Invoking Wotonos, the Wild Seer, the Oracular State, the Wot, a kind of a gnarly Awen, is no easy matter, even for a chaos magician. Not least because you probably haven’t even heard of Wotonos. So let me explain, and even tell you a story as we go …
I’d been preparing for some time, so on the day I performed some short observances then gathered my stuff and headed out for the bus. I kept up a semi-continuous sotto voce PIE chanting from doorstep to seaside stopping point, and onwards up valley, climbing beyond the site of a previous encounter with fairies one midsummer, which had had such drastic effect.
A word of explanation. Linguists tracing the origins of our languages are reaching back to find connections and connotations that may go all the way to the end of the Stone Age. By tracing word and phrase changes back from past and present uses across Europe and much of Asia via texts and modern language use, they have reverse engineered a putative ancestral language which they call proto-Indo-European (PIE). And among other things, they’ve turned out an oracular visionary state. How about that?
The PIE root *wet, means ‘to see, as seers do,’ and is related to another root, *weid, ‘to see.’ The Romans had a catch-all word for soothsayers, prophets, seers and the like for use across all the cultures they encountered. It was ‘Ouate.’ ‘Ou’ begins with the ‘w’ sound, ‘at’ traces back to the *-et or *eid in *wet and *weid. From the Roman word we get ‘Ovate,’ used to this day amongst Druid orders for those who involve themselves in Oracular trances, magic or divination.
As far back as we can trace, such seers had *woto or *wot, the oracular visionary state. To be experiencing the oracular visionary state we would describe as *wotis. Since the Old English word wod, meaning ‘frenzied’ comes from this root, we might hazard a guess at how our proto-Indo-European ancestors liked their oracles to act.
The wooded valley with the roundhouse is beautiful and leafy in summer, with wild garlic underfoot and secluding greenery all around. It’s all a bit different in January: rainswept town gave way to gale force winds off the bay that you couldn’t face on the beach without getting your eyes sandblasted. Pissing across with rain. But I was dressed for shite weather and was up for it. Druid robes in Wales may consist of Tilley hat (with chinstrap), waxed jacket and wellies. I stopped for a short while in my little stand of trees and performed my Druidic practice before making my customary offering to the fairies (picking up litter as I encountered it in their space); still chanting, but louder now, as only a few damnfool dog-walkers were about in the storm.
Enter an ancient god of frenzy and fury, Wotan, aka Witan, who first came to notice as a god of storms, whose Old High German ‘Wuotis-her’, the wild procession of homeless souls through the stormy night sky, scared the Hel out of the inhabitants of the forests of the Germanic world. Over time he arose above all other gods to become known as the All-Father Odhinn. In his medieval heyday folklore attempted to explain his connection to frenzied ecstatic magics by saying he must have got it all from the goddess Freya. The point is, that connection was there to have to be explained.
Back in the day, though, his people likely didn’t call him ‘Wotan’ at all. Wotan’s name comes from the proto-Germanic root *Wodh/an/az. This in turn, by reverse engineering, renders in PIE as *Wotonos. This breaks down into *woto/ the oracular visionary state, /*on/ which indicates ‘master of’ or ‘governor of’, and /*os noun suffix, in such contexts often connoting godhead.
So from from the PIE root *wet & *weid & *wot, we have *Wotonos > *Wodhanaz > Wotan > Odhinn (and Anglo-Saxon Woden) and the Welsh magician Wytyon > Gwydion: ‘Governor of the oracular visionary state.’ And of course you. Wizard.
There is iconography for Odin/Woden/Odhinn. I know of no iconography that dates to the earlier conceptions of this Oracular state, that of *Wotonos. My own experiments suggest that there is no presence to Invoke here, only a state. It’s not a question of letting a god speak through you as much as going *wotis, seeing and speaking.
By the time he was called Odhinn, he was very much a god of extreme measures. According to the Eddas, a collection of medieval Icelandic lore, he tore out an eye and by throwing it into the magic well of Mimir dedicated it to ‘seeing’ in the visionary sense. He offered himself as a human sacrifice to the All-Father Odhinn, hung on a tree and speared, and came away with the Runes. He learned Seidh magic from Freya, even though such ecstatic magics were regarded as unmanly and a bit dirty, but he would stop at nothing to enter the worlds of the dead to learn more stuff from the inhabitants. He wandered the worlds in disguise, picking up what he could where he found it, searching ceaselessly for an advantage in the coming apocalyptic battle.
Let’s face it, he means business, this god. Get serious or get out seems to be his approach. And instead of worshipping this god, modern Runic masters seem to prefer to emulate him. Do as he does. Get serious.
Given all this, it seems logical that in order to manifest *Wotonos we need to go a bit over the top. Get wild. Get frenzied. Get *wotis. Normally in magical practice I tend to roll with Phil Hine’s general recommendation in Condensed Chaos that the magician ‘Do Easy.’ Sometimes though, you’ve got to do it the hard way. This is one of those times. Enter an excitatory altered state but really, really go for it.
