The Secret Ancient Healing From The Norse-Gaelic Tradition…

The Secret Ancient Healing From The Norse-Gaelic Tradition

Many years ago, back in college when I was a student of Medieval history and literature, I first remember coming across the word: spákona. I was eighteen, and I had always felt an inordinately strong resonance for my Icelandic-Scottish heritage. The Viking sagas were foremost in my mind, and I remember reading them and tracing the voyages of some of the most famous among the historical figures of the time, including areas they ended up conquering or colonizing, especially in Celtic territories. I kept reading about those who were considered spákona/seiðkona/vǫlva: in various literary, mythological, or cultural incarnations considered spiritual seers, wand-carriers, or weavers.

What felt so powerful at the time was the similarity in the spirituality of the Vikings and Celts; the spirituality was that of indigenous Europa and incorporated years of learning, an inherently deep connection with Nature, and was infused with storytelling. Symbols found in nature were profound. The lifeblood of humanity was connected to the elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Spirits whispered knowledge and wisdom to those with the ears to hear. Everything, it was said, was connected; some could see, hear, or sense this connection more so than others. To me, this sensibility was truly magical with a profundity that hit me at the very core of my being.

SEE ALSO: How To Be Grateful When Life Sucks

The Calling

It was only later, in visiting the lands of my ancestry, that I would start learning the spiritual tradition spákonae. Working in different places around the world, indigenous elders seemed to come to me, asking, without knowing anything about me, why I was not following my true path as a healer. I didn’t have an answer for them.

I loved my ancestry, and I identified with it, but who was I to believe myself to be such a healer? My connection with humanity, the earth, and Nature herself was just a part of me, but wasn’t it for most? Over time, including among elders and medicine men and women in North and South America, in Haiti, and in Africa, I would start to expect to be asked the question, and finally, I would ask these men and women in return: what do you see in me that would make you ask? They would tell me things about myself few knew: the physical illness I had in college that had scarred me deeply; the sensitivity I had that some today consider being an “empath”; the capacity to know truth and lies when I heard them; the dreams that in Jungian terms are called “big dreams” – utterly filled with symbolism and metaphor to an extent that was beyond the usual dreaming; I could feel spirits, and I had a sense of clairaudience.

But it was more than that, they said. It is in your blood. Your ancestors have been calling to you–have you not heard them?


At this point, I was involved in very serious international work. I was supposedly an intellectual, an academic. I wrote papers and books. I published serious articles. I went to hardcore meetings. I traveled and had a serious life. I loved my friends, and I always listened to them, offered advice if asked, and gave a damn about much. But a healer? I could hear my even more intellectual father asking, “What kind of flaky nonsense is this?” I even thought it myself.

I spent years denying what so many were pointing out, even to the point of some elders becoming angry with me. One asked: “Who are you to do this? Who are you NOT to follow this path when called? You are lying not only to others at this point, but you are also now lying to yourself.” It was after a particularly disturbing dream that I reached out to a First Nation medicine man I knew, and whom I had known for a long time. I told him about it, and he was silent for some time before answering. When he did, I already knew what he was going to say.

“It’s time. You know this. There is something you can give that is unique to you and not just your ancestry, but your history. There are many like you out there – serious people – secretly spiritual, but considered intellectual on the outside. They have no one to listen. They have no one to hear them and to understand the struggle in this world when the mind is valued more than the heart or the spirit. We need each to be strong. Not just one of these qualities. You need to be who you are, and that will help others. Including those like you. Those who think too much and need to learn that being is far more important.”

I put my head in my hands. “How do I begin?” I could feel him smiling. “Follow the Path. It is different for everyone. Only you know what you need to do next. Be brave, and listen to what feels deepest. That is the truth.”


I then began to study. The histories, the mythology, and the traditions. The Poetic Eddas and other sagas, the Celtic and Norse myths, the history of Europe, including from myriad academic disciplines. The path is indeed different for everyone. I incorporated academic work, philosophy, psychology, and Medieval hermetic and gnostic traditions and symbolism; my soul was ravenous to learn everything I could. I would check in with elders and First Nation healers when I got stuck because I knew they could point out the core of what I was missing.

It was only ten years later that I understood how I was to proceed. I could see where the microcosm of my own learning and senses met the macrocosm among others. Those who found me did so for a reason. It needed to be mutual. And whatever I taught, or guided, I learned just as much. Trust was essential on both sides, as was a sense of respecting the learning and healing process of anyone who allowed a certain degree of vulnerability. It was kept quiet, for those who sought me out didn’t want their deepest inner processes exposed. I understood.

Seekers of whatever kind end up finding one another. Much is said these days about finding one’s “tribe” – but my caution to this is that any sense of tribalism can create an “insider” / “outsider” paradigm. We each are worthy of respect, even when we disagree. People are triggered to find themselves and the deepest aspects of their souls when it’s time.

Those who refuse only find life becomes harder and more extreme. The world itself is becoming more extreme, I believe, because people fear themselves, and they fear the “shadow” within, so they deny it, block it, and project it onto others. Today, being a spákona is different than in times past, but it requires just as much passion, dedication, and learning as it ever did; each is unique, individual, and has different modalities of healing. But when called, one knows. You find you’re bombarded with signs, and even others telling you what you already know, were you brave enough to listen to the deepest voice within, speaking with an ancient truth:

Be brave; more than that: be who you most are, for there is a reason for it.

For more on the history and definition of a traditional spákona, this is a good introduction.


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K Gaelsdottir

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I am a Spákona/Völva of the Norse-Gaelic tradition, as a Reader/Healer. I am also an academic, currently working on a…

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