Meeting Bylgja: A Shamanic Vision

Fortune's Rocks Beach, Maine, July 2005

wave horsesFortune's Rocks Beach was lined with rugosa roses and elderflowers, and the sea was inviting in spite of the grey weather. The few folk taking walks on the shore quickly left, leaving it empty, and I sang my calling song and went straight into the water. I sensed that this sister was of a different temperament from vicious Hronn and anguished Hevring, and I was grateful.

The first thing that I noticed as I went into the sea-green white-foam-lace waves was their height - it was a rough, wild day for the sea. The second thing was that there were faces of white horses in the waves, and then their forelegs as they reared up. They pounded toward the shore, and then I was surrounded by thundering wave-horses. Among them, with a shriek of gaiety, was a mermaid diving through the water, coming past me. She spun somehow in the surf and then was off again, swimming with the tide. The water blurred her form and I couldn't tell if she was riding one of the wave-horses, playing with it, or shifting her shape back and forth to become one. I did, however, get the strong feeling that they were an illusion that she had created herself out of sheer fun.

She paused long enough to acknowledge me, and then insisted that I play with her in the water, jumping the waves. I've done this game before. It requires that you let the wave come at you, and then you jump just before it crests and let its peak pass you and break behind you. If you misjudge the time to jump, the breaking wave catches you and dashes you to the shore, grinding your face into the sand. I managed to get it right about two times out of three.

Bylgja is plump and round, like a seal, and indeed the seal is one of her animals, as are sea otters and the mythical wave-horse. Her hair is seal-brown and velvety-looking, and her round breasts are good-sized as well, contrasting with flap-breasted Hronn and skinny Hevring. Coral bits hung around her neck, from her ears, and were wound through her hair. Her eyes were currently as sea-green as the glassy waves behind her, but they were the same eyes as her sisters.

She is the Lady of the Breaker, and while she was in a good mood when I saw her, she is the one who decides when and where a tidal wave may strike. A tidal wave is, according to her, the doing of all nine of the sisters working together, but it is Bylgja who is in charge of such a thing, just as Ran her mother is in charge of storms at sea. Bylgja is also about the life of the tidepools and the coral reefs, the sea life that lives on the ocean's edge. While her sister Unn is the keeper of the tide's rhythm, Bylgja is the thundering passion of the tides themselves.

If there is one word that could describe her, it would be obsessive. She is passionate, and her passions can become larger and larger until they destroy things. "I am like my mother in that," she said. She is all about obsession, in fact, and spoke to me about its sacred nature. Everything she does, she does totally, without reservation. All Jotunkind are to one extent or another, but Bylgja is especially good at it. Her lesson is about tapping into that obsessive focus so intense that you practically become what it is that you're focusing on. In terms of the natural world, Bylgja seems to be about the wave-form of the ocean's surface, the up and down of its throbbing rhythm.

Bylgja's Lesson

seahorse1What you call obsession, that's part of the way of water. Water starts small, just a trickle, and then it gets bigger and bigger until it washes away everything in its path. That's what all water wants to do; that's the ambition of the tiniest drop. It doesn't ever just want to run happily in the beds that it has already carved. When it overflows its borders and sweeps everything away, that's the expression of Water's greatest joy. It may be hard on you, but it's Water rejoicing. You think that the Water is being angry at that time, but that's only because you think that Water is only passive.

But obsession, like anything, can be a tool. It's a knife with two edges, and you can cut both ways. You can use it to do something you don't want to do, but ought to. It won't make you want to do it, but it will make you do it, and in a pinch that can be enough. First you drum it - it's a rhythm that starts slow and gets faster, bigger, louder. Feel it like a tidal wave within yourself. Let it rise and peak. Feel it like joy, like nothing else in the whole world is more important than this thing, this moment, this ride. It's total focus, with your heart as well as your mind.

Use it while you can, because like all things Water, it will pass and change. Water is never static unless it is ice - and that's my sister Kolga's lesson. But the wave rises and breaks, and that's the way it is.

Bylgja's Song

Hear a sample

Ride, ride, ride, ride, shore in my sight,
Ride, ride, ride, ride, with all my might,
Ride, ride, ride, ride, through to the end,
Ride, ride, ride, ride, breaker will bend.
Ride, ride, ride, ride, arrow in flight,
Ride, ride, ride, ride, lifting the light,
Ride, ride, ride, ride, crash on the shore,
Ride, ride, ride, ride, dive through the door,
Ride, ride, ride, ride, ride!

seal 1


A CD containing this and other shaman songs is available from Asphodel Press.