The Triple Soul in Ancient Scandinavia Part 2: The Hugr

Now that we’ve taken a look at the Fetch/Hamr, it’s time to look at what is probably the most relatable part of the soul complex (and the one I see as most taken for granted), the Hugr:

In Old Norse, the word Hugr translates to “mind” and appears in a variety of expressions where thought or the mind is involved. Perhaps one of the most recognizable instances where we meet a Hugr is in the story of Þórr’s journey to Útgarðr. For those who aren’t familiar with this story, it appears in Snorri’s Edda in the book called Gylfaginning (“the tricking of Gylfi”), and it revolves around a story about Þórr, his servant Þjálfi, and Loki journeying to the home of a giant named Útgarðaloki. When they reach his home, Útgarðaloki engages the three travelers in a series of contests to test their respective abilities, all of which end up being clever illusions designed to humiliate them. Þjálfi is pitted in a race against another boy named Hugi and looses miserably. It is later revealed that Hugi was in fact Útgarðaloki’s own Hugr, and was able to beat Þjálfi every time because nothing moves faster than thought:

“And when Thialfi competed at running with the one called Hugi, that was my thought, and Thialfi was not likely to be able to compete with its speed.” 

While one side of this story is obviously metaphorical, it is also interesting to see an example of a magician using the type of Hamhleypa magic we discussed in part 1: someone projecting their Hugr (consciousness) out into the world in a separate, tangible shape (the Hamr/astral body).

The Andersons referred to the Hugr interchangeably as the “mental body”, “auric body”, “beta spirit”, or as the “Talker”. In Feri, the Talker is imagined to be the part of the soul complex that corresponds to our conscious minds (which are usually always communicating something). Unlike the Fetch, it has the ability to decipher abstract concepts, use logic and deductive reasoning, and make choices about how, when, and why to enforce the will. While the Fetch deals with the highly symbolic realm of the subconscious, the Talker is actually the creative part of the mind that can take those subconscious images, bring them into the waking world, and give them purpose and meaning.

Just as the astral body is imagined to be the home of the Fetch soul, the “auric body” is described as the home of the Talker soul by Cora Anderson:

“The β spirit is the one that inhabits the less dense and more luminous body that psychics call the aura. It extends from eight to nine inches from the physical body of the adult human. It seems narrower when viewed from the side because it is slightly flattened like the body of a paramecium.”

In her book Evolutionary Witchcraft, Feri initiate T. Thorn Coyle describes how this auric body aligns with the functions of the Talker (who she refers to as the “Shining Body”):

“Your first way of gathering and spreading information is psychically, through the use of your aura. I ask urban dwellers who insist they have no psychic facility, ‘You ride the bus, don’t you? Don’t you know how to read the other passengers? Don’t you know how to take up just the right amount of space and know when you are impinging too much upon someone else, or they on you?’ That sense is you, using your Shining Body to communicate with the people around you. Shining body listens and senses, adjusts itself, communicates out to others, adjusts itself again. The more aware of it you become, the better you can communicate, and the more information you have to work with.” 

The Andersons also identified this soul part with what Huna calls the “Lono” or “Uhane”. According to Serge Kahili King:

“The Hawaiian word for the conscious or Middle Self, lono, contains meanings of awareness, communication, desire, thought, and achievement. Uhane also contains the idea of giving life and spirit, or direction and purpose. One of the most important functions of the conscious mind is that of giving direction to the subconscious. It is amazing how many people believe that they are supposed to take orders form their subconscious. A feeling arises or a sensation occurs, and they think they must act on it. All that is happening, though, is that the subconscious is giving a message and waiting for direction. If no direction is forthcoming, the subconscious will act out of habit or according to someone else’s direction. The conscious mind was intended to be the master, but seldom is. An important part of Huna practice is to regain this natural order. 

