The Heathen Mind, Body, Soul Complex
In a Heathen worldview, the mind, body, and soul are connected in a multitude of ways that are complex and hard to understand, but fascinating nonetheless. In this article I’ve sourced information from a variety of sources recommended by The Troth’s Heathen Essentials introductory course on Heathenry including Winifred Hodge’s articles on Full Souls in Idunna issues 67-69. I’ll do my best to summarize the research these folks have undertaken and present it as simply as I can.
First of all each human being is made up of physical and spiritual parts. The spiritual parts often overlap in function but are almost always dependent on the living physical body or lich, although in some circumstances, some aspects of the spirit or soul may function temporarily without the body.
Much modern research considers aspects of the mind, body, and soul to be parts that make up a whole being. However, in at least one instance, these parts may be more than parts, but rather full entities associated with the person. (Heathen Full-Souls: The Big Picture, Heathen Soul Lore Part 1, Winifred Hodge Rose, Idunna 67)
Much of this discussion will centre around soul parts or entities which are as follows:
The ferth refers to all the parts of the body, mind, soul complex except the body and the fetch. More about these further on. The ferth also refers to what modern psychologists consider the self.
Mynd – memory (OE mynd)
Contained within one’s mynd are memories that are learned within one’s lifetime, described by the OE word min (gemynd, myne), as well as those memories carried from past ancestral experiences which are called orþanc (OE) or ur-thought; earliest thought. The latter is often thought of as original or inborn thought, responsible for cunning and instinct; the skills and memories one is born with. Think of the Norn Urd whose realm encompasses the past.
Hugi – intellect (high, OE hyge, ON hugr)
Hugi is a soul-part corresponding with left brain thought; intellectual, rational and abstract thought, and possibly also courage, enthusiasm, passion, love, anger, tenderness, fear, foreboding, mistrust, character, and disposition, as well as information collected by the five senses.
The high can be further broken into the anget, that part which collects information through the five senses, the sefa, the part which uses collected information and is responsible for reasoning, and the wit, which is like memory retrieval.
Throughout the lore, hugi speaks to one, gives rede, warnings, and forebodings; it is the inner voice or soul part one uses in discussions with oneself.
Mod – mood (OE mod)
Mod, governs all emotions as well as bravery, boldness and honour. Related to mod is wod, or wode, which is inspiration, madness, drive, obsession and ecstasy. This is the God Odin’s domain. Wod is the gift of Vili, Odin’s brother, the God of Will. Wod can well up on its own or be summoned by one’s will. The will can also be used to summon wisdom from the High.
Hamingja (speed, craft, main, thew, might)
Main or might is the luck or power of the individual. The amount one possesses determines the chances of success in any undertaking. In Old Norse soul lore it is possible to lend part of one’s hamingja to other folk. It is possible to increase one’s speed or hamingja through good deeds, and to decrease it through bad deeds.
The fetch is an independent being attached to an individual for life. It records one’s deeds in one’s orlog. The orlog is the record of all the deeds committed by all those who have belonged to the fetch and determines how much main or speed the person will receive. The fetch often appears as an animal, or a person of the opposite sex, compatible with the personality of the person who it belongs to. One may send one’s fetch forth to attain knowledge from other realms.
The fetch, orlog, and speed are passed down family lines, including adopted members.
The high, mind, mod and speed are contained in the hame, an energy matter form resembling the physical body. The hame is the ghost that we sometimes are able to see.
The athem, or ond, is the breath of life and can be thought of as the link between body and soul. It also holds the ghost to the body. Food, water, and air are needed to nourish the athem.
Upon death the athem dissolves, setting the ferth free to leave the lich forever. If the athem fails to dissolve after death, the result could be the draugr, the walking dead of the sagas.
Lich is the physical body.
Aldr is the quantity of time allotted to one’s life by the norns at birth.
Fjor is life.
Orlog is the root of being, it is the original law and the first layer of wyrd which shapes all that follows.
Part 2 will outline the possibilities of the afterlife!
Sources / Reading:
The Elder Troth by KveldúlfR Hagan Gundarsson, Lesson Six: The Soul and Afterlife, The Troth, 1996
Heathen Full-Souls: The Big Picture, Heathen Soul Lore Part 1-3 by Winifred Hodge Rose, Idunna 67-69
Our Troth: History and Lore, Vol.1, The Troth, Ch 25; Vol. 2, Ch 14, Booksurge, 2006
Helgavidha Hojrvardhssonar & Hegakvidha Hundingsbana I and II in The Poetic Edda:Stories of the Norse Gods and Heroes by Jackson Crawford, Hackett, 2015
A Practical Heathen’s Guide to Asatru, Patricia M. Lafayllve, Ch 4, Llewellyn, 2013
Gylfaginning in The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson, translated by Jesse L. Byock, Ch 40, 41, 49, 51, 52, 53, Penguin, 2005
Teutonic Religion by Kveldulf Gundarsson, p 99-106, Llewellyn, 1993