Esoteric Quest Plenaries

Journey to the Center of the North
Iceland in the Esoteric Cosmos
Leonard George, Ph.D.

Iceland might seem like a marginal place, tucked away in the corners of global maps. But in the heyday of Viking society, it was the focal point of a Norse-speaking culture spanning the Scandinavian homeland in the east, Greenland and Vinland in the west, and areas of the British Isles in the south. Icelandic texts are the source of most of our knowledge of old northern mythologies. They tell of the world’s creation out of fire and ice, its ultimate fate, and the tales of gods and heroes, giants and elves that have populated the Western imagination ever since outlanders learned of them. We will meet at the foot of Snæfellsjökull, where volcanic fire meets hyperborean ice, to ponder the esoteric significance of this land‘s treasures. 

Odin, King of the Gods
Gabriel Hilmar

Odin, the one-eyed god of wisdom, grants magic and inspiration to those who are sensitive and gifted enough to hear the song of the universe. He can be considered a key to understanding Norse mythology as his own hero’s journey through the nine worlds of wisdom is a metaphor for our own inward quest to discover ourselves. Through self-sacrifice and keen intuition, Odin uncovered the universal magic of the runes and the mead of poetic inspiration. His old man magic and wisdom are mirrored in figures such as Tolkien’s Gandalf, and his archetype is alive and active in our own times.

Vanadís, Völva and Valkyrie:
Three Aspects of the Goddess Freyja
Valgerður Bjarnadóttir, M.A.

The Norse Goddess Freyja has many guises. She is both human and divine.  Snorri Sturluson‘s Edda tells us that she has many names because she traveled the world searching for her husband Óður. This lecture examines three aspects of Freyja starting with the Völva, the sibyl of the North, greatly valued for her ability to see into the future. Her voice rings forth in the poem Völuspá, in which she responds to the quest of Odin by recounting the story of this world from genesis to apocalypse. We will also explore Freyja‘s other aspects as the Valkyrie, a female being of death and rebirth, and Vanadís, great goddess of the tribe of Vanir.

The Legacy of Nordic and Teutonic Mythology
Christopher McIntosh, D.Phil.

Wherever the influence of the Nordic and Teutonic peoples has been felt, their mythology, their traditions and their religious view of the world have left a profound mark on culture, language, and customs. Easter has its hares and eggs – the hare being the symbol of the winter goddess, Skadi, who hands over at the equinox to the spring goddess Ostara, whose symbol is an egg. We can also think of the three witches in Macbeth, who are the three Norns of fate; of Wagner’s Ring cycle and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings – all drawing on old Norse literary sources. Nordic and Teutonic mythologies have cross-fertilized each other over the centuries. This talk presents a revealing comparison of them and explores the possibility that they are part of an ancient Nordic tradition of wisdom, whose traces can be found across a large part of the northern hemisphere.

The Sibyls’ Vision:
The Saga of the Völuspás and Names of the Dwarfs
Haraldur Erlendsson, MD

The poetic Saga of the Völuspás is the heart of Nordic spiritual culture. In it the völvas, the Viking seeresses, speak in the voice of the mother of the world.  They describe the formation of the cosmos and the creation of mankind.  A great war arises between the wise powers of the gods and the monstrous forces embodied in the dragon, the Midgard Serpent, and the Fenris Wolf.  Eventually the gods of the Aesir and the Vanir are overwhelmed, and the world is destroyed in Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Gods. A new world is born with the golden tablets of wisdom, through the actions of the silent god Vidar. We will explore how this great poem can be interpreted as a manual for the transformation of consciousness.

The Dream Song of Olav Åsteson:
A Medieval Norwegian Visionary Poem
Halvard Harklau, M.Sc.

During the era of national romanticism in the 19th century, folkloric material was collected widely in Norway. In certain areas of the country, a tradition of singing verses called “dream-chants” was discovered. These described the adventures of a figure known as Olav Åsteson on his visionary travels in the “otherworld.“ Several attempts were made to reconstruct what is believed to be a great work of Medieval visionary poetry. This presentation examines the esoteric interpretation of this poem by author, cleric, mystic, anarchist and theosophist Ivar Mortensson-Egnund.

Poetry and Esotericism: From Odin to the Present
Christopher Bamford

Odin, who brought “the precious mead” from the other world, was called the God of Poetry. Before he seized it, it was in the hands of the dwarfs, whose drink it was. Elsewhere, however, it is suggested that Odin learned of poetry when he hung upon the tree of Yggdrasil. In fact, poetry is ever-present in Norse mythology. And the texts from which we learn such things are written in poetry. This talk examines why—from ancient Greece, through Gnosticism and hermeticism, Sufism and alchemy, all the way to Goethe and Blake – poetry is so often the language of choice in which to transmit esoteric cosmology, metaphysics, and prophetic eschatology.

Fire & Ice, Sea & Sky:  Icelandic Music as a Mirror of Nature
Marjorie Roth, Ph.D., DMA

Whether traditional, popular or classical, the music of Iceland springs organically from the stuff of the island itself.  Rhythm, melody, texture and harmony combine to reflect the wildness of Iceland’s natural landscape, the timelessness of its vast unbroken spaces, and the drama of its volcanic birth.  This vivid musical imitation of nature probes deeper into the heart and soul of the Icelandic people, rendering their historical experience, their sagas and their myths in sound.  We will explore Icelandic compositions and seek in them the esoteric essence of the island through the particular gnosis that is music.

The Odinic Mysteries and the Well of Remembrance
Scott Olsen, Ph.D.

Odin is the archetype of the perennial quest for initiation: the relentless visionary seeker of wisdom.  Representing the shamanic-ascetic-warrior, he pursues initiatory transformation and loses an eye in order to imbibe from Mimir’s Well of Remembrance.  Enduring a nine-day ordeal by hanging on the Yggdrasil World Tree, he discovers the secrets of the Runes, the mathematical patterns of nature, and the mastery of the magical power of language. Thus equipped, Odin becomes the center of the twelve Aesir sky-gods of Valhalla.  Drawing upon the writings of John Michell, Robin Heath, Ralph Metzner and Leif Sahlqvist, this talk aims both to uncover the practical applications of this ancient tradition and demonstrate the parallels with other initiatory and transformative practices.