The conscious self communicates through speech, writing or drawing, physical action, dramatization, and thought. It has the same reasoning capability as the subconscious, but it can also ‘jump’ reason by creative insight. Probably the greatest talent of the conscious self is that of being able to imagine what isn’t. The subconscious can only imagine what has been and create new combinations out of old experience, but the conscious self can create completely new ideas and experience.” 

While in the Scandinavian context the idea of the Hugr inhabiting an energetic aura is nowhere to be seen, it certainly does appear as one’s personal “aura” in the context of one’s personal character, quality or atmosphere that one projects outward into the world. It is especially as the projector the personal will that the Hugr appears; so much so that focusing the mind/Hugr too intently onto an object or being was sometimes believed to cause unintentional consequences such as illness, pain, or death. A person’s Hugr could also be effected by a skilled magician for either good or ill, mostly concerning the act of making someone love you or otherwise effect their actions.

“There are various and complex conceptions of the hug imbuing the greater part of Scandinavian tradition, from the medieval literature of Iceland to more recent folk belief and legend. It was believed that the hug could affect both animate and inanimate objects – including other people – either consciously or unconsciously. The deliberate manipulation of the hug is the basis of all magic. The hug can manifest itself invisibly or it can take on a shape (ham). In some instances, the shape assumed by the hug has developed into an independent supranormal being, as exemplified by the many traditions about the nightmare (mare).” (Kvideland and Sehmsdorf)

Of the Hugr, Raudvere tells us:

“The word connotes personhood, thought, wish and desire. Some people, with a strong hugr, had the ability to act over long distances without moving their bodies. In the tangible guise of an animal or an object, they could cause harm while their ordinary bodies lay as if sleeping. The shape adopted for the temporary appearance most often revealed the purpose or the moral status of the sender: a powerful bear, and aggressive wolf etc. Hugr was also applied metaphorically to describe a person’s character or temper.”

It would therefore seem that from the Scandinavian standpoint, the vehicle by which most magic works is by focusing ones Hugr (conscious mind/will) towards a goal. The Hugr could therefore be transferred to a being or object through sight, touch, or the spoken word. Like in most cultures that believe in the evil eye, envy was also seen as a powerful force through which the negative powers of the Hugr could be focused on the object of envy and cause death or illness.

As I mentioned in part 1, the Hugr (being one’s conscious mind/basic personhood) could also use the Hamr as a vehicle through which to travel and orchestrate events in the physical world for either good or ill. The “mare” or nightmare is a famous example: where a witch or sorcerer sends out their astral double to “ride” and torment a person while they sleep (a condition which has been compared to our modern understanding of sleep paralysis). A person’s Hugr or double might also appear before their family or friends with a message of death or warning: many stories existing where the Hugr of a person will appear to a loved one before the owner of the Hugr’s death.

As you can see, there is much in the folklore of the Hugr to link it to the concept of one’s magical Will. Perhaps because our Talker or conscious mind feels like such a familiar, automatic thing its importance and power is often overlooked or underestimated. It is the power of our will combined with the focus of our cognitive mind that is arguably the most important tool in any magical practice, and the Talker/Hugr is about much more than simply the ability to think and reason.

More Things to Think About

In linking the idea of the Hugr to any particular deity, the god Hænir is for me the most obvious choice. There’s an interesting episode in Snorri’s Heimskringla that tie Hænir and Óðinn’s maternal uncle Mímir to the idea of “thought” and “memory”. Snorri tells us that after the Æsir and the Vanir went to war with each other and reached a stalemate, they exchanged hostages with as part of their peace agreements. The Vanir traded Njorðr, Freyr, and Kvasir in exchange for Hænir and Mímir:

“The Vanes gave them their highest men, Niord the Wealthy and his son Frey, and the people of Asaland in return gave the man called Hænir, whom they thought well fitted to be a leader, being a big and handsome man. With them they sent Mimir, the wisest of men, and the Vanes in return gave the wisest of their men called Kvasir, and when Hænir came to Vanaheim he was chosen as leader and Mimir gave him every advice. But when Hænir was at the thing or at gatherings, where any difficult matter came before him, then he always answered the same (unless Mimir was present), ‘Now get the counsel of others’, said he. Then the Vanes had a suspicion that the Asaland people had played them false in the exchange of men. They therefore took Mimir and beheaded him and sent his head back to the Asaland people. Odin took the head, smeared it with such herbs that ti could not rot, quoth spells over it and worked such charms that it talked with him and told him many hidden things.” 

