Jenny Blain, a Heathen and Shamanic, is it witchcraft and spells?

Posted on March 16, 2012


Jenny Blain: Animist heathen and researcher

Jenny Blain: Animist heathen and researcher at Sheffield Hallam University.

 “I don’t call what I do magic but ‘seidr’, it is a form of what can be called magical practice. Going into a trance and communicating with some kind of spirit. 

The basis of seidr practice is this idea of singing, playing instruments and trance work, doing this might be to help see something or whether it is trying to affect some kind of change within the world.”

Not knowing what to expect when going to meet Jenny Blain, from Totley South Yorkshire, to talk about her practices and worldviews as an animist heathen, I was overwhelmed with how deep and structured this subject can be.

As a beginner to heathenism, paganism and shamanism, I have discovered these practices are shrouded in history and misrepresentation. As those unfamiliar with such practices, often believe their interests appear, laughable, inauthentic and unusual. However, it is a far more complex and profound subject, as Jenny explains.

For 11 years, Jenny has been a lecturer and research methodologist in social sciences at Sheffield Hallam University, as well as being recognised as a world-renowned author and scholar, having written on a range of areas, paganism, sacred sites, archaeological monuments, alternative spiritualities and shamanism practices.

Along with Jenny’s research and work, she has a strong interest in paganism, shamanism and the practice of ‘seidr.’ A term within heathenry which, according to Jenny is becoming an important part of spiritual practice, relating more to associations of people, land and spirits.

Jenny among the trees

Jenny among the trees

Check out some more unusual facts on Alternative practices

“A lot of people, who define themselves as shamanistic practitioners, seem to focus on going into an altered consciousness, that isn’t what you do…

“Working as a shamanistic practitioner is about changing something, it is easy to get into a trance, because we are changing consciously all the time during our everyday lives, from dreaming, focusing hard on something, all of this you are shifting your awareness.

“It is about getting into a trance through music, dance, singing, whatever works for you, this then changes your consciousness, but it is then about, what you do with this changed state of consciousness.

“You can communicate with spirits or other beings, which can help you, see or give you knowledge on what to do about something.  The idea of going into a trance and doing something productive with it is discussed as ‘seidr’.”  

Seidr’ is a term used for a variety of magical practices, which involves a trance like state, in order to heal, inspire or to gather information.

“In paganism and heathenry, there are words that are unusual, a discourse, and a shared set of terms like ‘Seidr’, which is still present in Icelandic and all Germanic languages, so I can talk about seidr to people who are not English speakers but are part of the same spiritual communities.”

Find out more at the Shamanic Path website

The heathen emphasis on community and heritage is, for many a motive to become a heathen. In new age heathenry, ‘Animism’ is a term, which recognises that the universe is living, and that humans are interrelated with spirits, wights or entities. Animist heathens have a set worldview, a way of living and thinking about the world.

“I define myself as an animist heathen, how I associate myself with life and living landscapes the ‘wights’ or spirits of the land and how they shape my day-to-day actions. Today people call it ‘new animism’, respecting the living world, about life growing, living with each other, how we connect and change. Everything has life, what we think of as spiritual identity or meaning.” 

Heathenry, is similar to ancient European pagan religions, as it recognises a wide variety of spiritual beings. Jenny introduced me to the term ‘wights’ also known as spirits or landwights, which is an important feature of Heathen religion and outdoor Heathen practices.

“12 years ago I was part of a Heathen group in Iceland, there we talked about the way people relate to landscapes. The leader explained that a  ‘land wight’, ‘land spirit’, entity or being, makes certain points of landscape,  where the presence of a landwight is felt more, seem a little bit better, the earth is a bit more productive, there is more wildlife, like the earth is the body of a land spirit.

“Throughout parts of the world you have different sets of gods, deities or beings, which have come from mythology. For example in the Northern part of the country, nearer to the sea, deities like ‘Othen’ or ‘Freya’ are looked upon for guidance.”

“My spiritual practice is how I think, how I connect, how I make these connections, they are part of my everyday life.”

Being widely recognised for her academic research into areas of alternative spiritualities, her first academic book published was written about seidr, called ‘The nine worlds of seidr magic,’ this is a popular book among heathens examining the phenomenon of altered consciousness, seidr magic and shamanic practitioners with their spirits.

Want to learn more about Jenny’s research, sacred sites and paganism see her website.

“Before I came to Sheffield Hallam University, I lived in Canada, working at a University. Writing this book was a product of study that grew out of my work on women’s spirituality in the 1990’s. I became increasingly more interested in this idea of seidr, which is described in some of the heathen sagas, ‘Eric the Red’.”

 Heathenry does not have a god to worship or commandments to follow, but there are certain virtues, which are part of their beliefs. These are represented in the ancient tales, sagas, poetry and Norse mythology.

Jenny tells the saga of ‘Eric the red,’ about a ‘seeress’, a person who can see into the future who lives on a farm in Greenland. The story is the basis of seidr practice, which takes place in heathenry and paganism.

Listen to ‘Eric the red’ saga here.

The UK paganism website

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Written by Joanne Mascall