Most people are at least familiar with the native American “Vision quest”, but did you know that the pre Christian Norse also had a similar practice? Utiseta.
What is Utiseta?
Utiseta, or “sitting out” was a practice of mound sitting, grave sitting, or simply sitting out in the forest. It was most often practiced by völva, or those who practiced seidr magic, but others seeking spiritual guidance would also attempt it. This practice was a way of communicating with the spirits of one’s ancestors or the spirits of the forest. A person would participate in this journey to gain wisdom and guidance on what path they were to take in life.
It was believed that utiseta gave one insight into invisible worlds and the subconscious mind. The focus of utiseta was connecting to the natural world through meditation.
Where and How to perform Utiseta
Because of the nature of meditation, utiseta was often practiced as far out in the forest as one could safely venture. One other common location for sitting out was upon burial mounds, or the graves of prominent ancestors. Those sitting out were often said to be sitting at a crossroads between our world and the spiritual world. Utiseta is a way for someone to journey to the spiritual crossroads to find their path.
Utiseta is most often practiced by offering galdr (songs, chants, or poems) to the spirits and then have periods of silence to receive understanding and wisdom from them. This is also the setting for feeling the connections woven between the seen and unseen in the natural world.
Utiseta was also used to journey or “faring forth” from the physical self to other worlds or other locations within this world. A practice that is modernly referred as Astral projection. This out of body experience was used to visit the realms of the Gods such as Asgard and Hel. Though perhaps the most common use was to inhabit other shapes, or animals. A person who could do this was referred to as hamramr, or shape strong. The ability to spiritually inhabit the bodies of animals was called hamhleypa, or body leaping. A well practiced hamramr could leap into the body of any animal, but most would have a fylgja, or “follower”. The fylgja would be something akin to a spirit animal, and lifelong guardian.