before.

Excavation of the Oseberg Ship (1904-1905)
Excavation of the Oseberg Ship (1904-1905) – source
What secrets have ancient peoples taken with them into their graves?

We tend to think that major comet impacts only happened to the dinosaurs around 65 million years ago, but something nearly as catastrophic happened as recently as 12,800 years ago. Just when the earth was finally escaping the Last Ice Age and started to warm up, a bombardment from space sent the Northern Hemisphere back to a world of ice and snow for another 1000 years.

The Younger Dryas

This episode of global cooling is called the Younger Dryas, named after an alpine flower that grows in arctic conditions. Across multiple continents, scientists have found a black mat layer, dated to the Younger Dryas Boundary (YDB). This black mat layer contains proxies that point to a cosmic impact, and the global wildfires that ensued, burning 10 percent of the planet’s biomass.

At the base of this layer, scientists have found nanodiamonds, microspherules, melt glass, platinum particles, and other indicators strongly suggest that there was a major bombardment, likely from multiple fragments of a large comet.

One of the famoes Joe Rogan interviews with Graham Hancock and Randall Carlson about the onslaught of the Younger Dryas Impact Event.

Several large fragments likely hit the North American ice sheet, which was two miles thick at the time, launching football-stadium-sized chunks of ice across the continent.

As pieces of space rock hit the ice sheet, some of them might not have left a crater, as they ploughed through two miles of ice, or exploded in the air. But two large craters have been found under the ice of Greenland, and the preliminary dating of one of them is close to the Younger Dryas Boundary.

Impacts in the ice would have caused enormous, catastrophic meltwater floods, scarring the landscape, and leaving behind giant erratic boulders.

According to catastrophist geologist Randall Carlson, the Channeled Scablands in eastern Washington are the physical evidence of a single catastrophic meltwater flood.   Left: A topographic map of the Scablands (source). – Right: A view in the “Channeled Scablands” of eastern Washington. Washington, Wenatchee, by Harley D. Nygren, 1948 (source).

Tales of catastrophic floods that cover the tops of mountains are found in myths worldwide. We find it in the story of Noah’s Ark, and flood myths are also found all across the American continent. Often, they describe the sun growing dark, black rain and hail, indescribable cold, and fire or snakes falling from the sky.

Now, with all the research that has been done on the YDI event and other episodes of cosmic upheaval, we know that humans have actually witnessed events on the scale that is described in these myths and legends.

Not only was the onset of the Younger Dryas catastrophic, this thousand year period came to an equally abrupt end around 11,600 years ago. The climate suddenly took a turn for the better, and a large pulse of meltwater from melting glaciers set the tone for the large rise in sea levels that was to follow.

Interestingly, 9600 BC is also exactly the date that Plato gives for the sinking of Atlantis. Many ancient continents, like the former Indonesian continent called Sundaland, and the landmass of Doggerland in Northern Europe were submerged beneath the waves as the sea level rose with about 150 meters since the end of the Ice Age.

comet impact into the North American ice sheet at the Younger Dryas
Several large fragments of a comet likely hit the North American ice cap at the YDB. Stock image by Max Haase (2010) – source. Edited by the author.

The events of the Younger Dryas Boundary would have been catastrophic for human populations living at the time. Clovis arrowheads were not found above the black mat layer, indicating that an entire North American culture had been wiped out. In Europe, it was the Federmesser culture that was erased from existence.

The majority of the different species of megafauna, including various species of bison, horses, and mammoths, were exterminated during this cataclysm.

A Timeline of Catastrophe

Between the end of the Ice Age and the present day, many other periods of cosmic bombardment followed. There were also the so-called kiloyear events, which were episodes of change in global climate, causing droughts in some regions, and excessive rainfall and floods in other regions. These kiloyear events too, were likely caused by fragments of comets falling down to earth, causing major disruptions in ancient cultures and civilizations.

In the timeline below, you can see several of the larger episodes of cataclysm and global climate change of the last 15,000 years:

A timeline of cosmic catastrophe and comets (Arthur Koopmans)
A timeline of catastrophic and cometary events that have shaped human history since the past 15,000 years. Illustration by Arthur Koopmans.

Most of these impact events would have been caused by comets and meteors from the Taurid Meteor Stream, which the earth passes twice each year. Every 3000 years or so, the earth passes through the densest part of the stream. It is this heavier part of the stream that contains some real monsters, that are bound to descend upon our planet at some future date.

The last time that the earth crossed the most dangerous part of the Taurid Stream was at the time of the Dark Ages. There are many accounts from that time, speaking of fire and brimstone, poisonous dragons, falling stars, and the desolation of the Wasteland left in the wake of disaster.

Another such episode was the Late Bronze Age collapse, which was also a time of increased migration from the frozen north, along with volcanism and global cooling, resulting in the collapse of almost every major civilization of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Comet Gods

A close encounter with a large and bright comet can have profound effects for life on earth. Dust from the comet’s tail can fill the inner solar system with particles that block the light of the sun, causing a drop in temperatures here on earth. The gravitational effects or the shock of an impact of a comet might even disturb the earth’s crust, possibly triggering more than one volcano to erupt.

