Pathwalking, Journeying and Faring-forth
When talking to someone who draws from Northern Tradition Shamanism, youre likely to hear the following three terms used: Journeying, pathwalking or faring forth. Several times, Ive had people ask me if these terms meant AP (Astral Projection) and what the difference was, so I hope to explain that now. These three terms refer to three different, but similar, practices that all involve leaving the physical body behind and using the Hame/HugR (akin to a consciousness/soul from Norse concepts- though largely called an astral body/form by those who AP) to project or journey to another world/realm. The three practices overlap in several areas, such as their common goal, but also have distinct differences in the ways the ultimate goal of projection is achieved. Ill be defining the different terms from a conceptual level, but not quite teaching how they are done. That may be something I go into further at a later date.
Understanding the Norse concepts for soul and consciousness can be helpful when discussing pathwalking or journeying. First, there is the Hame/hamr: This is very similar to what AP-ers call the "astral body". It is a part of the subtle-body, the soul connected to the physical body and can be projected elsewhere. The hame can also be shapeshifted and northern shamans typically project their hame in the form of an animal (though not always) that sometimes reflects their flygja (See below). The Hamingja is an important concept as well: this is a collective consciousness between you and your ancestors. It consist of your luck, your destiny and fate, your ancestral karma or oorlog/wyrd, etc. The Lich is the physical body itself. The Hyge/HugR is more or less the thought-consciousness of a person. And the fylgja is the spirit guide associated with a person. There are concepts for the emotional-body and memory, but they are more indepth and do not need to be discussed here for the purpose of this article.
These three practices overlap in several areas, so its important to note the techniques and similarities that they share. Since we are discussing this from a Northern Tradition perspective, if you plan on projecting in general youd be likely to use one of the 8 techniques for altered states found in the eightfold path- which consists of: general meditation, ritual-work, rhythm/movement, derivational techniques, herbs and sacred plants, sexual energy/flesh, ordeal-work (pain) and horsing (channeling). These eight ways of achieving an altered state intertwine and can be used together, or separated out and used individually. Each individual has to determine which methods work best for them and help them to achieve the right state of mind they need to project. No one else can determine that for them.
A stang/stav is something which can be used in any three of these practices as well. A stang is very similar to a staff. At its most basic element, a stav is just a vertical line or rod of some sort used largely for channeling energy and for rhythm/movement-based projection. Volvas sometimes carry a stav and a tein. A tein is similar to a wand, and is generally a stick of some sort used with the stav to create rhythm. The stav is meant as a way to help the person projecting align with the world tree for easier connection and ability to remove themselves physically. The simplest way involves grounding through the process of connecting yourself to three wells, making a sacred triangle.
The three roots you sink yourself into are: The tap root (Hvergelmir), the yin root (Urds well) and the yang root (Mimirs well). Your physical body, and the position/movement of the stang or stav, reflects the road map of Yggdrasil and also creates spots on the physical body that represent the nine realms. A stang also typically has nine rungs, representing each of the different realms. Each rung can be used after alignment as a shortcut to that realm. This is the common way of using a stang for projection. A stang and aligning to Yggdrasil can be used in various other ways, such as grounding yourself in the essence of the Norns for Wyrd-weaving, but thats another topic.
And as a disclaimer for those who want to pathwalk or journey, you should consider reading this:
This is the closest form of projection to AP. In its simplest form, journeying involves the use of meditation in some form in order to achieve a state of mind that allows for the person to leave their physical body and project elsewhere. The state of mind that is achieved is often just called an altered state. There are various methods for achieving an altered state. Journeying, then, involves using that state of mind as a way of pulling your HugR from your physical form and projecting it (in this case) to the nine realms. Some do this through guided ritual. For instance, some volvas and northern shamans ritually connect to Yggdrasil (the World Tree) and then proceed to either climb the roots of Yggdrasil or ride into the other planes. Some shamans use the beating of a drum to ride Sleipnir as Odin rode him along the way to the other realms. Sometimes the way a person journeys depends on the realm they are hoping to reach as well. For Niflheim a person may want to be physically cold when they project, for Muspellheim they may want to be hot, etc. Again, as mentioned earlier, each person has to figure out what helps them to remove their HugR from their physical being. Most people know, to some level, what AP involves and thus Journeying involves the same basic steps and I dont feel the need to go into detail with that.
