PBP: “V” is for Vassago, the Völva and Vulnerability


I missed out on an important part my occult education: summoning and conjuration. How is this possible? Well for starters, I never worked with lesser entities (i.e. demons)... always stuck with good ol' evocation and invocation which naively seemed safer. Hell, it has only been in the past 5 years I began including the Beloved Dead in mine Arte. Years of reading fantastic tales and anecdotes about demons and angels controlled by or coerced into a magician's bidding always seemed like more work than it was worth. In my experience, it seemed a waste of energy to have someone or something do what I could otherwise do for my Self. In revisiting classic Western traditions over the past year, I am starting to reconsider these old attitudes or opinions, and realizing they might not serve me any longer.

Servitude and sovereignty are things I have avoided as they seem nothing more than attachments and feeders of ego. However, influenced by a recent blogpost (God-owned or God-slave?), I am wondering if maybe this is just part of the relationship I have with Deity. Instead of Be-ing a 'slave' to my Gods, my role is really more of Regent: secretary of spirits, policing other practitioners who might abuse their abilities, calling out those who exploit our traditions and culture for monetary means...all of these are spiritual roles I reluctantly agreed to do many, many years ago. But what IF I could just as easily summon something/one else to help do other things like warding, prophecies, so I can put my psychic and spiritual attentions on something else? It would be like having a witchy personal assistant, right? But unlike an apprentice or student, this Be-ing would come with a whole skill set surpassing my own, able to do things I have yet to master or try. Doubtfully, I am not the first occultist to consider this thus we have the Goetia and other grimoires of spirit conjuring.

Realizing all these things, I turned to my tried and true favourite “Mastering Witchcraft” by Paul Huson. Yes, here we go again... BUT, in it there are specific instructions and suggestions on working with one of the more approachable of the Goetic demons/angels/spirits: Vassago. I remember seeing this in a movie once, and only later in reading Huson's book did I realize they used his materials in the cult classic Season of the Witch (a.k.a. “Hungry Wives” from 1972), directed by George A. Romero. In it, a bored housewife starts fiddling around with witchcraft and performs Huson's “Conjuration of Vassago”. It's not very clear why she summons this particular Prince of Hell except He is described in most sources as somewhat benevolent and can be persuaded to reveal things of the past and future.

So again, why bother? Well, there are specific questions I have asked my own spiritual guides, oracles, psychic strangers, mambos, pretty much anyone else who provides service for divination, all for which I have not been entirely satisfied with. So, I seek out this spirit and prepare for an adventure of Goetic proportions.

The first step will be preparing for the working, which according to my text is going to include many tools being properly cleansed and consecrated. With herbal washes my blade, glass chalice and thurible are cleaned. One of the best tried and true herbs for this level of serious cleansing is Vervain, also known as Verbena. A pretty little blue flower, it has been called “witch bane” or “holy herb” due to it's protective qualities, specifically in the areas of magical attack. Infusions of vervain were used by the Romans to keep evil at bay, and so I bathe my body as a tool for this craft. Empowering with lodestones, magickal paints and smoking incenses of forgotten scents, the witches' art is finely tuned for the conjuration. Salted water, by Satandar and Asentacer, gathering paper and drawing triangles.

Odin og Völven by Lorenz Frølich. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Odin holds bracelets and leans on his spear while looking towards the völva in Völuspá. Gesturing, the völva holds a spoon and sits beside a steaming kettle. The text "V:14" in the bottom left corner refers to Völuspá stanza 14.

The Völva

Placing the girdle around my waist, inhaling the scent of vetivert, my mind travels to the sacred tree. Into the trunk, through the staircase and into the middle world which surrounds Yggdrasil, the living World Tree, axis mundi. I follow the path to where the a Well waits, with water silver and still. Shown to me by spiritual guides, I know how to ask the questions and see into distorted reflections for the answers.

I am a natural Seer, specializing in oneiric prophecies. Some of the first dreams I ever had I can still recall... in one I remember being a man and my wife was making us late for a dinner party; I was somewhere around 3 or 4 years old. In 4th grade our pet hamster died, that night I dreamed of my parents divorcing, my mother re-marrying a cowboy, and my parents fighting over money (which later happened in 7th grade). That same year, I dreamed of falling into a large snake-infested lake and was bitten on the ankle; I awoke to a bloody wound that morning. Some dreams were epically long, creating an actual series that picked up where the last one ended. The ones my family recall hearing about most were the repetitive 'theme' dreams; in my junior year of High School, I dreamed of Buffalo over and over, only to have an albino Buffalo born, an omen to Native people indicating a period of peace among their tribes. As I developed in my witchcraft during the teen years, I learned to better control these visions, often called 'lucid dreams' but at a price: sleeping walking, talking and general unconscious activity increased.