Great Comet of 1861 by E. Weiss
The “Great Comet of 1861”, drawing by E. Weiss – Source

The sight of an especially large and bright comet alone could have had profound effects on the human psyche. Encounters with large comets may have been encoded in myths, and in symbols found at ancient sites. Martin Sweatman, by decoding the imagery on the pillars of Göbekli Tepe and other ancient sites, reconstructed an ancient zodiac.

Animals linked to this zodiac depicted at Göbekli Tepe seem to describe the path of the nucleus of the Taurid Meteor Stream around the time of the Younger Dryas.

Was Göbekli Tepe, possibly the oldest megalithic site to date, a memorial to the Younger Dryas Impact Event? The animal reliefs, symbolizing the constellations, seem to function as a cosmic clock that is frozen in time, forever pointing at the sunset of the summer solstice of 12,800 years ago.

The site itself has been radiocarbon-dated to about 9600 BC, right at the end of the Younger Dryas. But what has been uncovered so far is only 10 percent of the entire site. What more secrets are buried beneath all these layers of soil? The oldest layers could be as much as 20,000 years old…

Researchers like Martin Sweatman and Mike Bailie think that the gods in the world’s myths are comet gods. Once you see the myths from this perspective, and you let this idea sink in for a while, it starts to make an increasing amount of sense.

Shining gods with flashing swords and burning spears, evoking equal amounts of beauty and terror, winged serpents and dragons – these could all be descriptive of encounters with fiery comets and meteorites.

Myth and Memory in the Stars

Seeing the gods as comet gods seems to be close to the truth, but there is another major aspect to the gods and their myths. Star Myth researcher David Mathisen has amassed a huge amount of evidence over the past 10 years that shows how the myths are based on the stars and constellations.

Many scholars would admit that there is probably some element of astronomy in the myths, but most of them are unaware it seems, of the idea that entire myths can be linked to the stars, word for word.

constellation Ophiuchus and the god-self icon of Richard Cassaro
The gods and their myths can be linked to an ancient worldwide system based on astronomy.

If we see the stars as a repository for all kinds of knowledge and past experiences, then we can understand how entire myths could have been written in the stars. Even encounters with comets could have been preserved in the form of Star Myths.

The Norse myth of Ragnarök too can be linked to the stars, as David Mathisen has demonstrated in his book Star Myths of the World Volume 4 (Norse Mythology). In future blog posts, we will look at the Ragnarök myth in detail, and we’ll see what more ancient memories and age-old wisdom we can dig up out of this celestial memory system.

And if we see the stars as the book of myths, or even as the nightly Otherworld itself as described in the Egyptian Book of what is in the Duat, then we can find Odin and the völva too up in the stars on a clear night.

Preventing the Next Ragnarök

The myths mostly speak in metaphors, but sometimes there is little room for ambiguity as to what message they are trying to convey. In this stanza of the Völuspá, the myth clearly speaks of a cosmic bombardment:

The sun turns black, earth sinks into the sea,

The hot stars are whirled down from heaven;

Fierce grows the steam, and the life-feeding flame,

Till fire leaps high about heaven itself.

Völuspá, stanza 59[2]

Odin tried to do everything in his power to prevent the inevitable, but by doing so, it seemed that he only hastened the demise of the gods, by creating some powerful enemies. The ancient Norse strongly believed that Fate was set for everyone. It can’t be changed, so it’s best to make the best out of this live. Are we, like Odin and the gods of Asgard, in for another Ragnarök?

Modern science shows that an event on the scale as described in the Ragnarök myth has happened at least once in the human timeline, as recently as 12,800 years ago. Science also shows that the next Ragnarök, or some smaller version of it, is bound to happen, as long as there are still threats lurking in the cosmic ocean. 

In about 1000 years, the earth will again pass the densest part of the Taurid Meteor Stream. But even in the parts of the meteor stream that contain less rocky material, there area few really big objects, each with the power to destroy our world as we know it.

Even the smaller fragments can pose a threat to millions of people. A chunk of rock the size of the one that caused the Tunguska airburst could level a city the size of London. The next Ragnarök doesn’t have to be inevitable though, as long as we don’t wipe ourselves out. 

While modern technology on its own could probably cause another doomsday, it could also achieve that which Odin could not do: preventing the next Ragnarök – either by altering an object’s orbit, or by destroying the sources of the threat altogether.

Whatever solution for this cosmic threat we’ll come up with, we may still have a thousand years or so to prevent the next end of the world from happening…


Notes

[1] my adaptation of the Saemund Edda translation

[2] Olive Bray translation of the Poetic Edda

The Völuspá

OIive Bray translation

Benjamin Thorpe translation

The Cosmic Tusk

Younger Dryas Impact Evidence

Martin Sweatman

Prehistory Decoded

Mike Bailie

Exodus to Arthur

David Mathisen’s Blog

Star Myths of the World

Joe Rogan Interview

#872 – Graham Hancock and Randall Carlson

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