Preferably outdoors. I know this goes against the grain for modern magicians, but here’s a bit of hard practice. It’s tempting to say at once ‘I can’t do it like that because …’ but this time assume that you can do it, plan to do it, and work the plan unless and until it proves impossible. Get serious here.
Prepare over some days. Choose the day of the rite. Plan the logistics of going somewhere. Have a few dry-runs of the ritual, practice the techniques. Fill your imagination with the wildness of *Wotonos by reading and acting-out. Think of some issue that you would want to present to such an Oracle.
Leave plenty of time for this. Find a suitable outdoor place, like a forest, a high place, somewhere deserted enough for you. Dress appropriately for the weather. If you’re having the Scandinavian weather I’ve been getting recently, you’ll know that getting all sweaty outdoors means getting all chilled afterwards if you haven’t dressed properly.
By all means have an incantation prepared in order to start you off. Here’s a sample: the bit of the Havamal where Odhinn gets the runes:
“I know that I hung on a windy tree
nine long nights
wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin
myself to myself
on that tree of which no man knows
from where its roots run.
No bread did they give me nor a drink from a horn,
downwards I peered;
I took up the runes, screaming I took them
then I fell back from there.”
(Poetic Edda, Sturluson, tr. Larrington)
And anything involving the rune Ansuz/Oss/Ass and perhaps a bindrune or galdr of that and/or a name of Odin, if you have experience of this magic.
You might like to try one practice I developed for myself. It’s for ‘tuning into the current’ as it were, and sung kirtan-style has been very good in groupwork. It is in the end though just a preliminary to going the whole *wotis (and that’s another story). Enjoy.
• Get sweaty. Sex, exercise, dancing, ‘seething,’ anything like that. You are especially looking for the ‘runner’s high’ of endorphins, creating a light euphoria. So that’s light, repetitive exercise for however long it takes to ‘get there.’
• Get musical. Drumming, playing an instrument, singing, preferably rhythmical, free-form and wordless (although glossolalia – speaking in tongues – is useful). You don’t have to be any good, you just have to be doing it.
• Get repetitive. Running, simple repetitive body movements, drumming, chanting or singing mantras such as ‘I am the Oracle’ will take you over if repeated for long enough.
• Get disoriented. Spinning around (careful: you can do this slowly and it will work fine), using weird lighting and sound effects (binaural beats, psychedelic music and such are useful).
• I have done this on serious doses of psychedelic drugs. This does not constitute incitement to break your local drug laws or to endanger your health or those around you.
• And any combination of these.
But go really over the top. Don’t hold anything back. Go nuts. This is why it’s a good idea to do this where there’s nobody else about. But no self-harming, please. It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye.
Hold a divinatory Intent, a question perhaps, while you do so, or have someone question you. Have some means of recording, a person or machine, standing by. Don’t expect to be able to record much yourself. Ensure your physical safety during this procedure, and banish thoroughly afterwards. I’d be fascinated to know how it went.
I found a likely spot, high up on the slope, surrounded by beech and holly, mud and dead leaves underfoot. No dancing or press-ups today, then. I began chanting PIE, checking around from time to time for dog-walkers. Then I moved into glossolalia, and in time added so-called ‘seething,’ basically jigging up and down on the spot while continuing to rant. The treetops danced madly as the gale pushed me about.
After a while I noticed that I was getting louder and that I didn’t give a damn who heard. At that point I always consider myself well warmed up to the magical task. I had a question, and now introduced it into the ranting and chanting. I drip-fed the aspects of the issue and continued seething, and shortly I began answering myself back with words I hadn’t planned to hear. They spoke of the Wild Hunt, where Wotan would ride the stormy night sky and gather the souls of the dead. The weather reflected the Wot of the Wild Hunt pretty perfectly, but the Wot took things a bit further. I was to create a storm within in order to create a storm without. The Wild Hunt within would collect up the dead bits of me, gather the scattered scraps and fuse them back into me and into one single purpose; eyes seeing clearly, feet moving where they will, hands grasping what they will, heart undivided and single-minded and all together Wild.
It went on in this vein for a bit, and eased off enough for me to stop for a cup of tea. Did I mention you can take breaks? Although even in the break, the engine of Wot was still running, and as it occurred to me to ask for practical specifics, we were off again. I won’t share the details, but I did get plenty. As happens in magical states, this stuff mostly had the force of truth, but at one point I did enlist a nearby holly sapling as witness and evoke an entity I’d been working with on just the issue in question. I had some instructions about manifesting in the real world what I had received, and then it all seemed to switch off. I was done.
I made my way back to the little stand of trees. Today I didn’t slip once, either because the fairies were a bit more impressed with me today or because I was indeed wearing better boots this time. I performed my Druidic closing at the stand and headed for the bus.