Pathwalking is slightly more complicated than Journeying, but holds to the same general end goal of projection. Some people are simply more tied down and grounded to their physical bodies than others, and find that they have an extremely difficult time actually removing themselves from their bodies in order to project. Pathwalking, also called way-taming by Odin, is a way to project that is best suited for those who cannot Journey easily for whatever reason. As the name implies, it involves literally walking between two worlds. As Raven K describes it: In order to do it, you "pull in" the other world and superimpose it on this one. Your physical body walks in your home world, while your astral body moves through the second world. It is by no means easier than journeying, it is just another way of achieving it. Some would say that Pathwalking is actually harder to achieve- as the person who pathwalks must have an awareness of their astral body (or hame), be able to work with energy and visualize it, and multi-task like crazy (moving both the physical form and the astral form in unison).
Largely, pathwalking is thought to be spirit-taught or something that a practitioner learns on their own. There isnt a way to pathwalk that is set and stone, and no one can quite teach you exactly how to do it. I would say, however, that pathwalking largely can be achieved through guided-mediation and visualization techniques. The easiest way, Ive found, to start learning pathwalking is to simply get up and start walking around. Practice achieving a meditative state while moving, from there practice achieving that same state while physically walking. You should work towards being able to keep your attention both on where you are physically going and the state of mind you are working towards achieving. It involves a lot of concentration and multi-tasking abilities, as you have to be able to see what is physically in front of you and also see what you would be seeing through projection as well, then overlap the two images and move forward in both the physical world and the realm you are projecting too. Complications, as you can imagine, can occur with this. Obviously anything you interact with in the physical world (bumping into something, trying to talk to a person or keep your attention grounded to your physical surroundings) can draw you out of your projection and snap you back into your lich.
This is kind of a grey area, when it comes to projecting under Northern Tradition concepts and terms. Some people do not make a distinction between faring forth and journeying, and lump the two together. I am not one of those people, however, and I view them as being separate but similar practices. Faring-forth, to be, is the kind of journeying I associate most closely with what is known as the seidhr trance or seidhr consciousness. This is the type of journeying and altered state the volva hopes to achieve when conducting seidhr-workings and aligning with Yggdrasil. It focuses less on the actual projection and more on the alignment and connection between the person and the cosmic energies they are tapping into.
This state of mind is used to be able to connect to Yggdrasil, and from there largely divine from the wights that are channeled through the projecting person (usually the volva herself). Faring-forth also largely refers to projection specifically to Helheim and the divination that occurs between the projecting person and the dead, or even Hel. The exact techniques for faring-forth have been lost and destroyed overtime, but some common elements to it remain to this day. In the Saga of Erik the Red, it briefly describes a volva and the way she achieves a seidh trance and fares-forth: the person projecting seats themselves on a raised pedestal, often using a stang/stav in one hand, covered in catskin and a blue cloak. Traditionally, there is an animal sacrifice and the person who is going to be projecting eats the hearts of the animals offered up. From there, vardlokkur (galdr/singing of the runes in accompaniment with drumming and rhythm) is done to help the person projecting achieve an altered state and from there lead them through the seething aspect of this projection.
As Uppsala suggests, the beinning of the Voluspa is a great chant that can be sung and used for this:
Hear me, all ye / hallowed beings,
both high and low / of Heimdall's children:
thou wilt, Valfadhir, / that I well set forth
the fates of the wold / which as first I recall.
I call to mind / the kin of etins
which long ago / did give me life.
Nine worlds I know, / the nine abodes
of the glorious worldtree / the ground beneath.
Faring-forth, then, can be defined largely as journeying or projecting with the goal of divinatory connections to wights of some sort while pathwalking/journeying seek to travel the other realms. There are sub-set practices, such as certain types of galdr, going-under and mound sitting, that fall into the category of Faring-forth more than they do actual journeying or pathwalking.
Kari Tauring: Volva Stav Manual
Raven Kaldera: Pathwalking and Journeying
Lydia Helasdottir: Journeying Tips from a Cosmic Diplomat
Uppsala: Seidh Trance