Meeting Unn: A Shamanic Vision

Pemaquid Point Beach, Maine, July 2005

seagull 1The sun was actually out for a change when we arrived at Pemaquid, although it played hide-and-seek with the clouds. As soon as I arrived and set up by drum on the sand, whole clouds of seabirds descended on the place. There had been only a couple when we arrived, and I was surprised...but later I was to discover that the seabirds are Unn's special creatures.

Unn is a slender, delicate mermaid, like Himinglava. Her mouth was smaller and more bowlike, but I had no doubt that it was filled with razor-sharp teeth. Her face was more heart-shaped, but still with those inhuman eyes and flat features, and her hair was like a cloud of light brown curls that dried and fluffed out the moment she raised her head above water and shook it. Her fingers were long and tapered, like her delicate fishtail, and she was wreathed, neck and waist and arms, in strands of tiny shells that clinked and clicked. "They are for counting on," she said mysteriously when I commented on their beauty.

She rotated slowly in the water in a strange dance, letting me walk in and out of the rising and falling water. Of all the sisters, Unn's lesson was the hardest to understand, because it seemed the most esoteric. Parts of it were sung and other parts spoken, and I am sure that I did not understand much of it. It was odd to go from the blunt, striking lessons of Hronn and Hevring and the others to Unn's vague concepts of time and dimension. She is about the relationship of the sea to the sky, and the rhythm of the tides (although not the force of the tidal waves themselves, that's Bylgja), and to time. She spoke of using the tidal energy as a way to travel through time, which was utterly unexpected by me.

Unn seems to have a close, friendly relationship with Mani, the Moon-etin. She mentioned it briefly, speaking of their mutual love of calendars and counting the passing of days and the cycles of time. Her friendship with him seems to connect to the Moon's control of the tides, and also a love of song and travel. "I sing numbers to him, and he sings them back," she said, and I smiled at the idea that this delicate little mermaid might be a math nerd.

Unn's Lesson

seabirds The sea is the keeper of all memory. You'll sing that, but do you understand it? No, of course not. How could you, unless you've experienced it? Oh, that's a nice idea, you'll say, that's a romantic thought, but you don't quite see. So I'll show you, as much as you can see with your human eyes. Here, we are in the daylight, the sky is blue. The moon is three days short of full, even though you can't see it. The tide is going out, it is half gone. So we will look backwards to a time when the moon was the same, and the sky was the same, and the tide was the same, and the place was here. That's how you lock onto it. If you want to see a particular time, you have to find when all those things were the same. That's too difficult, too many details? Well, did you expect this to be easy?

Here, I'll shift to a time two months ago. The season matters, but not so much as you think, surprisingly enough. Now I've drawn the veil in - can you feel it clinging to you, like a web over your shoulders and your sight? Now we are partly in another time, that day two turns of the moon ago. One turn ago, the sky was dark and raining. Why that matters more than the season, that would take too long to explain to you. But you can feel the double layer of time. Be careful - it's fragile. It will break if you don't move carefully, and then it will vanish.

Can you change time if you go back? Of course you can. If I gave you the song to be able to do that, which I won't. This is just for seeing, not for doing. That means you can't get stuck there. That's more important than your being able to mess with time, isn't it? Can you look ahead? Yes, you can, but then you have to deal with the Norns. They might smack you, they might not. You take your chances. There are other ways to look ahead that are safer anyway.

My seabirds all understand this, although they are too silly to do anything about it. They can't keep enough of a focus to do it, but they will notice when you do, and maybe try to follow you. Don't worry about them. They can take care of themselves. They can't count, but they have the counting in them, if you know what I mean. They just know about days and numbers. Crows do too, although they use it for different things. This song will show you where you can go, what days and moments you can reach from each shore, each place. It will help you pull the veil in, pull in the other time. But don't be silly about it. This is not for everyday. It can put feathers in your brain if you do it too much.

Unn's Song

Hear a sample

birdmast Hey-ho, heave and blow, wind to the westward side,
Gull wing go to the ebb and the flow,
And the tern return with the tide.

Kestrel and kite keep the counting road
In the breeze with each beat of their wings,
We swim through the centuries like they were days
And the gift of the gulls is the song that we sing.
Hey-ho, turn back the veil,
And backward we sail, back we go.

Hey-ho, heave and blow, wind to the westward side,
We leap from the land over sea below,
And into the salt wind we ride.

Mark the moon his meandering road
Many moons in the making of mine,
The sea is the keeper of memory
And the tides are the rhythm of time.
Hey-ho, turn back the veil,
And backward we sail, back we go.

Hey-ho, heave and blow, wind to the westward side,
Gull wing go to the ebb and the flow,
And the tern return with the tide.

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