There seems to be a definite similarity between the functions of Hænir and Mímir to those of Óðinn’s ravens Hugin and Munin (“thought” and “memory”), with the idea being that without the function of memory, thought looses its power/ability entirely. This idea is echoed by E.O.G. Turville-Petre as he explains:

“When divorced from their master, Óðinn’s ravens could have little wit, for it was his with which they incorporated. When separated from Mímir, Hoenir had no wits, and was no better than a banryard cock.”

Óðinn echoes the importance that memory (the realm of the Fetch) held in Old Norse culture in the poem Grímnismál when he says:

20. ‘Hugin and Munin fly every day 
over the wide world;
I fear for Hugin that he will not come back, 
yet I tremble more for Munin.’ 

In the poem Völuspá, Hænir is also the god who gifts Askr and Embla with óðr, which in Old Norse can either be translated as “mind” or “feeling”. The parallels between Hænir and the Hugr are thus relatively obvious.

If we are to look at the makeup of the world tree Yggdrasil as any possible indication of the basic framework of the human body/soul matrix, the Hugr/Talker/conscious mind would in my mind most closely correspond to the “middle world”, with the underworld being the territory of the Hamr/Fetch/Subconscious, and the upper worlds being the realm of the Fylgja/Godself/Superego. I would therefore also pair the Hugr with the archetype of the squirrel Ratatoskr, who runs up and down the tree spreading gossip between the dragon at the bottom and the eagle at the top. Like Ratatoskr himself, the conscious mind is full of gossip: some of which is true, and some of which are stories of our own making.

Francesca De Grandis (an initiate of Victor Anderson’s and creator of the Third Road Tradition), also notes the trickster-like quality that the Talker possesses, and refers to it in her own work as the “fox”. Humans are story weaving creatures, and through the power of our consciousness we attribute abstract meaning to the world we live in. Sometimes we believe our stories so deeply that we don’t even realize that the way in which we perceive the “reality” of the world is really just our own overlay of past experience, association, subjective judgements, and cultural narrative. The Hugr can be tricky in this way, but is also through its ability to reason that we are able to challenge these stories and replace them with newer, more authentic models as needed. And just as Hænir relied on Mímir for wisdom, The Talker relies on Fetch’s memory (whether that be our conscious memory, subconscious memory, or ancestral memory) to contextualize and make sense of our world in the present.

Bibliography

Anderson, Victor H – Anderson, Cora, Etheric Anatomy: The Three Selves and Astral Travel. Acorn Guild Press, 2004

Coyle, T. Thorn – Evolutionary Witchcraft. J.P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2005

Jolly, Karen- Raudvere, Catharina- Peters, Edward, Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: The Middle Ages. Athlone Press, 2002

King, Serge, Mastering Your Hidden Self: A Guide to the Huna Way. Quest Books, 1985

Kvideland, Reimund- Sehmsdorf, Henning, Scandinavian Folk Belief and Legend. University of Minnesota Press, 2010

Larrington, Carolyne, The Poetic Edda. Oxford University Press, 2008

Sturluson, Snorri – Faulkes, Anthony (Tr), Edda. Everyman Press, 1995

Turville-Petre, Myth and Religion of the North: The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia. Greenwood, 1977

Zoe͏̈ga, Geir, A Concise Dictionary of Old Icelandic. University of Toronto Press, 2004

 

 

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