Waking trance is something I took for granted in my youth. It came so easily in those days, but was suppressed by the usual retinue of parents, teachers, priests. The 'daydreaming' visions, the Wonderland type visits I am no longer banishing from my thoughts. I allow them to come, and occasionally write down. Try to remember this as I raise my own daughter: to keep her imagination alive and the innocence captured only in wisdom as a witch can know safely. This bloodline runs through me and is something not really celebrated in Neopaganism... some have called it the 'witch blood' believed to be passed down, going all the way back to the time of God's Watcher angels on earth, taking human wives. I am not going to deny there might be some kind of ancient connection with people who are naturally adept in the Arte; whether it is an environmental factor, societal or genetic is really all speculation. There has been evidence of certain occupations or talents being handed down through generations of breeding; a good example would be families with many Rabbis or Priests/Nuns... a natural tendency toward spiritual endeavors, perhaps?

Which is where I come around to talking about the Völva. The title is one from Pagan Germanic/Norse culture... a woman who traveled around giving oracles from a high-risen seat. It was similar to the work of the Pythia of Delphi... who's hissing answers, channeled messages of Apollo for aspirants were interpreted by the male Priesthood. Although I am not Hellenic in my genes and only barely in my practice, I don't identify much with that title. I identify more with these ancient Germanic women, who belonged nowhere nor to anyone, except to the Shining Ones. A spokesperson, librarian who knew stories, the messenger who updated news from village to village before written words; Völva knew the songs to call the Gods and remembered for everyone. She would often eat of the livestock and sleep under the roof of a patron, to better learn about the hosts and give better readings. Her power, like my own, was in her visions and voice. I hope to honor my ancestors with this skill by giving service someday. I continue to offer my body and mind to their Will. The blood and bones never forget.

For further information I highly recommend the work of Diana Paxson and the folks at Hrafnar. This is a great craft blogpost about the craft of Seidr and the role of the Volva from a modern practice: "The Return of the Völva".


The autumn is now into full swing and the Hallows have passed. Themes of 'unity', 'tolerance' and 'understanding' come up at all the Pagan Pride events, intentions at public rituals and shoved in the faces of newcomers, and veterans alike. And that is fine... except it is a two-way street. As I have often written about, I have a bit of a pet peeve with the “we're tolerant to everyone except (fill in the blank)” people. Whether racists, conservatives, Republicans, monotheists, atheists, monogamous... Pagans really do come in flavors other than 'fluffy' and 'recon'. And diversity is what we all love about this community... but there is still this underlying thing everyone is missing the point on. You can preach about community and compassion until you are blue in the face... you can lead a horse to water, but cannot make it drink. Teaching by example is usually the best way, but when the intolerance brigade comes through with their unity flags demanding nothing to be exclusive, everything allowable, just not (fill in the blank) culture or (fill in the blank) religions they are just as bad, if not worse, than those they are 'against'.

I propose a genuiness that is not the authenticity we all pretend to have. I don't need to know the horrors of your life, or who your sexual partners include, or what problems you continue to have when magic is obviously not enriching your lifestyle or mind. We don't need MORE nude rituals, MORE inhibitions peeling away, MORE acceptance and crap piled on top of our otherwise already full spiritual plates. We say it is a safe space, when really many are just waiting to pounce on any original idea, thought or way of precessing something which may not agree with their ideology. The key is not MORE but LESS... simplicity brings about vulnerability.

GET OVER IT. This is spirituality, folks... if we have to put up shields of protection at events, bite our tongues for fear of belittlement in sharing UPG: defensiveness and general righteousness are poisoning our 'religion'. Strip it all down to the bare bones and forget the attachments which keep us from pursuing what is true and pure. It is only when our shells are stripped and we come before the Gods as authentic Self, without expensive velvet/leather clothing, without labels of race/sexual orientation/gender or any other thing of THIS world...  in spirit it doesn't matter. Until we can work in pure form and allow our Selves to really be children of the Multiverse in our naïve nudity, with our wounds exposed  to truly heal, we are just throwing a pretty bandage on it.