Thursday, August 12, 2010

Seidways: Shaking, Swaying, and Serpent Mysteries

Seidways: Shaking, Swaying, and Serpent Mysteries By Jan Fries (1996) Mandrake Press

This was an enjoyable book to read, both fascinating and informative. This book is about ecstatic body movement but also is filled with interesting lore particularly from the Northern European traditions but also all around the world as regards shaking trances. Also covered are Franz Mesmer’s and others experiments with animal magnetism, shamanistic techniques, the Quakers known as the Shakers, and the lore associated with the Nordic trance practice known as seething. The perspective is sometimes folkloric/comparative myth, sometimes from the Crowleyan currents, and sometimes in a spirit of scientific experimentation. The author digresses and jumps around quite a bit but some of the detours are interesting.

This is not a dry academic text but more an informed manual by an author both quite learned and daring in the magickal sense. The book is well illustrated with the author’s artwork. The author draws on a lot of texts and gives recommendations for a lot of interesting books relating to lore, psychology, and trance magick.

The book seems to explore the magickal mechanisms behind man’s fascination with the pastimes of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Body awareness is a key aspect. Narrowing one’s awareness through dissociation is a key to entering various trance states. Oracles, divination, and soothsaying are often associated with dissociated trance -states - or seeing into the beyond and bringing back news often in jumbled enigmatic pieces from spirit worlds. Regarding interaction with spirits here is a quote:

“In dealing with the invisible ones we can assume several distinct attitudes. We can treat them as independent beings who have been around on earth for quite some time. This is the common religious interpretation which claims that the gods and spirits are distinct entities with a will of their own. From the limited awareness of the conscious identity there is a certain truth to this. We can equally consider them an expression of parts of ourselves of which we are unconscious in daily life. In this model the gods and spirits are part of us, as we are parts of them. We share a mutual self, a self that is free to manifest in a variety of masks (personalities) which can interact with each other.”

Northern European Dragon Lore and Serpent Lore is well covered. There is an interesting chapter on the various manifestations of the Taliesin myth and interesting speculations about visions in general. There is an another chapter called the Cauldron of Cerridwen which deals with the chemistry of consciousness in relation to the draconian elixir imbibing tradition of sorts. There is an interesting section about the potential usefulness of the “placebo effect” in general particularly the theatrical antics of various shamans utilizing it to assist the patient in self-healing.

I am looking forward to reading more books by this author.

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