Earlier this week, I read The Devil Is in the Detail by Yvonne Aburrow over at Dowsing for Divinity and Loki by Laine DeLaney over at The Lady’s Quill. Both articles acknowledge powers both strange and wondrous that dwell on the edge. I think that these articles hit hard for me because they echoed points that are central to my own practice.
I have been called to work with several gods over the years from across a number of different pantheons. As my relationship with one deity deepened, they introduced me to others. My relationships with the gods are each different but what they have in common are a message and a mission that supports the bonds between beings and worlds. This was true of Hekate, Mercury, and Dionysos, and of Odin, Nerthus, Freyja, and Freyr. When Elegua, Oya, Baron Samedi, Maman Brigitte, and the Ghede entered my life I learned what messages and missions they had as well. The message and mission brought by each power has shaped me and my practice, and galvanized the work that I do in this world and between the worlds.
True North on the compass that guides me is commitment to understanding and supporting the interconnectedness of all beings and all worlds. Sometimes that means traveling the well-worn path and sometimes that means hoofing the hidden ways. Sometimes that means simple face time with the gods you know and sometimes that means a not-so-simple scintillating tango with the gods you don’t know. Honoring the ties that bind all things sometimes means encountering powers and worlds on the edge of what’s known and comfortable, and far beyond.
When I began forming relationships with powers and journeying to other worlds, my compass kept me in somewhat comfortable, if not always safe, astral spaces. That included spending time in Asgard and Vanaheim with Odin, Nerthus, Freyja, and Freyr. It also involved visits to Nysa to see Dionysos, trips to the Crossroads to connect with Hekate and Elegua, visits to ancient temples to connect with Mercury, astral visits to New Orleans and Haiti to work with the Baron, Maman, and the Ghede, and trips on the astral to holy places in the Caribbean and Nigeria to work with Oya. In the grand map of the cosmos, the gods with whom I work occupy known and ultimately acceptable places and are themselves known and acceptable powers, having a great deal of respect among humans as well as devotion.
What is sometimes less acknowledged or less fully appreciated is the fact that many of these powers are also Edge Dwellers, moving freely between realms. Odin may rule Asgard but he also wanders the winding roads between worlds and slips between states of consciousness seeking after wisdom. Freyja, as a wielder of magic, travels the worlds wearing her falcon-feathered cloak. Hekate is the queen of the crossroads, the place were worlds intersect. Elegua owns the crossroads as well. Like Hekate, Mercury has access to the worlds of the gods, mortals, and the dead. Oya, the Baron, Maman, and the Ghede all also move between the worlds of the living and the dead. In a nutshell, the powers I work with cross boundaries on the map as a matter of course. They venture into many worlds, many of which are not often traveled by mortals and some of which not even witches and other magical practitioners dare to tread. In my experience, sometimes the gods and spirits choose to hold the gates between worlds open for wayfarers. Sometimes they choose to teach those who are willing where to travel and how.
Over time, as the Edge Dwellers opened roads for me I quickly came to see that their homes were only a small corner of the known world. Staring out beyond the map’s edge, I could see the worlds that were only whispered about – the less well charted places, the lands where the “dragons” dwell – and I feared them. Jotunheim, Muspelheim, and Niflheim are the most prominent of the whispered about, dragon-rich lands in Norse cosmology. The fear that I experienced was my cue that I needed to face it head on, well-prepared and well-protected with clear sight of course.
Since realizing that some though not all of the roads I walk lead to places and beings generally considered dark, unacceptable, or even “evil” I have mentally and spiritually prepared myself for the inevitable encounters along the way with gods and spirits unknown. I have traveled the Jotun lands and learned things that I am convinced I would not have learned otherwise. Loki, Son of Laufey, and Angrboda, the Witch of the Ironwood, have reached out to me across the seemingly vast distance separating us. After they made contact with me, powers from other pantheons deep in dragon country came forward, including the Devil, Lilith, and others. They all helped me to understand fully that every being has a part to play and every world has might, dark and difficult as it may be. The acceptable beings and worlds are all well and good but there is much wisdom to be won among the denizens of worlds deemed dark, unacceptable, or even “evil.” Angrboda once said: “Things fall apart, but what emerges in the wake of destruction can be generative. Learn to toil in the fields of sorrow and produce sustenance. Learn the worth of the devils in the dark.” Her words have sparked much meditation since she shared them with me over a year ago.
Of course the phrase Here Be Dragons serves a purpose. Venturing into the unknown is dangerous and downright dumb if poorly prepared and poorly protected, but what’s known can be a hindrance if it keeps us from acknowledging and making sense of what lies beyond the edge of the world. Does that mean that everything that is dubbed evil and sent to rove the dark should be cuddled with and invited over for tea? Of course not, but what it does mean is that we need to cautiously walk the edges of our world with our wits about us. We need to be willing to look beyond those edges into the abyss, and we need to be ready to look into the eyes of the dragons staring back at us. One of those dragons may have a small piece of what we seek.
We also need to look into the unknown territories within ourselves and discern our reasons for venturing into astral dragon country. What is your reason for venturing beyond the world’s edge? Are you going for fun, for curiosity, or for power? Are you going in order to deepen your understanding of the worlds and how they are connected at every level? I am not here to judge your reason, only to make sure that you know what it is and that you know why it is your reason. In my experience the powers that live and breathe beyond the pale eat clueless witches who are their own greatest mystery for breakfast. But, assuming that you venture into unknown, uncomfortable, and dangerous lands sure, true, and well, there just may be knowledge and wisdom for you to win, and I do mean win because nothing is free. Just ask Odin. In my own work, I have a mandate to journey the known and unknown worlds. In my journeying I seek to know, understand, and connect beings as well as worlds. That is a dangerous mandate at times, but it also affords amazing opportunities to strengthen the ties that join us and (occasionally) wax wise.